Our first ski holiday using the Eurostar ski train was 13th December 1997. Why do we know the date? Well, it was the inaugural train and we were lucky enough to be on it.
It was a different style of travel from flying as there was none of the fuss of having to arrive at an airport hours early to get parked to catch a bus to the terminal; just taking a local train into Kings Cross and the tube to Waterloo. Even going through customs, waiting to be allowed to board and going to the train seemed different and easy.
Being the first trip, after a nice breakfast which included champagne, croissants & pain d’orange, Eurostar put on some freebie entertainment with magicians for the kids, a trad jazz band, a cartoonist and for the adults, cocktails based on the colours of ski runs. Green to start was a chartreuse based cocktail, then blue using Curacao followed by red (haven’t a clue what it was but we didn’t complain) and finally black, probably black Russian; it became a bit of a blur. The cocktails were spread over the 10 /11-hour trip and were interspersed with lunch which included wine but we weren’t limited to one small bottle, or cocktail come to that.
When we arrived at Bourg St Maurice most passengers were slightly the worst for wear only to find ourselves being welcomed by the town’s Mayor and brass band, just like a scene from ‘Allo ‘Allo. I’m sure they thought we were a miserable bunch — but so many cocktails and champagne had taken their toll!
This was followed by our buying bus tickets to Tignes and walking out of the front doors of the station to find the bus ready and waiting. Coordinated travel, it can be done.
From then on, trains have been our ‘go to’ form of transport to the French Alps. The train part may take longer but once you factor in the fuss of driving to the airport, parking, taking the transfer to the terminal, having to get there an hour (now two) before check inand at the other end waiting for baggage, finding your coach or hire car, transferring to the resort, then the door to door travel time isn’t too dissimilar. However, the train is more relaxing and you are not restricted to just 20 kg of baggage.
Since that first trip we have nearly only travelled to the French Alps by train not just using the Eurostar service but also the night sleeper from Paris as well Eurostar to Paris or Lille then onto Bourg St Maurice, Chambery or Lyon, sometimes with overnight stops. For those who can’t travel at weekends — or with time to spare or on a tight budget — TGV’s are a good option. Whilst an overnight stop and exploring a different town or city makes a good start / end to a holiday.
For ourselves, the move from Waterloo to St Pancras has been great as we can just take a local train to Kings Cross and walk across Pancras Road into the Eurostar terminal. If you decide to use the overnight service do get there mid to late afternoon and spend a relaxing few hours in one of the bars or restaurants. Nothing better than some nibbles and wine in The German Gym or Carluccios before you board.
I leave you with a question: is there a better place to start your journey than St Pancras, where the journey becomes part of the holiday? Now not even a plane spotter would say that of flying from Luton airport.