Like a Virgin

Little R, loved every minute on the high-speed train.

Little R, loved every minute on the high-speed train.

We’ve relocated to Northern England for the better part of the next week. Some of the items on the agenda for the coming days include hiking, reconnecting with (some of my wife’s distant) relatives, and baaaa-ing at the sheep in the pasture out our door.

Of course our girls also will spend significant amounts of time talking (and, undoubtedly, drawing) about how we actually got here: One of the high-speed trains up from London.

We took the ride with Virgin Trains, from Euston Station up to Penrith, a city in the heart of England’s Lake District. Because we sat in First Class, we had reserved seats, a table, all-you-can-eat food (including a stellar breakfast service), and porter help with the bags. Because it’s Virgin, the girls also received “Kids Bags”—backpack-sized satchels full of games and puzzles to do while we were en route.

To say the girls made the most of the experience would be an understatement.

R was the bigger fan; she spent at least 90 minutes of the 3-hour trip peering out the window or asking about Thomas the Tank Engine (a natural association, given our activity).  L liked the train too, but was scared a bit by the rocking.

(Overall, we managed to survive just fine until about ten minutes before departure, when R threw a tantrum and knocked a full cup of tea into my crotch, and L threw a tantrum just go be like her sister.)

Still, the verdict is that train travel trumps airplane travel because a) you can walk around as much as you’d like during your ride b) you can look out the window and see more than simply clouds, and c) first class is something average families actually can afford (it cost us a grand total of about $300 for all four of us, round-trip).

Don’t get me wrong, traveling by train isn’t perfect.

In Europe, where railroads can go up to 125 mph, motion sickness can be a real issue; L felt sick pretty much every time she looked out the window. In the U.S., where we (inexcusably) lack the same sort of high-speed rail they have here, train travel can take a while.

From our perspective, after two consecutive excursions from London involving train travel, the rails provide a nice alternative to airplanes.

Beside, trips are always better when the getting-there is part of the fun.

From the perspective of a family traveler, what do you like best about train travel?

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