Is this the world’s most underrated train journey?


Washington DC’s palatial Union Station CREDIT: AP

By: Anthony Horowitz/UK Telegraph

A book tour of America is a true rite of passage.Everything is arranged – hotels, flights, limos – and you travel huge distances but see almost nothing; mainly bookstores and schools. If what follows feels confused and a little brusque, I’ve captured something of the experience.

I arrive in New York and stay at Loews Regency Hotel, a bright, friendly place with large rooms, close to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I spend a couple of hours before jumping in a car for the 3½-hour drive to Connecticut. The traffic is murderous but it’s a beautiful journey with the autumn leaves turning. Sadly, only two people have turned up to hear me talk. A bad start.
Then it’s off by Amtrak to Philadelphia. I had no idea American train journeys were so enjoyable. Watching the sleek, silver engine pull in at the platform with its bell clanging, I feel I’m in a Hitchcock movie. Sadly, Penn Station – which was gorgeous – was torn down in 1963, something The New York Times rightly called “a monumental act of vandalism”. Now New York has its very own Euston and it’s put to shame by the seriously handsome terminus at 30th Street, Philadelphia.

An Amtrak train pulling into Penn Station in NY

“Watching the sleek, silver engine pull in at the platform with its bell clanging, I feel like I’m in a Hitchcock movie” CREDIT: GETTY

This is, incidentally, all I see of Philadelphia. No Independence Hall or Liberty Bell for me. I have two schools and a bookshop to visit.

I leave early the next morning, back on the train. The next station, Washington DC, is more like a palace than a railway terminus. I sign stock at Politics And Prose, one of the country’s most respected bookstores, but then have 90 minutes free. My media guide drives me past the Watergate apartment block, which gives me a certain frisson, then we snatch a walk on Theodore Roosevelt Island on the Potomac river, which is lovely.

The US Capitol building in Washington DC

The US Capitol building in Washington DC CREDIT: PIGPROX – FOTOLIA

I visit an extraordinary school: Discovery Elementary in Arlington. It is very new and brightly colored, purpose-designed for the child of the future. There’s even a fairground slide from the first floor to the library below! That evening I give two talks at the Spy Museum. I manage to glimpse its exhibit on Bond villains which, since I’m writing the new Bond novel on the road, is inspiring. The nearby Kimpton Hotel Monaco is hip and zany; I love the leopard skin-patterned toweling robes.

I then have a morning off in Washington. It’s such a handsome city – no building can be higher than the Capitol – and no matter who occupies the White House, it remains a classical, cultured place.

Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

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