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Eurostar London-Paris-London

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London St. Pancras International Station

ABOVE: A Eurostar train in the revamped train shed at St. Pancras Station, which replaced Waterloo as Eurostar's London terminus in late 2007.

London-Paris

We ordered our tickets from Eurostar's Web site. Our Internet receipt included a confirmation number. When we reached London, we visited the Eurostar terminal to pick up our tickets. This was easy: We just entered our confirmation number at one of the self-serve terminals and inserted the credit card that we'd used for booking. A moment later, the machine printed our tickets.

Check-in and boarding

Check-in on Saturday morning was just as easy: We walked up to the automated gates with our luggage, inserted and retrieved our tickets, showed our passports to the French border police, and went through the usual metal-detector-and-X-ray security line. Fortunately, the terminal wasn't as crowded as it had been the previous evening, so check-in didn't require waiting in a long queue.

We were traveling Standard Class to Paris, and the bargain-basement fare didn't include a meal. Since we'd arrived early, we had breakfast at Costa Coffee, one of several eateries in the waiting area. (We could have bought breakfast in one of the train's buffet cars, but it was easier--and probably cheaper--to get coffee and croissants in the terminal.)

Eurostar at St. PancrasFifteen or 20 minutes before departure, the boarding gates were opened and we walked to the train. The car had adequate storage space for luggage, including racks in the doorway area, just inside the passenger compartment, and over the seats. (There were actually two racks above the seats: A wide shelf that was big enough for a small carry-on suitcase, and a narrow shelf for coats and handbags.

Standard Class 2+2 seating

Our economy ("Standard Class") carriage had two seats on each side of the aisle, arranged in an open-coach configuration. Most seats were by the large windows, although a few seats had obstructed views. There was plenty of legroom, and large folding trays offered plenty of room for passengers who'd brought laptops or lunch.

The train departed on time, and by the time we reached the English countryside, we were traveling at a good clip. (Eurostar reaches a top speed of 300 km/h or 186 m.p.h. in its high-speed sections, but there's very little sensation of speed: The ride is quite smooth, and you only realize how fast you're going when the train races by speeding cars on the motorway or whips past an approaching Eurostar 394m or 1,293-foot train in several seconds.)

The only glitch we encountered was in the lavatory, where the toilet's flush mechanism was acting up. (Another passenger mentioned a similar problem in the buffet car's WC.) It was almost enough to make us long for the old days when railroad toilets simply discharged their wastes into the surrounding countryside.

Arrival in Paris

Gare du Nord signSlightly more than two hours after we'd left London, our Eurostar train glided into the Gare du Nord in Paris. We left the train, exited the platform via the glass security doors, and were quickly outside the station, where we walked to our rented apartment in Montmartre. (If we'd needed a cab, we could have joined the taxi line just outside the station's side entrance. The Gare du Nord also has Métro and RER train stations.)

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