“The journey is too fast, it passes too quickly; what a yearning I have now for long journeys!” proclaimed Franz Kafka in his European train travelogue. If you board Amtrak anywhere in the United States, not even for a moment will you feel deprived of a long journey. In fact, a mellow, meditative state of mind is all you need to revel in the leisurely and lengthy routes that Kafka yearned for. Feeling sufficiently mellow after months of the pandemic, I jumped on a train in the most important railway junction in California that you may not know —my adopted hometown of Martinez in the San Francisco Bay Area. Aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, the train would take me to Los Angeles along the most scenic route in California. Without any transfers.
Traveling through Norway by train, I boarded the coach at Oslo’s Sentralstasjon (Central Station) and made myself comfortable in a cushy seat. But shortly after we departed, I realized that I would not be able to simply relax because I could not to stop looking out the window. The train began to pass by large lakes, then hills, meadows, lakes again, mountain plateaus, and, ultimately, glaciers. Every new panorama beat the previous one, establishing a pattern that kept the passengers in suspense. In fact, one fellow visitor told me after the journey that despite her severe jet-lag, she was afraid to fall asleep because she might miss some of the great views.
The train whistle blew, signaling the arrival of the sleek Rocky Mountaineer into Banff’s heritage railway station. It was “All Aboard” by 9 a.m. and, within minutes of departure on the Rocky Mountaineer, we were raising glasses of champagne and peach juice to toast our two-day rail journey through the Canadian Rockies from Banff, elevation 4540 feet, down to Vancouver, at sea level.
I’m often miffed that tourists prefer air to train travel once inside Europe, especially in Paris with its beautiful Parisian train stations. Typically, airports are a goodly distance from city centers, expensive by taxi, and oh la la, those airport lines. My preference whenever possible is train travel, not simply for the high-speed trains, which don’t exist in the United States, but also for the history and intrigue of the actual stations . Since I park myself in Paris every summer, I’ve discovered Parisian train stations offer convenience, economy and art and have come to appreciate some of the most intriguing train stations in the City of Lights.
Story by Carol Canter with Photos by C. Canter and Jack Heyman. We looped through Switzerland on a 15-day Swiss Travel Pass in May, taking panoramic train journeys through legendary mountain passes, boat rides across shimmering silver lakes and cable car rides to postcard-perfect Alpine villages and peaks. With almost everything included in the Swiss Travel Pass – even museums and heritage sites – travel through Switzerland was seamless and easy to plan. Service was friendly, helpful and multilingual.
On my first trip to Europe many years ago, my sister Patty and I traveled around Ireland, England, Scotland, France and Switzerland via our Eurail Passes. I found standing in front of the big departure boards in the train stations thrilling. Something captivated me about those clicking sounds, and then new trains to magical places would appear with track and departure times. Knowing that I could board any one of those trains was a huge temptation. I loved the clicking sound. To me it sounded like adventure. To this day, I love European train travel.
Story and Photos by John Sundsmo
“You’re moving where? – Willits – where’s that?,” my museum guide, Dirk, told me his personal story as he shuffled me around the County Museum and Roots of Motive Power exhibits and gave me a thumbnail history. It seems Dirk’s friends in Santa Rosa didn’t understand his decision to up and move to Willits more than 25 years ago, nor did they, or I, really appreciate what that quiet, friendly little Mendocino County town has to offer. I learned from Dirk that Willits, in the early 1900s, was a whistle stop on the Northwestern Pacific railroad line. The trains started with a railroad ferry from the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco and steamed north to Sausalito to join with rails that ended hundreds of miles away in the booming lumber town of Eureka.
By Carol Canter.
We were early — maybe one to two weeks before peak fall foliage. So instead of colors that scream, we had hillsides that whispered with hues perhaps more subtle than we had hoped for, but achingly beautiful in a restful way. More earth tones – umbers and russets and coppers, punctuated by yellows pale and golden.