The Azur Train
I’m used to travelling to Brussels and Paris on Eurostar so it seemed the obvious way to travel down to the south of France too. I hadn’t realised that the direct service to Marseille operated fairly regularly throughout the year. There is something romantic about the thought of boarding a train in London and stepping off in the Mediterranean. It’s not bad for a 6.5 hour train ride; that’s less than the 7 hours it takes to get to Aberdeen.
Brussels, Paris and the Med!
On the train, I saw many leisure passengers heading down for a warm weekend in Provence but I was also surprised to see some passengers who appeared to make the trip regularly or were working on board.
It was noteworthy that Eurostar has adapted their service for the longer journey with more of a leisure focus. Just as we had pulled out of St Pancras, the train manager announced: “ladies and gentlemen, your holiday has officially begun!”
This generated a lot of smiles in the carriage.
There was also a visible change in the staff – the formal business look had been replaced with a polo shirt and they did seem to smile more.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of power sockets on the train so it was possible to work for the duration of the journey; however, Wi-Fi provision would have helped along the way as the mobile signal was quite intermittent: I hope that this is something Eurostar can sort in the future as it would be one of the key advantages to making the trip by rail.
After seeing the length of France on one train, with a stop only at Lyon and Avignon, the train pulled into Marseille’s Saint-Charles station on time, with the announcement: “Welcome to sunny Marseille where our journey ends, the temperature is 20C“. Not bad for mid-November!
As we left the train, there was also an English language announcement within the station, all other announcements were solely in French meaning that if you are connecting to another service you may have to rely on the various departure boards.
The view upon leaving the station was quite a change from the Euston Road!
The most attractive feature of the direct train is avoiding the hassle of changing trains and stations in Paris to reach Gare de Lyon. For a leisure trip, this certainly allows you to sit back and enjoy the journey, though you are limited to the early morning departure from London. It may be a little longer than flying but the fares seem competitive and if you appreciate a calmer journey, this would be the way to go.
Author: Liam Henderson