When my Manager asked if I was free to go on an educational daytrip to Brussels to experience the Eurostar, I jumped at the chance to say 'Yes!' Personally, I really like to fly if I'm going anywhere overseas; however, I love nothing more than a good train journey, especially if I can get to a different country in as little as 2 hours from London Kings Cross. It seems a no-brainer.
The early start was a challenge getting up when it was still dark outside and not to mention the bitterly cold walk to the station. A warm, soothing coffee with an extra shot (of course), was calling my name from a certain coffee chain. The journey couldn't have been smoother from our group's starting point in York, getting on the new Azuma train straight to the capital. On board we witnessed the rising sun, with hues of pinks and oranges scattering the sky, and excitable chatter was under way, disguising tired eyes.
Arriving into London, we slowly meandered towards St Pancras where we met a few customers at our Departure Office, along with our Tour Manager who was more than accommodating - ensuring we had our passports, tickets, and assuring us we had time to grab (another) coffee and browse the shops before boarding the Eurostar. Going through security was smooth sailing and it was extremely quick, our Tour Manager with us every step of the way. Ready for boarding, the train guard helped us find our seats and then we settled down for the journey ahead.
On board in Standard Class, we had plenty of facilities including a plug to charge any devices, a table tray, and the onboard Café Métropole offering drinks and snacks during our journey. When booking the Eurostar there are options to upgrade to Standard Premier Class, where we can enjoy a light meal served straight to your seat.
"Welcome to France" My phone beamed as we crossed the Channel and began making our way through the green fields of the French countryside. The tunnel takes just 20 minutes to pass through, and we were submerged into complete darkness travelling up to 190 mph!
On arrival in Brussels, we pulled into Brussels Midi station and then got on a local rail service to Brussels Central station. We were greeted in the lobby by the monument to the dead railway men who served in the 2 world wars, which reads 'To the 3012 dead railway workers for the 1914-1918 1940-1945 homeland' in both French and Dutch inscriptions. Outside, the exterior curved around and the flag of Belgium stood proud under the magnificent winter sky.
As the rest of the group and their Tour Manager went to check into their hotel, we were left to explore the Belgium capital. Brussels is most well-known for its heart-warming delicacies; French fries, mussels, waffles, and meatballs to name but a few. We made our way to the Waffle Factory, a Belgian fast-food restaurant offering savoury and sweet Belgian waffles, all of which are prepared fresh each morning in-store. With our cravings satisfied, we moved on to take a quick look at the MOOF Museum (Museum of original figurines), home to popular Belgian cartoon characters including the Smirfs, Tintin and more. Outside, there is a huge white statue, so you can't miss it.
With enough time to take in the sights of Brussels, we made our return journey on the Eurostar back to London St Pancras. Again, checking in was a breeze at Brussels and we had a chance to sit down as a group and reflect on the day, with lots of laughter. On our return journey, we were lucky enough to experience Standard Premier class, where we were offered a choice of two options for dinner with a drink, as well as tea and coffee on board.
By the time we reached our base in York, tired eyes were setting in; however, I was glad I had been able to experience the Eurostar from a different view, meeting our customers along the way and experiencing the beginning of an escorted holiday with Rail Discoveries. I have come away from the experience a huge fan of the Eurostar, and I would definitely use it if I'm visiting Europe again anytime soon.