From Vancouver to Jasper and On to the East.
WINNIPEG–VIA Rail has its act together. Train # 2 was scheduled to depart from Vancouver at 8:30 p.m. and so we did … right on the dot. Prior to boarding, starting around 8:00, there was a reception in an area just off the main waiting room at the Vancouver station … a nice opportunity to get to know at least a few of our fellow passengers.
VIA’s long-distance trains have no conductor. Instead, each train has a Service Manager, who is, as the title implies, responsible for maintaining an appropriately high level of service for passengers throughout the trip. Our service manager is Mario and I was introduced to him just prior to boarding. We briefly discussed what I was interested in seeing or hearing about. He promised to help in any way possible.
My choice for lunch on Day Two was vegetable soup, shrimps and scallops on skewers, and a nice glass of sauvignon blanc. The food on the VIA dining cars is really quite good … except that the soup is never hot enough … for me anyway .. and it does no good to request that it be served piping hot.
Part of the conversation at our table during dinner tonight had to do with the tipping protocol in VIA Rail dining cars. I haven’t noticed anyone tipping and at least part of the reason is that the VIA dining car is exclusively for sleeping car passengers and all meals are included in our fares. Consequently, no prices are shown on the menu. The dining car steward says that the staff pools their tips, however, and I will hand him something before we get to Winnipeg, which is home for this entire crew.
Oh … and I had a glass of Merlot with my rack of lamb last night and the steward offered to run a tab for me.
So far there hasn’t been a lot of snow on the ground–not more than a foot to two in most areas–but crossing the prairie en route to Winnipeg today it was damn cold nevertheless. I stepped off the train in Saskatoon and lasted about 30 seconds.
Finally, for the better part of an hour this afternoon in the lounge area of the Park Car–always there last car on one of these VIA trains–conversation among about eight of us had to do with our collective miserable experiences with any one of several airlines. I really wonder if the airlines fully understand how much anger and resentment there is out there. Or do they care?
Sorry … this was hastily done since I had to cmd into the Winnipeg station for access to wifi and we’ll be rebounding soon. More on Saturday from Toronto.