May 16, 2016, en route to Hornepayne, Ontario —

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VIA Rail Canada promotes its service between Vancouver and Toronto as “a more human way to travel.” I chose this method of going west to east across Canada because I’d heard how scenic it is.

Certainly it presents a continuous “movie” of geographical variety from the lush forests and snow capped mountains of British Columbia to the prairies and farmlands of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and from the flat grasslands of Manitoba to the many lakes and evergreen forests of Ontario.

I hoped a change of scenery with my spouse from our usual daily routines would be both relaxing and energizing. Four and a half days on the train. This would be our major vacation for the year, and besides, we could time the trip to include the opening night of the new opera “Les Feluettes” in Montreal on May 21.

So far, as I write this midway on the trip, we have not been disappointed. VIA Rail is giving us excellent service.

There is the range of travel classes on The Canadian train. We chose Sleeper Plus, a private cabin for two furnished with top and bottom single berths, toilet, vanity-basin, picture window, two nice chairs that fold away at night, and just-enough storage space. An efficient shower is down the companionway. It is not as luxurious as Prestige Class (double berth, private shower, leather furniture, more area) that we are told is fully booked for the summer.

No matter. We are rarely in our cabin during the day. There are wider views of the scenery from three dome cars. Our two favorites were the Panorama dome car with reclining seats, and the Park car (caboose) at the tail end of the train that was outfitted with a few Prestige cabins, a spiffy bar/lounge, a wraparound view out the back of the train, and an upstairs section with dome windows.

We also spent time in the Club car that is a lounge area with a dome as well, plus game tables. The friendly attendants who are fluent in both French and English serve canapés during happy hour. They give mini lectures off and on for passengers sitting in the dome. Two Dining cars have two seatings each for lunch and dinner. We’re eating well. The chef is happy to accommodate passengers with special dietary needs and will make reasonable adjustments to the menu, if you wish.

Intimate tables for four make it easy to strike up conversations with other passengers during mealtime. All the people we met were educated and well traveled. In our chats we learned that the economic and social problems/challenges are the same at everyone’s home base.

One of the most sobering conversations was with a mother and her 15-year-old son who got on the train in Edmonton; they are evacuees from the fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and are heading to be with relatives in eastern Canada. 90,000 residents evacuated the area in three hours, they said.

Otherwise it is a vacation of free time to read, write, photograph, mingle, and nap.

Learning about the railway itself is interesting. For example, it is a challenge for the passenger trains to stay on their timetable because freight trains have priority on the tracks. There have been very long waits for a freight train to pass. Delays can be expected. But, hey, we have time.

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