The Eurostar is really a very useful invention to connect the UK with the rest of the European continent. It drives you safely under the sea through a tunnel and 20 min later you are on the other side both ways. For people who want to visit London or the North of the UK it is really very, very practical and quick. It takes you exactly 3 h from Brussels to London, the train running at 300 km/h (186 mph) on a network of high-speed lines.
It only becomes an adventure when you want to go to the South East coast of England !
Before November 2007 the train went from Folkstone where the tunnel ends to Ashford which is a nice town where you can go to a shopping mall if your connection to the coast is late. It is just besides the station. So it was very easy and quick for me to travel to Eastbourne, where I wanted to go to visit my friends. It took me exactly 4 1/2 h.
Now somebody apparently not very well informed about the geographical situation of the English South East coast decided to built a brand new station in Ebbsfleet which is not even a real town and where "Domestic services to London are planned to be operated by Southeastern" (train lines). No word of connections to the south ! The Eurostar employee where I bought my ticket suggested me not to stop at Ebbsfleet because it is in the middle of nowhere and I anyway had to go up near London to go down again to the coast !
I decided to go to London, and take the opportunity to stay there for a few hours and visit the city again, where I hadn't been since 7 years.
The red line shows the way before November 2007, a stop in Ashford (where I could take my train to Eastbourne). It then stopped at London Waterloo station which was the terminal. The blue line shows the new way, which takes you now up north London to St. Pancras International where big transformations have been done to receive the Eurostar. I don't know what they did with the existing Eurostar station in Waterloo ! It must sit there for nothing now.
The St. Pancras International station is not very well located to get into London city where most of the tourist attractions are and has no direct train connection to the south coast either ! For that you have to go across the street to King's Cross station where you can take a train with at least one change to get to my destination, Eastbourne !
To see something from the city and have a direct train to Eastbourne, I had to take the tube (subway)to Victoria station ! Carrying my suitcase behind me, I walked for 15 min to get out of St. Pancras International and then going up and down a lot of steps to the Underground Station where I had to squeeze myself with many other passengers in the tube with no place for a suitcase of course ! This pleasure cost me 4 £ (5 € or 7.50 $ one way) Arriving at Victoria underground station I had to drag my suitcase again up and down the stairs and walk to get into Victoria train station ! Although I only had a small one, by the time I finally arrived at the "left luggage" to get rid of my suitcase for 3 h, my arm hurt ! Leaving your suitcase there for one hour or one day costs 6.50 £ (8 € or 12 $) !
I then could start my visit in London.
This map shows you where St. Pancras International is located ! Far up in the north of London. See the red line to Victoria.
The Waterloo Station is not far from the tourist attractions (blue circle), it is on the other side of the Thames and much closer. There are a lot of possibilities to go very quickly there.
Arrival at St. Pancras International
When I had finished my little tour, the whole expedition started again ! Lining up to pick up my suitcase, pulling it behind me like a donkey out of the station, down the stairs, a quite long way to the appropriate line, pushing me and my suitcase inside the tube, catching angry glances, getting out of the tube, stairs up and "only" 8 min to walk to get my train to Eastbourne.
Thanks to this excercise I certainly increased my leg and arm musculation. Of course I had to do exactly the same circus on my way back home. From Eastbourne to Victoria station, tube to St. Pancras International where I had to wait for an hour to catch my Eurostar. There is nothing around except a Mc Donald and farer down a Pub across Euston Road with such a lot of traffic that you better be born on the other side. Of course always in company of my suitcase. I could have waited in the station, but there was strictly nothing to do besides looking at some souvenir shops.
and that is what I could admire : St. Pancras station in renovation
and King's Cross station
What I would love is that the persons who decided to cancel the Eurostar stop in Ashford should travel to Eastbourne or Brighton or even only to Dover but I doubt they would admit that they had made a mistake. Anyway I wish them a good journey !
Maybe there are better connections, but I did as I was told, I am a simple foreign tourist after all.