San Diego with AMTRAK

Quick trip to San Diego. The nephews and niece have been bugging me to take a train trip. It just wasn't going to work out to take a cross country, so I figured we'd try a short one, just to try it out. The Pacific Surfliner, LA to SD is a nice 3 hour run. And San Diego is always a good choice when the temps climb to 100F at home.

So, we hopped in the car and headed to Union Station. Called AMTRAK on the way down (illegally using a cellphone while driving, but it's okay, because I was smoking in the car with kids, too. But we did have our seatbelts on! Safety First!).

After all the discounts for Seniors, Disabled and Children (I am the only one in a group of 6 that had to pay full fare), it came to about $260 r/t total for 6. Not bad.

Now, I love me some AMTRAK. I really do. BUt I can't say the same for Union Station in Los Angeles. In the last few years, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, while not providing rapid transit to speak of, HAS managed to build a headquarters at the cost of over ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Cuz, you know, it's tax money. It's not like we have to pay for it. Anyway, they built that monstrosity (it was referred to as the Taj Mahal for a while, until people realized the Taj Mahal could fit in any of the several dozen executive washrooms) across the tracks from Union Station, and then this whole "Gateway Plaza" building, for all the people in LA who don't use the Metrolink trains. And while they were at it they reconfigured the parking. Now, all the overnight parking is on the Gateway Center side (you know for all the people who commute to their jobs and stay overnight), while all the parking on the Union Station side is 2 hour maximum. Because we all know when you right the AMTRAK somewhere, you are probably going to be right back.

Anyway, dropped everyone in front of Union Station, drove 15 minutes to the long-term parking, then walked thru the mile of tunnel under the trainyard, got back to the front of Union Station to pick up tickets and walked back almost to the car, where we boarded the train...

But it gets better from here, honest! Actually, the trains on this route are pretty new and nicely done in terms of wheelchair access. While the chair has to stay downstairs, and can't get to the snack car or whatever, the lower level is roomy, easy to transfer to the seat, and the seats are nice. Roughly equivalent to a business class seat on an airplane, but more leg room and way wider aisles. On the cross country routes, the seats are like first class air seats, but, you know, it's only a 3 hour trip.

Anyway, got down to San Diego at 7pm. Right on time. Walked over to the Holiday Inn On the Bay, which is less than half a mile from the Santa Fe Station, and right across the street from the San Diego Cruise Terminal. This is the first time I have ever stayed here, but I have known bunches of other people who have used it for pre- or post-cruise stays. I live less than 3 hours by car from the port so I have just driven in the morning of, when I cruise from San Diego. And there are better hotels/locations if you are actually vacationing in San Diego.

I have been in the pub/restaurant (The Elephant and Castle) a few times. It's a nice little pub/sports bar/restaurant. The last time I was there was to bring In 'n Out burgers to a friend who was getting on a cruise ship the next day. She is from New York, had never known the joy of a Double Double, and, yes...I will drive 2.5 hours to hook up an In 'n Out virgin for the first time. They ARE that good. And the bartender was so cool, he not only didn't say anything about me bringing in food from outside (I am sure he saw the bag from In n Out, and realized the gravity of the situation), he actually brought us extra napkins and such.

Anyway, we went in and had some appetizer-y stuff, but no one was really hungry, so we went on back to the rooms and watched TV.

We had adjoining rooms with bayview balconies. Pretty nice for a Holiday Inn. Nothing extraordinary, except the location. If you do ever cruise from San Diego I absolutely recommend it.

So, we got up this morning and headed back to the restaurant. Had a great English breakfast, which is, of course, one of the reasons God created England, I think...to give the world a True Breakfast. Everyone else had omelettes and such. Quite good. Would have been expensive, but "Kids Eat Free" is going on at Holiday Inn, so saved a bundle there.

After breakfast, me and the kids dropped the mom and the Steve at the room and went to the pool. They splashed around a bit, and compared the lovely heated water here to the arctic waters they have to swim in at my house. But, you know, to h**l with 'em, until they start making enough money to pay for heating the darn thing.

After a swim, we walked over to the San Diego Maritime Museum which, unlike the last "maritime museum" I went to, in Astoria, Oregon, is chock full of museum-y stuff. Included in the entry, you can tour the Star of India, a fully restored clipper ship, a smaller pirate-y schooner whose name escapes me, a Soviet Submarine (which was awesomely claustrophobic. I don't like submarines much at the best of times, but those Soviet submariners had to have had major tranquilizers in their diet. That thing was AWFUL), a couple of racing yachts including the Stars and Stripes, a 100 year old steam powered yacht, an American submarine and another ship whose name escapes me, but which, right now is hosting an excellent exhibition of Gaugin are work. So, that was cool to kill a couple hours.

After the ship inspections and stuff we headed on back to the room, got packed up, and as I write this we are halfway back to LA...nothing like a last minute whirlwind tour.

Of course, I am determined to take these guys to Florida or D.C. on the train, hopefully next summer.

And for all your train travel, san diego hotel or cruising needs, don't forget to call DAVE HOLMAN TRAVEL SERVICES, 760.265.3687, or email daveholman@verizon.net.