Tag Archives: Via Rail

Vancouver, Canada

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As with most great rail journeys such as The Canadian, all good things must come to an end as they say. We’re all just soaking up the final moments of the elegant but imposing landscape before heading fast into beautiful Vancouver for a short stay.


Upon arrival at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, BC the railway station is at the western terminus of Via Rail’s cross-country The Canadian to Toronto with signage clearly showing the way.


From the main station, connections are easy to the Waterfront which is undoubtedly the most popular area for visitors to experience – being right at the harbour with a plethora of attractions, cafes and stores.

At the Waterfront Station, the Canada Line delivers you directly to SeaBus and West Coast Express Commuter Rail services. A trip from YVR Airport to Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver takes only 25 minutes!


View over Coal Harbour – used to designate the relatively new official neighbourhood of the City of Vancouver bounded by roughly Burrard Street and Pender of the Financial District to West Georgia Street near the West End in the south to Stanley Park in the north. From here you can catch public transport to most other places as it’s quite central.


FlyOver Canada uses state-of-the-art technology to give you the feeling of flight. You will hang suspended, feet dangling before a 20-metre spherical screen while the film whisks you away on an exhilarating 8-minute journey across Canada – from east to west. Special effects, including wind, mist and scents combine with the ride’s motion to create the real thing.

Many attractions are in close proximity and it’s worthwhile visiting the Vancouver Tourism site to gain the some excellent ideas of what to see and do if you’re short on time.

See  http://www.tourismvancouver.com


Like me, the Gastown Steam Clock is perhaps one of the first places you’ll visit if you enjoy checking out the city’s history and a seemingly lively atmosphere. Gastown found new life as the centre of the city’s wholesale produce distribution until the Great Depression in the 1930s. It was also the centre of the city’s drinking life: there were 300 licensed establishments the twelve-block area of the former glory days of Granville.

Jump in quick as it’s probably one of the most photographed clocks in the world.


Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown location and is named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. The town soon prospered as the site of Hastings Mill and seaport which quickly became a general centre of trade and commerce on Burrard Inlet as well as a rough-and-rowdy resort for off-work loggers and fishermen.


The Spaghetti Factory is nearby and a quick lunch at $11.00 (including tax) is a treat with all those calories adding to another excuse for further walking in the afternoon.

And yes, there are taxes to be added onto most goods and services in Canada.


Stanley Park alive and well with plenty of locals making themselves at home whilst foraging with a water-front view over the city’s buzzing metropolis.

Designated a national  historic site of Canada, the park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the heavily built urban landscape. You can explore the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoy scenic views of water, mountains and majestic trees along Stanley Park’s famous Seawall. There’s kilometres of trails, local wildlife and great eateries while enjoying natural and historical landmarks.


Granville Island Public Market is an indoor market featuring a fascinating assortment of colourful food and produce stores. You’ll have to struggle with the desire to take some home and promise yourself more walking the next day!


A vast array of produce including fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and some other unique findings. From plants, flowers to micro-breweries, wineries and cideries, you’ll be met with a range of products when you come to check out what the vendors have to offer each day.

Take a reusable carry bag as it won’t go home empty …


Easy to ‘get around’ and very straight forward in planning your way around.


Sky Trains are fast, clean and the most efficient way to the city. Vancouver (YVR) is the second busiest airport in Canada and located on Sea Island in Richmond, about 12 km (7.5 miles) from Downtown Vancouver. Look for The Canada Line which is $9.10 from the airport to downtown, and $4.10 from downtown to the airport. It links the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) directly with downtown Vancouver and Richmond. Whether you’re connecting to a downtown hotel, BC Ferries or an awaiting Cruise Ship, it’s easy to travel between YVR Airport and major city stations using the public transit system.

Certain Canada Line stations offer airport check-in kiosks. Skip the lines at the airport and check-in for your flight at any of the following stations: YVR–Airport, Templeton, Bridgeport, Marine Drive, Broadway–City Hall, Olympic Village, Vancouver City Centre and Richmond–Brighouse. See below for a trip planner.

https://tripplanning.translink.ca/


A fitting statue to commemorate the memory of those who built the Canadian Pacific Railway and made it possible to traverse the sometimes impossible-looking terrain. However, as before, it’s been a magnificent journey and as usual too short on time in a great city of which Australians (and many others) are thoroughly fond of for its friendliness and characteristic mateship.

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Via Rail’s The Canadian Train Journey, Canada – Part Two.

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All aboard after a rest at Sioux Lookout, Mr Bill Loomis is ready to go again even whilst celebrating his birthday on this particular day. He’s been on The Canadian train twelve times and a stalwart without doubt. We were happy to hear his stories and his travelling mate John left their respective families and homes to once again take to the tracks and traverse Canada.


Whilst others were departing and some new passengers were joining us, all luggage is taken care of; generally larger cases are stored in the undercarriage in a separate baggage car near the head of the train. Smaller carry on is sufficient, just ensure you take any medications and necessary items as well.

Next at the half-way point of Winnipeg, we have a change of crew for the next couple of nights of the journey.


More snow and ice about throughout Manitoba with sweeping views of the countryside which is a vast difference to that of the upcoming Rocky Mountains.


Bales of fodder being made ready for livestock and a much colder winter yet ahead for many farmers.


Time to eat again? No problem about that! Food menus changed daily with vegetarian choices also available – but needs to be prebooked ahead along with any other dietary requirements.


Some good-old fashioned entertainment, best to enjoy without all the gadgets to distract us from an everyday conversation with others onboard. Most appealing if you’re wanting to make some new friends and acquaintances.


Refuelling and the last overnight on The Canadian with my final look at the snow-covered terrain of the midlands of Canada … well,  until next time.


Eggs Benedict is always a decent reason to hop out of bed and enjoy a new day’s viewing. With copious cups of coffee, I’m ready for another hard day of moseying around and relishing the atmosphere of a train on a mission which allow its passengers the opportunity to appreciate its beautiful countryside.

I’d better enjoy and savour this brekky as there won’t be any further delightful service like this for my  breakfast orders after the end of my trip …


My lovely model for this day is Lynn from Virginia USA showing us how easy it is to make yourself comfortable in the Dome carriage.


And Lynn’s daughter Jillian had joined her parents on the journey to catch up and spend some valuable time together as they live on opposite sides of the United States. Anyway, there’s no escaping each other, the train is very intimate and great to see families reconnecting as more and more multigenerational groups are making plans to have a much needed holiday together.


We’re fast heading out of snow country and moving closer to British Colombia (BC) whereby the landscape is now changing quite dramatically.


A scene not unlike Australia’s inland farming regions. Am I homesick? Not yet!


Along this route we’re seeing more sensational exposed mountainous panoramas which are hanging around waiting for winter to set in and be covered once again in white. It was great to see what these huge mammoths are actually shaped like before being cloaked in the big freeze.


Take your cuppa up to the Dome car as the Rocky Mountains are about to perform before your eyes with magical and breathtaking views overlooking the canyons.


Going through some short-covered tunnels ensure falling rocks don’t become passengers!


A bird’s eye peek of many more tunnels and bridges to follow on.


According to our resident train spotter Bill, there were two transcontinental Canadian railroads.  One was the Canadian Pacific, which completed it’s line in 1885.  The other was the Canadian Northern, which completed its line to Vancouver 30 years later.  The CP came west through Calgary and Banff while the Canadian Northern came west through Edmonton and Jasper.  The two lines came within miles of each other at Kamloops, British Columbia.  From there west to Vancouver they followed the waterways, Kamloops Lake, Thompson River and Fraser River to Vancouver..  Because the CP was first, they chose the easiest (not easy) side of the waterways, crossing over several times to stay with the better route.  The Canadian Northern, building nearly 30 years later, was left with the side the CP had not chosen.


Snaking around the waterways and highlands makes you wonder how this engineering marvel was constructed all those years ago without today’s technology.


No shortage of passageways either … And, at times trains only have access to the tracks one at a time due to the narrow escapements.


Considerable number of bridges along the way and when you see the depth of the gullies and watercourses over which they were built; it’s truly an engineering marvel.


We managed a daylight passage through the Thompson (which flows into the Fraser at Lytton) and Fraser River Canyons.


Heading fast into Vancouver and the near end of another fantastic rail journey with Via Rail’s The Canadian, I know I won’t beat Bill at twelve trips but I’ll keep trying.

For more information check the website http://www.viarail.ca

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Via Rail’s The Canadian Train Journey, Canada – Part One.

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All aboard! Two very happy young blokes from Switzerland embarking early and looking excited as we’re all about to board for a memorable rail journey.

Staff checking passes for the correct carriage and our imminent departure of four nights and three days had been bookmarked for months in advance, and now it’s a reality. Doesn’t matter where you’ve travelled from in the world this is a train trip, which for me, is a case of serendipity. A photographer’s dream – traversing Canada travelling east from Toronto to Vancouver this time around in mid November.


Cabin for two set up for the daytime. It’s comfortable and private with armchairs plus a large window for maximum views of the upcoming stunning scenery.


Cabin for two night time; retractable stacked upper and lower single beds with a vanity and an ensuite toilet. The old adage of ‘unpack once’ rings true here on the train as well.


On our way trundling off with snow covered tracks – it’s a sign of what’s ahead. More snow. And if like me, you’re from a country such as Australia (which is mostly desert), you’ll love this aspect as it’s not often I experience a blanket of pure white snowflakes sprinkled and sifted over this picturesque terrain.


Lakes and ponds are just starting to ice over. With the ever-changing moving postcards flashing before your eyes (not unlike this photo), you won’t want to take your eyes from the window.


Canada’s winter wonderland is in the making undoubtedly as the carriages rock and roll along to the beat of a train on a mission. 2017 marks a significant moment in the History of Canada as 150 years ago, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – united to create the Canadian Confederation.


The Dining car is very much the centre piece for qualifying guests to mingle and make new friends and acquaintances over a three-course luncheon and dinner settings.

Breakfast is served early with two settings on this occasion and for late risers it’s a treat not to have to rush.


Spectacular views all along the way. Take off those blinkers in the morning and check the outlook for the day? Yep more snow …


A frozen waterfall of ice. Brrr glad I’m in bed looking at this.


Homes along the way look cosy enough, but not sure about clearing off icy cars to head off to work for the day … However, that’s the day-to-day life of a Canadian during winter.


View from one of the dome cars on The Canadian. Seating here is on a first-come basis and my advice is go early as it’s one of the most sought after areas on the train.


A stop allows passengers to hop off and stretch their legs. Although at night, it’s still a way of admiring our train taking a breather and readying itself for the half-way point of Winnipeg which is not too far away now.


Sioux Lookout is our stop before reaching Winnipeg whereby, there’s a number of fishing camps in the area that allow access to an extensive lake system fed by the English River.


Here at Sioux Lookout, we’re able to walk around and a heavily laden snowy landscape is revealed. Crunching below your feet you can feel the depth of the fall from the overnight trip and very happy to say my cabin was nice and snug by comparison!


Upon closer inspection of Via Rail’s The Canadian, it shows a mighty and powerful work horse blowing off some steam before taking us to our next stop along this magnificent rail journey of 4,466 kilometres (in total).


Icy fields show off Manitoba which is bordered by the provinces of Ontario to the east and Saskatchewan to the west. Its landscape of lakes and rivers, mountains, forests and prairies stretches from northern Arctic tundra to the Hudson Bay. We’re crossing through the southern farmlands now on our approach to the capital city of Winnipeg.


The lakes and waterways are now freezing over and temperatures will continue to drop as winter truly sets in before the month of December. As opposed to some coastal areas, it’s much colder here inland with farm animals being housed and fed, while the wildlife is retreating for hibernation.


Would love to drop by, but maybe some other time for a cuppa! Just a little busy being cosy and warm on board with a coffee and cake thanks.


VIA operates intercity, regional and transcontinental trains linking 450 communities across its 12,500-kilometre network. Their mandate is to provide safe, efficient and reliable passenger transportation, with service in the country’s two official languages.

For further booking and information check the website http://www.viarail.ca

Next blog post we continue onto Vancouver from Winnipeg as Part Two.

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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 …
breakfast (2)

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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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