Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
Trip End Aug 24, 2008

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Flag of Canada  , Manitoba,
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

...however, there was no point at all in our early arrival at Toronto station as although our train was due to leave at 9am, it wouldn't be arriving until noon. We were able to store our bags at the station and walked out into downtown Toronto in search of an internet cafe, and took some early morning photos of the CN tower. We couldn't find an internet cafe in the local area (Wi-fi is killing the internet caff) so decided we would go back to the station and phone our couch surfing host (Thane) at a more reasonable time. Walking back in to the station, we saw the internet phone booth that we must have been standing beside when we discussed going out in to town to find some internet access.... so we used that and e-mailed Thane to inform him of our delay.

After some coffee and cake, snoozing, reading and queueing, we finally boarded the train just after 12 and left the station at about 12.30.  It turned out that the delay was due to a young man throwing himself in front of the train on its eastbound journey just outside Winnipeg. Sad and traumatic for the staff and passengers.

The crew were really friendly and fun people and we also got chatting to lots of other passengers, so despite the length of the journey, the time passed quite quickly. We were able to get a four seat section, so we could arrange the leg rests and sleep stretched out over two seats each. Kirsty's side had a broken leg rest which kept collapsing approximately every hour, dropping her on the floor, which doesn't aid sleep particularly.

In the morning, we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast in the dining car which was nice and made a change from our train picnic. We spent the rest of the journey pottering about, taking photos and talking to other passengers and due to the train picking up some time overnight, we arrived in Winnipeg only about an hour late. We phoned Thane to let him know that we had arrived and walked to the pub he had arranged to meet us in. He arrived very soon afterwards and we had some drinks and a chat before he took us back to his house in his campervan, Jose.

Thane's place is lovely - he is quite the handyman and has mostly done it up himself. We had a small guestroom. Thane fed us some pumpkin soup and some breaded fish he had caught himself. Slightly strangely, the fish was served on a plate on the hob and we all broke pieces off and ate them with our fingers, but we've learnt to just accept these things.

We had showers, watched some television and eventually made our way to bed. The following morning, Thane took us on a tour of Winnipeg in his van. We stopped at the Forks (the joining of two rivers where the Indian population historically used to meet for trade) and walked across the bridge in to the French side. We looked at a cemetery which had been dug up and used for an 'urgent' supply of soil to build flood defences (no, we're not sure how it could be urgent either), which had resulted in all of the gravestones being placed back roughly in the right locations....

We also had a look around the market area at the Forks, which unfortunately was full of shops which were almost nice but somehow managed to be full of things which weren't. Looked like hippy shops from a distance, but turned out to be full of stuffed moose dressed in RCMP uniforms and little porcelain...things. We then went for club sandwiches at a place called the Wagonwheel, which has been run for about 50 years by the same man who is running it now. Nice food, nice place.

We went to another couple of shops to try and buy tickets for a gig that evening, and also tried the venue itself but with no joy.  Soon after, it started snowing, then became quite blizzardy. That's the thing about Winnipeg at this time of year: it's cold. It's EXTREMELY cold. Really horrible, biting, incisive, windy, stinging cold. It's a city which only ever existed as a trading hub: rivers and railways all met there, so it's where the farmers, fur traders, and before that, the Indians would all come to trade. Nowadays it's a bleak, grey, sprawling mass of concrete and crack addicts.

We headed back to Thane's and decided that we would stay for the evening, Thane decided he would go out to his boxing class. We got some laundry going and went to the local supermarket and liquor store to get food and some beers, which we ate and drank whilst watching a film (300). Beer seems to get mentioned quite a bit in these blogs, doesn't it? We're making a point of trying the most local brew we can find wherever we go, and have so far found it all worthy of mention. As in the UK, there are more and more little breweries springing up here and there, so the days of Canadian beer being Labatt's, Molson or nothing seem to be behind us. Vive la revolution!

The following day we were left to our own devices and after a while dealing with some internet stuff, we took the bus in to town and looked at a gallery, which turned out to be very small so took only about 30 minutes. We wandered around the local area and had some very worthy food in a vegan cafe (y'know the sort of thing: hand woven houmous served on a free range plate by organic orphaned lesbians), before deciding to go back to the pub where we had originally met Thane: there had been a poster suggesting that there may be a comedy show on that evening. The poster was out of date, but Thane was in the pub with his work-mates, so we sat with them and had some drinks and chats. We left last and took the bus back to Thane's, to discover him already in bed, so we spent a strangely quiet evening having some food and sorting out our things ready to leave the following day. Just as we were heading to bed ourselves, Thane got up - he had just been having a nap but had overslept. We chatted a while with him and went to bed.

The following morning, we gathered up our things and took a bus to the Museum of Manitoba, which was fascinating but unfortunately we had left insufficient time to see more than a tiny portion of it. We mainly focused on the Hudson Bay Company section and stayed until it closed at 4pm. We walked to the station with time to spare for our 4.55pm train - plenty of time as it turned out as the train was going to be 2 hours late...

Next stop - Jasper
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