Lori Guretzki

Article Summary:

Recommendations and suggestions from our train trip across Canada.

Canada Train Trip

Train travel seems to be popular with all age groups but it's the middle aged and seniors who are taking advantage of traveling in comfort.

Our vacation started the minute we entered the Via Rail Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, B.C. Once checked in, we were invited to enjoy the live music and cool refreshments on the patio before boarding the Via Rail's Canadian. We chose Via Rail's Silver & Blue class accommodation because it included a double private bedroom with a bathroom, a shower just down the hall, a large window and all meals in the dining car as well as many other frills. Upon entering our assigned sleeping car, the service began; our luggage was waiting for us and complementary Champagne and snacks were beckoning to us in the Bullet Car.

In the 2 ½ days aboard the train, we traveled through three provinces, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, arriving in Toronto at 9:30 P.M. where we left Via Rail to stay overnight at the Delta Chelsea Hotel. However, not before we were presented with a certificate in commemoration of our trip on the Canadian. (A Very Nice Touch!)

The Delta Chelsea Hotel is the largest hotel in Canada and very busy even at 10:00 P.M. The Hotel was a class act from the time we entered the front doors until we left them, we wanted for nothing.

We boarded Via Rail's The Corridor the following day, this time traveling in Economy Class for the short, 4 hour trip to Ottawa, Ontario. The Corridor is a fast moving, very modern train with very comfortable, wide seats, plenty of leg room and big unobstructed, picture windows. A limited food and drink service was available and offered to us in our seats. As we rode along in sheer comfort, the scenery was spectacular. There is certainly no shortage of water in Ontario - huge lakes everywhere.

We arrived in Ottawa, Ontario and will stay 3 nights in the Delta Ottawa Hotel & Suites. A very beautiful hotel with a fabulous view of the city located very conveniently in the heart of Ottawa's business area, just a five minute walk to the Parliament Buildings.

An absolute must while in Ottawa was the free guided tour of the Parliament Buildings. We were able to tour many of the main rooms and then up to the Peace Tower (9 stories by elevator) that allowed us a fabulous view and picture taking opportunity of Ottawa. Don't miss the Changing of the Guards that takes place on the front lawn of the Parliament Buildings every morning at 10:00 A.M. (free and very entertaining).

Take a taxi to Rideau Hall for the free guided tour of our Governor General's residence, given by University students. The tour was informal and very educational. They also have a mini Changing of the Guards in front of the main gates to Rideau Hall - great picture taking. Be sure and make arrangements with your taxi driver to come back and pick you up.

I would recommend eating in the Delta Ottawa Hotel - they offered "Early Bird" specials between 5:00 and 6:00 P.M. every night. Great selections and their Buffet Breakfast was also well worth the money.

We again boarded Via Rail's The Corridor, Economy Class for the 2 hour trip to Montreal and then on to Quebec City. We changed trains in Montreal; the process was painless and seniors are offered all the assistance they might need. The 4 hour trip was very easy to take; we sat back in our comfortable chairs, ordered a glass of wine and enjoyed the spectacular scenery and even managed to sneak a nap along the way.

We arrived in Quebec City and took a cab to the Hilton Quebec City Hotel, located at the entrance to the Old City of Quebec. We will be staying 2 nights. The hotel was luxurious to say the least with a panoramic view of the city and the St. Lawrence. We were within easy walking distance of Old Quebec, the Le Chateau Frontenac and the waterfront. There was no end to the little corner pubs, outside Bistros and small restaurants where we could sit outside under the shade of umbrellas and enjoy a meal or just a refreshment. There were numerous excellent places to eat but be sure to try "Quebec's" Sugar Pie with Real Cream!

A stroll along the boardwalk listening to the local entertainment or watching the ships sail along the St. Lawrence River was an excellent way to end the day. A city tour is recommended for just $26.00 per person we got more than our money's worth. Speaking French was not necessary, everyone spoke at least some English and in the hotels and stores, English was spoken by everyone. Very friendly people and extremely helpful to tourists.

The train to Halifax didn't leave until 10:00 P.M. The hotel stored our luggage, we just had to ask, and we could continue to investigate this quaint, clean and very historic city.

To board Via Rail's The Ocean en route to Halifax, Nova Scotia, we needed to make our way to the Charny Station located across the River. No problem, Via Rail offered a shuttle service for the very reasonable price of $9.40 per person from the Quebec City station to the Charny Station. I recommend that you take the shuttle - taxi is too expensive.

We were booked on Via Rail's The Ocean in "Easterly" class. Upon boarding, our double bedroom had already been made up with chocolates on the pillows and bottled water and bags of chips sitting on the bedside tables. Food was not included on this train however a continental breakfast would be delivered to us in the morning.

We had now passed through New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia. By day our room was a very large sitting room with 2 comfortable chairs, a large couch and a large, unobstructed picture window. The bathroom, with a full size shower, had all the conveniences of home.

We arrived in Halifax around 5:00 P.M. and took a taxi to the Delta Barrington Hotel. The hotel is rated "the best" in Halifax. The reception was very friendly and the room was very classy with a huge marble bathroom. The Stone Street Café on the lower floor of our Hotel had excellent food - lots of choices with dinner specials advertised everyday that was usually seafood.

A City tour is a must in Halifax. Gray Lines offered a 3 hour city tour ($64.00 for 1 adult and 1 Senior); they provided a very knowledgeable, and humorous kilted guide. Anyone that enjoys bagpipes will especially enjoy this tour. From Pier 21 to the big explosion that happened in the harbor and the grave sites of some of the Titanic victims, we really got to know Halifax.

We boarded Via Rail's Ocean from Halifax to Montreal at 1:15 P.M. and will arrive in Montreal tomorrow at 8:00 A.M. Again we were in a deluxe bedroom called "Easterly class"; the train was quite new and very modern. The bedroom had its own bathroom with a shower - a real advantage.

The food on the train was not included in our fare however full course meals were available from a menu in the Dining Car. I would recommend a better value would be to eat at the snack bar, located just a few feet farther along the train. Coffee was complementary and a limited selection of Beer and Wine was available for reasonable prices. A complementary continental breakfast was delivered to our bedroom at 6:00 A.M.

We arrived in Montreal and took a taxi to the Delta Montreal Hotel. We will be at the Delta for 2 nights. The hotel was gorgeous; we were on the 16th floor, a very large room with a sitting area, many, many windows from floor to ceiling and a large marble bathroom. Very classy!

A City tour is definitely a must in Montreal. It gave us an overall feel for the city and pointed out places we might want to revisit on our own later. Gray Lines offered a 3 hour tour ($35.00 per adult and $32.00 per Senior) and they picked us up at our hotel and brought us back at no extra charge.

Montreal's major businesses and eating establishments were located above ground and under ground along with the Metro. Very efficient city and very easy to get around. For such a large city, we felt very safe everywhere and there was no language barrier at all.

I would recommend dinner in the Delta Montreal at the AROMA Restaurant. They offered a 5 course dinner that was well worth the money and the experience; white linen tablecloths, silver and china. I also recommend the Le Cordial Bar in the Delta Montreal for dinner. A less formal style of dining; the food was excellent, offering sandwiches, pasta, etc. Montreal had many, many pubs, Bistro's, outside cafes and huge hotels all having their own style of dining and for every price range.

We took a taxi from the Delta Montreal to the Montreal Trudeau Airport for our flight home with Air Canada. The taxi companies offer a flat rate per car load - good value since the Airport was some ways away from the downtown area.

What we learned from this cross Canada experience was that we don't need to leave Canada to have an exciting holiday, visit with travelers from all over the globe and sample cuisine from other Provinces. We are so fortunate to live in a country that is so rich in history, filled with friendly people, beautiful scenery, and no exchange on our money.

Lori Guretzki lives in Abbotsford, B.C. with her husband of 23 years. By day, she is an Administrative Assistant in a large high school in Abbotsford, by night she has a home based business called Lori's Canine Creations and in her off times, she shares her love of traveling to all corners of the world with her husband. Lori's latest accomplishment is her book, soon to be published, The Reluctant Traveller, about holidaying in Peru, South America.

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