The Getaway: Tired of Paying a Big Tax to Leave Britain? Herea��s How to Skip It.


Eurostar trains regularly lumber out of Londona��s St. Pancras International railway station, which is easily reached on the Tube, and make direct connections to two of the Continenta��s most important cities. You can arrive in Paris or Brussels before 10 a.m. (Passengers on early trains might consider spending the night before at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, which is adjacent to the station. It is convenient for any traveler, but guests in certain accommodations receive valet service, allowing them to speed through Eurostara��s queues.)

Paris is the better choice for people wanting to catch a morning train, see a sight and make a flight to the United States without adding an overnight stay. The Gare du Nord station, where Eurostar trains arrive from London, has luggage lockers and is near Metro lines that zip toward the Luxembourg Gardens, the Latin Quarter and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Other sights are not much farther afield, and the citya��s major international airport, which has afternoon and evening flights to some hubs in the United States, is about a half-hour away by commuter train.

Flight schedules from Brussels are less forgiving than Paris for a pit stop, and even taking the early train will not leave United States-bound passengers time to spare. But avoiding Britaina��s duty can be the impetus for a breezy first-time visit to Brussels a�� my wife, Meredith, and I tried this option this year, paying $77 each for Eurostar tickets and an easy chance to savor a new city a�� or just an excuse to enjoy a day and night of Belgian cuisine.

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Brussels-Midi station is a short taxi ride, or about a 20-minute walk, from the Grand Place, a centuries-old architectural gem with plenty of chocolate shops nearby. Brussels Park, idyllic and wedged between Belgiuma��s Royal Palace and the lower house of the countrya��s Parliament, is also close. Once it is time to leave Brussels, the airport offering flights to the United States is less than 20 minutes from the citya��s central train station.

Eurostar recently began service from London to Amsterdam, but it requires changing trains in Brussels.