The California Zephyr – Chicago to San Francisco

Distance travelled: 1038 miles (Chicago to Denver), 1400 miles (Denver to San Francisco)

Journey duration: 18 hours (Chi to Denver), 33 hours (Denver to SF)

States travelled through: Ilinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California

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The California Zephyr is a famous American train, first entering service in 1949 when the attendants were called ‘Zephyrettes.’ It ended up being my favourite train journey of all, even though it was one of the longest. The scenery is SPECTACULAR (capital letters are justified here) and I was fairly open mouthed the whole way. This was one journey where I was determined not to miss a second of the view and I stared out of the window until darkness fell, somewhere in Utah. Continue reading

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The Texas Eagle – San Antonio to Chicago

Distance travelled: 675 miles (San Antonio to Little Rock), 634 miles (Little Rock to Chicago)

Journey duration: 17 hours (SA to LR), 14 hours (LR to CHI)

States travelled through: Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois

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The Texas Eagle holds the delightful title with me for being the train with the longest delays. Apparently there were some engineering works on the line somewhere but whereas in the UK they will close the line to do this, it is not needed for a daily train. Cue long periods of just waiting on the tracks while the workmen up ahead got all of their equipment out of the way so the train could move. Continue reading

The Sunset Limited – New Orleans to San Antonio

Distance travelled: 573 miles

Journey Duration: 15 hours

States travelled through: Louisiana, Texas

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This journey is one of the longest in the US, taking 45 hours to travel between Los Angeles and New Orleans. It is also one of the least frequent long-distance trains, running just three times a week, compared to daily for most other routes. I travelled to San Antonio to visit friends and the journey time was half that of the Crescent, prompting a big ‘WOO-HOO ONLY 16 HOURS ON THE TRAIN’ reaction.

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The Crescent – New York to New Orleans

The Big Apple to the Big Easy

Distance travelled: 1,377 miles

Journey duration: 30 hours

States passed through: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana.

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After spending a week in New York, I was ridiculously excited to go to Penn station and pick up my reservation tickets – this was a trip I’d wanted to do for years. I was hungry and wasn’t sure what the food on the train would be like, so I bought a KFC meal before boarding and remembered that in the US, they serve biscuits rather than fries with your chicken. This is a whole other post, but let me just say that these ‘biscuits’ upset British people more than you can imagine. (Don’t argue with me on this – just google scones.)

Thirty hours seemed like a long journey but I was ready for it. Yes, you read that correctly – the journey takes thirty hours from New York to New Orleans. If you tried that in the UK, you’d either end up in the North Sea somewhere or the middle of the Atlantic. How I love this small island nation (except when it votes to leave the EU.) Continue reading

A Brit does coast-to-coast America on the train (and back again)

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I first visited the United States in 2002 after splitting with my first serious boyfriend, convinced that going away somewhere fabulous (and distant) would take my mind off him. It worked, and has since become my preferred coping mechanism for break ups – end it, book a nice holiday, remind yourself there’s a whole world out there. San Francisco was the destination for that first visit more than a decade ago and it was exactly what I needed. An open-minded, free loving city with fantastic restaurants, bars, views; and a notorious former prison island as a main attraction.

Despite falling in love with America on that first trip, it was another nine years before I would visit again when I was invited to a friend’s wedding in New York State. Not only did I get to go to New York City and Niagara Falls for the first time, I was also able to see a British friend living in Boston who had moved there to teach. It was this holiday which made me realise how much I loved the States and wanted to visit as often as I could. New York City in particular became my second favourite city after my beloved London, and I ended up going there every year for the next four years. But I always felt I was missing out on the huge expanse of land in between the east and west coasts and knew I wanted to see more. Continue reading

Bangkok – noises and smells

People I know who have been to Bangkok before called it ‘crazy’, and that’s certainly the expectation that I had when I arrived.

I was impressed with the airport – anyone who travels often knows that some airports are the gateway to hell (United States, I’m looking at you). So it’s always pleasant when your experience is not too stressful and you can find everything you need. I found the platform for the Bangkok Sky Train and waited patiently, though an officially-dressed woman made full use of a whistle to tell people off for standing too close to the edge of the platform or not queuing properly in the right place. Little did I know this was an indication to come of how much Thai people like to blow whistles. Loudly.

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