Everyone is ready to get back out there and start seeing the world again. For many, that starts with places you can get without taking to the skies. There are options — road trips, train trips, hiking, maybe climbing into a saddle and riding the range. Ok, that last one might be a stretch for most people (although my horseback ride through the Carpathian Mountains a few years ago was a GREAT trip).
There is definitely something romantic about the clickety-clack and sway of a train trip. If you’ve been thinking about hitting the rails, now appears to be the time. I’ve received more ads and offers from Amtrak in the last month than in the last two years combined. Travel & Leisure magazine recently published a story about iconic railway hotels in Canada.
Even if you decide to skip the train ride, don’t miss out on the beauty of train-related sites. A mere two blocks from the promenade at the San Diego marina you’ll come upon the San Diego Santa Fe Depot. It’s hard to miss with six sets of tracks cutting across the roadway, not to mention it’s stunning architecture.
Take a moment to walk through and marvel at living history. The Spanish Colonial Revival style building opened in 1915. It’s considered a union station, which Wikipedia defines as “a railway station at which the tracks and facilities are shared by two or more separate railway companies, allowing passengers to connect conveniently between them. The term ‘union station’ is used in North America and ‘joint station’ is used in Europe.” The San Diego union station is nowhere near as big as many others that boast the moniker. In fact, it’s downright quaint.
The depot is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been meticulously restored (or maybe maintained) so that it has all the charm and style it had when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway company built it.
The benches in the palm tree-shaded plaza out front feature mosaic-tiled benches and a huge fountain (although it wasn’t in operation when we were there). Ocean breezes keep the Southern California heat at bay as travelers make their way to city destinations after disembarking from one of the trolleys, light rail cars or any of a dozen intercity trains that pass through the bustling site.
Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner terminates here … or starts here as it makes its way along the coast through Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo.
Wander through the doorway marked “Novelties” and you are greeted by sparking, tiled logos glistening along the walls, reminding visitors of the heyday of train travel. A modern kiosk offers drinks, snacks and the obligatory souvenir choices faithfully adhering to the doorway’s label.
Inside the cavernous station, long wooden benches, their polished surfaces gleaming and surprisingly unmarred by scrapes and scars of years of use, offer a place to rest while you wait for your train.
This is a working Amtrak station, so you can wander at your leisure or just pop in for a quick look-see. If you’re in San Diego, it’s well worth the easy diversion from the waterfront.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. If you’re lucky, you find a few untouched gems along the way.