Onboard Via Rail’s “The Canadian” from Vancouver to Jasper, Alberta is a journey steeped in service, comfort, and relaxation. The classic train was built in the ’50s and reminds one of the hit TV series – “Mad Men.”
The dome car is reached via a set of stairs straight up into heaven! Sitting up high above the train tracks offers a bird’s eye view of the pristine wilderness below. Great relationships are formed from the first spotting of a black bear or fox.
I met a group of Australians and New Zealanders and to my surprise, I did not meet one fellow American on all three of my Via Rail train trips.
As soon as I boarded “my” attendant, Richard, introduced himself and asked when I would like my bed pulled down. I told him “right away.” After all, it was midnight my time and I had been up since 4 am to catch the early direct flight from Newark to Vancouver, where I had been touring all day. (See last week’s article for my exciting day in that beautiful city).
I decided to be adventurous and take a shower (my first ever on board a moving train)! It was spectacularly clean, and the water pressure was excellent and lovely. The all natural bath products added to the pleasant experience.
My private berth in touring class had a super comfortable mattress, a pretty new green duvet, and its own personal shower and sink. I left the large window shade open as I read in my bunk, and since “The Canadian” would be rolling through wilderness for the next 22 hours, I did not feel exposed! Soon I was lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking motion of the train, and slept soundly.
I awoke early the next morning and made my way to the activity car for some strong Irish breakfast tea (available all night and all day, along with coffee and biscuits too). I met the activity director who asked which seating I would like for breakfast. Train travel alone or with someone always offers the chance to meet new people at the Dining Car because everyone is sat at four top tables.
My next choice was whether to have a made-to-order gourmet omelet of the day or sourdough pancakes. From the linen tablecloth, china, and silverware, to the fair trade coffee and excellent service, the meals are a special treat on board “The Canadian.” The view of the peaceful and beautiful scenery adds to the ambience. I felt like I was in a sea of green as I passed by the nonstop wilderness.
Several hours later, the train stopped outside a picturesque lake near Kamloops, British Columbia. We ended up being there for almost two hours. A freight train had broken down, and there was only one track! I didn’t mind though – there was no internet and my phone was out of range. I could lie in my cabin and read my book – very unusual and very relaxing!! If I really did need a TV fix, there were nature and train history videos in the activity car. The train ride attracts many train buffs as well as folks wanting to truly “get away from it all.”
Train stops are part of the experience as well, and we did stop in the very small town of McBride, BC, which had an art gallery and a good snack shop. The Whistle Stop Gallery had local crafts, jewelry, paintings, and books about the area and there was a Mexican Restaurant! It was great to get out, breathe the fresh air, and stretch my legs during the brief stop.
Here I met two brothers from Quebec out on a family quest and adventure. Their grandfather was part of the great Klondike gold rush of the late 1800’s and they were going to retrace his steps. You can follow their journey on Facebook (2 Freres au Klondike).
The 22 hours went by like a breeze, and I was almost sad to get off the train! But of course I was looking forward to the wildness of Jasper National Park and staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge! (Look for the story in next week’s newsletter…)