Friday, 10 February 2017

Travelling on the Occident Express (Seattle to Vancouver by train)

6 am.  Finally !
This means that I can head to Top Pot next door to get caffeinated ;-)  I like the place.  They have books.  Yes, Silly, I know, no one reads them, but they do give me a feeling of calm ;-)
Please note: You are looking at a picture of a picture of a picture (of Moi, naturally)

Add to the above that their coffee is GREAT. None of that bitter horrible Starbucks taste.  LIKE!  The sausage-egg breakfast pie ain't bad either. 

I have to check out of my hotel quite soonish to make it to the train station with some spare time but then I've packed already. 
Hey, my luggage is sitting at Grandma's already so I didn't really have much to pack, LOL. And I'm NOT sad to leave my hotel room, which even with a space heater running all night at Max only reached 68 F this morning.  

Browsing YVR deals I see a deal to Mumbai for under CAD $ 1000 including tx & fees.

Why Mumbai?   An hour ago I read in an Indian newspaper that February is the IDEAL time to visit these two choice destinations in the vicinity of Mumbai:

 Watch out world, once I have my PR card & passport ;-)

This is futile daydreaming for now, obviously, since I can't even fly to CANADA.

I'm taking the LINK ......

... to King Street Station
The check-in staff is FRIENDLY and when they seem my passport do NOT chose to put on that SEVERE face and to inquire how I dare to treat an important government document in this despicable way.  Instead they start laughing and just ask "What happened to it?"

 Well, it went swimming in the South China Sea 3 years ago and at the time I didn't consider what being soaked in saltwater might do to the paper and cloth covering, LOL

At 7:40 am I'm sitting in my unbelievable lounge chair on the top floor of the view car of the Amtrak Cascades.  If you haven't taken this train yet, DO SO !

The leg room and the adjustable chairs are pure LUXURY.

7:45 am.
The train is leaving on time and daylight is breaking through the uniformly gray snow/rain clouds

8 am
The train crosses a bridge over a river into Ballard and soon after there is nothing but water on the left. Puget Sound !   The view is stunning; I can only imagine what it would be like on a sunny day.  The train tracks follow the coast line with less than 3 meters between the West-facing wheel and the water.  The view from the second level is AMAZING. I can't believe I have NEVER taken this train before.  Maybe I should fly out of Seattle more often?  This is SO COOL. 

Seeing a rusted train truck (set of 4 wheels) laying half sunken into the beach gives me a strange feeling for a second but then I remember that this is MUCH safer than taking a car from Seattle to Vancouver.  Not to mention much more SCENIC.

When we pass Edmonds, WA, I follow a gut feeling to check the costs of a flight from Seattle to Frankfurt.  I did this a few weeks ago for Vancouver to Frankfurt and was appalled at the prices, which hovered above CAD$ 1500 for a direct flight.   Now I suspect that I will take this train much more often: A direct-flight return trip Seattle - Frankfurt, including all taxes and fees, with United / Lufthansa only costs CAD $761. That's HALF !    OK, so factor in the train ticket costs of 2xUS$42 and two hotel nights at $100, and you get $761 + (2x42+200)*1.3 = CAD 1131.   So I'd still save $400 and get two days in Seattle and two fabulous train trips out of it.  Remember: It's NOT the destination that counts; it's the journey, LOL.

WHAT is that layer of DIRT in the distance ????  (You guessed it: Vancouver)

If I am willing to take in a 1.5 hour layover in Kevlavik (Iceland), I can get a flight as low as CAD $568 !  

But back to the train.  9:15 am.  We're passing Stanwood WA. 2.5 hours left to Vancouver, in the event that the border-crossing gods smile upon me today l-(

10:45 am. We've just crossed the border.  I was hoping that my encounter with CBSA would be in the past now, but NO, they just locked all the train doors and customs & immigration is awaiting us at Terminal Avenue in Vancouver.

I get to see Vancouver from a different direction. Lo and Behold, the Dirt Dome is very visible if seen from an area of relatively clean air.

12:30 pm.   I'm in Canada and I'm puzzled and just a touch cranky.  What is wrong with these people?  After all the security drama of the last week, I should have at least be subjected to a nude cavity search upon my arrival.
Yes, MY train is enclosed in a fence, so NO ONE can make a run for it, LOL
 (Hint: Bring wire cutters to enter Canada illegally)

I get the cute Immigration Officer. He places my EXPIRED permanent resident card on a scanner.

Here is the ENTIRE conversation:
It starts with my Guilty Plea: 

It's expired
That's OK, It still has all the same information on it as before
I wish they had said that in Hong Kong last Friday

Those $100 on your customs form, what does that include?
A carton of cigarettes and a few shirts from Hong Kong

Do you have a second residence outside Canada?
Welcome back!

THAT WAS IT !!!!  And this is the way it is SUPPOSED to be EVERY time !

This was the EASIEST crossing into Canada I have EVER experienced in 30 years.   I'll have to take that train more often, LOL.

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