Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
There is something ceremonial about making stew. I zipped out to a local grocer this afternoon to get all fresh ingredients. The butcher guy gave me a bunch of beef loin cuts for stewing beef. Then I got mushrooms, onions, carrots, turnip, celery and red potatoes. I started searing the beef with a chunk of garlic in olive oil and then added half a glass of dry red wine and fresh ground pepper. The kitchen smelled great. I let the searing go on for about twenty minutes before I added onions and celery, and than after awhile, I added a few cups of beef broth with the turnips and carrots. I let it all simmer for a couple of hours before I added the mushrooms and potatoes. Then I made some garlic bread and pulled out the Royal Doulton china for the first time since Jennifer visited. I was thinking of enjoying it all with a glass of wine, but then I realized I had some Guinness!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Speaking of warm, I got myself a gift while on the west coast. I was window shopping in Victoria when I saw the Cowichan Trading Company. For years I have admired the knitted sweaters made by the Cowichan Indians on Vancouver Island. Renee, the salesperson, explained that Scottish settlers taught some celtic knitting techniques to the Indian women in the 1800s. As I looked as the prices, I thought they were a bit expensive, but then I figured they weren't going to get any cheaper. This is not the sort of sweater that will end up at the Salvation Army store in couple of years from now.
Ronald chipped in on the gift wagon too. Of course there is that special bottle of 12-year-old Scotch. That's certainly something that will wait until Christmas, or the New Year. When I mentioned that I had to go shopping for a duffle bag to carry some extra stuff back to Timmins, Ron rushed to his garage and came up with a brand new Forces duffle bag from Afghanistan. He even threw in a velcro 'GILLIS' name tag. Very Cool stuff!
When I got back to Ontario, there was another neat little gift waiting for me. Cousin Victoria picked up a nice coffee mug for me from her trip to Las Vegas. That's pretty darn nice eh.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
I was up early today and in the dining car by 6:30 a.m. I knew I was back in Northern Ontario just by the scenery, the rocks, trees and lakes. And in this part of the country the fall colours are already evident. The prairies are far behind us. Many of the travelers are commenting that they enjoyed seeing the prairies, but after 18 or 19 hours of the same thing, they were pleased to welcome the rocks and trees here in the North.
I am skipping lunch today, because there is just too much food on this journey. I will make a point of being in the dining car for supper. I skipped supper last night because I knew we’d be in the Winnipeg. I was told I missed out on a fabulous prime rib of roast beef dinner. The chef and cooking staff on board are very good at what they do. I know the food is fresh because when we stopped in Winnipeg I watched as several baskets of fresh fruit and produce was loaded into the kitchen car.
Several of the travelers and myself have discussed whether this is the sort of thing to do again. My answer is Yes. Maybe the next time, it would be fun to do it in the winter or travel east to west instead of west to east. I know I want to travel across the United States by train as well. Maybe that will be another trip. One of the fellows from Holland has convinced me that I should travel across Britain and Europe by train. Some of the trains travel as fast as airplanes at 300 kilometres per hour. I don’t think I could enjoy that at ground level.
One of the things I will research when I get home is how the light systems work for trains. You can see them in the distance when you sit in the dome car. You know those tall light fixtures that look like traffic lights beside the train tracks. All I know is that we seem to run a lot of red lights.
It is now 6:30 p.m. Friday and we have passed through Hornepayne. I was able to find a payphone to call Jennifer and let her know when I would be arriving, after midnight. The train will have a service stop in Capreol about an hour before Sudbury Junction, so I will get off the train there and save Jenn some sleep time.
During the stop in Hornepayne, I found the LCBO and was able to treat some Americans and Aussies to a few nice tall cans of Canadian Beer.
It will be nice to get home in a few days, but I know I will miss the fun of being on holidays. I have a lot of new e-mail addresses and several new friends.
It’s now 11:30 p.m. and the train is rolling slowly through Northern Ontario. We’re making way again for freight traffic. I left the Park Car minutes ago after chatting with Steve from Seattle. Interesting guy with all sorts of insights on U.S. politics and even his days of fighting in Vietnam. I got his contact info, shook his hand and he headed off to his cabin. I am back in my cabin. The bags are all packed and in a couple of hours the train should be in Capreol. I am impressed that the crew is doing a great job of looking after the passengers and the engineer is doing his best to keep the train on time.
Dinner tonight was an excellent baked pickerel dinner with scalloped potatoes, vegetables and a fish chowder. Dessert was an amazing caramel chocolate torte. Seating is assigned by the headwaiter in the dining car and tonight I was with three senior citizens. Sylvia from St. Catharines on her way home and Roger and Kathy are from New Zealand enjoying a cross-Canada holiday. All three wore hearing aids, so I had to speak loudly during dinner. I felt kind of silly about that, but after a couple of beers, I was speaking loudly anyway. We also had a wine tasting event this evening. That was fun. Well I have finally drained my flask of the whiskey I filled it with in Vancouver. So I am sipping that as I wait for the train to carry me into Capreol. Time to shut down the laptop and pack up the computer bag with the best of my luggage.
Jennifer met me at the train at Capreol right on time. We got to the house and boys woke up to give me welcoming hugs. How nice was that? Jenn and I sat and chatted till 3:00 a.m. before we finally called it a day. I was up at about 10:30 a.m. and Jennifer had a fabulous breakfast ready. After relaxing with a nice cup of coffee and getting caught up on all the gossip, I hit the road north for Timmins. Got in just before 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
It’s 7:40 Thursday morning and I am guessing we’re in
As I write this, (Thursday Morning) I am in the dome section of the Park Car at the very tail end of this train. As we round a curve I can see the loco, wayyyy in the distance. It’s so far ahead that I can’t hear the horn sound as the train approaches road crossings.I haven’t skipped breakfast entirely. This is a great place to enjoy a cranberry muffin and hot coffee, watching the scenery roll by.
We’re going slowly right now, which means another freight train is approaching. We often pull off to a rail siding to make way for the freight trains heading west. Some Europeans travelers I met last night are a bit miffed by this. They said the passenger trains in
I slept a bit better last night. The occasional slowing down and speeding up the train didn’t seem to bother me. I do remember waking sometime around 4:00 a.m. and noticing that the mountains were gone. I could see lights of farm houses in the distance and the land was flat, flat, flat in all directions.
The sky is overcast this morning, but I can see the clouds slowly moving south. There are clear skies and sunlight in the northwest, over my left shoulder.
I am thinking today will be an interesting day. This is the third day all of us have been couped up on this rolling village. I find that more and more people are getting up to walk around and explore the full train. I think I will try to visit the front of the train today and then come back and count all the cars. All the faces one sees now are becoming familiar. Everyone knows the train staff by their first names and they’re all pleasant people.
It is amazing how comfortable train travel can be if you book a cabin. Each cabin has its own toilet facility and I have learned that certain things are so much easier to do sitting down. There are individual shower and change rooms down the hall. The shower is good and hot, but not very high up. I am not a tall fellow, but I had to crouch a bit to wash my hair.
Later today, there is a crew change in
The pizza is a nice change from the very exclusive menu aboard the train. I have enjoyed some fabulous meals and wine, but right now my taste leans to the brew and pizza!By the way, for Neil's sake I am learning to enjoy local beers. Tonight it is Fort Garry India Pale Ale. I will get some extra photos up here soon. It's just that right now it is difficult to edit and post a lot of photos so that will likely happen next week.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Posted Wednesday afternoon in Jasper:
(Tuesday evening in Vancouver)This train thing is so new to me in so many ways. I haven’t been on a real passenger train across the country since I was a kid traveling with my Mom. So it begins in The Grand Pacific Station in
I found it too easy to promise that I would be back out here in a year. I am dying to take a trip to
There are a lot of the older crowd on the train platform. That is evident by the fact that the music guy has announced that people may want to “get a ride” out to their train car on the “people mover” which is some sort of a glorified golf cart. A lot of the grey-hair blue-hair crowd take up the offer. I am definitely in the over-40 crowd, but I am way too proud to get on the people mover!
(Wednesday morning. 9:20 a.m. local time, somewhere east of
Once we began moving, there was a champagne cocktail party in the Park Car. I sat with John and Maggie from
I didn’t sleep well last night, but that’s the excitement of being on the train. I laid in my bunk and watched the stars and nightscape roll by. It doesn’t matter. My cabin is all mine and I can nap any time I want. I was awakened at 7:00 by my cell phone ringing. I thought it was bizarre, but it was the doctor’s office in
I’ve just have breakfast in the dining car, with linen tablecloths and napkins, real cutlery and china. I sat with a
The internet service I was expecting on this train is not available. I am told it will be available when we stop at larger stations. That’s the only time I will be able to update the blog. In the meantime, there are two shower rooms at the end of this sleeper car. I think I will have a nap, a nice hot shower and then get caught up on some reading up in the Dome car.
4:00 p.m. and we arrived in Jasper. It's raining. Our view of the magnificent mountains out here has been obscured by fog and overcast. I sent a text to Jenn and Neil to let them know I was arriving in Jasper. Neil told me to check out the Whistle Stop Pub, across the street from the train station, so I did. I joined up with the Aussies, Dean & Bink and Peter & Jenny for a cold brew and a nice chat. And believe it or not, I ran into a girl from
So that’s all for now. Will write more and log in when I can.
Monday, September 13, 2010
On Sunday the beerfest crowd from Vancouver got together for a quick brunch in downtown Victoria. Neil and I were pleased to meet up with cousin Sherry Fortais(Sue's daughter)and Sherry's daughter Tia. We had a great meal and a great chat. I never had any idea that Sherry was living in Victoria until Jennifer told me and said to make sure we got a visit in. So glad we did!
After the train ride into Comox, Ron picked me up at the train station and somehow became an excellent host. (Not bad for a little brother!) And it has been great. I am being spoiled again. Ronald outdid himself with a fabulous ribeye steak dinner last night and then Lani served up n awesome chocolate cake with strawberries for dessert! The cake was so good that I had to have some for breakfast today.
After all it would not be polite just to let it sit there! Ronald promised that Comox would be a great place to visit and he is right. This is an amazing town with great weather and everywhere you look there is amazing scenery. Looking out the kitchen window from their new house, you can see the mountains and glaciers on the mainland of BC. How cool is that? I think I like the fresh air the best. The air here is as clean and crisp as anything in Northern Ontario. And Ron drove me all around in his new Jeep Liberty, which i might add is the sister vehicle to the Dodge Nitro that I have. Today we also drove around and soon I will be boarding a flight from Comox back to Vancouver. I got a chance to say goodbye to Lani. She works at the airbase and she met us in the parking lot since I would not be allowed into her work area. But we were able to snap some very nice photos.
It was so nice to visit here. I know I will miss them all ... and the leftover chocolate cake too. But I didn't forget that bottle of Scotch Ronald promised! Tomorrow will be interesting as I will prepare to leave the West and begin the journey back east to Ontario. Keep smiling.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
The beer fest is fun and a bit crazy and lots of people had plenty of fun including this cute couple, Nolene and Neil. I don't know anyone else in the other photos but they were among the crowd seriously enjoying the unique taste of craft beers.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Neil and his buds from Steamworks enjoyed a nice brunch on the boat. I enjoyed the fabulous scenery and some fresh air to help wake up.
Once we arrived on Vancouver Island, there was a quick stop to buy some pumpkins. This is to help show off the fact they have produced a very nice pumpkin ale. That's Neil on the left in the photo with one of his co-workers and the pumpkin.
Just got into my hotel room in downtown Victoria, the Carleton. A very nice 100-year-old hotel. Going to freshen up and head over to the beerfest. The phone rang and it was my favourite niece Melissa. She will be joining me for the the afternoon. How nice is that?
Thursday (earlier today) I took the train from
Wednesday’s visit to the
Some of the highlights of the flight museum included a tour of Boeing 707 No.86970 which was Air Force One during the Jack Kennedy era.
I could only imagine the conversations that went on inside that plane. It felt cool to be standing next to JFK's chair. The museum also had a British Airways Concorde, the fastest airliner in the world which would make supersonic flights across the
I spent the rest of the day in Pike's Place market, the place where the fish mongers throw salmon around like baseball practice. It was cool.The great thing about being on holiday is you don't have to stop for coffee or bottled water if you're thirsty. Just step into one of the dozens of boutique pubs for a fresh cold glass of draught beer. Coffee is very popular though in Seattle. Starbucks began in Seattle and Neil told me the very first Starbucks was the cafe at Pikes market.
Also, one of my rules about travel is to always get the nicest hotel possible. That way, if the day is boring, you have a bad meal, or the weather goes crappy, you can also go back to a nice room. I stayed at the Seattle Crowne Plaza. I had a nice luxury suite and amazing service. And because Labour Day marked the end of the summer tourist season, I was able to get a very nice rate.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
In my haste to get going I forgot about one very important detail Neil had reminded me about the night before. Tuesday was the first day back to school for Tyler and Nathan. If I had remembered, I would have telephoned my best wishes. I blew it.
The train got into Seattle just before noon, and the hotel literature said the hotel was only half a mile away from the Amtrak station. NOT! I decided it would be a nice walk, but that was a stupid move. I was carrying my cams, my laptop and a duffle bag. Then I discovered that my trek to the hotel was uphill. I mean seriously UPHILL. I figured I'd give it a try, but after about three hundred metres in the noonday sun, a big yellow taxi pulled up to drop somebody off. "Thank you God!" I gasped. The driver let me hop in we drove to the hotel.
The room is fabulous with a nice view, but I didn't stay long. I had a shower, a 20-minute nap and out the door to cruise the streets. The downtown is nice with lots of boutiques, restaurants and pubs. I went on a bit of a pub crawl, enjoying appetizers and local beers in three different places. Manny's Pale Ale at the Hardrock Cafe was the best. The homemade crab cakes at the Pike's Brewing Company pub were awesome.
Today will be interesting. It's raining like crazy, but I am heading out to the Museum of Flight. After all, Seattle is home to one of the largest aircraft plants in the world, Boeing.
Monday, September 06, 2010
Monday morning. Happy Labour Day from Vancouver. It's just before 7:00 a.m., cool and overcast here. Coffee is good. Neil was clever enough to have some Tim Hortons in his place. I made it extra strong. The sounds of the city woke me up. Somewhere, a garbage truck was backing up, making a helluva racket. As I peeked out the window, something was brought to mind by a comment from one of Neil's friends.Vancouver has an interest recycling system. Poor people, homeless perhaps, are the recyclers. Certainly in the downtown. Set down empty bottle or pop can and within minutes, somebody comes by to pick it up and claim it. This morning, from the height of Neil's balcony, I could see homeless people scouring the laneways and parking lots picking up items. I hope they're okay. There seems to be a lot of homeless in this city. I will have to pick up some loonies and twoonies and make the rounds. The other sounds out here, certainly in the downtown, are the gulls. They're everywhere. They sound annoying, but then again, they remind me of the ocean and that's probably why the air is so clean-smelling and fresh in this city. There's always a breeze. Speaking of breezes, it's not uncommon to pick up a whiff or two of snowboarder smoke. Neil and I were walking by a community festival in one of the downtown parks Sunday and the odor of marijuana was obvious.
We had a bit of rain Sunday night in Van, but Neil dragged me out of the apartment to join some friends at a rooftop barbecue. I met Nolene, his sweetheart, and she put together a nice plate of barbecue salmon for me with potatoes and veggies. Nolene is a very nice, bright, attractive young lady, but as she and Neil were talking to me, I had to zone them out for a few minutes while I ate the awesome salmon dish. Like Homer Simpson, I was thinking 'Can't talk - Eating...' as my taste buds enjoyed the moment. It was excellent. I am being spoiled by fabulous food in this city. Beer seems popular among Neil's friends... I should say specialty beer. I was with a group of the fellows as they popped open a jug of jalapeno beer and poured a round. It was interesting to watch these guys get right into the smelling, tasting and swish-it-around your palette procedure. I chickened out. I was still enjoying the taste of the salmon.
I am posting some extra photos today, click on the pic to enlarge them.
There is a shot of the downtown Vancouver area from the area, somewhere in the middle of that, near the water, is Neil's place. There is a shot of the old Downview airbase in Toronto where our family spent several years when we were kids. It is so changed now. There's also a shot of the log booms on the Fraser River east of Vancouver. I am certain I saw more than 100 booms. There must be a lot of logging in southern BC.
Sunday, September 05, 2010
Well it’s overcast Sunday morning in
So, ... Some notes of the thing you notice on a four and a half hour flight from
There are only four washrooms on this plane, but 280 people all seem to want to go t the same time. Sit and wait patiently. Kind of sorry I ordered the two beers, but the wait wasn’t so bad.
I haven’t flown in ten years. The technology has changed. Each seat back has a small LCD screen loaded with movies and TV shows. You have to bring your own headphones. Luckily I had some in my laptop bag. Saved the $3 rental fee. I didn’t watch any movies, but I enjoyed two episodes of Two and a Half Men, a really funny sitcom. It’s embarrassing to laugh out loud on a plane where no one else knows you.
LCD screen loaded with movies and TV shows. You have to bring your own headphones. Luckily I had some in my laptop bag. Saved the $3 rental fee. I didn’t watch any movies, but I enjoyed two episodes of Two and a Half Men, a really funny sitcom. It’s embarrassing to laugh out loud on a plane where no one else knows you.
Not as bad as having a quick snooze though, and then snoring, and then being awakened by my own snoring! Oh well, it was a nice nap somewhere south of
After a bit of TV, I found the audio library on the seatback screen and so have been enjoying some amazing John Coltrane jazz for the last hour or so.
The flight is not too bad, but my butt is numb. The view from 32,000 feet is nice. One nice feature of the seatback screen is that Air Canada has a GPS map unit you can check whenever you like to see where you area. I enjoyed flying just south of
I also got a kick out seeing the twin strips like an II or the crossed strips like an X that indicated a small airport on the landscape. It’s interesting that as much as the railroad built and connected the country during the mid to late 1800s, it was aviation that did it from the mid to late 1900s.
Got a kick out of seeing bits and pieces of the east-west Trans-Canada Highway which reminded me of my last trip out here in the 1970s when I rode my thumb all the way to the Pacific.
Will be nice to see Neil in a few minutes.
---Neil met me at the airport baggage carousel with a nice hot cup of Tim’s Tea, which is funny because I felt so dehydrated after a four and a half hour flight that I was thinking about tea just to get refreshed.
Instead of cabbing back into the city, we rode the new Sky Train thing in. It’s like a single-unit subway train and El-train all in one. The interesting thing is that it works on the honour system. There is no driver. Everything is automated. People buy tickets from the machines that look like ATMs at each station then you get on the train. Neil paid $15 for the two of us. At that price, I think he paid for a few other people who got on without paying! LOL
Got to Neil’s place which is in the heart of the downtown. He moved from his apartment near the beach, but still has a nice view of
By the way, Neil looks great and says he is doing well. He really loves this city. Last night he and I went out to dinner and instead of cabbing, we walked for a good 40 minutes. He works as a manager at two different restaurants, owned by the same company. I felt guilty ordering a halibut encrusted with macadamia nuts as an entrée, because Neil just put it all on the company tab. It was excellent!
My guilt began to slide away as the evening wore on and Neil insisted I try several of the beers they make right on the premises. I had two types of India Pale Ale, then a super espresso flavoured stout, then pumpkin beer which was really good, but sometime after midnight I settled on a few big glasses of wheat beer. I really got rid of the guilt when they began pouring shots of Jamieson’s Irish Whiskey!
It was a hoot meeting Neil’s co-workers. People kept coming up to say ,Hi Mr. Gillis!’… Jeez I felt old, but there are a lot of nice people at the restaurant. Interestingly, a lot of the young people are from
Sending this out from an internet cafe at Hastings and Richmond Street... near Gastown.