Trains, planes, and automobiles

19Dec09

Esteban and I are huge fans of trains. They’re efficient, safe, and much more convenient than airlines — which can sometimes strand you for hours.

In 1997, Esteban and I had a terrible experience with Vueling, a Spanish regional airline. Toward the end of our grand tour of Italy, we’d booked a quick hop on Vueling from Rome’s Fiumicino airport to Paris. Little did we know that we’d be stranded at the airport for 14 hours with only a single free meal as compensation.

After that experience, Esteban and I made a solemn vow that we would travel by train whenever possible. A train may take four times as along as a plane, we reasoned, but, “at least, with a train, you’re on the ground,” my wise husband said. “You can just grab your bags and walk away.”

I was disabused of that notion tonight when I read about the 2,000 people who were trapped beneath the English Channel for 16 hours without water or food.

The Eurostar “Chunnel” is one of the engineering marvels of our age. Not only does it connect two historic arch-rivals — Britain and France — but it does so with speed, ease, and relative economy.

Until last night.

Sure, there have been some mishaps in the Chunnel. The fire in 2008 reportedly destroyed six passenger cars and an engine. But last night’s events rivaled the most nightmarish of travel tales.

Considering the alternatives, I’m starting to wonder whether traveling by bus—or donkey, or car — may be a better option.

Alas, there is no truly safe (or reliable) way to get from Point A to Point B.

Isn’t it ironic that — despite our incredible technological leaps — the safest way to travel is still on foot?



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