Not Martha

My Vacation Slides: Paris Day 6, trains and vegetables

the ceiling of St Pancras station in London

On day six we took the Eurostar to London and a National Rail train to Nottingham to visit a our friends Laura (Busywork) and Andy. I was very excited about taking the train but, turns out, it wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped. We did end up going through the Chunnel, but they didn’t announce it or anything. It just got dark, and a few minutes later we were in the UK.

my feet at St Pancras, trying to figure out which way to go

We did get some great advice from Laura on how to book a good train ticket, and I’ve added my own below.

We were hoping for more time in St. Pancras station since it’s filled with nice stores, and we were hoping to go next door to get a picture of Platform 9 3/4, but our train was late and by the time we found where to get our tickets and grabbed some food it was time to find the new train.


At this point in our trip I was in desperate need of some vegetables. I was over the moon to find some prepared broccoli and soba noodles with carrots! At this point these were the most precious and delicious things in my world. I was giddy while eating them, it was terribly silly.

I also spotted Scotch Eggs!

Scotch Eggs!

And these cute meat pies:

meat pies!

We were met at the Nottingham station (so nice!) and were soon exploring the neighborhood. First we went to the Nottingham Craft Mafia pop-up store. Apparently it had started as a temporary shop set up for the holidays but was so successful they stayed. It’s full of great things:

Nottingham Craft Mafia pop-up store

Nottingham Craft Mafia pop-up store

Nottingham Craft Mafia pop-up store

Nottingham Craft Mafia pop-up store

cat, hanging out in the chairs inside the bank lobby

We passed a bank and Laura and Andy pointed out this cat who waits at the front door in the moring, comes inside and hangs out in the lobby all day, and leaves at night. Smart cat.

After this we went to Boots! I bought some Travel Calm (motion sickness pills that we can’t get in the states, and don’t have the heavy drowsy side effect of Dramamine) and looked through all the many goods. I didn’t buy nearly enough stuff here.

And then we went to a Marks and Spencer’s food store, it was amazing. Trader Joe’s pales in comparison.

MS frozen foods aisle

MS crisps aisle

The flavors of crisps here were amazing. I think we bought Honey Roasted Whiltshire Ham, which tasted uncannily like any barbeque flavored chip.

peppermint humbugs

chocolate buttons

Chocolate buttons.

dessert spoons made of cookie

Look! Dessert spoons.

Later Scott got a Malteasers milk shake:

Malteasers milkshake

I was very tired so we all went to bed early.

Things I Learned the Hard Way

Eurostar and train tickets The earlier you buy rail tickets the less expensive they are. We got ours about two months in advance and it was still surprisingly pricey. That said, Paris to London in two hours? That was pretty cool.

Laura sent me to sites that had really fantastic advice about booking on the Eurostar – Seat 61. In particular this site has some great advice on choosing a seat and points towards this very handy (PDF) Seatting Plan which can help you choose a seat facing forward and with a good open window in your aisle. Most handy of all? If you buy standard class tickets know that cars 5 and 14 have power sockets in each row. They alternate UK and European outlets, and if you book early enough you can choose (they show which outlets are in which rows when you choose). These are also the cars nearest the bar cars which can be good (food!) and bad (lots of people coming through).

My advice? Headed out of Paris towards London get seats on the left side of the train, we were seated on the right and had a view of a highway the whole trip. I kept peeking across the train car to see more pastoral views of villages and barns in the distance out the other windows.

If you’re interested in shopping in St Pancras try to get a longer layover than one hour. Our Eurostar trains were both running half an our late. We had enough time to get our connecting train, but not enough to look around. (I was hoping to have enough time to slip and out have a photo op moment at nearby Platform 9 3/4.)

We booked our trip (Paris to London to Nottingham) all together through, the advantage of which is that should one train be late, you’re automatically booked on the next train going your way without extra expense. We weren’t able to request specific seats on the National Rail tickets. On the way back we found ourselves in the midst of commuter time and it was madness with people standing and a few sitting down in seats only to have the ticket holder for that seat arrive shortly afterward, and then negotiate with the squatter, generally kindly, who had longer to travel and on and on. It was really amusing.

You need to arrive half an hour before departure time for the Eurostar trains, so if you can at all help it don’t double check your tickets the night before and accidentally read them as “9:31 am” instead of “9:13 am” because you’ll also find that the journey through the Metro and RER with it’s long underground connection tunnels will take you a good 45 minutes when you have luggage and you’ll be frantic when you realize your error and arrive at Gare du Nord to find you have to walk three football fields of length through crowds to get to the Eurostar platforms and you’ll be sweaty and rushed and panicky. So, yeah, give yourself plenty of time.

On the way out of Paris through Gare du Nord we did have to fill out forms with our names, destination and travel dates to go through passport control, as well as go through some luggage screening. On the way back out of St Pancras we had luggage screening but didn’t have to fill out extra forms. (Actually, the French men in passport control barley glanced at me on the way through.) At St Pancras there is a newsstand with candy and a restaurant with to-go food on the other side of passport control. If you head all the way to the right (towards the restaurant) you can find counter seats with both European and UK plugs, there were a bunch of people camped there with laptops, and I think the St Pancras wi-fi extends that far though we weren’t able to connect to it.

What else? The Eurostar trains have fold-down foot rests, that was a nice touch. And at night the cars are lit on the inside so it’s easy to catch several reflections of the couple in front of you making out, hee hee.

Previously: Day One arrival and beating jet lag; Day Two big impressive monuments, unexpected meetings, needing to pee; Day Three The Metro, a museum, and French onion soup; Day Four dogs in paintings, startlingly large arches and towers; Day Five pastries and scoldings; Day Five the bit about the mangosteens

Next up: Day Seven Ye Olde-est Pub in England and a giant space suit

· comments [26] · 03-17-2010 · categories:travel ·

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jen // Mar 17, 2010 at 5:12 am

    When I went to Paris and London (way back in 1996), the chunnel was new … but I decided to take the ferry instead. Sure, I could have gotten to London faster, but it was fun to get on the ferry, see the white cliffs of Dover, etc … Took a LONG time to take the train from Dover to London though

    I love those dessert spoons!

  • 2 Lucy // Mar 17, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Oh my! I’ve been looking forward to this entry since you mentioned Nottingham a few weeks back. I love your blog, and I live in Nottingham! I even work for Boots (at their head office – did you know the company started in Nottingham?)!

    I absolutely loved your take on Marks & Spencer – maybe I should be less jealous of this magical Trader Joe’s I hear so much about?!

    Great set of articles, really interesting – looking forward to more :)

  • 3 Celia // Mar 17, 2010 at 5:24 am

    dessert spoons?! I’d dip those suckers in everything! London via Paris, we should have done that!

  • 4 Hilary // Mar 17, 2010 at 5:49 am

    I am really enjoying your Paris recap…and hoping that you went to some yarn shops on your trip! If so, please be sure to report back – I’m so curious as to how yarn is sold in France.

  • 5 Tina // Mar 17, 2010 at 8:31 am

    The dessert spoons are such a cool idea! It make be worth experimenting making my own!

  • 6 Seanna Lea // Mar 17, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I’m super hungry and that milkshake looks amazingly wonderful. While I’d love to think I’d be all high brow and culturally minded if I were traveling, I am pretty sure I’d really be all about the food so I’m enjoying all of the food photos!

  • 7 Giulia // Mar 17, 2010 at 9:16 am

    See? That is why I love London… you can buy vegan spicy soba noodles and steamed broccoli (and much more in the vegan & veggie dept.) while waiting for your train or plane! <3

  • 8 Paola // Mar 17, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Lucy, Trader Joe’s has nothing but NOTHING on M&S Foods (or Waitrose, or even Tesco’s for that matter).

    Megan, it really tickles me the things you highlight. It never occurred to me that British crisp flavours are strange (though you should have had the prawn cocktail) or that St Pancras Station might be a shopping destination (one day you should go to Liverpool St station, the shops there are seriously good).

  • 9 Paola // Mar 17, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Oh and I miss Boots horribly too…

  • 10 Madeline // Mar 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I’m an American living in Nottingham and it was so much fun to read a little bit of what you did in Nottingham. I need to check out the M&S food hall!

  • 11 AnEmily // Mar 17, 2010 at 10:11 am

    You are making me consider just spending our whole tax refund on a trip to Paris to duplicate yours! I think my husband would be mad(slightly) and our unfinished bathroom would never get finished. Sigh. Maybe next year!

  • 12 K // Mar 17, 2010 at 10:12 am

    But Paola have you seen the NEW St Pancras? Apologies if you have. But it is truly gorgeous.

    My husband (UK expat) misses the many and varied British crisp flavors terribly. Along with “proper chips.”

    I can’t get too misty over Tesco (except for how cheap it is), but I truly pine for Waitrose. *whimper*

  • 13 Molly // Mar 17, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who travels to the UK and gets super-psyched about shopping in Boots and buying snacks at M&S. Those are always two of my favorite stops.

  • 14 pam // Mar 17, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I’ve never been to Paris, but I’ve spent lots of time in England. By far my favorite thing to do there is shop at Boots and the grocery stores (Sainsbury’s is my personal fave.)

  • 15 Karen // Mar 17, 2010 at 11:57 am

    My favourite part of traveling abroad is checking out the food in the grocery stores. I was amazed by the variety of prepackaged veggies (cleaned and trimmed – for two) and the selection of desserts (again, 2 servings) in the British stores. Your blog has brought back many memories.

  • 16 anne // Mar 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Don’t you just love the wooden cutlery that you can find there? I was in London in the fall and I just thought they were the best thing ever. You can’t get them easily or cheaply in the states, either for home/party/picnic use, or at take-out places, which sucks.

    And yes, I went crazy for shopping in Boots and M&S and Tesco. Exchange rate reined me in though. Sigh. Love all the organic and preservative free food!

  • 17 gribblette // Mar 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    i didn’t know there was an ACTUAL platform 9 3/4!!

    your posts about the trip have been so wonderful, thank you!

  • 18 megan // Mar 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Anne – The Bambu brand makes wooden cutlery, I know I’ve bought it at Cost Plus World Market here in the US and I think I’ve spotted it elsewhere as well. I’m not sure how much less it is than plastic but I it is sustainable.

  • 19 jendoop // Mar 17, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    That milkshake looks divine. I’d comment on all the other loveliness if that wasn’t consuming my thoughts.

  • 20 Ellen // Mar 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Aw, you can only say that about Trader Joe’s because you live in a town that HAS Trader Joe’s.

  • 21 megan // Mar 18, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Ellen – True, this is very true. I was Trader Joe’s-less for most of my life and have only recently come to take it for granted :)

  • 22 johnathan // Mar 18, 2010 at 9:18 am

    London to Paris travel was fun on Eurostar and it was even more fun since I got a great deal. Here is the website that I found useful.

  • 23 Entertaining foreign visitors « Busywork // Mar 18, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    […] writing about her visit to Nottingham this week: part one, part two. She’s got some good pictures of the giant spacesuit that’s on display, so do […]

  • 24 Meli // Mar 19, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Its great to see how the food and shops in England appear to you, such an eye opener! I went to California a few years ago and fell in love with Trader Joe’s, proclaiming that there is nothing like it back home in England and very jealous of people who got to shop there regularly….the grass is always greener! But i must say, John Lewis is THE BEST!! I love your blog, it always makes me smile!

  • 25 Beti // Mar 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    I know this is an old post but I wanted to say thanks for the Eurostar seating info. We are headed to Paris/London/Scotland for the first times this year (woot!) and I’d originally booked seats on the right. Now we are on the left. Thanks!

  • 26 megan // Mar 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Beti I’m so glad it helped!

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