Sunday, August 26, 2012

Crossing Canada by train: Part 3

We passed the continental divide and entered British Columbia about 25 kilometres west of Jasper at Yellowhead Lake. We saw Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and two black bears as we followed along the path of the North Thompson River. The train slowed to allow us a longer look at the high and beautiful Pyramid Falls. A lot of the trees surrounding the tracks, both coniferous and deciduous, are tall but don't have wide trunks.
Pyramid Falls

People talk about gaining weight on cruise ships, but I think the chances of doing so are better on the Canadian since you're fed so well and there are fewer opportunities to exercise. And the food for breakfast, lunch and dinner isn't just plentiful, it's delicious. Dinner tonight consisted of tomato florentine soup, salad, duck breast, mashed potatoes and broccoli, with chocolate torte and cheesecake for dessert.

We passed a few small towns and lumber mills and had a half-hour stop in Kamloops to refuel and change engineers at 11:30 p.m. I got up at 6:45 a.m., but missed some apparently spectacular scenery going through deep gorges, tunnels and over trestle bridges. VIA used to go through this area during daylight because it can be so breathtaking, but a company representative told me it stopped about 15 years ago because some passengers were nervous and frightened while crossing some of the bridges. It's a shame.

We followed along the Fraser River and then crossed it in Surrey via the Patella Bridge into New Westminster and then on through Coquitlam and Burnaby to Vancouver. We had the transcontinental breakfast (eggs, toast, potato pancakes, fruit and choice of ham, bacon or sausage) with coffee before we backed into Vancouver's Pacific Central Station at 9:15 a.m. -- a half-hour ahead of schedule.

A city bus ride and short walk took us to the $145 a night Quality Hotel Downtown, where we dropped off our luggage and took two city buses to expansive Stanley Park. We'd visited it in 2003, but didn't go to its aquarium, so that was today's destination. It cost $27 for adults and $21 for seniors. We started with the beluga whale show and also saw otters, harbour seals, sea lions and African penguins outside before moving to the inside exhibits. The Strait of Georgia featured giant sturgeons and other fish; B.C. Coast had wolf eels and more; Tropic Zone was highlighted by small sharks and other coral and reef creatures; and Amazon Rainforest included caiman, exotic birds and butterflies.

We returned outside for the dolphin show and our last stop was the 4D Theatre, where we were given glasses to watch a 3D film that was augmented by sensory effects, including wind, mist, scents and a poke in the back. We  walked back through the park and took the same buses on the return trip to the hotel, where my mother decided she'd had enough after grabbing a tuna submarine at Subway.

I headed to The Railway Club, one of the city's hot spots for live music and microbrews, to meet a friend. We drank pints of Tree Cutthroat Pale Ale, Driftwood Fat Tug IPA, Phillips Hop Circle IPA and Howe Sound King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen. We eventually moved on to the Cambie Pub, where the selection wasn't nearly as good but the prices were cheap, for two pints. We went to a classier pub, which I don't remember the name of since I guess some of the high-octane brews from The Railway Club caught up with me, for nightcaps before I made my way back to the hotel.

We had enjoyed Granville Island on our previous visit and our hotel was just a short walk and mini ferry ride across False Creek, so we returned to walk around the market, shops, boutiques and park areas before settling in on the patio of the Dockside Restaurant, which offered a lovely view of False Creek and the eastern part of Vancouver. I ordered a flight of six six-ounce glasses of beer and mom got a pint of Jamaican Lager. None of the brew pub's Marina Light Lager, Johnston Street Pilsner, Railspur IPA, Cartwright Pale Ale, Old Bridge Dark Lager, Pelican Bay Brown Ale or Jamaican Lager were particularly good, but the beautiful weather and surroundings made it a nice way to spend an hour.

We caught the ferry back, grabbed our luggage at the hotel and walked eight blocks to the Yaletown Roundhouse Station to catch the Skytrain to the airport. It cost $3.75 and $2.50 for seniors and is one of the major positive spinoffs of the Vancouver Olympics.

The flight back to Toronto wasn't nearly as interesting as the train ride that got us to Vancouver, but the entire journey fulfilled my mother's dream and provided an enjoyable nine-day respite from my job.


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