Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Impulse Purchase and a Narrow Bed on a Long Train

We both sleep late.  Yesterday was a long day.  And today is our last day in Quebec.  I can't believe it. Where has the time gone?
At ten tonight (way past our usual bedtime) we'll be driven to a station on the other side of the river where we'll board the over-night train to Halifax.  I've arranged for a late check out, so we can have a nap in the afternoon.  I'm usually in bed by 8 PM, so this is going to be a bit of a stretch for me.
I'd planned to sign up for a narrated walking tour of the Old City, but by the time we'd walked in the park (first things first, when you're traveling with a dog) and had breakfast, the morning tour had already departed.
I still had the Self-Guided Walking Tour.  We'll do that, I told Xingxing.  But this time we'll pay attention and do it properly. And off we went, conscientiously following the map and reading the placards and appreciating the history and the architecture until we came to the city walls.  You can actually walk around on top of the walls, which are made of stone and aren't all that high.  But I guess before the days of tanks and drones -- not to mention nuclear devices -- city walls didn't need to be terribly high.  We return along Rue Saint-Jean.  I see something called Paillards, dozens of people lined up buying bread.  Suddenly, I'm hungry.  We go in and I buy a delicious sandwich called the New Yorkais.  Turkey, swiss cheese, sun dried tomatoes, onion, lettuce and I don't know what else, on a completely divine, freshly baked crusty roll.  Yum!
After lunch and wine, the nap.  And packing.  And one last walk around Quebec.  Purely by accident, we find ourselves in front of the shop with that stunning handbag.  And this time, it's open.  I hesitate.  I can tell it's going to be too expensive.  And it is.  But I buy it anyway.  Xingxing loves it.  He loves the way it smells. Believe me, the photo doesn't do it justice.
We have a long wait for the car that takes us to the train, and even a longer wait for the train itself, which is an hour late.  The station is very small, and the train is very long.  So it has to stop three times -- because it massively overlaps the little station -- and passengers board depending upon which coach they're riding in.
Our compartment has bunk beds.  They are small and narrow. But we're tired, and shoe-horn ourselves in. The train stops three times between here and Halifax, and I've arranged to be awakened at the first stop (at dawn) so Xingxing can get out and do what dogs do.  When I wake up, the sun is shining and my heart sinks.  What if we've missed the stop?  We haven't.  The train is running two hours late, and that's why they didn't wake me up.  
They serve breakfast on the train, and lunch.  It is always a long ride, 18 hours normally. But this train seems to be going very slowly.  Is this my imagination?  No.  Turns out, there's been a terrible accident somewhere to the south.  A whole train of oil tankers derailed. An entire town destroyed.  Initially, they think it might have something to do with the heat wave.  Apparently, if the tracks get too hot and the trains go too fast, the tracks buckle and the trains derail.  So we're taking no chances.
For a while, we travel along Chaleur Bay, but most of the route is inland.  We pass through forests, and small towns and end up arriving in Halifax four hours late, at 9.30 PM.  We're all offered partial refunds.  Fifty percent off your next rail ticket, provided you purchase it within six months.  But of course, this won't be much use to us. Still, I think it is a nice gesture.
When we finally reach our hotel, I feed a famished little Xingxing (his food was in my luggage, which was in the baggage car and unaccessible) and order room service for myself.  
This, I decide, was one train too many. It feels wonderful to stretch out in a real bed, with a real mattress.  Xingxing thinks so, too.

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