BACKGROUND Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services (16 on weekdays) from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord, with return fares from £69 and a fastest journey time of two hours, 15 minutes.
DEPARTURE As I had been on a connecting SNCF train to Paris Gare du Lyon from Cannes that had been delayed more than 90 minutes, I missed my 1908 Eurostar connection (click here to read review). Fortunately, when I arrived via taxi at Paris Gare du Nord at 1915, I went directly upstairs to the Eurostar ticket hall and found there was no queue and no problem at all being issued with another ticket for the next train at 2008.
I was incredibly relieved, as being a Sunday evening with lots of people travelling to London I knew the service would be busy. At 1925, I went through passport control and security, and was through into the crowded departure hall by 1930. Screens stated that boarding would begin at 1948 but they actually opened the doors down to the platforms a little earlier. My train (9059) was leaving from platform six and I had been assigned a Standard Premier seat in coach 11 (of 18).
Eurostar's baggage policy allows for two pieces per person up to 85cm in length plus a small item of hand luggage. There is no need to check-in bags, and as long as you can carry your own case, there is no weight limit. If you have extra baggage or oversized or heavy items, passengers must use Eurostar Despatch, meaning luggage is put in a secure, dedicated area on the train on your behalf for a fee.
THE SEAT A member of staff checked my ticket before I got on the train and I left my suitcase in one of the luggage racks in the entryway before making my way to my seat (74, by a window). It was one of a set of four (73, 74, 77, 78) arranged around a shared central table with fold-down flaps. My seat, and aisle seat 73, faced backwards. On the opposite side were a pair of seats, one facing forwards (75), the other backwards (71), both by the window and, again, with a shared table between them.
Standard Premier is arranged in a 1-2 configuration, which is good for solo passengers as it means there is the option to sit alone. If you are travelling as a couple, you can also choose single seats facing each other, or if in a group, pairs facing each other. In adjacent pairs, seat backs have a pocket at chest height for the Eurostar Metropolitan magazine (and any small personal belongings or bottles of water), while a large metal tray table slides up and out.
There are shared power sockets throughout – in my case there was one UK and one EU in the table legs, though they were very hard to find and I only saw them after a member of staff pointed them out. Underneath the table was a small bin beneath the window. Seats have pale grey striped upholstery, winged headrests with padded burgundy leather, and a button in the armrest to slide the seat forward and recline it. The product was very wide and had lots of legroom.
Above the seats were two luggage racks – a broader shelf at the top for small suitcases and a ledge below for jackets. There were also reading lights, curtains and coat hooks. Washrooms were clean but smelt a bit and there were magazine racks in the vestibules with copies of Shortlist, Stylist, Wallpaper, Time and CN Traveller amongst others.
THE JOURNEY The train departed on time at 2008 and, at 2016, there was a bilingual announcement saying that the train would be making one stop at Ebbsfleet International at 2122, and that the dining cars six and 13 were now open.
Supper was served at 2050. There was a choice of tuna salad or pasta pesto with feta (I went for the latter, which was small but tasty). Trays also came with a choice of bread rolls, a bottle of Vittel mineral water, a chocolate, a scrumptious custard doughnut and the option of wine or beer. I ordered a mini bottle of Chenin des Papes, Cotes du Rhone Village 2011, which was drinkable. Staff later came around with tea, coffee and more booze, before then clearing the tables. I spent most of the journey reading magazines.
ARRIVAL We arrived back on UK soil via the Channel Tunnel at 2200 (2100 local time) and disembarked at London St Pancras, walking down an angled travelator from the platform, through customs and into the station concourse.
VERDICT After a delay of about 90 minutes to my train from Cannes to Paris, I missed my original Eurostar service to London, so I was incredibly relieved and grateful to be transferred with no fuss at all to the next Eurostar train an hour later. Staff were very helpful, and the food and wine on board was welcome. The seats were comfortable and the UK power points under the table were useful for charging my phone and laptop. Eurostar is so much less hassle than flying, and is relaxing and enjoyable.
JOURNEY TIME 0731-1047 (two hours, 16 minutes)
TRAIN TYPE Class 373/1
SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2 in a mix of forward- and backward-facing seats, with some pairs and quads with a large shared table between.
SEAT WIDTH 66.5cm/26.1in (50.9cm/20in with armrest down)
SEAT PITCH 94.5cm/37.2in (solo or twin seats)
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek return Standard Premier ticket in December ranged between £189 and £311 depending on flexibility.