Champagne served in crystal glasses by tuxedoed waiters in the dining car. Grand dames encrusted in pearls casting frosty gazes as their ladies-in-waiting struggle with heavy steamer trunks.
Apparently, my first enchanting impressions of train travel were formed by watching a whole lot of old black and white films––which led me to believe that someone like Dame Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey would be my seatmate.
In the 21st century, First Class amenities, with a few exceptions such as luxury lines like the Venice Simplon Orient-Express, don’t live up to these romantic, old world standards. Yet First Class remains fabulous, even if it’s not necessarily white glove service. That being said, I’ve done the majority of my travel on Second Class and it’s been equally wonderful. More social. Cheaper. I’ve met more locals, shared bottles of wine, and had more impromptu conversations––as well as a few singalongs.
At this new post on the Eurail Blog, I hash out the myths and realities of First Class versus Second Class train travel.
Yes, it’s true: James Bond does always seem to take First Class…
And who doesn’t want to travel like James Bond? To recreate his dinner with the inimitable Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, all you have to do is book a First Class seat on the Czech Railways Pendolino fast train, order a bottle of wine, invite a fetching stranger to join you, and utter something cryptic like “I’m the money” or “The treasury has agreed to stake you in the game.”
In the film, Bond and Vesper Lynd are heading to a high stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. Of course, the actual Pendolino goes from Prague through the Czech countryside to Bratislava and Vienna––not even close to Montenegro.
If you want to play poker before embarking on the Pendolino, you can always go to the Casino Royale Prague––although I wouldn’t recommend it. There are more opulent ones in the center, although the rumor is that they’re run by the mafia. I’m not going to say which mafia, because this isn’t a mafia-sponsored post and I don’t want to promote any particular mafia organization. But I can tell you it’s not the New Jersey mafia, in any case. Oh, and a word of warning on Prague casinos in general: don’t expect to walk out with any cash. From my experience playing blackjack at one of the fancier Prague casinos, I am relatively certain the odds were far worse compared to Las Vegas––which is already a place where the house, as the saying goes, always wins.
Quite a few scenes in Casino Royale were actually filmed in Prague. Locations include the modern Danube House (where Bond kills offs two villains in the pre-title sequence) and the National Museum on Wenceslas Square (interior shots of the Venice hotel where Vesper and James bunk down for the night).
For more Casino Royale locations––and to confirm your suspicion that the Miami museum looked oddly like a certain central European Ministry of Transport office––check out this BBC Travel story.