In May 2015, Eurostar added an exciting year-round service from London to the South of France. With a journey time of 6 hours and 27 minutes, it’s not the fastest way to get from London to Marseille – but, as you may read from the below, the benefits outweigh the drawback of the longer travel time.
20 minutes before departure, it was announced over the loudspeakers that boarding had commenced on Platform 8. At the entrance to my carriage, my ticket was again checked by a very friendly attendant, and I easily found my seat.
All staff were unfailingly friendly and well groomed - the staff on this service wear a slightly pared down "South of France" Eurostar uniform.
Standard Premier is arranged in a 1-2 configuration, which is good for solo passengers as it means there is the option to sit alone.
If you are travelling as a couple, you can also choose single seats facing each other, or if in a group, pairs facing each other. In adjacent pairs, seat backs have a pocket at chest height for the Eurostar Metropolitan magazine (and any small personal belongings or bottles of water), while a large metal tray table slides up and out.
There are shared power sockets throughout – in my case there was one UK and one EU in the table legs, though they were very hard to find and I only saw them after a member of staff pointed them out. Underneath the table was a small bin beneath the window. Seats have pale grey striped upholstery, winged headrests with padded burgundy leather, and a button in the armrest to slide the seat forward and recline it. The product was very wide and had lots of legroom.
Above the seats were two luggage racks – a broader shelf at the top for small suitcases and a ledge below for jackets. There were also reading lights, curtains and coat hooks. Washrooms were clean but smelt a bit and there were magazine racks in the vestibules with copies of Shortlist, Stylist, Wallpaper, Time and Condé Nast Traveller amongst others.
Our first, and only, other stop (picking up passengers that is) was at Ashford International. From here, the train sped through the Chunnel. I was working on my laptop throughout (aided by my 3G device - wifi is not available on this service yet), and then dozed off for about an hour. Sleeping is easy onboard - travelling by train seems to induce sleep!
Around 12pm, a light lunch was served; I was offered the choice of either a pork and lentils dish or Thai chicken. I chose the latter - it was served with fresh breads and a chocolate tart made up the dessert. All was very delicious, I have to say. I also had some white wine (a Sauvignon Blanc) and was offered plenty of refills. All close to perfect.
After slightly over four hours of travel, we arrived in Lyon, where the train made a quick stop. We then sped off for Avignon and finally Marseille. We arrived in Marseille with a slight delay of 12 minutes.
The only slight drawback is the lack of wifi onboard - something which is being dealt with as the new and refurbished trains are introduced.