Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Boozing, Cruising and Snoozing on The Coast Starlight

The Coast Starlight has a nice dining car, if your staying in a sleeper car (aka first class) your meals are part of the service. If your in business class, you get a $6.00 off coupon to apply to your food or drinks. In coach your meals are full price, but the dining car is available to everyone.
At breakfast the meals are first come first served, but lunch and dinner are by reservation. The food quality is a little hit or miss. The hamburgers were average and the chicken was dry but the steak was perfect and tender and the turkey was yummy. Our expectations for breakfast were high. After all, how hard is it to make breakfast? Apparently on a train, it is.
The dining staff was efficient at getting people in and out. Don’t go to the dining car with the idea of having a private intimate meal. Even if every table was open, they will find someone else to put at a table with you. It’s 100% community seating.
However, we were very lucky to have some interesting dining companions and great dinner conversations.
If you are booked in a sleeper car on the Coast Starlight check out the Parlor Car. This car is what makes this train unique as there are only 5 of these cars in the entire Amtrak fleet. It has comfortable seating where you can mingle with other train riders. Make sure to look for Oscar while in the Parlor Car, he will mix you up a delicious cocktail for your ride.
They also offer an afternoon wine tasting for $7.50 per person, where you get 3 generous samples of different wines. The wines are for sale on board afterwards, if you want a bottle for later. You can also get snacks and light meals on this car until 10:30 pm. .
We got a deluxe bedroom sleeper car that had seating, a small table and a full bathroom (the shower and toilet were in the same space, and there was a tiny sink on the outside). It also had a small closet that barely fit our 2 coats.
The seats laid down for a bed that was a little larger then a twin, but we both were able to sleep on it (it was very cozy). There was also a top bunk with a ladder to climb up and straps to keep you in. We opted to share the bottom bunk, we like cozy. The room had a large picture window to view the passing sights and electric outlets to keep your electronics juiced up.
Each car has an attendant who will make up your bed if you ask and provide you with fresh towels and interesting train facts.
Sadly we went through the Cascade Mountains after dark and the promised coastal views were all south of our final stop. So needless to say, we missed some beautiful sites but the trip was still amazing.
We knew we must have been on some curvy tracks though. On the hard turns the hallways on the cars in front of us would disappear from site.
One of the train conductors AJ took some time to chat with us and suggested on our next trip we leave Los Angeles in the summer before the time changes. This would be the best chance at seeing the beautiful coastal views and mountain passes.
Don and I were both taking notes and planning our next trip.
That night we were rocked to sleep in our sleeper car with a view of the beautiful Oregon stars and a half harvest moon that was the perfect nightlight as we fell asleep dreaming of our next train adventure.

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Portland in a Day

If you come to Portland Oregon and your not sure where to go or what to do then head over to Zeus Cafe in the Crystal Hotel. Ask for Billy, the bar manager. He will have suggestions on everything from where to eat, drink or stay, to who you can bring your car to if it breaks down while in town (that was not us he was giving info to the gentleman at the table behind us)
First on his list was, of course, McMenamins Zeus Cafe where we had breakfast. If you love a place that serves more then the traditional bacon and eggs then you will love Zeus Cafe. We had a spinach, shiitake mushroom Benedict served with homemade lamb sausage, the sauce was delicious and the lamb perfectly cooked. Since our visit to Portland was a search for the perfect dark beer, we tried the Black Widow Porter. Brewed annually for an October 15th release. It was wonderful. Perfect anytime, even breakfast.
He next directed us to Ringlers Pub around the corner.This place was also part of McMenamins and had been built during Prohibition as a dance hall. McMenamins is known for finding historic old buildings in the area and restoring them while keeping their old charm. At Ringlers we found a stout called Terminator Stout, not too bad. We also killed some time playing shuffle board. I always beat Don at shuffle board.
We then ventured on to Fathead, 10 Barrel, Deschutes breweries and Baileys Tap Room, all okay but had none of the local charm we were seeking.
We arrived at Rogue Brewery in time for a late lunch, this place had charm, fun bartenders and patrons and a delicious Hazelnut Coctabulous Beer, there we ate fried cheese curds, meatballs and beer chowder. All delicious.
Stuffed and in need of a long walk after our early pub crawl so we explored the rainy streets of Portland, there are more restaurants and pubs in the area then we could have ever tried.   We walked through Pioneer Square (aka Portlands Living Room) and down the beautiful waterfront.
That evening we had dinner at Don & Louis Oyster Bar where Holly the bartender not only mixes great drinks but makes all the customers feel like they are old friends. Their smoked Salmon Fry was delicious, I am not usually a fried food fan but this was by far the exception, this was not the typical fried fish where there is more batter then fish, the salmon was moist and flavorful. I also tried the raw oysters they were fresh and needed nothing on them. Portland was a great train stop on our West Coast Visit, I look forward to another trip so I can check out more of the great sites, restaurants and beers.

Portland Oregon Places to see

Embassy Suites – Great Hotel located walking distance to the Waterfront and several places to eat, drink or play. If your staying there ask to borrow the book on the history of the hotel, formerly called the Multnomah Hotel, in its day is was known as The Grand Lady of Fourth Avenue. Comfortable, and quiet, and the staff is wonderful and helpful.

Powell Book Store – takes up an entire city block and has 4 stories of books and every kind of book paraphernalia you can dream of.

Baileys – They serve only beer and have lots of unique tastes such as Th Bruery Autumn Maple Syrup with Yams, trendy and modern it has inside and outside seething.

Fat Head Brewery – Modern, beer brewed on site check out the Fat Head Taps, we tried The Blueberry Honey Ale it had a fresh light blueberry flavor, they also serve food.

10 Barrel Brewery – Very commercial and trendy we mixed a Nitro Pumpkin Porter and the Pumpkin Milk stout for a delicious creamy flavor, they had a full food menu also, but we did not eat.

Shanghai – Fun place that you climb down to the cellar, ok beer selection and good street tacos, you can play pool or pinball.

Deschutes – Was a busy place nothing special, the Flanders Black ale had a sweet almost pungent flavor, great beer nuts.

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Riding on the Coast Starlight

Once on board The Coast Starlight Train we felt like children discovering a new playground. There was a traditional seating area, where we could store our carry on luggage in an overhead area. The seats were large and very comfortable, so much more space then any plane I have been on, you could easily nap comfortable in the seats. The sightseers lounge had skylights and seating that allowed you to sit at a table or lounge chairs. The large windows allowed you to enjoy the beautiful views of the west coast. There were plugs in all the seats for your electronics and a wifi pass, though that only worked in the business class seating area.
You could purchase food or drinks downstairs, or your could have a meal in the dining car, if you were in business class you received a $6.00 voucher per person.
My friend Charlotte says you miss so much when traveling by plane, I could not agree with her more. But the driver also misses so much when traveling by car. On the train all passengers get to see and enjoy the sights of our beautiful country, and the bonus is the trains travel away from the freeways so you get a glimpse at the interior of America that is hidden from cars and highways.
The trip from Seattle to Portland was a little over 4 hours but it seemed much shorter as we chatted with other passengers and viewed the scenery.
We look forward to Thursday when we will once again board the train to San Jose, but our next trip will include a sleeper car and the chance to roam through the Parlor of the train.
But for now off to Portland to find the perfect dark beer and cheeseburger.

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Boarding the Coast Starlight

Trains have always held a childlike magic in my eyes, I remember as a little girl squealing with delight if we were driving past a train, trying to catch a glimpse of the conductor or the people who were traveling aboard.
Movies portrayed them as romantic wonderful modes of transportation.
So when Don suggested we travel on the Coast Starlight from Seattle to San Jose I was all in.    Though the trip would be longer, the price was significantly less expensive and we would have the chance to see scenery along the way without the exhaustion of driving.
We arrived at The King Street Train Station in Seattle an hour before boarding.   Tuesday seemed like a good day to be taking the train as there were only a few people traveling.
Amtrak has not entered the digital world yet so the gentleman as the ticket window made sure we knew if we lost our tickets that they could not reissue, so Don made sure he tucked them away safely.
We checked our larger bags (no more then 50 pounds per bag) and made our way out to the beautiful waiting area. I felt like I had stepped into another era surrounded by beautiful white marble and engraved ceilings. Everyone was chatty as we stood in line waiting for the call to board. Don had purchased business class seats so our line was much shorter.
We chatted with people from all over the world, all traveling to different places for different reasons. But all of us seemed to have the same level of excitement, we were traveling on a train.