“A Good Book and a Corkscrew”.

I have mentioned The Man in Seat 61 here on previous occasions. His name is Mark Smith and he’s the person behind what I consider to be THE definitive website for train travel . . . and I mean train travel anywhere in the world.

It was a great disappointment that I missed the opportunity to meet and have dinner with Mark at the end of my European trip this past June. With exquisitely bad timing, Eurostar trains were shut down by a demonstration at the mouth of the Chunnel in France on the very day Mark and I were supposed to meet. Instead, I was stranded in Paris for that night. Ah, well … there will be another time.
 
At any rate, Karen McCann, who has a great travel blog, recently posted an interview with Mark during which he expounded on the attraction of rail travel:
 

“People don’t understand that by train . . . the journey itself can be interesting, fun, romantic, adventurous, and an integral part of your experience. It’s not just about ‘getting there’. For those who have only experienced watching the hands on their watch go round on a long-haul flight, or droning down an eyesore motorway, that can be hard to grasp. Travel broadens the mind — at least it does by train and other local transport, as they reflect the country and culture through which you pass, and there’s both the time and space to interact with other people.”

Then Mark added a delightful personal note:
 

“I got engaged on a train to my girlfriend of just 6 months, without anything pre-planned. It was the Venice Simplon Orient Express, somewhere in the Brenner Pass, and I don’t even remember who said what exactly to whom.  But it was a very special train and it weaved its special magic and here I am ten years later with a wife, two kids, a cat, and a mortgage.”

I first became aware of Mark’s web site while looking for information on overnight trains from London to Edinburgh. Of course it was all there–everything I wanted to know–but I was hooked by what he proclaims to be his single best piece of advice for travelers: “Never travel without a good book and a corkscrew.”
 
Now you know why I so regret being unable to make my dinner with him.