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      June 2011 > Paris Gare du Nord – 150 years young
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Paris Gare du Nord – 150 years young

Whenever a friend tells me they’re off to Paris, I feel a pang of jealousy. I make no bones about it – I love the French capital: wandering the streets of the Marais or Saint Germain, taking a stroll through the Jardins de Luxembourg, sampling M. Berthillon’s delicious ice creams on the Île Saint-Louis, and – of course – all those wonderful brasseries… I have fond memories to last a lifetime, and could never tire of going back.

However, when they tell me that they’re flying into Paris CDG, I relax a little as it takes a certain edge off my envy. “Why on earth would they do that?”, I wonder aloud, thinking that this is such a bizarrely unnatural way to arrive. For me, the thrill of going to Paris is inextricably linked to the pleasures of a trip on Eurostar. The sense of anticipation as I board the train; the sudden burst of daylight as we emerge from ‘le tunnel sous la Manche’; the ritual trip to the stand-up buffet car to sip a Kro’ beer as I gaze at northern French fields flashing by… when it comes to visiting Paris, these elements are as essential to me as that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, or wandering slowly alongside the Seine. In my view, anyone descending from the clouds to a runway on the outskirts of the city is somehow missing the point!

Indeed, a trip here is one of the easiest and most pleasurable overland foreign journeys that we Brits can make, and the stations at each end of the line seem to define it in some way. Batting for ‘us’, we now have the monumental magnificence of St Pancras, newly restored in all its Gothic splendour and a real boon for travellers from the north like myself. Fighting the French corner is the grande dame herself, the Gare du Nord (below), who celebrates her 150th birthday this very summer, and who represents a fine destination in her own right. Begun in 1861 and completed three years later, this is the busiest station in continental Europe and feeds international destinations such as Amsterdam and Brussels as well as London.

This railway station has also come to symbolise the start of my Parisian adventures. In a sense, it’s where France begins and has also – in more recent times – become the springboard for several escapades further afield. Cross over to the Gare de Bercy, for example, and you can board the overnight sleeper to Turin or Venice; while a short trip on the métro to the Gare de Lyon will bring connections to Avignon and the warmth of the Midi. Whatever your ultimate destination, arriving by train into the heart of France’s buzzing capital is the best – and some might say the only – way to do things. As well as marking the end of a journey, it signifies the beginning of an adventure…

Posted: 09/06/2011 09:55:42 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: France, gastronomy, heritage, transport


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