Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

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Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Thursday, September 29, 2005

VIA RAIL






Canadian VIA RAIL

I was forewarned that Amtrak was often late, but I didn't know that Via Rail would be even worse. I arrived at the station at 4:30 p.m. to catch the 5:30 train from Vancouver to Toronto, a long 3 day/night trip. They told us at check in that the train probably wouldn't leave before 7:30 since it arrived in the station 4 hours late because a different train had derailed somewhere. Great. Up to that point I wasn't really thinking about the possibility of the train going off of the tracks, but now I had something new to ponder.

The good part was that there was a special waiting area for the Silver and Blue Class (sleeper car class, which I was part of on this leg) with chairs and tables set up inside the station and out on the platform. A talented guy was playing the keyboards, guitar, sax and singing some jazz tunes and there was free coffee and water. They kept pushing back the departure time but they did the first dinner sitting while the train was in the station. For the rest of us they started serving champagne and appetizers.

The ladies I was sitting with had about 4 glasses of champagne each and one of them was getting a little wild with her clapping to the music. Suddenly she couldn't sit anymore and she jumped up and started to dance. Think of Elaine on Seinfeld and her special dance only performed at a frantic pace by a senior citizen. Her friend was a little embarrassed but the passengers were ready for any sort of diversion by this point. They gave her a big round of applause when she finished and that was enough encouragement for another lady to get up and wildly shake her booty. What a start for this part of the trip!

Most of the passengers aboard would qualify for AARP. There is a splattering of younger folk, but not much. It turns out that I am not sharing my little sitting area with anybody. That means I get to sleep on the lower bunk- yeah, it is much easier not to have to climb down a little ladder in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. In my section there are three double seat areas that are open to each other. Across from me is a man from St Louis and a little old woman from Montreal. At first I thought she was put off by us talking, then I realized that she speaks French and only knows a little English. I have been trying to speak French with her and have served as her translator a few times. The other couple is from LA.

At night they fold down the beds and pull heavy curtains across our bunks. Little chocolates are on our pillows as well as bottled water and fresh towels. The space is bigger than the roomette I had on Amtrak. I feel like I am in the move, "Some Like It Hot" when they are in the sleeper car. My porter just came to find me in the lounge car to tell me that my alarm clock is going off in my bunk and that my seat mates are annoyed. Ooops. Luckily it isn't too loud of an alarm. I must have hit the alarm switch to on when I was moving my stuff around. Speaking of my porter, he reminds me of Michel from the Gilmore Girls TV show. His voice sounds just the same, but he doesn't drip in sarcasm quite as much.

The food is definitely better on Via Rail than on Amtrak. The dining cars, as well as the rest of the cars, are from the 1950's. The lounge and observation cars aren't as nice as Amtrak, but the dining car is pretty cool. I have eaten with quite a few nice people. Most of the time conversation flows smoothly, but sometimes I get tired of meeting new people at each meal. I think others do too. I didn't finish dinner until 10:45 p.m. the first night. That is a bit late for me. I slept fairly well even though I woke up at 6:00 am.

I got up at 6:15 because I was getting antsy just lying there awake. I dressed and made my way to the observation car to see the sunrise. Since we were running about 7 hours behind, we were able to see more of the scenic part of the route, instead of sleeping throughout some of the best parts. We didn't pull into Jasper until 6:00 p.m.. We were scheduled to be there at 11:00. They cut our time there from 1 1/2 hrs to only 45 minutes. It was great to get off and breathe in the fresh mountain air. I did that for a few minutes while dashing across the street in hopes of finding an internet shop. I found one and was able to hook up and download a couple of blogs but I didn't have time to check my email. I certainly didn't want to miss the train.



The scenery has been gorgeous so far. The mountaIns have frequently been capped with snow and the green forests are dotted with golden Aspen and Birch trees. Their heart shaped yellow leaves flutter in the air as the train goes by. Most of the time the tracks follow along one river or another and we frequently see lakes. Low lying clouds drift in front of the mountains and in and out of the valleys. Some people spotted bear and moose this morning but the most I have seen are elk, cows, horses and other farm animals. I have tried to take pictures but it is hard to get a good shot through the windows at just the right time. It doesn't stop me from trying though. I had to laugh at myself earlier when I was in the lounge car with three Japanese people. They were speaking in Japanese but playing Scrabble in English and barely looking out the window. I was the one running around taking tons of pictures. So I guess stereotypes don't always hold true.

I am becoming known as the young gal with the laptop. I haven't seen anyone else with a computer and since there aren't any outlets in my sleeping area, I have taken it with me at times to find a power source. I guess I am just a techie now.

Two Days Later:

It is now the third day on the train. I just finished playing BINGO. I can't remember the last time I played that. I did win one round and got a key chain with a loon on it. We are now running about 8 hours behind schedule. I hope we fall behind a bit more because then they will keep us overnight on the train. At this point they won't say what they are going to do and some passengers are frustrated. I was going to stay at a hostel and so it is not a big deal if I can't go and don't cancel in time. Others are staying at expensive hotels and might lose quite a bit if they can't get there.

The past two nights I have stayed up pretty late with this one guy watching videos. I wanted to be really sleepy before hitting the hay. We have gone through 3 time zones so it is hard to tell what time my body thinks it is. There are 3 sittings for lunch and dinner officially beginning at 5:00, 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. but depending where we are they might start a few hours late. So some people start dinner at close to 11:00 p.m. No wonder I have no idea what time it is. I had breakfast and lunch with British sisters, one who lives in Toronto, the other in London. The one in Toronto said I could come to her house if we get kicked off the train and I have no where to go at that hour. if it comes to that I certainly will. I am trying to just be flexible and know that things will work out someway and stressing about it won't help.

I have also had two meals with a Parisian woman living in New York but of Russian descent. She speaks 7 languages and has quite an interesting life. She is not enjoying this train trip though and is complaining quite a bit. She is traveling with a group and everyone else is part of a couple. She feels left out. She also had her passport and jewelry stolen on the train when we were waiting in Vancouver to depart. I guess the passport has been found and is supposed to be waiting for her in Toronto but she is very worried about it. It is an Argentinean passport because she lived there as an ambassador for several years. Even though she is complaining, I still like her; she has a lot of spunk.

I slept in until 8:45 when they usually do last call for breakfast. I was still pretty sleepy and since the attendant hadn't remade my sleeping berth yet I hopped back in for a post breakfast nap. It felt good to catch up on some sleep since we all seem to wake up frequently at night. It was raining and kind of dark outside so it was easy to sleep. My sleeper is right near the dining car and the bathroom so we get a parade of people going past our seats all of the time.

We have only had 3 places in 3 days to get off the train and each time it has been short stops. Yesterday in Winnipeg I got off and went out to get some fresh air and to call Lynn. She was home and we were able to have a quick conversation. It was really good to hear the voice of someone I know and love. She said that she saw on the news that a big earthquake had occurred in Peru. Mom and Dad are there now on vacation so she email the hotel they were at and found out that they were not near the epicenter, thankfully. I feel out of touch without my daily Chronicle. Sometimes I have had access to a Canadian paper but it isn't the same. If I had internet access I would read online but that seems even more scarce here.

My one chance today to get off the train was right before my lunch sitting. The town's name was Hornpayne and all I could see from the train stop was just gravel and puddles of water from the rain that was pouring down. Not to be deterred by some rain and driven by the need for some fresh air I got off the train and walked beside it for awhile. We only had 15 minutes and I think that I was the only one besides a few desperate smokers who braved the elements. I didn't last long though before I was soaked and decided to get back on the train.

There is a nice young stylish Japanese gal on the train. She flew to Vancouver from Tokyo and then has taken the train from there to Toronto where she will sight-see for two days and then fly back to Tokyo. She has worked for Disney in Florida at Eppcott Center and also lived in Vancouver for a year. She seems pretty adventurous. She would like to move to Vancouver permanently because she loves it there. There is a large Asian population residing in Vancouver. She said she likes the pace of the culture there and the way the mountains and ocean and city are intertwined. There are quite a few people on the train from Vancouver.

They made the decision that we could sleep on the train and get off when the train pulled in at 4:30 a.m. or sleep until 5:30, as long as we were off by 6:30. This seemed like a much better option than sitting up all night and then getting kicked off the train at 4:30. I had my worst night sleep though. The "gentle rocking"of the train was more often "violent shaking" and it sounded like my car was trying to unhinge itself all night. But I'm not going to complain.

I gathered my stuff and made my way off the train and into the main part of the station. At 6:00 a.m. they opened the ticket booth. A man from Customer service asked if there were any passengers that had just come off of the train from Vancouver. I said yes and followed him into an office where he changed the time of my departure for me from 3:10 p.m. to 6:55 a.am and upgraded me to first class which included a nice hot breakfast. I decided to skip Toronto because I didn't have anywhere to put my luggage. So, I am off to Montreal. They actually have wifi on this train so I am able to check my email and send this blog.

Apparently bog-spammers have found my site and are leaving some advertisements in the comments section. So, if you want to say hi, please send me an email at emeryvilleamy@gmail.com.

I miss everyone and wish you my love!

Amy

4 Comments:

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7:08 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

You said:
Apparently blog-spammers have found my site and are leaving some advertisements in the comments section. So, if you want to say hi, please send me an email at emeryvilleamy@gmail.com.

Amy - Another option: You should be able to disallow anonymous posting, which would probably prevent most of the spam. From your administrative page, go to "Settings > Comments" and change "Who can comment?" You may also be able to delete the spam comments that are there now.

Anyway, I hope you survive a few more long days on the train - I know you'll be happy to have your feet on solid ground for a while!

2:17 PM  
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