Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Train Travel? Yes Please!
For the most part, as Americans when we think of traveling, cars and planes are the first things that come to mind. Unless you live in a big metropolitan city, you don't walk, bike, or travel by train if you can possibly help it.
We are not a culture that typically uses trains for distance traveling, and therefore the few rail lines that are set up for overnight/distance travel, are somewhat limited on their destinations. We want bigger, faster, cheaper... Trains are only as big as the rails can support, they are getting faster, but most generally affordable still run 80-100 mph., and tickets definitely aren't as economical in price as you can commonly find through airline travel. So I can definitely see why so many Americans have never thought about taking a train to get to their destination, much less actually used one.
I've traveled by train three times in my life, and every minute was an experience.
All three have been overnight trips (and depending on where you are going, they usually are). The first was from Madrid to Barcelona, Spain. And the others were two separate summer trips from New Haven, Connecticut to Atlanta. I didn't have any romantic goodbyes (or hello's) on any of these, but that's okay because I still loved every second about it. Even waking up at 2 o' clock in the morning on the Spanish train to find gypsies rifling through our bags (those gypsies sure can pick the heck out of a lock!) And tripping over my feet, and hitting the floor on the second trip because we went around a particularly sharp curve while I was on my way to the dining car.
The Spanish train was quite a European experience for a young, impressionable girl from the rolling hills of North Georgia. After 10 pm. the dining car turned into a drinking car, and our chaperon, and one of my girl friends were back there as a handful of Spanish 20 somethings, quickly turned our quiet little dining car into a European party bar. Those Europeans sure know how to party. It was lots of fun. We'll just leave it at that.
If you choose to travel by train, you do so with the understanding that you are not going to get to your destination fast. Unless you are on a direct non-stop train, you will stop. A lot. From what I can remember, the New Haven to Atlanta trip we stopped 15 times. You get used to it though, and that's part of the fun. You get out and stretch your legs, and see who gets on and who gets off. People watching... it's my favorite.
The other part of train travel I love is the scenery. You are traveling at roughly 80 mph at cruising speed, so not all that much faster than a car. However, many of the routes take you through the most gorgeous a parts of the U.S. There was a particular area of Virginia we made a stop in, that was so beautiful, I swear I debated on just not getting back on the train. But my mom was missing me, and I was all out of clean undergarments.
Trail travel, is an old-fashioned way to travel, and I think that's what fascinates me about it.
It makes me want to pull out my vintage luggage, and hop on board the next train out of town. If you decide to travel by train, I suggest upgrading to a sleeping car. The coach seats are roomier and more comfortable than most plane seating, but the charm wears off pretty quickly when you have to sit semi-upright, and share elbow room with the chubby lady who brought along her bucket of KFC chicken, for 12+ hours. Learned that the hard way.
If you have traveled by train, would love to hear about your experience, and whether or not you loved it as much as I did! And if you plan to take a train in the future, let me know. Would love to join!