Remember air travel when there was no check-in queue, no removing your shoes and belt, no body scan, no fumbling with your iPad and laptop, seats had ample leg-room and wine with your meal was included in the ticket price? Now such luxury is available only on the railways.
It’s a wonder airlines even operate on the Amsterdam to Paris route.
The Thalys train takes 3 hours 19 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal to Paris Nord. Check in is ten minutes before scheduled departure. There are no tickets – you just flash the message they sent you on your mobile phone when you made the booking.
To fly to Paris we’d need to leave home in Amsterdam at least 90 minutes before departure to get out to Schiphol and check in without panic. The flight takes about 60 minutes, probably followed by a hike through a maze of airport corridors and moving walkways to the baggage carousel, before getting the train or expensive taxi from Aeroport Charles de Gaulle into central Paris. I bet all that takes at least 3 hours and 19 minutes.
Train seats are comfortable and if you need to stretch your legs you can get up and go for a walk whenever you like. There’s no turbulence other than a bit of rocking when the speed increases between Brussels and Paris.
The countryside flips past pretty fast, but what is visible in Belgium and northern France is lush and green.
The train has wi-fi (free in first class) and power points for laptop. Okay, the power wasn’t working and the internet was slow, but it was nice to know they were there.
Relative costs of air and rail were comparable since I had to book a train at short notice, but if I’d been able to book the Thalys 60 days in advance it would have taken me to Paris for EUR59 one way. And because I could get straight on the Metro at Gare du Nord, there was no expensive taxi fare into town.
No, this is not cash for comment. I was not paid or offered free travel by the railways to say nice things about them, or offered free travel, but I am the guest in Paris of Viking River Cruises. More about them very soon.