Vancouver, BC (Mar 13/16) – As chance would have it, N was offered an opportunity to speak at a medical conference in Montreal in February. So it was decided to take advantage and have a mini vacation out east. Of course HOBBES was not included in this adventure, but he was always in N&J’s thoughts. Consider this a reconnaissance of a future road trip across Canada.
Sadly JESSE the cat could not be along for the ride, fortunately some friends volunteered to stay with the ‘King’ while we were away. This was a difficult separation for N&J (and JESSE too). Thanks to M, and to D for stepping in as ‘servants’ for a while, it was very much appreciated.
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The 1st leg of the trip (airplane) was to Montreal, where N&J stayed at the famous Fairmont Queen Elizabeth (site of the conference). Famous you say?… this was the site of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s bed-in for peace (“Give Peace a Chance”). A lovely hotel that is centrally located in the city, close to St. Catherines Street (the main downtown area), the Old City (to the south of the hotel) & directly over the transportation hub (Gare Central), which houses the Metro, ViaRail Canada terminals & an eclectic assortment of food vendors. The season of course included winter conditions, lots of snow, cold; walking around was a bit more treacherous, but the snow made for a very bright outlook. Another surprising discovery is the km’s of underground passageways that perminate throughout the downtown core, you can literally walk around town in summer clothes while winter rages above.
The 2nd leg involved taking a ViaRail daytrain to Quebec City (QC). Departure from Montreal meant they only had to walk downstairs from their hotel to the station. The train ride was smooth & fast (160+ km/hr at times; a little over 3 hours). Beautiful outlook of the Quebec countryside from the comfort of your seat looking through large panoramic windows. Upon arriving in QC, it was very evident that winter had just grown larger, huge snow drifts, very cold, windy & snowing. N&J had booked 2 nights at an AirBnB within the walls of the Old Town, within throwing distance of the Chateau Frontenac (the historic hotel perched high upon a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River & the Plains of Abraham). The host were very gracious; clean & warm room; quiet place to start their exploration of what is the oldest city in North America (1608). Beautiful shops & warm inviting restaurants kept N&J busy during our stay. One can only wonder how the residents of 400 years ago survived the cold & aggressive winters.
The next leg (3rd) had N&J taking a room on an overnight ViaRail train (The Ocean) to Moncton, New Brunswick. The train meandered through a winter showcase, the lights of little villages dotted the countryside, the gentle rocking motion of the train helping them to drift off to sleep. In the morning they awoke to bright sunshine. They were served a great breakfast in the dining car, all the while the east coast landscape drifted by (lakes, rivers & ocean).
Upon arrival in Moncton, N&J were greeted by N (J’s son) and whisked off to Saint John, New Brunswick where they spent the next 5 days as guest of N&A in their beautiful home. N&J were given the ‘royal tour’ of everything to be seen on New Brunswick coast, the weather was cold, but clear allowing for a good experience. Saint John is a very old city, once a bustling mecca on the east coast, it now is a quaint town jostling for new lease on life. Thanks to N&A for their hospitality…
Leg #4 had them flying from Saint John to Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport (with a quick stopover in Montreal). This city airport located on the island adjacent to downtown Toronto made for convenient access, a free shuttle bus dropped them at the ViaRail station located in Union Station. Since the next train did not leave until 10pm, N&J had a chance to explore Toronto’s Brewery District that offers boutique shopping & gourmet restaurants within the restored historical buildings. The weather in Toronto was surprisingly warm & sunny, very receptive to the visitors.
The anticipation of their impending rail journey (depart Toronto on Tuesday, arrive in Vancouver on Saturday) was evident in the ViaRail waiting room which was packed with travelers awaiting that familiar outcry, “All Aboard”. The best part of our trip was left for last, “The Canadian”, the ViaRail transcontinental train trip across the western half of Canada is iconic. All other rail travel is compared to the heights that this rail trip affords. From the time you leave Toronto’s Union Station till you reach Vancouver, you are pampered by the ViaRail staff. N&J’s private bedroom comprised of 2 large bunk beds (converted to comfortable leather chairs during the day), sink & bathroom, a large panoramic window. The dining car with it’s “white linen & silver service” was a feast for the eyes & palate, a chef onboard created incredible foodie delights (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Every meal seating offered 2-3 choices, all spectacular, all delectable. N who is a foody, normally hard to please, commented that the meals were some of the best she has ever experienced. The beauty of rail travel is that you are not sequestered to a seat (like air travel), you can meander the train at will. Check out the Park Car at the rear of the train (reserved for the sleeper class passengers), enjoy the scenery from the panoramic dome car, or relax in your own private room. We were pampered with wine & cheese, craft beer tastings, hors d’oeuvres & a champagne welcome. Sit back, relax while the grandeur of Canada unfolds before you.
On their last day of travel, they saw the Vancouver area from a different perspective. Normally seen while traveling in HOBBES, this time the viewpoint was from the train. Upon our arrival in Vancouver, N&J spent what seemed a lifetime saying goodbye to their newly founded friends, reflecting on what was a most relaxing time. The weather was beautiful, the sun shining… a great way to be welcomed back home to Vancouver. Jesse awaits…