Alberta is called the Land of the Endless Horizon and it’s supremely true. I grew up in Alberta and often caught myself staring at the sky as it melted into the earth, so long and so hard that my eyes watered. My thoughts at the time were of staring into a void — at essentially nothing. Living there made me restless, because seeing nothing disturbed me. I wanted to see something, or at least experience whatever my greedy hands could grab. I never appreciated what I saw everyday and when my Via Rail trek across Canada finally made it over the Alberta border, it became clear those endless skies were a summation of everything. Love, loss, joy, the sureness that we are tiny dots in a whirling universe. It was there — in front of me — for the entire span of my childhood. I just had to stop staring and actually see.
Where I Slept Alone. I sleep alone right now and it’s best that way. I snort loudly sometimes, often hogging the covers. My left hand has the tendency to curl up into a ball and stay in that state until I rouse. Weird, I know. In case you were thinking of dating me, isn’t it best to be honest now? When it came to sleeping in Brussels the emergence of theme hotels is at an all time high. I certainly don’t mean a gaudy, monstrous slab of architecture à la Las Vegas style, but something inherently European. Eating was another matter, I ate food interlaced with a strong history. Some of it wild and wholly unexpected, others a pure pleasure to familiarize myself with.
Brussels is kind of dingy. That’s what a few people told me before I went. This happens to me frequently. People find out what I do and then insert (sometimes without me even asking) their point of view about a city or country. I’ve become a pregnant woman. Pregnant women are often given unsolicited advice on what they should or shouldn’t do with their fetus and this continues well after the child is born. It must be worse with the onset of social media. A well meaning baby photo posted on Facebook becomes an advice column for the mommy critics. Travelers love to talk about their travels with others, which is cool. They also become heady with tips. Do this. Go here. I hated that. What people constantly forget is a destination is very much opinion. It depends on who you were with. How long you stayed. What you chose to see. Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, has three official languages — Dutch, German and French, and is home to the waffle. But it’s so much more than that. Belguim marked a return to Europe since my running with the bulls experience in 2012. It’s been 2 years since I’ve seen medieval or gothic buildings, tasted cuisine that didn’t have chillies or loads of garlic, had to make sure my right ankle didn’t wrench on a cobblestoned street. Travel is both personal and mainstream. I say mainstream because inevitably, we all gravitate to famous landmarks that teem with crowds and touts, but how we process them is intimate. Why we go is sometimes private. Often my travels revolve around people and Brussels was about connecting with my friend Alison Cornford-Matheson, […]
“You have two hours in Winnipeg,” said the cabin steward. “Enjoy it.” Manitoba was a surprise. My mind was blank on what this province might be. It could be so many things, but also nothing. Once the Via Rail train arrived to the Ontario-Manitoba border, a thick blanket of trees fell back and revealed open, bursting plains in golds. I was charmed. Via Rail calls each transition corridors and once the Manitoba one began, I felt nudged back in time, when existence was simpler and nature was the jewel of beauty, not what was a glorified manmade machine. Winnipeg is a diamond in itself. The downtown is called the Chicago of the north and it definitely had that feel of history carved in marble and stone — a resonance of a grand past melding quite well to the present day. The most compelling thing about Winnipeg is the devotion to the arts, the food scene and the staggering amount of festivals (19 plus!). I was sure nothing could compel me to live in the prairies ever again, after concluding that Calgary held some depressing views (looking at those endless skies all your life can lead to an empty feeling) but Winnipeg made me rethink my ignorance. I was so happy to connect with my designer, Janelle of Bloom & Brilliance once the train stopped in Winnipeg. She took me to the distinctive Exchange District, the French Quarter (she speaks French, uh huh), where we ended at the Forks, a green space downtown where the Assiniboine and the Red Rivers converge. I’m not sure what rocked the most, meeting her or exploring Manitoba. Basically, it all felt right and good. Hopefully my photos tell you everything you […]
The journey began in the dark. Night had taken over Toronto. Black, all encompassing, a slithering cloud of sleep dust. Red lights flickered on, then off, and on again. I stirred, tilted my head and saw velocity. Felt its power. Twinkling dots, shadows, those tremors that rumble from deep in the earth and rise – swooping past my window. I was watching atoms split and merge together. So this is a Via Rail experience. The train rattled and I slept. A lurch woke me. I opened my eyes. We were in Ontario.
The Via Rail experience isn’t just about the scenery you see on board — it’s also about the train stations too. If you haven’t done a Via Rail trip, how it works is your route will have certain designated stops, some are longer than others, a quick stop can be as short as 20 minutes, while a long stop can be anywhere from one to four hours. It also depends on the schedule. Freight trains take precedence (as Via Rail is owned by freight railways), so if they take a bit of time to pass by as the train waits on the track, then you might be behind by a few hours, which can alter the train station schedule. But don’t panic! A Via Rail trip is about the passing of moments, something I love about travel. Either way, I was delighted with discovering some of Canada’s history simply by stepping into a train station. It can happen just like that.