The Coast Starlight train, which runs across California for Amtrak, is a beautiful route on the 50-year-old network.
It’s a long but spectacular journey from LA to Seattle, running along the Californian coast and through wine country.
“Well, I’ll be waiting for that train around the train station.”
To get me out of this lonely town!”
As my train pulled out of Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, I was listening to Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear My Train A Comin’.”
I was on my way to Jimi’s hometown of Seattle, which was 35 hours away.
The journey had been long.
But, like many other people these days, I was apprehensive about flying.
Amtrak, like The Coast Starlight, which I had just boarded, had recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The prospect of spending the night in a city I didn’t know held a certain allure for me.
But as I crammed my suitcase into my tiny “roomette,” I began to question my decision.
As she made her rounds, I asked the attendant, “What is the Wi-Fi password, please?”
She explained, “Sir, there is no internet onboard.”
“However, the views are beautiful.”
I took a look out the window.
The gloomy cityscape of downtown had been replaced by broad fields of citrus trees and deep purple bougainvillea.
This is something to which I could become accustomed.
Or, to put it another way, I had to get used to it.
I’d brought a good book with me, which was fortunate.
The Old Patagonian Express is a book by Paul Theroux about his train journey from Boston to Argentina.
It’s 500 pages long, but I had the time to finish it.
He writes, “The best book for railway reading is the plottiest.”
“An orderly way of enduring the haphazardness of the journey.”
I’m not sure The Old Patagonian Express is plot-driven, but it’s a lot of fun to read.
My gaze shifted from one page to the next, from one window to the next.
I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
We’d arrived at a beach north of Oxnard, and I marveled as dozens of pelicans wheeled across the water.
A voice jolted me awake from my slumber.
“Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, from Santa Barbara.”
“In five minutes, I’ll be in Santa Barbara.”
I put the book down on my lap and let myself be carried away by the scenery.
I saw surfboards, sun loungers, and barbecues squinting into the city’s well-kept gardens like some roving Peeping Tom.
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UK news summary from Infosurhoy
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train across California is a glorious route on the 50-year-old network
How to get there
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways fly from Heathrow to Los Angeles LAX.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight travels from Union Station, Los Angeles to King Street Station, Seattle. Roomettes carry up to two passengers, and prices start at $487 (£364) one-way, full board.
Where to stay
Pan Pacific Seattle has doubles from $239 (£178).
Where to visit
The Museum of Popular Cultureis at 325 5th Avenue, Seattle. Adult tickets: $25-30 (£18-23) online; $35-40 (£26-30) on-site; Children (4 and under): free.
British passport holders using an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) or non-immigrant visa to enter the US will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of this status prior to boarding a plane to the US. All arrivals, including non-vaccinated under-18s, will also need to provide a supervised, negative Covid test result taken no more than one day before travel. Under-twos exempt.