Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Romance of the Rails

I have always loved rail travel, ever since my parents put me on a train in London when I was TWELVE, and sent me to stay with friends in Vienna. When I think about my 12 year old grandson doing this, I just can't believe that I accomplished this alone. I had to find the right ship across the channel, the right train in Ostend, and then spend a day and a night on it. When I arrived in Vienna I remember writing a postcard to my parents to say I'd arrived. Not even a phone call.

Since then I have criss crossed Europe many times by train--and there is something about the magic of being invisible in a train carriage, being able to peek in through lighted windows, to see daily life played out for a second before we are whisked away to the next village and town. I love going to sleep to the gentle rhythm of a train and waking in a new landscape, a new country. I love that feel of crossing borders. In the past it meant customs and border control coming down the train, stamping passports, looking for smuggled goods. Now it's all so easy within the EU, 

I've had plenty of adventures on trains--the time we shared our sleeping compartment with the most disgusting old man who wanted to borrow my hair brush for his greasy, shoulder length hair, and had the most awful habits. The time I helped a girl escape from East Germany. The time (recent) when a clever thief stole John's bag. But mostly I've enjoyed striking up conversations with complete strangers, finding a common language to converse in, sharing their sliced salami and cheese and fruit and setting the world to rights between us.

I haven't traveled by train much in the US. Only the corridor between Boston, NY and DC. So it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to be part of a new venture called MYSTERY RAILS. (  I'll be joining Laurie R. King in mid October aboard a vintage rail car on a journey from Los Angeles to San Louis Obsipo and back. During the journey we'll speak to our fellow travelers and they'll have a chance to socialize with us. Gourmet meals will be served and we'll enjoy the spectacular coastal scenery.

If you're interested in joining us, please check out the Mystery Rails website. Reservations have to be made by mid August.


  1. That sounds like a super trip. I have always loved the idea og trains but never had a long train ride until my first trip to India with my husband. It lived up to my expectations, too. Wonderful. I still can see the shadowy outlines of mango forests in the starlit night. It was a night trip, and I was too excited to sleep a wink. Enjoy the Mystery Rails trip!

  2. I would love to go but I will just be back from a trip to Germany. Are you planning any events in Los Angeles? Planning on going to the Huntington Library and Gardens?

  3. You shared a compartment with a man? Ew, how odd.

    The mystery train sounds delightful. My only experience with trains is the D.C. subway and the DART in Dublin.

  4. Just came across