Vanishing Act: 2012
Updated: Dec 26, 2020
VIA Rail Train 72- Windsor-Toronto
A journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. When Elaine and I landed in Bali in 1986 as part of our round-the world honeymoon (you can read the tale, which is in our archives and probably should be edited for length-someday- here).
My current adventure began in September when I got wind that British Airways was set to devalue my hard gained travel miles by up to 50% with partner airlines. A complete revamp of their program was to begin in November. As I had a stash of 500,000 miles, this was indeed disturbing news.
But it could also be viewed as an opportunity. Perhaps now was the time to take that long desired trip back to Bali to hang with my hoagie brother David Trevelyan. Halfway around the world, Bali was calling. Of course it can never be the same returning to the metaphorical scene of the crime. Eat Pray Love and Lonely Planet had ensured that the Bali we visited is probably be unrecognizable. But then again my memories were hazy, so I cleaned the slate and said let’s try it one more time.
It had been 25 long years since Elaine and I landed in Bali from Melbourne Australia. The island was everything we thought it would be, a veritable paradise. But you know what The Eagles said about paradise: "call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye!"
In 1986, we swore we'd be back, the traveler’s conceit that we would return; easier said than done. Later we would lament our decision to leave so soon but in those salad days all of Asia was ahead of us, and we thought our first stop was so amazing that surely better days must lie ahead.
Of course we had many adventures but nothing ever matched Bali. And despite our best efforts (we returned to Thailand two more times) the clock was ticking, the points were in the bank and it was time to pull the trigger.
And that is how I ended up on a train to Toronto - and a little help from my friend Bob Williams who arranged a First Class Train ticket on VIA. I learned a trick about business class on VIA out of Windsor- grab the four seater at the back of the train and spread your stuff out. The four seater usually is not reserved, and today I was fortunate enough to have working area all to myself the entire journey. Not exactly roughing it.
First Class VIA remains a work in progress. Although it is 9am, I am informed that dinner will be served this day. Dinner- WTF? I am handed a menu with today’s special- evidently breakfast is served on the 6am train- how bizarre. A nice roll or sweet would be a treat but instead I am offered a cookie under plastic- bad call.
Breakfast? Who Knew?
So I spread out my various devices- being the epitome of the digital warrior- iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, Nikon Coolpix 500, take care of some business and before I knew it was noon and dinner was served.
They do try hard in VIA 1. The salad was fairly decent, green beans and corn in a light oil. Loved the baby baguette which was served with the first course. The pork tenderloin came out looking somewhat tired and grey, exactly as it should considering it had been in the heater all morning since being loaded onto to the train around 8am or so. It tasted ok considering how hungry I was. The server was pouring wine and mixed drinks but I abstained as I usually do these days. The cutlery felt as if it had been kept in the freezer but at least it was real and not plastic.
Salad Course- a good start!
After my repast, which I would generously rate at C+, I plugged in my headphones, listened to Caro Emerald, Death Cab for Cutie and Derek Trucks, sat back and before I knew it, we landed in Toronto, only 45 minutes late.
Exactly the same amount time son Jon arrived late in Toronto at Christmas and missed his connection to Windsor- at least he was happy as they gave him a $15 voucher that he gladly spent on sushi. Such are the vagaries of travel…
Onward to the TTC subway. As chance would have it I boarded one of the new subway trains, like the ones we rode in Hong Kong in 2004. This trains have an unusual feature: the cars are open from front to back. In Hong Kong these bad boys were very long and we would get in at the front car and stare down the length to it over the top of a sea of black-haired locals.
On to my cousin DeeDee and David’s place at Ossington and Bloor where I spent the rest of the afternoon in a relaxed and blissful state, enjoying fine company- or as she put it- chattin’ and chewin’. DeeDee prepared a fantastic bean stew with ham hocks (yum- pig parts!), David hunkered down on some mussels in garlic, wine and Portuguese hot sauce, and I proceeded to satisfy my cheese fetish with a delightful selection.
Onward to the airport. I bid David and DeeDee farewell.
Bean Soup with Ham Hock- that's what I'm talking about!
Grabbed the subway to Islington where a bus took me to the airport. The line at Cathay was long, and after I bypassed it and headed straight to the first class queue (where there was no queue of course) I enquired why the throng.
Apparently Chinese New Years is in the offing and it's considered good form to head back to Hong Kong or mainland China if possible. So all flights outbound have been sold out for the past week as Chinese New Year lands early this year. In N. America we don’t appreciate how important this is to the Chinese, and I can tell you this is the huge party of the year.
But never mind- I am in the less than 1% category and digging it, and the irony is not lost on me as I harken back to 1986 when we left Canada with under $15,000 to our name and travelled around the world for 53 weeks to 17 countries.
I sit in the KLM lounge and think about restarting our travel lives, and feel it is within our reach again, after 25 years, two kids, several starts and stops including Windsor, Vernon BC, KL Malaysia, Vancouver, Toronto, and back to Windsor.