After dinner we retired to the observation deck where the sun was setting in the prairies' living sky. Both Dutch girls, Maxime, the Belgian kid, Bobby, Beth, a girl name Alix and Donny, a CN rail worker. A couple of us had a beer and we just talked late into the night. I neglected the blogging and I didn't realize we were getting close to the station because between talking to the group and taking 250 photos of the prairies my only warning was Chris who came up and told me it was ten minutes till Saskatoon. Beth and I hurried to our seats and prepared our bags for departure. The train stopped and we got off. Beth immediately commented on how warm it was and she was right. It was at least 18 degrees which after Manitoba's 8 degrees just earlier in the day we were happy to be in Saskatchewan. We arrived to an empty station and quickly Beth introduced herself to everyone there. She got a random taxi number from two travelers waiting to get on the Canadian we had just go off and called it. She received a random private citizen who tried to pick her up over the phone. The VIA rail attendant who manned the station came inside and told us there was a taxi phone on the other wall. I called the cab and it drove in from the city as the station was once again in the country. The cab driver was very helpful telling us what to see and what to do in terms of night life. He was also surprised Beth and I were going to be staying at the College Drive Lodge. "You lucked out," he said. "You are right on the river and near downtown and paying a third of the price of the hotels on the other side of the river."I was excited to hear this news and as we pulled up to the Lodge I was trying to figure out what I had gotten myself into. It was $32 dollars per night, ridiculous cheap for a free kitchen and living room attached to a number of bedrooms. Beth and I went to sleep tired after our day of travels.
So I am sitting in the dinning car once again on VIA as we travel through the less than flat prairies. I had always assumed that the prairies were completely flat because of the Corner Gas references and the stories of travelers past who have sworn to me that the ride from Winnipeg to Saskatchewan is the most boring section of rail. In my experience today I can't disagree more. But to be fair the Canadian is what you make of it. No one on the train are too busy to talk. You can meet a railway construction worker, a financial consultant or even an author if you make a point of introducing yourself and bringing up a point of conversation. The train to Saskatoon is filled with a variety of interesting characters and they all want to share their story with the SSR writer. So I have started to identify myself as the writer listed on the rooster of passengers when I first meet the VIA staff. This introduction is usually beneficial because it lets me take photos at will anywhere on the train and sometimes gets me free meals. Now I am not trying to brag. Many of you who are reading this blog, the five or six of you, could easily do what I did. You can either connect with your local newspaper and ask to talk to the Feature Editor and pitch the story and then apply for the travel media discount as long as you plan to write about VIA or you can write a blog about your travels as you take a plane, train or automobile and post it on canadatravelblog.ca. Every three months a winner is chosen and awarded $200 dollars for traveling with the train. But I am getting off topic. So again back to me sitting here in the dinning car with Beth sitting beside me in a prairie dress and across from me is a young British couple on their first married trip abroad. Beth tried to get a free meal from Sonny but no go. It doesn't really matter to be fair considering the meals are very reasonably priced at $20 to $30 dollars. That includes a four course meal. This time I chose the onion soup which was a little different from the French Onion soup I am used to but it was still excellent. Then I had a blue cheese and pine nut salad which was delicious followed by the duck which was cooked in a apple and cranberry sauce. It was very tender and well cooked. To the side of this meal was garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables which were also excellent. For dessert I had a sponge cake with maple syrup and got to also try the chocolate cake. My meal's total cost for all this food was only $30. Again the quality of the food was amazing.