Thursday, December 22, 2005

Travel by Train - the View & the Food

Yesterday we took the train to Montreal from Toronto. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about pending snow storms or where to park the car once we got there. Montreal recently got hit with 41 cm/16.5 inches of snow and many of the streets have snow banks that come to just below the knee and actually extend at least the width of a car into the street. Cars park at odd angles and one can always hear the whir of tires stuck on ice hidden beneath the snow. So we chose the less adventurous, less stressful way to go.

The most memorable image, that I tried to capture with my camera, flashed by was as we were leaving the station. Unfortunately the photo didn’t come out. It was a very Victorian view of black pillars and arches, half-hidden by a dirty fog – almost sepia in color and reminded me of some of my favorite Anne Perry mystery novels set in Victorian England.

There are two words that best describe the scenery during the rest of the trip – Bleak and Grey – actually, I never realized how many shades of grey there are. The sky went from a soft powdery almost white to steel – except for a few moments near Kingston when the dirty grey clouds changed to white puff balls over blue skies. The interesting thing was that the ceiling of the train was painted to match. It was like a Magritte painting, where the outside IS the inside and the inside Is the outside.

Borrowed from

Lake Ontario was a steely blue-grey that went from pale to almost black. The fog or snow or clouds on the horizon made me think of those pre-Christopher Columbus sailors who believed the earth was flat and we would fall off the edge if we went too far. And on either side of the train were views of fallow farm lands with rusty spikes of wheat and unharvested corn stalks peeking through the snow; mini forests of black spiky tree limbs and the occasional evergreen coated with snow.

Close to the some of the small train stations en route were the rows and rows of suburban houses that always remind me of the Monopoly Game. And further away were smaller, rustic houses and the random bursts of color in an otherwise gray journey – flashes of a bright green fence, some royal blue shutters, pastel sidings on sheds….and everywhere the blur of blowing snow obscuring the view, the muffled train whistle announcing our passing and the wonderful rocking motion making for a lovely, lazy journey.

But enough about the view, more important – what and when do we eat? I am old enough to remember when a train ride included eating a meal in a real dining car, with real tables, linen tablecloths and napkins, china, silver cutlery, glasses actually made of glass and full course meals. Now, eating means coffee in a Styrofoam cup and some sad looking sandwiches wrapped in cellophane that you can buy for $4.25 Canadian; a teeny bag of potato chips or cookies for $1.50…you get the picture. And you eat it at your seat on a tiny 4”x 6”/10cm x 15cm tray that you pull out of the arm rest.

So we decided to bring our own snacks to sustain us through our journey.

Oatmeal cookies with dried cherries and pecans and sweet Mandarin oranges

Of course, that’s not nearly enough for me and my honey, but what can I make at 7 a.m. that will not go bad or soggy by noon? So I settled on some wraps of Italian salami and rosemary ham and Havarti cheese seasoned with a healthy spread of Kozlik’s maple Dijon mustard.

All that was left to do after lunch, was to read. I’m reading Timothy Findlay’s Pilgrim and my honey is rereading The Cluetrain Manifesto.

That's it for now....we're off for a Montreal brunch.

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Kalyn said...

Sounds fun. I don't think I've ever gone on a train except for amusement parks.

Kalyn said...

As soon as I posted that comment I realized I've ridden on rail or metro systems in many cities, which of course are trains! But I've never gone on a train trip like you're describing, where you cover miles and miles.

Ruth said...

Kalyn, long train rides are fun for a change of pace. You get to see the world around you from a very different perspective and at a very different pace. Flights get you to where you're going quickly and car rides have you usually paying more attention to the traffic than the scenery.

Mona said...

All looks delicious. And I love the Magritte pic...what a great touch to give us the feel of your experience:)

Paz said...

Sounds like you had a good trip. Thanks for those vivid descriptions. I think it's a great idea to bring your own treats. They look delicious -- just the kind I'd like to have. ;-)

Happy Holidays!


Melissa CookingDiva said...

Ruth, manmdarinas are delicious, they have a precious oil that in the kitchen makes wonders!

Your painting could perfectly be part of the -Online Food Museum- by Sao Mai from Cocinalia:
Felices Fiestas!!!

Sao Mai said...

thanks so much for your participation!!! your picture is in the onlinefoomuseum in the fast food room.

Anonymous said...

Hi !

Thanks for sharing your experience on traveling via train and the treats you got there were really yummy to my eyes. Thought you might want to check out the site i found about Travel by Train experiences posted by different people. I'll bet you'll find it interesting.