New opportunities for travel via the Channel Tunnel
Shortly after we returned to the UK in 1994 the Channel Tunnel opened. The 31 mile undersea railway linked Folkestone in Kent to Calais in France. It had taken almost 10 years to construct and was owned and operated by the “Eurotunnel” company.
Although the Eurostar high-speed trains also use the tunnel, the majority of the trains are Eurotunnel’s own Shuttle trains that carry cars and trucks backwards and forwards between Folkestone and Calais.
I first used the service in early 1995 for a short business trip to the continent with a colleague. Almost immediately I found it excellent. It was so simple to use.
We drove straight off the motorway and into the Folkestone check in area. The check in was all automated and felt almost like paying a toll on a highway. We then had a short wait in the airport-style terminal and then passed through both sets of immigration (UK and French). We drove straight on to the train, sat in the car for the short 35 minute journey and then drove off into the French motorway system at the other end. The whole journey from motorway to motorway took just over an hour.
But it wasn’t just about the speed, after all the hovercraft also crossed in around 30 minutes, it was the fact that the link felt so permanent. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that you sat in your car the whole time. It was effortless. It wasn’t quite driving yourself to France but it certainly felt a lot more like it.
In spring 1995 we made a weekend trip to Calais to rendezvous with some Japanese friends who were visiting France. We stayed at the excellent Atlantic hotel in Wimereux just outside Boulogne and we found, like many others, that it was a lot cheaper to do the week’s shopping in the Calais supermarket than at home in the UK.
This was to be the first of many such weekend trips we made to Calais and the surrounding area and to places even further afield.
Over the next few years I averaged around 5 or 6 trips a year on the Eurotunnel Shuttle trains. About half of those were for leisure. The existence of the tunnel, just 1 hour from our house, dramatically changed our travel life. We made trips that we would probably never have previously thought about making on the ferry.
Now (2017) having used the Eurotunnel continuously for over 20 years I must admit that it is not without its faults. On more than one occasion I have been left stranded in the Calais terminal for several hours when the service has broken down. However, although the novelty has certainly worn off, it is hard to imagine what we would do without Eurotunnel now!
Here are 13 places we saw or experienced on our early trips through Eurotunnel
1 – The Kuekenhof Gardens in Holland
2 – The estuary and the beach at Le Touquet
3 – Afternoon tea at the famous Meert café in Lille
4 – Lille in the snow
5 – Ghent and Brugges
6 – The Wine Area of Alsace
7 – The City of Strasbourg
8 -Seafood Meals in Bolougne
9 – The Steam Train at Baie de Somme
10 -Walks on the coast and staying in Wimereux
11 – The World One Battlefields and Memorials
12 – Shopping !
13 – The Maginot Line Forts