Some people imagine the Prairies to be flat and uninteresting. More fools them. There's a subtle beauty and a luminous colour to the fields and sky, and a wide horizon. In many places, the land undulates, catching patterns of light and shade, a bit like the sea.
The train chugged along toward Edmonton while I sat in the panorama car and drank in my fill of the view, and then went downstairs to meet Carol and have a drink of another kind. There we struck up a lively conversation with Dave, a good-looking, friendly Brit on the first leg of his round-the-world journey, which he reckons will take about a year (he'd hopped on the train in Halifax and was going to Vancouver en route to points south). We spent the evening swapping yarns and having a really good laugh. Cheers!
That's the thing about train travel–you have the time to get to know all sorts of people if you're so inclined. On this leg, there was also Amy from southern Ontario, a youngish married woman travelling to Vancouver with her spry old granny–both of them heading west for the first time. We heard all about it at dinner (I had butternut squash soup, salad, wild Pacific salmon with a melon salsa, baby carrots and garlic chive mashed potatoes and chocolate truffle cake). And the happy couple from Prince George, who were celebrating their anniversary and had booked the Romance by Rail package to Halifax. This meant two compartments were combined into a single luxurious one, with queen-sized bed, fresh flowers, sparkling wine–the works. Come to think of it, we didn't see too much of them…
While there are many lovely things to recommend traveling by train, there is a caveat: it's vital to leave the rat-race mentality behind. I was told that VIA runs on CN tracks where freight is king, so passenger trains have to give way and delays are common. “Schedules are subject to change,” means just that, especially if, like us, you're planning to hop off and spend a few days at various destinations. My best advice is to get into a slower, gentler rhythm and let your holiday start when you climb aboard. Then, to keep your blissfully zen-like mood, do not under any circumstances schedule any connections you need to make even remotely close to your E.T.A.–in fact, schedule them for the next day if possible so you can truly rest easy.