Day Two (Thursday): West and North
On the trip out of Toronto and into the city suburbs (It’s a big city, with a population of nearly three million), there wasn’t a lot to see. Ontario has varied topography and we realized that looking out the window or even ascending to the observation car didn’t initially offer anything very special.
With one exception. I realize that the last sentence of that paragraph was sort of a not-very-nice comment from a typical city fellow. Of course there’s plenty to see as we ride across Ontario and Manitoba, though I suppose we New Yorkers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the beauty built into the countryside, whether it’s the great Midwest of the United States or Canada’s bountiful farmland. So I’ll take back what I was starting to write above and change my thoughts, which this one photograph of Andrew’s many photographs captures for us. Yes, it’s expansive, and what we see as we cross this kind of space is worthy of some careful consideration that gets rid of some of the clichés.
So we rode along, and entertained ourselves as we rode. We read some, even had a few more naps (it is a vacation, after all!), and Andrew and I talked with one another a lot. We’re very conscious of what’s happening in our lives these days, and it was fun to share thoughts about how lucky we are to be doing this together. So we spent plenty of time generally just sharing some thoughts about our “new” life together, with Andrew working less, now that he is semi-retired. Imagine: two more days together each week! What a good time we’re going to have!
As we rode along, we were also able to admire the changing fall foliage as it passed by outside our window, as you can see in this photo.
For all the fine views, as it happened, perhaps the best part of the trip turned out to be the people we were meeting. Throughout the journey, meals in the dining car were lively and abuzz with conversation and for each meal the maître d’ seemed to be enjoying putting people together. “Talkers” dined with quieter folks, and it made for good conversation.
And this seems to be a good spot to identify (not by name) some of the people we met, just to give a sense of what the social communication was like on the train. No one seemed to be particularly shy, and it was good to meet and speak with people like:
- A couple from Ghent in Belgium (where we had been a number of years ago). She is an avid reader, and she seemed to like that I had re-discovered Zola recently, as she was reading Zola (again) these days as well. Her husband, a software developer for libraries in Europe and South Africa, seemed to delight in the fact that he was at table with two men who had library experience in their backgrounds.
- Another couple, he recently retired, who happened to be in the Sleeper Plus cabin next to ours. From the Seattle area, he had just retired from some government position which enabled him to know “everyone” in Bainbridge Island, where two of our best friends live. He was doing other work when they moved there, so he didn’t get to meet them.
- A young man who describes himself as a “train enthusiast” is just creating a business to supply materials to artists who specialize in graffiti. We were surprised to learn that this new art form is rapidly becoming accepted as “serious” in parts of the art community, with very highly recognized artists.
- Two lovely ladies from Arizona, both retired from fascinating careers, one with many trips to China as an education specialist and the other with years spent managing a large family business.
- A young woman with a new graduate degree from the University of Nottingham, having a three-month holiday to see America. She returns to the U.K. in December and flies out of New York, so we hope to catch up with her there so we can show her around our home town.
- An opera singer and his wife on their honeymoon. He’s Canadian originally and she’s from Boston, and they’re just married (although they’ve known each other for years). She works in the arts, in the administrative side, and he sings and is pursuing a Ph.D. at the Royal College of Music. His subject – naturally fascinating to me – focuses on the history of opera and art songs and how they related in the past.
And what did we see out our windows on our second day of the trip? As we moved away from the urban area surrounding Toronto, there was lots of farm land. Much now plowed up for the winter, but still plenty of harvested crops being rolled up and put away. Very flat land, with some few lakes and nice ponds, and as we approached Winnipeg, it became clear that there were more forests and masses of trees coming up. One exciting event during this early period of our journey was an unexpected, and rather intense (albeit brief) snowstorm.