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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

TRANS CANADA: Day 8--My Journey on VIA Rail Canada

I left Vancouver on Friday, and, half a day late, finally arrived in Toronto.  Most of the passengers were peeved.  Frankly, I enjoyed the extra day of snow scenes and two free meals, an extra lunch and an extra dinner.

This terrible delay, however, will need to be sorted out soon, or people will stop taking the VIA Canada Rail service.  What happened about a year ago is that "Americans" got majority ownership over CN (Bill Gates owns the most shares), the Canadian train freight company.  Both were once government entities.  However, the freight portion was privatized, and, incredibly enough, negotiated priority over passenger service.  In other words, if a freight train wants to use any common railway, passenger trains will need to wait.  There have been delays of almost a day just between Vancouver and Edmonton.  That's not even halfway to Toronto.

We were lucky in only being 12 hours late.  Whew.  But I loved it.  I don't leave Toronto until Thursday.

My train was more than a quarter mile long:

Oh, there is no internet and no television.  See that window?  That was my entertainment:

This is what the scene looked like, in Winnipeg:

The meals were mostly okay to excellent:

There are tables for four only, and you get sat according to when you come in to fill the next one.  You meet all kinds of people.  For example, one retired couple, both in their 50's, I think, sold their home in Tasmania, and has been using an internet source to place them in residencies where they pay nothing to take care of the place.  They bought around world fares and find a way to do this.  They are on to Minnesota, where they plan to somehow get to see the Super Bowl, and said they bought tickets (paid $390) for an Eagles concert somewhere.  They don't return to Australia until July.  One more thing, they bought shares in a keg with some friends from a Tasmanian whiskey company some years ago, and in 2014, Sullivans Cove was selected as the World's Best Single Malt Whiskey.  They pick up their 42 bottles next year.  The company was only formed in 1995, and they are friends with the owner.

The food on the train comes with the fare, but you pay any alcohol.  The best of the trip was an outstanding rack of lamb:

The scenery rolling by was mesmerizing.  I saw enough snow landscape for several lifetimes.  That's our train in the first two photos:

Here are three more fanciful sunsets:

More snow:

I'm staying at the Sheraton Centre Toronto, and this is my view of the CN Tower, which from 1975 to 2007 was the world's tallest tower until overtaken by Burj Khalifa and Canton Tower, but still the highest in the Western Hemisphere:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit another all-time high, up 119 to 24,504.


Friday, December 8, 2017

TRANS-CANADA: Day 7--Vancouver, again

Okay, I'm still in Vancouver, for my train departs at 8:30 tonight.  So while this is still Day 4, I named it Day 7, for my next live posting will be on Tuesday, December 12, when I arrive in Toronto.

Still foggy.  How foggy?  Can't see the top of my hotel.  Here was my transport mode for the day, plus a bunch of re-photos fogged over, starting with Canada Place.  Certainly looks like a cruise ship

I show the Christmas Market again, for it is next to Canada Place, but, more so, the trolley driven sarcastically commented, here you have the pleasure of paying $10 just to go shopping.

Just above is a main road of the drug/homeless district.  Also known as Downtown Eastside, it is located close to Chinatown, and is slowly being converted to respectability.  Still a bit scary, but not as much as when I accidentally walked through this area a couple of decades ago.

Next, the trolley wandered through Stanley Park, named after Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, British politician who became the Governor General of Canada in 1886.  Hockey's Stanley Cup is also named for him.

I stopped by the Aquarium, for at least it was warmer and you could see something:

There was a lot to see, for a lot of money ($39, but $30 for seniors):

A lot of jellyfish:

A few flying land animals:

The day before I took this Girl in a Wetsuit photo.  Today, you could at least see the sulfur piles in the background:

This is Vancouver's modern day version of Copenhagen's The Little Mermaid.  All in good fun, as prankers regularly swim to the rock and dress her in the attire of the season or day.

There were thousands of expensive Christmas trees growing all over Stanley Park, the kind you buy in Hawaii, the Douglas Fir:

Walking back to my hotel later in the day, I stopped by Tim Hortons, Canada's multinational fast food and largest quick service chain, with 4,613 restaurants in 9 countries.  Opened by hockey player Tim Horton in 1964, the franchise was purchased by Burger King in 2014.  Did you know that the majority owner of Burger King is from Brazil?  I had Caesar salad, chili, tomato soup, cheese fries, too much bread and leftover drinks from last night.

What is traditional Canadian cuisine?  It is a collage of dishes from the range of cultures.  Not a stew pot, but a smorgasbord.  Salmon is the sushi of choice.   Add some maple syrup, whale meat dipped in soy sauce of the indigenous people (referred to as First Nation), dried meat, bannock (a kind of flat bread), poutine (French fries with cheese curds topped with brown gravy), butter tarts and Kraft Macaroni Cheese...and you're getting close to Canadian food.  

The hard alcohol of choice is Canadian whisky.  Food trucks, serving distinctly international cuisine are doing well.  Lumberjack's or loggers breakfast is a huge dish of three+ eggs, ham, bacon, sausages, fried potatoes and several large pancakes.