I was born during the closing days of WWII. I don’t remember this, but, apparently, my mother and grandmother took me on a train ride from Texarkana to San Francisco to visit my other grandmother when I was eighteen months old. Thus began my love affair with train travel. One of my grandmother’s sisters was married to an engineer on a little local railroad in Southwest Arkansas. There is at least one picture me (age 2) riding on the cowcatcher at the front of the train. To this day, I would prefer to ride a train rather than take a car trip.
When we lived in California, Papa took to in to San Francisco a couple of time to ride the Cable Cars, and that was a new experience.
After we moved to New Jersey when I was in junior high school, Mama took the four of us kids on the train to visit Texarkana in the summer. It was considerably cheaper than flying. Papa would drive one way or the other, but he only had three weeks of vacation. So Mama and the kids needed to have another option to go the other way if we wanted to stay a couple of months. This was before the days of two-car (or even three-car) families. Even after I was in college, I took the train home for Christmas.
When we lived in Germany, I renewed my love affair with train travel. One of the prerequisites for me as a wife to drive in Germany was that I had to leave the country every year, or else I would have been considered a resident and would have had to get a German driver’s license. All the wives were terrified of having to take a German driving test. Al and I only had one son at that time, so it was pretty easy to find someone on base who would keep him while we took a trip to Paris. We could catch the train to Paris, find a hotel in the Sorbonne area where it was cheap, spend two nights there, and catch the train back to Kaiserslautern. I remember once we arrived on the first night of Tet celebrations. I was terrified to leave the hotel at night, but Al figured out how to ride the Metro (subway) and spent all night seeing the bright lights of Paris.
In Paris was where I found my love of riding boats. Almost every large city in Europe was built on the ocean or on a river. We loved to ride the tour boat on the River Seine. I spoke enough French that I was able to understand the commentary when it wasn’t in English, and translate it for Al. We always took public transportation instead of hailing a cab.
Then when we were stationed in England, we always rode the train from Oxford to London when we would go to a see a play or to go shopping. Our boys grew to be adept at hopping on and off the train, and finding the correct Tube station to get us around. London is on the banks of the Thames, and we could take a riverboat up the river to see Hampton Court. Oxford is also on the River Thames and it was fun to watch the regattas from the bank while sipping mint tea.
When Al and I came home for the last time, we got a Eurorail pass. and rode the train on the Grand Tour, seeing Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and France, before boarding the Queen Elizabeth II for our trans-Atlantic journey.
We rode the train on a ferry overnight from Sweden to Copenhagen. We rode tour boats in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, on the Rhine River in Germany, on a lake in the Alps near Hallstatt, and on the Mediterranean to Capri. In Switzerland we took a couple of cog trains up and down the Alps. We took a train through central France to where we stayed near the Normandy Beaches. There we were able to explore the pill boxes and ruins from the WWII. I would have liked to take a boat ride on the Loire but we were running out of time, so we took a train to Cherbourg to catch the QE II.
After retirement, I became quite the fan of Amtrak, and we rode the train from Dallas to San Antonio a couple of times. In San Antonio, they have a trolley that will take you around to most of the places of interest. They also have a river cruise that drifts gently through the Old Town to the sound of Mariachi bands.
After #1 son moved to Chicago we rode the train to see him. Later, my #2 son and I took my grandchild to Chicago for a week to see #1 son, and we rode the tour boat on Lake Michigan, and took the Architectural Tour on the Chicago River.
For our 50th Wedding Anniversary, Al and I took Amtrak to Seattle, and a bus to Vancouver. BC, where we caught Via Rail (Canada’s long distant rail line) to Toronto. That was a great trip because we had a room that was two singles at night, and then during the day the wall was folded back and it became one big room with a table for playing cards, and a big picture window. The food was wonderful, as well.
From Toronto, we went to Montreal and then on to Quebec by inter-city rail. In Quebec, we caught the Queen Mary II and cruised down the river to Nova Scotia, and then to Boston, Newport, Long Island, and in to New York City. In New York we spent a couple of days being tourists, and then we boarded the Jersey Central to visit relatives near Philadelphia. After a couple of days to quit vibrating, we boarded Amtrak to Washington, DC. We did all the touristy things there, and then back on Amtrak for an overnight ride to Chicago. In Chicago, we caught the California Zephyr through the Rockies to Sacramento. We changed trains in Sacramento and settled in for a beautiful trip through Northern California and Oregon and back to Tacoma.
Closer to home we have taken the Amtrak Cascades several times to visit Portland. One of the best parts of visiting Portland is being able to ride their trolleys. You can see all of downtown and the river from the trolleys.
One year we took a vacation from Seattle to Chicago and then on to Upstate New York via Amtrak. My sister has a vacation home near the Hudson River south of Albany. We visited her and took the river cruise to see the stately homes on the upper Hudson River.
One of our favorite places to visit is Victoria, BC. We have to drive to Port Angeles and catch the RedBall Ferry to Canada. Victoria is built around the harbor there, and they have little “toy boats” that serve as water taxis. There are several boat rides you can take around the harbor.
Basically, if I can find a train or a boat or a trolley or a ferry to ride, I’ll take it. There’s a ferry to Vashon Island at the foot of our hill. In the summer, sometimes, I’ll jump on it and go, even if I only ride to the other side of the sound and just stay on the boat and ride back.
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