The Romance of the Rails!

A long day today, but rather exciting.  We woke up quite early, probably wondering if Daisy’s flight had landed….. in fact it had been 2 hours late taking off from Washington DC but it caught up a bit and landed just before 12 UK time, so 7am EST.

We finalised our packing and had breakfast in the condo before heading out for the Kissimmee Amtrak railway station around 1015.  Our train was at 1256 but we had to return the hire car and we wanted to have a lot of time.  There was a hint of autumn in the weather today, slightly hazy and definitely not quite as hot.  A lot hotter than it’s going to be in New York  though.  The forecast is 24F for Friday!!! BRRRRR!

We found the station easily enough in the historic downtown of Kissimmee and we checked in our 5 bags.  Unsurprisingly when the chap weighed them two were over the 50lbs limit.  Luckily 2 were under, so we just had to re-arrange a few things.  No problem. We were allowed 4 checked pieces of 50lbs each as part of the ticket price but we had 5 – Bob’s golf clubs being the extra piece.  The charge for that was $10 which I thought was really good.  Especially as we had crammed loads of stuff into the carrying case and he didn’t actually weigh that one for some reason.

Bob then went off and returned the hire car to Hertz and they ran him back to the station.  No problem there.   We had about an hour to wait at this point so we walked up the block to a bar/restaurant for a drink.  We were, however, also a bit hungry so we ordered some nachos.  When they came, it was the most enormous platter and they were utterly delicious.  Even though I knew we were dooming our “paid for” lunch on the train, we couldn’t resist.  Bob, is off the wagon now as he is no longer driving, so he had a dark beer and I had a glass of Pino Grigio.  A nice lunch.

We also used the loos in the restaurant for reasons that will become apparent.  The train accommodation was booked as part of the cruise package we’ve been on, and the best cabin we could get on the train was what Amtrak call a Viewliner Cabinette.  This comprises a small cabin with two seats that make into two beds for overnight.  There is some storage for hand luggage and most oddly of all, a pull down sink and a toilet IN THE CABIN!!  No not, behind any sort of door but adjoining one of the two seats.  I don’t mind washing and teeth brushing in close confines.  I suppose, if desperate, I wouldn’t mind a quick wee in the toilet but……. anything else, NO WAY!!!!  So we were quite anxious to head off any difficulties – shall we say – before boarding.  Not unlike our actions when travelling by Indian train, but for wildly differing reasons.

The train was bang on time and we were welcomed on board by the two very friendly and upbeat stewards for our coach.  Our lady explained the workings of the cabinette to us and said she would be making up the beds while we were at dinner.  Predictably, we were too full up to want to go to the dining car for lunch, but we took a couple of diet cokes and coffees and settled down.

The cabinette is really minute.  About 3 foot wide by 5 feet long.  Think about those numbers.  And the fact that it includes the toilet.  Have a look at the picture that shows Bob sitting on the seat with the toilet next to him..  Intimate isn’t the word!!!  There are sliding doors to the corridor on one side and the picture window on the other.  I wouldn’t want to go for longer than 24 hours in one.  When we travelled by Amtrak years ago with the girls from Memphis to Chicago, we had a much bigger cabin which had a separate shower room/loo attached.  I thought that was small – the bathroom bit was about the size of an aeroplane loo, but this cabinette really takes the biscuit.  Still…. better than nothing.

We settled in for the afternoon and Florida drifted by our window.  The tracks were in pretty remote areas – lots of water, swamp, jungly terrain.  We headed steadily north with quite a long stop at Jacksonville.  Crossed the border into Georgia at about 6 by which time it was pitch dark.  A pity because the best part of the trip is in darkness but that’s the way it is.  We read our kindles, used the wifi which was surprisingly good.

The stewards came round taking orders for dinner time, bed putting down time and breakfast.  All the food is included for cabin passengers.  The menu is pretty good.

We went through to dinner at 7pm so we could have a cocktail.  Not sure why we still had the odd Bing Crosby/Cary Grant – hell, even Trading Places – fantasy going on about club cars etc.  Anyway, the dining car is small but nice, however you are forced to share a table with other people.  In our case, this was a nice black man who kept up chatter throughout and was good company except he had a massive flat toothpick stuck out of his mouth throughout both conversation, drinks and dinner.  It literally never moved.  I began to wonder if he knew it was there and even if it was a toothpick or whether it was some bizarre tooth device the purpose of which I was – being British and with therefore horrible dentistry – unaware.  He ate his whole dinner – steak and all – with this thing poking out.

Anyway, we managed to get a gin and tonic to start albeit in a plastic cup.  Wine was nice but only sold in a half bottle and at that, red or white… The red was nice.  Dinner was surprisingly good, and actually better than it looked.  We started with a salad.  Crisp and nice if unexciting.  Entrée we both chose the Land and Sea which was steak, a crab cake, green beans and a baked potato with hollandaise and sour cream.  The steak was excellent – juicy and tender.  The crab cake was amazingly the best I’ve had in a month of being in Florida.  Dunno about the potato.  The green beans looked a bit grey but were ok.  Bob had pecan pie for pudding.  I had the chocolate tart with raspberry jelly topping. Both were mediocre.  Coffee – also mediocre.

I write this from the top bunk as we approach Charleston.  The train is shaking around like hell.  Bob is fast asleep below me.  I gave him the bottom bunk as he is more likely than me to have to get up in the night and use the loo.  yikes.

I hope I’ve drunk enough to make me sleep.  I doubt it…. but then I always do and somehow manage it.  At the moment my bunk feels like one of those vibro massagers from the 70s that’s somehow gone berserk.  Oh god….. Cary where are you????



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