I still think the plan was a good one. We were to catch the 10.00 am train from Seattle and ride in comfortable sleeper rooms all the way down the US west coast, admiring the scenery and arriving refreshed and energised in San Francisco 22 hours later. Sounds good – right? Sadly the travel gods had other plans for us. Firstly, an unfortunate rockfall on the train tracks up the line from Seattle caused the train to be very late in and subsequently even later to leave and it was well on the way to 1.00pm before the train pulled out of the station. The weather was still quite bad so our views were restricted to similar bleak and grey images as the above, but only for a few hours as it darkened very quickly and I suspect most of the interesting scenery was passed after nightfall. Due to my unclear correspondence with my travel agent, the comfy sleeper rooms with our own bathroom turned out to be ‘roomettes’ – seats in tiny boxes that become bunks in the evening, with the use of shared facilities – a situation not appreciated by my two
princesses daughters. And, while the first impressions of the stylish dining car were good, there was no follow-through at all in that department and the food was simply atrocious. Amtrak should be very proud of it’s staff who were unfailingly cheerful, helpful and polite, but they seriously need to lift their game at the food end of things.
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As the year draws to a close and the weather warms up, here in South Australia thoughts will be turning to planning our summer holidays. For many of you I know that will mean a trip up the river for a break, either in a shack or in a houseboat with lots of long, languid days mucking about with boats, friends and barbecues, but I wonder how many of you realise what a great foodie destination the Riverland has become? All of the producers along the River Murray in Australia struggled during our recent, very long, drought but the growers at the bottom end of the river really have done it the toughest with drastically reduced water allocations and problems with the growing salinity in the river affecting their crops. The benefits that were brought by the increased flows in the river when the drought broke were then undermined by the incredibly strong Australian dollar resulting, for most of the citrus growers, in a bumper crop that they subsequently had trouble exporting. The impact this has had on the regional towns cannot be underestimated, but then neither can the tenacity and versatility of rural Australians and we have seen them take on these challenges in any number of impressive ways. Let me introduce you to a few of the newer reasons you might want to take a trip up the river.