Continuing the diary....

WEEK 4

Monday, 13 September

Town-hunting around Barrie

Today we headed north again to take a look at Steyner, a little 'dorp' about 45 minutes drive west of Barrie. It’d been recommended to Bruce by his boss to be, as they didn't want to live in the city of Barrie because rent and house prices were too expensive for them at this stage.

Steyner was a shocker! It was small, not too neat, and there were wooden cutouts with a basket and flowers painted on them hanging from the street lamps. We saw a few new houses in a nice-ish part of the village, but Bruce and Glynis and eventually Dad and I decided that Steyner should be crossed off the list of possible places to live.

We drove back to Barrie and had a look at some houses in the northern suburbs - too expensive. A few other little villages further south were much too small and were more like groups of housing complexes than villages. So back home again, and some rethinking was to take place while we were enjoying out train trip to Vancouver.

 

Tuesday, 14 September

The Canadian to Vancouver

Took the GO train to Toronto to catch VIA Rail "Canadian" to Vancouver in British Columbia. As we were travelling in the "Silver and Blue" class we had our own lounge to sit in and wait. It was crowded with retired American folk who seemed to be on a tour. We boarded with them, and yes, they were on a tour - a stimulating trip this is going to be – I was the youngest person on the train by at least 20 years! We departed at 11 a.m., on schedule and headed north via Barrie where Glynis & Bruce would be living in the near future. The train went on the eastern edge of Lake Simcoe, the opposite side from Barrie.

The accommodation was very comfortable, we had upper bunks opposite each other. At Jasper we'd have to change cars and would then be in two separate cars, but we were speak to the train manager at Jasper to get us together if space and bookings allowed. Booked in with me was a nice old lady who’d been visiting her daughter in Toronto and was returning to her home in Calgary in Alberta, via Edmonton. 

The food was simple but very good and was all prepared on the train, and not prepackaged like on a plane. There were 3 lunch sittings and 2 diners. We spent a lot of our time in the Skycar which had about 20 seats in a glass covered dome above the kitchen. It was always VERY cold in this car, but the views around were really worth sitting there. A lot of the first day’s travelling was through northwestern Ontario and it is just miles and miles of the Muskoka – forests and small lakes. Everywhere! At about 4 p.m. we were served hot snacks and champagne (in a plastic glass).

By the time we got back to our sleeper car after supper, the beds had been made so we decided we should retire. I was soon asleep and didn’t wake up until early the next morning.

In the sky car on "The Canadian"
to Vancouver

Wednesday, 15 September

For a while in the morning the scenery was the same, then it flattened out a bit as we entered the Prairies. We stopped in Winnipeg in Manitoba at 3 in the afternoon and were allowed off the train for about an hour. We all traipsed to the Fork Market, a converted warehouse with shops selling fresh produce and food. At the entrance Global TV were shooting a cooking programme, but had stopped for a while because the sun was coming in through the high windows onto the presenter. I asked if I could see inside the small OB van parked outside and was not surprised to see the usual Betacam SP 70 machines, a portable audio mixer and vision mixer. They also had a Chiron Maxine character generator like the one in our studio, and operating it was Global’s version of Robin, Leon or Chris! The guy who can do EVERYTHING in a TV studio!

That was much more interesting than wandering aimlessly around a food market!

And so back to the train to wait for supper.

We travelled through the rest of Manitoba and all of Saskatchewan in the dark.

Thursday, 18 September

We heard from fellow passengers that there was a display of the Northern Lights early in the morning.

Still travelling through the Prairies and it’s not as flat as I imagined it would be. There were fields of wheat and "corn" everywhere, but there were lines of trees in between. We stopped in Edmonton, Alberta right next to the airport. Mrs. Whatever-her-name-was got off and I helped her carry her bags to her car which she hoped still had all its wheels. She was sure someone would steel them. I told her that in S.A. they would take the whole car, not just the wheels. She still had a 200-km journey to Calgary (and the wheels!).

The world's largest shopping centre is the West Edmonton Mall, which has 800 shops including 90 eating places and is 5.2 million square feet in area. It has the world's largest indoor amusement park with an indoor roller coaster, bunjee-jump, and a wave lake complete with beach and waves large enough to ride a surfboard on. It has walk-through bird aviaries, a huge ice-skating rink, 19 movie theatres, a lagoon with performing dolphins and several adventure rides, and in the middle of it all a water fountain with 19 computer controlled water jets which weave and dance. We didn't see it - I read that from a book!!!

All Aboard! And we were off again, our next stop Jasper in the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies rise up from the flat plains of Alberta to a height of between 4 and 6 000 metres and the railway line went along the valleys between the huge peaks. Jasper is a pretty little touristy town, and the gateway to the national parks in the Rockies. The tour people got off here, and were to spend a few days in the mountains before continuing to Vancouver by bus.

Here Dad and I were to change cars, and after consulting with the train manager were able to be placed together in one car instead of two. The dining car we were to eat in was near the end of the train and was much bigger and smarter than the others. A few cars down was the Park Car which had a lounge at the very end of the train as well as a domed sitting area above the bar. It had fewer seats so we weren’t able to sit up there. We went back to our compartment and watched the continuing mountain scenery.

Moose Lake in the Rockies

 

Changing cars at Jasper

 

Mount Robson, Canada's highest

We were in British Columbia now and heading towards the coast. Mountains were all round us, the highest, Mount Nelson at 3 954 metres was visible for a few minutes as the train twisted and turned following the river valley. The river was tinted light green by the fine sediment held in suspension ground from the rock by glaciers in the mountains.

We had diner as it was getting dark, and dined with a delightful Australian woman with a lovely sense of humor and another from Trinidad who happened to know one of the waiters in another crew who had served us on the first leg of the trip. We'd been talking about the waiters and how they have to be so charming to the passengers, and I said there was this one guy who had served us and was so miserable, hardly wanted anyone to talk to him. When I said he was from Trinidad, she said she knew him and that he’d just split up with his wife. I just opened my mouth and put the other foot in as well!!


Friday, 17 September

Vancouver

And so the last part of the train journey is ahead of us. Unfortunately again, a lot of the trip through British Colombia’s beautiful mountain scenery was in the dark, and as we had breakfast, we were very close to Vancouver on a dull, overcast morning.

We arrived at Vancouver Station at 9 am and then went to look for Chris who was going to meet us and take us home before going off to work. It was good to see him after six months, and he hadn’t changed. He was his usual frantic self, glad to see us and couldn't stop talking. He took us home and left us there as he and Dayle went off to work. He's driving a forklift at some shipping company and very thankful for the job which is allowing him to save money for the first time since arriving in Canada.

It was overcast this morning, but it cleared up, and the afternoon was lovely and sunny, but not as hot as Toronto/Oakville. Chris and Dayle live in a tiny little double story house in a very pretty, treed area, about 40 km from Vancouver itself. It was quite a drive from the station to Coquitlam, through the traffic in Chris's Ford minibus! Those of us who know Chris will know what I mean. (He’s a very impatient driver.)

Dad and I spent the day resting and later took a walk in the forest along the edge of the Coquitlam River which runs behind the houses in Chris's street. He warned us that a black bear and cubs had been seen there the other day! What a pleasant walk through the tall trees, some pines, firs, oaks and poplars, probably some beeches there too - I don't know the trees here. A woman was sitting with her two small children playing on the edge of the river, quite contented and safe (apart from the bear!) By the way, Chris lives in Flynn Avenue, named after actor Errol Flynn who had a little cottage there many years ago.

We got back and watched a re-run of a 1960's episode of Star Trek.

When Chris and Dayle arrived home we took the dogs for a walk along a dyke on the Pitt River and watched the sun’s last rays shining on the snow-clad Mt Baker (3 285m) just over 100 km away in the state of Washington in America.

Later we went for a drive to downtown Vancouver and to Gastown which was Vancouver's first European settlement and named after flamboyant river boat captain Gassy Jack (one could only guess why!) The brick paved streets are lined with bars, small shops, art galleries, cafes and outdoor restaurants, and this area is often used as a location for films because of its charm. On a street corner was a tall steam operated clock that whistled the Westminster chimes every quarter hour.

We had supper at The Spaghetti Factory, an old converted spaghetti factory.


Saturday, 18 September

Vancouver and surrounds

We had another fine day - I was waiting for all the rain Vancouver is infamous for! Today we drove to Whistler, North America's premier ski resort, about 90 minutes from Vancouver.

A very compact village has been built at the foot of Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains, offering tourists everything they could wish for in one place. We took the ski lift to the top of Whistler, reaching a height of 1 709 metres, passing over a Black bear on the way up. There was some snow on the top still, so we played around a bit then got down to some serious stuff like eating and admiring the stunning view, and boy, was it just. All round were snow-clad peaks as far as the eye could see, and these were just the coastal mountains on the Pacific Ocean side. The rest of the mountains of British Columbia were blocked from view by the mountain we were on.

We spent about 2 hours up there before taking the ski lift cable way back to the village below.

On the way home we stopped at Horseshoe Bay and saw the ferries that take people to and from Vancouver Island entering and leaving the little harbour. Then it was time to head back to Coquitlam for supper and sleep.


Dayle, me, Chris and Dad on Whistler Mountain, BC (I'm not blue from cold!)


Chris, me and Dad and the Gastown
Steam Clock, Vancouver

Sunday, 19 September

After a short walk with the dogs through the Black bear's forest (we still haven't seen it - thankfully?!?) we drove down to Lonsdale Quay and caught the catamaran SeaBus across the Burrard Inlet to downtown Vancouver. Once on the other side we caught the SkyTrain, an elevated fully computerised, driver-less high-speed monorail that goes through the city. To get tickets for the SeaBus and SkyTrain you insert your coins at a vending machine, and although there are officials at the doors of the SeaBus, they didn’t inspect out tickets. The Canadians seem to live by a code of trust and honesty.

Our destination was Gastown again to take photos of the steam clock. Mission accomplished, we took the SkyTrain back to Waterfront station and across to North Vancouver. It was late afternoon so we took a quick trip to the Capilano Suspension Bridge that is 230 feet above the Capilano Canyon, which was a turn of the century trading post. It was quite late again as we returned home and had to prepare to get to the airport.

Our Canada 3000 plane took off at midnight and we saw Northern Lights at last. At the height the plane was cruising at it seemed like a long bank of fog which glowed a feint green. Every now and then the typical wavy curtain affect appeared.


NEXT WEEK

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