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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Brighton to Paris in under 6 hours ....

I had work to do in Paris on Monday, viewing an auction, and I decided to drive. I like driving if I know that with any luck I am going to be on relatively open roads. And my car, a fuel-efficient Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDI is also very comfortable for a long drive. I never end up with a stiff neck or a sore bum - at 63, I understand that such things are possibles.

Up the A 23/M23, down the M25 / M20, onto the Shuttle, out of Calais and turning off down the A1 to Paris.

French motorways are, of course, expensive toll roads. Twenty euro each way for the Calais - Paris stretch. But they are generally uncrowded and therefore a pleasure. If you want to travel First Class, then the Supplements for speeding are quite modest. However, I do keep at the back of my mind that Don't Drink and Drive has never really caught on in France: watch out for beetroot-faced drivers wandering between lanes.

Even uncrowded, France's motorways clearly generate a vast income for the state proprietor, SANEF, some of which is spent on self-congratulatory roadside advertising and quite a bit on keeping the verges immaculately manicured.

Arriving in Paris, you come off the A1 and straight on to the Périphérique at Porte de la Chapelle. That's eight lanes, four in each direction, which encircle the whole centre of Paris at close range - imagine the North and South Circulars as unbroken motorway . It's ugly but brilliantly functional. You turn off and you are in Paris.

I exited at Porte de la Champerret and straight into the vast maze - it's a bit scary - of the Da Vinci car park.

Out of bed in Brighton at 06.00, I was sitting down to lunch in the open air of Levallois Perret at around 12.30UK time with under six hours driving and Shuttle in between. Had I gone up to London by train, taken the Tube to St Pancras and caught our only High Speed Train service to Paris, I would not have done it any quicker.

Eurostar is all right but it's often a sardine experience in rather beaten up rolling stock to which is now added the herding through the airport scanners. Are they really necessary?

They make a pretence of Security at the Tunnel, but if you time it right, you can often go through without so much as having your Passport stared at. Of course, they have your vehicle number and can check you in advance which may be more difficult at St Pancras. But it is a small mercy not to have to pick your own pockets for the benefit of a machine and any traveller nowadays is grateful for small mercies.

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