Monday, July 21, 2014

VIA Rail – Timeless Travel. Perfect Honeymoon Idea

Written By: Jaime Valdes-Riench, owner of Travel & Events with Style
Image credits to:  Jorge from With Style Designs
If following Twitter and Instagram: #JJgoEast

Jorge and Jaime where on the move again.  This time checking out VIA Rail for future clients:

One of perks of our job is to experience travel so we can report back to our clients.  I know, touch job, right?  Well, sometimes it is.  Sometimes.. well, I am sure you do not feel sorry for us.  Our most recent adventure was experiencing VIA Rail.  Not just the usual economy or business class seats, but rather the full across Canada feel.  We wanted to see what the sleeper cars and meals where like.

One thing that enchanted us about travelling the train was how the train makes time stand still.  Starting in our glorious stations (Well.. if you can look past all the renovations of course. It will be backing its glory soon) it makes you feel like time gone by.  Getting on the train in the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s…  We looked forward to the quiet mode of transportation.  It seem like a great way honeymooners or even families could travel and enjoy the travel side of the experience.  Be warned, I will be honest about my experience.

To start off we saw our limited schedules so we chose only to run away for the weekend to Toronto.  2 nights on the train, a full day in Toronto and then back on that night to have 2 nights again on the train.  A little bit of an Amazing Race, maybe, but we are in Toronto regularly so the novelty was the train for this particular trip.

Our adventure began a Thursday night.  What enticed us was that the train left late in the evening.  It allowed us to complete our work days without stressing about missing it since it left late in the day.  It was of course late leaving on top of the late departure, but to leave at night, sleep threw the night and be half way by the next morning was very enticing to us. 

Check in was a breeze and all the staff was lovely to deal with.  The station is under renovation so that did cause some frustration, but all in all it was good.  Getting on the train was so relaxed that we where almost startled on how relaxed it was. Then we got into our rooms…

One way down to Toronto there was limited space.  Our best option if we wanted private sleeping arrangements was to book 2 single sleeper cabins across from each other.  My first impression is.. “What did I do?!” .. The single sleeper in one of the older cars was beyond tiny.  I am shorter person to begin with but for my knees to almost touch the toilette and see the “drawer bed” as my kids affectionately call it after seeing it.  It was too tiny for my taste. 

The toilet was placed in the center of the room, in front of the picture window.  To say the least, it as awkward.  When the bed pulled out, it covered the bed and made for an awkward time in the middle of the night to go to the washroom.  My take on it all you ask?  I do not recommend the single sleepers and recommend people pay the upgrade to the 2 bedroom sleeper! Splurge and get the 2 person sleeper.  Even if you are alone and travelling!

Our meals where included in the ticket price as well as basic drinks (juice, coffee and tap water).  Every meal had 3 options for dietary choices.  It usually included a beef option, chicken and vegetarian.  This really was wonderful.  Jorge enjoys all food types and I haven’t eaten red meat (by choice) in over 20 years.  I wasn’t sure how that would be, but all in all we really enjoyed the meals.  Not gourmet, but they where delicious.  The service was good too.  From hostess to waiter.  They worked long hard hours and somehow always had a smile on their faces to greet us.

The train schedule took a little getting used to.  By schedule I mean meal times and activities.  With getting on later in the week in Winnipeg we only had the option for late lunch and dinner the next day.  I am glad that they day after we where able to choose.  Breakfast is served 3 times.  It starts at 6:30am and then every hour.  They have waves of 3 in order to fill the dinning room and service the courses at once.  Not like a fast food restaurant where you can saunter in and go when you wanted.  We learned very quickly you get up for the 6:30am breakfast.  It’s easy enough to nap after, but to get in later is close to impossible.   The lunch times are 11:30am for the early (and then 12:30/1pmish and again 1:30/2pmish). Dinner starts at 5:30pm and the second serving is usually at 6:30/7pm and last is around 8:30pm.  Lunch and dinner has to be prearranged on the time of service.  Again, something we learned very quickly or went hungry.

The Sky viewing car was by far our favourite! So picturesque.  Day or night, there was something to enjoy.  The next car was always the activities car.  This had board games, light snacks and coffee and was there area we enjoyed a few beer and wine tastings.  Again, it was all on timing or you missed the fun things!

Our time in Toronto was limited, but perfect! We arrived at 10:30am (an hour late).  We dropped off our luggage in storage and took the day to site see.  Checking back in at 9:00pm at night was just the right time.  About the time we would have if we called it day if we stayed in the city and had to sleep at a hotel, but this way, we where IN our hotel travelling leisurely home.

On our way home we stayed in the 2 person sleeper.  It was in a new car, and all I can say was, “WOW!!” we loved every minute of it! Private room for toilet this time, 2 bunk beds and ROOM!  Well, in comparison to the single sleepers.  I am so glad we ended on a positive note otherwise I would never right my recommendations.  From that point on it was wonderful!  So wonderful that our sleep deprived bodies decided to sleep through breakfast and let the gentle rocking of the train lull us to bed.  With lunch being at 11:30am we didn’t even noticed we slept for 10 hours.  It was the room! It was lovely.

Our arrival back into Winnipeg was at a great time.  It was at 8am.  It allowed us to be ready to start the work day on the Monday. And we did just that.

All in all, if you have guidance from your travel agent, I DO recommend the sleeper cars on VIA Rail.  We are already planning our trip the other way into the mountains with the whole family.  Over all was a great experience and great idea for honeymoon.