Italy 2015; Tuscany, Amalfi Coast & Rome

Italy 2015; Tuscany, Amalfi Coast & Rome

Italy 2015; Tuscany, Amalfi Coast & Rome Italy 2015; Tuscany, Amalfi Coast & Rome

Hong Kong & Shanghai 2015

Hong Kong and Shanghai 2015

Hong Kong & Shanghai 2015 Hong Kong & Shanghai 2015

London 2014

London in Winter 2014

London 2014 London 2014

Cambodia and Burma 2014

Cambodia and Burma July 2014

Cambodia and Burma 2014 Cambodia and Burma 2014

Peru 2014

Peru - Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lima 2014

Peru 2014 Peru 2014

Puglia and Basilicata Italy 2013

Puglia and Basilicata Italy 2013

Puglia and Basilicata Italy 2013 Puglia and Basilicata Italy 2013

Tips and Resources for Planning a Trip to Paris

Going to Paris? Here are my tips and resources for planning a trip

Tips and Resources for Planning a Trip to Paris Tips and Resources for Planning a Trip to Paris

With views like this, what else do you need? Somewhere in New Mexico.

LA to Chicago to Washington DC

One of the best things about train travel is being able to see the world go by a ground level. Even though I brought books, magazines, and movies on my computer, I never opened any of them. It was too easy to get mesmerized by the world going by. I did take a lot of photos.

I thought I would spend time in the lounge car but I was more than content to sit in our compartment.  Perhaps if I’d been in coach I would have spent more time in there.

Amtrak Lounge Car on Capitol Express

Amtrak Lounge Car on Capitol Express

Along the trip, there are many stops, but most of them are not stops where you can get off the train. Some are mere minutes in the single digits. On my wishlist would be longer stops during the day. We had over an hour in Albuquerque (I think because of the time change) and it was lovely to walk around downtown. I know the train is “transportation”, and not a tour, but still, longer breaks of even an hour or two would be nice.

One of our first quick stops was in Winslow Arizona. Yes, the one in the song. I wish I’d had time to go stand on the corner and look for the girl (my Lord) in a flatbed Ford. 😉

Can’t get the song out of my head and I’m looking for that flatbed Ford…

The first time got off the train to get some fresh air was at an early morning stop in Gallup New Mexico. At this stop, they announced we had about 10 minutes and warned us not to leave the platform.

Amtrak Train in Gallup New Mexico

Early morning stop in Gallup New Mexico

In Albuquerque, there was a longer than normal stop, over an hour, probably because of the Daylight Saving time change on that day and the need to have the train stick to the schedule.

We took the opportunity to walk around the almost empty downtown area on an early Sunday morning. Our goal was to find a real cup of coffee (because the coffee on the train is almost undrinkable) and about 2 blocks from the station we came across a local coffeehouse called Espresso Fino at 222 Gold Avenue.

We also stopped at a nice grocery store called the Silver Street Market (205 Silver Avenue) which had a decent selection of produce and pre-made food options that would be great for those traveling in coach.

Albuquerque

Albuquerque

Albuquerque has lots of neat murals and street art all around downtown too.

Albuquerque

Albuquerque- mural on the side wall of the Silver Street market

Albuquerque

Albuquerque

Views of the desert from the train

Late in the afternoon, we reached Raton New Mexico, below. Our stop here was a few minutes longer than normal, but again we were told not to leave the platform. While we walked around the in the chilly air, the police were called to remove a rowdy and belligerent passenger from the train.

Raton New Mexico.

The next morning, we stopped briefly in Kansas City MO, but it was too early and too cold for me to get off the train.

Kansas City, early in the morning.

Farmland.

Chicago:

We arrived in Chicago around 3 pm and took an Uber to our hotel, the Westin Michigan Avenue. We could have taken a bus, but it would have taken much longer at that time of day.

As we were checking in to the hotel, I felt really dizzy. It was like spending a lot of time on a boat and when you get off it feels like the solid ground is moving. Being on a train for a long time has the same effect, we both felt the dizziness and rocking motion for almost 24 hours after being off the train.

View of Lake Michigan from our room at the Westin Michigan Avenue

We were at the Westin for about 24 hours. My SPG Gold status got us free internet and a 4 pm checkout which was helpful because our train didn’t leave until after 6 pm. I booked the room for cash plus points and think it was a pretty good value. We took the offer to upgrade to a room with club lounge access for $30.

Our 25th-floor room was spacious and had fantastic views of Lake Michigan, Lake Shore Drive, and some cool apartment buildings. The beds were SO comfortable after being on the train for two nights. The evening hors-d’oeuvres in the lounge were a disappointment but the breakfast spread was pretty nice with lots of different food options. There’s a great view from the lounge down Michigan Ave too.

Room at Westin Michigan Avenue.

The Westin at night

That night we had dinner at Bistronomic, a cute little French bistro close to the hotel. The cocktails were excellent. We had one called Amanda’s Smoky Day with bourbon, smoked orange juice, rosemary and ginger ale and one called the Winter Star with bourbon, star anise, and orange bitters. For an appetizer, we shared a decadent chicken liver mousse with an apple, hazelnut and arugula salad. Then I had to have the escargot (of course!) and my mother had a butternut squash soup with truffled croutons. Finally, we shared a Lyonnaise salad with duck prosciutto, poached egg, and pomegranate seeds.

Craft Cocktails at Bistronomic in Chicago.

Dinner at Bistronomic in Chicago.

The next day, we didn’t do any traditional “sightseeing” in Chicago because we’d both been there before (my mother had worked there for a long time) and it was very cold out. So instead, we walked around, did a bit of shopping and checked out the all-things-Italian-food emporium called Eataly.

I’m not sure why, but I did not expect to be as impressed as I was. I did expect things there to be over-priced (and they were), but the selection really was phenomenal. I suspect that if there’s any Italian ingredient you need for a special meal, it’s there. In addition, the dining options were varied and all looked enticing. We had lunch in one of their multiple eating areas and restaurants called Il Pesche.

Eataly

For lunch, we ordered a half dozen oysters and a couple of plates of pasta. My pasta was “fiori” (flower shaped) ravioli made with spinach pasta, stuffed with mushrooms and a thyme butter sauce with soto (reduced balsamic). My mother’s pasta was the linguine alla vongole, (with clams) and we each had a glass of Italian white wine (mine from Calabria). All of it was surprisingly good. There was a good house-made bread too, served with a very fruity olive oil.

Lunch at Eataly.

After lunch, it was time to go back to the room to get ready for the next train trip. Our train to Washington DC didn’t leave until 6:40 pm so we had plenty of time to get to the station (another Uber), check out the gorgeous architecture there, and hang out for a bit in the Metropolitan Lounge (again, available only to Sleeper Car and Business class passengers).

Chicago Union Station

Chicago Union Station

Chicago Union Station

Chicago Union Station-You might recognize these stairs from the movie The Untouchables

I wasn’t much wowed by the metropolitan lounge in Chicago. It’s nicer than LA in that it’s much larger (two floors), has a children’s area, and showers available. But it was crowded and when we were there, there was no food and only a coffee and soda machine. I guess the “light snacks” they tout are a few canisters of peanuts and Chex mix? We sat upstairs which felt a little calmer and less crowded. They do have cocktail service in the evenings but we did not partake.

Chicago Union Station

Chicago Union Station Lounge

Chicago Union Station

Chicago Union Station

Chicago to Washington DC on the Capitol Limited

Our trip from Chicago to DC on the Capitol Limited was fairly uneventful. For photos of the inside of the train, see part 1 of this trip. The train ride itself was measurably more rocky and bumpy than the first one. In fact, the train was rolling side to side so much during our dinner in the dining car, I almost was thrown out of my seat. One of our dining companions actually got sick at the table (I won’t give details, suffice it to say, it was awful).

The next morning the views were much different from the Southwest, much more wooded with lots of Fall colors in the trees.

Martinsburg West Virgina train station with its old roundhouse.

Harper’s Ferry West Virgina

Somewhere before arriving in DC.

And then, before we knew it, we were in Washington DC and our train trip was over.

Washington DC Union Station

Stay tuned for our time in Washington DC and Old Town Alexandria.

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LA to DC by Train 2017-Part 1, On the Train

November 29, 2017
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Some things happen too fast to be captured in a photo from a train window. A speckled gray horse in New Mexico running to meet the train and galloping alongside until we are out of sight. Two boys, dressed all in black and teenage angst, giving the train the finger, somewhere in Arizona. A huge […]

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Pompeii and Herculaneum; Photos and Some Tips For Visiting the Ruins

November 25, 2017
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I love walking around ruins. It thrills me to imagine what life was like thousands of years ago and seeing how some things haven’t changed (houses with fountains, shops that sell food or beer, bathhouses with hot and cold water), etc. I’ve managed to visit ruins all over the world; Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, […]

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Staying in Pompeii; Hotel Forum Pompeii and Restaurante Add u’ Mimi

November 4, 2017
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We did something not many people do when visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum; we stayed in the town of Pompeii itself. Many, if not most, visitors to Pompeii come just for the day from places like Sorrento, Naples, or even Rome. They arrive by bus and train and are gone before the sun sets on the […]

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Siena; Osteria da Trombicche and Sightseeing

October 23, 2017
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The sign said “No Pizza, No Cappuccino, Si Miale, Si Vino”. My translation; If you want pizza and cappuccino, you tourist, go away. If you want pork and wine, we’ve got it, come on in! With a sign like that, how could we not go in? What we found was unexpected. There were a tiny […]

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Exploring Tuscany; Podere Il Casale Organic Farm

October 14, 2017
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Right outside Pienza is a working farm with a small restaurant called Podere Il Casale. This place puts all others claiming “farm-to-table” to shame and is what true “farm-to-table” is all about. The farm raises goats and sheep for milk and makes their own cheese (several kinds). They raise bees for honey and grapes for wine. […]

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Exploring Tuscany; Máté Winery, Montalcino, and Montepulciano

October 8, 2017
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During our four days in Pienza, we took several day trips in the car out to the surrounding towns. The nice people at La Bandita helped us set up several things including a private visit to Máté Winery and a visit to a working farm (covered in a later post). Máté winery is near the town of Montalcino so […]

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Exploring Pienza Italy; Restaurants and Sightseeing

October 5, 2017
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The first four days of our trip were spent in Tuscany, where we stayed in the tiny hilltop town of Pienza. Our hotel, La Bandita Townhouse, was right in the center of things and we loved every minute there. It gave us plenty of time to explore the village, where many tourists visit on day trips, […]

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