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  noun 1. The act of immersing oneself in other cultures without crossing national borders. 2. Local cultural diversification. 3. Traveling on a budget. 4. A website that will allow you to accomplish all the above from the very seat in which you sit.

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15.10.09

City to city: touring by train in the lap of luxury

There are oh so many options for travel in the world. Foot. Bike. Boat. Horse. Car. Plane.

Train - seemingly undergoing a nostalgic revival, one much akin to the status of the candle (though most of us no longer need candles for light, we continue to utilize them for their aesthetic merits [and border hopping capabilities]). Trains are no longer practical transporters when compared to the speed of planes or the much more reasonable fares of buses. But there is something so romantic, so comforting about sitting in a train car and witnessing the gentle rolling of the outside landscape.

And, just as the humble "boat" has since launched thousands of over-sized, carnivalesque "cruise" vacations, so has the train, chugging along through the wilderness in antiquated luxury. The destinations are worldly and exotic, but the service and style is always the same. With no chance of seasickness and equally stunning views and ports, perhaps it is well worth putting those cruise savings towards one of these prestigious rails:




Orient-Express (orient-express.com) is actually a conglomerate of trains, hotels, restaurants, and like-travel satellites. Lines traverse England, Scotland, Peru, Southeast Asia and, our favorite, Europe. The Venice Simplon is the Orient-Express' European continental trip that may include London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Istanbul, depending on which journey you choose. Fairs start around $1,000 USD for a direct ride, and extend to almost $5,000 for a 4-city tour.
Romance, excitement and pure pleasure are all bound up in journeys that link the great European cities. The adventures of celebrated historic personalities are still palpable today, held in the original 1920s carriages with their Lalique glass panels, wood burning stoves and Art Deco marquetry.
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Golden Charriot (thegoldencharriot.co.in) offers a teaming crawl through India, rich in history and culture. Its name alone comes from the famous Stone Chariot in the 14th century city of Hampi (though made of rock and lotus-shaped, the wheels of the chariot actually can turn). For 7 nights and 8 days, the train departs from Bangalore, visiting Srirangapatna, Mysore Palace, the Nagarhole National Park, Shravanabelagola, Belur, Halebidu, Hampi, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole, and the Golden Beaches of Goa before returning to Bangalore. The tariffs during peak season for a single, double or triple room are, respectively, $3395, $2450 and $1995 USD.

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photo via gwtravel.co.uk


For Asia and Africa, The Golden Eagle (gwtravel.co.uk) reigns supreme. With journeys in Russia, Mongolia, China, Tibet, India and Egypt-Capetown, choosing can be difficult. But the Trans-Siberian tour (map above) is the most famous, traversing either east- or west-bound across Siberia in a 15-day route. In order of the westward journey, stops include Vladivostok (departing city), Khabarovsk, Mongolia, Ulan Ude, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Kazan and Moscow. Prices are dependent upon class and room size, and start at $7,995 USD for a New Heritage Class twin, reaching a whopping $22,195 for a Gold class single.

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photos above & below via royalcanadianpacific.com


For the North American expanse, Royal Canadian Pacific (royalcanadianpacific.com) is a cherished line by many, including Winston Churchill. Their two journeys are:



Rockies Experience
, a 6-day, 5-night chug from Calgary, Alberta to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and Crowsnest Pass. 2009's trip cost $8,000 CAD per person; 2010 dates and rates TBA.




Royal Fly Fishing Adventure
, a 6-day, 5-night trip highlighting Calgary, Alberta, Crowsnest, Elk Valley and Southeast Kootenays and possible catches of alpine cutthroat and rainbow, brown and bull trout. 2009's excursion rang in at $8,800 CAD; 2010 dates and rates TBA.

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