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Posts Tagged ‘Eurostar’

Travel – A380; Flying from London Heathrow to Singapore Changi

May 26, 2010 5 comments

Flying to Singapore from the UK presents a number of choices; which airline, which route, which aircraft, what are the seats like, how about the in-flight entertainment etc?  As with most things in life, it can simply come down to getting the lowest ticket price. I avoid flying with BA wherever possible as the Middle Eastern or Asian carriers now beat their European rivals’ hands-down in almost every area on this route.  

Airline

Emirates usually offer lower ticket prices than SIA

Singapore Airlines – in my view, the overall experience is marginally better with SIA

Route

Emirates – two 6 to 7hr legs from LHR Terminal 3 – with a 1 to 2 hour stop-over in Dubai

Singapore Airlines – a direct 13 to 14 hr flight leaving from LHR Terminal 3

Aircraft

Emirates – usually use B777’s with 10-across seating in economy making it feel very cramped. This is the main downside of using Emirates on this route even with the pleasant short break in Dubai.

Singapore Airlines – often uses the latest A380 500-seater double-decker plane on this route. In my view, this is the most comfortable aircraft flying at present – quiet, roomy with lots of space to walk around + a rear stairwell down to the lower deck.  If flying economy, try to book seats on the upper deck as this generally gives a superior experience. There appears to be more room around the seats and there is a gap (+ a good floor level storage bin) between the seat and the side of the airplane making it feel much more spacious. I could not use the laptop on the 777 as there was not enough room on the tray but it can be used on the A380 with plenty of room to work, even in economy.

Interestingly, Air France has just announced that it will take on Eurostar in flying the A380 on the short-hop from Paris to London between June and August 2010. Fares are from £80 one way. British Airways do not yet fly the A380 but Singapore Airlines now have 12 such aircraft in their fleet.

Service and food

Singapore Airlines – again in my view, their overall offering is slightly better than Emirates. However, the staff of both airlines offer great customer service and are equally attentive and helpful.  I feel that the food on SIA has the edge and is good quality serving up western and regional menus.  Both airlines offer good state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment with a wide range of movies and music.

Airports

Changi Airport Singapore is – rightly in my opinion – rated as one of the best airports in the world; simply an amazing experience with so much to distract and offer passengers. This time, I discovered the Changi Butterfly House, chocked full of beautiful butterflies and tropical plants – and built inside the airport terminal, truly a delight!  

15 hours later, I had the misfortune to land at LHR Terminal 3 which felt grubby, tired and in need of some TLC and a bit of paint + a few wall-hangings!

Travel – By Eurostar and TGV to the French Riviera

April 2, 2010 1 comment

This is just the most wonderful trip. Just make sure that you treat the – very – long 12hr travel day as part of your holiday. It’s all extremely relaxing and you might never want to fly again! It probably takes longer than by air door-to-door but you’ll see so much more of France on the way. There is space to stretch out and breathe (unlike on the airlines) and plenty of time to just sit and ponder.

The best website for planning your rail trip to Europe is http://www.seat61.com. You can book your entire journey here online – for all Eurostar and French TGV services.

One money-saving secret gleaned from the Man-in-Seat-61 is the availability of low-price tickets for any UK connecting service to London International (CIV) at any time, even on those crowded early morning commuter trains. These tickets also include underground travel. Go to http://www.raileasy.co.uk for more info.

If you can afford it, book Leisure Class on Eurostar. An ‘at seat’ meal service is provided and the food is of very good quality – we enjoyed a cooked breakfast with champagne to celebrate the trip.  It’s good fun drinking bucks fizz and eating good ole Cumberland sausages 246ft under La Manche! You are in the Chunnel for just 20mins and it all seems slightly surreal, particularly if fish is on the menu.

It’s best to buy your Metro tickets at St Pancras before you leave. We didn’t and the queue in Paris for ticketing was really long and could be a bit of a concern if your time is short getting across Paris. BTW – the queue for taxis in Paris was even longer than for the Metro tickets!

Avoid going to Paris altogether by connecting to the SNCF TGV services at Lille Europe. We didn’t do this on the way south and had to cross a rather drizzly and busy French capital using its somewhat smelly Metro system.  Note – it can take a good 40mins to travel from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon.

Most TGV’s on this route are Duplex (double-deckers). When booking, try to sit upstairs as its lighter and the views are far better. If there are just two of you travelling, ask for ‘Duo’ (side by side) or ‘Club Duo’ (facing each other) seating.

Go first class on the TGV if you are able (some really good value tickets are available if you book ahead); the seats are wide and beautifully upholstered. It’s almost like sitting in your comfy armchair at home! The view is ever changing and you soon realise just how big a country France is to cross. After the TGV, the Eurostar seats and carpets felt ever so slightly tatty by contrast. However, the food service is better on Eurostar.

It’s quite acceptable to take your own picnic onto the TGV. After all, you’ll be on the train for a long while and the buffet car seemed expensive (especially with the present Euro exchange rate). However, this being France, the coffee on board is really good and the wine drinkable! We watched a number of French people unpacking some exciting goodies and eating a substantial meal – all carried on board in a variety of bags and boxes!

Oh – and make sure you ‘composte’ (validate) your ticket in the yellow or orange machines situated on the platform in French stations before you get on board. In the rush, we forgot – this is regarded as wholly unacceptable and could incur a fine. In our case, we survived the penalty but learnt the lesson!

To give some idea of how long the journey from the south of England to the south of France takes, here is our timetable (March 2010).

It was 12 hours door-to-door (including the one-hour clock change).

Out 06.40 – 08.15      Hampshire to London Waterloo, then via the underground

09.32 – 12.46      Eurostar – London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord

13.46 – 19.30      TGV Duplex – Paris Gare de Lyon to Nice, Cote d’Azur

Return 10.28 – 17.35      TGV Duplex – Nice, Cote d’Azur to Lille Europe

18.35 – 19.05      Eurostar – Lille Europe to London St Pancras

19.45 – 21.15      Via the underground to London Waterloo, then on to Hampshire

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