2022 Kicks Off with Canada (and Mr. Brain’s Faggots)

New Year, New Season and TimOnTheTrain is back on the train… properly this time, Thank God! This season is already shaping up to be quite busy and if you want to take a look at what will be coming up, take a look at the Future Tours page on this website. There’s very little Longhaul planned – consumer confidence hasn’t quite built up enough yet after COVID, but I’m expecting that to change as time goes by. One thing is for certain – I’m going to have to learn Italian. I already speak French & Spanish, but I’ve been lazy for too long now, getting by with cod-Italian and a funny accent, but now I have finally purchased a self-teach course. I won’t be fluent, but will be able to communicate to a reasonable degree.

So, let’s start with Canada. I’m leaving on Friday morning to take Highlights of Canada in Winter and have a PCR test booked for tomorrow, at which point I can start completing the arrival paperwork. Canada is still a little twitchy on COVID, but the restrictions have been eased significantly very recently which is good news. The Tour map is shown below.

Yup, that’s right! We’re going all the way across by train, on VIA rail Route 1, ‘The Canadian’ – 4 days and 4 nights and there’s a lot of snow on the ground, with temperatures to match. Before that we fly in to Toronto and have a local excursion out to Niagara Falls, and then just under 3 days to explore Vancouver on arrival. It’s the second longest rail journey in the world (Trans-Siberian is the longest, since you ask) and is one of the truly great rail adventures. The good news is that there are no signs of a Replacement Bus Service being put in place, making the trip slightly less adventurous than the Thameslink London to Blackfriars service.

I’ve created a schedule for the clients, so that they can see the expected stops and chart our progress across this massive country. I’ll pass them a printed copy when we meet at Heathrow on Friday. Many of the stops (in italics) en-route are known as ‘Flag Stops’ (essentially pre-booked Request Stops which require 48 hours advance notice) so the train may not stop there at all.

I will of course be blogging as we go, but there are some challenges. Given the remote nature of the country, there is little or no internet connectivity for much of the journey. I’m hoping that when we make our periodic stops, I can leap off the train for 10 or 20 minutes and grab a station wifi signal to publish a blog post. That’s Plan A, but it may not work, in which case I’ll just get stuff posted whenever I eventually can. Plan B is just to quickly upload images to Social Media and get the (larger) Blog posts out later.

Another challenge is, packing for the train. Large suitcases are stored with no access in the Baggage Van, so we’ve got to live out of a small airline Cabin sized bag for 4½ days. This means that my normal level of sartorial elegance (shirt, tie, polished shoes etc.) isn’t really practical, especially given that while the temperatue on board is normal, outside it will be -20℃ so there are multiple layers of puffa jackets, gloves, hats and all the other cold weather paraphernalia. I’ve warned my clients that for the train journey only, it’ll be jeans and a hoodie for me, and asked them not to panic about it.

This video is rather old (1947), but I’m always pleasantly amused by the Pathé News voiceover. I call it the “Empire Voice” and this video gives you some idea of the potential conditions facing us on the journey.

I’ve already spoken to all of my clients on the phone and they seem like a good bunch. Two of them have been on Tour with me before (Tracks of the Deep South) and it’s really nice when I get returning clients – It means I didn’t mess up too badly last time around!

All of that is to come later this week. In the meantime I need to attend to more prosaic matters. Mrs TimOnTheTrain has expressed a desire for a Brummie childhood favourite for dinner, Mr Brain’s Faggots (Yes I know, don’t say anything). Since, apparently, these may only be served with mashed potato, the dog and I will will be walking across the heath to Sainsburys Local to stock up on potatoes. The life of a Tour Manager life is always glamorous and exciting.

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