Ontario Visit: Fleeting Glimpses – Via Rail Days 2 – 3i

For some reason it is taking much longer to write about my train ride than the actual trip took! However, the time has given my the opportunity to reflect on some of my notes, my very few photos and my hope to do it again!

After warming up from my chilly night in the dome car with an excellent cup of coffee – my own of course – and breakfast I spent a good part of my day staring out the window, reading my book and dividing my window time between my seat, the dome car and the gathering area where people chat, play games, eat and listen to the entertainment. Summer train travel is great for the entertainment side. Usually a small audience yet so appreciative. I am always happy when the powers that be have not allowed economy class to enjoy live music and a break from the eventual monotony or train travel.

I thought I had his name – nope! However, he is from Victoria so maybe I will see his picture somewhere he will be playing when not on-board.

By the time we reached Sioux Lookout time was approaching a standstill. We were not exactly behind, just going through Northern Ontario…..and going, and going. Getting outside was becoming a palpable need for all onboard.

We have some great names for places in Canada!

My seat mate left sometime before Sioux Lookout, I would have the two seats to myself for the remainder of my trip. Small mercies! Soon enough we were in Winnipeg where I was joined one woman to explore the Forks, an area I am now quite familiar with after a few trips to -even staying at – Winnipeg in recent years. The Forks is a great place to stock up, I bought a giant chickpea roti and a vegetarian Somosa (I seemed to have been eating these lovely bundles a lot) to supplement my packed meals. There was so much I expected they would last a couple of days.

I met up with two writers I had talked with while in line in Toronto who were travelling in the sleepers after their attempt to visit me and a fellow passenger onboard had been thwarted. Thinking on our feet one handed me her only business card to take a photo of for me to look up.

Although I have no idea what the book is about beyond her marriage the title intrigues me.

Once the train left Winnipeg, with a new crew, there was a sense of truly going west. Many passengers left the train yet it still seemed quite full, enough that I was a little worried I might lose my double seat.

Hedging my chances: It comes in handy when travelling with the backpacker essentials!

As I wound my way through the muskeg, rocks and mosquito laden land – firmly seated in the AC dome car – I was once again struck by how fortunate I am to be travel in our vast land even though on a cinched tight budget.

Shades of straw with goldenrod hues peeking through green fields and manmade blue ponds turning to mud – it was not yet drought conditions. Saskatchewan fields live up to the oft used patchwork quilt. Arrow straight, stitched side roads to forever. Lovely field of sunflowers appeared outside my window seat – a perfect, silent in memory of the death of my father nine years ago, born in Saskatchewan. Sadly I missed the Perseus Meteor Shower.

Stopped long enough in Saskatoon to walk to front of train!

Vanscoy, SK. Inevitable bales of hay.
Perdue, SK. A lot of flat fields, blue sky with fluffy clouds on this trip!

Then suddenly, we were in Alberta. Red hills, undulating, rolling, held in stasis until we pass. It was a strange sensation. We crossed over what was once (still?) the longest train trestle in Canada.

Dotted with cattle.

Wainwright Via Rail Station. A little worse for wear.

Many of us were train weary by the time we finally made it to Edmonton. I was in dire need of a shower. Upon discovering we had only three hours at a relatively new side station with the closest places 3 kilometres away walking in the oncoming mosquito infested dusk. (A few of us considered taking one of the taxis buzzing around much like the mosquitoes) settled to wash my hair in one of the Ladies Room sinks. I discovered I was not the only one!

Hurray, I was still at two seats when we pulled out about 45 minutes late, way past my bedtime in any province. The doldrums of day 3 were dissipating. We were headed to Jasper with visions of mountains to greet us in the morning.

Jasper! Mountains, fresh air, pine trees, rivers,, small town feel with so much to see and do. One passenger said he was equipped to camp for two days in the mountains before hopping back on the train. Winter vs. summer – the mountains appear tame with no sign of the bone chilling snow and ice. Do not be fooled. There are bears in them hills. The fellow said he had camped in Africa where the lions roam. (I have not heard anything about a missing hiker in the area so he must have survived) My closest encounter, soup and a small loaf of day old bread at The Other Bear Claw, now a favourite stop when in Jasper. It was time to sit back to enjoy the views.

Moroccan soup chock full with vegetables and chickpeas. Bread filled with cheese, basil & tomato

Back on the rails, expectations from nature – best quotes far. Upon seeing Thunder Falls on the far side of Moose Lake one passenger quietly exclaimed to her seat mate, “That’s it? We came all this way to see a trickle?” Much later Pyramid Falls silenced them. Except they wanted the train to stop!

Thunder Falls
Pyramid Falls

We passed a tiny place called Blue River, except it’s green – ribbon of molten moss. Passengers come and go – moving vignettes into the lives of travellers. Boredom was interspersed with the glories of canyons and mountains and eavesdropping. A call for a nurse or a doctor also meant we stopped along the way. Some sort of medical emergency. A nurse practitioner from economy class stepped up and it seems a doctor from the sleeper cars was also available. One of the crew members had her radio with her that crackled the ‘patient’ was conscious. It seemed they would be sent to a hospital in Kamloops.

I finally had to order a meal. Not always easy with dietary needs! The chef went out of her way to determine if there was anything I should not eat in some of the choices before suggesting a chef’s salad with an extra egg in place of the ham. Lots of fresh vegetables, and great garlic bread.

We arrived in Kamloops as the sun was setting before I was lulled to sleep with dreams of home.

Expenses: The Other Bear Claw – lunch $9.00; onboard dinner – $11.00 (I had reluctantly thrown out the other half of my roti bought in Winnipeg. It was delicious, just too much potato and chickpeas that seemed to upset my stomach. Just as well I did not have a seat mate!

Ontario Visit: Fleeting Glimpses – Via Rail Day 1

Once again my bags were packed and I was ready, or sort of ready. I spent the evening out with my daughter, SIL & friends of theirs at the Kitchener Blues Festival https://unattendedgrandma.wordpress.com/2019/08/19/ontario-visit-winding-down-to-go-home/which meant getting back to the house later than was a good idea. However, as already noted we all had a great time. At least nearly everything was ready to just grab and go for the 5:04am bus to Toronto. Fortunately that was just a short jaunt to the stop. I had been up since 3:00am and actually fell asleep on the bus during some of the 1 1/2 hour trip before having to change buses. I also saved money when the driver only charged half the fare – I guess I look older first thing in the morning!

At Square One, no idea where that is situated other than between Kitchener and Toronto, I had enough time to grab a coffee before about another 1 1/2 hours on a bus. How to determine if a major terminal? Look for a Starbucks. I was making use of my App and already ahead by $10.00 – a great start to my morning. By the time I arrived in Toronto and made the short walk to Union Station I was ready for more coffee and breakfast. I think it was 8:30 – my train would depart at 9:50. Slightly behind schedule.

I snagged a window seat – home for four nights – I was saying a silent prayer for nobody joining me.

First in line – perhaps first choice of seats? Nope, but I did just fine. This is a popular sign for pictures!

Parry Sound – looks like a lovely place to visit. Perhaps another trip.

Capreol – a little rain was welcome. The smokers who clogged the carriage aisles to get out were not.

Kawaweogama Lake: 210km NW of Thunder Bay, (the train does not go there) still in Ontario -TB is yet another town I once lived in as a child. We had entered Day 2.

I was not lucky my first night, a woman in her 80s joined me fairly late. Not so bad except she was a smoker. I spent my first night in the chilly sky dome.

However, the glimpses out my window were magnificent. A lone falcon slowly circling; herons still as the bulrushes; lily pads wearing golden crowns; a giant stop sign nailed to a tree with no sign of human traffic; brightly coloured canoes slip sliding away; then much later, another lake a lone fisherman slowly motoring against setting sun reds. Dusk descends early, sun dappled trees darken, lakes earlier inviting, shine ominously black. Molten silver confuses. Deadheads lurk. A single blackened tree – lightening strike? Disease? Too swiftly moving forward – all is wonder.

Swaying and steady clickety clack lulled me to sleep.

Ontario Visit: prepping for my epic journey home

 I am busy not being busy for once. A couple of down days for my four enforced down days on a train. I do have to figure out food, and COFFEE, to remain somewhat sane sleeping on seats that recline only a very little. It is my hope I will not have anyone sit beside me. I will be at the station quite early which means there is a chance I can at least grab a window seat unless there are a lot of young people travelling. They tend to rush ahead of everyone and spread everything out on ‘their’ territory. I am speaking from experience, not crotchety old age. Having travelled on hard seats in China I will not be thwarted from establishing my own space. Perhaps most of the passengers will be berth or cabin paying. even I can hear my inner voice asking if I am bonkers.

Back to food. The on-board choices are not great for economy besides having fairly generous hours of operation. I had played with the idea of buying pre-packaged meals from StarBucks using my AirMiles. Aha, thinking like Pooh &  using my “Very little Brain…[to] Think of Things” I came up with buying a package of ‘meal prep’ containers I had come across at Dollarama. Only $4.00 for 7. (that’s CAD) Three compartments each, lid closes well, and reusable! So far I have mini croissants, small cans of tuna, dried apricots, granola bars, small pots of yogurt (still trying to figure that out) & orange juice. Squishy ice packs. Ground coffee. I have absolutely no recollection if cream, or even milk, is available to we lowly economy class passengers.

Considering my so far rather sad selection I have had to think what else I should take along that will last for 3-4 days. Ideally I should not have to make any purchases along the way. However, we do not live in an ideal world and the train is far too often spectacularly late! There is usually a fairly long stop in Winnipeg with the station just a hop, skip and jump from the Forks where of all sorts of yummy supplies can be bought. However, I do not want to run short if there is a delay in arrival. Stops in Edmonton and Jasper might work, except the former is well into the evening and I experienced a 12 hour delay waiting for the train to arrive in Jasper one winter! From Edmonton. Which brings me back to what else to buy.

I have settled on boiling six eggs (tea eggs would be divine, sadly my daughter & SIL do not have what I need; and I am not supposed to have soy products), apples (I will pre slice those), cheese, broccoli & cauliflower – preferably already cut unless my SIL will use it up, some sort of dip. Cream. In Ontario the milk and cream come with pour spouts that have caps – hurray! I am hoping a 1/2L will be enough until I determine what is on-board. With all of that I think I should have enough, yet I still worry I have forgotten something. Of course I may become sick of tuna and eggs!

As for coffee. Of course I already have that! It came with me from home.

Ontario visit: the in between stuff!

I have been fortunate to spend quality time with my daughter and grandson over the last few weeks as well as finding activities I can do on my own when they are working or having their own fun. Visiting family for extended stays is all about balance.

What did I find to do in Kingston when I have already seen and done so much during past visits? A surprising lot! As always, Music In the Park (Confederation Park – not Centennial Park as I constantly call it! The latter is in Victoria) is always a great place to sit back and relax, have s picnic, enjoy some great music and, when it comes, a cooling breeze off Lake Ontario. During the summer Thursdays are a perfect time for the afternoon hour of music then an hour of Downtown Country before heading to the far side of City Hall for a an outdoor movie at Springer Market Square! On the evening I was in the area I saw Mama Mia: Here We Go Again after some pretty mean country picking earlier.

The United Steelpickers
I went prepared! Book for when I had to wait for the movie; lots of water, a hat, dinner in snack form, my fan – I did use it – even a snazzy seat built into a backpack that my grandson loaned to me!

Of course I sang! Very quietly. Cute movie, not what I expected.

There was finally a day when my daughter did not have to work 12 hours followed by sleeping. We had an impromptu afternoon – 3:00pm movie? Of course! Lion King was great!

I managed to snag my grandson for another Monday outing! We took advantage of the two National Parks for one price from our outing the previous week, choosing to visit the much closer Fort Henry. The original Fort was built and garrisoned during the war of 1812 but saw no military action. (Must have been pretty boring times stuck in readiness every day)

Despite having been on a tour a couple of years ago I learned more about the military and civil daily life for the inhabitants from an engaging guide. In addition to that there were some changes made since my last visit. Although I like fresh baked cookies and bread I was unsure about grilled cheese sandwiches being served at the Bonnycastle Bakery that is now within the Lower Fort – although they were far less expensive than the Battery Bistro where we eventually had lunch. However, the chocolate chip cookie I did buy, and shared with my grandson and pandas, was quite yummy. My issue is that sandwiches, like the cookies, are not authentic fare. Not that anything at the bistro, in the Upper Fort, serves anything authentic either. Their outdoor patio has a million dollar view of Lake Ontario. If given a choice another time I would go for the bakery.

A visit to Fort Henry where my friends were very near in trouble for wanting to eat the cookies before they cooled down.
I am quite sure cookies were not part of the daily rations back in the day. However, still the same ovens!
Those poor drummers were practising under the severe sun and in high humidity – I hope they are paid well to entertain we tourists!

Precision stepping and measured piping.

It might be expected that I was becoming quite worn out with so much to do! Fortunately I did have days I could just relax, go for a walk – most days it was too hot so I went to Cataraqui Mall, open late Monday through Friday, to get in my much needed steps. A visit to Picton, one of many small towns in Ontario’s wine country, to the local, exceptionally well attended and large, arts & crafts fair did nearly do me in despite having my hat, sunscreen, plenty of water from the refill station, and a few delicious choices to snack on. My daughter and I shared a giant pretzel, a variety of spreads (most of which I could not eat) before deciding we would not get dinner at the nifty, mobile fire truck pizza.

Firewood in a fire tuck!

We rocked out to Moist at Stringer Market downtown.

Attended a backyard bridal shower the following day.

Then a barbecue, complete with roasting marshmallows, the next evening!

I will be heading to Kitchener soon to spend three days before heading home on the train. The decision to return to Kitchener makes the most sense financially as well as a way to visit my family there again. I will avoid the expense of staying in Toronto overnight if I had left from Kingston by taking GO Transit from Kitchener very early the morning.

Expenses: after my trip to Ottawa I slipped in keeping careful track of everything – no real reason beyond laziness. However, despite yet another expensive day with my grandson, despite not having to pay an entry fee, I do seem to still be on track. (Speaking of which, my train trip to Kitchener was booked on Discount Tuesday by my daughter who will take my e-vouchers in payment = $60.00)

Bonnycastle Bakery: $1.60 cookie; Battery Bistro: $32.00 lunch for two

Ontario Visit: Ottawa (2019)

I was extremely fortunate to be treated to two wonderful days and nights in Ottawa by my daughter, and in a way my SIL. He worked, we played. I had only been to our capital city in the dead of winter – twice! If possible visit after all the ice has melted even if it means in the heat of summer. Choosing to only walk while there we barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do – much of which is free!

We ate out a lot! How could we resist The Cupcake Lounge with two trips through Byward Market? No photos so no guilt! I actually enjoyed the market more when I was there one winter. Go figure. Great restraint, half a cupcake after dinner, then half a one for breakfast. A boat cruise took us across to Hull, and gave a water view as we cruised past 24 Sussex Drive, a few embassies, the Rideau Falls, and so much more.

We took a tour of West Block, the only way to visit is to book a tour online. Well worth it, free, despite the very heavy security. Wherever we were water, sunscreen, a hat and places with AC were a necessity. We also put in a lot of stairs and walking. I would do it all again.

Expenses: what can I say here? I paid for so little. Two days in Ottawa for two people, staying within a stone’s throw of Parliament, could easily run into $600 – $1000. We had free accommodation, walked everywhere, took in free activities or my daughter paid. I hope I can return the generosity if she ever makes it back to the west coast.

It was difficult to fit in a shot of the name, me & the pandas! You know, proof & posterity.

Bytown Museum. Ottawa’s oldest stone building.

A great museum with a permanent collection plus temporary exhibits makes this a must see for visitors and locals, all for the incredible sum of $2.00 each. Can’t find a coffee for that!

Kinki Kitchen Lounge. Somehow we managed to share our light lunch!

Patty Boland’s – a bit on the seedy side with surprisingly good food! (I had the chicken tacos) Atop the bar is the best place to belt out a song and grab a quick drink.

The cynic in me turned around to get a shot of Cartier with his back turned to all. At least he is standing on the same side of the fence as all we commoners!

The Library of Parliament has also had to be rehoused – quite close to where we stayed. Sadly only accessible to Parliamentary staff.
I did not find out if the Peace Tower will also undergo renovations. The bell still tolls on the hour, and it seemed the half and quarter hour although we did not pay that much attention to the time. (Clock Tower with the Canadian flag)
Peace man! A little time to play before dealing with the ropes.
Rather like a cork popping up! Look through the for front boat to see the man in red to show how much the canal rose!

All lit up just before the stunning, and dare I say, made me proud to be Canadian.

Northern Lights is showing every night until September 8, 2019. A sound and light show depicting the history of Canada in a breathtaking show. Times depend on the month. We stood right at the ropes on the edge of the grass at the back, a great way to prevent anyone from standing immediately in front of us. Or take a picnic supper and sit on the grass. Did I mention it’s also free?

The temporary Commons was built in the courtyard of the West Block.

Sorry for the poor quality; I want d to show the steel posts that are holding up the temporary Commons roof. The seats for the MPs were moved from Centre Block except for the Speaker’s seat. (Not in photo)
Many Canadians have family who served during war and peacekeeping; many still do and many serve. Let us never forget the commitment.
Let’s never forget that women were also there. Just as they are now.
We were walking along the Promenade where we came upon an elderly woman who had just fallen and most likely dislocated her elbow. My daughter, always a nurse, stayed with her (family was also there) until the paramedics arrived. I thought this display was apt.
The locks from below.