Last weekend I returned to base after a quick trip to Singapore and Bangkok and found not one Fast Lane post pouch spilling over with letters, but two. It seems that the dreadful weather in most of the UK has allowed people plenty of time to practice their penmanship, and the finer weather elsewhere in the world has given others the opportunity to fire off pithy postcards from sunny destinations.
As ever I’ve worked with my assistant Tommy to sift through all of this correspondence to find the most frequently asked questions and will deal with these below. More complex correspondence – how often should I be shaving at the moment and do you happen to know a good Turkish barber in London? I don’t trust any of the banks anymore and would like to know where I should store my earnings? I was recently babysitting a friend’s dog and the little bugger got away: should I be honest about what happened, and what should I buy as compensation in the meantime? – will hopefully be addressed over the weekend as I wing my way back to Singapore and on to Brisbane.
I was really looking forward to coming to London for the Olympics but was scared off by all the talk about missiles on rooftops, gridlock and high prices for everything. I’ve now managed to get my hands on some tickets and will fly to London on the morning of the opening ceremony, do you think there are still hotel rooms? Good for you for deciding to get on a plane and support our withering economy. Don’t worry about the missiles on the rooftops as there are no doubt similar installations all over the world that you just don’t hear about. As for hotel rooms, there are plenty available: I phoned three of London’s top five-star hotels and was told that I could book not just one room but half a floor if I wanted to. Unfortunately, the Olympics don’t seem to be working out as the lure that many hoteliers (and organisers) had expected; it’s going to be interesting to see how happy businesses are by the time the flame is extinguished.
I was really looking forward to staying in London for the Olympics but have been scared off by all the talk about gridlock, rooftop missiles and high prices for everything. I’ve now managed to get my hands on some tickets to fly out and will leave London on the morning of the opening ceremony, do you think there are still hotel rooms in nice parts of Europe for two weeks of sun? Shame on you for not sticking around. Are you really scared by a bit of advanced weaponry on rooftops? Aren’t everyday high prices and poor value for money part of daily life in London? Yes, it’s already getting harder to move around London, but there are going to be so many interesting people popping into the capital during the period that it’s important to be on the scene to play host. Also, there are countless great parties planned and there’ll no doubt be plenty of tickets on offer from generous corporate sponsors.
As you’re abdicating your responsibility as a good citizen, you don’t get free holiday tips from this columnist and deserve to be wedged between two poopy, screaming kids on a packed and delayed flight to Corfu.
I know the Fast Lane likes rail travel and I’ve been thinking I’d like to do a bit of a grand tour with some good friends over the coming weeks. What itinerary would you suggest? You’re absolutely right. The Fast Lane loves a good rail journey and I can highly recommend a couple of routes. If you and your friends are flying in from various points, then I’d recommend you convene in Zürich and start your rail adventure at the airport. Those clever Swiss built a station right under the terminals long before other cities even had electricity and flushing toilets. I’d spend a night or two in Zürich and go swimming in the lake, buy good shirts at Pelikamo (great men’s shop) and just soak up summer in a well-planned city.
After that, head south to Como and spend a night or two at the Villa d’Este and pop into town for pepper steak at Sociale and more shirting at A Gi Emme. Keep heading south until you hit Milan and then jump on Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa high-speed rolling stock. Much is made of Germany and France’s high-speed rail networks but after a recent trip from Milan down to Naples and back again I can confidently say that the Italians are doing it the best.
Not only is there proper competition in the form of the new Italo train service (sadly, my timings didn’t enable me to sample it but the cars do look very handsome), which has forced the state operator to up its game, there’s even a shiny new station in Naples. Best is a dining car that serves fresh orange juice and good coffee, and, if you decide to buy first-class seats, there’s even prosecco delivered chair-side. Once you hit Naples you’re spoiled for choice hotel-wise but you’d find me at the San Pietro for sure.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
More columns at www.ft.com/brule