I don’t get too many options to ride a train somewhere, but most of my experiences have been good ones.
I’ll admit that the times I road on the high-speed train from Greenwich, Conn., to New York City, were sorta “Meh” at best. But, my experiences on the Eurostar trains in Europe have always been first-class.
In fact, I would say the airline industry needs to take some notes from Eurostar, because the lower-class sections on those trains are close to being on par with what we would expect from first class on an airplane.
My first experience on one of these trains was in 2009, when I traveled from Paris to London by rail. The experience was great before I even got on the train. I was boarding at Gare Du Nord, in Paris, and have you ever seen the old movies where a person enters a train station and comes out into this big expansive area where all the trains are lined up under elaborate, steel-and-glass roofs? Well, that is what Gare du Nord is like. You enter on this platform that overlooks all of the trains. The steel roof trusses are shaped in elaborate Victorian-era designs.
But, enough about Gare du Nord. Let’s get on to the train itself. My seat was in what we would call economy, but it had electrical plug outlets built into the seats (on a plane, you’re lucky if you can get a headphone jack that works). The seat was also very cushy and comfortable. Some of the seats in economy had their own tables, and I’m not talking about the kind of tables that fold out of the seat in front of you. I mean a full-on table that you can spread your stuff out on.
And, best of all, there was an entire car on the train devoted solely to housing a tiny cafe (OK, it was the Dining Car, but it was really swank). As we were traveling up through northern France, all announcements were made in French first, and then in English. Once we were under the English channel, however, they switched the order, so English came first. Also, once we were under the channel, the dining cafe switched from charging people in Euros, to charging them in British Pounds.
And, of course, then you arrive in England at St. Pancreas International Station, which can easily rival Gare du Nord with its Edwardian-era beauty. So, of course, after that experience, I was more than willing to ride another Eurostar train — and I got the chance to do that when I was in Italy in 2010. I had ridden down to Napoli, from Rome in a somewhat unimpressive, dingy train. I won’t lie and say it was nice, because it really wasn’t.
Coming back to Rome, however, I was able to find a seat on a Eurostar Italia train, and it had all of the luxury that I missed. This time, I got a seat with one of those built-in tables, and it was late enough at night that I got to have the table all to myself (on a crowded train, you’d have to share the table with three other people).
My only disappointment was that I didn’t buy a Napoli pizza to eat on the train. It was after the dining cars’ closing hours (since this was an in-country trip), and everyone says Napoli’s pizzerias make the best pizza in all of Italy. I mean Napoli is where pizza was invented, so it makes sense that they would have the best pizzas in the land.
Unfortunately, I misread the clock (darn military time) and didn’t think I had enough time to go to a nearby pizzeria, to get a small pizza. Two years later, I’m still kicking myself for not doing it.
Oh well, I guess I can save that for my next trip on a Eurostar train!
Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.