Tag Archives: train journeys

Travelling through California

Thursday 2nd October – Friday 3rd October
San Diego to Esalen, USA

From San Diego, we moved north through California, to a place called Esalen (of which more in our next post). The journey was simply spectacular, and the photos just don’t do it justice, but here’s a bit about what we saw.

Train journey, San Diego to Salinas
An early start on Thursday – the alarm went off at 4.30am! Our train from San Diego (called the Pacific Surfliner) was at 6.05am. As we left the city we followed the coast and watched the sun rise over the beaches to the north of the city. There were plenty of surfers already in the water as the sun rose.

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We had a short time at Los Angeles station, before we boarded the Coast Starlight, which goes all the way to Seattle.

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Travelling through the sprawl of Los Angeles seemed to take an age (we must have spent at least an hour in total passing through the city and its suburbs). But eventually we left the suburbs behind, passing huge amounts of agriculture.

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And, especially in the Santa Barbara area, beaches and bays one after another.

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The Coast Starlight train, and Joanna in the Sightseer Lounge Car.

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We finally arrived at our stop, Salinas, at 8pm. Salinas is an agricultural centre in California, and was the hometown of the author John Steinbeck.

Bus and van journey, Salinas to Esalen
A slow start on Friday, and after a long sleep we headed to Salinas Transit Center to catch a local bus to Monterey, where we had a chance to relax for a few hours.

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We were picked up in Monterey, and driven south to Esalen along the coast road in Big Sur – surely one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The road winds along the coast, giving the most beautiful views of the bays and beaches along the way.

All in all, the most spectacular journey imaginable!

Fact of the day
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How y’all doin’? Heading south

Monday 22nd September to Wednesday 24th September
Washington DC to Atlanta, USA

Train journey, Washington DC to Atlanta
The USA is a big country.  Really big.

Our first long distance train journey was an overnight trip, spanning five states (to add to the five that we had already covered between New York and Baltimore).  Previously, when we have taken overnight trains, we have booked a cabin.  However, on this occasion, we decided to save a bit of money and try spending the night in a “coach” seat.  With plenty of leg room and reclining seats, it wasn’t too bad at all, and we both managed to get a few hours of shut-eye, completely missing South Carolina (sorry, South Carolina!).

Exploring Atlanta
We arrived in Atlanta at around 8.30am, and went straight to our hotel, where they fortunately already had a room available for us to get a bit more rest before we began exploring our new surroundings (which was made more challenging by the fact that almost every street in Atlanta seems to be called Peachtree Street, Peachtree Avenue, Peachtree Square, etc…!).  

During our time in downtown and midtown Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday, the most surprising thing that we discovered was Underground Atlanta.  In the 1900s, the roads in downtown Atlanta were getting so crowded with pedestrians, trains, horse-drawn wagons and trolley cars, that a decision was made to build a raised town centre on viaducts, above the existing railroad tracks.  It is still possible to access the lower level in this area, which is a strange mixture of modern shops and stalls and an informal museum capturing life in the early part of the last century, including this 1920s advertising mural (the first carbonated Coca-Cola was served in nearby Jacob’s Pharmacy in 1887).

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Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta
A short distance outside downtown can be found the area formerly known as Sweet Auburn, where the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was born and raised. Our visit on Wednesday took in Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK Jr was minister (as were his father and maternal grandfather before him), which has now been restored to its 1960s appearance. It is no longer used as a church (the congregation has moved to a new building across the road) but now plays MLK Jr’s speeches on a loop.  We also saw the house where he was born, and the surrounding homes that have been retained and restored.

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Altanta Braves Baseball, Turner Field
The regular baseball season is now drawing to a close.  The advantage of this is that we have managed to see amazing games such as Baltimore’s clinching of their division.  The disadvantage is that some games just do not matter that much – and Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves was one such game (the Pirates have secured their place in the playoffs; the Braves very much have not, as evidenced by the recent sacking of their General Manager). On the plus side, the tickets were cheap, so we treated ourselves to excellent seats, on the field level between third base and home plate.

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Although the crowd wasn’t huge, the atmosphere was still good. It was helped by the Braves scoring two runs in each of the second, third and fourth innings (including a two-run home run in the fourth). It was also helped by the ‘Tomohawk Chop’, a chant (complete with chopping action) that the crowd did each time the Braves made a good play. Pittsburgh managed to get two runs back in the fifth but neither team was able to score again, meaning a home win.

One of our favourite things at baseball matches is when people dress up in outlandish costumes and race around the outfield between innings.  That happens more often than you would think, although not everywhere – so far as we are aware, the instances are Milwaukee (sausages), Washington DC (Presidents) and, apparently, Atlanta (tools).  The crowd are encouraged to cheer on their favourites (in Milwaukee, it is even possible to buy “chorizo” or “bratwurst” t-shirts), and, of course, they do so with enthusiasm.

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Another big bonus for specators at baseball games is the potential to take home a baseball that has been used during the game (if you can catch one, or persuade a player to throw one to you). Towards the end of the game, we were standing above the visiting team’s bullpen.  As the game came to an end, the man standing next to us asked one of the Pittsburgh pitchers, who was leaving the area, to throw a spare baseball (that had been used in practice) up to him, which he duly did.  The lovely guy then handed the official Major League baseball to us.  Best. Souvenir. Ever!

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Song of the day
We have heard Hideaway by Kiesza a fair bit on the radio and TV while we’ve been here (there are a number of other songs/”earworms” we’ve heard a lot, but we won’t inflict them on you!). We also like the fact that the video was shot in Brooklyn, in one take.