Slow Travel: Inspiring Train Journeys

In the modern world, speed is often prized above quality. Sometimes the best way to get the most out of an experience is to slow it down a little—sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Blvd. 9 de Octubre 101, Guayaquil 090313, Ecuador
Comprising four coaches—with interior designs ranging from pre-Hispanic to neoclassical—the Tren Crucero takes four days to mosey from the Pacific coast to Ecuador’s capital in the Andes. An open terrace car provides unbroken views of the Devil’s Nose promontory, coastal plantations, and Ecuador’s highest active volcano. From $990. (800) 873-637. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Rua Senhora Saúde 6B, 1100-390 Lisboa, Portugal
The city’s iconic wood-paneled Tram 28 rambles along a 4.3-mile route from Campo de Ourique to Praça Martim Moniz, navigating tight turns and steep inclines as it passes some of Lisbon’s most endearing attractions. Originally commissioned in the 1930s, these classic Remodelado trams were in fact enlisted for their ability to handle Lisbon’s hilly terrain. They can get painfully crowded—wait times can be outrageous in the high season—so catch an early ride (5:40 a.m. most weekdays, or 6:45 a.m. on Sundays) for unobstructed views of hilltop neighborhoods like Graça and the Alfama.
Adelaide Parkland Terminal, Richmond Rd, Keswick SA 5035, Australia
The two-night journey traverses 1,851 miles from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory. As the train traces the route taken by 19th-century Afghan camel drivers, Platinum Service travelers have the opportunity to disembark and explore the iconic rust-red Uluru monolith and Aboriginal rock art in the Katherine Gorge. From $862. 61/(0) 8-8213-4592. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA
The Grand Central Oyster Bar celebrates its 100th anniversary this year as a New York institution. Located in the lower concourse of Grand Central, it serves over 25 varieties of oysters daily. There is a huge menu of American seafood—chowder, fried clams, lobster rolls, clams casino—whatever you are looking for, they will have it. The Oyster Bar is also famous for its architecture—the beautiful arched tile ceilings are the hallmark of famed Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, who left his unique stamp across NYC. Take your pick from three different seating areas: a series of old-fashioned, U-shaped counters which seem to be popular with tourists and locals; the oyster bar, which would be perfect for singles or those dining in pairs; and the saloon-type restaurant in the back, popular with the business crowd. Wherever you are sitting, it will be bustling with activity. While there are several other oyster bars in the city, the Grand Central Oyster Bar offers a piece of New York history. It’s like stepping back in time, a retro celebration of old Americana that generations of locals, tourists and travelers have visited over the years. My suggestion is to stop in for fresh oysters and cold beer at the bar.
Koningin Astridplein 27, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium
Traveling by train can be a wonderful way to explore Belgium. A few of the country’s train stations are destinations in and of themselves. Antwerp’s Centraal (or Central) Station is one of the prettiest. Renovations and expansion have restored the station to its former glory and made it accessible to international trains. The main hall, pictured here, is often home to impromptu performances, concerts and flash mobs. When I took this photo, a tango competition was taking place.
Bahnhofpl. 1, 7000 Chur, Switzerland
I didn’t even realize that the Bernina Express scenic train journey was on the UNESCO World Heritage list until I arrived at the small northern Italian town of Tirano to start the trip. There are several different routes from which travelers may chose, but that day I took a one-way trip from Tirano to the Swiss mountain town of Chur. It was the middle of winter and I was excited to see the famous snow-covered Alps in person. Images of Maria from the Sound of Music kept running through my head as the train slowly pulled out of the small station. The journey is a scenic one and the train cars have been designed to maximize the amazing views. The windows are extra large and there is more than enough room between seats to allow for even the most ardent shutterbug. Our trip took about four hours, during which time we passed through narrow valleys and swept past mountain villages that looked like they were plucked out of a model train set. The unique and stunning scenery I was lucky enough to witness proved to me why UNESCO very smartly placed this journey on their important list. Tirano is easy to reach from Milan and there are many different train routes available including trips to St. Moritz and Davos.
Old Marine Dr, Foreshore, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Rolling through five countries in 14 days, the opulent Pride of Africa whisks passengers from the tip of South Africa to Tanzania’s largest city. The trip includes two nights at a five-star game lodge, a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, and lectures by an onboard historian. From $10,600. 27/(0) 12-315-8242. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Carretera Llaullipata
Cap your trip to Machu Picchu with a pisco sour on the Orient-Express train ride back to Cuzco. After boarding this luxury train for dinner and the return journey, everyone meets in the bar car for a drink. Live music, the rocking of the train, and the excitement from just experiencing Machu Picchu is a buzz to remember. Soon all the passengers are dancing as they travel through the steep mountainsides under the stars. —Lauren Maggard This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image courtesy of Orient-Express
Might be one of the most beautiful train stations in the World, Sao Bento Railway Station was opened to the public in 1916 and is well known for its walls covered with 20,000 splendid azulejo ceramic tiles which describe the History of Portugal. It took Jorge Colaço, the artist, 11 years to complete this building. The railway station is located in the Almeida Garret Square, in the centre of the city. I happened to be there on a Saturday rainy morning, while I was looking for a place to hide from the heavy rain. It was quite interesting watching the people’s dynamics, which might look the same in every major Railway station, despite its location. This place is beautiful all year around and probably most hours of the day. Indulge in this beauty and pay attention to the little details.
89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA
Stepping into the enormous main concourse of this landmarked architectural jewel—with its sweeping granite staircases, hulking columns and 38-meter (125-foot) ceilings painted with night-sky constellations—can be a jaw-dropping experience. What’s even more incredible, though, is the sheer number of people who use it as a commuter hub day in and day out (more than 750,000 train and subway passengers every weekday). Wander around the shops, head down to the basement food court for a bite and to marvel at the crowds hurrying by—and if you get jostled, don’t take it personally.
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AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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