Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 09:17:27 AM EST
You might--or might not--know that one of my fantasies is a Europe connected by high-speed rail. No more flights, trains all the way.
Some of you--well most of you--probably know that various low-cost train-ticket systems are up and running, very similar to Easyjet or Ryan Air (or name your low-cost airline here.)
And you all--well some of you--probably know about this site:
From the diaries -- whataboutbob
At the above site, there is an About Me... page. I'm going to quote from it as I see it as publicity for one man's noble adventure into the world of...making my--and maybe your--life easier as you (and I) make the move from planes (or cars) to trains.
Who is the Man in Seat Sixty-One..?
My name is Mark Smith, and I live in England in deepest darkest Buckinghamshire, with wife Nicolette, baby Nathaniel and Polly the cat.
I'm a career railwayman who ran away from Oxford to join the circus (or British Rail as it was then called) as soon as he could... I was the Station Manager for Charing Cross, London Bridge & Cannon Street stations in London in the early to mid 90s, and later the Customer Relations Manager for two UK train companies. I now work in London in the murky world of government regulation of fares and ticketing on Britain's railways. When I'm not travelling, that is...
I've been lucky enough to travel around the world on trains and ships to many interesting places, and I've worked as a European rail agent issuing tickets and advising other travel agents on train travel across Europe. So if you'd like some help with a journey you're planning, why not ask the Man in Seat Sixty-One...? You can e-mail me at seat61.com.
Cool! Right. So...
Why 'The Man in Seat Sixty-One'...?
It's Eurostar's fault... I've left London by Eurostar on my way to Marrakech (via Paris, Madrid & Algeciras), to Tunisia (via Lille & Marseille), to Italy, to Albania, to Malta, to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus & Petra, to Ukraine & the Crimea, and even to Tokyo & Nagasaki via Moscow, Vladivostok and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Zaharoff, the notorious arms dealer, would always book compartment 7 on the Orient Express. When travelling in Eurostar 1st class, I always ask for seat 61 (in cars 11, 7 or 8). Before you ask, it's one of a pair of individual seats with table that actually lines up with the window...
Is seat61.com a hobby or a business..?
Seat61.com is a personal site, run as a hobby. It's not a business, and I'm not an agency, just an individual with some knowledge which others might find useful... The information on the site is provided free of charge to users, and always will be. Having said all that, the site now generates some income through Google ads and affiliate schemes. This covers the web-hosting fees, has paid for a laptop so I can update the site on my daily commuter train to work, it helps support my travel habit, and if I'm lucky, buys me a beer or two...
Ah yes, another question arises.
What does the site aim to do..?
In a nutshell, two things: To HELP people who already know they want to travel by train or ship, but who can't find out about it through normal commercial websites or travel agencies. Many people prefer the experience of train travel, are afraid of flying, or want to avoid unnecessary flights for environmental reasons, but information can often be difficult to find. Second, to INSPIRE people to do something more useful with their lives and their travel opportunities than going to an airport, getting on a plane, and missing all the world has to offer. There's more to travel than the destination - It used to be called a j o u r n e y ..!
Okay! Great! How about a bit of background info?
How did I come to set up the site..?
Many people would rather not fly, or (like me) simply prefer a more civilised, comfortable, interesting, adventurous, romantic, scenic, historic, exciting and environmentally-friendly way to travel. Travelling by train from London to Europe is really easy, but finding out about it (and how to book it) can be frustratingly difficult. Most travel agents only sell flights and packages. Eurostar concentrates on getting you only as far as Paris or Brussels. Even the specialist agencies that sell European train tickets tell you to 'contact them for details'. No-one provided basic train times, fares and 'how to' information for train journeys from the UK to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Russia and so on. Let alone how to reach Morocco, Tunisia, Ibiza, Corsica, Crete or Malta by combining train and ship. I thought it was a gap I could easily fill myself...
Like many London commuters, I was in W H Smiths at Marylebone looking for something to read on the train home. A 'teach yourself HTML' book caught my eye, all of £2.99. I had just bought a PC, and my internet provider offered some free webspace. I read the book, tried a few test webpages, and they seemed to work. One thing led to another, and here I am. There's a lot of work involved in keeping the site even remotely up to date, but people seem to find the site useful, and this keeps me going. If you've any feedback or suggestions to make about the site, please e-mail me or use the guestbook. I'd be glad to hear from you..!
So...well...I sent him an e-mail thanking him for setting up the site and telling him I've written this diary. After all, as Olivia Robertson said, in response to a question about the most important thing people should...do these days (?)...
One thing? I'd say sharing.
Brighton to Edinburgh, £32 one way for a family of three.
Brighton to Torino using the TGV: from £19 one-way.
The journeys take longer...From Brighton to Torino, I calculate 12-14 hours, with an hour or so's stop in Paris...
Well...anyways...just thought I'd let you know in case you didn't--though you probably did.