Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Paris to London... by Bus

It was a mother and daughter trip to Paris, we had been in Ireland, and decided to just hop over to Paris for 3 days. When in Europe, you can literally do that-- Just hop on a plane for a short journey to another country, sort of like we do here in the states, flying from state to state.

On our return journey, with a stop over in London, I decided it would be fun to travel by Coach (A long distance bus).

I thought what a wonderful way to see the French countryside, to soak in more of the french experience. In my mind, I pictured fields of Lavender and an educational and moving experience for my daughter. I thought since the trip is only around 6 hours. It will be fun!!

I booked the ticket with Eurolines. We departed from Roissypole - Gare, near Charles de Gaulle Airport and our destination was Victoria Coach Station in London. 

This was going to be so exciting! And going across the English Channel by Ferry, honestly, I knew my 12 year old daughter would love it.

The day our journey began, we arrived an hour early though we only needed to be 30 minutes early. 
Our Coach was 20 minutes late. Sending me into a slight panic, as I wasn't 100 % sure that I was in the correct place, even though I asked at least 6 people in broken french if I was at the correct bus stop. 

We were finally picked up, with a few people already on the bus, and off we went. We very quickly discovered that our promise of Wi-Fi was not even close to being a reality. I tried all of my travel tricks. Nothing. Looks of despair from my daughter started to ensue. 

The coach made a couple of stops on the way out of Paris for other passengers. On one of our stops, we were surprise boarded by a Police Force of some kind, about 4 men, asking for passports. Everyone on the bus, I guess about 15 people including us, all showed their passports and off we went again. I was eager to reach the french border, I wanted to enjoy the sea air as we crossed.

The beautiful Countryside? Well... Not what I was expecting.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not downing on France. But this particular drive, was not particularly stunning, it was mostly some homes and miles of farming fields. When telling people about this excursion, I have had many people chuckle. I mean how was I to know? Driving the countryside of England, Ireland or Scotland never disappoints. I have heard parts of France are stunning. But this drive, well, it really isn't one of them. I feel bad saying that, as I love greenery and seeing windmills always makes me happy!
Half way to the French border, we did stop at a large rest area that offered food, toilets and a gift shop. There is a toilet on board, but neither my daughter or I used it. We got drinks and a snack for the rest of the journey.
Right before the border, all passengers had to get off of the coach and go through security/passport control. It was a quick production, a lot quicker than any airport I've been through. Most likely because there were so few people on our bus.
This photo was taken in a stall at Passport Control in France.
We then headed for the actual border. (Me looking furiously for the channel water)

We stopped in a long line of Coaches/Buses. I was eagerly waiting, only to realize, we were going through the Euro Tunnel. An underwater railway also known as the "Chunnel" that takes about 35 minutes to cross. The Channel Tunnel is quite an elaborate operation. However, I was thinking we were going over water. Silly me. I also thought that a person (or bus), could simply drive through the tunnel for their excursion to the other side. I was very wrong. In fact, our big ole bus was put into a crate, a rather very large crate-- It was technically the train, but it looked like we were being loaded onto a crate in the train, a very enormous metal one. Oh boy.
I'm not fond of being underground. I can just manage the tube in London, or any underground system, because I try not to think about being miles under the dirt. You see, I'm ever so slightly claustrophobic. However, at this point, I couldn't exactly back out. I also didn't have the luxury of any kind of panic as I was with my 12 year old daughter. So ... with a great deal of hidden reluctance, I watched as workers closed the doors ahead of us. We were sitting relatively close to the front of the bus. I didn't actually time the trip, it was bumpy and I could see through the glass barrier that separated the buses on the train. All of us were synchronized in our bouncing, as the train carried us to England.
Once in England, we waiting patiently as the barrier doors opened slowly one at a time, letting each bus drive forward. Forward that is, towards another stop for border control and checking of all of our passports. Another quick check, as we were all released to re-board our bus.

The trip to London, was pretty much uneventful. However, once we were in the city, the driver had absolutely no idea where he was going, he navigated through most of the city, passing a lot of the beautiful monuments that scream "You're in London!!", but the closer we got to Victoria Station, the more the bus driver kept calling for directions (Google Maps anyone?). 

We finally arrived at Victoria station, just an average big bus station-- with a toilet you have to pay for and seats to wait in. Since we had to catch a plane to Ireland, I didn't stick around to see what was available for the traveler. We walked the 5 minute journey to the Victoria Train Station and made our way to Gatwick Airport. 

So a quick synopsis...

PROS
  • Such a cheap journey. For both my daughter and I, it was €48.00.
  • If time is not an issue, this is the best way to go, it took just over 7 hours, but if you're back packing or have time-- Why not? Enjoy that book you have wanted to finish. Catch up on emails. Do whatever.
  • When you purchase your tickets. They are both in English and French.
CONS
  • It's really a boring ride. I had magazines. But I was bored without internet, I was traveling light, and I expected to have Wi-Fi. Hannah did surprisingly well. She always brings things to do, and she did have some games on her phone that didn't require internet. 
  • As previously mentioned I couldn't get connected to Wi-Fi. Yes-- It could be user error. But, it's not like I don't know how to connect to the internet, it's not rocket science. They do advertise having Wi-Fi, but our bus didn't.
  • The bus arrived late, and we were very late into London. By over an hour. You must have a freed up schedule to travel by coach.
I wouldn't do this long of a journey again, but we are traveling from Rome to Venice summer 2019 and it's very likely this will be a way of travel again. I want to see the countryside, we might take the train too. Who knows. I'm still ironing out the details. 

Have you ever traveled long distance by bus in a foreign country?

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