I’ve never seen somebody as keen for surprises as Dami is. It must run in the family because when his uncle DM was a kid, he played pranks on his younger brother (Dami’s father) and he loves surpise visits. So the day before the trip and his birthday, Dami brings me the usual weekly flyer pile and I notice an odd eight and a half by eleven pamphlet folded in three. The title grabs my attention: “Are You Expecting Any Surprises?” And at the top it reads “The Institute of Unexpected Things”… I thought there couldn’t possibly be such a thing. Then as I open the pamphlet, I see a schedule for a trip on the train from Moncton to Halifax and I’m thinking this is probably some kind of organized trip to go attend a conference or something in Halifax. And Then I see something about a birthday and read more and I think “Oh my goodness, could Dami be behind this? This is crazy!” I’m laughing so hard I start crying and I have to wipe the tears from my eyes: Dami had booked a Cabin for two on the Ocean Via train from Moncton to Halifax leaving the next day, Saturday at 1 pm and arriving in Halifax at 5pm. We were to take the Dartmouth ferry and walk to the Super 8 hotel and return to Moncton the next day at 12:20. I am so excited to think that he is going to be opening his cards and presents on the train, how awesome is that?
Being the planner I am I print out maps and prepare a short itinerary so we don’t waste any time. We decide to each pack light bringing only a day backpack. I challenge myself to bring the smallest toiletry kit ever and it is so cute as everything small in nature is. When we get in the train car, we get upgraded to a cabin for two with shower because the one assigned to us isn’t ready yet so we get cabin #3 in the Pier 21 car. It is my first time in a cabin and I like the intimacy and the romantic feel to it. I have been on the Ocean Via train before but I had an upper berth at the time; that was when we were house hunting in the Maritimes and I had to travel from Montreal QC to go to a house inspection in Sackville, NB. I thought the berth was great, kind of like camping but I much prefer the privacy of the cabin not to mention the fact you can set up the beds anytime of the day and you don’t have to wait for the toilet.
The first thing we do as we board the train is drop our bags in the cabin and head for the 360 car for an awesome view of the surroundings. We’re anxious to get a different view of the Humphrey Brook Trail and when we see it we both envision ourselves riding our bikes along the brook. We are suddenly told that the Prime Minister is on board and is about to make a speech (?!). Sir John A. Macdonald is preparing Canada for his 200th birthday in 2015. I am so embarrassed to say I have no clue who this guy is and it turns out I actually know more than I think I do because he’s been on our 5 dollar bill for a long time! As the first Prime Minister of Canada he had the Transcontinental Railroad built and completed in 1887 running from Montreal to Vancouver. Our Prime Minister is accompanied by a fictional reporter, Calvin Hobbes, and they are very entertaining. I ask the reporter if he has any daily news for us and it turns out there’s some sort of scandal happening but we’re never told what it is and then as I look out I am the only one to spots the moose calf walking on its tall skinny legs in the forest!
On our way to the dining car, we walk funny, kind of like being drunk opening doors from one car to another. I let Dami have the nice view since it’s his birthday. He has a chicken linguine with sundried tomatoes and I a niçoise salad. I recall the dining car is different than the stainless steel with the chickadees on the glass panels. The Renaissance dining car reminds me of a department store restaurant. After the meal I bring back some hot water for a tea in the cabin and Dami opens his gifts and birthday cards. I was so looking forward this moment after reading his invitation pamphlet: I knew my homemade card would be a sensation. After the presents, the cards and a game of Nab-It, Dami makes the bunk beds and we have a nap. It is nice to be able to rest.
We get out of the train with a sense of freedom. We walk in the rain on the Halifax Harbor trail to the Dartmouth ferry. It is pretty much empty and we take advantage of the sheltered areas to get our camera out and snap a few pictures. In no time we embark the ferry for 2.25 each. Dami wants to see the view so we walk up the stairs to the upper level and stand in the light rain. In less than 15 minutes we are across the water and only a short walk up the street to the Super 8 hotel. Not the best choice hotel but it was cheap and convenient although they are in serious need of some TLC and a thorough cleanup.
After settling in our room and checking out the delivery menus we opt for a walk to the nearest supermarket, No Frills which is part of the Loblaw family. The walk through the Dartmouth Common is very nice and reminds me of Prague. I was there at about the same time last year and the leafless trees and the elevation with the view of the water reminds me of the Vltava. We come across a crow with no voice and the poor thing looks like he’s coughing and sneezing and we can sense his frustration. At the store, for a good price we get a pretty decent frozen lasagna supper with Golden Oreo cookies and milk for dessert. It is a fairly short walk, maybe 2km but after this long day we are looking forward getting back to the room. After eating and watching some tv it is already time for bed.
Sunday morning, Dami goes for a walk and breakfast while I sleep until 9. After breakfast, a stroll on the Dartmouth harbor and a quick return visit to the Dartmouth Common, we hop on the 11:30 Halifax ferry and unlike the day before, it is sunny and we are able to sit down on the upper deck. There are more people this time and next to us is a couple with their 2 children all excited to take the ferry to Halifax to go swimming.
We are more relaxed walking on the Halifax Harbor this morning but we have don’t have much time to waste because our train leaves in 45 minutes. This time though we can stop and take pictures anywhere, and I even captured the man playing accordion on video, immortalizing the melodies.
The return trip is sensibly the same except for a few details. All in all, this trip was awesome even though it was short. Our next travel destination will be to St. John’s Newfoundland and we can’t wait to share it with you!