Tag Archives: Boston

Amtrak Fall destinations: Something to be-leaf in

Amtrak’;s summer repairs at Penn Station are officially complete. Here, track workers complete repairs to one of the main tracks, as a train emerges from the Hudson River tunnel.

Wow, what a summer! Understatement, right? The temporary cancellations didn’t cause that much of a disruption. According to most riders, the summer went rather smoothly. With the summer repairs at New York Penn  Station over, it’s time to focus on the good times that lay ahead. With shiny new rails in place, Amtrak’s trains will continue to roll. It’s time to celebrate this memorable feat with great travel ideas. With more than twenty-one routes in forty-three states, there’s no better time to make ‘tracks’ this fall. Further, it’s the right time to show some appreciation for Amtrak’s dedication to keeping passengers safe on the rails. Here are the five top Fall destinations to consider:

5)New Orleans: From July 10th to September 1st, Amtrak’s Crescent (New York-New Orleans) was temporarily operating between Washington, DC and New Orleans. With the Crescent returning to its normal schedule on September 2nd, it’s time for Amtrak travelers to celebrate Mardi Gras year-round all over again. Passengers can feel the Cajun beat from New York to New Orleans without disruption. Football fans can catch the Saints at the Superdome. In New Orleans, it’s party time all the time. The craw fish, alligator meat, and the great deep south flavors await. Passengers can grab their ticket and beads! On the Crescent, the Cajun beat is non-stop. Of all Fall destinations, New Orleans is truly a city to “Fall” for.

P-40 locomotive #701 leads an Empire Service train home from Niagara Falls.

4) Niagara Falls: Of all Amtrak Fall destinations, Niagara Falls is among the most family-oriented and above all, the most romantic. Amtrak travelers can escape the hustle and bustle of the New York metropolitan area for one of the most picturesque places on earth. From the “Maid of The Mist”, to strolling across the Rainbow Bridge, to experiencing the Niagara Falls Canada Whirlpool Aero Car, Amtrak presents Fall travelers with a ticket for the journey of a lifetime. The journey from New York City to Niagara Falls is a journey not to be missed. From departing cavernous Penn Station, to gliding along the city’s west side, to cruising beneath Riverside Park through the Overbuild Tunnel, and speeding along the mighty Hudson River, who would not want to pass up a train ride, a train ride to write home about? Niagara Falls is without-a-doubt, a must-do for all Amtrak Fall travelers. Travelers should forget about  their barrels and let Amtrak take them to the edge of the excitement and experience the power of the falls.

Twilight Shoreliner train #67 arrives at historic Williamsburg Station.

3) Williamsburg, VA: Do you hear the hoofs of Clydesdales? During the Fall. there is no better place to visit than the great state of Virginia. Williamsburg is one of the most romantic and the most charming towns in Virginia. Is is one of the great Fall destinations which speaks to the hearts of all train travelers.

Williamsburg is the home of Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens-Europe. Busch Gardens-Europe is home to the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales. There, visitors can see them up close. At Colonial Williamsburg, visitors can experience colonial life in the most authentic of surroundings. It is where history comes alive. At both of these quintessential points of interest, the Fall atmosphere can’t be more intimate. In Williamsburg, there are tons of hotels within minutes of the Amtrak’s Williamsburg station. Who said Virginia was for lovers? Virginia is for Amtrak travelers, too.

2) Boston: Boston, the City of Kind Hearts, is the one destination that was never affected by the summer cancellations. Of all Fall destinations, Boston speaks to the “heaht” of every Amtrak traveler. That says a lot for city known as Beantown. Visitors should be wary of the Boston accent. It is so thick, one can cut it with a “fawk”.

Completed in 1898, Boston’s South Station is the oldest terminal on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

When Fall arrives, Boston’s sports atmosphere is in full swing. The New England Patriots will be defending their historic Super Bowl championship. The Red Sox will be going for their sixth World Series title. With so such energy in the air, Boston is the perfect Fall destination. Passengers will step off their train at historic South Station. From there, they can visit the Seaport  District, enjoy a bowl of fresh clam chowder, and mingle with the friendly city locals. Music lovers can head to Symphony Hall to tune in to the sounds of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops. Rock music fans can pay a visit to 1325 Commonwealth Avenue, the former residence of Aerosmith.

Once the World Series is over, the seasons will change again. It will be game-on for Boston’s two other beloved teams, the Bruins and the Celtics. The Celtics will be in pursuit of their eighteenth NBA championship. The Boston Bruins will be pursuing their seventh Stanley Cup in franchise history. In Boston, Amtrak travelers aren’t just part of history. They are part of the revolution.

1) Washington, DC: Our nation’s capital was significantly affected by the summer cancellations. As of September 2nd, the trains will be running on a normal daily schedule. New York-Washington service will be fully restored. There is no better city to experience Fall colors than in Washington, DC.

Washington, DC is the gem of all Fall destinations. Passengers will exit their train at the glorious Union Station. It’s not just a train station, it’s a feast for the eyes. At Union Station, passengers can hop aboard the Metro subway to visit the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums. The Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial are just a short walking distance away.

Built in 1907, Washington, DC’s Union Station was constructed to be both a railroad terminal and a monument in one.

Speaking of Fall destinations, visitors can head to Six  Flags America in nearby Largo, MD. Six Flags hosts its annual Fright Fest, blending the “spirit” of Halloween into its theme parks. Amtrak will have passengers “screaming” down the rails to be a part of an engaging Fall experience.

Washington, DC is not just a city of museums and monuments. It’s a city for all seasons. Come Fall, it is game-on for the NFL’s Redskins, the NHL’s Capitals, and NBA’s Wizards. It’s easy to understand why Washington, DC is a destination of ‘monumental’ proportions.

Fall is the right time to ride the rails. With the hot and humid summer coming to an end, the train schedule is returning to normal. It’s time to return to the pastime all travelers enjoy. Fall time is train time. Amtrak’s great Fall destinations are calling to avid train travelers.

Fall time means train time. Here, a Amtrak’s Fall Foliage Express crosses the 115 year-old Rockville Bridge over the Susquehanna River near Marysville, PA.

Fall destinations are the reason why the train is the way to go. The Crescent will be returning to full service from New York to New Orleans. The Empire Route will be returning to a normal schedule out of Penn Station. Last, but not least, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains will be once again thundering up and down the tracks between New York and Washington, DC. Fall foliage cannot be experienced better than through the windows of a train. On any of Amtrak’s east coast routes, Fall scenery is always a feast for the eyes. In an old Amtrak commercial one can remember the jingle, “There’s something about a train that’s magic.”. That’s Fall!

 

“Boston: History beyond freedom’s trail” is complete!

There are than a dozen U.S. cities well rooted in history. There are cities well known for sailing, contemporary architecture, cultural diversity, and their sports traditions. We must not forget that there are cities well known for their distinctive accents. The one city that captures the traveler’s imagination in all of these categories is Boston. Boston was one of a handful of cities that shaped our country’s history. We can be sure of that. Boston is known for much more than massacres, tea parties, and witchcraft trials. This new lecture, set to debut in August 2017, will take would-be travelers “beyond freedom’s trail”.

Costing the city a record 14.6 billion dollars. the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (a.k.a The Big Big), was the most expensive engineering project in United States history.

When traveling to Boston, it’s easy to take the train or simply drive. Boston is also a popular port-of-call for cruise ships during the Summer and Fall months. Boston is a city home to thousands upon thousands of commuters. By bus, trolley, train, or subway, Bostonians use them all. The one event in Boston’s history, which Bostonians are happy for its completion, is the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. Bostonians referred to it as “The Big Dig”.

“The Big Dig” was the most complex and most costly engineering project in United States history. “The Big Dig” began in the year 1982. The plan was to alleviate the traffic headaches caused by the elevated highways knifing through the city’s central area. “The Big Dig” included tunnels under Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor leading into South Station. Also included was the construction of the Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge over the Charles River. Lastly, “The Big Dig” dictated the relocation of commuter trolley lines. “The Big Dig” cost a record-shattering 14.6 billion dollars. For the worst part, “The Big Dig” caused Bostonians and commuters alike, hours of construction traffic. “The Big Dig” was complete by late 2006. It’ is a pleasure to see Bostonians sleeping easy these days.

Built in 1928, the legendary Boston Garden was the home of the Celtics and Bruins.

Boston is well-known for its sports history. New York is referred to as the mecca of the sports world. Boston’s sports history is rooted much deeper than New York. Two of the most iconic sports facilities in Boston’s history are Boston Garden and Fenway Park. The Boston Celtics started playing at Boston Garden in 1957, and won 16 NBA championships during the Garden’s era. The Boston Garden, completed in 1928, had a few home disadvantages. The Boston Bruins’ hockey rink was undersized as opposed to the standard dimensions. The Boston Garden was also built without air conditioning, making every basketball and hockey match-up an uphill challenge. Boston Garden closed its doors for the final time in the Spring of 1995, making way for a new era in Celtics and Bruins history. The TD Garden (f.k.a Fleet Center), became the new home. Boston Garden was demolished in the Spring of 1998.

Fenway Park has been historic home of the Boston Red Sox since April 1912.

Fenway Park was built in April 1912. Home to the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park was the site of only one World Series Championship celebration. It was the 2013 World Series Championship over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was once the home of the New England Patriots. When Fenway Park was completed, the stadium never made headlines as opposed to an ocean liner that sank that same month.

Boston’s historic South Station is Amtrak’s terminal, home to more than 40 trains arriving and departing on a daily basis.

Boston still has the most intriguing transportation system. Aside from having the oldest subway system in the United States (the T), Boston’s two railroad stations have their own stories to tell. Boston’s South Station is the most breathtaking. North Station was torn down in 1927, to make room for Boston Garden. South Station is Amtrak’s terminal, and serves the MBTA. In its hay day, South Station was the busiest railroad station in the country, handling up to three hundred trains a day. Today it is still busy, handling Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains, Acela Express, and the Lake Shore Limited (New York/Boston-Chicago). Circa 1940, the station had a shed, covering the station platforms. The shed was later destroyed by fire. The whole terminal was feared to be completely demolished. The famous front facade of South Station was saved. South Station today serves as Boston’s railroad gateway. Today, South Station is a historic city landmark.

Held every April, the Boston Marathon welcomes runners from all over the world.

Every November, all eyes are on New York City for the New York City Marathon. Every April, the Boston Athletics Association hosts the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon begins in Boston suburb of Ashland, MA. The route cuts eastward through the suburbs of Natick, Wellesley, Brookline, Newton, and concluding in downtown Boston on Boylston Street. Ever since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the race’s popularity has grown tremendously. No city’s marathon has welcomed more runners than Boston. The Boston Marathon has welcomed runners from all over the world, including those with disabilities. With regards to sports, Boston is among the candidate cities for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

A treat for all travelers alike, Boston is at the very “heaht” of New England.

Boston is more than just a popular city for travelers from all around the world. It is a city that is constantly evolving. Boston is the city that welcomes ideas, traditions, cultures, and leaders from all over the world. Ever since the Boston Marathon bombing, Boston has been a city for the strong and courageous. Ultimately, Boston is a city that stands at the heart or “haht” of New England. Boston is where our country’s history “stahted” and it is where history “chahges” on.

4th of July on board Queen Mary 2: A cruise with plenty of fireworks!

 

At 151, 400 tons, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is the most elegant passenger vessel afloat.

At 151, 400 tons, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the most elegant passenger vessel afloat.

It was Christmas of 2005. My parents presented to my brother and me the most exciting present ever. All four of us were going on a cruise on the extravagant Queen Mary 2. My parents had already sailed on the Queen Mary 2 twice. Our sailing day finally arrived. It was Saturday, July 3rd, 2006. Our cruise started in Brooklyn. It was the Fourth of July cruise to Boston, Bar Harbor, and Halifax. It was going to be the most awesome trip ever. I had heard so much about the Queen Mary 2, on how incredible of a vessel she was. We checked in 1-2-3, and we were on board in no time. Lunch on board was absolutely fabulous. Anything you could ask for, was available at the buffet. If you could name it, it was there. Shortly later, it was time for the lifeboat drill. Once the drill was over, we headed back to our cabins to finish unpacking. At five o’clock, we watched the lines get pulled in. We were officially on our way. Twenty minutes later, we were about to pass underneath the Verrazano Bridge. This was the critical point. Will she make it? YES! We made it! We were in open ocean at last. Off to Boston!

Dinner on board the Queen Mary 2 was nothing like I had expected.. The food on board was fantastic. I had never sailed on an ocean liner before. Cunard sure put on a great show. The dining staff was wonderful. They were sure helpful when it came to interpreting a classy menu. Cunard served the finest wines anyone could think of. Any wine with a well-renowned name was available. Who doesn’t enjoy a good wine with their dinner? Later in the evening was the “Welcome Aboard” show. The cruise director was wonderful. Anytime anyone ran into him, he was the utmost conversational and personable. If anyone had any questions, he was able to answer them. There was definitely a lot to look forward to. The cruise was off to a superb start.
The morning of July 4th, we arrived at Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. While docked in Boston, I could not get over how many recreational boats were passing us. Sailboats, powerboats, and party boats were all passing us, taking pictures of the ship. They were all passing us, blowing their horns. The ship even answered back with her horn. Queen Mary 2’s horn is a loud one. Her horn can be heard from nearly five miles away. Speaking of famous ships, the USS Constitution or “Old Ironsides”, made her way out to the Boston Harbor channel. Her crew performed a twenty-one gun salute. The scene was very moving. There were more than a thousand passengers with their cameras lining the edge of the Queen Mary 2’s stern, capturing the moment. Oh, did I mention those recreational boats passing us? Girls were screaming and cheering as they cruised by. Those Boston girls are something special, aren’t they?? Once the USS Constitution finished her show, we headed back to our cabins. My brother and I boarded our tour bus for the Boston Ducks and city highlights tour. At 10pm, we pulled out of port. As we sailed away, the fireworks were going off in the distance. There was nothing more incredible than watching fireworks from the stern of a ship. What a day to remember!

Cunard signature feature, the red and black funnel, speaks highly of the line's reputation.

Cunard’s signature feature, the red and black funnel, speaks highly of the line’s reputation.

The following morning was highly unusual. Bar Harbor, Maine was our second port-of-all. I got up in the morning, opened our balcony door, and looked outside. I couldn’t see anything at all. The fog bank was nothing like I had seen anywhere. It was as thick as peas soup. We got ready for breakfast and went upstairs. From the window upstairs, we couldn’t see anything. The fog was drifting over the banisters of the lifeboat deck. The fog was plainly unreal. When we boarded the tender, it was an even eerier feeling. As we pulled away from the ship, she just vanished. Just as we were ten feet from the ship, all we saw was a faint trace of her bow. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. The ship was nowhere to be seen. The tender driver even had trouble navigating through the fog. The harbor area was littered with lobster trap lines. The driver didn’t want to glide over them, or the tender’s propeller would get caught. It took us a whole hour to get from the ship to shore. If anyone wants to know how I felt during that tender ride, let me tell you how I felt. It felt like I was starring in an episode of “Lost”.

Finally, we reached the dock. We had shore excursion tickets for a sailing ship tour around Acadia National Park. With the fog as thick it was, the park ranger told us to use our imagination. Oh, did we have to! The fog was plainly blinding. The fog was touching the water’s surface. By late morning, the fog began to lift. We could just make out the Queen Mary 2 from the boat. After an hour trip aboard this sailing ship, it was good to be back on shore. My brother and I began walking around, taking pictures. Finally, the fog burned off. The ship came into full view. What a gorgeous sight it was to see her out in the channel. I had never seen the water so calm, glistening in the sunlight. Seagulls were flying around everywhere, swooping down to make their catch. After taking pictures, we did some shopping in town. We went for ice cream, shopped in the music store, and visited some of the souvenir stores. When done, we headed back to the tender. Early evening, we sailed out of Bar Harbor. It was a beautiful sunset. I would most definitely want to return there again, hopefully fog-free.

The following morning, we tied up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. What a dreary and misty day! It was cloudy as can be outside. While I was asleep, I heard music playing from outside the ship. I got up, put on my eyeglasses, and looked out our balcony window. There was the source of the music. Theodore the Tugboat was cruising around in the harbor with the show’s theme song playing. “What in the world is that?”, I mumbled to myself. Then I was thinking, “Oh my God, am I drunk?”. I called my parents’ cabin. My mom picked up. I said “Mom, look out the window and tell me what you see.” My mom put the phone down and took a look out her window. She replied, “Oh, how cute! A singing tugboat!”. I answered “Oh God, so I was drinking last night!” Before hanging up, I said “I am so not drinking Bass Ale again.”

We did some fun things in Halifax, despite the weather. My brother and I went on a sailing ship excursion around Halifax Harbor. We then went on the Cunard-White Star Line Connections tour. We visited the Fairlawn Cemetery where the Titanic’s victims are buried. Later on in the tour, we were taken to the church where Samuel Cunard was baptized. When done, our motorcoach took us back to the ship. Shortly later, my parents, my brother, and I had drinks on the stern. Minutes later, the lines were pulled in and we were off. A bagpiper was playing as we pulled away from the Halifax pier. The trip was nearing its end. We were headed back to Brooklyn.

Our sea day back to New York was a fun one. Around mid-day, I heard the announcement that guests were signing up for the passengers’ talent show. I charged my way downstairs to the Chart Room. I told the cruise staff member what I was going to be doing. I signed up to do a stand-up comedy routine. Five o’clock came around, and it was show time. One of the passengers did this one performance playing his clarinet, removing one piece at a time. It was original and hysterically funny. My act was right after his. My comedy performance focused on annoying wedding traditions. That has always been my favorite topic. How did it go? I rocked the Queens Room! It was a feeling like no other. For the first time in eight years, I never heard such an applause. One evening in college, I had an audience of ninety-one people. In the Queens Room, there were more than two hundred and fifty in attendance. The room was without a doubt, ALIVE.

The Queen Mary 2, standing proud at Pier 88 in New York on a sun-kissed September morning.

The Queen Mary 2, standing proud at Pier 88 in New York on a sun-kissed September morning.

The next morning, we tied up in Brooklyn. At breakfast, I got my half hour of fame. For a whole half an hour at breakfast, I was signing autographs left and right. As my family and I were walking out of the buffet area, one elderly lady recognized me and approached me. She said “You were quite popular last night!”. I cannot seem to remember how I answered her. All I do remember was how fast I put my skit together. It only took me ten minutes. A five minute performance bought me one huge dose of popularity in one single morning. I cannot describe my feelings that morning. It must have been the luck of the Queen. I wish all cruises would end like that. Sailing on the Queen Mary 2 gave me the golden opportunity of a lifetime. It wasn’t just the opportunity to sail on an elegant liner, but the chance to realize that I still had my funny touch. It just makes me feel happy to be an avid cruiser. Every cruiser has that touch of humor to share with whomever they meet at sea.