In This Issue:

FEATURED TRIP: Great Canadian Pacific
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: In the Path of Lewis and Clark
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: Best of the West
BEHIND THE SCENES: A Guest’s Travelogue
THE WAY IT WAS: The Empire Builder
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: Aboard the Great Western Limited
DID YOU KNOW? New Train Added to Existing Itinerary
HISTORIC SNAPSHOT: Luxury in Yellowstone
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Wine and Cheese Pairings
TRAVEL TIPS: A Guide to National Parks
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up



FREE NIGHT IN PORTLAND! Receive a post-cruise hotel night in Portland after our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark holiday departing June 15, 2016, July 13, 2016, August 10, 2016 and September 7, 2016 or FREE TRAIN TRAVEL to the start of the trip in the Bay Area from any California point or $99-$199 TRAIN FARE to the Bay Area from any US point. 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 Wednesday, September 30.

Featured Trip

 Great Canadian Pacific

Our 13-day Great Canadian Pacific cruise/train tour departing once-only on April 30, 2016 is a throwback to one of the greatest companies ever associated with train and ocean liner travel in the 20th century, a legacy that lives on today. No company had become more associated with a region than was Canadian Pacific Railway with the Canadian Rockies during the golden era of travel by train and ocean liner. Canadian Pacific Hotels spanned the Dominion of Canada from Victoria to Halifax and the three crown jewels in the Canadian Rockies were the fabled Banff Springs Hotel, the stunning Chateau Lake Louise and the stylish Jasper Park Lodge. On the western edge of British Columbia stood the legendary Empress Hotel in Victoria, the final outpost of Canadian Pacific Hotels. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we have tailored a springtime holiday to the Canadian Rockies that features four great Canadian Pacific Hotels, along with a short but sweet ocean voyage and travel aboard the last great train in North America, Via Rail Canada's iconic domeliner Canadian. All at the perfect time of the year when crowds are less, spring wildflowers are abundant and waterfalls are roaring. This is an elegant vacation with many nice touches, from a tour to the wine country during our port call in San Francisco, to special cocktail parties aboard the ship to Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. Naturally, there is a tour manager to handle all of the details so that you may relax with time to take that perfect photo or enjoy the second scone at afternoon tea.

The scenery will take your breath away.

Our holiday begins in Los Angeles with a special sailing day luncheon aboard the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach, a fitting start to a nostalgic journey. We then board the spacious and comfortable Crown Princess of Princess Cruises for a rare six-day Pacific Coastal voyage that includes a full 16-hour visit to San Francisco, an usual port call in Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River and best of all, a full 16-hour visit to Victoria, British Columbia with time not only for the Empress Hotel but Butchart Gardens, shopping and sightseeing as well. After the relaxing ocean voyage, we offer the scenic passage from Vancouver to Jasper with the Rockies segment timed for daylight viewing aboard Via Rail's Canadian with its classic Vista-Dome cars, comfortable Pullman sleeping cars, excellent dining and the fabled end of train Park Car with its Mural and Bullet Lounges. There is simply no finer way to see the Canadian Rockies.

• Six-night voyage from Los Angeles to Vancouver aboard the Crown Princess of Princess Cruises with a full day visit to San Francisco, as well as Astoria, Oregon and Victoria, British Columbia in addition to superb ocean travel.
• Superb shore excursions including the Napa Valley and Sausalito during our call in San Francisco and Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria are included.
• Travel aboard Via Rail's Vista-Dome Streamliner Canadian from Vancouver to Jasper in First Class sleeping accommodations including meals.
• Six days in the Canadian Rockies with one night each in Jasper and Lake Louise and three nights in Banff.
• Travel through the Columbia Icefields Parkway with a special Sno-Coach ride atop the Athabasca Glacier.
• Complete sightseeing in the Rockies including Maligne Canyon, Peyto Lake, Banff Hot Springs and a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain.
• Grand dining including Le Beaujolais in Banff and breakfast at the storied Chateau Lake Louise Hotel the morning we visit this most photographed lake.
• Professional and experienced tour host from Uncommon Journeys.
• Free or low-cost train travel to Los Angeles and the start of the trip.

Our 13-day Great Canadian Pacific cruise/train tour embarks on April 30, 2016 and features only one departure. With a price beginning at just $4,695, it’s sure to be the hottest ticket in town. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


 In the Path of Lewis and Clark

Join us on a very special voyage of discovery which combines a journey aboard our own private vintage Streamliner train, the Great Western Limited, from California to lovely Portland, where an overnight luxury hotel stay awaits you along with plenty of free time. With comfortable Pullman sleeping car accommodations, fine dining with our own chef (all meals, wines and spirits on this special train are included) and magnificent scenery, there is no finer way to travel to the City of Roses. Little touches abound from welcome gifts and fresh flowers to Afternoon Tea. Our guests enjoy not only Vista-Dome travel but a voyage aboard the riverboat Legacy on an epic journey in the path of Lewis and Clark, traveling by river all the way into Idaho on the Columbia River. What can you expect? Check out the day-by-day itinerary:

The colorful Columbia River

Depart the San Francisco Bay Area tonight aboard our special Great Western Limited over the Cascade Route of the Union Pacific Railroad. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy classic train travel at its best in the style of the 1940s with fresh flowers, white linen, comfortable Pullman sleeping cars and grand dining. Free train travel to the San Francisco Bay Area is included today for guests needing connecting travel that reserve early. Once en route, enjoy a special welcome reception with champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries in the Vista-Dome car.

This morning we travel through the Cascade Mountains and a quick ride up the Willamette Valley for an afternoon arrival in the City of Roses. We check into the grandly restored historic Hotel Multnomah where suite accommodations await for an overnight stay. Tonight is a casual welcome dinner at Portland’s most fabled restaurant, Huber’s.

All morning to sleep in with all day to explore the City of Roses. Nearby is fabled Powell’s Book, the best and largest book store in the country, a “must see” destination just a ten-minute walk from our hotel. Also worth seeing is Pioneer Square and the beautiful Rose Garden. We have left the evening at leisure for you to enjoy as you wish.

Situated between the sparkling waters of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, Portland has flourished throughout history with the fortunes of the great rivers. In the golden age of riverboats, sternwheelers crossed Portland’s busy waterfront while steam whistles and calliopes rang out across the water. This afternoon we board the Legacy where we will enjoy champagne and hors d'oeuvres before dinner, and afterwards, gather in the Victorian-style main salon for a route talk in preparation for your journey through time.

Near the Columbia River Gorge entrance, you'll slip through the locks of Bonneville Dam and embark on a private tour of the massive turbines and fish ladders at the dam's Visitor Center. Since 1938, this historic landmark has supplied hydroelectric power. Travel by motorcoach to the towering Multnomah Falls, the tallest falls in Oregon. Back on board, cruise upriver through the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. At 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep, this river canyon cuts the only sea level route through the Cascade Mountains.

After an early morning transit of the McNary Dam, you'll arrive at the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake Rivers. Hillsides reveal the orchards and vineyards of some of the region's 160 wineries. Learn about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and its role in World War II's Manhattan Project. View the surrounding wheat fields and pass by massive wind farm turbines atop the hills. Observe the intricacies of locking through Ice Harbor Dam, followed by the Lower Monumental Dam. Step back in time with colorful stories about pioneer hardships and triumphs.

After your final upriver locking at the Lower Granite Dam, you'll dock in Clarkston to delve into the history and culture of the Nez Perce people. Historical sites connected to the Lewis and Clark Expedition abound in this area, including Clark's first encounter with the Nez Perce in 1805. Board a covered jet boat for an invigorating ride into Hells Canyon. This free-flowing river, hemmed in by vertical cliffs, cuts its way through North America's deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet. Protected as a National Recreation Area since 1975, Hells Canyon preserves a world of fascinating natural and cultural elements. Keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and 7,000-year-old Indian petroglyphs. This evening marks your return downriver for a vibrant combination of Lewis and Clark history, river lore, and wine.

A visit to Fort Walla Walla offers a pioneer village, Living History presentations, a museum, and extensive galleries. Recognized internationally for its award winning wines, turn your attention to the vibrant wine making industry that thrives in and around Walla Walla. This wine country was shaped by its desert-like conditions, rich volcanic terrain, and controlled river irrigation. Enjoy the pride of this appellation with a tour and tasting at one of the region's distinctive wineries.

It's a day of culture at the Maryhill Museum and Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. With its collection of European paintings, Native artifacts, the museum's collection is housed in a castle-like chateau situated on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. The Discovery Center's exhibits provide a look into the area's geologic origins of volcanic upheavals and severe floods; the effects of the Ice Age; pioneer life; and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Transit The Dalles, another of the eight dams harnessing these mighty rivers.

Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, you'll step back in time with a visit to Fort Clatsop and Astoria. Fort Clatsop National Monument is a replica of the encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition during the winter of 1805-1806. The fort was the Corps of Discovery's last encampment before their return trip east to St. Louis. Visit the fascinating Columbia River Maritime Museum and take time to stroll through the quaint Victorian streets of Astoria. Enjoy a Farewell Dinner this evening, then relive the week through photos and storytelling hosted by your Legacy guides.

Your crew serves another excellent breakfast this morning before bidding you “adieu.” Disembark for your included transfer to the Portland airport.

Beginning at just $4,895 per person, this 11-day Pacific Northwest holiday departs June 15, 2016, July 13, 2016, August 10, 2016 and September 7, 2016. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


 Best of the West

Without question, Arches, Canyonlands, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are truly the best the West has to offer and feature some of the most stunning scenery in North America. Arches and Canyonlands with their canyon, mesas and buttes are stunning and must be seen to be believed. Grand Teton, with its jagged mountains, pristine lakes and rich wildlife is a jewel and Yellowstone, with its geysers, hot springs and waterfalls, is a visual feast. Not as well known, but equally splendid is Glacier National Park in Montana with its storied Going to the Sun road over the Continental Divide. Happily, we have combined all five of these great National Parks into one glorious holiday with excellent hotels, epic scenery and intelligent planning. Nicer still, all sightseeing is included, from a float trip on the Snake River during our visit to Grand Teton, to complete touring in Yellowstone including Old Faithful and, during our stay in Glacier National Park, the fabled red open-air “jammer” historic buses. As always, there is a professional tour manager to handle the details from start to finish and most meals are included. For maximum comfort, all but two of our hotel stays are two nights long, something almost no other program offers.

A sweeping tour of the West by private train.

Great destinations deserve a great train and we have re-created a classic 1950s era Streamliner train, similar to such legends as the North Coast Limited, the City of San Francisco and the Denver Zephyr, to convey our guests from Chicago to and from the National Parks in great style and comfort. With a choice of comfortable Pullman sleeping car accommodations, an inviting lounge area with large windows for taking in all of the wonders of the West, our Great Western Limited provides a peerless level of accommodation, dining and service. With our own attentive staff, classic railroad dining (all meals, wines and spirits are included while aboard), plenty of room and a delightful ambiance with amenities such as fresh flowers, afternoon tea, nightly turn-down service and much more, there is simply no finer way to see the West. Best of all, our journey to Utah takes us over the storied Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s “Main Line through the Rockies” with a daylight passage through stunning Glenwood Canyon and the Front Range of the Rockies.

•Train travel from Chicago to Grand Junction, Colorado aboard the Great Western Limited, a scenic overnight trip. Our guests enjoy the stunningly beautiful daylight passage through the Colorado Rockies. All meals, wines & spirits aboard are included.
•Fully hosted from start to finish by professional Tour Manager that handles all the details.
•Three-night deluxe lodging in Moab, Utah at the Red Cliffs Lodge with complete touring of Arches & Canyonlands National Parks.
•Two-night stay at the Four Diamond-rated Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City.
•Two-night visit to Jackson Hole with float trip on the Snake River and complete touring of Grand Teton National Park.
•Two-night stay in Yellowstone National Park along with complete sightseeing including Old Faithful geyser and the amazing Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
•Two-night stay in Whitefish, Montana at the historic Izaak Walton Inn, built by the Great Northern Railroad, with complete sightseeing including the famed red “jammer” buses over the extraordinary “Going to the Sun” Road.
•Train travel from Glacier National Park to Chicago aboard the Great Western Limited, an overnight journey.
•A leisurely, relaxed pace with more time in Grand Teton & Yellowstone than any other deluxe tour offers.
•Many meals including breakfast daily.
•Complete sightseeing throughout including all admission fees.

Beginning at just $4,495 per person, this 15-day trip departs on departing June 11, 2016, July 9, 2016, August 6, 2016 and September 3, 2016. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.



  A Guest’s Travelogue

The wonders of Yellowstone National Park

Here at Uncommon Journeys, we love to hear from those who travel with us and not only do we appreciate the kind words, we also take suggestions on how to enhance each trip to heart. But every once in a while, we get a letter that is more than just a few nice comments or helpful suggestions. Sometimes we get a letter that is actually more of a travelogue that really gives a sense of what one of our trips is all about.

A gentlemen by the name of Mario G. and his wife recently completed a vacation through the national parks of the western United States, visiting Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks, a trio of parks that are, in our opinion, almost unbeatable. Many of our trips feature our private train while others offer travel on Amtrak and this particular trip was the latter.

“It was one of the most enjoyable conducted vacations we have had and we are very experienced travelers,” Mario wrote us. “I would say we are rather picky when it comes to our standards for a vacation.”

I’m happy to say, it appears we were able to meet those standards in our accommodations, tour guide, accommodation. Mario notes that they “started on Amtrak at Union Station in Chicago - our first trip on Amtrak in 44 years in the US - and were pleasantly surprised with the food, service and personnel. In Essex, Montana near Glacier National Park, we stayed at a charming old historic railroad hotel called the Izaak Walton Lodge, which was clean and comfortable and the food was good.”

“We spent the next week travelling by luxury motorcoach with the same excellent driver, Ernie, and the same excellent tour manager, Conrad Tausend, throughout,” he goes on to explain. “The bus was comfortable, with an indoor toilet and aircraft-style seats. The unflappable Ernie kept us safe and on schedule and Conrad has to be one of the best tour managers around. He is a diligent and conscientious perfectionist always looking ahead and anticipating what could come next. He worked so hard to prepare for each segment and to keep us fed and amused and informed with details large and small about the surroundings we were passing through. Other things being equal I would pick a trip with Conrad anytime we take another tour with this company.”

I can vouch for the fact that Conrad is universally loved by our guests. He hosts the most trips each year and I can’t recall the last time anyone ever had a negative comment when Conrad was at the helm of one of our journeys.”

But for Mario, the best was yet to come. “We toured Glacier National Park in their unique, antique, red buses built by White Motor Company and later reconditioned by Ford Motor Company, and took a boat cruise on Lake McDonald - all very scenic, enjoyable and informative,” he wrote. “The next night was spent at the Fairmont Hot Springs Hotel outside Butte, Montana. It was an excellent hotel with pools heated by water from nearby hot springs.”

A taste of the years gone by was in store as well with a stop in “Montana at a place called Virginia City, a virtual Old West museum of a small city, where vigilantes kept the peace back in the day and bad guys were quickly sentenced and dispatched at the end of a rope. Those were the days when capital punishment was actually a deterrent because it was swift and certain. Being a bad guy was like playing Russian Roulette. It didn't stop everyone but they never had repeat offenders either!”

“The next two nights were spent at the Lake Yellowstone Lodge where we stayed in very clean and comfortable rustic cabins and ate at a superb restaurant in the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel down the road. Conrad had hired one of the best park guides you could possibly find at Yellowstone named Mike Stevens, who was not only an expert on the park but wry and funny as well. We saw buffaloes galore at Yellowstone and one even strolled through our cabin village. They are as nonchalant as can be and no one messes with them. Traffic stops when they decide to cross the road. Everyone should visit Yellowstone - an amazing miracle of nature – which is actually a volcanic time-bomb not expected to blow for another few thousand years. Whew!  That's a relief!”

“The next day we headed south and stopped to eat at one of the nicest little restaurants in the boonies, in Montpelier, Idaho called Cooper's Kitchen. After lunch we stopped by the Bank of Montpelier, whose claim to fame was once being robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The historic building is now a gift shop of old American memorabilia.  When I asked the owner where her accent came from it was - are you ready for this - the Czech Republic. She was a little shy about selling old American memorabilia until I told her, who better to promote old Americana than an immigrant who appreciates this country? Many of us immigrants grew up on Americana elsewhere and take more delight in it than many Americans who were born here who tend to take this country for granted.”

“The next stop was at one of the most spectacular mountain panoramas anywhere - the Grand Teton range from the Grand Teton Lodge, up there with anything you will see in the Alps and Himalayas. That night was spent at Jackson Hole with a drink at the Million Dollar Bar and an evening at an outdoor BBQ and Wild West Show at Cache Canyon - the Bar T 5 Chuck Wagon Show. We went to the concert at the end of the canyon in real horse-drawn chuck-wagons. The award winning fiddler at the show, James Arbizce, was young but would give Johnny Cash and Charlie Daniels a run for their money with his world-class renditions of Wabash Cannonball and The Devil Came down to Jackson. The next day was another scenic drive south through Utah past Salt Lake City to a little town called Price, where we spent the night and caught a train early next morning in a little town called Helper for the 30 plus hour Amtrak journey back to Chicago. It took a few days of withdrawal to get back down to Earth from this trip.”



The Empire Builder

The dramatic scenery surrounding the Empire Builder.

Here at Uncommon Journeys, we believe that luxury train travel does more than just connect two points on map, we believe it spans time and by boarding a train, you are immersing yourself in a cocoon that blocks out today’s world and can take you to a place that those who don’t travel by rail can never understand. The Empire Builder is one such train.

When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to explore the West and lead an expedition to the Pacific, they paved the way for millions of settlers and the emergence of a nation. We all know the story by now. They were joined by a 15-year old Native American woman named Sacagawea, endured immeasurable hardships and eventually reached coastal Oregon where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific. Their journals chronicling the geography, flora and fauna enlightened a nation as to what lay beyond the Mississippi River.

Eventually, early settlers followed in their path with covered wagons and as our nation grew, so did the desire to head West. Eventually, the railroads straddled the nation and portions of Lewis and Clark’s epic journey became part of one of the most famed rail routes in America.

Appropriately, the train on that route became known as the Empire Builder, for the vision of Lewis and Clark had, indeed, laid the foundation for an American Empire that stretched from the Caribbean far out into the Pacific. But when Great Northern Railway launched the first Empire Builder on June 11, 1929, the name was not intended to honor Lewis and Clark but instead James J. Hill, an old-time railroad man who had consolidated a number of weak railroads into the Great Northern Railway and then had the foresight to run the line to the Pacific Northwest back in the late 1800s. The advent of World War II provided a steady stream of passengers for the Empire Builder as military men moved between the Midwest and the industrial plants of the Pacific Northwest.

With the shortages caused by war rationing behind them, Great Northern introduced sleek diesel-powered locomotives in 1947 and by the 1950s, a scenic dome car had joined the train for the use of the first class passengers. Just like today, the Empire Builder was scheduled to travel through the most scenic areas of the Cascade ad Rocky Mountains during daylight, particularly Glacier National Park which Great Northern had a big part in getting established through extensive lobby efforts in Washington.

Running from Chicago to Spokane with ongoing service to both Portland and Seattle by other trains, the Empire Builder today is Amtrak’s busiest route and single busiest train, carrying nearly a half a million people every year with two trains daily, one headed in each direction.

Why is the Empire Builder so popular? As lovers of train travel can appreciate, the elements that combine to make a “Great Train” are composed of a dollop of history, a dash of elegance and comfort and a big spoonful of majestic scenery. On all three counts, the Empire Builder delivers.

There is no more rewarding feeling than to curl up next to the expansive windows of your private streamliner and watch nature’s wonders unfold before you, new vistas around every bend, towering mountains to one side, raging wilderness rivers or expansive prairies to the other. If you press your ear to the glass and listen carefully, you just might hear the echoes of Lewis & Clark more than two centuries ago as they expanded the bounds of what America believed to be possible. Let us do the same for you today on our 15-day Best of the West train trips departing June 11, 2016, July 9, 2016, August 6, 2016 and September 3, 2016; and our 10-day Wonders of the West train tours departing June 24, 2016, July 22, 2016 and August 19, 2016.


Aboard the Great Western Limited

Dinner is a grand affair on the rails.

Here at Uncommon Journeys we get a lot of questions about our trips, both from those who are already booked and those who are considering a vacation with us. And most of those questions revolve around the train travel portion of our journeys, especially in regards to our private train, the Great Western Limited. Our marketing copy only tells part of the story. We tell you that “your own private vintage Streamliner train, the Great Western Limited, features comfortable Pullman sleeping car accommodations, fine dining with our own chef (all meals, wines & spirits on this special train are included) and magnificent scenery; there is no finer way to travel.” There’s a fabulous Vista-Dome car with panoramic viewing and our staff quickly gets to know you by name and your individual drink preferences. It sounds utterly fantastic, right? But what is it REALLY like? What is it like to ride on a fully restored classic, sleek train from the 1950s? Take a look above at out favorite moment aboard: dinner!

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 and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.


New Train Added to Existing Itinerary

The Great Western Limited is the perfect start to a riverboat adventure.

It never hurts to improve on a classic and popular trip and that’s just what we’ve done with our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark riverboat and train tours departing June 15, 2016, July 13, 2016, August 10, 2016 and September 7, 2016. For 2016, we’ve added a special treat to begin the vacation. Rather than starting in Portland, we’ve added a new twist and begin in California with a ride to Portland on our private Vista-Dome Streamliner train, the beloved Great Western Limited. What better way to set the mood for the entire trip than with a lovingly-restored classic train straight from the Golden Age of Rail travel with complimentary wines and spirits, elegant cuisine, impeccable service and the romance of the rails?

Once in Portland, a two-night overnight luxury hotel stay awaits you along with plenty of free time. After a special welcome dinner and a restful night’s sleep, our guests board the riverboat Legacy for a seven-night voyage on the Columbia River. Built in the style of the grand riverboats of the 19th century, the Legacy takes guests to sights such as Mount St. Helens, Astoria, Columbia River Gorge, Stevenson, Pendleton, Maryhill, Bonneville Dam, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Lewiston. This is no ordinary cruise. Excellent dining is featured, all cabins are outside with a window or veranda, service is superb and little extras like soft drinks, snacks, and appetizers at cocktail hour are all complimentary. The June and August sailings even feature a wine theme onboard highlighting the history and wines of the many Columbia River viticultural areas.


Luxury in Yellowstone

Luxury in Yellowstone

A meeting of two stately queens. Photo courtesy of Cunard Line.

Yellowstone National Park, which is featured on dozens of our trips each year, is a rugged wilderness. That, of course, is its appeal. But nestled in the middle of nowhere, right on the shores of Lake Yellowstone, is an extraordinary structure that brings elegance to the frontier. Lake Yellowstone Hotel dates to 1891, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been gradually expanded through the years. Next door are a series of quaint cabins, each pained a cheery yellow. Our guests stay in the cabins and have access to all the hotel’s amenities, including a wonderful restaurant where you can dine with a view of the lake and the wildlife as the sun sets over the mountains. It’s like stepping back in time to the early 19th century but with all the modern conveniences of the 21st century!


Robert Frost


“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by – and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost


Wine and Cheese Pairings

Wine and cheese celebration aboard the Great Western Limited.  

Aboard our private trains such as the Great Western Limited, Montreal Limited or Panama Limited, we always impress our guests with elegant cuisine, white glove service, fine china, complimentary wines and spirits and the camaraderie of travel by classic Vista-Dome Streamliner train. But we recently worked with our train provider Pullman Rail Journeys, to take things one step further with the introduction of a wine and cheese mixer in the early evening before dinner.

It has been a huge hit with our guests and in honor of its success, we wanted to share with you a few of our favorite wine and cheese pairings. As you can imagine, with so many wines and hundreds of different kind of cheeses (and variations within the flavors of the same kinds of cheese depending upon the cheesemaker), it’s not an easy task to sort through the possibilities.

However, keep in mind that cheese comes in four general categories. Blue cheeses may or may not have blue coloring but they are always pungent and often quite salty. Hard cheeses are firm to the touch and are sometimes aged to provide a sharp flavor and hint of salt. Fresh cheeses aren’t often aged and they are soft but keep in mind that they can be either mild or have a strong tangy element, thus making pairing difficult because the flavors vary wildly. Last are the bloomy cheeses, usually with soft rinds, that are luxurious and extremely creamy (creamier than the soft fresh cheeses).

Champagne goes well with Camembert while Chardonnay is the perfect partner for a creamy Brie. Merlot goes best with Gouda, a Cabernet Sauvignon tastes remarkable with a simple Cheddar cheese, and if you have some hard Parmesan in the house, then break out an affordable bottle of Chianti (and you wondered why Italian food and Chianti go so well together). There are no hard and fast rules, but Gruyere complements the notes of Sauvignon Blanc and a Double Gloucester brings out the flavors of a good Zinfandel.

Because the dominant flavor profile of fresh cheeses can vary so much, getting just the right wine is even more important. A bold Goat Cheese needs something like a Chenin Blanc to stand up to the strong flavors while a gentler Mozzarella goes well with a Sauvignon Blanc. Try Pinot Grigio with fresh Ricotta and if you want some Feta, open a bottle of Beaujolais.

As you can imagine, blue cheeses are so full of flavor and have such strong aromas that only the boldest and most full-bodied wines will do. The sweetness of a Riesling enhances the tang of Blue cheese while a Port meets its match with Gorgonzola.

If you’re pairing wines and cheese, do what we do and add some crackers, grapes, pears and strawberries to cleanse the palate as you move along. If you don’t want to wait until your trip on our private train to discover the pairing that suits you best, then check out Wine Enthusiast Magazine who offer a great chart that details dozens of wine and cheese pairings along with a advice on the best serving temperatures, how to present the cheeses and sure-fire tips to throwing a successful wine and cheese party.

Some of our most popular trips that feature a private train adventure, complete with wine and cheese celebration, include our 10-day Magnolia Holiday train tour departing March 2, 2016 and November 26, 2016; our 12-day Passage to British Honduras cruise and train tour departing December 3, 2015, March 17, 2016 and December 1, 2016 date; our 14-day Great Western Explorer train tour departing May 14, 2016 and October 22, 2016; our 15-day Best of the West train tour departing June 11, 2016, July 9, 2016, August 6, 2016 and September 3, 2016; our 7-day Golden Gate Holiday train tour departing June 11, 2016 and August 6, 2016; our 16-day Yosemite to Denali cruise and train tour departing June 12, 2016, July 10 2016, and August 7, 2016; our 12-day Great National Parks of the West train tour departing July 4, 2016 and August 25, 2016; our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark riverboat and train tour departing June 15, 2016, July 13, 2016, August 10, 2016 and September 7, 2016; and our 10-day Journey to the Great Smokey Mountains train tour departing October 8, 2016.


  A Guide to National Parks

The other-worldly beauty of Arches National Park.

Uncommon Journeys takes guest to National Parks. Quite a few of them, in fact. Most of our trips feature a stop in at least one National Park and many trips are built entirely around visiting these incredible natural wonders. Here’s a quick overview of each of the primary parks to which we offer tours, as described in the words of the National Park Service (NPS). In some cases, the journey is by train, in others it incorporates a voyage on an ocean liner, in still others it features both. But no matter how you view them, there’s nothing quite like a National Park.

Visit Arches and discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. This red rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.

Canyonlands invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

Denali is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America's tallest peak, 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await.

Come and experience Glacier's pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a hiker's paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude. Relive the days of old through historic chalets, lodges, transportation, and stories of Native Americans. Explore Glacier National Park and discover what awaits you.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms your senses through its immense size.
Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

Rising above a scene rich with extraordinary wildlife, pristine lakes, and alpine terrain, the Teton Range stands monument to the people who fought to protect it. These are mountains of the imagination. Mountains that led to the creation of Grand Teton National Park where you can explore over two hundred miles of trails, float the Snake River or enjoy the serenity of this remarkable place.

Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park.

Volcanoes are monuments to Earth's origin, evidence that its primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption.

Old Faithful and the majority of the world's geysers are preserved here. They are the main reason the park was established in 1872 as America's first National Park—an idea that spread worldwide. A mountain wildland that is home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.

Not just a great valley, this park is a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra. First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.


Nature’s Zoo

Deer by the roadside are common in National Parks.

At Uncommon Journeys, we don’t just seek out train routes for the sake of riding a train, we find tracks that take you into the landscape and give you the chance not only to marvel at majestic mountains, ford raging rapids or take comfort beneath towering pine, but to see wildlife in its natural habitat as well.

It can be startling the first time you come upon a bison on a plain and realize that there is no fence separating you from its quizzical stare. But that is the beauty of the destinations we visit and the Natural Parks that we explore. We all loved the zoo when we were kids but there was always something unnatural about the animals. They had been tamed simply by virtue of living in captivity. It seemed as if there was a spark missing from their eyes.

But that’s not the case when traveling with Uncommon Journeys. Many of our guests don’t realize the variety of animals and birds that can be seen until they take one of our vacations. In Arches National Park, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, owls, hawks, and eagles abound. Zion National Park in Utah is a showcase for canyon tree frogs which begin to call as dusk approaches. Once the sun sets, mountain lions, porcupines and red spotted toads roam (or hop across) the landscape.

As you might imagine, Yosemite National Park is an animal lover’s paradise. There are more than 400 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals, some indigenous only to the region such as a California ground squirrel. Look for acorn woodpeckers and Western fence lizards. The Sierra Nevada red fox delights visitors as do mule deer and black bears. Spotted owls, the white-headed woodpecker and bobcat also inhabit this remarkable park. Birders keep their binoculars handy looking for the hermit thrush, Steller’s jay, marten and northern goshawk. Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are found in the Yosemite area around Tioga Pass, where a small, reintroduced population exists.

Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, popular spots on many of our journeys, are no slouches when it comes to wildlife either. Glacier National Park has a wide diversity of habitats that support everything from northern bog lemmings to prairie elk. But no visit is complete without a grizzly bear sighting; the park has one of the largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states. You also might see snow-white mountain goats from your train’s observation car as you glide across the Continental Divide.

Yellowstone is home to more wildlife than almost any other place in America. There are over 1,000 black and grizzly bears but also a growing population of gray wolves. Nearly 25,000 elk roam the park during the summer and the male’s bugles echo off the mountains as they lay claim to harems of females. They moose population is now as high as 800 and mule deer number over 2,500. Bighorn sheep are a big hit with our guests and Yellowstone has about 250 wandering freely through the landscape. Bald eagles also flourish here. Few things are more majestic than watching an eagle ride the afternoon thermals in the shadow of Yellowstone’s peaks.


Guests Speak Up

“My husband and I are repeat travelers with Uncommon Journeys. This was our fourth trip. We have been more than impressed with each of our experiences! The planning is excellent - sights, accommodations, meals, and especially the tour guides. We will follow Conrad anywhere. The refurbished trains are cool and the staff is excellent. We will continue to travel with Uncommon Journeys and you all do a great job.” - Jeanne & Bill E. - Gainesville, FL

“My wife and I just concluded your Wonders of the West tour and wished to provide you with feedback on the trip. We would first like to compliment you on your outstanding staff who worked so hard to make our trip so enjoyable. Kevin who booked us, Anthony who gave us a great place to stay in Oakland while waiting for our train home, our bus driver, Tom, who was always there to help us on or off and of course our tour manager, Conrad, whose knowledge, thoughtfulness, attention to detail and good humor made the trip so enjoyable. We really enjoyed the Charles Russell Museum and the Irish bar nearby where we had lunch and tried Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey with our fish and chips. The parks provided us with amazing scenery and Snake River rafting was fun. My wife Debbie really enjoyed the western barbecue and entertainment in Jackson Hole; the talent and humor was amazing. Thank you for the wonderful trip. The people that we interfaced with all enjoyed the trip and we certainly will be looking at you again for future travel. Conrad worked very hard to make this a great trip and even found some donuts for me in Wyoming. What a knowledgeable tour manager!”
- Bill & Debbie G.

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