They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned out chevrolets (aka Thunder Road part 1)

After Vancouver Beth and I took a bus south toward Portland, in the north of the state of Oregon, stopping briefly in Seattle and grabbing lunch in the Pioneer Square district, which has all sorts of little cafes and curiosity shops and was a district we hadn’t seen first time around. From Seattle to Portland we took an Amtrak train through the ‘Cascades’ range of the North West coast, however we spent most of the trip trying to watch the in-journey movie, the new Chronicles of Narnia film Prince Caspian. I say trying to watch the film because sat in our carriage there was an American girl of i’d say 19 or so, who decided it would be a good idea to tell the people sat in the seats opposite her entire life story. That she didn’t know the people opposite her didn’t put her off at all, nor did she care that her booming voice meant the rest of the us were subjected to her incessant drivel. And when I say incessant, i mean she almost literaly did not stop talking for the entire two hours she was on board. Biological anatomists should probably get hold of her and cut her open to examine this unprecedented lung-power, thus doing a dual service to both the scientific and commuter communities.

Although that girl was an extreme example, I have noticed that Americans in general have no qualms about bearing their souls to complete strangers so long as what is discussed is vacuous and boring (so in many cases the subject is their own life-experience and narrow world-view). Of course there are many interesting and intelligent Americans, but they tend to keep quiet and to themselves in public places (as Tocqueville noted nearly 200 years ago, come to think of it). However it is culturally striking – you rarely get British people opening up like that to complete strangers, but I reckon getting on public transportation in the US there is a 50% chance somebody around you will be chatting happily away about intimate details of their history. I guess if you like to meet new people and hear their stories this is a good thing, but if you’re a misanthropist like me who only wants to talk about books and politics, then it gets pretty irritating.

Anyhow, Beth and I made it to Portland (only and hour late) and were met there by the wonderful Michele Gamburd who drove us back to her house for dinner and conversation. Michele is Professor of Anthropology at Portland State University, and has a specialist interest in Sri Lanka, having previously published a book enitled The Kitchen Spoon’s Handle: Transnationalism and Sri Lanka’s Migrant Housemaids and has a forthcoming work entitled Breaking the Ashes: The Culture of Illicit Liquer in Sri Lanka. Beth and I learned an awful lot about Sri Lankan culture from both Michele and her mother – also an anthropologist, who is still sharp as a tac despite being in her 80s and having recently suffered a stroke – but also about about the difficulties faced by small American universities like PSU, in terms of funding, workload and managing to keep and retain the best students and researchers.

The following day, Beth and I spent the morning and afternoon in Portland, mostly just wandering about looking in shops and eating ice cream because it was so damned hot (Oregon apparently experiences solid rain from September through May, but for the three summer months everything becomes scorched). Portland is a nice city – it’s clean and relatively calm, and as it is not at all a tourist hot-spot it felt like we were seeing an example of “genuine” American culture and life. Actually, the most extreme case of liqueur sale vigilance I have seen yet was in Portland. When I bought a bottle of wine in the evening to take back to Michele’s, the guy at the store demanded to see both mine and Beth’s IDs, as well as insisting that we provide an address at which we were staying, and informing us that if we drank on the street we would be liable to a $300 fine. I think he was just being a little over-zealous and perhaps that isn’t the norm of Oregon, but as we were hardly about to crack open a bottle of merlot and drink it on the sidewalk at 5pm it all seemed a bit silly.

The next day Michele gave Beth and I a lift to the Hertz car rental depot on the other side of town, where we had reserved a “small economy car” for pick up so that we could drive down the Oregon coast to San Francisco. I was a little doubtful that they’d hire to me – I don’t have a US driving license, English people drive on the other side of the road, I’m under 21 and male, etc – but they basically didn’t bat an eyelid except for adding on a premium for my age. We said our goodbyes to Michele and were led outside to our “small economy car”. When I say “small”, bear in mind that this is America:

That’s not what I call a small car, it’s what I call a great big bloody massive huge Leviathan of a vehicle. Anyway, I was a little apprehensive, not just about controlling the Behemoth but about driving on the incorrect side of the road – but after a few practice laps around the quite blocks driving on the incorrect side of the road started to feel like the most natural thing in the world and I got used to it quicker than I expected. Harder to get used to was the complete absence of a clutch – Americans basically all drive automatic cars, apparently because the concept of gears is too challenging, perhaps? – and for the first day my left foot kept coming down on thin air every time we came to a red light.

We decided to drive north up to Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia river, about 80 miles from Portland where we stopped for lunch on the Washington side in a state park over-looking the Columbia. You can’t really get a good sense from these pictures, but the bridge here is enormous. The Columbia must be a couple of miles wide at this point, as it took us several minutes to cross on the bridge:

After Astoria we drove South down highway 101, which takes you right down the entire Oregon coast and into California. Yoy might be wondering why on earth we wanted to drive down the Oregon coast of all places – well here’s the answer:

You’ll notice in some of the above pictures – taken at Cannon Beach – there is a huge amount of cloud hanging just off the coast over the Pacific Ocean. This is typical of the North West coast, right the way from Seattle down to San Francisco. On hot afternoons it hangs just off the coast, but on cooler days and mornings before the sun burns it off, the area for a few miles in from the coast will be unbelievably foggy. Furthermore, the fog is very low-lying, so you can often drive out of it by taking a road up a mountain. The variability of weather in this part of the world is astounding and like nothing I have ever seen before, giving the entire area a unique feel to accompany the awesome sights…like these:

After seeing all that we drove as far as Lincoln City and started looking for a place to stay. We pulled into the “Ashleigh Inn”, a fairly expensive looking motel where I thought it might be worth trying a long-shot – and we hit gold. The lady on the counter told us to wait a few minutes, and when the lobby was cleared of other people she whispered that as it was after 9pm they could offer us discount rates, due to the fact the management would rather have rooms filled for less than left empty for nothing. So we get to stay in the most enormous and well-furnished hotel room I have ever stayed in for just $30 each:

Although this is only about half the room in this shot, you get the idea. Anyway we went out to get some food, and although the Chinook Winds Casino restaurant had just closed, we managed to find a diner that was still serving food before calling it a day.

And i’ll sing it to the Pacific

I haven’t been able to update for a while partly because i’ve not had prolonged access to the internet – blogging takes more time than you’d think! – and partly because I’ve been spending time with Beth rather than sitting alone on buses contemplating things. So just a short post, mostly of photos from Vancouver.

After staying with Graham in Seattle, Beth and I took the Greyhound up to Vancouver. It was overcast and cloudy when we arrived, and I’d forgotten to print off a map of where our hostel was located, thinking that knowing the right street would be enough. I forgot that in North America streets tend to run for tens of miles, due to the grid layout of cities. Beth was not best pleased – but in the end we found the place, just on the edge of China Town. We got a real bargain at only $16 dollars a night each, but as usual with getting a bargain there’s an accompanying catch: we were sleeping in a hole. OK it wasn’t actually a hole, but it felt like one. We were down in the basement and our room had only the tiniest of north-facing windows in one upper corner, and the strip-lighting gave the room the feel of a soviet torture chamber, the kind of place which political dissidents are put in as part of a solitary confinement regime. Hence after a day in Vancouver we would speak of “returning to the hole”.

Being less melodramatic for a second, it wasn’t all that bad (and after all it was cheap, which is always the prime concern) but we both noticed how much difference it makes to have natural light where you are spending large parts of your time. Waking up was particularly unpleasant because you simply have no idea what time it is, and the artificial light creates a feeling of claustrophobia and depression. I can only imagine what life must be like for the poor souls who must find themselves – due either to poverty, crime or oppression – living in those kinds of conditions for months or even years at a time with no prospect of getting out and going to the beach, or even just going upstairs.

Anyhow, Beth and I didn’t do all that much worth spending time writing about in Vancouver, though I was relieved to find that my earlier impression of the city as being some sort of unwashed Heroin Central was unfair. There are bad parts to the city – like any – but generally Vancouver is clean, calm and unbelievably quiet. Furthermore, the people are friendly (for example, the bus drivers basically let us get on for free every time!) and generally helpful. Americans say that Vancouver is like a European city. I’m not sure about that, as it feels distinctively North American, yet it is certainly not an American city, in the way that e.g. Toronto could quite easily be described.

On our first full day Beth and I wandered around the various districts and when the weather improved in the evening we walked down to the waterfront where Vancouver (sort of) sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean:

On our second day we got up as early as possible to escape the hole (when I say “as early as possible” I mean as early as Beth can manage to make me get out of bed, which usually isn’t very early) and started the day by spending a few hours on the beach:

After the beach we wandered through Stanley Park, which is an enormous public park in to the north of Vancouver covering an entire peninsular. Especially good were the enormous trees:

After the park we returned to the hole before heading back out to take some pictures of the sunset and eat:

Purple Haze, all in my eyes.

I didn’t stay long in Vancouver because I had to head south to Seattle. Why so soon? i hear you ask. Well i’m going to be honest, the reason was because I was meeting my girlfriend, Beth, who was flying out to Seattle to see me for just under two weeks.

Technically this is against the Pathfinder spirit, but here’s my attempt to publicly justify us meeting up. Firstly, the pathfinder award is for 6-10 weeks; not including the time Beth spends with me, I will have spent around 7 weeks alone in the US staying with hosts etc. Secondly, this is longer than some pathfinders are spending this yea – and have spent in the past – in the US continuously for the completion of their award. Thirdly, and most importantly, 9 weeks is a very long time to not see somebody you are in love with especially as traveling alone can be an extremely lonely affair – staying with Balliol hosts is great, but it’s not like being with somebody you actually know and have an established history and relationship with. So, erm, there is my excuse. I figure I don’t want to be dishonest about what I’m doing, so I thought I might as well be straight with anyone from college reading this. Furthermore, it means I can write accurate blog posts without having to omit an entire person from events!

Anyway, I took a bus down to Seattle to meet Beth. On the way I managed to endear myself to US Customs and Immigration once more, this time by forgetting to declare that I was bringing food over the border. What happened is that I filled out my customs form whilst waiting in Vancouver bus station, then got bored and went to buy some food – forgetting to alter said form where it said “are you bringing foods into the USA?” and i ticked “no”. Anyway, we get to border control and not only have I forgotten to tick “no” where it says “Are you traveling on business?” but when the guy asks me “are you carrying food?” and I (forgetfully but without intention to mislead) reply “no” it’s rather awkward when the other guy scanning my backpack says “so why have you got a sandwich in your bag?”; Apparently failure to disclose a restricted item at customs carries a fine of several thousand dollars – but luckily (and for the second time; perhaps word had been passed from New York) it was realised that I am in fact merely an idiot, and not a harmful idiot. So I got away with it.

So I make that Paul Sagar 2 – 0 US Customs and Immigration.

I got to Seattle around 4pm and spend 2 and a half hours in an internet cafe called Cyber Dogs messing around with photos whilst a 50 year old Italian emigree lady and I rocked out to Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones and she told me about their 4th of July celebration, which involves "A British Invasion of Led Zepplin". Indeed, Seattle is where Jimi Hendrix is burried, and where both Nirvana and The Melvins are from. It has some serious rock history.

I took myself to the airport to first check into the nearby cheap motel, and then go and meet Beth, whose flight from JFK had been delayed by just 1 hour, a virtual miracle in contemporary domestic plane travel over here in America. Although we managed to walk past each other what must have been about 6 times in the ridiculous Sea-Tac airport arrivals section, we finally found each other and were both relieved that our mutual fears of planes falling out of the sky had once again not been vindicated.

The next day Beth and I took the bus to the house of Graham Cooper, a Balliol host in Seattle who had kindly agreed to let both Beth and I stay with him. Graham is probably the most diverse and eccentric character I have stayed with on my trip so far. After studying Chemistry at Balliol in the 1960s, and having knowing Howard Marks (the world-wide pot dealer turned celebrity show-off), he first became frustrated at employmeent prospects in the UK during the 1970s after a short term with Unilever, and decided to head west, where he landed a job in Silicon Valley during the real boom years when it was all taking off.

However, he confesses that he became rather disillusioned with that way of life, and with ‘9-5’ jobs in general, and so opted for a change. Specifically, after a trip to Australia and New Zealand he decided to join a yoga and meditation commune somewhere out in the mountains of western America (i’m not sure exactly where). He built his own hut in the fashion of Mongol nomad tents and spent several years as part of a commune, mostly meditating and living out of savings gleaned from Silicon Valley.

In the end, however, Graham felt he didn’t fit into that community as well as he’d have liked, and so he decided to leave. Finding an abandoned car in the woods, he patched it up with spare parts bought from local hillbillies, and headed west to Seattle, where he is living now (though possibly not for long). His house is unusual by American standards in that it has no air conditioning, and is really quite spartan. The kitchen contains no more and no less than is needed for healthy cooking, and Graham grows much of his own food in the back yard.

Indeed Graham has what can only be described as some eccentric views to accompany his somewhat eccentric lifestyle. Notably, he has a great deal of sympathy with the 9/11 Conspiracy theories, a point to which he returned to frequently in the first hour or two of our meeting him. Unfortunately, 9/11 Conspiracy is something of a bug-bear of mine, and I over-reacted a little in my disagreement with Graham’s arguments – but fortunately the damage was limited and reparable, and I don’t think there was any long-term damage. However I felt I’d kind of let myself down as a pathfinder and Balliol ambassador, and deserved the semi-ticking off I got from Beth about knowing better, and knowing that one shouldn’t behave as though one is an over-compensating 18 year old male in a first year PPE tutorial (a notoriously unpleasant display, of which I gave some of the most pronounced and which I still cringe in memory of).

Regardless, Beth and I took a nice walk around the neighbourhood – which, incidentally, is relatively poor and, you guessed it, predominantly black – and I found a discarded Washington state license plate, which I am keeping. That night Graham cooked cod and potatoes on a barbecue which was delicious, and we also drank some of his home-brewed beer which was (I must admit!) surprisingly good.

The next day Beth and I got up early to spend the day in Seattle. The weather in this part of the west coast is really odd, and indeed I had been warned about it earlier on my travels. Basically when you wake up it is freezing cold and and overcast. This lasts for most of the morning, but somewhere between 11am and 2pm the sun blasts away all the fog, cloud and cold, and it becomes roasting hot. It’s really very odd; in the morning Beth and I were freezing cold, wandering around wishing we hadn’t worn summer clothes, because the weather was all like this:

(This is the main entrance ot the world-famous Pike Street Market, along the Seattle Waterfront. It is filled with hundreds of stores, some of them selling useful things like dead fish, others not so useful thinks like multi-coloured 3ft Wigwams, or t-shirts with mis-spelled slogans. It’s rammed with people and quite fun because there are a lot of street traders and performers, including this man who had a fully trained parrot, which he threw from hand to hand, held upside down and terrified children with:)

but suddenly by 1.30pm it was blazing sunshine, meaning it was all like this:

(Yes, think of the impact you could make – perhaps to a child’s head? Is this what the Seattle authorities are getting at? But I worry somewhat; imagining what a child’s head would look like after you’d squashed it under the titanium wheels of your mega SUV might distract you from the road ahead, leading to precisely the impact one was attempting to avoid. Oh, the vicious, vicious irony…)

Beth and I took a walk around the Seattle Olympic Sculpture Garden in the North area, which was actually pretty cool and had some things like this in it:

On the left of this picture you can see the Seattle Space Needle, the famous building which dominates the skyline.

Here is me looking pensive upon a giant eye. This is very deep and meaningful, is this.

And here we have the official Seattle monument to paedophilia dedicated by the Intergenerational Sex Alliance of Washington State, which has a somewhat Freudian twist to it:

And here are some pictures of the Puget Sound, which is like a Norwegian fjord, but wider and not as deep and which Seattle sits upon one side of:

After a day’s wandering around doing as much free sight-seeing as possible (we’re both getting to be on tight budgets now, as i’ve managed to over-spend at a frankly incomprehensible rate, for which I still cannot fully account, and she is off to Kenya for two weeks after this trip!) we returned to Graham’s house for pizza. But not just any old pizza, no no! For Graham has built in his back yard his own "Cob" oven, a construction made of clay and mud. It is heated by lighting a fire directly inside the oven, which looks like this:

After 3 hours of letting the fire burn, you take out all the ashes and coals:

Then give it a mop:

And then put some pizzas in. When the oven is full of burning wood it is over 1000 degrees, and when the fire is removed it cools to around a mere 800. It will stay hot and then warm for 24 hours straight. The pizzas took 3 minutes to cook. In fact, the pizzas were really good and Graham made so much food we were able to save about 3 whole pizzas for the bus ride to Vancouver the next day.

There’s a steel train coming through (part 4)

So day 4 of the great train ride and I awake on the floor after somebody trips over my legs and shouts something unrepeatable in my direction, but nonetheless having had the best night’s sleep so far. It’s only 8am but through bleary eyes I look up and out of the window. We are mid-way through the Rockies – and a mere 9 hours behind schedule! – which means we are in the middle of a desert. Literally, a desert, created (i think) because almost all rainfall takes place on the east and west mountains, with very little moisture making it through to the central range except for the river flowing through the main canyon. Anyway it’s quite cool; I saw a couple of coyote-like creatures running about, some mountain goats and quite a few bald eagles, not that I got any pictures of them…

After a couple of hours, and following a special treat consisting of proper breakfast in the restaurant card (paid for by mummy’s ever generous credit card), we entered the western range, where we meandered alongside some truly awesome rapids and canyons:

Below are pictures of two rivers meeting (one was called, I think, the Thompson, and I forget the name of the other). The light and dark areas show where the fast moving water of one river collides with the slow-moving water of the other. The slow-moving water carries more sediment, giving the water a murky, browny colour:

Eventually we started approaching Vancouver:

We finally made it to Vancouver and had managed to cut the delay down to a mere 7 hours behind our original arrival time. Now VIA Rail offer a good deal in compensation – you get half the value of your ticket refunded in terms of travel vouchers for future VIA Rail journeys. Or rather, that’s a good deal if you live in Canada. If you are not returning to Canada within the one year expiration date, this is totally useless. I tried my best to get free stuff in exchange for my ticket stub at Vancouver, but no matter how much I pleased, reasoned, cried and demanded to get a free VIA Rail train driver hat (RRP $39.99), they were having none of it. I tried pointing out that I was effectively saving them $261.01, but they basically told me to go **** myself. Thanks, VIA Rail – first you give me semi-permanent back disability and then you wont even give me a hat!

Anyway I said goodbye to Bronson and Sam, and headed to north Vancouver in the direction of my hostel. I certainly booked a bargain – only $27 for a private room! Of course, when you book bargains like that, there’s a reason. Although I managed to ignore the scum in the shower and commit arachnid genocide in my room before going to sleep, I wasn’t too keen on roaming the streets outside because, well, I appeared to have found myself in junkie central.

Indeed, Bronson and Sam had warned me that there are two sides to Vancouver: first it’s a place where beautiful people go to see people and be seen. Second it’s a place where you can go to get heroin, and where there are lots of places to take heroin. Clearly I’d ended up in the latter – and it was striking. I’d say 20% of the people I saw between 5 and 8pm were homeless, and a fair few of them looked like junkies (I know you can’t always tell just by looking, but still you can get a damn good idea). I didn’t really feel that threatened – except for one guy who tried to feed me some cock and bull story about his van getting impounded and it having 400 kg of weed hidden in it, and how he’d give me a cut if i helped him get it back (all with the guarantee “dude, i’m not a junkie”, which he clearly was) – but the whole place just felt, well, dirty and kind of unpleasant.

I’m guessing that not all of Vancouver is like this, but my first impressions were really very bad indeed. Yet this has got to be only part of the story because everywhere I have been in North America people have raved about how great Vancouver is.¬†Well, i’m writing this in Seattle, but i will actually be traveling back to Vancouver for a few days, so I’ll report back on that in due course.

Over and out.

There’s a steel train coming through (part 3)

So day three on the train, and I wake up (feeling like somebody had been drilling into my left shoulder with a rusty nail) to be told we are leaving Manitoba and entering Saskatchewan, and after an hour we reach the town of Saskatoon. I was looking forward to the 30 minute break so I could get proper coffee and maybe a muffin, rather than the brown water available from VIA Rail. No such luck, for Saskatoon station is a little, erm, bare…

See, not even an ATM, let alone coffee.

So we got back on the train and spent a day going through the prairies, which look like this:

Though occasionally there are things like this:

But mostly it is a thousand miles of this:

By the time night was drawing in we were running 9 hours late, and it was becoming clear we weren’t going to hit the Rockies til after it got dark. This made me pissed off, because a main reason for getting this trip was to see the Rockies. As we got closer and it got darker, I tried desperately to get a couple of shots:

Thoroughly disgruntled, though cheered up somewhat by Sam and Bronson’s antics in the mountain town of Jasper during a brief stop late in the evening, I went to sleep on the floor because I refused to endure another night of torture in my seat.

There’s a steel train coming through (part 2)

Being a low-down penny-pincher, I wasn’t going to fork out more that I had to for this cross-continental train, so i opted to travel “comfort class” – which is VIA Rail’s pathetic attempt at propaganda in an effort to convince you that economy is in some way comfortable. It isn’t.

Although I had good leg room, my seat was horrendously uncomfortable to sleep in. And things were not helped by the 5am screaming baby. “Screaming baby?” you ask, “surely nobody would put children on a 3 day train, would they?” Well yes, yes they would, and yes, yes they did. Furthermore, this baby was some sort of demon child, for it did not cry but really screamed itself hoarse. But thankfully the good lord Jesus invented iPods, and so I was able to overcome this trial.

Seriously though, I really cannot forgive these people who put kids on this train. As well as the screaming baby there was a pack of semi-feral urchins roaming up and down, shouting and being a general pain in the ass. Now I think this is really selfish; parents may well think their own kids are perfect angels and that their antics are oh-so amusing, but it simply isn’t fair on the rest of the passengers taking the train. And it’s not like i’m being unfair, in case you are thinking that perhaps these parents had to take the train
due to, say, financial constraint. The plane is cheaper than the train, as well as a hell of a lot quicker. I mean seriously, did these parents think their kids were just going to sit and smile quietly for 3 days? Well either they did and in that case they’re very stupid people, or else they didn’t (more likely) and so simply didn’t care about all the other people who had to be on that train.

Regardless, there were actually some pretty fun people, and I got on especially well with a pair of stoners from Toronto, Sam and Branson:

These guys were a lot of fun, and along the way various other people were there to chat to and be entertained by, given that rail travel always attracts a certain percentage of weirdos.

Anyway, our second day was spent traveling through…Ontario! Because it is bloody massive. We stopped briefly at Sioux Lookout, where there was nothing (except for race-tension, or so the Canadians tell me):

but apart from that we managed to become even more delayed and reached Winnipeg (which is in Manitoba) at 1am, instead of the scheduled 3.30pm. On this day I learned that Canadians generally hate Americans, hate being mistaken for Americans and especially they hate George Bush. Furthermore, it really annoys them if you refer to provinces as states.

Oh well, here are a few pictures taken on day 2:

There’s a steel train comin through (part 1)

Before leaving Detroit I found the best book shop in the world, 2 minutes from the Greyhound Station. They had over 900,000 second hand, rare and first-edition books, on 4 floors in an old factory building. I was able to pick up a few things I was looking for at a fraction of the normal price, and would have liked to spend all day hunting things down, but there was a bus to catch.

My 6 hour ride to Toronto was rubbish, not least because the woman sat next to me was eating raw onions (I hate onions) whilst her two annoying kids stood behind me on their seats and shouted. No amount of scowling and looking pissed off seemed to work, so I accepted my fate. I mean, it could have been worse, I could have been beheaded or something.

Anyway I got to Toronto, the biggest city in Canada and capital of Ontario province, and checked into a good hostel. Well, good apart from the guy sleeping in the bunk beneath me who woke me up when he came in both nights running and snored like a pig. I didn’t really do anything of interest in Toronto, I have to admit, because I spent my free day stressing out about stupid crap and trying to find internet access, but I wandered around the downtown area and saw the CN tower, though I couldn’t be bothered to take pictures.

One thing that was cool about Toronto was that I met my first French Canadians from Quebec. This gave me a chance to talk French, which I haven’t done for a while, though at first I had no idea what these guys were saying to me. Eventually I twigged that they were from Quebec, and got the hang of it – but they really do have funny ways of speaking. This is basically a ridiculous comparison, but imagine if there were French rednecks – well they’d probably speek like they were from Quebec. At least, in my head they would at any rate.

In any case Saturday eventually came around, and that was the day I was to take my 3-day train to Vancouver, crossing the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and finally British Columbia. I got up bright and early at 7.30, after being woken up about 16 times, and headed down to Union Station…where I was informed that the train was leaving late. ‘How late?’ i asked. ‘5 hours late’, they told me. This was kind of annoying, but then I found out VIA Rail (the Canadian rail network) was providing free breakfast and lunch, as well as newspapers, so I was pacified. Indeed I managed to liberate enough buffet sandwiches to ensure that I was eating dinner for free too.

I practiced my French while waiting in Union Station somemore, this time with old people who were actually from France. They were quite moody, but one of them helped me liberate yogurt and fruit juice from the buffet, so that was ok. Eventually we got on the train and got going at about 2pm, slowly progressing through Ontario, westwards toward the Pacific.

Here are some pictures from the first day, taken from the ”Observation Car”, a special elevated bubble-car where you can sit and watch Canada go by.