Reputedly one of the world’s greatest train journeys, I’ve wanted to travel across Canada by train for years. It’s all about the journey rather than the destination, which is just as well given the frequent delays on account of sharing the line with the massive freight trains – when those break down, everyone has to wait. Lengthy stops are built in to the schedule and are sometimes used to catch up when there have been delays but no one really cares about actually arriving because, of course, arrival signifies the end of the experience.
I had romantic ideas of sipping champagne in the observation car, enjoying the magnificent scenery and fine dining in the restaurant car with fellow travellers although, strangely enough, our 3 young and energetic boys didn’t feature too prominently in these fantasies!
We arranged for 2 cabins to be joined together so that we shared a 4 berth space, and although not cheap, this included all meals and drinks on board, access to all the viewing cars and recreation areas and a bit more space to store our luggage. It was also low season so we managed to get a pretty good deal and, in the end, I’d say it was worth every penny.
Our train departed late on a Tuesday evening and was scheduled to arrive on Saturday morning – 4 nights and 3 days. It sounds like a lot. Before leaving I anticipated catching up with the blog (ha!), covering plenty of home education activities with the boys and enjoying the aforementioned champagne! What I hadn’t realised is just how much eating there is to do. Each morning we awoke to a huge breakfast – fruit, cereal, pastries and “would you like eggs with that?” “Why of course!” “More coffee? – please do!”
Not three hours later, we would be tucking in to a three course lunch before making our way to one of the lounges for more drinks (with fruit and pastries for anyone no longer concerned about their waistline.) A bit of time to enjoy the scenery before back again for a 3 course evening meal. By the end it was beginning to feel like a Man v Food challenge although every bite was delicious and difficult to refuse.
We collapsed into our beds by 10pm every night, stuffed full and rocked to sleep by the train’s gentle motion and generally woke up in a new time zone each morning!
On Thursday morning the train stopped at a very wet Winnipeg for a few hours, giving us the chance to get off and search for some wifi! Having reconnected with the world briefly, we took the boys to the Winnipeg Children’s Museum to let them run around and burn off some energy. Given the heavy rain we weren’t inclined to explore any further than the immediate area of the station and museum but I’d like to return on a dry day.
Somewhere after Edmonton we were delayed whilst our engineers assisted a broken down freight train further up the track. This meant that our stop in Jasper was cut short to make up the time but even so, Friday turned out to be the highlight of the whole trip. There was barely time for the panorama car dome to be cleaned and then it was onward through the Rockies. If you are only going to do one part of this journey – get on here. On departing Jasper the champagne flows and the canapes are delicious. There is a real party atmosphere for this leg of the journey and the crew seem to enjoy it as much as the passengers.
By this stage we had got to know many of the other passengers and it felt like one big family. Some had been on the trip many times before and ensured that the boys knew exactly when to look out for the most impressive views, the most famous of the mountains or the best places to spot the wildlife.
I’m certain that no matter how often you ride The Canadian, it never gets old.