I spent the weekend and most of last week in Toronto on a course for work. It was a tough course and I still have the exam to write, but it was nice to be in the big city again.
One of the nicest parts of the trip though was VIA1.
If we’re going somewhere close and we choose to take the train instead of flying, the rules of government travel allow us to take the train – business class. I like the train anyway. It takes a little longer to get where you’re going but it’s so much more comfortable than a plane and you don’t have to show up hours ahead of time.
In fact, about 3 or 4 years ago I did a post about rail travel in general, pointing out how train travel was a much more human way to travel. I got a lot of interesting comments about why people do or do not travel by train, so I forwarded the link for the post to VIA rail. I never got a response, but about 6 months or so later VIA rail came out with their fabulous new slogan: A More Human Way to Travel. Coincidence? Maaaaaaybeeeeee.
I’ve never traveled VIA business class though. I always thought, “Meh, so I get a little more leg room….is it worth the extra money?”
Well, let me tell you, it’s totally worth the extra money. First of all, instead of lining up while you wait for your train to arrive, business class passengers get to hang out in the Panorama Lounge! A totally separate room, with comfy leather sofas, subdued lighting, soft music. There’s a fridge full of complimentary cold drinks and a hot drink machine, a handsome variety of newspapers and a selection of magazines.
You get to board ahead of everyone else and they actually heave your bags up the steps for you. Before the train has even taken off, one of the two staff dedicated to the VIA1 car comes around offering you a little snack from the snack basket. Once the train is underway, they come around offering drinks – booze even – for free!!
And then they give you a hot towel to wash up with before lunch is served.
There’s a hot meal included in the fare. They bring around a menu so you can choose from 3 options. A whole variety of special request meals are also available. And the food is served on real, ceramic dishes with little stainless steel flatware. And it comes with wine – all the wine you want. It’s still travel food, and I wouldn’t rush back to eat it if it was in a restaurant, but it beats airplane cuisine all to heck.
And when it’s time for coffee and tea, it comes with a little chocolate.
But aside from all the food and drinks, it’s also very quiet and empty in business class. No kids kicking the back of your seat. No babies wailing for the entire 5-hour trip. No sweaty person with a loud iPod squeezed in next to you taking over your armrest.
Nope, I had 2 seats all to myself. Luxury. I can’t think of a better way to travel — unless it’s one of those rock-star buses where you can stretch out and sleep in your very own leopard-print water bed in the back. while groupies feed you peeled grapes.
But VIA 1 is good.
Too bad the government won’t spring for anything above a standard hotel room. Once I did a course where the hotel room was included – a first class suite at a Hilton. The room was amazing, but I’d still rather stay at a Fairmont.
Fairmonts are usually older, elegant properties and the staff is trained for optimum client service. They make you feel like royalty.
Ah…it’s been a nice week.
What’s the most luxury you’ve ever experienced while traveling or otherwise?