Posts Tagged ‘train’

A week-end in London: Oct 14-16, 2011

This week-end brings a luxuty escape. On a train. On a luxury train. I will admire the vibrant British countryside from the cocoon of the British Pullman. Breakfast on board, a stroll in the Cotswold villages, champagne and dinner on the way back, watchinh the lights switching on softly…

What about you?

* Indulge in a gourmet pub crawl. The menu is mouthwatering and we guarantee you will fall in love with the Renaissance Pubs…

* Art switches to 3D

* The famous champagne bar Kettner’s will be offering with Jameson a different party each evening between October 12 and 27. Hoorray!

* Celebrate Diwali.

* There is some dancing at the Scoop.

* Nothing more autumn like than a market dedicate to wine and cheese.

* Discover the latest artitic installation in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – movies are a piece of art too.

* Aromatherapy and macaron: isn’t it me time yet?

* Well, this week is chocolate week. You can go round the best chocolatiers in town who will be proposing a variety of events or… spend an afternoon at Chocolate Unwrapped where they will be presenting their best treats.

* Why not sip a free one with a cute paper umbrella at Hendrick’s?

* Take your coffee with style.

* Hop, second dose of Tracey Emin this year.

* Big Ben leans. Yes, you read that right.

* Indoor bike training, graffiti and trendy music included, is the new winter sport.

* Love the Royal Family? Well, the Diamond Jubilee china is now on sale.

* Are you all ready for Movember? You might be missing a crucial accessory.

Eurostar: first class

When preparing a London/Parisian break, Eurostar springs immediately to mind. No weight limit, you can take more than one bag, departure/ arrival whithin the heart of the city, only 2h15 of travel, check-in up to 30mn before departure, some wagons offer plugs for your laptop. Planes? Why would you want to go through the tedious, let alone stressful airport process?

We all have a budget so the first thought is to get standard (understand eco) tickets. With time, I have realised that very often, it is worth opting for Standard Premier instead: the chairs are larger, the coaches quieter, you get free magazines/newspapers, a light meal with drinks is included. Do compare the basic price, add the magazine you are sure to buy at the station, as well that the not-so-yummy-yet-overpriced sandwich meal you will grab for a bite before boarding. It is worth it. Let alone the fact that you can choose a kid’s menu when booking your ticket if you are traveling with kids (or veggie, gluten free…)

Of course, we all dream of switching to business premier. Until very recently, I would have said -  what is the point to pay more for those couple of hours? Is it really worth it?

The answer is yes. It makes your life easy, gains you so much time, let alone the comfort of it. Of course, this is an investment.

* Business trip? Well, it might be expensive but companies do not forget that time is money. With this class option, you can check in up to 10mn before departure and therefore  leave your meeting at the very last minute. All tickets are flexible. You can work comfortably in the lounge (tables offer plugs for your laptops and chargers for many phone brands also are available) and on the train (with plugs there too) and make the worth of your trip.

* Leisure trip? It makes it a celebration. It is worth going standard/standard premier one way then business premier on the return. I guarantee this will transform your holiday. Let yourself be cocooned – complete relaxation in order. Try it once: you are worth this luxury.

Of course, there are lounges. I tend to travel on the first morning train at 06.22. By the time I get to the station, I am already exhausted, chilled to the bones. The cafés are just opening up, the machines not warm yet, you have to stand up and queue. Walking in the salon instead is so comforting. The light is golden, the armchairs comfy and welcoming. You can grab free press of the day (whether in French or English), wander to the counter and help yourself to free hot/cool drinks and nibbles, check your mail (wifi is free too). Think of it as a kind of cocoon. You get a cosy personnal space, everything is taken care of, the team is available if you need anything, discreet yet very friendly. There is no concept of waiting.

On the London side:

On the Parisian side:

And once on board? No rush as in the other coaches. Having been through the lounge transition, you are already relaxed, smiling. Take a few extra magazines when stepping in, put your feet up, tilt the chair backwards, sigh in happiness. In a few minutes, the team will even bring you a warm towel.

Some get their laptop out, plug them to save on the battery. On my train to London, the tables are old fashioned, unstable and frustrating. Too small, they have never been thought for you to work on, merely for you to put your sandwich or crosswords. Eurostar, however, have considered this straight away and made them large enough for you to have lots of reports in front of you or put you computer on it confortably.

Later comes the meal. Breafast includes fruit juice, a hot drink, bread and jams, a yogurt and a hot dish. For lunch and dinner – rejoyce! – you will start with a glass of champagne. There is something absolutely magical in watching a sunset on the countryside with a glass of bubbly in hand. Money may not buy complete happiness but it sure can get you lovely slices of it.

We all keep in mind the stereotype of basic plane food when traveling. Eurostar wanted to provide another kind of experience and worked with famous chef Alain Roux, whose restaurant The Waterside Inn prides 3 Michelin stars. He brought creativity and textures to the menu. I wasn’t expecting to see something as advanced as Turkey casserole with pomegranate juice, very surprising and intriguing.

Dishes are served in modern ceramic bowls, easy for transport so of course presentation is limited in wow effect but taste definitely is there with nice touches such as chutneys. The rabbit pâté was brought to a brand new level by the sweet jelly on its side, enhancing lovingly the olives. same goes for the Auvergne blue cheese sublimed by the prune compote. Daring! I was, I admit, perplex before trying but it is a similar association as stilton and port, amazing. I was also expecting the main dish to have lost flavours in being reheated but the salmon had kept its melting textures, the chablis sauce its creaminess, the spinach and mushrooms were as tasty as if they had just been made. Desert was a cute selection of petit-fours: beautiful tanginess of the lemon tart and the cream in the macaron was made with real pistachios not a fake aroma.  Coffee and tea are served with a square of Dolfin chocolate. Food has been carefully thought of, designed to be a delicious experience and not just something to eat on the way and it is clear that quality products have been used too.

Your will be so busy tasting, comparing, making tartines and crunching that you will barely register that you have entered/left the tunnel. It is nice for once, to be able to take your time, to enjoy each mouthful. There is nowhere else to go just yet. The moment is suspended in time – already gone but not there yet, no stress, no pressure, no timetable. The portions are the right size, you will not feel like snacking on something later on and you probably have enjoyed a few nibbles in the lounge as well. You feel fine, sheltered from everything, taken care of. I never fall asleep in trains… but woke up at St Pancras. My tray had been cleared, but the team -always very attentive- had left my orange chocolate square for me.

Verdict? As I said earlier -  a cocoon. You can just let go and and get your energy back, a luxury you can never have when traveling eco. You can really work, focus on your files, bring finsihing touches to a presentation, deconnect from everything else, relax, sleep – it adapts to your mood, brings you the quietness you need. It is not about an extra large seat or meal, but about an experience and a peace of mind. Which, I have come to realise, is really priceless.

Teatime in Wonderland was a guest of Eurostar Standard Premier.


This Week End in London

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