Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 03/12/13
UK1999 #3 Chunnel to Eiffel
London at night looking down the Thames to Tower Bridge (left) at night
Saturday, June 5, 1999
I got up early (which is an unusual experience for me) to get packed and check out of the Athenaeum Hotel by 7 AM. The hotel was free as a package deal with the Concorde flight but my telephone bill came to £175 ($286!) Could AOL have been that costly? Wow! I paid it, reluctantly, but learned a lesson here.
We got our bags to the curb and at 7:15 AM, we took a taxi to Waterloo International. We had purchased the first class tickets in advance from Eurostar. When we arrived there was a porter to put our bags on a cart. As you can see it was a huge ton of bags, again.
He then took us to the extensive security check point we had to go through before getting on the Eurostar Chunnel train. We showed our passports and answered all their questions.
The station was beautifully done - nicer than most airports.
The trains were very modern looking.
They even had car attendants in yellow jackets to help us on board.
The porter (below) took us to our car and then put our bags on the train car - something that is very rare in Europe but routine on Amtrak.
Here is what first class car seating is like on the train.
We found our seats and Marcia settled into reading her book. The train wasn't packed.
What a machine; it gave me the feeling of the Concorde. A little about this modern marvel. We were just two of the 6,593,247 people who took this train in 1999. In 1999 Eurostar posted its first ever net profits, having previously made a loss of £925 million in 1995. On the night of February 19-20, 1996, approximately 1,000 passengers became trapped in the Channel Tunnel when two British Rail Class 373 trains on continent-bound Eurostar service broke down owing to failures of electronic circuits caused by snow and ice being deposited and then melting on the circuit boards. I'm glad I didn't know this and glad we are on it in the summer.
The Chunnel is a 31.4 mi (50.5 Km) undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent, in the UK with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, near Calais in the northeastern tip of France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. Here is a museum mockup of the train in the tunnel.
Below is the extent of the tunnel underground. At its lowest point, it is 250 ft (75 m) deep. At 23.5 mi (37.9 Km,) the Channel Tunnel is the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world.
Here is a cross-section diagram of the Chunnel and you can see there are paths for trains coming and going (A) as well as an emergency escape tunnel (B) between them. The escape shafts (C) are spaced every 1,230 ft (375 m) and there is venting (D) between the two train tunnels.
Below left is our entry point for the Chunnel in Folkestone, UK and on the right is our exit point in Coquelles, France.
At 7:50 AM, we roll out into the southern English countryside and finally dive under the ground for the 20 minutes it takes to crawl under the English Channel. Very eerie experience.
At the English Channel halfway point you can't get rid of the image of all the water that is above you. As we went down my ears popped with the change in pressure and you begin to feel this "musty" sensation or smell (like in a cave.) Once out of the tunnel in the French countryside (below,) they announce that the train is now traveling at 186 mph (300 Kph) which is a little faster than I have ever gone in my Corvette. It didn't feel like we were going that fast but the rail ties were a blur.
We arrive in Paris Nord Station (Gare du Nord) (above right & below) at 12:00 noon. By the number of travelers, at around 190 million per year, it is unmistakably the busiest railway station in Europe. The station complex, situated in the 10th arrondissement, was designed by French architect Jacques Hittorff and built between 1861 and 1864.
We got into the taxi queue that went pretty quickly and we find the one taxi that can hold all our bags. We lucked out. We went past Place du Trocadero to the Le Parc Hotel [55-57 Avenue Raymond Poincare, +33-87-066-2570] and checked in at 12:30. It's nice to be in Paree again. We checked into the hotel and got half-way unpacked in our room. [A complete story of the Le Parc is listed here .
At 2:00 PM, I decided a run around the Eiffel Tower was in order again and I took the same path to it that I did two years ago. When I got there, the tower now had the large lit up numbers on it saying: "J - 210 avant 'la an 2000" meaning "Only 210 days to the Year 2000." Last time I was here it said 971 days to the millennium. Where did those 761 days go? It seems like it was just yesterday.
It had sprinkled earlier and 3/4 way through my run, it really started to come down. I looked like a drowned rat at 3:00, as I plaintively sought a table at Cafe Trocadero [8 Place du Trocadero, +33-15-626-0713,] a small cafe where I enjoyed a cappuccino as I dried off.
[For the whole interesting story of the Cafe Trocadero see the first page of the Italy 1997 Diario; click .]
I then found Marcia who was having lunch of a nice consommé soup with French bread ...
... and then a plain burger with a fried egg and French fries.
We went back to the room and relaxed and then got ready for dinner. At 7:20 PM, we went down to the Le Parc lobby bar and had a drink. Marcia was playing Solitaire on her Palm Pilot I got for her.
At 8:00 we took a cab to the Les Halles area for dinner at at 8:30 at Au Pied de Cochon ("Pigs Feet") [6 rue Coquillière, +33-15-323-0800] as we did two yrs ago when it was very good. This place was first opened in 1946 and has been open 24/7 ever since - they never close. Obviously, knowing that, you could come and get something to eat here whenever you felt like it. As you can see from the map it is a little bit of a ride along the Seine from our hotel (left, near Trocadero) to the Le Halles area (right, arrow marker.)
Below left is the Les Halles area map. They are famous here for their French onion soup (below) which really is quite good.
Of course, their name sake is the pig's foot (below left.) If you try it, I doubt you will ever order it again. The interior is huge but they have a little bar (below right.)
We looked at the menu and ordered some wine. Then we both ordered onion soup.
Believe it or not, I fell asleep at the table after eating the best French onion soup I have ever had. This jetlag is still bad.
Marcia then ordered the cold seafood platter served in a wicker basket.
It is full of lobsters, crabs and langoustines on ice. They are known for their seafood, also.
Instead, I had lamb and beef kebobs over some potatoes with a side of spinach. I skipped dessert.
We really enjoyed our dinner and decided we wanted to go to the Moulin Rouge. We are not here to tour France or Paris, but it would be nice to see a few things while we visit Paris. I have heard of the Moulin Rouge [82 Boulevard de Clichy, +33- Official Site] since I was a kid but I thought it was as historical (1900 below left) as Toulouse-Lautrec (short guy, below center,) the artist who became famous for his posters for this place. We got a cab to see what it looked like.
The place was co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller, who also owned the Paris Olympia. Close to Montmartre in the Paris district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement, it is marked by the red windmill on its roof. Below is a stock photo of it compared to the best I could edit from the night video I took that night.
The Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance (below left) which was originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site. The can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment on its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe and even as far away as our Old West and San Francsico.
Well, we discovered that it is still alive and kicking and we went in and saw the show with a couple who had immigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia to Boston. The show was great and now I know where Las Vegas shows got their inspiration. Most of the dancers were topless and its hard to believe but again I fell asleep during the show three times (jetlag or age 56?) Marcia thought the show was great. [All photos are stock]
Some interesting history; all the sexy dancing, the big headdresses and trains used everywhere in such burlesque shows today were all started by this one star dancer at the Moulin Rouge. Her name was Mistinguett (Jeanne Bourgeois) (1875–1956) (below) and she made her debut as Mistinguett at the Casino de Paris in 1895 and went on to appear in venues such as the Folies Bergère, Moulin Rouge and Eldorado. Her risqué routines captivated Paris, and she went on to become the most popular French entertainer of her time and the highest paid female entertainer in the world. She was known for her flamboyance and a zest for the theatrical. In 1919 her legs were insured for 500,000 francs. She had a long relationship with Maurice Chevalier, 13 years her junior. A website dedicated to her is HERE.
I finally met my match. After videotaping all of Italy (wherever and whenever it wasn't allowed) and even taping the Andrea Bocelli concert at the Hollywood Bowl and St. Stephen's Crown in Budapest (guards jumped me but still got the video,) I have become a "docarazzzi." Well, they caught me while beginning to focus my SONY digital camcorder at the Moulin Rouge show and adamantly demanded to confiscate my camera. I stuck to my ground and told them I was not handing over a $3000 camera. After a little shouting they finally agreed to let me keep it after I promised not to do any taping. I kept my word. These French are pretty tough.
[In 2013, I reviewed my 1999 videotape of the occasion and their was nothing on it of the Moulin Rouge Show.]
After the show, we caught a cab back to Le Parc Hotel and went right to bed. I have to get up and try to get to Mass at Notre Dame tomorrow.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #4
Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
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