I love trains. I’m on one, right now. Just a short trip to Kingston, Ontario for a family event. The other option is to drive, but this is so much easier. Plus, if I was driving I couldn’t be blogging, could I? Yep, free WiFi; and you can use a cell phone. I always take the train when I go to Montreal. It is so much more relaxing than flying. Much less hassle. More civilized, I think.
Especially if you go First Class, which I usually do. We have a beautiful, new First Class lounge in Toronto. It’s huge. You can work, watch TV or just relax. Snacks, drinks, whatever you want. And once onboard, you’re treated royally. Cocktails, snacks, wine with your meal which, incidentally, is actually edible (unlike on airlines), coffee, tea, after meal drinks and even little bonbons. The service is non-stop.
Today I’m travelling economy, though. It’s not a very long trip, just slightly over two hours. And VIA had a Supersaver fare that was just too good to resist. $46 each way. Snacks for purchase, or you can bring your own. That’s also allowed on trains.
Canadian National, the largest railway in Canada, has been around for a very long time. Since December 20, 1918, in fact. A crown corporation until 1995, when it was privatized, today CN is a public company, with a market capitalization of $32 billion, as of 2011. It employs 22,000 people and is currently the country’s only transcontinental railway company, spanning Canada from the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia to the Pacific coast in British Columbia. It also has extensive trackage in the central U.S.
What I really enjoy, though, is travelling by train in Europe. Years ago I went from Rome to Florence, and then from Florence to Venice by rail. Large, lovely, comfortable cars. Very elegant and old worldly. Our hotel packed us a delicious picnic lunch, including a bottle of wine, but it wasn’t really necessary. At every stop they sell fabulous food. But the best were the gigantic feasts that the locals brought on board with them, and insisted on sharing.
Sausages of every description, salamis, prosciutto, olives, grilled peppers, massive amounts of cheese, gorgeous bread, fruit, nuts, wine, wine, wine! I can still taste it. I can still smell the garlic! Mama Mia. All I can say is, it was a party on board.
When I was researching my trip to India, I found a train trip I almost took. It’s called Palace on Wheels, and you travel in cars that have been decorated to emulate the luxury train travel the Maharajas enjoyed. There are much more luxurious trains there now, with costs as high as $20,000 – $40,000 for eight days. Palace on Wheels was not in that league, obviously, or I wouldn’t have been considering it. But it did look lovely, and got good recommendations on Trip Advisor.
The main advantage was that all the travelling was done overnight, so it made very good use of time. It left the daylight hours for visiting different cities, towns and villages throughout Rajasthan. At the time I was planning to go alone; and when the agent advised me I would be forced to share a room with any other single traveller, even a man, I decided against it. Trust me, I have no problem sharing a room with a man. I just like to know him first, however briefly. And I like to choose my own.
But what I’ve always dreamed of doing, is taking the Orient Express. From Paris to Istanbul, or Venice. I have this fantasy of what it would be like. It’s probably a throw back to the film, Murder on the Orient Express, which I’ve seen at least a dozen times. I think it would be such a romantic journey. Of course, nobody dresses the way they used to, any more. In its heyday, men wore black tie to dinner. And women were in floor length gowns, and all their finest diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Now everybody wears jeans and sweats. Not quite the same. I wonder if they have a dress code, or if they’ve just thrown in the towel.
The original Orient Express doesn’t run any more. It ceased operations in 2007. But I could take the Venice-Simplon Orient Express. If I do, I’ll let you know if I run into Detective Poirot.