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The Amtrak Acela to Boston

I spent a lot of time on Amtrak trains in 2017. It began with a trip across the country on the California Zephyr and Capitol Limited over Memorial Day weekend, then a trip to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight, and finally to a conference in Raleigh on the Carolinian. This year hasn’t had as many trains, but when the opportunity presented itself to travel from Philadelphia to Boston I knew I wanted to take the Amtrak Acela Express. I’ve taken the regular Northeast Regional, which serves the same route, several times, but the Acela had remained elusive. Not this time! The Acela offers only Business and First accommodations, since it’s a premium service already, and a business class seat on the Acela was well within travel policy for work, so I booked it, and then upgraded myself to First on my own dime.

First class got me into ClubAcela in Philadelphia, where you get to wait in a comfy space while you wait for your train boarding to begin. When boarding begins, they announce it and you meet a staff member who takes you down the elevator and directs you to the part of the platform where First class will board. It all felt very fancy and I was really pleased with the experience.

Inside ClubAcela in Philadelphia, and the view into 30th Street Station

Upon boarding, the seat layout was a row of single seats on one side, and pairs of seats on the other. I grabbed a single seat and settled in. In addition to serving a meal during the journey, they also routinely come through the first class car to offer and unlimited supply of the beverages they had available. It’s probably good I wasn’t drinking alcohol, since I may have had an Allagash White or three on my journey if I had been! I boarded the train around 2:30PM and kept delaying my meal, finally having it served up around 6PM. I went with the Pan Seared Atlantic Cod Fillet (pan seared Atlantic cod with baby green beans, potato rosti and smokey tomato sauce). It was quite good, and I was so grateful that the Acela had a different menu than their other trains, even months later I’m not sure I would have enjoyed another Amtrak steak with Bernaise sauce.

As I mentioned, I took the train from Philadelphia, which gave me a journey of just over five hours. It took me over the bridge into Trenton, New Jersey, up to NYC where we stopped at Pennsylvania Station under Manhattan before popping out in the Bronx. From there it was up through New York into an incredibly long segment in Connecticut where the train takes a coastal route, allowing for lots of great views of marinas, harbors and lots of bridges. A quick journey up through Rhode Island whisked us into Massachusetts before I was ready. The journey came to a conclusion at the Back Bay Station in Boston, which is a stop earlier than I had planned, but I learned just before the stop that it was just a block from my hotel!

It wasn’t the epic train journey that ones in the past had been, but it wasn’t meant to be. I took it down on a Sunday afternoon and intentionally took the Acela instead of the Northeast Regional, which would have added two hours to my journey. It was about getting to where I needed to be for meetings on Monday, and finally taking the fastest passenger train in the United States. Success! And it was fun.

More photos from the train journey here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157697530153231

Of course what I was in Boston for was to meet up with the rest of the LISA18 organizing committee. It’s been a real pleasure working with this group of people over the past several months as we recruited speakers and went through the selection process. The day and a half in Boston was to do the final sifting through proposals now that the rest of the program committee had placed their votes, and come up with a schedule. It wasn’t easy, there were a lot of great talks and great speakers to choose from and we could only accept about 20% of the submissions. Having great collaborators and a respectful atmosphere all around was a tremendous experience, we all had our favorite talks and tutorials and somehow made it all come together in a schedule I’m really proud of, which will be released soon. Tuesday was spent doing lots of administrative tasks before I packed up to head toward the airport for my afternoon flight.

The New England Aquarium is on the way to the airport. It really is! I stopped there for a quick lobster roll at a hot dog stand outside and then it was over to the aquarium for a visit. Growing up in southern Maine, Boston was our big city. Girl Scout trips took us down here for overnights at the Boston Museum of Science and I’d been to this aquarium a few times as a youth. It had been well over 20 years since I’d visited, so the only thing I remembered was that there were a lot of penguins. There are still a lot of penguins, several different types! They had African penguins, Southern Rockhopper penguins and Little Blue penguins (these are the ones I saw wild at Phillip Island when I was visiting Melbourne). The rest of the aquarium is great too, I got to visit some California sea lions, lots of sea turtles, and saw a few cuttlefish!

After about an hour I did finally continue my journey to Logan airport so I could fly back to San Francisco. I managed to have enough time at the airport to stop by the lounge to have a ginger ale to calm an incoming upset stomach and get a little work done. The flight attendant on my flight home made sure I was taken care of too.

More photos from my time in Boston here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157698745583494/