April 6, 2014

The Rail Less Traveled

It has often been said, and fairly frequently repeated by me, we need to "stop and smell the roses". While it's become a cliché, the meaning is no less accurate and important. We live in a world where it seems the only thing we take the time to stop and smell, is our morning double shot of espresso, which we drink to keep up with our warp-speed schedules. We're all in such a hurry to get things done - anxious, really. We crave faster, more instantly accessible, and more direct. I understand. I also understand what's missing - the why. The answer is time with a purpose. Time spent smelling the roses; time spent taking it ALL in, slowly and deliberately. It is why (whenever possible) this traveller prefers the longer, slower, and more scenic route. Incidentally, how many of us can say that the last beautiful landscape we saw wasn't merely via Pinterest or Facebook? Get out there! Even a morning spent in a sunny park, at a local farmers market, or local gallery can renew the spirit.

But, if you're really open for adventure, take the rail less traveled…
You can keep your bullet trains, your commuter express, and your direct lines - I prefer the timeless route. It's a great way to let yourself feel the endorphin rush of being immersed in the sites, sounds and smells of our world. The kind you can't get from 30,000 feet above. The kind of journey where instant access devices should be shut down or primarily used to take photo's. And you'll want to take photos - lots of them! Among scenic railway journeys, the Settle to Carlisle line in England is such a route. Famous for its Victorian architecture, huge stone viaducts, long tunnels, and remote wayside stations, the line ventures through some of the most beautiful country in the UK. It won't get you there quickly, but it will make your journey worthwhile. From gently rolling pastures to a high valley with mountains rising on either side, the journey offers unparalleled views of the English countryside. These fields, marked and divided by dry stone walls, bordering small fields, define centuries old property claims and divided inheritances. This is an English heritage journey. Each field, each stone wall, each stop with a story beckoning the imagination…
Constructed in the 1870's the 73 mile long Settle and Carlisle Railway runs through the Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines. The railway links the industrial towns of Leeds and Carlsile. Traveling through its 14 tunnels and over its 22 viaducts (including the famous Ribblehead Viaduct) it's an awe inspiring journey with ever changing scenery.

Appleby -
If you arrive in Appleby, Westmorland, Cumbria, during the first week of June, you'll make it to the annual gathering of gypsies and travelers at the Appleby Fair. The fair has been going on since the 1600's and is one of the oldest horse fairs in Britain. If this were a bullet train route, Appleby wouldn't even be a blip on the screen, and you'd surely miss this rare opportunity. Horse trading is the reason, but the beautiful horses (the Gypsy Vanner Breedmay be upstaged by the gathering of colorful carts and even more colorful characters. 
You'll fall in love with the horses, the people, and the countryside. 
Next Stop: Dent Station:
The historic station was first opened for public use in 1877 and it is not just a train station anymore!

March 23, 2014

Cool and Unusual Journey's Along the Rails

Rovos Rail - South Africa
Anyone who's ever seen, "Murder on the Orient Express", can't help but want to take a journey by rail. Even without the obvious movie theatrics, there's undeniable romance linked with train travel. Probably not since Agatha Christie's novel, turned movie, has there been a more alluring train, until the Hogwart's Express. Now adults and children alike want to pass through the barrier at platform 9 3/4's. Yet, despite the lack of 1934 adornments of white gloved waiters, mahogany panels, and lamp lit windows, or the possibility of magical mischief and candy carts, trains are a very enchanting way to travel. It's hard to explain, but even the constant motion is a part of it. Believe me when I say, even though the romance of either "Hollywood" story takes a lot of movie magic, it isn't necessary in the real world. Train trips are wonderful!

Once I hopped onboard for the first leg of my Eurail journey abroad, I was hooked. Compared to now, most of the trains I traveled on had an old world feel (with compartments very much like the HP train's). There were a few, however, where the chickens rode with the people, and seating was impossible to find. In some countries, train rides were more like an Indiana Jones adventure than one on the Orient Express, but even they had something of a romantic appeal. Suffice it to say, not all Eurail trains are  pretty and comfortable. Although I wasn't on a "train trip" per se, Eurail was a very exciting way to get around Europe. My point is, once you've ridden the rails you're hooked. I can't wait to do it again, in Europe and elsewhere. Of course, as depicted in these few shots, the scenery speaks volumes!
Rocky Mountaineer train - Mount Robson, British Columbia
From "20 Unforgettable Images of Trains" Swiss Alps
Let's Explore Train Travel
I'm not starting with the obvious, Eurail, simply because a small train station in England caught my eye and inspired these next few posts. Now I dream of going there, to Dent Station by train. So don't look for, or expect a pattern of logical sequence. There isn't one. We're about to look at train journeys and stops around the globe. It isn't the kind of ride that sees you squished between stranger side to side, and front to back, as you trudge home from the office, or the birds-eye view from the tiny window miles above. This is the kind of ride where you relax as you gaze out the window at the sweeping vista. As the train's rhythm warms you, stress falls away and you begin to relax as the journey unfolds.

March 20, 2014

My Kind of Town - Part 4 Getting Around

With so much to see and so much to do in Chicago, how do you get around?
One of my favorite discoveries was DIVVY - Divvy gets you around Chicago in a jiffy. I wish every major city had Divvy and I wished it hadn't been winter and snowing in Chicago so this Floridian could have enjoyed using it.
Divvy is a bike sharing system featuring thousands of bikes at hundreds of stations, available 24/7, 365 days a year. Perfect for both locals and visitors alike. Each station has a touchscreen kiosk, station map, and a docking system that releases bikes using a member key or ride code. Rent a bike and ride along the lake shore via 20 miles of bicycle paths that run north-south along the city's edge or tool through the city. The rental kiosks are everywhere and you can purchase an annual membership online or get a 24-hour pass.