Tag Archives: Canada

The Train Journey To End All Train Journeys

*Backdated to early August, 2012*

This is the story of 90 hours on a train. That’s 5,400 minutes, or 324,000 seconds. On a train.

After three months travelling east to west across Canada, I thought it would be a novel idea to take the four day train trip from Vancouver back home to Toronto as I’d flown from Montreal to Calgary on the way across. (If that string of cities made no geographical sense to you, see map below.)

canada

I was also short on coin and VIA Rail was offering 70% off selected trips (these Express Deals run year-round, a good option if you’re flexible with travel dates). I booked economy (no bed, no meals) from Vancouver to Winnipeg, and a sleeper car from Winnipeg to Toronto (four nights sleeping in a seat is too much!). This normally would have cost an exorbitant $1000, but I managed to get it for around $300. Steal!

I was really looking forward to the trip – taking in all the scenery, reflecting on a summer travelling, and catching up on a whole heap of emailing, blogging and Weeds (I’d just started watching it and had six seasons to get through).

But half an hour after boarding, disaster struck.

Me: “Excuse me, I can’t seem to connect to the internet.”

Staff member: “That’s because there is none.”

Me (slightly panicked): “For the whole trip?”

Staff member: “For the whole trip. The only WIFI we offer is between Toronto and Montreal.” (Which I’d known about and hence assumed all services had it. If you’re reading this VIA Rail, whyyyyyyyy??!!!!!)

Things went downhill over the next 24 hours:

1) Boarded at 8pm, ate all food supplies by 10pm

2) 11pm, finished the only book I’d brought (Angela’s Ashes, already 3/4 read)

3) Had worst night’s sleep trying to get comfortable lying across four seats, and trying to drown out the constant snoring and farting of other passengers

001

4) Woke at 6am convinced that we were in Alberta already as all I could see out the window was farmland. Turns out, we were only in Kamloops, BC. In 10 hours  we had travelled the equivalent of a 3.5 hour drive! It was then I realised this was going to be a looooooooooong trip.

But later that day, a shining beacon of light arrived in the form of the Rockies. This stunning scenery kept me entertained for hours as I alternated between my seat and the glass-roofed dome cart.

067

044

033

After two days and nights in economy, even nice scenery isn’t enough to make you feel human. I had turned into a grotesque version of myself: smelly, covered in mozzie bites that I’d scratched the crap out of through boredom, left eye all puffy and closing up (to this day, I still can’t explain that), leggings falling apart (I’d refused to throw them out until I got home)…my only consolation was that I only had another 12 hours until I was out of economy.

In the meantime, there was Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That is, flat plain after flat plain.

078

079     014

When I finally changed to a sleeper car in Winnipeg, I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me – bed, shower, three meals a day! I still didn’t have anything to do (I’d already resorted to plucking my eyebrows and editing all my photos) but at least I could sleep.

019

Things got exciting as we headed into Ontario. Not only was the scenery interesting again but we were in my home province – surely that meant we were on the home stretch?!

020029030033

But alas, it was still a whole 24 hours before we would reach Toronto. (I hadn’t actually realised until that moment how big Ontario actually is – check back to the map and see for yourself!)

Ninety hours later, I made it back to Toronto – albeit a little weary, a little stir-crazy, and severely internet-deprived.

…But recovery time was brief, the next day I headed to Montreal for Osheaga 2012.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Street Art of Montreal

I could do a whole blog series on why I love Montreal: the food (namely poutine and smoked meat); the annual Jazz Fest; the Tam Tams; the intersection of French and English; the different neighborhoods; the fact that you can buy booze in gas stations…it’s all amazing!

But one of the things I love most – and what I think makes the city so interesting and unique – is the abundance of street art.

Here’s a snippet of what I saw while I was wandering the streets of Montreal. (I also find it refreshing to do a blog post that focuses on images, rather than words, every once in a while.)

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Know When To Go Slow

By the time I reached Quebec City I’d been on the road over a month and a half, visited five provinces and, aside from two weeks working on a farm, had been in a different place every two days or so. I was exhausted and had burnt through a significant chunk of my travel fund. (I know, I know, first world problems!)

I was ready to do nothing for a while. And the fact that Quebec was in the throws of a heat wave just fueled my conviction.

So I walked around, drank coffee, read books, bummed around at the pool (free entry, yeah!) went to street festivals…and generally had a great time!

But after a few days of this, “traveler’s guilt” started to set in. I felt like I should be doing more, seeing more, meeting more people.

I decided discuss this internal conflict with my hostel roommate, Zoe, as she was doing even less than me but seemed completely unperturbed.

This is what she said to me:

The best way to enjoy a city is to just soak up the atmosphere – notice how the air is different, discover what makes the city tick, get a sense of what everyday people do. Relax and take your time to get to know the city. 

This is probably one of the best pieces of travel advice anyone has ever given to me. It reminded me that traveling is about observing, feeling and learning and this can only happen when you do things slowly and reflect on your experiences.

Thanks Zoe!

Tagged , , , ,
The Belle Jar

"Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences." - Sylvia Plath

yes2renewables.wordpress.com/

Friends of the Earth (Melbourne)'s renewable energy campaign

TED Blog

The TED Blog shares interesting news about TED, TED Talks video, the TED Prize and more.

Brunch Addict

Coffee. Brunch. Noms.

A fictional take on the news

Because lets face it, half of what is reported is made up anyway...

Street of Dreams

A literary blog of poet, playwright and essayist Rachael Stanford

Grammar Party

a blog about grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and sometimes cats

hutch PR

The basics of communication

TheNewStandard

what is #thenewstandard for you?

abtsocialmedia

Social media is now a hot career option!!

#bookreportsforgrownups

A collection of short stories, poetry, and essays.

araneus1

Short Stories, essays, and photos -- on stuff that interests me

Stephanie Haggarty

To write is to be free

Arbor Editing

Getting it done write!

reporting4work

*** JOURNALISM THAT MATTERS *** WORDS THAT WORK *** WEB CONTENT THAT INFLUENCES *** PUBLICATIONS THAT IMPRESS *** TRAINING THAT PREPARES

Terribly Write

Terrible Writing on the Web. And Writing Terribly Well for the Web

PRAMUDIYA

photography inspired by films

Searching for sanity

Stumbling and/or frolicking my way to understanding, a poets guide to reality.

Erin Matson

Feminism, Reproductive Justice, Activism