Sunday, 10 May 2015

Ou Est La Gare?!

Yes, my favourite all time French question that I've never used or likely to use since I left school many moons ago. I always have an urge to say it - it makes me chuckle - whenever I'm in France. However, it never comes in handy on our yearly road trips but this time I could really use it!

On Friday 1st May, my husband and I took the inaugural Eurostar train direct from London St Pancras direct to Marseille. Yes, you heard that right. Not to Paris, Brussels or Lille but to the South of France. As south as you can go. Right down to the Mediterranean without getting off the train.

We had an early start on the Friday - 7.15 am to be precise. This would have meant leaving home exceedingly early. Anything before 6.00 am is the middle of the night as far as I'm concerned. So, we stayed overnight in the Premier Inn, right next to St Pancras. The mini-break started on Thursday night. I don't get out often or go away so the prospect of sleeping in a Premier Inn is exciting. The whole check in, large made bed (which was very comfy) and watching television in said bed made me whoop. Bliss. Even passing this Hotel to get to the Premier Inn did not dampen my spirits.

Unfortunately, my youngest son decided to get sick prior to us leaving all three children with my parents at our house. Thankfully, he was right as rain by Friday but typical isn't it? A big thank you to my parents for babysitting for 4 days so we could indulge ourselves.

I love London and the St Pancras building is worth a visit alone let along whizzing off to the South of France.

Early Friday morning we made the short walk to the Eurostar terminal. The excitement in the air from both the passengers and the crew was immediate. The Eurostar crew are like the equivalent of Virgin Airways on the trains. I feel they deserve to strut (in a nice way) around the railways with their new uniform and destination kudos. I loved their straw boater hats and crisp white uniform with the new route on the back. They were all incredibly helpful and attentive but also seemed genuinely thrilled to be on this, the very first trip direct to Marseille.  We were constantly asked if we needed anything and felt like mini celebrities. 

We were served tea and coffee with breakfast and later on lunch with wine. We had upgraded from standard - which was an incredibly £99 per person return to premier standard class for £198 return. Well worth the added luxury and leg room. We were visited by the Chief Executive of Eurostar who said he had recently visited Marseille after a 20 year absence and said we would love it.  He reminded us of a very slim Richard E Grand and was very charming, stylish and French. I would have liked a photo with him but thought that might sound weird. So I have found one for you - I give you Nicolas Petrovic.

There were tourist board officials also travelling if you wanted to ask questions about your chosen destination. In addition, Raymond Blanc was walking around - although he was stationed (excuse the pun) more in business class than premier standard but hey ho. There were journalists, photographers and the whole journey had a party atmosphere to it. 

The journey was fabulous with power points and high brow magazines, nicely decorated toilet and we were given a goody bag too.  I love the design of the 1920s postcard and writing. Full marks to their marketing gurus.

We arrived in Marseille at about 2.20pm - I think it was 2 minutes late of something like that. We arrived to several camera crew and journalists. My husband was interviewed by French Television and enthused about the journey and the route. I have yet to find it on youtube but would love to see it. It was a bank holiday in France so we walked to our hotel - Novotel in the new port. It took about 15 minutes and whilst parts of the city are a bit rough around the edges we never felt unsafe at all.

That's the perception with Marseille isn't it? That it's a bit rough - like all major cities in the world (its France's second largest) there's bound to be no go areas. However, during our entire time there - Friday to Monday - I felt safe as houses. But then I do hail from South London but even so! I think the most 'dangerous' thing about Marseille would be their pavements which are a bit hap hazard (reminded me of our time in Cuba pre children) and falling flower pots. On our last day one crashed off the top of a roof narrowly missing a passing tourist. What a way to go though - death by flowerpot. 

Our first walk around Marseille having unpacked in our massive suite, with balcony view of the cruise ships coming into harbour, was around the new port.

We saw this funky piece of artwork which makes my youngest really laugh. We carried on walking and walking towards the Museum of Civilisation - the building is a work of art in itself then down to the old port.

By this time it was about 7pm so we darted into one of the many restaurants surrounding the harbour for some pizza. Next, we went on the ferris wheel to take in the views and plot where we'd be heading off to the following day. After a long and enjoyable day we walked back to our hotel room and looked forward to the day ahead.

Don't miss Part II of Ou est La Gare coming up shortly for Things to Do in Marseille.

Be back soon..


  1. That's quite amazing that you can get on the train in London and get out at the mediterranean.