amtrak 2
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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outfit post
I love short dresses, I love high heels, and I hate them together. At a skyscraping five feet tall, I am able to get away with the combination without looking like a head atop two legs but alwaysΒ feel most comfortable with a more demure thigh to floor measurement.

Thankfully, thoughΒ y’all know I am usually found in Chelsea boots, these handcrafted kicks from San Antonio Shoemakers (or SAS) have been the answer to all my boot-bored necessities. They are beautifully made, flex with the foot, have a cushioned insole, ‘no bite’ back, and even come in a hue that happens to be the perfect “nude” for my skin tone.

Unquestionably, that’s as good as it gets.

What I Wore:
The Chloe in Champagne from San Antonio Shoemakers
‘Lana’ cat-eye sunglasses from Tom Ford
High neck leopard print
High neck snake print dress (old, similar here)

outfit post
outfit post
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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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summer beauty favourites

Pure Tropix
I have been trying a handful of products from Atlanta-based natural skincare brand Pure Tropix over the last three months in the US and have become relatively reliant on their Purifying Honey Oil Cleanser and Green Ginger Toner. The cleanser utilizes black castor oil (full of vitamins and a wonderful treatment for everything from acne to eczema) to thoroughly cleanse the skin without any harsh chemicals or moisture-stripping. It works so well, in fact, I also use it as a double duty shower gel/body cleanser.

As I steer clear of any kind of face makeup in hot weather, I find the toner really encourages an ‘airbrushed’ look to my skin, as well. As it tones the skin with mild herbal extracts, the antioxidant-packed liquid also feeds the dermis with free radical-fighting vitamin C and E which really brightens everything up. The duo are a daily dream.

Lolita II by Kat Von D Beauty
Put simply, I’ve worn this liquid lipstick almost every day over Summer and it is unbeatable.

Joico Blonde Life Brightening Masque
I have gone from root smudge to wash-in brunette to rose gold over the Summer and this masque has been a true hairsaver in the process. I initiallyy packed it for my US adventures because the Blonde Life range’s Bio-Advanced Peptide Complex actually targets and reconstructs damaged strands, replenishes Arginine (a naturally-occurring amino acid), and hyper-hydrates with Polynesian, Tahitian Tamanu, & Manoi oils. Even without being blonde any more, the masque works to neutralize pesky trace minerals that lead to dullness and yellowing which has kept my succeeding colours purer much longer. It’s a sun-drenched staple.

Ultrasun Face SPF50+
Last but not least, UltraSun’s Face SPF 50 sun protector has kept my face – and body, in a pinch – protected from the sun every day for months. As well as absorbing within seconds, a little goes a really long way and the non-greasy formula helps restore optimal moisture levels in the skin as it protects and quasi-‘blurs’ imperfections.