As the Hilary term drew to a close, I impatiently waited for the day when my vacation would really begin—with a trip to Amsterdam. I spent hours arguing with my travel companion over what would be the best way to head over to the Netherlands, carrying onto Germany afterwards. Do we drive? Do we fly? What about trains? I was insistent that we try the Eurostar from London, as I’ve always wanted to go through the Chunnel.
We stayed overnight in a hotel just metres from King’s Cross/ St. Pancras Station, which made the 8:30 departure time a breeze. Neither of us had ever taken the Eurostar before, so when we arrived at the check-in area to find attendants handing out fistfuls of stroopwafel cookies, the traditional Dutch treat, we were immediately impressed. The staff were cheery and bright in a way I’ve never seen from travel authorities. Security was a breeze despite the airport style baggage check, though much simpler and less fussy about liquids. At another desk we had our passports stamped and two flags thrust into our faces. “Please, take these,” the agent said, waving the little sticks proudly. I noticed that most of the bored passengers in the waiting area had the Dutch and British flags piled onto their laps too.
Within the first few steps onto the platform we had cameras on us at all angles, photographers and videographers catching a glimpse of my 7am makeup free face—and for what?
I was equally as impressed and perplexed by the experience so far… free snacks, cheeky flags—way to go, Eurostar. “It must be like this every time,” I thought. And then I saw the cameramen.
“Wow, they really take their travel vlogging seriously,” I whispered to my Dad, looking towards the over-the-shoulder film style camera. We were tired, keen to board the train, and desperately trying to eat our Pret with the annoying flags still in our hands. A sharply dressed attendant came around with her basket of cookies again and again, while more commotion built up. By then, even for someone as blonde as myself, I knew something was going on.
The doors finally slide open and the crowds hurried to board. Within the first few steps onto the platform we had cameras on us at all angles, photographers and videographers catching a glimpse of my 7am makeup free face—and for what? We still didn’t know what event we were unwittingly part of.
I awkwardly took to my seat, still conscious of the media teams scurrying down the isles. The train was immaculate, and you could hear the other passengers exclaiming: “It looks brand new! Was it refurbished?” Clearly, we were all impressed.
“Welcome, everyone, to the first ever direct journey to Amsterdam from London. Thank you for choosing Eurostar,” we heard on the loud speaker as the train pulled out of St. Pancras and started towards France. The company’s chief executive, Mike Cooper, made his way down through the cabins to introduce himself personally and thank the passengers.
We learned that a direct service from London to Amsterdam has never been done before, especially considering that it’s an incredibly busy air route. Normally, one would have to switch trains in Brussels en-route to the Dutch capital, but those days are over. For a student friendly price of £35 (and up) one way, and a mere 3 hours and 40 minutes between each city centre, this opens up another option for a great weekend getaway without the stress of flying.
I had been to Amsterdam just three months earlier for the winter vac and getting back to Oxford after landing at Gatwick airport from AMS seems to have taken longer than the entire train experience. Undoubtedly, I will be using Eurostar for my next trip to see the canals and tulip fields.
In this one-time instance, what could have been a perfectly quiet and serene trip was spent listening to the on-camera interviews of neighbouring passengers, press and media bumbling up and down the rows still snapping pictures of us. It turns out, most people had no idea that this was the maiden voyage either, so we made peace with our initial confusion, slightly disappointed that endless stroopwafles wasn’t a regular inclusion of the ticket price.
We arrived at comfortably at Centraal Station by lunchtime with a whole sunny day still ahead of us, donning the commemorative tote bags we found draped over the seat backs. A city that never disappoints, Amsterdam has something for everyone whether it’s history, charming architecture, nightlife, or the classic “coffee shop and chill” experience.