What an adventure we have had! COVID restrictions have eased, the weather is warm, and travel has ramped back up. My husband and I decided to take a train trip from Chicago, IL to Emeryville, CA. We had talked about doing it for several years and this year we decided that the time had come. We were taking the California Zephyr across seven states of our great nation.
We went through AAA for our tickets, which worked out okay, but I think it would be just as easy to book directly with Amtrak. Amtrak emails the tickets about two weeks before travel, so we had tickets in hand in plenty of time. Then we counted down the days until travel time.
We booked a bedroom compartment, because we wanted the experience of spending two nights on the train – and neither of us wanted to sleep sitting up in coach. There is another choice between coach and a bedroom compartment called a “Roomette”. It is a tiny room that converts into a bed at night. If you can, splurge for the bedroom compartment…it has a private bathroom. Otherwise, the roomette has a shared bathroom down the hall for all of the other roomettes. One great perk of the sleeping compartments (a bedroom compartment and a roomette) is that they are considered “first class”, so meals in the dinning car are included in the price.
We flew to Chicago and stayed at the Holiday Inn and Suites on Harrison Street. Now, this was not a fancy hotel by any means, but it served its purpose of being safe, clean, and near the train station. We were able to just walk to Union Station, the Chicago Amtrak train station that the California Zephyr is based out of. This is where the second great perk comes in. We had access to the Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station. Described on their own website, the Metropolitan Lounge “offers a new level of luxury to Amtrak travelers who are seeking a spot of respite during their time in Chicago.” And, yes, it was very nice with food and non-alcoholic drinks included as well as wonderful seating over two floors. One of the Amtrak attendants took us right to our train and made sure we got on the correct train car.
Finally, we were on our way. Ah, but I believe I will save that part of the story for next week. Wander back by next Tuesday for more of our train ride on the California Zephyr.