Overland Traveller

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Canada by train: mountains, lakes, clouds and bears (Page 2)

The Canadian passing through the Rocky Mountains © VIA RailThe entertainment
A crew of 23 ably catered for the 127 passengers. Champagne and snacks were served in the Skyline carriage (a glass-domed top deck area) soon after boarding. My bed was turned down whilst I dined in the evening and transformed back into a seating area over breakfast. Entertainment was provided by Activity Coordinators who laid on board games, sightseeing sessions, wine tasting and films. Tea, coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages were always on hand, and free, along with fruit, muffins and biscuits; I was absolutely in no danger of hunger or boredom.

The food and drink
The food was a triumph. I don’t know how they managed to cater for so many from what must have been a relatively small kitchen, but every meal I ate was delectable, from poached eggs for breakfast to a finely cooked steak for dinner. Meals were necessarily served over a number of sittings – book early to get a time that suits you – and were full-on, sit-down affairs. There’s something undeniably romantic about eating a three course meal as the world outside whirls past, not quite fast enough to be a blur.

The cabin
Not quite so romantic but eminently practical was my private cabin. Small, yes, and with bunk beds instead of a double (I was on a train after all), my cabin had a sink, mirror, wardrobe, two comfortable chairs (in use when the beds were not) and private toilet. Each carriage had a shared shower cubicle with oodles of hot water. At times it felt a little like living in a Rubik’s Cube but the view from the window, excellent staff and the other onboard facilities made it very difficult to feel cheated.

Those who opted for the “Romance by Rail” package got a queen-size bed, his-and-hers washrooms, all those romantic essentials like chocolates, sparkling wine and flowers and, of course, breakfast in bed. Sounds divine to me.

The view
Of course, the main reason to travel by train across Canada is the scenery. Choose carefully which direction you travel (from Vancouver or from Toronto), as it affects what you see along the way. I left Vancouver at 8.30pm meaning I travelled through BC’s coastal ranges overnight but passed Mount Robson, the highest peak of the Rockies, in daylight. Of course, the top of Mount Robson was shrouded in cloud as it is for well over 300 days a year but the Rockies were still breathtakingly beautiful. I also enjoyed chugging across the prairies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I’d heard that this part of the journey is where people read their books or take a nap but the landscape opened out into vast farmland scattered with glimmering lakes and red barns. The scenery stretched to the horizon, topped by a fabulous display of ever-changing cumulus clouds. I could have watched that for hours. Actually, I did, and all from the Skyline carriage.

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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010