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.
“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.
Besides discovering that my friends are aging (as am I) and taking gorgeous photos of my hometown, remember her? Vancouver is proving to be a great pit stop for me to let go of baggage, literally. I sold Miz Chanel to a Japanese fellow wanting to do the West Coast Trail. It was hard though, her and I have been through so much together. The chaotic, teeming streets of India, or the laid back island mentality of Taiwan, and my beloved France — where I dress to impress, basking in atmosphere and staggering history. I actually hugged her before letting her go. The Japanese guy laughed at my strange attachment issues. It’s kind of pathetic to grieve over a pack, but she held the contents of my life — all lanky 62 litres of her. So to mollify my pain I’ve been consuming food like crazeee! And it’s working. I miss her less and less every day, but my waistline is in full protest. Who cares, pass the mashed potatoes, please.
Surreal is the only way to describe it. I’ve been in Vancouver for a month now and it’s been grey matter explosions all around, my brain simultaneously blown up by memory and reality. Total meltdown in technicolor mushroom clouds. In a positive way. Love is a strong word, I bid Vancouver goodbye for a reason and while I don’t see myself hunting for an apartment and going all cat spinster again by adopting 50, what’s taking hold are those sweet, hazy memories. Truly, wonderfully, Vancouver has seen me in so many phases. Miserable. Soaring to the skies. Ridiculously embarrassed. Triumphant. Whimsical. In lust. The city is an old shoe with a fresh shine. Over the past month, I tell ya, I’ve been busy. In a positive way.