If you want to feel the heartbeat of a nation then for sure you got to take the train.
What a difference, arriving early in the morning at the Southern Pacific terminal in New Orleans. No hustle and bustle but pretty relaxed fellow travelers and a warm hearted Amtrak darling that gently pushed me into the line for coach class passengers. Boarding started and the column of bags, food to go boxes, blankets and other stuff was manfully escorted towards the cars where the train guard already waited and the seats assigned.
Step back in time, take a seat. Wow, comfy and big seats and panorama windows in contrast to todays airplanes
So why should you swap a one hours flight to 12 hours by train. Well that easy. Start glimpsing at majestic lake Pontchatrain soon after departure in New Orleans. Travel through deep LA swamps and forrests and watch little villages and cities go by before the train makes its first major stop in Birmingham Alabama.
Boy this has nothing to do with Southern romance but with fall of heavy industry, segregation, Ku-Klux-Klan and the struggle of finding its place in the 21st century. It reminded me a bit of German Ruhr Region at the end of the 1980's. However, seeing dozens of bordered up or burned down houses all along the way is tough, especially when travelling in a developed country.
The train got delayed and I used the opportunity catching up with some mails thanks to freely available high-speed wifi on the train.
The dining car manager passed by and asked if I were to make a dinner reservation what I willingly did.
Three more hours to Atlanta so I was off to my culinary discovery.
The steak with a baked potato was actually quite good and the premium you pay for onboard dining not too high. I paid 25 Dollars plus 6 Dollars for a beer excluding tip.
Not hungry any more I returned to my seat continuing my small talk with DeSean and his wife on their way home to Atlanta. Both spent some days of fun dancing and enjoying the excellent music on Frenchman Street in Nola. Look at their hats, wonderful.
I still hate the fact that I left out GOORIN, one of the oldest hatmakers in town, an institution for classic or stylish headgear.
I also stepped into Jason, respectively his jesus cruisers well conplemented by hand nitted socks that immediately caught my attention. Student at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, he was on the way home to Baltimore for Christmas.
What a bunch of people, individuals like me, plane haters, pensioners, tourists taking the time to travel having stopped thinking about the downsides of modern aitravel.
The Crescent train not only connects New Orleans with Atlanta but continues all the way up North via Charlotte, Washington, Baltimore to New York arriving there the second day making the journey just a little under 30 hours.
My trip to Atlanta cost me 61 Dollars in Coach. Dleeper cars and a slightly more expensive business class are available as well. Travelling by sleeper car would make sense when travelling to NY. However, standard coach class seats are reclining seats and a price of 129 Dollars up to NY make you sleep well. Add approx 200 Dollars per person if you want the privacy of your own compartment.
More info available at www.amtrak.com
Finally I arrived at Atlanta with about 1 1/2 hours delay. The station Amtrak uses is rather small and you get the impression to arriving in a suburb. Taxis are available at street level and a ride to major downtown hotels will take less than 10 minutes.
In a nutshell:
Travelling Amtrak is fun. You get the chance of seeing a lot during your trip but I guess that the best about the travel is to touch base with some wonderful people, all of them having a unique story to tell.