February 22, 2011

053: Globetrekking

Based on the emails they send me, I think Delta is operating under the mistaken assumption that I'm some cosmopolitan jetsetter.

Okay, true, I did go on three trips in 2010: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. But this is unusual. For most of my life, the only time I flew was to go to France about every four years (because I have a parent there, not because I'm one of those people). The Chicago trip was my Jeopardy! audition, and Los Angeles was when I was actually on the show; New York was to visit my college roommate. That's six flights on two airlines over four months. (I only really remember one, which is the flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul to LaGuardia, because the woman sitting next to me kept breastfeeding her toddler to keep him amused. Meanwhile, I was reading a Marie Claire that happened to have an editorial about sex aids, complete with photos. So it was an uncomfortable couple of hours for everyone.) After all that flying, I'm sick of air travel.

I'm going to Canada for the first time this year (hooray!) to visit another college roommate in Vancouver. Do you know how much it costs to fly from Minneapolis to Vancouver? Suffice to say the pricetag was enough to send me running to the Amtrak website. And since then, I've been thinking, hey, trains! How retro! It could be fun! Sure, it takes five times longer, someone might get murdered, and you might end up in a car with Dr. Sheldon Cooper, but you might also end up at Hogwarts.

But seriously: has anyone reading this ever taken a long train journey? Ever done a border crossing on a train? I've been on the TGV in France, but being a train à grande vitesse (loosely translated: Very Fast Train), it didn't take that long. Does the inconvenience outweigh the money saved? Please advise.


  1. ok. i've actually done a longish train ride (a couple, actually) and i don't recommend it. Amtrak is not like the TGV--those tracks are smooth, the trains comfortable. Amtrak is at best 1930s rails with 1960s era trains. the 15-hour trip i took from Jackson, MS to Chicago was one of the worst of my life. i can't imagine the three-day affair from MN to Vancouver.

    how much cheaper is it really? in my experience, you don't save that much on the train.

    just my two cents...

  2. @kevinknudson Thanks, Kevin -- I didn't know about the age of tracks/trains on the Amtrak routes. Train vs. plane would save a little over $100, which doesn't seem like a lot, but makes a big difference for me. Guess I'll just keep saving up my pennies for the plane ticket...

  3. I and the one I presume you're going to visit shared Venice-to-Budapest and Budapest-to-Florence, both of which were pretty long and included multiple border crossings. Definitely worth it, if nothing else for the experience, but it's sadly true that the experience isn't quite the same here in the States. Not that we were traveling in luxury on the Hungarian rail line, but North America is much bigger than Europe and our rail system is less used/maintained. So as you've discovered, not much of a savings, plus really long trips.

  4. Side note: I have a goal of taking the Orient Express before I die, because it is still high class and freaking awesome.

  5. @mlle-madeleine I saw a PBS special on the Orient Express last year and it's basically my dream trip. If only we had a North American equivalent...