Monthly Archives: November 2015

Quebec City, Quebec Province Canada – Part Two

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First thing on the agenda for the day in Quebec City,  and considering it’s across the road from my hotel, I’m marching across to the Market to investigate what’s on offer.

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Fresh strawberries to start the day – delicious, juicy and great value!

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All kinds of homemade condiments you could imagine. No shortage of quality goods and crafts as well.

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From the market, a fresh walk along the foreshore’s boardwalk leads you to the old city. You can see the ships coming in and out of the harbour – just take a seat and the view is astounding doesn’t matter which way you look. The silos light up at night and can be seen from afar – and my hotel.

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The figurehead rising up out of the pavement bears food from all around the world in her arms, recalling both Québec’s heyday as a port and the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which was founded in the city in 1945. She can be found at Place de la FAO in the Old Port.

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Yes it’s that time of the year … Here at the Place Royale (Petit-Champlain District), one of the most popular areas to visit with boutique specialty shops, along with galleries and cafes.

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Friend Michelle having a chat with one of the local buskers.

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One of the first Frescoes painted is Fresque des Quebecois, which show some 30 characters linked to maritime commerce which are depicted of the area’s major events; such as fires, rock slides and bombings, as well as the people who built, commercialized, developed and lived in this district.

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Sculpture of a different kind, remember when you found those plastic parts in the cereal boxes and tried to put them together?

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Yummy locally-made chocolates shapes of all kinds of different things.

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Feeling hungry and L’ ECHAUDE  Restaurant was selected for its wonderful creations using traditional and favourite produce of the region.

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For starters, a Tasting Plate  of  ‘Tartare de Saumon‘ which is a cold, savoury fish offering. And, if the presentation and flavours are anything to go by with this one, I can assure you  the main dish was delectable as well!

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Time to put on our ‘skates’ and explore some more of the old-town centre. Designated a World Heritage treasure by UNESCO, Old Québec is the only walled city north of Mexico.

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Sitting on top of the hill at Dufferin Terrace is the gorgeous  Château Frontenac offering spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River and surrounds.

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And the way to go up there –  the Funicular of course is handy – or there’s passages you can walk up as well if you need some exercise to rid all that incredible food’s ability to miraculously creep on  the kilos.

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Step off the Funicular and it’s another eye-catching scene, a favourite for locals and tourists  – just-a myriad of charming eateries, bars and shopping outlets to explore. Leave some time to visit the more established sites and monuments in this area.

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Beginning to feel the night air coming on, but wait there’s much more we can fit in today.

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Food and Wine tasting at the end of the day – and just what I need, more food and wine!

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With Phil from my foodie tour and he likes to be known as ‘The Professional Tea Drinker’ (and he’s a writer too see www.philhopkins.co.uk) having a coffee with me?
Indeed, there’s no loyalty these days …

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I told you the silos on the waterfront would light up in the evening and aiming to please, it does just that.

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Travelling to Quebec City, Quebec Province Canada – Part One

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Onwards to Quebec City with Via Rail. Why bother flying, the train is so much faster and within a few hours you’re already there wheeling the luggage off and checking into your hotel.

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Business Class seating may be a configuration of two seats on the left and single on the right. The tricky part is trying to figure out which side will give the best views while speeding along.

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I’m ready for checking out the province of Quebec which has been on my radar for sometime, and if like Ottawa it won’t disappoint.

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It really doesn’t matter which side of the train you sit on, the views are stunning on both.

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Love the way some people can actually find a way to express themselves! And, it doesn’t matter where they do it …

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Once over the Alexander Bridge and the Ottawa River, we’re now in the province of Quebec.

There is also the undeniable fact that Canadian-French speakers have lived alongside and amongst English speakers for two and a half centuries ever since the beginning of British administration in 1763.

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Most native French speakers in Canada live in Quebec City, where French is the majority and sole official language. However, there wasn’t any problem with English being spoken and I admire the tenacity of the residents who can easily switch from one language to the other without any difficulty. Wish I had the ability to do so.

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Beautiful farming properties can be seen on either side of the train.

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Lunch is served at your seat, delicious and well presented with the staff only to happy to assist wherever possible whilst onboard.

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Arriving at Quebec’s main railway station is the Gare de Palais, which is situated towards the Old Port on the edge of Downtown and at the bottom of the hill from the Old City and easy walking distance of either.

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This is one of those railway stations which harks back to the golden age of rail travel having been built by Canadian Pacific in a complementary style to the iconic Chateau Frontenac hotel. The centre piece within the station is a magnificent brick vaulted ceiling with a stained glass top.

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What better way to greet me at the front of my hotel? An art installation of pigeons trying to fathom a can of Campbell’s Soup…

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Hotel of choice is the boutique and elegant Hotel des Coutellier. Great location in the heart of old Quebec City. The markets are straight across the road which is where I’ll be heading over to in the morning.

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Stylish and smart with a fantastic view towards the port. Rooms are quaint with a sofa which offers relaxation and space which is always greatly appreciated. Fast wifi and lovely amenities given.

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Ottawa, Ontario Canada’s Capital.

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Ottawa’s Parliament buildings are just a short two-minute walk from The Lord Elgin Hotel. And, as the city is the Capital of Canada, it’s not unlike Australia’s Capital Canberra, whereby the first thing which comes to mind; government buildings, bureaucracy and red tape. However, a deeper look at Ottawa reveals a truly remarkable and very likeable city with so much to see and do.

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Bruce Garner’s bronze statue, called “Territorial Prerogative”, was commissioned and donated in 1990 to the Sparks Street Mall and placed it near the intersection of Elgin Street. At this point, you can book a number day tours which have their stands right in front of where this bear is situated.

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So my suggestion; if you don’t have a car, then do a sightseeing Hop-On Hop Off Grayline tour of the city as you’ll cover a lot of ground to some of the sites which are located just on the outskirts of downtown with a fantastic commentary.

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This impressive curved building is located across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Québec. Visit the Canadian Museum of History which is home to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles and unique artwork.

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“Never Give UP!” – Maurice Richard Monument. Dedicated sculpture to one of the greats.

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Overlooking the waterways.

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This canal is really unique in the world as thousands of skaters appear when the historic waterway freezes over during the winter. Gliding 7.8km (4.8 miles) along the Rideau Canal Skateway.
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What a way to go to work!

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Tourism.

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On the grounds of the National Gallery of Canada, a giant bronze spider named Maman was erected during May, 2005. The spider sculpture is the artwork of Louise Bourgeois which stands at a height of 30 feet.
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Spiders are fine by me, just not snakes …

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Geoffrey Farmer’s perception of reality comes to light with an exhibition “Leaves of Grass”, theatrically illustrated five decades of Times’ magazines dating from 1935 – 1985. Cut outs have been carefully pieced together – unlike any other collage I’ve ever seen.

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See National Gallery of Canada for the World’s largest Canadian Art Collection. Undoubtedly the best.

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And across the road, is the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Ottawa. Had to be quick as one wedding finished and another was lined up ready for their nuptials.

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Spectacular to say the least once inside …

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A short walk from the Basilica there’s ByWard Market for some great bargains and no shortage of food stands.

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Beaver Tails were ‘born’ in Ottawa and here there’s no shortage of people wanting one or two. There’s outlets across Canada and other countries around the world.

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They’re predominately sweet. As a savoury eater I tried the cheese and garlic and yes I know it’s heart-attack food, but had to try just one … Yummo!

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Don’t you just love this!

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Rideau Canal which consists of a series of beautiful lakes and rivers connected by canals. It stretches from Kingston at the foot of Lake Ontario to the city.

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I’m back where I started from and across the road from The Lord Elgin. The park is really lovely and need to have a sit for a while – really you need at least three days to enjoy Ottawa properly – so much more to see and do here.

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Anyway once you’ve recharged, take an Ottawa Jail Tour. Originally it was the “Carleton County Jail” and opened in 1862 then closed in 1972 at which point it was converted into a hostel.

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Bit spooked, but you’re given a sense of what it might have been like. Happy to call it a day.

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From Toronto and onto Ottawa, Ontario Canada with Via Rail – Part Three

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A quick run around in Toronto reveals the city has changed somewhat since I last visited. However, the CN Tower hasn’t moved of course and still a drawcard.

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The new extended metro system is an easy and convenient way to make your way around.(Incidentally is still being extended.)  Bike lanes are open as well for those wishing to make use of it.

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Toronto’s grown up into a cosmopolitan metropolis – it’s the largest city in Canada and fourth largest in North America.

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I’m on my way to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city in the province of Ontario. The passengers are asked to wait inside at the designated gate at Union Station and called forward to board in the same way you might at an airport. It’s orderly and staff are available on the platform once through to assist with directions and reserved seating.

The main difference between flying and using Via Rail is of course, the train departs Toronto from the centre of the city and arrives just outside Ottawa with a short bus or taxi ride into the downtown area. Regular services  depart throughout the day. Business class passengers may use the lounge facilities before boarding whereby you can make use of some light refreshments, read the paper of use the free wifi.

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Yes it’s early and we’re simply enjoying the views, just waiting for our breakfast and business class is definitely worth the difference in price from economy. Book early …
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Relaxing and finding the  big comfy seats are spacious with plenty of leg room which I’m really happy about! Oh did I tell you I’m quite tall? Makes a huge difference to me.

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At times the train divides going onto two different destinations. Make sure you’re sitting in the correct carriage or you might find yourself heading somewhere else …

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From Toronto to Ottawa industries range from cultivating crops, mining minerals, manufacturing automobiles, designing software and leading-edge technology are being sourced here.
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Look out, we’re coming through … Trust me this train is on a mission and is faster than fast!

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We’ve arrived at Ottawa and it’s a quick transfer into the centre of the city from here – either by local bus or taxi.

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Hotel of choice … The Lord Elgin Hotel is smack in the thick of Canada’s capital’s must-see attractions. Stylish art-deco hotel with a variety of eateries, bars and amenities at hand.

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Comfortable, clean and spacious rooms. When there’s talk about “location, location”, then this hotel is the one to book. Close to Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal, Town Hall, the Hop On – Hop Off Bus and located a block away from the Information Centre.

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Something I like to see – of course, I’ll trade in housekeeping services for a glass of vino! What Aussie wouldn’t? And yes, I am environmentally friendly wherever possible … Glad to see the hotel has similar views.

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It’s been a great day and all went like clockwork travelling by rail. There’s really no need to fly between the cities of Toronto and Ottawa as the timing is approximately 4 hours one way. And, with Via Rail’s Economy Escape fares which begins at around CAD67.00 (AUD70.00 on today’s exchange rate) they’re excellent value considering the cost of an airfare, with transfers to and from the airport, not to mention check in times and security checks.

Plus, by rail you’re able to see Mother Nature at her finest with a palette full of brilliant colours showing off the change of season to Autumn’s best.

Next up, Ottawa’s attractions and activities. Stay tuned …

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‘The Canadian’ Rail Journey with Via Rail – Part Two

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Up early after breakfast we’ve taken a seat to settle in for a full day’s viewing of Canada’s vast and expansive interior.

In Economy Class you have a comfortable reclining seat and access to the Economy Class Skyline car with its coffee shop, lounge and vista dome. Sleeper Plus & Prestige passengers have exclusive access to the Park Car at the very rear of the train.

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Plenty of farms all ready for a day’s work while we just watch.

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We’re having a break and walk around at Saskatoon. Time for ‘The Canadian’ to have a refuel and we’re more than half way now.

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No doubt we’re going to outdo the school bus …

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Speeding up towards Winnipeg whereby we’ll arrive later in the evening for another break.

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At Winnipeg Union Station, some passengers will either depart here and others will embark to continue their journey across to Toronto.

An easy couple of hours spent here whereby we have wifi available to check what’s going on, but really haven’t missed it all whilst onboard? Been too busy watching the world go by …

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The station’s building was designed in a “Beaux-Arts” style by New York’s architectural firm Warren and Wetmore (of New York Grand Central Terminal fame) and constructed from local Tyndall limestone, in which many fossils are still visible.
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Can’t help but look up. Simply stunning!

The station provided terminal facilities for the Canadian Northern Railway, the National Transcontinental Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway systems over the years.

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Breakfast won’t be the same again with the most delightful staff and superior service anyone could wish for.

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Passing Ogaki, Ontario where there’s a multitude of lakes and streams.

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Our final night onboard and everyone’s more than relaxed. Just don’t want the journey to end.

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Very much on the outskirts of Toronto with colours of the landscape changing constantly.

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Superb day to be back in Toronto after so many years. Upon arrival, our baggage which was checked in, is delivered on the platform for identification and collection. If you’re travelling in business class, you can use the Lounge facilities within the Terminal for your onward connection. There’s some light refreshments with the use of wifi and comfortable seating.

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Although, our trip has ended here at Toronto Union Station, there are excellent connections to other destinations, particularly on the Eastern Seaboard if you’re considering going further, particularly to Quebec and Nova Scotia.

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Across the road is the beautiful luxury Fairmont Royal York Hotel which is located in the centre of Downtown Toronto. It’s minutes away from attractions including: The CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, the Eaton Centre and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

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Very stylish rooms with a coffee machine for espresso lovers like me and fast wifi. A number of dining options are available with five restaurants, four lounges and 24-hour In-Room Dining available to suit every traveller’s taste.

VIA Rail offers several unique packages and getaways for visiting Toronto, allowing you to make the most out of your stay in the big city. See www.viarail.com

Next day it’s an onwards journey to Ottawa after a brief visit within the centre of Toronto!

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‘The Canadian’ Rail Journey with Via Rail – Part One

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I’m taking on more rail travel and now on my own to cross Canada with Via Rail’s ‘The Canadian’, an epic and sought-after journey with locals and international passengers. The tracks were built by Canadian Pacific Railway which was founded in 1881, linking Canada’s populated centres with the vast unpopulated West. This incredible engineering feat was completed on 7th November, 1885.

Today’s Canadian train takes the more northerly Canadian National route across Canada via Edmonton and Jasper and was completed in 1917.

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So it’s bye now to Calgary and I was quite impressed with its friendly people, incredible array of food choices and value for money.

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From Calgary, it’s necessary to travel by Red Arrow Coaches which has partnered with Via Rail. At a cost of approximately CAD75.00 one way it includes amenities, meal and wifi – it was a seamless trip across to Edmonton to pick up the train from there. The ticket office is a short walk from Le Germain Hotel and the Tower. www.redarrow.ca for bookings online saving $5.00.

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The bus trip from Calgary to Edmonton is less than 3 hours and really comfortable with a short break enroute.

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Red Arrow’s bus service and ticket office at Edmonton is right next to the Holiday Inn if you wish to have an overnight stay. The Canadian train from Edmonton Station departs around midnight, might be an idea to spend some time here and enjoy some of the sights.

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West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping mall in North America and the tenth largest in the world by gross leasable area. Time went really fast here with so many shops and eateries to choose from. Mmmm think I’ll be coming back to Edmonton somehow … Really liked it here.

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Or you can just chill out, have a cuppa and watch the all the potential Torvill and Deans practise their routines on this indoor skating rink.

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Edmonton Station is just on the outskirts of the city and the journey from here becomes three-nights on the train heading to Toronto – its final destination. However, being a major transit city there’s connections to all the other services Via Rail have to offer at Toronto’s Union Station.

 

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You can travel very affordably in Economy class in a reclining seat, or in Sleeper Plus class with a private sleeping-car room and restaurant car meals included. And new from 2014, there are deluxe Prestige class sleepers too.

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Speaking of meals, there’s a different selection from the menu each day.

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If you ever see Hot Beef in a Yorkshire Pudding Bowl on the menu – order it – just the best and extremely popular. Simply delicious!

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Obviously, someone has to do some work while we all just watch the world go by eating our breakfast.
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Landscape has changed so much now as we traverse across Canada.

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Freight trains take precedence over the tracks, but that’s fine with me when you have time on your side.

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Days gone by …
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And as dusk envelopes the day, we’re ready for more food and relaxation …

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