Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Bye Bye Planes

by rg 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:

http://www.seat61.com/index.html

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.

So...

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...

Okay.  Now...

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.

Display:
You better get some sort of royalties for this! </snark>

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 06:19:13 AM EST
A beer!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 06:25:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If anyone knows any other sites, please post up the addresses.  I just liked this one...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 06:26:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Americans could really use a high speed train that was affordable too. But nice to know there are options, thanks!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 06:35:08 AM EST
LA to San Francisco along the Central Valley would be a no-brainer.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 02:43:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.uic.asso.fr/

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 08:38:06 AM EST
Thanks a lot for this page. This year I've decided not to fly -- which is a bit sad because I used to be a total junkie for getting on planes, but hey, one outgrows all things eventually -- and a decent train page for UK to Europe travel is just what I needed to start me off. :)

-----

'It depends on which research report you read,'says Hattie, 'and sorry about this, but I do tend to believe the ones that suit me.'

by JQL (deinikoi at gmail dot com) on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 11:26:17 AM EST
I've found this agency:

http://www.europeanrail.co.uk/

to be pretty good.  The booking charges can feel a bit steep, but they can pay for themselves with their knowledge of special offers (especially when travelling in a family or group) and it saves spending travel time queueing up for tickets.

by Sassafras on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 12:56:46 PM EST
As one who had to fly long hauls for years and years, I echo calls for a more civilized way to travel.  Travelling by train in Europe, which we always did when possible, was an absolute joy compared to what the  airports had to offer.  I long for a rebirth of passenger rail in the US, but it doesn't look promising.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 10:25:58 PM EST
Everything is there that I know for the Netherlands, but I was very well pleased seeing this.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 01:02:32 AM EST
LOL - well, I guess I never will call "die Niederlande" Holland again. :-)
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 01:24:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was in the supermarket yesterday.  On a product it said: Country of origin: "Holland"--it was a white cabbage; and I thought of you, thought of The Netherlands...and wondered if the dutch farmers had simply given up.

Farmers: "It's The Netherlands."
Supermarket Representative: "What is?"
F: "The country."
SR: "Which country?"
F: "The Netherlands."
SR: "You mean Holland?"
F (Shaking heads): "Yes, we mean Holland.  Can we have our money now?"
SR: "Of course.  Here you are."

[Later, in a meeting]

SR: "Yes, the farmers were very friendly.  Holland's a wonderful place."

(Ach!  Nomad!  Looking forward to...hey, what's that I spy over on the right there?  ------->>>a diary by yer goodself!)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 04:17:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of the (watery and distasteful) veggies bearing the label "Holland" are from Holland, namely the Westland - which is part of the South Holland province.

But this is changing, apparently. I believe there is a plan underway to spread the greenhouses around the country and (Jerome!) make them nodes of energy production.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 04:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good seeing you rg! grinz
by Nomad on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 04:36:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Alloh!

Rain here, but I see some rays of sun.  I have to cycle up a steep hill in a minute (well, okay, five minutes ago)...the wind bloweth...yes, ah!  The rain seems to have stopped...

This is the top of the hill, picture from 1905.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 04:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, rg, thanks!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 02:04:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't look very different now does it. I used to catch the bus from Brighton to the Sussex Nuffield hospital during my change so I know that view.

Tho' the windmill is gone.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 02:41:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You should remember that as a rail employee, he has a warrant that allows him to travel at a ridiculous discount.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 02:44:21 PM EST
I'm guessing he travelled mostly for free...and for work.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 06:43:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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