Thursday, May 12, 2016

Steaks on a Train!- An Amtrak Crescent Trip Review

I recently had the opportunity to ride the Amtrak Crescent from Birmingham, Alabama up to Washington, DC with a great group of guys for a trip to Gettysburg.  My dad and I traveled in a sleeper car and had a great time, even if Amtrak travel isn't exactly the height of luxury.

The trip started out at the post-apocalyptic Birmingham train station.

This is a grim place, and not one you want to hang around in long.  Though I understand that Birmingham is currently building a new multi-million-dollar-federally-funded intermodal transport hub that will house Amtrak also (to replace the old multi-million-dollar-federally-funded intermodal transport hub built in 1998).

Things improved marginally when we climbed aboard our car, and met Claude, our charming steward.  Our bedroom, configured in day mode, was comfortable, if a bit tight.

Amtrak Bedrooms feature a "full" bath that's much like something you might find in a 1980s-era RV.

And they feature some really distinctive toiletries!
Just like being on the beach at Waikiki

Though it was 2 o'clock, we learned that lunch was still being served, so we moseyed down to the dining car to check out the bill of fare:

I went with a bacon cheeseburger.  It definitely wasn't the worst I've ever had, and service was very friendly:

Some of the other guys in our group had adjoining cabins, so we opened up the door between them and enjoyed a bourbon or two while talking and watching rural Alabama and Georgia roll by our windows.  After a stop in Atlanta, it was time to return to the diner car for dinner.  The obvious choice was the Amtrak "Signature" steak.

Well, it was the obvious choice, but maybe not the best choice.  The vegetables were truly terrible, and the steak was just fair.  That said, the house red wine (the only red wine) was decent:

Dessert, though, was pretty good:

While at dinner, Claude converted our bedroom to night mode:

It is nearly impossible to move about the cabin when the beds are down, and you need to be pretty spry to make it into the top bunk (where I slept... you're welcome, Dad.)  The beds themselves, though, were surprisingly comfortable, if you like a firm bed.

The next morning, it was back to the dining car for breakfast, where I had the "continental."  It was more of a Jordan Peele "continental" than a Intercontinental Le Grand "continental," but it got the job done:

Then it was off the train at Union Station and off for the rest of our trip!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Booking the Old Fashioned Way- The Howtown Hotel, Cumbria

Mr. Pointsninja and I have a visit to England upcoming.  We'll be staying in the Lake District for a couple of days where chain hotels are thin on the ground.  I kind of like going places like that because it forces me out of my rut and makes me do some research to find the right place.  I ended up picking the Howtown Hotel, the furthest thing from a chain that I could find.  As you can see, it has a website, but that's about where its connection with the modern world ends.  You can't book online.  You can't even pay with a credit card. But what you can do is call to get a spot in "the book."  Then you write them a letter (kids, that's the paper thing that goes in a envelope) setting out your reservation request.  What you'll get back is this:

A lovely note from Mrs. Baldry, the Howtown Hotel's proprietress, confirming your reservation.  Beats an e-mail any day!  I'm really looking forward to this review.  Stay tuned!