Saturday, March 14th ~ Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, California
We were told to arrive at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles no later that 7:15 in the morning.
Not sure how the traffic might be, we allowed plenty of time, and were blessed with that golden light that photographers get goofy over.
This had been a last-minute invitation from our traveling buddies, Dick and Karen. In fact we were hiking on top of the mountain overlooking Palm Springs when the phone call came in…
“Do you want to join us for a special train ride and lunch in Santa Barbara tomorrow?”
After confirming that the invite could include our out-ot-town guest, Tim’s mom Nancy, we were all on board for an exciting day. As it turned out, the opportunity had been presented because of their son, Cameron, and the company he represents, Inspirato, a high-end vacation membership club. Inspirato was treating some of their members to a very unique outing.
Part of the surprise was that we were traveling in vintage rail cars.
“The American Railway Explorer is a collection of three Los Angeles based luxury charter railcars, the finest private railcars in America. The railcars travel linked to regularly scheduled Amtrak trains.” ~ Americanrailwayexplorer.com
The three vintage rail cars are available for private charter for the day or longer. Current charter rate is $5000 per car/day. You can see a short clip about the cars here. Probably the most popular location for the ride north toward Santa Barbara was the “California” domed car that afforded 360° views along the coastline. The center car, the “Utah” was used for gatherings and where the drinks and upscale snacks were served. The final car, the “Kansas” was however our favorite and where we spent most of our time in both directions.
The Kansas Platform Car had several sleeping bedrooms, a catering kitchen, dining room and what we loved, a large roomy sitting room at the very back of the train.
An interesting side note is that the Academy Award winning director and screenwriter, Wes Anderson, recently chartered this same car for a trip to New Orleans. He spent time writing in this very spot on that journey.
It allowed us an unblocked view.
When we arrived, we were picked up by a trolley and taken to the only Forbes 5 star hotel in Santa Barbara, the Belmond El Encanto for lunch.
The setting was divine, placed outside overlooking a pond where we were sheltered from the California sunshine with large umbrellas, sipping our welcome cocktails.
Every bite of food was delicious. After lunch we received a short tour of two rooms available for Inspirato members, the “regular” room and the “suite”. Both were exceptionally well designed and decorated.
Later in the afternoon the trolley dropped us off in town on State Street where we leisurely window shopped our way back toward the train depot.
On the train ride back to Los Angeles we were once again spoiled and treated like celebrities. The complimentary wine tasting of two excellent award-winning whites, and two equally delicious reds was presented by Capture Wines. Each wine was paired with flavorful and memorable hors d’oeuvres that had been lovingly prepared for us on board by Laura Satterfield of Dish Catering.
On our ride home we witnessed a spectacular sunset off the back of the train as we passed along the beach. I spent a joyous few minutes on the back platform exchanging oohs and aahs with Paul Joyner, the professional photographer that had been hired for the day to capture the event. I don’t know which of us enjoyed it the most, but I think I took almost as many pictures as he did!
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful to our friends Dick, Karen and Cameron (Brad) Theil for inviting us to join them on what turned out to be an exceptional day. And of course this would have not been possible without Inspirato hosting us. Also a special thank you to Belmond El Encanto for a delicious meal and to James (Jim) Bain from American Railway Explorer for sharing the stories and fun on board.