Tag Archives: ViaRail

This is the end… of my vacation

That’s right… the trip has ended. It’s always tough to reach the end of the vacation, but it’s also lovely to be home with a very needy cat and some fresh clothes.

The journey from Winnipeg to Vancouver went well – we even got to be door monitors on the train – we learned how to open the doors in case of emergency. When the air conditioning stopped for a few minutes, we were tempted!

I won’t yap on and on (for once!), but will end this trip journal with photos. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on ideas and happenings, but those are for another post…


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Tick tock tick tock…

I’m not sure if the title of the post is a reflection of time running out on my vacation or if it is because there is a clock ticking on the table next to me.  Either way, tomorrow marks the beginning of the last leg of the journey – the train back to Vancouver.

It’s been a busy week here in Winnipeg.  Well, busy if you don’t count that one day that only involved pedicures, lunch out, and a big birthday dinner with a bunch of Bo’s family.  On Tuesday we went to the zoo, the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden and the Assiniboine English Garden (it seemed appropriate to end the trip with a garden/sculpture garden visit), and drove through the Exchange District and the North End.

Today we went out to Bo’s family farm. I have heard stories of the farm and her brothers for many years, and today I got to see the place.  It lived up to the stories.  I had a great day, full of new experiences, and I got to drive a golf cart all over the farm.  I love those – I think I was smiling the entire time I was zipping around.

Many thanks to Bo’s brother for letting us visit his place, and to the whole family for making this visit so much fun!!


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So many slogans…

I was trying to think of a title for this post, so I asked Bo and her family if Winnipeg had a slogan.  Much debate and Googling ensued.  Winnipeg does have a slogan, which apparently no one knows without looking up – it changed seven years ago.  I’d tell you what it is, but I’ve already forgotten.

As you may have guessed, I’m in Winnipeg now.  On Wednesday we left Halifax on ViaRail.

Leaving Halifax

Leaving Halifax

We were SO excited, because this time we were allowed to check our bags through to Toronto (we found out later that they could have gone all the way to Winnipeg, but this worked out just fine).  I don’t remember if I wrote about the Ocean route in a previous post (Montreal to Halifax), but at that time we were not permitted to check our bags – we ended up in a tiny cabin with two good size suitcases, two carry-on size duffel bags, and two purses.  Oh, and also two of us.  It was cramped, to say the least.

Trains are filling up… it’s that time of year, I guess.  We did “claim” a corner of the Park car – the last car on the train.

Train on a bridge

Train on a bridge

Bo talked knitting with a woman from Chicago, and we were entertained by Steve, the Activities Coordinator – he’s a man who loves his job!  The train was an hour late getting into Toronto, and those of us catching the commuter train almost didn’t make it.  We were walking down the platform at a fairly good clip, and caught site of the commuter train – the attendants were lifting up the mats that covered the gap between platform and train and closing the doors.  We had to run.  It wasn’t pretty, but we made it.  Then the train stayed in the station for about 15 more minutes.  I think they were loading our luggage 😉.

It was a smooth, um, train.  You can say it was a “smooth flight” for a plane, what do you say for a train journey?  They plied us with food and drink, and it was very comfortable.

The Toronto station (Union Station) is very comfortable, which is a good thing, as we had a very long (over five hours) layover.  Rather than go out for dinner, we hunkered down in a comfy corner and took turns going for a Toronto wander. On my wander I picked up an extension cord.  Bo and I have been fighting (okay, fighting is a little too extreme of a word!) for electric outlet use – there are only ever two plugs to use, and between us we have up to six devices that need charging.  We made good use of our layover:

Charging devices

Charging devices

The waiting area got full… so very very full.  Guess what?  The train was also very very full.  It was a totally different experience, and we spent a bit more time in our cabin.

Winnipeg is very pleasing.  Mosquitoes are not.  We’re staying with one of Bo’s brothers and her sister-in-law.  They’re lovely and make me laugh.  We’ve been out wandering around Winnipeg during the Aboriginal Day(s) celebration, to the Museum for Human Rights, and to several extremely amusing family events.

In addition to mosquitoes, I have another complaint about Winnipeg.  Cats fear us.  We keep trying to pet the cats that we see… calling “hey kitty kitty” on the boulevard outside the house where they apparently congregate… carefully approaching cats that are under cars or crossing streets (at least they’re crossing the streets after seeing us!)… making kissy noises into someone’s yard… etc.  They all keep running away.  Sigh.  We’re nice people, honest… just a little starved for some cat -brand affection…

Ah well… Never give up, never surrender!


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To’ing and Fro’ing

What do you know… I’m behind on my writing again.  Shocking!  I’m sitting in the dining car on the Ocean route, somewhere in Quebec.  We’ll be getting into Montreal this morning, then to Toronto, then back on the Canadian for a few nights on our way to Winnipeg.  But that’s the future… right now I’m dwelling in the past.

We’ve had such a good week.  After PEI we were off to the Annapolis Valley to visit/stay with a friend of Bo’s.  The drive was lovely, and we didn’t get lost (Bo had figured out the route beforehand and didn’t need my stellar map reading skills).

We stopped at the Grand Pré National Historical Site – our education on the Maritimes continues – and then to the water.  I believe we were at the Minas Basin, part of the Bay of Fundy.  The tide was out really far, and I had a good wander among a lot of sparkly stones… what a gorgeous place.  I managed to restrain my need to pick up a literal ton of stones, and limited myself to two tiny ones.

Then it was off to Margaret and Darcy’s house.  They live in a cozy and wonderful octagonal log home, with a view that could take your breath away.  We had a great visit with the two of them and the enchanting Basil – I think Bo and I both contemplated catnapping her.  Basil was probably very relieved when we packed up and left – she got a LOT of attention.

Margaret spent the next day and a half of our visit driving us to Mahone Bay, Lunenburg (where we saw the Bluenose II), Chester, Annapolis Royal and a variety of fishing villages (Blue Rocks, Harbourville and many others).  I loved the area, and the fishing villages were everything a photo junkie could want.

Margaret and Darcy spoiled us with a comfy place to sleep, amazing meals and really good conversations.  They had multiple bird feeders on the deck, and I got to see many woodpeckers, mourning doves and an Atlantic region blue jay.  I continue to know very little about birds, but I do find them fascinating to watch.

Thank you both so much for your hospitality – I really enjoyed the visit and hope to see you all again.

After the visit we made the trek back to Halifax – we had some issues at the toll for the bridge, but made it through unscathed (we were yelled at a little, but sticks and stones…!) We found the hotel, in an area of town we’ve never been to, and proceeded to tear apart our disastrous luggage (which had morphed from two suitcases and two train bags into two suitcases, train bags and a variety of knitting bags, laundry bags, souvenir map bags, etc.)  Putting it all back together took some time, especially as we weren’t sure if we would be able to check our suitcases on the first leg of the journey.

There wasn’t much in the way of restaurants around the hotel, so we went to Randy’s Pizza Seafood Donair cafe for takeaway.  We decided that pizza would probably be the safest bet, and it was surprisingly delicious (surprisingly because it was a rather… unprepossessing cafe… the name might have clued you in).

The next day it was back to the station.  Our tickets said departure was at 11, but it turns out that departure was at 12.  Luckily we had the very comfortable business lounge to sit in for two hours.  And we were so lucky… not only were we able to check our bags, but he checked them through to Toronto.  Seeing as our train was an hour late getting into Montreal – we had to run to catch the connecting train as they were already lifting up the mat to cover the gap between train and station – we’re not completely sure our luggage will end up in Toronto, but happily we have a long layover so hopefully it joins us…

Being back on the train was lovely.  The staff was, as always, wonderful, and we felt very looked after.  I think my favourite part of the trip was when we were in the dining car going through a particularly scenic area.  Bo leapt to her feet and starting dashing to windows, trying to get a good picture of the sunset over the water.  The entire car was giggling with her as she hopped from table to table.  She is very recognized now… heehee!

On to Toronto!

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WiFi… wherefore art thou?

I’m on a train! It is, however, a train without WiFi… what is a girl to do? Well, perhaps be a little less connected and just enjoy the journey.

As I wrote about in a previous post, I won a trip, thanks to Canada’s Garden Route, the Canadian Garden Council and ViaRail. The trip was booked back in January, and it’s finally happening!

Vancouver Train Station

Vancouver Train Station – picture taken before I realized there was a smudge on the lens)



It’s been a good journey so far… a very quirky PCL bus driver who seemed to enjoy his job (that’s not what made him quirky though), me breaking the bus (it got better… darn armrest was confusing!), really amazing Via Rail staff, and the cutest little cabin ever (emphasis on little!).

The cabin with the bunks down - no room to photograph it more clearly!

The cabin with the bunks down – no room to photograph it more clearly!

Wednesday, June 3rd – Right now I’m in my berth looking out over the rainy rail yard of Kamloops at 6:00am. Although I can usually sleep anywhere, that wasn’t happening last night… I read and watched the shadowy scenery go by and tried to figure out whether the view was water or textured ground. It was usually water… the little whitecaps helped clarify that… no flies on me!

We were lucky enough to have live music at the station – apparently ViaRail has a program where musicians (and others?) can journey across the country playing in exchange for their fare… Sophia Perlman was great – we’ve been to see her play in various train cars, and still have a few more days to go – yay! Bonnie contemplated offering to teach knitting on the train, as it seems others have done that, but she quickly realized that being trapped on a train with her students 24 hours a day might be a little, well, wearying!


Sophia Perlman

This afternoon we’ll be getting into a station with WiFi (yes, I’m/we’re a little fixated) so we’re both madly typing away to make the most of our uploading time in Jasper. My posts will probably end up being a rambling mess of words, typed in spare moments – in between music, talks about trains and other subjects, wine tastings, etc., so please don’t be looking for too much continuity! (Update – couldn’t connect to WiFi in time to upload post… sigh… Apparently this portion of the trip will be summed up in one incredibly long and babbly post… Fingers crossed we find a connection soon so this doesn’t have to happen too often).

I saw a bear! Cutest little thing ever… it was running down a hill near Pyramid Falls – those were also spectacular, but not cute or furry.

Pyramid Falls - not fluffy

Pyramid Falls – not cute or furry

I got to go to a rock, gem and mineral (and fudge and kitchen supply) store in Jasper – very pleasing! Picked up a few pretties, which I haven’t photographed yet.

Jasper Rock and Jade

Jasper Rock & Jade

An entertaining afternoon was spent in the activity/bar car – chatted with some very unique men… Laughed lots, then grew weary by the time dinner was over. Now we’re relaxing in the panorama car waiting for our room to be made up. It was a good day!

Thursday, June 4th – We’re now on the prairies on a train that is still… There have been a lot of delays – freight trains take precedence – so we are five hours behind schedule… Happily, I have no schedule, so all is good.

We have become social butterflies… strange but true! We’re talking to people and tables are shared at all meals. It’s kind of fun! Met an entertaining couple from St. Louis who travel yearly with a group of friends – anywhere from three to fourteen people. Apparently Bo sounds more Canadian than I do… must be a from-the-prairies thing.

We also went to a talk on birds – I learned lots! Did you know there is no such thing as a seagull? It’s true… it’s a word that was made up as a catch-all for the gull family.

TV saves lives. How does it do that, you ask? I have no first aid training, but when someone choked in the nearly empty train car today, excessive TV watching taught me what to do. Yay TV!

Top of the train - photo by Bo. No, she was not walking on the top of it!

Top of the train – photo by Bo. No, she was not walking up there!

Friday, June 5th – Boy, when the track is clear, the train can fly! Somehow they have made up three hours… Very impressive!

It’s been a quiet day so far – getting used to a new crew (complete switchover in Winnipeg) and lazing about. Just finished packing up so that I don’t have to deal with it in the morning, and now reading and looking out over the lovely lakes of Ontario.

Speaking of lakes, I saw a swimming moose this morning – it was very pleasing! The couple we sat with at lunch said that it was quite a young moose, as its antlers weren’t terribly developed. I wish that would have been one of the moments the train had been stopped – I would have loved to get a better look.

We had a brief stop at Hornepayne to let people off/on the train, so we got to go for a walk. It was a brief walk however, cause the black flies were thick in the air. In my own special way I got bitten by a mosquito instead… beastly things! I can hear Winnipeg mosquitos cheering and celebrating my arrival in a couple of weeks… they’re fasting so they’ll be ready for me.

Saturday, June 6 – We skipped breakfast again – train food has been so delicious and plentiful that the odd skipped meal is necessary. While it is odd for me to be skipping a meal with bacon, the other meals are SO tasty and beyond what I would (or could) make, that they stay in the meal queue.

Today we’re arriving (in theory!) in Toronto… I’m not sure how far beyond schedule we are – no announcements have been made yet. We’ll be having dinner with Carol, the woman who first informed me about the prize – she has been so helpful with everything.

And now the first leg of our journey is over.  We’re happily ensconced in a hotel with WiFi – woohoo!

More to follow in later days… Not quite so many words all in one post next time!

Boulevard of Broken Dreams-style photo of our last night on the train... Happily our dreams aren't broken!

Boulevard of Broken Dreams-style photo of our last night on the train… Happily our dreams aren’t broken!

Park Car

Park Car


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