We had decided to go to France to see Mr Life London Food’s mum before the government implemented the 14 day quarantine on those returning from France. We knew booking any travel would be done knowing the rules could change at any time, but decided to still go to France. With Mr Life London Food working from home and me on furlough a couple of weeks locked in the flat post holiday was not the end of the world.
We didn’t want to fly, spending all that time in the airport and then squashed on a plane, we just were not ready so decided to take the train. The plan was to Eurostar to Paris and then Uber across the city to our next train station for the train to Cahors. It was going to be a long old day but hopefully great views and a nice relaxed and socially distanced journey.
Travel day arrived and being booked on the 07:52 Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord meant an early start. We were not sure how busy the train was going to be but we had received many many emails from Eurostar about social distancing, wearing masks and the procedures they had in place to keep us safe. We went through security and immigration as normal, all very easy and found ourselves a couple of seats. There were people in the waiting lounge, a few but not anywhere near as busy as it would be normally at this time.
The boarding process was a bit chaotic. There was no socially distanced boarding, the gate announced and everyone got up and went. Going up the escalators everyone close together. There was no rush to get to the train so I am not sure why everyone felt the need to rush on together. We took our time and found ourselves in a near empty carriage. By the time we left there were only about 10 of us in the carriage. The journey to Paris was as expected, nice and easy. We arrived in Paris, no one asking to see the health declaration forms we had filled out as instructed.
An Uber ride later and we were at Gare d’Austerlitz. Its not a glamourous station. Its undergoing a lot of construction work at the moment and only has a couple of food kiosks open selling the usual sandwiches and hot drinks. There was a Relay and a pharmacy as well, but you wouldn’t want to spend too much time here.
I had booked a train from Paris to Cahors for 14:38, we arrived into Paris from London at 11:17. I wanted us to have plenty of time to get between stations should there be a delay on the Eurostar. I had clearly overcompensated on time. We got to Gare d’Austerlitz station about 11:50 and saw there was a train at 12:40 – could we get the earlier train we pondered? It was so easy. We went into the ticket office and went to the computers that were marked for exchanges. Within 5 minutes we had changed out tickets to the earlier train, paid the €10 per person cost difference and were ready to arrive into Cahors 2 hours early.
The train itself is a SNCF Intercities train, not the high speed TGV, so it was going to be a 5.5 hour journey. We were prepared for this with a cool bag full of food and snacks. The train was nothing fancy from the outside, old carriages that had been refurbished on the inside but not out.
We had booked first class as it was going to be a long journey and it really wasn’t very expensive as the SNCF were offering very reasonable prices for the trains and fully changeable if need be. First class was very busy – no social distancing or limited capacity here – nearly every seat was taken. The carriage was a strange design, a little bit old school train with soft lighting and big wide chairs. The chairs were wide and comfortable and reclined slightly, lots of leg room and a table and cup holder in front of you. There was also plenty of space for baggage located throughout the carriage.
The toilets were as decent as train toilets can be – always declining as you get further into the journey. There was a chap with a trolley who came through a couple of times with drinks and food should you care to purchase. As people with dietary requirements we came fully stocked as its hard to find gluten free items when travelling on trains.
The views along the way were lovely, watching the French countryside change from flat farm land of the north to the tree covered hills and valleys of the south.
Our return journey was the same route, but with a overnight in Paris due to Eurostar cancelling our late night train home. They gave us plenty of notice as they were consolidating their train services due to lack of passengers. The train from Cahors to Paris was different however, one of their Eco trains, which was an older model but actually I found it a bit more comfortable – as the seats were not quite so domineering and gave the carriage a lighter feel. Travelling on a Thursday also meant it was a lot quieter than our original journey down on a Saturday.
Overall both journey’s although long, were enjoyable and for the cheapness of the tickets ( the France section) I could not complain about the service. I would certainly to the train route again.