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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Breakfast in bed and the romance of train travel revisited

Is there anyone out there who doesn't love train travel? I was pleased to see some of the comments in praise of rail travel on my recent post about Australia's transcontinental train, the Indian Pacific as I was thinking perhaps I'd just mellowed too much (read: aged). But Stella Stopfer from European Travelling Advisor wrote "One of the best ways to travel is definitely by train, wherever you go. I agree, there is nothing like the old "slow" trains most of us are used to. Gazing out the window, enjoying the scenery, writing...or reading a book...just amazing." While Pam from Nerd's Eye View said "Yes, yes, yes, I do love the sound of the train and watching the landscape go by in not quite a blur out the window. It's a GREAT way to travel, you can breathe and stand and read and nap and still watch the world roll by at a very reasonable pace that makes you understand distance." There's no denying the appeal of the slow pace, the scenery rolling by, the fact that we're forced to take it easy, and the freedom to move around and socialize, but does everyone find it as romantic as I do? I know I reflected on the romance of train travel fairly recently when I wrote about our journey on The Ghan from Alice Springs to Darwin (read that post here), however, I can't resist ruminating a little bit more. After all, how many other forms of travel in the 21st century are as romantic? Travel by cruise ship, for instance, doesn't have the same allure as it did in, say, Now, Voyager. When I think of cruises I either think of long dull days spent at sea or debauched boozefests. Plane travel? Nothing needs to be said there. But what is it exactly that makes rail travel so romantic? Is it the retro decor and plush interiors of a sumptuous dining carriage? Old-fashioned touches and personal service like a glass of champagne on departure, nightcaps by the bedside, and breakfast on a tray in bed? Or is it the social setting that encourages board games and card-playing in the lounge, pre-dinner cocktails with the tinkling of piano keys in the background, or tables for four that force passengers to sit together and enjoy shared conversation with fascinating strangers? That last one is not necessary romantic, but the notion is a romantic one in an age where social interaction is often limited to love affairs with i-pods, blackberries and i-phones. Don't you think?


Anonymous said...

I make nearly all my travels by train. For me it is a good way to get in touch with a country before I have reached the final destination. And I prefer to start the train tour early in the morning so I can ride into the sunrise sitting by a good cup of coffee.

Globetrotter said...

There is indeed nothing like traveling by train. It´s like soul and body travels at the same speed, and you can live the moment of the journey more fully than when by airplane, your body arrives three days early at a destination before your soul catches up.
As often as I can I take the train form Milano through the alps to Geneva... As the landscapes glides by, you get that little pocket-window of time to just be.
TGV or the japanese bullet train might get you there fast, but I vote for the older trains with its very own individual "soundtrack".
Fun to read your great blog Lara;)

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Globetrotter! And what a wonderful trip that is, from Milano to Geneva!
I'm pleased you're enjoying the blog - thanks for reading!