From the moment the clock struck a nocturnal ten o’clock in the grand and opulent Union Station in Toronto to the moment I stepped off the train one sunny but misty morning in West Coast Vancouver, my journey was filled with stunning scenery, fabulous food and fascinating people, as well as moments of pure wonder and joie de vivre. This was a ‘bucket list’ journey and I could hardly contain my excitement as I climbed up the steps to the train that would be my home for the next few days.
The VIA train that crosses Canada is known as The Canadian, although many people of my generation might also know it as the Canadian Pacific Railway. The train has always been steeped in mystery and wonder for me, as I remember my parents and their friends discussing the journey when I was little. The journey is part of the canon of ‘Great Railway Journeys of the World’, with The Blue Train in South Africa and The Orient Express in Europe being members of that exclusive club.
When you board the train at night, there is very little to see outside the windows but that’s exactly as it should be, as this is the ideal time to meet the train staff, your fellow travellers, explore the train and of course check into your accommodation. Once I dropped my hand luggage off, my cabin steward told me where to go for the meet and greet Champagne cocktail party, which was a lovely idea for the first night.
After a good night’s sleep, the next morning dawned early and as I opened the shutters, I was able to see part of this great country unravelling before me; the flat plains of Ontario opened out onto a vast horizon which was punctuated with languorous winding rivers and limpid lakes. My small but comfortable sleeper cabin bed was positioned perfectly for a lazy lie-in and window viewing before I had to make my way down to the dining car for breakfast.