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My Trip on VIA Rail's Ocean from Montreal-Halifax

My Trip on VIA Rail's Ocean from Montreal-Halifax

May 22nd, 2003, 06:07 PM
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My Trip on VIA Rail's Ocean from Montreal-Halifax

For those who enjoy long-distance rail travel, I highly recommend VIA Rail's the Ocean from Montreal to Halifax. The journey takes about 20 hours given no delays, so I'd recommend it to people only who have the time and personality to take it slow and enjoy the scenery.

The views from the Dome Car with its panoramic views were often superb. In the early part of the journey, the view leaving the city of Montreal is always a treat (one I never seem to tire of), and the close-up view of Mont St.-Hilaire was quite pretty. It was good to see people out and about enjoying the pleasant spring evening strolling in Drummondville and roller-bladding along the river in Saint-Hyacinthe.

Unfortunately, I had trouble sleeping on the way there (my excitement coupled with coffee and the lurching of the train made it difficult; I slept much better on the way back). Daylight hit arriving at the stark rolling hills (grass brown, trees not budded and even still some snow on the ground on May 17) in Amqui,QC; quite a sight early in the morning. Once crossed into New Brunswick, the views of la Baie des Chaleurs with the opposite shore of Gaspe in the backdrop made for quite a spectacular hour of journey. While the trip from Bathurst to Miramichi to Moncton was relatively uninteresting scenically, I was glad for the opportunity to see those towns. The terrain really varies dramatically going into NS, from the flats and pastoral setting near Sackville, NB and Amherst to the rolling pristine, uninhabited forests of the region from Amherst and Truro. Spectacular in beauty was the last portion of the trip with the five lakes (almost unspoilt with development) approaching Halifax and the awesome Bedford Basin going into the city.

The dining car on this trip served a delicious fish chowder and salmon/chicken/beef main course. The tablecloths, china and starch-collar/bowtied waiter all made for a surprisingly romantic, elegant ambience.

I wouldn't recommend this trip to everybody, but if you enjoy trains, gorgeous scenery and have the time (and aren't the impatient type), it's one of the most personally-enriching trips I've taken in quite some time. The beds are quite comfortable, a shower is available (towel, shower kit provider), films are shown, complimentary continental breakfast is provided.
Daniel_Williams is online now  
May 23rd, 2003, 08:36 AM
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Are they still using the restored stainless steel rail cars and the tear drop end lounge car on this trip? When I took it a few years ago I thought it, along with VIA Rail's Skeena between Jasper and prince Rupert, were the last word in railroad luxury.
dwooddon is offline  
May 23rd, 2003, 10:38 AM
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Indeed they are still using the stainless steel rail cars vintage 1950s. I thought it was a cute touch how they were named Chateau Bienville, Chateau Levis, Chateau Montcalm. And indeed, the teardrop lounge car in the back (with access to the dome car) was still being used. I was glad my friend and I chose to have the upper and lower berth accommodations, to give access to these and the dining cars.
Daniel_Williams is online now  
May 23rd, 2003, 12:43 PM
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Dan, I'm enjoying your recollections, but I have a suggestion: post the rest of your report as replies to a single thread, so that your tale is kept in one place.

Glad you enjoyed your trip!
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
May 23rd, 2003, 01:35 PM
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That's a good suggestion; I thought I'd separate by topic (the train ride, Halifax, quaint South Shore towns)initially.

Here's my Halifax post:

From the moment our train was approaching Halifax, I knew that I would be in for a treat in terms of natural beauty. From Grand Lake to the Bedford Basin, I just kept saying "Wow..wow..." (my friend mocked my sentimentality) in almost disbelief at the beauty of the water and the shores approaching the city.

Taking a cab to our B&B at Oxford & Quinpool, I was very impressed with all the gorgeous homes we passed. The predominance of wood...shingled, wooden, well-kept, gaily-painted homes (from ochre to every shade of blue to purple to red, even fuschia), this city has a look in North America like no other I've been to.

I loved the vibrant, compact nature of the city. The number of recommended restaurants seemed limitless (I enjoyed Satisfaction Feast; tasty, healthy, flavourful vegetarian fare...Salty's I enjoyed for seafood.) Spring Garden Road was hip; I couldn't believe how talented some of the buskers were! The area near the waterfront was just replete with beautiful, historic homes, cemetaries, shops and churches...again, I can't think of another North American city other than perhaps Quebec that is this well-preserved. All this with the Halifax Harbour as backdrop...I must say I find H'fax one of the most attractive cities I've ever seen.

Point Pleasant Park was super, with former fortification ruins in a pleasantly wooded park, with views of the Northwest Arm and Halifax Harbour and the opposite relatively unspoilt shores again made me think Halifax was one of the most beautiful cities I'd ever been to.

Touring the Citadel, there was a very ear-pleasing bagpipe/drum performance and a 21-gun salute in honour of Queen Victoria (it was Victoria Day). A very good exhibit on the history of Halifax was here and the guided tour was informative and humourously presented (no extra charge after admission). After we went to the Halifax Public Gardens; I enjoyed the relaxed pace with people sitting out on park benches admiring all the tulips, daffodils and lakes. The ambience seemed very European. A small but thoroughly delightful city garden; I was very impressed.

Other than a mediocre buffet at the tacky Casino Nova Scotia my friend dragged me to (I'm not big on casinos anyway; some might enjoy this), I have nothing negative to say about the city. I got around on public transportation and foot exclusively, which is my preferred way of travelling. I was thoroughly charmed and look forward to a repeat visit.
Daniel_Williams is online now  
May 23rd, 2003, 01:41 PM
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Here's my South Shore report, Sue.

On the 20th May, my friend Marsha drove us out to some of the communities on the South Shore close in to Halifax.

Peggy's Cove was the first stop. Amazing how so close in to Halifax, the terrain can resemble rugged tundra as much as it did. You know, I've seen pictures of Peggy's Cove, and I was expecting to see a quaint lighthouse on an outcropping next to a quaint village. I did get just that, but what surprised me was the geology of the rocks surrounding the lighthouse (very smooth-topped and curved (like the tops of interconnecting baker's buns...sorry that's the best description I can come up with) 300-ft long rock formations) and the near-barrenness of the surroundings. Peggy's Cove really was breathtakingly beautiful and geologically sharply contrasting with Halifax itself. I was happy we went outside the main tourist season, when the village apparently has long line-ups to get to the lighthouse.

What amazed me was how dramatically the seashore would change (we drove the scenic route) moving south. Chester has many charming homes (many belong to wealthy Americans and Europeans); we had a delicious seafood chowder at the Rope Loft sitting out on the pier. It's much more green and pastoral here than Peggy's Cove.

I quite liked seeing Mahone Bay, with its colourfully painted homes right along the bay and a main street with plenty of equally colourful shops.

The UNESCO Heritage Site Lunenburg was quite a treat too, with more gaily painted homes, shops and shipyards overlooking a protected harbor. The topography of the town (sloping dramatically upward from the wharf) combined with the colorful wooden architecture gave this city its charm. The Lunenburg Academy looks almost like how I envisage a German castle appearing.

Of the 5 communities I visited in Nova Scotia, my favorite was Halifax. If I wished to get more solitude, I think I'd prefer Mahone Bay.
Daniel_Williams is online now  
May 24th, 2003, 09:19 AM
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Lovely report. Can you give us an idea of the price of the VIA rail ticket -- ?plus accommodations?
May 24th, 2003, 11:04 AM
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Hi Cassandra. Certainly. I had a voucher for rail travel which reduced what I paid, but I'll give you the cost if I did not have a voucher. Buying my ticket about 45 days in advance, I got an upper berth accommodation for CAN$330 taxes included (Montreal-Halifax round-trip). Incidentally, there are special deals for seniors (good companion fare prices) and students, which I was not eligible for; also I noticed that prices seemed to be higher for different dates and last-minute purchases.
Daniel_Williams is online now  
May 28th, 2003, 05:10 AM
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For those of you contemplating riding to Halifax from Montreal to see the countryside, you should know that Via Rail is removing its lovely old stainless steel rolling stock, including dome/ observation cars, sleepers, diners and other equipment and replacing it with "Renaissance" equipment obtained from Europe. This latter equipment is lighter weight, and does not lend itself in any way to the enjoyment of the passing scene; the sleeping accommodation is narrower and shorter, and the coach configurations are not as comfortable. The bar (at least the one I've used between Toronto and Montreal on the midnight train which also uses Renaissance equipment) is small to the point of non-existent. My understanding (from a ViaRail rep. who I met on the Halifax train recently) is that the change is imminent, and due to Via Rail's decision to use the old Budd equipment on a new run Via is starting up from Calgary to Vancouver in competition with the Rocky Mountaineer.

The message here is to check with Via as to the "Ocean's" equipment before booking. Without the old observation-friendly cars, especially the "Park" car at the rear of the train, the ride will be a dull, sterile, and probably uncomfortable one.

davidess is offline  
May 29th, 2003, 07:14 PM
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That's a pity if it does happen, as I think the some of the scenery on this journey really was super; I must have spent hours in the Dome Car, which really made the trip fly. I hope VIA reconsiders...
Daniel_Williams is online now  
May 30th, 2003, 03:03 PM
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If any of you Canadian (or other) rail fans have any other information on a newViaRail train to compete with the Rocky Mountaineer, please post. The Rocky Mountaineer has gotten very expensive over the past few years but that is a wonderful trip.
dwooddon is offline  
Oct 15th, 2012, 08:27 PM
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Can anyone tell me, does this train go on any bridges that are very high up or anything like that? I am taking this trip in a few months and am pretty nervous in about heights. Is this trip safe? Thanks!
maude23589 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2012, 09:40 AM
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Hi Maude23589,

I've been on trains that pass over pretty high trestle bridges. This train is not one of them; I would describe the trip as "safe".

Best wishes, Daniel
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Oct 16th, 2012, 01:50 PM
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Please open a new thread of your own. This thread is nine + years old.
tomfuller is offline  
Oct 16th, 2012, 08:50 PM
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hi daniel, i didn't realize until i got to the end of this that it was a report from 9 years ago., before i was lurking or had immigrated to canada.

while i wasn't considering immigration at the time in the 1970's i spent some time in lunenberg. last year @ VIFF i saw "Cloudburst" and found the images of lunenberg so unrecognizable that i asked the author of the film ( based on his own play) if they were actually shot in lunenberg. the lunenberg i experienced decades ago did not have bistros or cafes and i was ponding nails on house renovation projects.

fyi, one of the standouts @ VIFF this was "Liverpool" set in montreal , a sweet love story that intersects w/ the abrogation of the treaty to dispose of electronics here rather than in the "3rd " world and how social media is used to expose the scandal.

"Liverpoo" l is the name of a night club. the film was voted best by a female director. i imagine it will have a run in montreal.

AndrewDavid is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 05:32 AM
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Indeed the world is a-changing, even it appears in small town Nova Scotia. *sigh* I haven't been back to Lunenburg since 2003, although I have been back to the Maritimes twice more (once in 2007 to Halifax with my parents and again in 2010 to Moncton/Charlottetown), all times using the Ocean train.

Hope you're doing well, Daniel
Daniel_Williams is online now  

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