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Eurostar Service

Posted: 09:27 Monday 25th June 2018
by chason
Went with Johnsons last week on a holiday to the South of France based in Avignon. A somewhat complicated itinerary involved the tour coach going the whole way empty, apart from carrying our luggage, on the two day journey to Avignon with us having a different Johnsons coach to take us for an overnight stay in London and the short transfer to St Pancras early the next morning for our journey by Eurostar. On arrival in Avignon, a local coach took us from the station to our hotel where we arrived at exactly the same time as the empty tour coach with our luggage.

We then had four days in and around Avignon using the tour coach with the same procedure in reverse on the return - local coach to the station, tour coach returns empty with luggage, we were met at St Pancras by another Johnsons coach for transfer to hotel and then returns us to Henley in Arden the next day. So five coaches in all involving three drivers having overnight stays - a logistical nightmare for the organiser I should think but it all seemed to work OK. Not surprising that Johnsons holidays tend to be a bit pricier than most.

But this is really about Eurostar. A through journey to Avignon via Lille by Eurostar, leaving St Pancras dead on time at 0719 and arriving in Avignon on the dot at 1408. A comfortable journey but one of the original Eurostars looking it's age and a bit tired. The return involved a change at Lille so we caught the Marseille to Brussels French TGV from Avignon at 1253. Again spot on with the time but half an hour or so into our journey, there was a sudden brake application and an emergency stop, quite something going from about 160 mph to 0 in quite a short distance. After a few minutes, the train manager announced there was a power failure in the rear engine and when the lights went out and the aircon stopped, I feared the worst but after 25 minutes or so, we restarted. The problem for our party was that we had only just over half an hour to change at Lille on to the Brussels to St Pancras Eurostar which also involved two lots of passport control and immigration so our connection was not looking good. However, the TM announced that the Eurostar would be held at Lille for us but to be as quick as we could. A lesson here for our own TOC's who are reluctant to hold connections for even a minute or two but the Eurostar was held for nearly 20 minutes until we were all safely on board. This time , it was one of the new ones - much brighter inside and more comfortable. and we duly arrived in London about 20 minutes late. I don't suppose those who had onward connections were all that pleased!

Quite a complicated holiday but excellent nevertheless - despite the heat!

Re: Eurostar Service

Posted: 20:42 Monday 25th June 2018
by AdamH
I stopped in Avignon for a few hours while driving in the area a few years back. It's the town with the famous pier isn't it?

Seemed like a nice place but as my hotel was 100 miles down the road I didn't stop for long. Maybe one day I will return for a better look!

I'm sure Johnsons have looked at various options for moving people and their luggage, but why send an empty coach just for the luggage? A small van would be much cheaper on fuel and do the exact same job.

Re: Eurostar Service

Posted: 09:12 Tuesday 26th June 2018
by chason
Avignon is a very historic city with an ancient wall completely encompassing it. The 'pier' is what remains of the ancient bridge across the Rhone, made famous by the song "Sur le Pont d'Avignon" which I guess most people of my vintage learned at school. There's also a papal palace because 7 popes in the thirteenth century found Rome too dangerous and moved to the South of France. At the moment, there is a new tramway system under construction which appears to be going around the city walls so it is somewhat under siege. Should be good when it's all done though.

As for the coach carrying luggage, it was used on our days out so earned its keep whilst there but on most holidays where the travel to and from is by air or means other than coach, they normally hire a local coach. That doesn't always work very well though as on a holiday to Austria a few years ago where we went by air, the driver was Slovenian and could speak only his own language and the Johnsons courier spoke only English so there was much confusion about meeting and pick up times, not to mention destinations.