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Unlike most Underground-frequenting Londoners, I adore train travel. Of every variety. From my pre-teen introduction to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (still one of my all-time favourite films and an ageless portrait of moral ambiguity), life on the rails has filled me with intrigue.

It is actually slightly ridiculous it has taken me this long to get myself on a sleeper train.

Presenting…the Amtrak Crescent: my sole mode of transport for Lela Takes The Crescent (obvs) as well as the most phenomenal way to explore the Big Easy, Big Apple, and everything in between.

Starting in New Orleans, I took the Crescent to Atlanta (roughly 12 work and food-filled hours), Washington DC (roughly 12 hours overnight), and New York City (roughly 2 hours) with a few days in between each.

Though many people choose seats in Coach to save money, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make their Viewliner bedrooms (“sleeper cars”, if you will) my own and was astounded to discover how innovative the spaces actually were.

For every space, there is a function. Perhaps one or two. Though compact, the seating area pulls out into a full-length bed, the ‘roof’ pulls down into a second bed, sinks pull-out (and double up as a makeshift ice bucket), and there is storage space available in every nook and cranny.

This, of course, is easier shown than said so look out for my upcoming vlog tour (which I will share here when live)!

FAQ: Train Travel Across America

Why would you choose a Viewliner bedroom over a coach seat?
As well as having a personal space to relax/sleep/work in, the Viewliner tickets also include complimentary meals and drinks in the Dining Car.

What is the food like on Amtrak?
As a foodie, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed everything from a Creole scrambled egg bowl to gargantuan Southwest salads to a restaurant-worthy steak and shrimp combo.

Is Amtrak comfortable to sleep on?
Extremely. Rather than my Instagrammed nap position, both beds pull out to the full width of the room and the top bed even has an optional strap for anyone worried about being elevated on a moving train. The pillows and blankets provided are also hotel-quality.

Is Amtrak affordable?
On many routes it is more affordable than the flight equivalent but I would always advise booking as far in advance as possible and keeping an eye out for discounts to maximise your savings.

“But I could fly so much faster…”
Maybe. Maybe not. In my mind, train travel is for adventurers. Had I done this two week trip by air, I would have been on five flights total. With two hour check-ins each time. Security lines. Baggage lines (and fees). On Amtrak, I arrived less than 30 minutes before ‘take off’ and walked straight onto the train. I worked while I rode. Or slept (which would otherwise likely be a night wasted in a hotel room). I made new friends – even inspiring strangers’ travels and careers – every time I went to the Dining Car. I walked out straight into the cities I arrived in.

If you have the time to spare, train travel is spending it well.

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new orleans elizabeths
I have often entertained thoughts about the type of restaurant I would open should I find myself mad enough to properly enter an industry with less than a 10% first year survival rate.

Something haute and white tablecloth-filled? I might as well file bankruptcy for lolz. A sexy little food truck? Definitely more my style…but an idea endless menu and drink limitations of its own.

Realistically, I would strive to open a restaurant reminiscent of Elizbeth’s in New Orleans and give zero f**ks about its success beyond survival. Elizabeth’s is local, charming, and – from a shrewd foodie perspective – infallible. A restaurant worthy of their 20-year strong standing in NOLA’s competitive food scene.

The Bywater-based brunch favourite has fundamentally developed their reputation on praline bacon and a bevy of ‘down-home’ inspired breakfast foods, but their low-key digs serve high-end dishes of every variety.

After taking over the restaurant in 2011, Head Chef Bryon Peck curated the menu – forever subscribing to lavish comfort food philosophies – to heights I would jump on a plane to revisit. Highlights include the Boudin balls in Creole mustard (a Louisiana must), a campfire-smoked ribeye (the best I’ve had anywhere in the US), ‘Beer BQ’ shrimp (with unimaginable complexity ), and an indulgent bourbon sauce-covered bread pudding (perfectly paired with Elizabeth’s Sidecar – Maker’s Mark, Cointreau. lemon & Whiskey Barrel bitters).

If it is good enough to pique my prudent entrepreneurial interests, you better believe it is good enough for your next meal out.

new orleans elizabeths
new orleans elizabeths
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new orleans travel blog
As a woman with an all-consuming passion for food and music, New Orleans found itself at the top of my bucket list long before I was old enough to enjoy the fruits of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and the city’s many other ID-protected infamousies.

In true go big or go home style, one of life’s unexpected tragedies encouraged me to embark on a cross-country travel adventure – hereby referred to as Lela Takes The Crescent – on Amtrak’s New York to New Orleans sleeper train of the same name.

First stop: the Big Easy…

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indianapolis 34 IMA
There is something rather extraordinary about falling in love with a city you would have sold a kidney to leave at one point in your life, but that is exactly what Indianapolis has thrust upon me.

Indianapolis – affectionately known as Indy – was my wanderlusting teenage self’s home and once felt small enough to warrant a transatlantic escape. Getting to know the city after almost ten years using London as a home base to travel the world has been a trip in every sense of the word.

Indy, in its current form, is electric. And well worth the extensive city guide, below. Enjoy!

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carry on packing list

What Travel Bloggers Really Pack (and how they get rewards for it!)

The Equipment
First and foremost, I pack my life partner (my 11-inch MacBook Air – shop) and my new Canon EOS M3 (shop) which doubles up as a pretty stellar still photography and vlog camera. Though both are in their respective cases, I also cushion them in the centre of everything else I pack to ensure they don’t move during turbulence or transit in general.

The Clothes
As ladies and gents that find ourselves in front of the camera as much as we’re behind it, clothing tends to take up the majority of carry-on space. These days, a gargantuan and Instagram-friendly hat (like an adorable straw “Vacay” hat – shop) is as imperative as lightweight dresses I can accessorize for five days straight. Bonus points for crazy prints, reversibles, and things you can wear back to front for an entirely new look (you won’t believe the number of reversible V neck dresses I have in my closet – shop). It is infinitely easier to throw wraps or scarves (like Very’s embroidered gem, aboveshop) over basics to dress them up or down and – generally being lighter than clothing – gives you many more space-efficient style options.

As I can rarely be bothered to wear makeup when travelling, I also highly endorse a pair of face-distracting sunglasses (the Wildfox Ivy Deluxe cat-eyes are my current obsession – shop) to do all the face-beautifying you need in seconds.

The Beauty
As a rule of thumb, I do not go near make-up or liquids in my carry on (see: sunglasses, above) but still like to look after my skin. The vitamin-rich Lancer make-up wipes (shop) cleanse and nourish unlike anything I’ve used before and Shiseido’s UV compact works as an intensely moisturising – yet dry – SPF for both face and body (shop). Rather than any sort of “real” fragrance or liquid, I also pack double-duty Tom Ford Neroli deodorant (shop) which smells like the Italian Riviera and keeps you fresh all the live long blogger’s day.

If the trip is adventure and/or fitness-heavy, I’ll sometimes even pack a Suquu face stretch mask (shop) to wear on the return flight to luxuriate in travel vibes as long as possible.

The Unexpected
Though I can make a good carry-on pack last seven days, most airlines will allow women a handbag plus a carry-on so I tend to pack my everyday bag inside a larger handbag for longer trips. By doing so, I can fit any extra clothes around my day bag and get about 30% more packed than I would with my carry-on alone. Each airline has their own dimensions for what qualifies as a “handbag” so do check it before you go, but bags of Michael Kors’ “JetSet” size (shop) tend to work without raising a single eyebrow.

This is also where I keep my Groupon (shop) vouchers so I don’t lose them in my inevitable carry-on chaos. Before going anywhere, I always check the site to see if any unique experiences or restaurants have deals available during my stay and have saved £100s in my adult travel life by doing so.

How do I get rewards from packing?!
Through the Avios eStore, you can spend the travel rewards currency (aka your Avios) gained from everything you already buy – including everything I’ve linked above – on flights, hotels, car hire, experiences and more! Avios has over 1,000 retail partners including ASOS, M&S, John Lewis, Booking.com, Apple and many others who allow members to earn Avios as they shop simply by accessing their sites through their portal. You pay nothing more and than you would otherwise and can quadruple your travel experiences by doing so!

Even better, this week (Thursday 25 May to Wednesday 31 May) launches the Avios eStore triple week where you will earn triple Avios on all purchases made via the eStore from selected retailers (including John Lewis, Currys, Argos, ASOS, Screwfix, Debenhams, and Apple). We’re talking a click or two away from return flights to Paris, guys – don’t miss out!