2021: The travel year that almost took off

0525 am, an unearthly hour by any standard. Even more so if its a flight one has to catch. And that’s precisely how it went down for me on my first flight in 17-months. A journey that lasted less than an hour, from Burlington, Vermont to JFK. Fleeting as it was, being cocooned with a bunch of strangers – in varying states of mask compliance – within the cramped environs of a regional jet, felt entirely unnatural. Some six flights and a half year later, it still does.

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Pullman-style to the Windy City

In their 29th season, The Simpsons hit up New Orleans, and while there, Homer went on a whistle-stop food tour. Gene’s was one of his stops. Open 24-hours, Gene’s serves a smashingly good Po’boy, as I can finally attest to. Right across from it, the latest extension of the city’s endearing streetcar system, one that I could hardly tire of riding. Both of those cultural icons, only a stone’s throw away from my Airbnb. Its good to be back in the Big EasyIMG_1587 Continue reading “Pullman-style to the Windy City”

Silver Star to NYC

The rising sun gradually illuminates Biscayne Bay, the Port of Miami, and eventually, our hotel room. Hushed conversations, and the stirrings of the morning are difficult to ignore, and there’s far too much daylight by now, to continue snoozing through. South Beach lies, but 4-miles away. I coerce myself out of bed, lace up, and head out across the Venetian Causeway
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The Crescent to the City of New Orleans

Any hopes of eating southern-style barbecue are quickly dashed at JFK itself. Presidential activity, the pilot informs us, as we finally join the endless queue for takeoff. I arrive at ATL so late that even the airport’s own restaurants have called it a night. Save for a lone Diner, downtown Atlanta doesn’t fare too much better, and to make matters worse, its several degrees cooler than NYC…

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Chicago to Seattle, the slow way

1:45 pm – Great Hall, Chicago Union

Back in the day, the Pennsy and the New York Central offered through Pullman service from coast to coast. But that was then – the golden era of rail travel. Today, pretty much any rail journey from one coast of the United States to the other, requires a change of train at Chicago’s Union Station. The impressive Beaux-Arts building dates from 1925, and although it has been expanded considerably since, one would be remiss not paying a visit to its magnificent Great Hall. Flanked by two grand staircases – one of which was the setting for the most memorable scene in The Untouchables – the sweeping marble-floored atrium, topped off by a vaulted skylight, continues to provide a befitting gateway to any transcontinental journey.

The station still operates an exclusive lounge for sleeper class passengers, and it is here that the four of us convene, from different corners of the country, to embark on a 2,206-mile (3,550-km) journey to Seattle, aboard the Empire Builder.


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