“I think these are the nicest people I have ever seen working on a train.” My mom stated as the conductor poured us yet another glass of wine. I watched the wine in the glass rock back and forth with the rhythm of the train. The train is such a therapeutic way to travel. I find the whole process relaxing – the train stations, the boarding, and the rhythmic, rolling travel itself. In fact I often don’t want it to end.
Travel to Nova Scotia by Train
We were making our way to Nova Scotia – the slow scenic way on Via Rail – Canada’s passenger train service. However we were doing it in style. Whereas I rarely ever fly anything but economy on plane flights, somehow I tend to end up in Business Class on train trips. And trust me – as our car conductor brought out our sushi lunch – I wasn’t complaining.
My mother loves train travel so when we looked at how we could get from Toronto to Halifax the train was my first thought. Many people told me I was crazy as it would take over 24 hours via train, where a flight would only take a couple of hours max. However, where I find train travel relaxing and rhythmic, I find air travel the opposite. Lines, security, being there early, paperwork, waiting for luggage – there’s nothing very relaxing about flying. It’s great when you have to get somewhere in a hurry – however as a nomadic traveler, I seldom have to be anywhere in a hurry. It was an easy decision for us – we would embrace slow travel and take the train to Nova Scotia.
Via Rail Business Class
We took a day train from Toronto to Montreal where we sat in Business Class and were treated to a whole new level of customer service. Mom could only say “wow” as the attendant brought us out sushi, pasta,dessert, wine and continuously refilled everything. She marveled at the cloth napkins and was already talking about wanting to come back and do a complete cross Canada trip with my father. Mission accomplished – I had already wowed her and it was on the first day – the rest of this two week trip should be easy.
This is also when I first realized that there are some benefits to traveling with a gray-haired senior. The train crew seemed to pay way more attention to her and they stopped and chatted with her often – they loved her. Gray hair is about as good as having big boobs. I have neither – so of course this is only speculation and a reminder that the ‘grass is always greener’ for people with big boobs and gray hair in my world.
They offered us more help than usual with our bags organizing a porter to get our luggage and transfer it to the next train so that we – and by ‘we’ I mean my mom and her little old lady gray hair – didn’t have to lift a finger. We ate two lunches – and drank copious amounts of wine, coffee, soda, and juice. Quite honestly we were both a little tipsy AND sad to arrive in Montreal and have to get leave our rolling bar!
The Ocean Route Train – Montreal to Halifax
We had a 3 hour break before we got on the train to experience the Ocean Route. We took a walk around downtown Montreal so that we could say we’ve been there. I had to explain to mom that you can’t ‘count’ being in a city until you’ve left the train station or airport – plus it was a good chance to get a little exercise after our day of overindulging.
The Ocean Route is the train from Montreal to Halifax. It’s a scenic ride traveling 836 miles through rural communities of the Lower Saint Lawrence down the Matapedia Valley, across New Brunswick and on to Nova Scotia.
Sleeper Car, Dining Car, and So Much Scenery
We were in a sleeper car, which provided us some privacy and comfort – and even our own bathroom. The train had a bar/lounge car and a formal dining car. Normally the Ocean Route trains have a panoramic car with ample windows to see the scenery – but our particular train didn’t have one. Not even my mom with her gray old lady hair could make that happen.
We watched the sun go down as we had dinner in the dining car and struck up conversations with the people sitting across from us. The dining car was nice and our waiter even let us drink the bottle of wine we had brought along – ahem – benefits of traveling with seniors again. The food was good, a bit expensive, but honestly it was hard to transition from the amazing food and attention we had on the last train!
Use the Time to Plan Your Nova Scotia Travels
We spent our time on the train following along on the route map and learning about each town we passed along the way in the route guide. We also poured over the Nova Scotia map and tried to plan out our next two week’s road trip at a high level. Nova Scotia might not be on many family travel hot spots, but it was perfect for this multi-generational mother daughter trip. My mom looked at the map while I researched on my phone and laptop. Between the two of us we came up with a plan to satisfy both of our travel goals.
Arriving in Halifax Nova Scotia
After about 24 hours the rhythm of the Ocean Route came to an end and pulled into Halifax. It may take us a while to get used to ‘normal’ life again where we weren’t doted on – the rest of this trip we were on our own – no more conductors who treat us like royalty. However in true “nicest people working on a train” form, our car conductor offered to take our picture when we got off the train. Sad to leave the rails, but we were excited to get this Nova Scotia road trip started!
Disclosure: Via Rail provided me with my rail ticket for this trip. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own!
By Maria August 6, 2013 - 7:13 am
Now that’s traveling in style – cush cabins, great food and excellent company.
By Pauline August 6, 2013 - 2:30 pm
FINALLY! I’ve been waiting for you to write about your trip to the Canadian Maritime provinces – mainly because we have our trip coming up at the end of August and I wanted to know what you found along the way 🙂
Also – VIA Rail is AWESOME! It’s a luxury I can seldom afford, but I LOVE it when I get the chance to do so.
By Sherry August 6, 2013 - 2:50 pm
I know – I”m a bit behind on my writing – but for the rest of the month I”ll be talking about Nova Scotia! Stay tuned for Thursday as it will be a post about our entire driving itinerary! Let me know if you have any questions – I’m happy to answer them!
By heather Cowper August 6, 2013 - 6:29 pm
I love multigenerational travel – my trip to Budapest was with my parents and sisters and it still brings a smile to my face.
By Nora August 6, 2013 - 7:48 pm
I’ve done the train west from Toronto and clear across Canada….and I’ve gone east as far as Quebec City….the Ocean Route is high on my list! Glad you enjoyed your trip…..gotta love train travel!
By Brenda Potter Reynolds August 6, 2013 - 9:12 pm
Sounds like a lovely trip! BTW, your mom is cool!
By Darlene Foster August 7, 2013 - 1:12 am
I also love travelling by train. I look forward to hearing more about your trip to the east coast of my country. (I have never been past Montreal, I hate to admit)
By Mary @ Green Global Travel August 7, 2013 - 9:27 pm
Train travel can be so decadent with everything moving slowly except the service in the dining car! What a pleasure to drift from province to province – and such a perfect trip to share with your mother! I hope that the rest of your shared travels were equally wonderful!
By Rosemary August 23, 2013 - 6:41 pm
You are so lucky to be traveling with your mom. I lost mine a few years ago and she loved to travel. Nova Scotia is on my bucket list for travel after I retire next year after 28 years of teaching. I will be traveling solo and hadn’t thought about train travel. I’ll have to investigate taking train from Phila, Pa to NS. Thanks for the great info and beautiful pictures!
By Sherry August 25, 2013 - 3:50 pm
Glad you have enjoyed learning more about Nova Scotia – the train is a great option for getting there – so much fun and so much to see out the window! Yes – I know that I’m very fortunate to be able to take my parents to these locations with me – I’m quite thankful.
By Robert van Keuren April 27, 2016 - 3:11 pm
A couple of years ago, we took the train from Toronto to Vancouver with a stopover in Winnipeg. The first train was enjoyable, but the second was a disaster. One engine needed repairs, and the train was six hours late leaving Winnipeg. Instead of making up time, they lost time. The train ran out of food and had nothing for us to eat the last day. It was over nine hours late reaching Vancouver. We missed every Amtrak and bus connection to Seattle. Via Rail gave us (two seniors, one with a hip replacement) no help at all finding a place to stay overnight. We sat up in the terminal until midnight, when they threw us out, and we trudged over to a restaurant three blocks away with our luggage until we could return at 4 am. Dead tired, around 7 am we boarded an Amtrak Cascades train and slept until Portland, OR. Apparently we cannot trust Via Rail to do the right thing. All they offered us in compensation was a discounted ticket good for the next several months on Via Rail–useless since we live in San Diego.
By Sherry April 27, 2016 - 7:29 pm
Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. I’ve traveled with ViaRail a few times and always been fine and enjoyed it thoroughly.
By adam ritter October 23, 2016 - 9:55 pm
I really enjoyed this article! I love rail travel and this makes me want to explore Canada further!
By Phyllis March 30, 2017 - 3:30 pm
Train delays always happen, it depends on your luck, but I stll will take trains rather than plane.
By PEGGY VANDERWERKER March 10, 2018 - 2:41 pm
I REALLY ENJOYED READING ABOUT THE LADY AND HER MOM TRAVELING THE RAILS, MY DAUGHTER AND I ARE THINKING OF DOING A BIT OF THAT, I LOVE TO TRAVEL BY THE RAILS, TIME IS SLOWER AND U SEE SO MUCH MORE THEN FLYING, WE ARE PLANNING A TRIP TO WESTERN CANADA, AS I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE SO MUCH MORE OF CANADA, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY AND RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THE UNITED STATES, CAN’T BEAT THAT. I LIVE IN TEXAS. I WOULD LOVE TO COME IN THE FALL, BECAUSE I LOVE FALL COLORS.
By Reilly Ware-Cromack May 22, 2018 - 1:12 pm
WHAT IS THE PRICE TO DO THIS TRAVEL TRIP!?!?!?!?
By Sherry May 23, 2018 - 5:10 pm
Sorry – but I don’t really know what was spent overall.