Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Big Old Train Adventure


So a few people have asked me how the train ride was. Shall I review it? I shall:

First you should know I scored an amazing deal - 75% off on the VIA rail website. If you have no real schedule in life (like me) you can grab these deals and save hundreds and hundreds of dollars. With a bunk bed and all meals included, I rode The Canadian, a train that goes from Toronto to Vancouver. I guess East coast is no longer part of Canada? Hmmm...

I was riding, perhaps for the first time in my life, in first class. Imagine me in a silky black, floor length dress (slightly tattered) and gutter-punk shaved mullet explaining to senior citizens what I do for a living and why I have no husband with me and all the while politely instructing the waiter what a dirty martini is. I looked around and quickly learned the proper dress code: capris, sweater sets and more rings than anyone could/should cram on their fingers.

When we first got on our car the porter asked for an able bodied person to come forward so he could show them the emergency procedures. My entire car of elderly travelers pointed at me in unison. I proudly took their feeble lives in my hands and said a silent prayer that in case of an emergency I wouldn't fuck this up. These folks were counting on me.

I slept in a pristine white bunk bed that was your seat in the day and gets folded down/up each night with a silver chocolate placed on the pillow (classy). My bunk was above a very old french man who split wine on himself a lot and would then swear en français (classic). I am a little cloister phobic from having to sleep in a cupboard as a child (in the camper) but this was very roomy and the train rocks you to sleep like a fat baby. I loved my bunk bed, it zippered up to become my secret hide-a-way bat cave. Before bed they give you a little plastic bag with towels, shampoo and veagan soap for the shower which was really marvelous. I've traveled in coach before (back when you could sneak a smoke in the bathroom) and showers would have been helpful.

The food was included so I shouldn't complain but I'm going to anyway. The meal times are all set and you dine with different passengers every day (fun and scary). I ate with an Australian couple (formerly dairy farmers), an aging author (twice widowed) on her book tour and a retired CN railway conductor who carried a large radio that picked up the chatter of our train conductors which he insisted on listening to loudly. The food called itself fancy names but was underwhelming and obviously cooked in a tiny space by someone unskilled. There I said it. Drinks were over priced and dessert was mandatory

The scenery is of course amazing, Canada is huge beyond belief and the train takes you through some wild territory. I had my fill of the land while reading in the exquisite sky car, sipping vodka and tomato juice every afternoon. I really felt something up there and I don't just mean tipsy. There was also some wildlife blah blah blah.

I want everyone to travel Canada at least once this way. I felt like a princess, a sleeping beauty who had awakened to find that the rest of the kingdom had in fact aged without her and then been crammed onto a speeding train fleeing across the country to safety. I felt very safe.  I wish Canada could somehow make it more affordable/accessible so we could ride trains more often like in Europe. I should also mention that the VIA rail employees were all completely fantastic and pleased to serve. I will travel this way again for sure but probably in coach where I belong.


erin k. said...

this is such a great account. makes me wish i didn't have quite so much prohibitive motion sickness... the skyyyyy caaarrrr! wow. lovely.

elizabeth said...

Sleeping on trains really is some of the most relaxing, peaceful sleep I've ever had. Wish my bed was a train.

Victoire said...

omg I wanna do this!!

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