Check It Out: Travel by train, scan the skies with books

Check It Out: Travel by train, scan the skies with books

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library DistrJan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at readingforfu[email protected]“Amazing Train Journeys: 60 Unforgettable Rail Trips and How to Experience Them,” by Lonely Planet (Lonely Planet, 304 pages)My husband and I love riding on the train. We have taken Amtrak to Seattle on numerous occasions, sometimes to attend a Seattle Mariners baseball game, or sometimes to visit Pike Place Market and eat delicious seafood at a nearby restaurant. This past fall we took two longer train trips, first on the California Zephyr riding from Emeryville, Calif., to Denver, Colo., then a ride on the Coast Starlight, traveling from Burbank, Calif., to Vancouver. Each journey involved an overnight stay on the train, so we booked a Roomette for our accommodation. We greatly enjoyed both trips, but I can report that we don’t feel the need to take another overnight train ride. If the word “roomette” sounds small, you would be correct.So, the next best thing to traveling on a train is reading Lonely Planet’s “Amazing Train Journeys.” It covers trips in the Americas, including the two my husband and I took recently, as well as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Oceania.Check out this book and hop on board the TranzAlpine, a 4 1/2 hour New Zealand train ride that runs from Christchurch to Greymouth. Closer to home you can journey from Vancouver, B.C. to Banff, Alberta, on the Rocky Mountaineer, a trip that takes 37 hours by train but just a matter of minutes by book. The Trans-Siberian Railway has always fascinated me, and I’m sure it is quite the experience, but after reading that the trip takes seven days (if you decide to go nonstop from Moscow to Vladivostok), and there aren’t any showers (unless you “charm the [attendant] and tip her … she may arrange for you to have the key to the staff shower cubicle in the service wagon”), armchair traveling is good enough for me.Surely no train is more romantic than the Orient Express, thanks in part to Agatha Christie’s novel “Murder on the Orient Express” (dead body and all). I didn’t realize that the Orient Express still exists, sort of. The original journey that connected Paris with Istanbul is a thing of the past, as well as many of the other routes, but the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is alive and well, offering passengers a glimpse into the train’s storied past as it journeys from London to Venice. From the sounds of it — champagne bar, baby grand piano, bathroom mosaics — it might be 2019 now, but for two days anyone willing to pay GBP2000 can party like it’s 1934 (and pretend they’ll run into Hercule Poirot, to boot).“Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations,” by Sara Gillingham (Phaidon Press, 213 pages)One thing you can’t do very well on a train is stargazing. For this activity it’s best to be stationary … and outdoors. Clear nights in the Northwest can be sporadic depending on the time of year, but if any of our remaining winter days turn into cloudless nights, consider donning a warm coat and gloves and venture outside to look for constellations.“Seeing Stars” is a children’s nonfiction book, but all ages can enjoy and benefit from its contents. The author, who is also the book’s illustrator, takes each constellation and shares its location, how to find it and a brief selection of stories and myths associated with the constellation. Even if you decide not to search for stars please check out this book for its wonderful illustrations.My constellation IQ definitely spiked up after reading this book. Did you know that the Big Dipper isn’t a constellation but an asterism? What is an asterism, you ask? It’s “a small pattern or group of stars — often, but not always, within or part of a constellation — that is not officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union.” In the Big Dipper’s case, it’s part of the Ursa Major (the Great Bear) constellation. The Little Dipper is also an asterism and is part of Ursa Minor (the Little Bear). So, there’s the little and the big of it.I also learned that the constellation Capricornus (the Sea Goat) is “sometimes called Deneb Algedi, from an Arabic phrase for ‘tail of the goat.’” As a Capricorn, I have a strongaffinity for goats, so I would like to locate Deneb Algedi in the nighttime sky. According to the book, the Sea Goat is best seen between late June and September which means I have a few months before I can get my goat. Bleat.Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at [email protected]



TravelWireNews Chatroom for Readers (join us)

%d bloggers like this: