By Lisa Vivirito
Before the days of air travel, people traveled by train to get about the country.
Image yourself reliving the golden age of rail and go back to a simpler, more romantic, era. If this type of travel interests you, then a GrandLuxe luxury rail vacation may be for you.
GrandLuxe, formerly the American Orient Express, offers luxury rail journeys aboard beautifully restored rail cars that recreate some of the "most memorable journeys of all time." Although these vacations may seem rather pricey, starting at around $4,500 per person, they do include all meals and house wines with dinner.
One itinerary, National Parks of the West, includes some of the most breathtaking scenery not only in the U.S., but in the world.
You begin by flying into Jackson, Wyo., where you'll spend the night at a Jackson/Teton Village deluxe hotel.
The next day, you will explore the Teton Mountains. I remember being in awe at the first sight of these majestic, snow-capped peaks, which include Grand Teton, a towering mountain of 13,770 feet.
You'll also visit Jenny Lake, where you'll feel like you're part of a postcard, as you watch the reflections of the Tetons in the mirror-like water.
After a full day of touring the Mountains, you'll spend another restful night at your hotel.
If the experience of the Tetons didn't awe you, the next day at Yellowstone National Park surely will. The parks 2 million acres are filled with natural wonders and beauty that you won't find anywhere else on earth.
Perhaps the most famous attraction at Yellowstone is Old Faithful, the most predictable of geysers. The geyser is surrounded by benches, kind of like an auditorium, where you can sit and wait for Old Faithful to put on its show.
In addition to others geysers you'll see in Yellowstone, you'll also see boiling springs and mud pots in addition to a variety of wildlife. You may actually have to wait while a herd of bison crosses the road. Also, keep an eye out for bald eagles, elk, wolves and bears. It is definitely worthwhile to bring along a good pair of binoculars for this trip.
After spending your day in Yellowstone, you'll board your train for dinner and the night as you travel to Salt Lake City. Your dinner onboard is elegant, yet relaxed, prepared by an expert chef and served by a professional wait staff on signature china. The dining car is like a nice restaurant with each table set with linens and fresh flowers.
After visiting Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah, a mountain resort town and former site of the Winter Olympic Games, your train takes you to Las Vegas where you can visit some of the many hotels and gamble or shop. Or if you wish, you can take an optional excursion to the Hoover Dam or Zion National Park. Then it's back onboard the train for dinner and your next stop: the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon has always be one of the most spectacular geologic wonders in the world. It is big, "grand," actually, at 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and one mile deep. You'll spend the day at the South Rim, where the colors of the plateaus change with the shadows and shifting light. You'll even have lunch canyon-side.
The next morning, your next stop is Flagstaff, Arizona where you'll board a motorcoach for a 30-minute ride to Sedona a.k.a. Red Rock Country.
Here you can shop at the arts and crafts village or visit the artist community of Jerome. You'll also enjoy lunch amidst the red rock spires at a top-rated Sedona resort. Later, you'll have dinner back on board the train while enjoying the passing desert scenery.
The next day you'll arrive in Santa Fe, N.M. In Santa Fe, you'll have a guided walking tour of downtown. Then you take time on your own to visit the many art galleries, shops, and museums, including the Georgia O'Keefe Museum.
Georgia O'Keefe is considered one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. The museum features a collection of more than 139 of her paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Since the museum's opening in 1997, 11 years after O'Keefe's death, more than 1.7 million guests from around the world have visited the museum.
Later, you'll board the train for a farewell dinner and final night onboard. The next morning, you disembark for the last time in Albuquerque, N.M. with many lasting memories of your experiences from reliving the golden age of rail travel.
Lisa Vivirito is owner of Diamond Travel in Vero Beach. Call her at (772) 567-8481 or (800) 795-1986. Or visit www. diamondtravelofvero.com