Saturday, June 27, 2009

Taking the Train

I used to take the Coast Starlight to Seattle often, then for a while I decided I needed to get there more quickly so for about 5 or 6 years I forgot about the train, but for my most recent trip I had no particular schedule to follow and I decided that a ride up and down the coast was just what my vacation needed.

A 10 minute ride on an Amtrak bus takes you from San Francisco to the Emeryville station, where you board the train around 10 pm. After a quick visit to the Pacific Parlour Car, which dates back to the fifties and has been completely refurbished and where not much is going on at 10 pm. since most train riders are early-to-bed-early-to-rise kinda folks, it's off to bed in your sleeper. I always get a "roomette", the least expensive but totally adequate private room option (more the size of a closet than a room, but I love it anyway).

The Parlour Car at night

Depending on when you wake up in the morning you may find yourself about to cross into Oregon, or having already done so. Wherever you are the view is awe inspiring.


A funny thing happened. The "who cares, I'm on vacation" effect took over. When I finished breakfast and returned to the Parlour Car, the attendant, a really likable man (good looking too) whom I have been running into on the train for about 10 years, said, "how about a Bloody Mary?" For a second I thought "it's 7:30 am!" then, immediately, "why not?". It's the first time I've ever had a drink in the morning, but it was the best Bloody Mary ever. It inspired me to read the entire manual for the digital camera I've had for 6 years, instead of just the "quick start guide" and, lo and behold, I discovered I can take videos with it!

The windows were particularly dirty because it had drizzled the night before, but my eyes got right past it.

The Portland train station

Somewhere between Portland and Seattle, but I'm sorry I don't know exactly where.

I tried to upload the following image of Puget Sound as a video, but Blogger would not let me, so here it is as a still. I'll save the return trip for another day.


chuck b. said...

How romantic! And a Bloody Mary can be just the thing in the morning.

chuck b. said...

How much is the fare, if you don't mind me asking?

anna maria said...

My fare was $500, round trip, bus ride and meals included, but not alcohol. However, my trip ended before June 14th, and I'm pretty sure it's more until maybe September. Perhaps not if you book way in advance.
The afternoon wine tasting used to be included, but now it's $5. Well worth it.
Two people can fit in the "roomette", because you can bring down an upper bunk bed. But it would be REALLY tight. In that case, however, there is a savings because each person pays for a ticket, but the extra cost of the room is shared.

mary ann said...

WAH! i loved seeing all of the pics, watching the little video snippet, and reading about your early morning adventures. THIS is living!

Anonymous said...

What a fun train adventure.

LOL! I've had my camera for a few years now and never opened the manual, although every year I say that I will. Perhaps a Bloody Mary will help? ;-)


Gabriela said...


Love travelling and it seems that you had a great adventure!

~ Gabriela ~

t wilde said...

I love the train so much...I took it from Seattle to Eugene once, and from L.A. to various places, but never overnight, so I never had a sleeper. I remember a trip from Brindisi to Rome where I was in a sleeper with 5 other beds! And two of the beds had a kid in with a was soooo hot in there, I ended up hanging out in the aisle smoking cigarettes with some guys all night.

anna maria said...

I remember a similar trip, but probably from London or Amsterdam to Brindisi in the seventies, but I had no sleeper and it was soooo hot and crowded that I spent a lot of time hanging out by the bathrooms smoking cigarettes with young people from all over Europe. I also have a vague memory of one Eastern European couple making out.
I think I much prefer the sleepy, subdued Coast Starlight, but of course I'm a lot older now!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Train trips can be an incredible way to move from place to place. Great photos for this one.
Divine that you had an am bloody Mary and then learned your camera. I can't tell my husband that or he'd be having the bloody Mary and I know he'd never learn the camera ;)

Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel said...

Anna Maria, I've always wanted to take this train North, but haven't due to stories about delays & problems with Amtrak. Your beguiling photos/post have inspired me to seriously reconsider! Alice
aka BayAreaTendrils

anna maria said...

Hi BayAreaTendrils,

The train used to be terribly late. I once got into Seattle 13 hours later than scheduled, it was a pain but it meant that I got one more night in my sleeper.

Others did not do so well, however, because they had to be transferred to a bus to get them to a transfer point on time.

Now things are different. Amtrak is on time, and often EARLY! I was told that this is due to the economy: fewer freight trains = fewer stops for Amtrak to let Pacific Railroad trains go by (they own the tracks).

Now is the time!