The new Eurostar lounge at Paris Gare du Nord is a retreat offering a variety of ambiences (photo © hidden europe).
The Parisian apartment of the imagination is invariably posh. Think of those grand Haussmann boulevards rather than the back streets. High ceilings, light, elegant. It might be the sort of place where Gertrude Stein received Hemingway, or perhaps a spot where Coco Chanel mixed cocktails. It's all about style and location.
And therein lies the special charm of Eurostar's posh new lounge for premium passengers at the Gare du Nord. It is a canny piece of design, a home away from home in the very heart of Paris. It's a good place to spend an hour or two of luxury before hopping on the Eurostar train to London. Opened in early February 2017, the new lounge is tucked away high in the main station building affording views north into the train shed (its roof all stiff angularity, much less fluent than St Pancras) and south over the rue de Dunkerque.
This is a spot where it's possible to imagine oneself leading the good life in Paris. But while some Paris apartments are a world unto themselves, the Gare du Nord lounge is more outward looking. There is the predictable range of good French wines, but also a classic northern beer - Ch'ti Blonde. The latter is a reminder that the Gare du Nord is a railway station defined by its links with the industrial and urban areas of northern France. Throw in a classic English tea (yes, tea from Cornwall), and you know that London is the next stop. From a high perch in Eurostar's elegant lounge, travellers can watch the comings and goings of trains: a Thalys to Brussels, an Intercités to Maubeuge, a regional express to Beauvais.
Like all good apartments, this new Eurostar facility offers a number of ambiences. There are smart salons where the talk is more likely to be of bits and bytes than of Cocteau or Picasso. And there are grand spaces for performance, where the chatter is all about investments and tonight's dinner engagement in London. But there are also quiet corners, little intimate alcoves, where you can just drop out of life for an hour.
Lounges for premium travellers are of course privileged retreats. But this new Paris space, with its homely feel, is a cut above the normal lounge. It's a superb place to relax. But there are also some interesting juxtapositions. It's odd to be in such a refined and beautiful space and then look down from the windows on the cheap cafés and fast food places that crowd the rue de Dunkerque.
Yet true Romantics who prefer to opt for a very different last view of Paris before taking the Eurostar train to London can just make for the toilets, from some of which there is a very fine view of the French tricolore fluttering on the roof of the Gare du Nord offset by Pierre-Jules Cavelier's wonderful sculpture of a female figure representing the ville de Paris. That, in a nutshell, is the real appeal of this very special Parisian apartment: it affords a very novel perspective on Paris.