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Blooming whistle stops

Ooh it’s cold outside. What better time to sit down with a steaming cuppa and begin planning next summer’s garden explorations?

A few winters ago, that’s exactly what I did when I chose to visit the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Winnipeg. It’s one of the 15 gardens, from Victoria to Halifax, and 28 award-winning Communities in Bloom, along the VIA Rail Garden Route.

No worries, be happy

Train travel is leisurely, and cell phone and Internet service is limited on the train for much of the ‘out west’ portion of the Garden Route. Knowing this, I stepped aboard ready to relax in a big comfy seat, read a book, have a nap or marvel at the breathtakingly magnificent scenery outside my window. I soon forgot the hassles of driving – the wear and tear on my nerves and the cost of gas. I also discovered many on-board pastimes: books, puzzles, games, bars and wonderfully interesting strangers to chat with.

A comfy bed, a private loo and great food

On the overnight trip from Toronto to Winnipeg, the sleeping compartments, each equipped with its own toilet, could not be more comfortable, nor the staff more accommodating. Each sleeper car even has a communal shower, which means it’s available to everyone in the car, not that we had to shower together! The price of meals is included when booking a compartment, and each of the lovingly restored Art Deco dining cars had two chefs busily preparing delicious dishes.

Only in Canada, eh?

Mid-morning day two found me sitting in a panorama car, enjoying mile after mile of sparkling lakes and white-barked birch forests when all of a sudden, seemingly for no reason, the train stopped. Twelve cars ahead, I saw a knot of about 15 people and five canoes board the train. Forty-five minutes later, the train stopped again, and off they got. That’s when I learned that in Northern Ontario, with 48 hours’ advance notice, passengers can request the train to stop and pick them up or drop them off anywhere along the line. How wonderful and very Canadian is that?

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