Americans tend to have a superiority complex about many things, but our rail system is not one of them nor should it be. Most countries, including our northern neighbor Canada, surely have us beat on how to do rail travel and how to do it right. Since I live in the Northeast United States, I’m lucky to have great access to Amtrak. It’s a easy and comfortable way to get between many Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Even with the comfort and ease, Amtrak just doesn’t feel worth it. The seats are old; the wifi can be spotty; and the cafe car offers food that should be in a (bad) vending machine After taking Canada’s Via Rail, I think I feel like I’m being taken for my money by our expensive, amenity-lacking rail system here in the U.S.!
First, if you’re traveling between Toronto and Montreal, consider taking the train. While the flight is about an hour, and there is a domestic airport right in downtown Toronto, I found the five hour train ride to be comfortable and quite fun. DISCLAIMER: This was my experience in business class. I can’t vouch for the second class train experience.
In Toronto’s Union Station, there is a separate lounge for business class passengers. Just flash your business class tickets to the attendants, and walk right in.
Free drinks. I wish I drank soda because I would have (or should have) totally taken one.
The waiting room in Toronto was a big enough perk to me, but getting to board early as a business class passenger was also helpful, especially since were were traveling with Baby C.
Baby C is so tiny here! I don’t remember her being so small…
The conductors on the train were a mix of ticket agent and waiter (yes, waiter. I’ll get to that). They were kind enough to let us switch our assigned seats. Assigned seats aren’t as common on Amtrak trains, particularly in the Northeast U.S., so we needed to make sure that we were in the right spot.
Now to my favorite part of this experiene: the food! Via Rail’s business class includes breakfast, lunch, or dinner depending on the time of day you travel. Did I mention that there is more than more than one course? Yep, that too. When I first read about this I was shocked. A multi-course meal on a train just can’t be good…but it was good, and pretty tasty. Before we had barely left Toronto, we had already been served soft drinks and cookies. A couple of hours in, lunch was served by our double duty agents:
Goat Cheese with cucumber and tomato, plus bread. Also a sneak peek of dessert is included on this plate.
There were choices for the main entree but I chose the mango chicken that came with smooth and savory mashed potatoes and crispy steamed veggies. My kind of meal.
Not the best picture, I know.
Dessert should never been too far away. This was a hazelnut mousse cake (I think). I finished it. Of course….
One thing that I didn’t get to document was the rich truffles that came at the end of the meal. Apparently these are so popular that they’re actually sold separately. Check them out here (there are also other shots of fabulous Via Rail meals).
Baby C was sleeping underneath that nursing cover, and I was quite happy about that.
1. Take Via Rail Business Class while in Canada.
2. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.
3. Watch some scenery while eating said dinner.
Sounds like a plan to me. Do you get why I think Amtrak is not making the grade?
What has been one of the best rail experiences you’ve had? This was definitely one of mine.