Two long whistle signals announce the release of train brakes. The locomotive chugs forward with telltale clouds of smoke spewing from a sooty stack. Ever so methodically, the engine puffs away, turning hot-fired coal into harnessed steam energy. Though it’s a crude and raw type of power, this is the stuff that captures the imagination and dreams of many a child and adult who feel connected with rails of a different era. It’s the coal-fired Cumbres & Toltec — a dream steam machine. To ride the steam-operated, narrow-gauge Cumbres & Toltec is to directly experience the nostalgic romance of trains and how they played such a major role in taming the Wild West. The bonus is the excursion covers some of the prettiest 64 miles of railroad track in America. The eight-hour journey hops between the state lines of Colorado and New Mexico a total of 11 times, all the while traversing through a splendid array of five life zones of the Southern Rockies. From sagebrush-covered high plains to the sub-alpine zone of Cumbres Pass, passengers pass through patches of piñon, juniper, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, conifers and aspens to the high altitude forests of spruce fir. Depending on the season, you may see wildflowers, fall foliage or even an occasional snow flurry. My ride in the middle of May was like experiencing four seasons in the span of a day. It’s a testament to the unrestrained nature and majestic beauty of this part of the country. Of course, the crowning glory is just being able to experience the regal narrow-gauge engine scaling the 4 percent grade to Cumbres Pass at 10,015 feet. Opened in 1880, the railroad carried silver ore, timber and livestock along with passengers on 3-foot-wide tracks. The narrow gauge was designed to traverse mountainous terrain and negotiate tight curves standard trains couldn’t handle. The two railways were originally part of the larger Denver & Rio Grande Railway, which unfortunately shuttered in the 1950s, but not before the Cumbres & Toltec was spun off for the scenic splendor of its route. However, by the late 1960s it was near abandonment, with service discontinued finally in 1969. Fortunate for train lovers everywhere, the line, along with its equipment and buildings, was saved through the united efforts of New Mexico and Colorado. In 2012, Cumbres & Toltec received a National Historic Landmark designation and is still known as the longest, highest and most complete example of late-19th– and early-20th-century narrow-gauge railroading in the nation. Be sure to experience the first-class service of the Parlor Car with cushioned seating reserved exclusively for adults 21 years and older. Your 9 a.m. departure is followed by continental breakfast, beverages, snacks and lunch, along with a surprise gift bag. Beer, wine and cocktails are available for purchase, or try the deluxe tourist car with café-type seating. The value-driven coach car offers cushioned bench seating and is a great choice for families. No matter which cabin you choose, everyone can roam about freely within the open-air gondola. Photographers will particularly appreciate the vantage points. Through tunnels, trestles and gorges, the Cumbres & Toltec is like no other. Though there are other railways, such as the Durango & Silverton line, which are more accessible to tourists passing through, you’ll be hard-pressed to find scenery as beautiful and breathtaking as what you encounter with your ticket to Toltec. With the 2016 season extending May 28–Oct. 23, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad offers several choices to experience the romance of steam-powered trains. Plan on spending a full day, boarding from either the eastern terminus in Antonito, Colo., or the western terminus in Chama, N.M. The most popular and best value is to ride over Cumbres Pass, returning to your origination via a spacious motor coach. Another option with more limited scenery is to ride the train from either end to the lunch stop at Osier, then switch trains to return to your starting point. Special themed excursions include trips focusing on geology, botany (wildflowers and ecology), sunset dinners and a July 4 celebration. Prices start at $95 for coach fare to $185 for the Parlor Car, with discounts of 10 percent available to military, AAA and AARP members.
Nobu Barbuda is underway in the Caribbean, the newest installation to the Nobu Hospitality portfolio. The Nobu restaurant, all conceived by actor Robert DeNiro, debuted in 2021, and Nobu Barbuda’s first beach club opened this year.
From 24-Hour Butler Service to a Sky Pool: Boutique Luxury Awaits at Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences in Los Cabos
Set on a seaside bluff overlooking Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas, Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences is a Baja paradise specializing in serene vistas and impeccable hospitality, offering a Pacific coast lifestyle with authentic Mexican touches. Guests can now earn a fourth night free at the stunning resort, plus a $100 resort credit, when booking through March 20, for travel through June 15.
Aimbridge Hospitality announced it will open two brand-new resorts at Frenchman’s Reef in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef and The Seaborn at Frenchman’s Reef, Autograph Collection, are expected to open in fall 2022. The new properties are part of a $350 million rebuild project on Frenchman’s Reef.
Birds on the brain these days? Head to the Columbia Valley, located between the towering Rocky and Purcell mountains in southeast British Columbia. The newest addition to the BC Bird Trail is marked by friendly communities surrounded by wetlands, featuring a burgeoning avian population. In spring, watch for the striking plumage of horned grebes, as well as songbirds and Lewis’s woodpecker.
THE MOST EXCLUSIVE TOURS OF EGYPT EVER OFFERED
Upon our triumphant in-person return to Los Angeles in December 2021 to celebrate our annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, the FXExpress Publications, Inc. team also revisited one of our favorite city hot spots: Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills for dinner at the on-site Riviera 31 bar lounge.
Turkish Airlines offers premium travelers something new. After signing an agreement with fashion brands Coccinelle and Hackett, the carrier introduced redesigned premium amenity kits for its business-class passengers flying eight hours or more on long-distance flights. The new kits were introduced April 29.
There’s no better time to plan the vacation you’ve been missing. Step aboard with your better half, your friends or the whole family and reconnect, reunite and rejoice with 25 percent off cruise fares for all guests. We’ll also help everyone get there with 25 percent off airfare from 20 major gateways across the country or $100 savings per person on flights from all other gateways when you book your air travel using Flights by Celebrity.*
Lisbon’s popularity has soared in recent years, but within an hour’s drive of Portugal’s capital city, lots of quiet towns and interesting regions that are still somewhat off-the-beaten path await.