Friday, December 09, 2005

Trans-Canada train trip

I am in Vancouver. The plan was to get here and see what the weather was like and go from there. Well, the weather is gorgeous and I have lunch plans with one of the VIA guys and another passenger, so I'm hanging out in Vancouver until the 6pm Amtrak train to Seattle. Woohoo. So, here is the story of the last three days....

I woke up at 7am Tuesday morning to get ready and get out of the hostel by 8am so that I had plenty of time to catch my 9am train. When I went to check out I found out from the guy at the desk that the other two people staying at the hostel who were going on the same train had left quite a while ago. This worried me slightly so I scurried out to catch the streetcar. The guy at the hostel front desk told me it'd probably be faster to walk than take the streetcar. I figured he just didn't realize how slowly I'd be walking with all my gear. NO, he was right. Flippin' streetcar just dropped me off far from the station and then I had to get a bus and that went this really roundabout way. It would have been TOTALLY faster to walk. BAH!! Whatever, I made it to my train no problem. Got on the train, settled in a little bit and enjoyed the AMAZING view.

I highly recommend this trip to anyone and everyone. Get your butts up to Canada right now and get on the train from Toronto to Vancouver. The views are incredible. Wednesday during the day I saw a wolf out on a frozen lake and then a bit later I saw an otter or beaver hanging out on the ice and then he jumped in the water. It's just indescribably beautiful up there.

I ended up upgrading to what they call and Upper Berth. What that is is a bunk bed set up that folds down after they dismantle the seats. Well, the seats become the Lower Berth and then the Upper Berth folds down from the cieling. The upgrade was only $380, which for 3 nights including all food and a shower every day, it was totally worth it. I had a bunk mate named Gilly. She is so very cool. We first met up on Wednesday afternoon when she got back from lunch. We got talking and had a great time all afternoon and evening. She taught me that you get free champagne in the sleeping accomadations. We got a new crew at Winnepeg that day and our new attendant Ryan brought us a lot of champagne. We each got two full glasses of champagne and oj and then he ended up getting a hold of a whole bottle for us later in the day.

It was a great day. It went by really quickly. Gilly and I got off the train in Winnepeg for a while. We got there almost an hour early, so we had an hour and a half to explore a bit. There is a fun market very close to the train station. We went over there and explored and then Gilly bought me an empanada. It was very tasty. mmmmmm....empanada. We got back to the train and settled in for a night of hanging out and talking and listening to music. Gilly is from Yellowknife, which is REALLY FAR up north. It's close to the Arctic circle up north. She says there's practically 24 hour darkness in the deepest parts of winter and 24 hour sunshine in the best parts of summer. She lives in a cabin on a lake. It sounds amazing. I am hoping to get up there next summer. The Folk on the Rocks music festival will be taking place July 14-16, 2006 and Gilly said that it's a great festival. Hopefully I can get up there for that.

Anyway, Gilly was getting off in Edmonton the next morning. We had this grand plan to wake up at 7am and eat some breakfast before Edmonton. No deal. Just as a note, when you are on a train with LOTS and LOTS of old people, there is no time that is early enough to wake up to beat them to breakfast. We got there just after 7am (they only start serving breakfast at 6:30am) and it was packed full and they said there were 15-20 people waiting to get seats. So, no gots on the breakfast. We went down to the Park car and got juice which held us over. I got off the train for a while at Edmonton to hang out with Gilly while she waited for her friend to pick her up. She was spending some time with friends before she left on the bus ride to Yellowknife around midnight.

Back on the train we headed into and through the Canadian Rockies. They just provide even more incredible views. It's really nice to just sit up in the skydome lounge and look out in awe of mother nature. We had an hour or so stop in Jasper, which is a very touristy little ski and adventure trip town. I wandered around a bit and found a small bottle of ice wine at a liquor store. I've been wanting to try ice wine for a very long time, but a full size bottle is $60 or more. The little one was $8, which is much more reasonable. I think I'll try that tonight with Kayur maybe. After Jasper it was just through the mountains on to Vancouver. I got talking to Chris, one of the VIA guys and Angela, a tourist from New Zealand. Chris ended up taking Angela and I on a tour of the train back to the Park car for more champagne. Then Angela and I got dinner, which was lovely, and then headed back to the front lounge car to watch Beyond the Sea. It was a really good movie, but very long. It gave me a whole new perspective on Kevin Spacey. He's an incredible actor and this was a very important project for him. Once the movie was over it was time for bed, to get in as much sleep as I could before getting to Vancouver at 7:50 the next morning.

So, I set my alarm for 6:30am this morning, thinking it would give me almost and hour and a half to shower and get my stuff together before we got to Vancouver. However, the trend of earliness continued and we got to Vancouver an hour early, meaning I had a little over a half hour to get ready. I got out of the shower and ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to fit things into spaces and work everything out and go crazy. Ryan helped me off the train with my gear. I found a locker for my backpack and duffel bag at the train station, got my ticket to Seattle and headed out. Now I'm wasting time until the Vancouver Art Gallery opens at 10am. I'm hoping I can wander around there for a little while, take a break for lunch and then go back in without having to pay again. I'm also hoping they have a locker or bag check room for my laptop bag and that I can keep my laptop bag in there all day. We'll see.

So, that's the short version of my train trip. It's just too incredible to fully describe without taking forever. I've already hand written quite a bit in my journal and I'm hoping to do more, perhaps on the four hour trip from Vancouver to Seattle.


Anonymous Sarah said...

And tell us more about the ice wine!

9/12/05 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Todd Tyrtle said...

That sounds like such a wonderful time. Thanks for telling us all about it.

As for the ice wine - you should've picked it up while you were in Ontario - apparently they only make it in Ontario and Germany - other places haven't the proper climate to make it happen. Still, given what it takes to make it, it is quite expensive no matter where you get it.

9/12/05 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well hello!
its Gilly, just finally getting caught up to your blog! i havent made it through all the archives yet, but it sounds like your trip was pretty fantastic! Happy Holidays by the way!
take care and drop me a line when you can :)!


29/12/05 5:32 AM  
Blogger the taryn said...

gilly told me about you. it was funny, something like "OH MY GOD TARYN I WAS ON A TRAIN WITH SOMEONE WHO LIVES NEAR YOU!" i'm from reading, pa.
shes one of my favorite people.
have fun with your traveling. :)

30/12/05 10:28 PM  

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