Thursday, April 12, 2012

O Canada!

We're traveling The Canadian with a deal of 75% off the regular fare.  I can't believe our luck!  

Four nights, four time zones, five provinces, one amazing country!  So vast and diverse.  Traveling by train, seeing and being here in these places makes me appreciate how special and vast Canada truly is. Slow travel by these days' standards, but a jubilant triumph of speed when the tracks were laid 100+ years ago.  What a difference a century makes.  Yet, the country is so unspoiled along the way, many of the sights must be much the same as they were at least a hundred years ago.

It is so nice not to be in a hurry to get somewhere, just to go for the sake of the journey.   To take pleasure in each others company.  We spent each day gazing at the landscape and soaking everything in...  

What a wonder-full way to spend an anniversary!

Train travel highlights.....


lounge car in caboose
full-on retro style!
Across from Union station we sat for the prix fix dinner at Epic in the Royal York, one of the oldest hotels in the city.  Rob and I enjoy our three-course meal  (note to self:  a deconstructed salad is a great theme to play with and Riesling makes for a great pairing!)

As we are checking in, one of the porters calls out to us, suggesting we divvy up and share one suitcase in the room and check the other bag.

photo credit
Then we’re onto the train, stuffing our stuff into small quarters. We're in the caboose, steps away from the lounge and observation cars.  The room is comfy but when the beds are pulled out there is just 2 feet or so to navigate.  Still, it seems luxurious; our own private space, a large window, a sink and toilet (shower down the hall).   

We enjoy champagne at the foot of the CN Tower and then set off into the night, the full moon chasing us as we sit in the dome observation car.


We wake in Northern Ontario to a clear, sunny morning. During the day the beds fold away and chairs come out.  Space enough to do some yoga.

The scenery is incredible.  So many lakes!  Conditions so tranquil the surfaces are like perfect mirrors.

Out the window I can see that pussy willows are coming in season.  Stands of birch dance by in a blurr.  And jack spruce, black spruce, white pine.  We see several sand hill cranes and at least one bald eagle.  Lots of ducks, mergansers most likely.

Like Rob and I, many fellow travelers are taking the journey as an end in itself, to relax and enjoy the scenery. Lots of different characters on the train!  Some people can’t fly for health reasons, like the guy with the recent brain aneurism. There is a punk-dressed girl who is returning for her fifth year of tree-planting.  Accents reveal several Americans, an Australian couple, and a few Brits.  

VIA also has a program where musicians ride free if they provide some entertainment, so we’re enjoying some live music.

We gain an hour when clocks are set to Central Standard Time.


The train pulls into Winnipeg and we get off to explore the city with a bus tour while they switch over to a new crew and replenish supplies.  We are at the Forks, so called because this is the meeting place of  the Assiniboine and Red River. 

Rob has often talked about Winnipeg and the Prairies because he was born and raised here until he was 17.  Still, I’m unprepared for the wide boulevards and grand homes along Wellington Avenue.  30+ golf courses within the city itself, a huge park with bison and a downtown that has doubled for Chicago in Hollywood films.

Right now I am enjoyed the view from our room, staring into the prairie’s vista.  Blue skies, puffy clouds, a golden carpet.  Becalmed.  I can’t help but think of Kuralek.

At the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border we will be at the midpoint of the transcontinental journey.
We pass at least three potash operations in Saskatchewan.  

The wind begins to pick up, putting whitecaps on ponds and spinning turbines on the farm equipment in the fields. The snow looks like a meringhe crust whipped up in some spots, drifting in others.

The sun takes a long, long time to set on the flat horizon.  Pink and gold.

We gain an hour when clocks are set to Mountain Standard Time.


The mountains start to come into view as we enter Alberta.  Seats on the two domed observation cars are coveted. Roughly 120 passengers and 50 seats.  Let's just say some are more inclined to share than others.

I feel that Kate Bush song in my head and to my fingertips.  WowWowWowWowWow.

Looking in one direction means you could potentially miss the other, equally stunning view out of the other window.

The scenery is mostly pristine and uninhabited, but along the way there are some cattle farms, logging operations, a pulp and paper mill, some gas wells and clear cuts.

The warm temperature is softening the snow and making it look like a soft, inviting pillow.

The Jasper train station is almost the same as it was in 1925. We are able to get off and explore the town.

A raven lectures me from the top of an old building, making popping and clicking sounds, full of ancient stories.  If I could only speak that language...
Back on to the train, where we see elk, bald eagle, and rocky mountain sheep enjoying the park at it's elevation of more than 13.5K.

Incredible!  Mount Robson is only visible 12 or so days each year, and we luck out to catch its full towering view.
Tonight the sun sets behind a mountain and there is only a brief burst of pink behind the Rockies.

We gain an hour when clocks are set to Pacific Standard Time.


Waiting for the shower door to open so I can take my turn, I'm staring out the window when the half moon pops into view from behind a mountain in Chilliwack.

Huge flourescent yellow ears seem to be sprouting from the forest floor.  What are those woodland flowers?

Coming into New Westminster, urban landscapes take over.  Within thirty minutes we've arrived at Vancouver station.

Pink and white cherry blossoms bursting.

We have arrived!

1 comment:

Annika said...

I want to go on this journey as well. Sounds wonderful..