A day in Vilnius – the river, Art museum and Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

I started the day with a run. Laziness and trepidation about the temperature kept me inside till after 9, but the forecast made it clear that the temperature was just going to keep falling till midday, so I got out. It was -7, and felt colder, so for one of the first times ever, I ran with a hat on and didn’t regret it. Running by the Neris river was fabulous, though. Flat, an easy path to follow, and possible to go for miles, with occasional crossings where the path paused on one side. I took my phone for directions but luckily didn’t need it, as the cold squashed the battery flat. I knew that could happen, but it was still dramatic in action. My GPS watch could hack it, though, and directed me home.

 

Lithuania is cheap, and I stopped in the local supermarket, spending about £3 on croissants, a banana, apple, muesli and what I thought was milk. Second time I have made the mistake; in the US, it was labelled as buttermilk and I didn’t realise that was different. Here; it looks like milk, doesn’t it?

Looks like milk. Is not.
Looks like ordinary milk. Is not.

Post run, and a warm shower that restored full function to my hands (and I had worn gloves), I had my thermal top on, two pairs of gloves, hat and scarf. And other clothes, so don’t be imagining any gaps there. It was still cold. Last time I mention it, I promise – dropping to a low of -10 in the day, and feeling colder, according to the forecast (and my face). Poland, where I head tomorrow, is meant to be a balmy freezing, with a high of 3 or so. Phew.

I wandered the streets. I’d already run past the upper castle, cathedral, cobbled streets and many pretty balconies, so headed reasonably directly to the Art Museum. It’s just 2 euros for entry, and I was the only customer, with various guards rising from their seats as I entered their galleries, as if I had pushed the button marked “alert, please!”. It’s a lovely building, and a lovely selection of pictures. Heavy on the portraits, but with no sense that this is a small country with limited art. Quite the opposite, in fact.

 

Suitably enervated, if not over-stimulated, I took the ticket collector’s advice that there was another, modern art, museum over the river, and set off with no plan. I ended up ignoring that advice as just down the road is the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Oh, on the way I passed the cathedral and many lovely views.

 

The palace was reconstructed this century, having been destroyed by Muscovite invaders in the 17th century. It is built on (and showcasing) the foundations of the ‘lower castle’, encompassing the history of the city and country. It’s fabulous, and 5 euros to go in, if you get the ticket that allows you into all the ‘tours’. The tours are just routes around the museum, not guided, and there are four of them. I ended up being here for over 4 hours. I didn’t do the tours in order – for some reason, the guard at the entry to 1 and 2, after directing me to the cloakroom to remove my coat and bag (I didn’t use the cloakroom, as the lockers came first – 1 euro coin needed, refunded when you return), sent me over the way to 3 and 4. They were probably quicker than 1 and 2, and so a good place to start (particularly on a Thursday, when the place is open till 8, so I had no concern about running out of opening hours). But still, maybe you could go in a different order. If I were to recommend it, I’d say 3, reconstructions of rooms in different styles (from periods of history), is the one to buzz through and soak up. Number 1, historical and architectural development of the palace (and the country), was the highlight for me, though that may mean you should do it second, or third. Cover a couple of others quickly, then give that serious time. It’s great. And my, Lithuania, mostly by marriage, covered/governed/influenced an awful lot of Europe up until the 17th century. I was well aware that Europe’s borders have been shaped, changed and hammered by years of war, but it is still something else to see just how different they used to be. Lithuania, in summary, used to be an awful lot larger, effectively engineered a reverse-takeover of Poland, ended up partly subsumed by the latter, before re-establishing its own, large, identity, before losing that. Twice. It’s a monumental story.

 

The museum/palace is a work in progress, so the tours don’t necessarily flow nicely into one another. Many of the reconstructed rooms in tour 3 are changing; the ceilings, for instance, will have paintings and other decoration added. Sometimes you’ll backtrack, sometimes go from floor to floor when the map looks as if you’ll go from one to the other. The cafe is on the map but appears to be vending machines at the moment. And all of that may be different when you visit. But go with it, the place is fabulous, evocative and rich in mood, exhibits and historical narrative. And I say that as someone who probably only got the gist. It’s word-heavy in places, so be selective with a clear conscience. The selection of exhibits and sights below give you a favour of the variety in the place.

 

Medieval remains, paintings, guns and other weapons, suits of armour. Loads to see. I also liked the dioramas of the castle through the ages.

 

Even better than those is the virtual reality tour. It’s a euro to see, and the instructions suggest you hold the handle in front of you. I highly recommend you pay the money, and that you do as the instructions say. You start by seeing the same scene of small walls as you could see without the glasses. The castle is built on top. And then you are elevated 30 feet in the air, and if you look down, there’s nothing holding you up. It is very trippy. And you go higher, later on. It’s 8 minutes of your time well used, so long as you don’t freak out and take the glasses off.

Some last views from the reconstructed rooms, and observation tower, in tour 3.

 

Museums in Riga – Museum of the Popular Front and Art Museum Riga Bourse

Riga’s old town is small and eminently walkable; both these museums are within a 10 minute walk of each other. 5, perhaps.

The Museum of the Popular Front, a title no Monty Python fan could get tired of reading, is in the townhouse the organisation used from its inception in 1988. Gorbachev’s policy of openness was immediately used (tested for reality, perhaps) by those who wanted independence. They were committed to peaceful methods, so as not to allow the Soviet Union to crack down militarily. That commitment, and its success, makes for a dry movement, with the museum focused on the progress of policy, peaceful protest and ultimately the institution of a parliament, creation of a currency and so on. There are a mass of TV screens, broadcasting programmes from the era (in Latvian); period TV shells are nicely used, to give a period flavour, or a trip down memory lane.

The text is translated into English, though the presence of multiple languages on some of the display boards make for a mess of text. I got the gist, though, and enjoyed strolling through the building, soaking up the atmosphere engendered by those broadcasts.

Admission is free, and I recommend it, unless the steep steps – four floors to see – are impassable for you.

 

A little further into the centre is the Art Museum. Admission 6 euros, which gets you into everywhere – you can pay just for individual parts. It looks like you can just stroll in, ignoring the ticket kiosk, well away from the entrance to the gallery. But an attendant will rise from an unhidden spot, and wait for you to show your ticket, before dematerialising out of your way. It is an enjoyable piece of mini-theatre to enjoy.

I went into three galleries. Downstairs was Dutch Art, in place because the frames are made from Baltic wood. They have run some DNA analysis to check. It’s a lovely idea – the first thing you see, once the attendant has popped up and disappeared, are planks of wood, then the art is all around, with cross-sections of trees in the corners, just to nudge your mind that way. One of the paintings was visible from both sides, to show the mess of wood on its back as well as the art.

 

Up above is the oriental gallery, which has a dazzling array of items from all over the orient, and from many different time periods – as old as 4000BC up until the last century. There’s a small but important room devoted to a Latvian artist who worked in India.

Tibetan mountains, Latvian artist
I didn’t get the artist’s name. Failed! But he worked in India. I was taken by the colours.

There is also a small but packed section for Ancient Greek pottery and Roman coins. I loved it; some of the pottery was separated into city state of origin (Corinth etc) which is lovely and evocative.

Roman denarii
Roman denarii.

Up on the top floor is the Western art selection, which does a good job of fitting a lot into a relatively small space, though some of the paintings are hung a little high for easy viewing, at least for me. Better they be out and high than not at all, though. We are reminded that what is on display is only ever a percentage by a display of sculptures with photos of (different) sculptures behind, taken to show them wrapped up in storage. 5% of museum’s inventory is on display at any one time, the blurb says. I got some terrible photos of some of the paintings I liked, which you can see below. I was particularly taken by Carl Spitzweg’s study of solitude in ‘The Old Fortress Commandant’, which has a much better version online (follow the link).

 

It’s a lovely museum, and well worth the money. Plus you can play a separate game – can I get a smile from an attendant? Or just eye contact? Unfair: they monitor quietly, leaving you to browse, and you can’t really ask for much more than that.

Sights of Riga, Latvia

Riga’s old town isn’t over large, and is fairly easy to walk around. I say only ‘fairly’ because of the cobbles – they are everywhere, and require that you watch your step. They do also slow down what little traffic makes its way into the centre, though, so stepping out into the road as if it is a traffic-free zone is pretty safe. It’s a lovely and scenic place to just wander through, stepping from small alley to broad boulevard as you go. There are all sorts of wall decorations, with a selection of statues, wall decorations and reliefs shown below, but this is hardly a conclusive selection.

Tokoinranta parkrun, Helsinki, Finland

Tokoinranta parkrun route
Tokoinranta parkrun route. Hill at first corner not pictured.

Tampere boasts the first parkrun in Finland but Tokoinranta, in the centre of Helsinki, started within the first year. It is easy to get to from anywhere in the city. I hopped on the 6am ferry from Tallinn, which docked at 8:20, leaving time to walk the 4.3kms for the 9:30 start. There are trams right outside the ferry terminal, though, if you want to get there more quickly (and, say, have a better warm up than I managed).

Many of the event team, at least for now, are ex-pats (also known as immigrants when talking about different groups of people) and the run briefing was just in English. Plenty of Finns are running, though, including the one who sat on my shoulder to halfway and then went by. I suspected he was a first-timer, and making sure not to go wrong – in which case, tagging along with me could have gone badly awry. But although the course describes a few elegant curves, it is pretty easy to follow. It’s an out-and-back, so you have a chance to see everyone as you make your way along. The course is scenic, too, running alongside a couple of lakes, separated by a barrier that carries a railway line.

There’s a steep hill at the first corner. It isn’t long, but it starts challenging and then gets steeper. Phew. Cross a bridge, and then down an equally steep hill on the other side. On this cold November day, with freezing temperatures, the next section was slightly slippery. Nothing that would make us fall, but enough to make it one step forward, 0.1 steps back. I guess that frost is the main thing that will affect that section – frost on wood is slippery, whereas if there’s snow or ice, it doesn’t really matter what the surface underneath is. And this is Finland; surely it’ll be runnable more often than not.

The start is at 9:30, to let the sun come up. It doesn’t come up very far, though, and was right in our eyes on the way back, both coming to the top of the steep hill and when bombing down it. It did take the edge off the freezing temperatures, though, and cast a beautiful glow over the lakes.

My fellow parkrunners were a happy and enthusiastic lot. A lady from Blackburn was making a return to running, and worried about freezing, but ended up just fine. A group from Stellenbosch were advertising their food bank and helping run the event. A couple from Bromley, he there on a conference, she joining in for Scandinavian fun, were happily planning their afternoon’s entertainment, with help from the locals. She was a big fan of Scandinavia, and attempted to sum up her feelings about the place – why like it so much, when it’s the dark literature that drew so many of us in? A British lady piped up, that “If I produced a marketing campaign for this country, it would be ‘Finland: no drama'” and that’s a pretty good summary. My French friend from the ferry to Turku has worked in many countries, and his pithy conclusion was that French, British, Dutch companies don’t care. Scandinavian ones do. It’s a lovely part of the world – expensive, because living right costs money. But lovely.

Coffee and other refreshment afterwards, at La Torrefazione, Siltasaarenkatu 12.

Photos from Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is a peaceful city, or at least the old town seems so. There are plenty of tourists and activities, but the cobbles and focus on tourism mean there are few vehicles allowed in the old part, and strolling round it is a pleasure. After North America, where architecture is certainly newer, and often mostly functional, these old buildings, alleyways and characterful stoneworks are a lovely change.

Have some photos, so I can share it with you. Walking around is a pleasure. Though it is also the Black Nights Film Festival, and I have been indoors, taking full advantage of that.

Viru Gate, Tallinn
Viru Gate, Tallinn.
Cobbled street and market stalls
Cobbled street and market stalls.
Tallinn Old Town
Tallinn Old Town. Many of the businesses play up to the medieval aspect.
Cobbled streets
Cobbled streets.
Freedom square
Freedom square.

Christmas market

Restaurant in an alleyway
Restaurant in an alleyway.
Tourists on a cobbled street
Tourists on a cobbled street.
View from the old city wall
View from the old city wall.
View from Hellemann Tower and old city wall
View from Hellemann Tower and old city wall.

For 3 euros – which is just about the right price (my ticket said 4, so perhaps that’s the peak season price) – you can climb some steps up to the old city wall, and then some further ones to the top of the Hellemann tower. The views are pretty good, but there isn’t much else to it.

View from Hellemann Tower
View from Hellemann Tower.

There is a door in front of this grid, at the top of the tower. It opens, if you want a clearer photo.

Estonia, proudly flying their own flag and that of the EU
Estonia, proudly flying their own flag and that of the EU. And why wouldn’t you? Oh.

Seeing countries flying the EU flag is tinged with sadness (or blind fury and argumentation) for a Brit, at the mo. Paying in Euros is also tinged with sadness, though mostly of the “crikey, how much is that today?!?” variety.

Tallinn old town
Tallinn old town.
Another part of the city walls
Another part of the city walls.
Hungarian embassy and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Hungarian embassy and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

But which films did you see? I know you want to know:

  • The Favourite.
  • The Nagano Tapes.
  • Anote’s Ark.
  • Island of the Hungry Ghosts.
  • Social Animals.

Moomin Museum, Tampere, Finland

Hosted inside the Tampere Philharmonic building, which is worth a visit in itself, the Moomin museum is about 100m from the Dream Hostel, and not much further from the city centre. It is as much a “Moomin Experience” as a museum, though it does take you through the history of the books’ release and some of the author’s development. It is much stronger, though, on the contents and general sense of wonder that pervades the books. If you aren’t carried along by that, you might not get much out of a visit.

After a few initial misgivings, I loved the place. I remember the Moomins, though am not sure I ever read a book, and didn’t love the couple I paged through after my visit. Being a little jet lagged still, it’s entirely possible I was too tired to read them properly; they aren’t a simple kids’ book. The cartoon stories were more my level at the time, and even they seemed a little long and wordy.

The place itself is on two floors, mixing dioramas, early editions of the books, electronic descriptions and displays of sketches – disappointingly all labelled “sketch for artwork”, so devoted fans can have a lot of fun working out which work they are from. The lighting is mostly dark, which allows for light effects in places, kaleidoscopic and adding to the mood.

There are plenty of scenes from the books, produced primarily by Jansson’s partner, Pietila, but with the author’s help. Most of them have aural clips, in a variety of languages, which I found captivating, though most visitors didn’t seem to bother with them. Most had brought young children, who perhaps didn’t want to stand in place for a few minutes at a time. They had plenty of fun anyway, it seemed.

I thoroughly recommend the museum, but treat it as an experience rather than a place to go and get a thorough overview of the books. You may well get the latter, but you’ll do just as well soaking up the atmosphere and feeling engendered by the displays, the lighting and the audio narration of the scenes.

And as I travel light, this final quote (final for me, anyway – you can find it on the first floor, so you might start with it, depending which way you turn) summed up my view of ‘things’.

Quote: "I know. But that's how it is when you start wanting to have things. Now, I just look at them, and when I go away I carry them in my head. Then my hands are always free, because I don't have to carry a suitcase." Snufkin
I was drawn to this quotation.

Tampere parkrun, Finland

Tampere parkrun route
Tampere parkrun route – 2.5k out, 2.5k back, wiggling along the side of the lake.

Tampere parkrun has been going for over a year, having started on the 14th October 2017. Crucially for me, that date was just after I left for Singapore, so I had not had the chance to get to a Finnish parkrun before – there are now three, so they have started popping up.

The course itself is right near the city centre, easy to find (just make sure you pick a road that takes you over the train tracks, if you are East of them, or you might follow a road a long way, away from the lake. I spotted my near-error in plenty of time). I got there just a little after 9 – 9.30 start here – and had a chat with the team who were setting up. It was far too cold to stand there, though, and I eschewed the offer of a wait in the stadium in favour of a proper warm up run. The stadium sounds great, though, offering toilets and showers, so if you aren’t staying in Tampere on a Saturday, you can still wash up afterwards.

The run director spoke excellent English, and was kind enough to do all briefings in both Finnish and English, which is great, and super welcoming.

Scenic lakeside route
Signs are obvious, so long as you look up.

The course is about as flat as it gets. Although it twists to follow the lake, and has a 180 turnaround at the halfway point, it is about as quick as it gets. That said, there was a bit of a breeze – more annoying for being genuinely Baltic than a movement stopper, though I felt it – and I felt the occasional slow down from an incline.

But the surface is good, going from concrete to hard-packed trails, and I had a good run. It’s a scenic course, with the lake on your right on the way out (guess which side on the way back?) and running through flora otherwise. Frankly, it’s wonderful.

Laukonsilta bridge, near the start/finish
Laukonsilta bridge, near the start/finish.

I was pleased with a decent run, and to be able to add another country to my parkrun list – 16, now, with just Germany and South Africa to go (though the latter has runs in Namibia and Swaziland, so the completist ought to get to those two, as well).

I headed to the cafe post-run, which is just over the bridge. Finnish people mostly speak excellent English, and I picked up plenty of travel tips from a couple of Finns, discussed hangovers with an Irishman and enjoyed a soft chocolate cake and orange juice. The lady in the cafe didn’t recognise that in English, but her colleague pointed it out. Plenty of coffee available, and that is order able in English without problems.

Post cake, I was full of energy and had a run through Tampere. The centre is divided in places by construction, as they put in place “a pram” (tram), but that just meant I had an excuse to run around the edge of that and run a little further than I might otherwise have. On a cold but sunny morning, it was a pleasure.

Sorsalampi lake, mid Tampere
Sorsalampi lake, mid Tampere (not on the route, just pretty).

Coffee etc. afterwards, at Cafe and Salad Bar Sanna’s, Laukontori 10.

Ferry, Stockholm to Turku on the Baltic Princess (Silja line)

Ferry journeys to Finland are great. Inexpensive, and known for their party-friendly overnight timings, but with inexpensive cabins in case you want to ignore all that and sleep through. I did, and booked into a shared cabin for €24. The cheapest are around €20, which perhaps are more likely to be grabbed by the partiers. But even then, if they are out all night, they’ll hardly disturb you. The ferry left promptly at 19:30, turfing us out of cabins at 6:30, ready to dock at 7. I had a slight shock at that, as Finland is an hour ahead – beware, one hour fewer than you may be ready for.

Stockholm City hall, from the water
Stockholm City hall, from the water.
Waiting room, ferry. Ships are 'fartygen'
Waiting room, ferry. Ships are ‘fartygen’.

Check in is straightforward, and the whole process uses digital technology for convenience. You can go to one of the windows, shown in the window above. But you can use technology. There is a bank of machines, and a quick scan of the QR code sent via email will check you in and give you a boarding pass. In Finland I caught two trains, this ferry and went to an ice hockey match and museum, only needing paper for the museum and ferry, and even then those pieces of paper were scanned by machines. There are still plenty of staff standing around to help, or just to greet you, spared scanning duties.

4 person cabin
4 person cabin – only two of us in there, it was still cosy.

There is nothing behind the curtains in this cheap cabin, but they do the job of making it look like there is more to the place than there really is.

Boarding pass and key
Boarding pass, wifi code and cabin key.

I clicked the link in the email I received on booking, and that sent me to a webpage with the QR code on. Nothing I couldn’t have got from the email itself, but using the webpage version to check in meant I got further info. As soon as I had checked in, the page updated, telling me my cabin number (also on the boarding pass), its location and other info. That page then updated itself as the journey progressed, giving directions to town as the boat docked.

Silja line booking information, updated on check-in
Once checked in, the webpage updates to show boarding time, cabin number and so on.
Docking in Turku
Docking in Turku.

We docked in the dark. Buses were available right outside to take people into town. Passengers disappeared as I got my bearings, choosing to walk into Turku. It’s about 3km, through a quiet park and along quiet streets.

Turku in early morning light
Turku in early morning light. I walked there, so you could get there in the dark on the bus.

Not believing everything could be on time, I had booked the 1pm train, so had time to pass in Turku. I walked along the riverfront for a while, then headed for the public library. It’s a good place to pass some time, and even has some English-language books (graphic novels, at any rate). Turku itself has everything you need and is an easy place to stroll around. It was a little cold to explore too much, but I still enjoyed my view of the place.

Graffito with name of the city, Turku
Turku graffito
Turku public library
Turku public library.

Europe! Stockholm

11 months since I was last in Europe, and I returned, via flights that were blissfully (relatively) short, albeit in a very tiring configuration. I flew at 9.30pm on Monday night, from Seattle to Boston. Boston is three hours ahead, so after a five hour flight, we landed around 5am. Then I hung around all day, which passed nicely, helped by Terminal E being very quiet until mid afternoon. My flight to London left at 9pm and was only 5.5 hours or so, but with the time difference, it landed about 8am. Then I had just over an hour in Gatwick, which is more than enough – British airports are excellent for three things. Cramming in shops, because we know the price of everything and the value of nothing (it compares very unfavourably with the amount of space simply for sitting in Boston – choose between chairs, desks and deck chairs, charging points and water fountains everywhere). Cheap food (a marvellous thing) via the meal deals at Boots and WH Smith. What other airport in an expensive country lets you get food cheaply? And sterility. Most unlovely.

Boston Logan airport - dreary outside
Not missing much, weather-wise, by staying indoors at Boston airport.

Stockholm’s Arlanda airport has wooden floors, for instance. You still have to walk long distances, and the airport itself is mostly functional (no gardens, or cinemas, for instance). But simply by not having cheap and tacky flooring, not feeling like an institution (in the worst possible sense) it is several steps ahead of Gatwick (and Heathrow. And Stansted. And Luton). But then, there’s no money in making things look and feel a bit nicer.

Stockholm City Hall
Stockholm City Hall, seen from the South.

I handed my passport over. I was in the EU queue, as it happened – there wasn’t much difference in queue length, so it was by chance as much as by choice. Still, the customs lady took it, smiled, then smiled a little more deeply. “There you are!” she seemed to say, welcoming me in. “Might not be so easy for much longer, English twit!” One of many Brexit muppets suggested a benefit of leaving would be that we could use the much shorter non-EU queues from now on. How lovely that will be.

Looking west from Vasterbron
Looking west from Vasterbron, biggest steel suspension bridge in Sweden.

I ran a couple of times in Stockholm, heading off the post-travel sleep. Once in the dark, once in the daylight. It’s a lovely place, interesting architecture abounds. It is also on a few different levels, not always with an obvious way to step from one to another. At one point I was on a high bridge, looking for a way down to the road below. Fine on the run – head a couple more blocks West and head round. On foot alone? I am not sure there was a simple way.

Staty av Carl Eldh
Staty av Carl Eldh, Park Tegnerlunden.

Tonight, I head for Finland, on an overnight ferry. After that, I slow down. One great highlight of being on a great continent – I can use land and sea transport from there on in; no more flights.

Stockholm park and buildings
Stockholm park and buildings.

 

Amtrak from Vancouver to the US

I have done much of this trip before, riding from Bellingham down to Olympia, so had seen many of the views. New, though, was crossing the border, and riding the train from the dark into the sun rise.

Travellers need an ESTA and an I-94. The wikipedia page on visa requirements for UK citizens suggests an ESTA is needed if arriving by air or cruise ship, but you will be asked if you have one before being allowed to head to customs.

The train was due to leave at 6:35, so I (as suggested on the ticket) got to the station at 5:30, to go through customs. With the train less than half full, that was arguably too early, and the whole thing was a breeze. First Amtrak staff check your ticket, then a second line check your passport and ask if you have an ESTA. Then it is on – and this is before you get on the train – to US immigration, who do the usual checks. I wasn’t asked anywhere near as many questions as last time I crossed by land. But then, last time I wasn’t sure how long I was staying and had no ticket out. This time, although casual, one of the early questions was “what are you doing in the US?” and in reply, I said I was there for 6 days to do some running. Although that was more info than asked for, possibly my having said as much meant he didn’t feel the need to ask for more.

Watery view from the train
Watery view from the train.

I didn’t have to show any proof of my flight out of the US, nor did he ask about it. I did need my wits about me when it came to the I-94, though. It is only $6, and you can just pay that at the time. The website suggests you pay cash, but crossing via car, card payments were taken, and maybe the same is true here. You can, however, apply for a provisional I-94, paying online, and I’d done that. But he either didn’t check, or missed any automatic “wait! This person has paid!” notification. No harm done, I just said I had paid online, and showed my confirmation. Without the latter, though, I might have had to pay again. Plus when I said I had paid online, they assumed I meant the ESTA, poor confused tourist.

Sun rise, seen through the train
Sun rise, seen through the train.

It was easy, anyway. The train stops at the border for another check. There are warnings that you must be in your seat and not wearing headphones. Pay attention! There are enough officers that if they want to ask questions, they could, but on my carriage at least, they checked passports and moved on.

Sun rise in Washington
Sun rise in Washington.

The train rolled down the coast, right next to it much of the time. The sun rose just a little way into the journey, which was lovely. The views are at their best early on and when moving around Seattle, but it is a journey you could pass by staring out of the window.

Blurry view of the water
Blurry view of the water.

I even took better pictures as the time went by. The weather was entertaining. Bright and clear in Canada, thick fog once we were in the US, then that cleared, only to return a little later. So there might have been great views early on, too, though I am fairly sure the fog was sitting over farmland.

View over Puget Sound
View over Puget Sound.
Boat moving away from the train, WA
Boat moving away from the train, WA.

It is a lovely way to travel. If you want just to head to Seattle, Bolt Bus are cheaper, but I only paid $33, and that’s a pretty good bargain for a relaxed ride through the US countryside, and the best way to get to intermediate stops.

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