Opinion and Comment
and now with ex-pat notes from Canada.

Thoughts on my train trip from Toronto to Vancouver with VIA Rail

Special credit to fellow passenger Felicia for contributing to this:

  • If you arrange in advance you can be dropped off (and picked up) anywhere along the route. Our train stopped in what seemed like the middle of nowhere to let a group of canoeists get off and start their trip. Apparently this is not uncommon.
  • Not enough power outlets - however you can find them if you look
  • There is an activity schedule that runs through on board events. This isn’t widely publicised but it’s on a whiteboard in the activity cars.
  • The air con in the observation cars can get really hot or cold - as it’s difficult to regulate. So make sure you bring an extra layer.
  • The praries are not as boring as people made them out to be.
  • The landscaped changed a lot each day - it wasn’t monotonous
  • Given you’re on a train, the food is great and the staff are very accommodating
  • Drinks cost about the same as a Toronto bar (beer $6, wine between $7-8)
  • You’ll normally a couple of copies of the local newspaper on board each day - so you can keep in touch with the world
  • That the single cabins have a toilet a few inches from your seat. A bit weird
  • Definitely the best accommodation for one person would be a lower fold out berths. You get a window view while you sleep and it’s easier to get in and out (no ladder involved). If you go for the top berth, it’s fine but you get no window and there’s a little bit more light that you’ll get coming through the top of you black out curtain. They’re both really sturdy and comfortable beds.
  • There isn’t much to do in Winnipeg during our stop, but when we got to the Exchange District. Try the Across the Board cafe. 
  • Technically you can drink your own alcohol if you have a private cabin - or if you’re sneaky
  • The train will stop at tiny villages along the way. They will open the doors at some of these stops. Make good use of them, get some fresh air and walk on terra firma.
  • You’ll spend quite a bit of time stopped at sidings, waiting for frieght trains to pass. Just remember there’s no rush and enjoy going the slow way round.
  • The showers are really great. Clean and reasonably powerful for a train. There’s also abundant hot water.
  • There’s plenty of space. With over 20 cars, it’s easy to find a quiet space all to yourself.
  • Travelling in coach looks pretty hard work if you’re doing the long haul. It was surprisingly busy though.
  • It seems that 25% of the people on the train had taken the journey before. So they know the drill.
  • There’s definitely an older generation of passenger that takes the train, however there’s also a good mix of different ages.
  • Lots of people break up the trip by stopping in Jasper for a day or two. This stop over is free but you’ll need to call Via Rail to get this set up on your ticket. If we’d known this, we might have stayed in Jasper for a few days instead of doing the whole journey non-stop.
  • The train is busiest during Summer - July & August. However there you’ll see lots of different things throughout the seasons. Winter apparently is stunning, but can be a bit slower due to the snow.
  • If you opt for the late dinner sitting then this will help you adjust to the new time zones. Also you’ll find it’s less crowded at this sitting. Pensioners or those with kids tend to opt for the earlier sittings.

Checklist from my VIA Rail trip from Toronto to Vancouver

I recently travelled by train from Toronto to Vancouver on VIA Rail. The trip was amazing, however if you’re travelling in a sleeper then there isn’t a lot of space. I’ve compiled a checklist of things to make sure you only bring the essentials and know what you’ll get on board.

Things to bring on board

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • 4 pairs of socks and underwear (to last 4 days)
  • Deodorant, hairbrush and any medication you might need
  • One pair of shoes: If you don’t like wearing shoes all day then also bring a pair of flip flops
  • Camera
  • One pair of trousers (you really don’t need shorts as the cars are all air conditioned)
  • Credit card
  • Warm coat or jacket (a good idea even in Summer as the AC can take a while to adjust when weather changes)
  • Sunglasses
  • Reading material - on our train, they sometimes picked up papers from local towns en route so you can keep in touch with news.
  • Headphones
  • Phone, tablet, laptop and their respective chargers
  • Ear plugs (and eye shades if you require absolute darkness to sleep)

And that’s it, anything else you can properly just check into the baggage car.

Things not to bring

  • any food - there are plenty of snacks on board
  • expectation that you’ll have wifi all the time or power plugs
  • not too many books - unless you’re an avid reader. There’s just a lot of other things you’ll end up doing instead of reading onboard
  • Towels, soap or shampoo - you’ll be given these on board and can ask for extras when you need them
  • No big bottles of water - there’s plenty available on the train

AGO: Why you close so early?

Compared to other galleries and museums, the AGO does a pretty poor job of making itself open and available by being open 48 hours a week.

The ROM’s opening hours are 15% greater than the AGO (they are open a whole extra day). Plus, 64% of the AGO’s opening hours are between the hours of 9am-5pm i.e. the time when most people in Toronto are at work.

Here’s my big question though, why does the AGO close so early? The fantastic CaixaForum in Barcelona is open until 8pm every night of the week - and has very similar visitor figures to the AGO.

  • CaixaForum Barcelona - Open 70 hours a week
  • Lourve - 61.5 hrs
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC - 59.5 hrs
  • National Gallery, London - 59 hrs
  • Royal Ontario Museum - 55.5 hrs
  • AGO - 48 hrs

On the one evening that the AGO is open late, the gallery is teeming with visitors (obviously the free ticket also contributes to this).

Even if it meant opening the AGO at midday to make up for the staff cost, surely that’s a more sensible thing to do.

Unusual uses of local street advertising.

Unusual uses of local street advertising.

Here’s some pre-game audio of the crowd singing O Canada at the NBA Playoffs Game 7: Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn.

Unfortunately the Raps didn’t win and were eliminated, however the atmosphere was electric right to the bitter end. The crowd was still chanting support for the team well after the final buzzer.

via Reddit

Toronto garage doors

Mini library in Toronto.

Mini library in Toronto.