Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


IT WAS a dream of Napoleon III. Winston Churchill advocated it. And likely Hitler would have tried using it: A tunneled link between continental Europe and the British Isles.

I’ve traveled the Channel Tunnel, Chunnel for short, le tunnel sous la Manche on the French side, several times, thrice by car and once by Eurostar rail service from Paris’s Gard du Nord to London’s Waterloo Station. (These days, London’s St. Pancras Station is used.)

A great travel treat on any occasion. For instance, where else would I have discussed automobiles with a learned British professor? How else would I have encountered a Royal Eurostar classical CD? Or another CD celebrating one of the greatest British rock groups?

The Chunnel runs beneath the English Channel/la Manche between Folkstone, England, and Calais, France. Image by Mortadelo 2005.

French mining engineer Albert Mathieu-Favier proposed such a tunnel in 1802. In 1856, Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was offered another sub-channel scheme. Neither amounted to anything.

It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that French and British governments got serious. Construction started in 1988; completion came in 1994. Not unlike other complex undertakings, costs exceeded estimates by 80 percent. Sources vary, but Chunnel completion in 1994 totaled around £9 billion, perhaps $21 billion in today’s dollar.

The Chunnel supports Eurostar passenger trains and also the Eurotunnel Shuttle for road vehicles and goods trains.

The Eurostar is a high-speed railway service originally linking London with Paris and Brussels in 1994. Other French locales of Avignon, Lille, Lyon, and Marseille have since been added. According to Wikipedia, Eurostar has dominated on these routes, with more passengers than those traveling on all airlines combined.

The Eurostar fit my needs, and sense of adventure, for a Paris/London itinerary, part of my “early retirement” strategy of concluding a business trip with a few days at my own pleasure and expense. Being the frugal traveler that I am, I was happy in what’s now called Eurostar Standard class, as opposed to Standard Premier (more leg room, light meal and drinks) or Business Premier (airline First Class seating, fast-track check-in, “Delicious meals, designed for the time of day by Raymond Blanc”).

The Eurostar has a maximum speed of 186 mph (the magic 300 km/h).

I recall sitting amidst a congenial group of Brit students returning from a Paris trip with their university professor. He was a classic car enthusiast, so we had plenty to chat about. Part of the Paris/Chunnel leg paralleled a French Autoroute and we both marveled that the Eurostar’s speed left the cars behind. Later, through the English countryside, the cars were rather quicker than the Eurostar.

“A clear indication of the superiority of English cars,” I suggested.

“You’re being very kind,” the professor said. “Actually, it’s indicative of the dreadful state of our railway lines.”

I’ve thrice used the Eurotunnel Shuttle, once on a Rolls-Royce trip co-driving with Denise McCluggage, rest her soul; the other time was a solo drive of a Range Rover to Le Mans and back. The Eurotunnel Shuttle route is Folkstone, near Dover, to Calais, with what’s essentially a rail ferry service of RORO, Roll On/Roll Off, driving one’s own vehicle onto and off of the railcar at either end.

I drive the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe aboard the Eurotunnel Shuttle. Photo by Denise McCluggage in R&T, November 2008. (Her photograph was sharp; the distortion here is caused by a bound-volume gutter.

The immediate switch from keep-left to keep-right, or vice versa, keeps one’s mind active. It reminds me of what the Swedes experienced on Dagen H, H Day, September 3, 1967, when they switched rules of the road from Brit-like left to Högertrafik, right traffic.

The challenge in a British/French automotive transition performed solo, as I did with a right-hand-drive Range Rover to Le Mans and back, is being on the wrong side of the cabin for French toll booths and the like. What with being in France, drive-thru quick food never entered my thoughts.

On a related note, neither did drive-thru affect me when I lived on St. Thomas. The U.S. Virgin Islands chooses to retain keep-left traffic from old Danish days, despite using mostly left-hand-drive cars.

Stations at either end of the Chunnel have plenty of entertainment value. Waiting for the shuttle on one trip, I found Royal Eurostar, a CD of classical music evocative of this railway service.

Royal Eurostar, The London Brass Virtuosi, The Philharmonic Orchestra, Hyperion, 1996.

Compositions honoring the Eurostar include Paul Patterson’s The Royal Eurostar, Paris Fanfare, Brussels Fanfare, and Eurostar Fanfare. Works by Derek Bourgeoise, Sir Edward Elgar, Paul Hindemith, and Richard Strauss complete the CD.

And, to balance my cultural education, on another trip I found The Very Best of the Troggs.

Wild Thing: The Very Best Of The Troggs. My CD shown here is an earlier mix, with the same title as the one offered by Amazon.

Not simply “The Best,” mind; but “The Very Best.” Surely you remember the Troggs. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017


  1. Bill Urban
    July 24, 2017

    Thanks for bringing us along, Dennis.
    I think your St. Thomas left drive situation would have been mitigated somewhat in that 122 wagon. If memory serves the 122 wasn’t any wider than my 544 . . . an easy reach to the passenger side window crank. That cozy 544 wasn’t too much wider than a motorcycle’s handlebars.

    • simanaitissays
      July 24, 2017

      Bill, I recall my 122 wagon with fondness. It was sturdy and roomy. I also recall patching its exhaust system with more than a few beer cans, radiator clamps and goo. (Spare parts were difficult and expensive on STT.)

  2. phil ford
    July 24, 2017

    Thanks for your totally enjoyable essays. I enjoy reading your thoughts about opera, even though I don’t enjoy opera, in the main.

    Please, keep up the good work!

  3. Patrick Bryson
    July 30, 2017

    I’d like to have been in the back seat while you chatted with Ms. McCluggage

    • simanaitissays
      July 31, 2017

      Denise, rest her soul, had a wonderful way of making you feel more articulate than you really were.

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This entry was posted on July 24, 2017 by in Just Trippin' and tagged , , , , .
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