Welcome to our May 2016 Newsletter

FEATURED TRIP: Golden Gate Holiday
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: 4th of July with The Queen
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: The Great Canadian Train Ride
BEHIND THE SCENES: San Francisco’s Most Photographed Residents
THE WAY IT WAS: Seafaring in Peggy’s Cove
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: The Fourth of July in Boston
DID YOU KNOW? The Napa Valley Wine Train
HISTORIC SNAPSHOT: Everyman Justice in Hangtown
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Spicy Shrimp Salad in Lettuce Cups
TRAVEL TIPS: Overnighting on America’s Rails
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA: How Banff National Park Got Its Unusual Name



Guests joining Uncommon Journeys on the 4th of July with the Queen cruise sailing June 30, 2016 from New York City will experience true luxury with an included overnight hotel stay the evening before departure at the iconic Waldorf Astoria New York, including all taxes & luggage handling from the hotel to the ship. Visit www.uncommonjourneys.com or call 1-800-323-5893 for additional information.

Featured Trip

 Golden Gate Holiday

In 1877, Leslie's Magazine printed a now-famous article titled 'Out West on the Overland Train' describing passage over the recently completed Overland Route of the Union Pacific Railroad to San Francisco via the daylight crossing of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Upon arrival in the Bay Area, the party continued onto the fabled Palace Hotel, a wonder of the age, for a stay in San Francisco. Interestingly, this vivid article was re-issued as a book in 1967 during the Centenary celebration of the Transcontinental Railroad by Richard Reinhart, who traveled over the same route aboard the 'City of San Francisco', the remaining Overland Route train at that time.

It is with this prelude that we offer a one-time journey west, over the same historic Overland Route, from Salt Lake City to Northern California traveling through the same places that evoke the mystique of the Old West: The Overland Wagon Trail, Emigrant Gap, Donner Lake, Dutch Flat, Cape Horn, Gold Run, Blue Canyon, Hangtown and Sacramento are just some of the historically freighted places we pass through. And perhaps saving the best for last, we end up at San Francisco's fabulous Fisherman's Wharf.

Dining in style with fresh flowers, linens, cutlery and china is par for the course on the Great Western Limited

Not only is this holiday a visual feast but to travel West, we have a splendid private Vista-Dome Streamliner, our very own Great Western Limited, complete with Pullman sleeping cars with real beds and soft pillows, fine dining (all meals, wines & spirits while aboard are included in the fare) and all of the little touches like fresh flowers, elegant menus, an attentive staff and a professional tour manager to make our journey West a civilized passage. Beginning with the superb Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City followed by a two-day stay at the wonderfully located Embassy Suites in the heart of California's Napa Valley and, of course, the Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf, this is a relaxing and luxurious vacation. We have included such treats as a trip aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train as well as a visit to colorful Sausalito, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, to round out this stylish holiday.

Since the capacity of the Great Western Limited is restricted to only 48 lucky guests, prompt reservations on this exclusive excursion are highly recommended. This magnificent 7-day trip is priced from $2,495 per person and departs on both June 11 and August 6, 2016. Call Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


 4th of July with The Queen

Join us for a star-spangled 7-day 4th of July with the Queen cruise tour on June 30 that celebrates Independence Day in Boston Harbor, with its fantastic evening fireworks display! We have the grandest possible location for this spectacular visual treat, the Queen Mary 2, the greatest ocean Liner afloat, and docked overnight in Boston Harbor for this epic event. Nicely, Boston is just one of the great features of this short affordable mini-cruise. We set sail from New York on July 1st and enjoy a full day at sea aboard this great ship before our arrival in historic Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 3rd where there is a full day to enjoy this colorful port. Naturally, there is an excursion available to nearby much photographed Peggy’s Cove, famed for its great lobster meals. After Halifax, we steam south to Boston arriving there at noon on July 4th, with ample time to explore Boston and enjoy the Fireworks later this evening. July 5th is spent at sea, giving you time to explore the many amenities of Queen Mary 2 including the Canyon Ranch at Sea Spa, the largest ballroom afloat, the largest library afloat and the only ocean-going Planetarium! There are acres of open deck, swimming pools, grand dining and more choices of enjoyment than most small cities. Queen Mary 2 does very few shorter cruises and this is a rare chance to sample this extraordinary ship without spending a huge amount of time or money.

The spectacular Queen Mary 2 epitomizes British splendor

While there are many ordinary cruise ships, there is only one Queen Mary 2, heir to a proud tradition first established by the original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth and we invite you to join us on this spectacular 4th of July holiday. Beginning at just $2,895 per person, this 7-day 4th of July with the Queen cruise tour departing New York on June 30 is an ocean liner lover’s dream. Call Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


 The Great Canadian Train Ride

For many decades, one of the 'must-do' holidays on every travelers list has been the legendary cross-Canada train trip, from Toronto to Vancouver, across the Dominion in Vista-Dome comfort. At Uncommon Journeys, we have long believed that only one addition could make this idea better: leisurely hotel stays in each great part of Canada along with intelligent, comprehensive sightseeing. For those travelers to whom 'how' they get somewhere means as much as what they do, we offer up the most acclaimed train in North America, Via Rail's showcase 'Canadian' where all of our guests enjoy First Class sleeping car accommodations with all meals aboard included. Guests enjoy access to the splendid art deco dining car, the signature dome cars with all-around viewing and the famous 'Park Car' with its Bullet Lounge and Mural Bar.

As befits an elegant holiday, we have included some very stylish events ashore as well, including dinner in Toronto at the chic Canyon Creek Grill, stylish and an indulgent two-day stay in Vancouver at the beautifully situated Sheraton Wall Centre, an elegant hotel.

The town of Banff is nestled in the scenic Bow River Valley

In the Rockies, our guests enjoy five days of sightseeing including Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise as well as seldom-visited places like Moraine Lake, Maligne Canyon and Bridal Veil Falls. All sightseeing is included.

This picturesque 13-day journey is only available once in 2016, with a departure on October 6 and prices beginning at $5,995. Contact Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for additional information.



  San Francisco’s Most Photographed Residents

Hundreds of sea lions enjoy the sun at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Visiting San Francisco during one of Uncommon Journeys’ West Coast trips is sure to provide plenty of intellectual and visual stimulation, not least of which is being surrounded by the city’s notoriously eccentric residents. But other than internet entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, no other population in recent memory has exploded quite as dramatically as the sea lions that inhabit Pier 39, also known as Fisherman’s Wharf. It may seem like these slick mammals have called this hotspot home since time immemorial, but the truth is that their residence began not so many years ago.

After some seismic activity in nearby Loma Prieta in October of 1989, sea lions started migrating north to San Francisco bay. Their numbers grew dramatically in a few short months, and they did not come quietly—they announced each new arrival with rambunctious barking that echoed across the Bay. Furthermore, they started occupying every available square inch of K-Dock, which irritated local boaters trying to make their way in and out of the Pier. A vigorous public debate over their potential removal erupted, with the final recommendation placed in the hands of The Marine Mammal Center, an organization focused on marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation.

As you may have guessed from the sea lions’ continued presence at Pier 39, relocation was determined too costly and complex. And who knows, perhaps locals’ attitudes toward these whiskered rascals may have softened over time. So they stayed. With a lack of predators and plenty of food available in the Bay’s waters, they also multiplied. From about 300 individuals in 1990, it is possible to count over 600 these days. And If you’re wondering where all the boaters went, they were the ones who had to grudgingly relocate—with generous assistance from the city, of course.

The original dock is long gone, collapsed under the weight of the legions of sea lions, and has been replaced with much more practical floating docks which the interlopers are perfectly happy to sunbathe on as well as pose for as many pictures as you wish to take. Just remember not to reward them with any snacks—it’s illegal, and anyway, they’re hardly hungry as the Bay provides them with everything they need. Enjoy that traditional clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl on your own or with a loved one!

You can admire this unique blending of nature and civilization on our splendid 7-day Golden Gate Holiday tour, priced from $2,495 per person and departing on both June 11 and August 6, 2016. Contact Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for additional information.



Seafaring in Peggy’s Cove

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse stands against the blue Nova Scotia sky

Today lighthouses are increasingly viewed as charming remnants from a bygone era of uncertainty in seafaring, and are admired for their picturesque value more than for their continued usefulness. Advanced global positioning systems have almost completely replaced these iconic shoreside towers as the navigational tools of the modern mariner.

There was a time, however, that these shining beacons could mean the difference between safe passage and utter ruin. Fifty per cent of the shipwrecks recorded in Nova Scotia occurred between the years 1850 and 1900, with each technological breakthrough contributing to a sharp decline in wrecks. The last recorded coastal accident in Nova Scotia occurred in 1999; compare that to 14 wrecks in 1950, and a whopping 31 in 1900—that’s almost 3 a month! There is no question, however, that in those days the absence of a lighthouse would have caused those numbers to be even larger. Today, when you travel on a modern ship and particularly a cruise ship, you are aboard one of the safest modes of transport available to man, more so than flying and certainly much more than driving.

The legend behind the name of Peggy’s Cove is itself linked to a shipwreck. The story tells of a young woman, or perhaps a girl, who was the only survivor of a fatal wreck against nearby Halibut Rock. She was either too young to know her name, or had lost her memory in the shock of the wreck, but the family who took her in named her Peggy. In 1800 Peggy wed a resident of the cove, earning the nickname “Peggy of the Cove”. Her harrowing tale intrigued locals far and wide, and she became a symbol of the town, which eventually was given her name.

Whether the tale is whimsy or truth, it illuminates the inextricable link between Nova Scotia’s coastal residents and the hazards of the sea. Fortunately, the area has retained much of its delightful character despite the passage of time, with the added advantage of far greater safety for the local seafaring folk.

You can visit intriguing Peggy’s Cove on the truly exceptional 7-day 4th of July with the Queen cruise departing from New York City on June 30, 2016. Contact Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for additional information.


The Fourth of July in Boston

The Fourth of July along Boston’s Charles River Esplanade

As one of the founding cities of a nascent United States, the Fourth of July holds a special significance in Beantown. Featuring the music of the inimitable Boston Pops and exuberant fireworks over the Charles River and Boston Harbor, the celebration here is truly momentous and showcases the true spirit of America.

Uncommon Journeys provides a unique opportunity to arrive in Boston in grand style precisely on the date of this festive occasion aboard the storied Queen Mary 2, as part of our 7-day 4th of July with the Queen cruise tour departing from New York on June 30. Beginning at just $2,895 per person is an ocean liner lover’s dream. Call Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.

If you’d like to see a photo from one of your own Uncommon Journeys trips featured in our newsletter, just email it to us at uncommon@uncommonjourneys.com and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.


  The Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley’s soil and climate are ideal for many grape varietals to thrive

If you look at the logo for Uncommon Journeys, you’ll note that we have both a train and an ocean liner displayed prominently. And as we’ve mentioned many times in the past in our blogs and newsletters, we incorporate one or both into all our travels. When it comes to trains, our love for the rails and especially for our private train, the Great Western Limited, is easy to find. But if you dig a bit deeper into the day-by-day itineraries of many of our trips, you’ll see we include rides on other trains, visits to railroad museums and even just stops at historic railway stations.

Wherever it makes sense, adds to the enjoyment of a trip and flows naturally in the schedule, we add a train ride to our itineraries. And not all train rides are the same, either. Some exist for extraordinary scenery, some for the historic nature of the train itself, some for the nostalgia of the route and some for the onboard experience. Some, naturally, combine more than one of these elements. One of the train rides that fires on almost all of those cylinders can be found on our 7-day Golden Gate Holiday train tour departing June 14 and August 9.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But as they say on late night television while trying to sell chia pets, salad shooters and ginsu knife sets, “wait, there’s more”: we tailored this trip specifically to include a trip aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. And let me tell you, our guests absolutely adore this part of their Golden Gate Holiday. The folks who run the Napa Valley Wine Train do a fantastic job and though our guests are aboard for a relatively short time, the trip always makes a big impression.

The Napa Valley Wine Train is a three-hour round-trip journey that originates in the quaint town of Napa, cruises through the world-famous wine valley of the same name, arrives at the charming village of St. Helena, and then returns to Napa to complete its thirty-six mile run. The trip includes a freshly-prepared luncheon but for our train buffs, the biggest appeal is the fully restored World War I-era Pullman Dining Car and the 1952-built Vista-Dome car with panoramic views of the wineries and vineyards of the impossibly scenic Napa Valley.

The route itself is quite historic, pre-dating the currently trendy rush to the Napa Valley for its fine wines by more than a century. In fact, they date as far back as the 1860s, when the area’s main attraction was the town of Calistoga’s hot springs. The hot springs still exist, although the train no longer travels there. However, most of the track you will travel on remains unchanged. After taking off from from Napa’s McKinstry Street Station, you will be able to view the historic towns of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and St. Helena as well as countless wineries from the comfort of the train through its large picture windows. If you wish, you can also witness how the locomotive is moved from the north to the south facing sides of the train in St. Helena to prepare for the journey home.

With the Napa Valley Wine Train we’ve managed to combine the interests of virtually every guest who travels with us. If you love beautiful scenery, then Napa Valley has few peers. If you’re a connoisseur of fine wines, you’ll be in utter heaven. And if you love historic trains, you’ll be trembling with excitement over the restored rail cars and historic route. Experience this adventure on our 7-day their Golden Gate Holiday tour, priced from $2,495 per person and departing on both June 11 and August 6, 2016. Contact Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for additional information.


Luxury in Yellowstone

Everyman Justice in Hangtown

Placerville, CA, a.k.a. Hangtown drips with historic charm

Although Hangtown no longer holds this rather descriptive name, the town’s important role during the pivotal Gold Rush years of the mid-nineteenth century and their attendant violence have prolonged its life well beyond the 1854 change to the much milder Placerville.

As hopeful prospectors poured West into the area known as the Mother Lode and sifted through the water and dirt of the surrounding mountains searching for the precious glint of the finest metal, less savory sorts looking for an easier buck were holding up small camps and settlements along the America River, even resorting to murder with alarming frequency. Local citizens had had about enough and during the trial of three accused men in 1849, the quickly assembled jury reached an even quicker verdict. “Hang them!”, one of the jurors shouted, followed by a volley of assenting shouts. A large white oak near the center of town was the site of the hasty hanging, and a community previously know as Old Dry Diggins earned its indelible moniker. Although today only the tree’s stump remains, it is preserved in the cellar of a bar named, cannily, The Hangman’s Tree.

The locals made sure to spread the fate of the executed three throughout the Mother Lode, and followed up their thirst for justice with several more hangings to emphasize the town’s zero-tolerance approach to crime. Perhaps a reputation for tough justice aided the town’s growth, because by 1854 Hangtown was the third largest town in California behind San Francisco and Sacramento. That same year the city was incorporated, but the increasingly influential temperance league and Methodist Episcopal Church were not particularly thrilled with the macabre name and successfully agitated for the name change to Placerville.

An 1856 fire nearly ravaged the entire town, but it was really the ebb of the Gold Rush that stunted Placerville’s growth. The city even went so far as to disband in 1873, although it reincorporated in 1900. These days lumber and of course tourism are prominent industries, the latter thanks to the careful preservation of many of its historic landmarks.

Experience this unique slice of American history on the 7-day Golden Gate Holiday tour departing on June 11 and August 6, 2016, with prices starting at $2,495 per person. Call Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


Lawrence Block

Unbelievably flaky croissants delight at this tucked-away bakery in Banff

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” Lawrence Block


Spicy Shrimp Salad in Lettuce Cups

Perfectly seasoned shrimp punctuate this warm-weather delicacy

This month we are featuring yet another recipe from Regina Charboneau, Chef de Cuisine for Uncommon Journeys’ new partner French America Line, a brand new cruise line offering deluxe voyages on America’s Waterways. With warmer weather approaching, you might be looking for something a bit lighter that doesn’t sacrifice any flavor, and this spicy shrimp salad fits the bill perfectly. You can modify the amount of Sriracha to adjust the spiciness to your taste. Enjoy!

1/2 cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha
3 pounds shrimp (21–25 count), peeled, deveined, thawed if frozen, and thoroughly dried
3/4 cup chopped green onions, tops and bottoms
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
24 iceberg lettuce leaves, tender center leaves only
3 limes, each cut into 8 wedges, for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the Sriracha and shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are cooked and firm, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a bowl.
2. When the shrimp has cooled for 10 minutes, add the green onions, cilantro, mint, and basil, and toss.
3. Evenly distribute the shrimp salad among the lettuce leaves. Top each with a lime wedge.

The shrimp salad can be prepared 1 day ahead. Assemble in lettuce cups just before serving.


  Overnighting on America’s Rails

You’ll be amazed at the day-to-night transformation of a Pullman sleeper car

You might recall the amusing home technology deployed by bachelors in saucy romantic comedies from the 1950’s and 1960’s, most notably Rock Hudson’s ever-shifting apartment in the hilarious Pillow Talk. The press of a few buttons could completely transform his character Brad’s apartment, shifting furniture, closing curtains and even frying eggs and bacon without human assistance.

A similar—but more innocent—effect seems to transpire in one of Uncommon Journeys’ sleeper cars aboard the Great Western Limited. During the day, you can lounge on the ample sofa within your private cabin and watch the varying landscape whisk by outside the generous window. Return in the evening after dinner, and suddenly two cozy beds have materialized out of thin air. Through some magic of engineering, these beds are fully concealed during the day and retrieved at night, and it almost seems impossible that they could have been so discreetly tucked away. In the same vein, in many cabins the bathroom sink very cleverly flips up to drain the water within and disappears into the wall. These and several other space-saving contraptions are sure to delight you.

However, sleeping on a train holds its own challenges which can be mitigated with some minor preparation. Nighttime is usually spent in motion, as the train aims to makes good time during the witching hours. Train tracks aren’t always completely evenly laid, leading to a rhythmic sound and some movement as you speed along the rails. If you need to move around, especially on dark nights, be sure to keep a source of light with you for excursions to the restroom or beyond. Fortunately, most of today’s cellphones have a flashlight function incorporated.

The amazingly practical nature of the cabin, with little nooks and crannies everywhere in which to place your belongings, can also result in forgetting something aboard for the compulsive unpacker. Try to keep as many of your items gathered in limited locations, and remember to scan those areas carefully before departing the train.

You will receive excellent service from the staff aboard the Great Western Limited, and it is customary to reward them with a tip. If unsure how much, speak to your professional Uncommon Journeys tour manager for a recommendation.

Finally, the best tip we can give you is to spend as much time as possible in the Vista-Dome car, where you will enjoy a panoramic view of the ever-changing scenery, complimentary drinks and snacks throughout the day, and of course an opportunity to get to know your adventuring peers on this epic voyage of your choice.

We use our private Great Western Limited train and several other private trains for a number of trips each year. In 2016 we are pleased to offer you multiple opportunities to experience the good life aboard the Great Western Limited:

Visit Uncommon Journeys or call 1-800-323-5893 for a complete review of all the luxury train journeys on offer.


How Banff National Park Got Its Unusual Name

Canada’s Banff National Park is one of the world’s must-see natural treasures

Can you think of any other words ending in –nff? We tried searching for any others and came up short, so it turns out that its astounding beauty is not the only thing that sets this Canadian treasure apart. However, the story of the naming itself is a bit more mundane, as it was bestowed in 1884 by Sir George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, as an homage to his hometown of Banff, Scotland. Lord Stephen was understandably enamored of this breathtaking corner of the Canadian Rockies, with a peak in nearby Yoho National Park bearing his name as a testament to his passion.

While the Canadian Banff has enjoyed a fairly relaxed existence as a luxury resort town since its founding in the nineteenth century, the original Banff has a much lengthier and colorful history. The origin of the name itself is mired in confusion, with some claiming that it derives from the Scottish Gaelic banbh, which means ‘piglet’; others prefer buinne, a ‘stream’; and yet others point to Bean-naomh, meaning ‘holy woman’. This third theory is bolstered by the presence of the Virgin Mary on the burgh’s coat of arms.

Unlike its landlocked Canadian descendant, the Scottish Banff enjoys waterfront property as it is situated on the North Sea’s Banff Bay in Aberdeenshire. The burgh dates at least as far back as the twelfth century, when a castle was built here to protect the area from invading Vikings. Throughout much of its history, Scotland was a turbulent place and the region’s Sheriffs had their hands full with misbehaving locals, such as an incident in 1628 in which the Lord Banff of the day was chased and shot by an angry mob after he struck a relative on the head with a baton in a fit of pique.

As a side note, the nearby village of Macduff most certainly provided the name for Macbeth’s antagonist in Shakespeare’s play. Banff was a major player in the salmon trade by the fifteenth century, with herring coming to the forefront in the nineteenth century. Today, much like Banff in the Rockies, the town benefits from its rich history, beautiful setting, and the admiring visitors that come year after year.  

Let Uncommon Journeys take you to Canada’s Banff in style on one of the following itineraries:

As always, visit us at the Uncommon Journeys Facebook page for the latest news, photos and lively discussions about luxury train travel, our itineraries and the fantastic places we take you. You’ll be among the very first to hear about new trips, new offers and future sweepstakes.





 * Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 and is only available for new bookings.