Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes
"Travelers411" Radio Show - October 09, 2010 - Show Archive

Fall Foliage and Revolutionary History with National Park Service Trails and Rails Program and Amtrak's Adirondack Route, Albany, New York; Discover Charming Charleston At Relais & Chateaux Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

Listen to the show in Windows Media Format:     hour1     hour2

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Bill Russom, Volunteer Guide, National Park Service Trails & Rails with Amtrak, Albany, New York, USA.
www.amtrak.com
www.nps.gov/trailsandrails

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show take the train through New York with Bill Russom, Volunteer Guide with the National Park Service Trails & Rails, based in Albany, New York. Stephanie is traveling from Albany to Plattsburgh, but Amtrak's Adirondack route stretches from New York City all the way to Montreal. "If you're coming up to Albany or the Hudson Valley area, the leaves are putting on the most magnificent show right now," she says.

Amtrak dome car.
Amtrak dome car.

Bill has been volunteering with Trails and Rails for 4 years now; he started right after retiring from working for New York State. "I saw a little ad in the local paper," he says. "I love this route—I had worked it in my job for the state—so it just matched perfectly." Stephanie and Bill are talking in Amtrak's special Dome Car, which has parlor-style seating and gives passengers a better view of the passing scenery.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams at Amtrak Station in NY.
Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams at Amtrak Station in NY.

"We'll be going along a highway that people have been traveling for over 5,000 years, ever since the Native Americans settled in the Lake Champlain and Hudson Valley areas," Bill explains. "General Burgoyne took this route to Saratoga back in 1777, so it's an historic route, too." Like Stephanie, Bill will be getting off at Plattsburgh; the volunteer guides spend about two hours talking with passengers but rarely go all the way to Montreal.

Amtrak auto train loading motorcycles on train.
Amtrak auto train loading motorcycles on train.

Passengers can learn about local geography, history, and natural sights by talking with the guides. "I usually talk about beaver and muskrat lodges and a variety of birds, especially along Lake Champlain," Bill says. "There are massive amounts of great blue herons and if we're lucky, we may see some bald eagles. The most dramatic spot is probably Fort Ticonderoga, which played a part in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. It's visible from the train, just before the Ticonderoga station, where you can get off to visit the fort. It's pretty dramatic."

Amtrak auto train.
Amtrak auto train.

The train also passes over the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal, which are the same body of water for most of the river's length. "We just came through Schenectady, which has a great industrial past, and we're heading through a forested area toward Saratoga Springs," Bill says. "In 1917, they built a barge canal that transformed the Erie Canal into a waterway that accepts pretty large boats. Today, it's mostly smaller pleasure boats on the old, narrow canal."

Amtrak dining car.
Amtrak dining car.

It's easy for Stephanie and Bill to see the river from the Dome Car, which is the same length as a regular passenger car but almost ten feet higher. "You're sitting much higher, so you have a better perspective," Bill notes. "You'll notice that we're actually above the power lines." The Dome Car is the only one of its kind in the Amtrak fleet. It was most recently on the West Coast, running along the Pacific, but is currently in the Northeast for foliage season. Stephanie compares it to cars on the Amtrak Auto Train, which she took from Virginia to Florida.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2242

For more information visit www.amtrak.com and www.nps.gov/trailsandrails


Link to this segment

George Lerrigo, Volunteer Guide, National Park Service Trails & Rails with Amtrak, Albany New York, USA.
www.amtrak.com
www.nps.gov/trailsandrails

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show continue their journey through upstate New York with George Lerrigo, Volunteer Guide with the National Park Service Trails and Rails program in partnership with Amtrak in Albany, New York. Stephanie and George are riding in Amtrak's Dome Car, which will be running three times a week on the Adirondack route from New York City to Montreal through October 2010.

Amtrak dome car.
Amtrak dome car.

"Fall is the prettiest time up here, and having the dome makes it that much more accessible," says George, "but the train is also dependable year-round transport. More importantly, it's one of the few international trains operated by Amtrak and goes right into the heart of Montreal." Stephanie has taken the train all the way into Quebec on previous trips and enjoyed being taken into an underground complex, so she didn't have to go outside in February.

Along the northern route.
Along the northern route.

"Taking the train is a way to travel in space and time," says George. "There are 400 years of history along this line, and we're eager to share it with the passengers. Every trip is different, the people are great, and there are lots of smiles, so it's always fun to do." He encourages listeners to take the Maple Leaf route from New York City to Syracuse and Toronto, which runs through the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor and offers a similar Trails and Rails program. Other routes with volunteer guides include the Missouri Service, Kansas City Mule, Empire Builder, and California Zephyr, according to George.

Along the northern route.
Along the northern route.

Stephanie suggests using the train as a jumping-off point for exploring upstate New York. "You could get off before the border—maybe at Plattsburgh—and either rent a car or turn around," she says. "In Saratoga Springs, which has the cutest little train station, you could get off, have a lovely day at the racetrack, and go back home. Train travel is really civilized; train passengers are often very sophisticated travelers and have a lot to talk about."

VIA station in Toronto Canada.
VIA station in Toronto Canada.

George recommends getting off at Saratoga to see the Saratoga Battlefield site at Bemis Heights along the Hudson River. "This was a route used for generations for both transportation and invasion," he says. Travelers can also visit the fort at Ticonderoga, which was originally built by the French, who called it Fort Clarion. "In 1777, there were numerous attempts to take Fort Ticonderoga. Burgoyne came down with a large army and had a long, slow slog down Lake Champlain. He was able to take Ticonderoga, but at Bemis Heights, the colonials had just as many troops," George explains.

Amtrak lounge car.
Amtrak lounge car.

After battles at Bemis Heights in September and October of 1777, General Burgoyne decided to give up and move his troops back to Quebec. News of the colonial forces' success reached Benjamin Franklin, who was in Paris at the time, and convinced France to enter the Revolutionary War on the Americans' side. Since the battlefield site is just 10 miles from the train route, George feels it's well worth a visit for passengers.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2242

For more information visit www.amtrak.com and www.nps.gov/trailsandrails


Fun Facts:

Lake Champlain is 110 miles long, up to 428 feet deep, and the sixth biggest lake in the U.S. in terms of area.


Guests Include:

Bill Russom, Volunteer Guide, National Park Service Trails & Rails with Amtrak, Albany, New York, USA.
www.amtrak.com
www.nps.gov/trailsandrails

George Lerrigo, Volunteer Guide, National Park Service Trails & Rails with Amtrak, Albany New York, USA.
www.amtrak.com
www.nps.gov/trailsandrails

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Mr. Emmanuel Gardinier, Managing Director, Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
www.plantersinn.com
www.relaischateaux.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show learn about a hotel with Southern charm with Emmanuel Gardinier, Managing Director of Planters Inn in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Planters Inn is a member of Relais & Chateaux; Emmanuel has long worked at R&C properties, including Eden Rock on St. Barths and Les Crayeres in the Champagne region of France. He's French, Swiss, and now an American, too.

Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

"Charleston seduced me away; it's an incredible city," Emmanuel says. "Plus my wife is from South Carolina, so that helps." He visited Planters Inn as a guest a few years ago, decided he wanted to work at the hotel, and finally joined the staff two years ago. "My first impression was of the real Southern charm of the place," he continues. "It's not a typical hotel. When you're in the room, it feels more like you're in a house. There's a real integration into the culture of the city that just blew me away, and the staff was extremely hospitable in a Southern way."

Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

The Planters Inn building dates from 1844 and was originally a dry goods store. The property is located in downtown Charleston on the historic market. "We try to really blend into the city center," Emmanuel says. "The local community takes pride in keeping up the historic character. Just a block away, there are historic houses you can visit that are still lived in. There are parks everywhere and an incredible amount of churches, all within walking distance. Charleston has a really well-preserved feel, and we're very happy to be part of that."

Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

The hotel has 64 rooms spread out over two buildings, with a courtyard in between. All guest rooms are decorated with handmade historic Charleston furniture. According to Emmanuel, the Planters Inn has the biggest bedrooms in downtown Charleston and some of the largest bathrooms, all decorated in Italian marble. The property also boasts the Peninsula Grill, which, he says, has been rated the best downtown restaurant for the past 12 years.

Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

Emmanuel recommends that visitors to Charleston spend time just taking in the city. "There are so many small downtown streets with incredible homes and museums," he says. "You can lose a whole day just walking around and looking. It's an amazing preserved city and the charm of it is incredible. Even people who are here on business can take half a day to do a carriage tour and really see the city. If you're in the South, you need to visit Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2241

For more information visit www.plantersinn.com and www.relaischateaux.com


Travel Tips:

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams suggests taking the train to a destination, then renting a car. She once arrived in London, took a train to Inverness, Scotland, rented a car to explore Inverness, and then returned to London by train. On her most recent trip to the UK, Stephanie arrived in London, took the train to Holyhead, Wales, rode with Irish Ferries to Dublin, and then rented a car in Ireland.

Cliveden House.
Cliveden House.

Travelers who arrive in London using a BritRail pass receive a day pass to the London Underground.

The member services department of your credit card company can help find a hotel room in a pinch. When all of London's hotel rooms were booked up for Fashion Week, the American Express member services office helped Stephanie find a room at Cliveden, the former home of the Astors just outside the city.


Fun Facts:

The Berkshire area of England is pronounced more like 'Barkshire.'


Guests Include:

Mr. Emmanuel Gardinier, Managing Director, Planters Inn, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
www.plantersinn.com
www.relaischateaux.com

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