You never really get a true sense of distance when travelling by plane. Nowhere is this more true than in America, where travelling by train is on an epic scale.
We were on the Amtrak Crescent service that runs from New York to New Orleans. Starting our journey on train number 19 at Washington DC, we travelled through seven states before arriving half an hour early.
And you know what? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The view alone is fascinating – everything from land where Civil War battles were fought to ancient woodland, small town America where the passing of a train brings it to a standstill and, finally, the swamps of Louisiana.
It’s pretty well organised too. You’re allocated a seat as you get on and the staff make sure to know when to wake you up for your stop.
Not many of us were in it for the long haul, but there were still plenty of passengers whose life you share for a good 12 hours or so. Like the Australian traveller who was eventually going to drive from Phoenix, Arizona, to California for a day before flying home, or the friendly old black lady who paced the train speaking to all and sundry to keep herself busy, and the slickly dressed man who was going from Birmingham, Alabama, to New Orleans for one night only to play poker. Alas, we think he’d had a can or two of beer too many so it would be a bit of a miracle if he’d gone anywhere near a pack of cards.
The food wasn’t bad either – I positively devoured a Belgian waffle in the restaurant car. We even got several hours sleep in coach class – as the chairs resemble those in first class on an airline. You even get a pillow.
During the journey I watched several hours of TV on my iPhone, nearly finished knitting a sweater (a possible future blog post if it works), read half a book and wrote in my diary. It was almost a bit of a welcome break after a mad view days of sightseeing.
But what made the journey particularly worthwhile alone was arriving in Louisiana and the approach into New Orleans. Travelling across Lake Pontchartrain at sunset was possibly one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.