Is the View from the Train Better in First Class?

(And Other “Very Interesting” Questions)

By Dave Fox

[I’ve been hard at work lately on my new book about Saigon, Vietnam, and mired in the production of a new video series of writing courses. This has left little time to create fresh web content. But it dawned on me last week, I have tons of stuff from my former website, dating as far back as 2000, that lots of people haven’t seen. So in the weeks when I’m not cranking out new travel tales, I’ll be sharing “reruns” from the archives. We begin this week with some “very interesting questions” that were asked of me when I used to work as a travel consultant and tour guide for Rick Steves. This article originally appeared sometime in 2000.] 

India QuestionWhen I was growing up, my teachers told me there was “no such thing as a stupid question.” This may be true, but some situations in life seem to hinder the brain’s ability to function in a non-stupid manner.

Overseas travel is one of these situations. When we throw ourselves into foreign turf, we get anxious. Fear of the unknown overrules logic.

As a travel consultant for Americans planning trips to Europe, I deal with a lot of nervous people. Sometimes, they ask me questions I would swear were stupid, had my teachers not set me straight on that matter years ago.

The following is my list of favorite “very interesting” questions people have asked me:

• If I want to contact a hotel in Paris, isn’t easier to phone them than it is to fax them? If I faxed them, I’d have to do it in French, and I don’t speak French.

• Is there a train that goes from France to the South of France? How long does it take?

• Is Paris a good place to be on the 4th of July?

• Do you know any restaurants in London that will serve a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner?

• Do trains in Italy run on Columbus Day?

• What city is the Leaning Tower of Pisa in?

• When does flu season begin in Ireland?

• What floor of the hotel will the rooftop picnic be on?

• Where is the best place in Europe to catch an overnight train?

• On Switzerland’s Glacier Express train, is the scenery better if you travel west to east or east to west?

• Are the views from the train better in first class?

• What’s the difference between France and Turkey?

• How does the amount of walking compare with the amount of calories we will consume?

• Do they have potato chips in Europe? Do they taste the same as ours?

• Are bathrooms hard to find in Europe?

• What kind of train pass do I need to go from Prague to Malta?

• If I have two days in Amsterdam, can I take a day trip to Scandinavia?

• Can I take a day trip from Munich to Australia?

• My flight arrives in Athens at 3 a.m. Should I just get an early start on seeing the ruins?

• Can I catch Mad Cow Disease if I eat ham in France?

• If I ask you something, will you promise not to put me on your list of stupid questions?

Published on Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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