Canada to Belize without flying?

Old Jul 14th, 2018, 06:39 PM
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Canada to Belize without flying?

Yes, this year's summer trip was especially loco. Some of you may have seen me do similar trips in the past that were similarly loco. I do know I'm lucky that I'm a prof with 2 months vacation. And had a friend who was willing to do a big chunk of it with me thanks to his having an Amtrak voucher he had to use. This post is written from Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo, post Belize, so I've done what I set out to do, seeing Belize for the first time ever combined with a mega-Mexico trip where I enhanced my knowledge of a country that has had me enamoured for well over a decade now.

Basic Trip Outline (beginning in Montreal):
Train Stops (all Amtrak):
New York City (family)
Washington DC (family)
Chicago (met friend)
San Antonio**
St Louis*

Bus/Boat Stops:
Monterrey**
Zacatecas*
Queretaro
Puebla** (friend split off to Mexico City)
Villahermosa*
Chetumal*
Belize City (Altun Ha/baboon sanctuary)*
Caye Caulker*
San Luis Potosí
Real de Catorce*

I put single asterisks by the places I've never been before, double asterisks by places where I have been but discovered something interesting that I wanted to share. These locales will be the focus of my report when I am able.

Here are the bus lines I've taken in Mexico: Turimex Internacional (SA-Monterrey)(Grupo Senda), Omnibus de Mexico, ETN, ADO, Marlin Espadas (Chetumal- Belize City). And these boats: San Pedro Water Taxis (Belize City- Caye Caulker) and Water Jets International (Caye Caulker-San Pedro-Chetumal).

My 36-year-old friend thought this one of the most amazing trips he's ever done for the part we did together. For my part, I have had so many incredible "first-in-a-lifetime" experiences that I feel very grateful to have had--and I'm no spring chicken either at 47. It's been a terrific trip so far, that is.

Happy summer...details to come.

Last edited by Daniel_Williams; Jul 14th, 2018 at 06:43 PM. Reason: improve the clarity
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Old Jul 14th, 2018, 08:46 PM
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Will be fun and interesting to read more.
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 05:23 AM
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Can't wait to hear more!
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 06:42 AM
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Thanks Sassafras & schmerl

For the US rail part of the journey, just a few heads-up, since I've written about this before.

#1. Trains from upstate NY just for summer are temporarily shifted to Grand Central station. Which means a switch of station to Penn Station is necessary if you have to go further south on Amtrak.
#2. One of the joys of taking sleeper class is the dining car. The Lakeshore Limited and Capitol Limited now offer instead these pre-packaged boxes ("contemporary dining pilot project") they said in their email to me long after I'd bought my ticket. Grilled Caesar chicken I got--edible but uninspiring and there was a ton of waste despite all the promo about it being greener. It's a giant step downhill in quality. These trains showcase the USA as part of a transcontinental journey (how numerous passengers from around the world I've met discover America) and should be a source of pride--seems a pity that the latest tendency of the leadership is to make the
ride worse. Luckily, the Texas Eagle was still offering the dining car, where the salmon was excellent!

There were lovely parts of the journey, including the scenery around Harper's Ferry and meeting my Montrealer friend in Chicago to show him the lake, "the Bean" and the water spouting from the walls. His first time exploring Chicago, he enjoyed its energy. However, having done this ride before, I will focus instead on what was new.

*San Antonio Missions*

I had been to San Antonio before but only stuck around the Alamo & Riverwalk area. This year, to mix things up, I took the #40 city bus ($2.75 day pass), which is the bus entitled "Missions" that stops at Alamo Square and stops in front of the other 4 missions. We opted for the San Jose Mission, founded in 1720, that took one back to Spanish colonial times with its expansive grounds and handsome stone buildings (one with a dome), archways, and chapel as well as the Coahuiltecans that chose to live in the enclave. There is a 20-minute film at this World Heritage Site that gives an overview of the history of the Coahuiltecan people and the mission. The oldest mill in Texas is also found here. A great way to spend a few hours! Saw Concepción Mission in the distance & thought if life brings me to San Antonio again, I'd like to check it out and the other two missions (San Juan & Espada).

*Upcoming: Spectacular Grutas de Garcia (Monterrey) & Zacatecas in Mexico/Central America*

Last edited by Daniel_Williams; Jul 15th, 2018 at 06:56 AM. Reason: wanted to thank schmerl also
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 09:00 AM
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Excellent!!! How exciting. (bookmarking to hear more)
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 03:03 PM
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Pictures from San Antonio and Chicago
Inside chapel Mission San José


Mission San José. A reminder of the proximity of Mexico in San Antonio.


One of my favourite places in Chicago!
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 05:07 PM
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Looking forward to another Daniel Williams' thread about one of my favorite countries, Mexico.
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 08:50 PM
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Thanks Suze and fra_diavolo. For any interested, I've begun the Mexico/Central American part of the journey in the Mexico/Central America forum: US Border to Belize by bus!
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 04:58 AM
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I love reading your reports.
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Old Jul 25th, 2018, 01:00 PM
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Last stop: St Louis, thoughts to come
From the top of the Arch


Old Courthouse & Arch ensemble


Great view of stadium from up high
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Old Jul 26th, 2018, 01:09 PM
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Wow, no dining car! That's a real shame.
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Old Jul 28th, 2018, 11:23 AM
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Thursdaysd-- I know! I was planning on writing a letter to the Amtrak CEO (as the staff told us to do if we were dissatisfied) to say what a pity it was that the dining car was being taken away, which in my opinion, created part of the magic of that cross-continental journey.

Others-- For those who might be interested, I have included the Saint Louis part of this trip as a separate report, to hopefully capture the attention of those considering travelling there.

Amtrak: St. Louis---An Interesting Slice of the USA.
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Old Jul 28th, 2018, 12:16 PM
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Yes, please write that letter! I enjoyed dinner on the Lake Shore a lot, and have been thinking of taking the Capitol Limited, but... You might mention that the lack of a dining car could be a deal breaker.
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Old Jul 29th, 2018, 07:44 PM
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Great report, Daniel and I'm glad you made it to the San Jose mission. I just found these missions more rewarding than the Alamo in understanding what life was like.
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Old Jul 30th, 2018, 08:28 AM
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5alive-- I thank you again for your advice in the planning stages of this trip! I had wanted to go to Concepcion as well, but friend's stomach was rumbling after San Jose ready for lunch and he felt like we were going to see many more similar sites in Mexico, so we ended up seeing just the one.

thursdaysd-- I wrote a letter to Amtrak on this matter and I hope others do the same!
Below is the letter I wrote:

"Hi, This summer you installed a pilot project where pre-prepared meals are now provided to the sleeping car passengers in boxes on the Capitol Limited and Lakeshore Limited trains-- I took both trains this summer. I have been a regular Amtrak customer on the sleeper routes for many years now, and I feel this project should unquestionably be dropped. I understand that there is likely a "cost-saving" motive behind this decision but I wonder if with the passenger dissatisfaction if this will actually result in money loss. Having also taken many trains with the dining car, I can unequivocally state that the experience of the dining car (which I have experienced on many other trips) is a far superior one and brings a certain magic to taking the sleeper car trains. Remember, that the DC/NY/Boston to Chicago routes are part of the transcontinental journey by which Amtrak showcases America, is a way by which many foreign nationals discover the USA and should be something which the nation should be proud of. The dining car created a magic, as passengers would speak to other passengers as they experienced some of America's amazing scenery, and would create a moment of bonding and camaraderie. Having taken both the Silver Meteor and Texas Eagle this year, I can also tell you that I had been telling people on travel sites as well as my train-loving friends, how much I felt that Amtrak had been making efforts to make the food options in the dining car of higher quality--the Signature Steak for example and the Salmon I had on the Texas Eagle last month were truly phenomenal, and I salute the cooks for the great job they did. With the box breakfast & meals, I feel my recommendation would have to be qualified--a train-lover on a travel site I go to stated that for her the loss of the dining car was a deal-breaker! I understand the desire to try new things but please drop this project and bring back the dining car (maybe on the Silver Star also while you're at it)."
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Old Jul 30th, 2018, 08:47 AM
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Thanks Daniel! Will do the same. Wonder if it's worth contacting Mark Smith to ask him to write, I see he has noted the change on seat61.
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