The Train, The Ultimate Way of Travel
It's a therapeutic cruise without the seasickness.
Canada is the humble neighbor to the north of the United States. A quiet, polite presence that looms above the American homestead and serves as the hat and cape to complete the North American continent. It is world-famous for beautiful landscapes and a polite populace.
When this current turmoil is but a distant memory and life returns to the new normal, why not explore Canada. The exchange on the dollar alone makes this a viable endeavor and stretches the hard-earned buck of any budget farther. With an instant, (current) 25% discount on the USD exchange rate, it’s possible to spoil oneself, and this is the perfect solution. Not only does it get the most out of your money, but also the most out of your time. Take a journey on the train through Canada.
Canada is large and spans 4025 miles from end to end. It’s not only a culturally diverse melting pot, but its scenic landscape will leave a person breathless. On the train, it becomes impossible to escape meeting friendly travelers from all corners of the world, Europeans love it, and Australians en masse choose to see Canada from the observation cabin of Via Rail's Canadian train deck. Those with an endless budget can indulge in the opulence of the Rocky Mountaineer’s silver or gold leaf service.
This article explores taking the reader on a virtual tour going west on VIA Rail. Leaving from Toronto's Union Station, boarding a train will enlighten the passengers on what it means to live in this beautiful country. The train departs in the evening, at 10 p.m., the 'all aboard!' whistle invites the waiting passengers in the Via Rail lounge (excluding economy tickets) to board. If the chosen destination ends in Vancouver, consider booking a Sleeper Plus ticket. If the budget is limitless consider the Prestige package. Choices are endless, both the Sleeper and Prestige booking provide the traveler with the finest meal packages and comfort.
For budget-conscious travelers, consider traveling offseason as a great alternative option.
The province of Ontario is the epicenter of Canada, and beautiful. On this leg of the journey, massive swaths of forests and Precambrian rock formations will introduce the traveler to the term the Canadian Shield. Looking out the train's window, it becomes clear why so many artists labored to transpose the wilderness onto their canvas. Here, rugged rocks meld with lithe bodies of water and trees tango with clouds in the pristine reflection. A benefit to traveling during winter is that snow, viewed from the warm interior of a cabin, is also beautiful. The white backdrop and bare trees make it difficult for wildlife (those animals not hibernating) to hide.
Leaving Toronto, wave goodbye to Canada's most densely populated area. As the train continues heading northwest on The Great Western Way to Sudbury, rich in mining history, and onward, the train reaches Sioux Lookout. Its history is deeply tied to the First Nations way of life and is endearingly named 'the hub of the north.' Left behind are the extensive lengths of Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and the Georgian Bay. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are distant memories.
Manitoba's capital is Winnipeg. Another city that is rich in Native American History has many great reasons to alight. Exploring this sophisticated city is a great way to walk off the pounds gained from overindulging on the train's fabulous menu. Depending on the schedule, once you reboard the train, the track leads to Saskatoon. Gazing out the train's window, the phrase big sky country becomes true. When traveling during the winter months, someone will eventually say, 'but it's a dry cold,' should temperatures hover at -4 Fahrenheit. It’s still cold.
Saskatoon is an oasis on the prairie landscape, and the South Saskatchewan River bends its way around the city like a protective arm. On this stopover, passengers wonder again how another vibrant, artistically diverse city has escaped their radar. From Saskatoon to Edmonton, Alberta's capital, is a relatively short jaunt. On a sunny day, on this flat plateau, passengers experience a feeling of endlessness. Above, the blue sky with its feathery clouds will make the world seem infinite. But for most travelers, by this juncture in their journey, they are eager to glimpse the Rockies.
Once the train rumbles into Jasper, passengers are eager to alight and explore this small city, nestled in the heart of Jasper National Park, Canada's largest park. Regardless of what time of year, immerse yourself in this panoramic postcard. There is a scent in the air, perhaps a mountain chill, and undoubtedly glimpses of some form of wildlife appear in the viewfinder. If animals aren't parading down the main street, then perhaps a snapshot of a majestic elk, a white mountain goat, or bighorn sheep frames the lens when the train leaves the station. From Jasper, the train enters the last 16 hours of the 2775 mile journey. As the train snakes its way toward Kamloops, through tunnels and tight railway passages, the rugged beauty westerners brag about stares boldly back.
In the middle of a crips winter, hoar frosted twigs and branches, and steel-blue mountains set against the towering woods of Canada's rich forests sing with beauty. Around Kamloops, along the river, search for eagles perched on treetops, or circling in the sky, easy to spot in the winter, more elusive during the summer months.
When the train, after four days and nights, chugs into Vancouver, and the Pacific shimmers in the west, passengers have reached their destination. While prices for this journey often depend on season, don't rule out a winter or spring journey.
Before you go: As with any travel excursion, diligent research is vital for a smooth trip. The seven scheduled stops are contingent on outside factors and not guaranteed. Elements can cloud photo-ops and train windows may be spattered with rain, camera settings may need adjustments. But when a person spots a moose in the forest, they’ll always treasure the moment, it doesn’t have to be a Kodak moment. It's wise to have a flexible agenda, and while VIA Rail does its utmost to stay on schedule, don't bank on arriving at your final destination at a precise time.
Because the train travels through five time zones, and the internet is sporadic, electronics may not catch up and leave you wondering, 'does anybody really know what time it is'* Print a timetable.
Next time, we'll journey east.
Be responsible and considerate of others and remember to wear a mask until further notice.
Please copy and paste the link for more VIA Rail information.
*Song lyric by Robert Lamm, Chicago, 1969
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