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Saturday, March 31, 2007

"I hear the train a comin', it's rollin' round the bend."

Every night about midnight, I hear the train wailing through the sleeping countryside. The sound makes me want to pack my bag and get aboard. I love train travel. I will have to admit that most of my train travel has taken place in other countries. We are all aware of the marvelous Bullet Trains of Japan, and they are marvelous. Once we were catching the Kyoto to Tokyo train. We Americans arenít used to the precision of the train schedules in other countries and we looked at the sign, got on the train and discovered passengers in our assigned seats. They very kindly told us that we needed to catch the Kyoto to Tokyo train that would leave a few minutes later. We grabbed our things and got off, thankfully in time, since the stop in the station is often just a minute or two. Polite, uniformed young women pass through the cars offering Obento Boxes for sale, that is Honorable Lunch Boxes.

When I married Mmmm, I went from Montana to California by train. I took my four year old nephew, ill with Scarlet Fever, back to his mother by train, during the worst snow storm of many seasons. I took our four year old daughter to Montana by train to celebrate my Aunt Bert and Uncle Jackís 50th anniversary. I took her again to Montana to catch one of the last passenger trains through Billings, Montana. I told her that everyone needed to experience dining in the dining car of a train and everyone needed to eat oatmeal on the train, at least once. She would disappear frequently to sit in the observation car and watch the scenery. It was a great trip, I thought.

Whenever we have traveled in Europe, we have purchased rail passes in advance. We love doing that because we can hop on and hop off and other than getting reservations, we donít need to bother with standing in line for tickets. If we make a mistake, we can hop off at the next station and go back. The trains run often and, in most countries, are on time to the minute. I love the compartments and the little tables between the seats by the window. We always try to get those. We then pull out our little cloth and put out our bread, cheese and fruit when it is time for lunch or supper. It is great to look out at the scenery as we eat. The great new fast European trains, like the TEE, the TGV, the AVE or Eurostar are configured differently but I love the compartments.

When I think of travel in Europe by train, I think of travel through Scotland to Inverness and eating a lovely fish dinner in the dining car. I think of whizzing through the Chunnel from England to Paris. I think of travel along the Rhine River and seeing castle after castle with a kind gentleman who provided commentary as we traveled. I think of travel through the Alps with breathtaking vistas along almost every inch and the gentleman who gave Kay chocolate bars. I think of travel from Switzerland to Italy and the conductor who woke the sleeping military man and insisted that we sit in his seat so that we could have a better view. I also think of the Italian train that was overcrowded and even though we had reservations, the people refused to move and the conductor locked himself in the baggage car!

I still love train travel. When I hear the train tonight at midnight, I will relive those wonderful memories and start planning our next trip.

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