Flying to Paris

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"Who should suppose we had been flying at such a rate, and shall take wing again directly?"

The question was asked by Charles Dickens in an article he wrote about a train trip from London to Paris in 1851.

"...Paris in 11 hours. It is so well done that there really is no hurry," he noted in his story called "The Flight."

Dickens describes the Kentish countryside and his fellow passengers as the South-Eastern Railway Co. train makes its way toward the channel ferries. Once across, passengers boarded another train to Paris.

Today, tourists and business travelers book the Eurostar train from London to Paris and follow nearly the same path as the one Dickens traversed nearly 150 years ago.

On the English side, Eurostar is not exactly high speed. In fact, it is almost comical to experience the difference between the rails on either side of the channel; smooth and sleek on the French side, click-clack on the English.

Fortunately, the scenic landscape of Kent still lends itself nicely to the slower pace.

That pace, however, will become a thing of the past.

The British government announced that its bond issue to finance a high-speed rail link between London and the coast raised $2.8 billion -- enough to start the project and to begin doling out maintenance contracts.

Once completed in 2006, the link will shave time off the current three-hour journey between the capital cities.

You gotta wonder what Dickens would say to that.

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