around the world – part 43.1 (driving to florida)

Anna Maria Island - Tortuga Inn

Every year, after months of cold and darkness, and just prior to the first signs of spring, thousands of Canadians suddenly abandon their homes and head south to the Caribbean, Florida, Mexico and so on.  And this year,  Junior was no exception.  Even with what has been a mild winter by any measure, Junior and family found themselves joining the mass migration of Canucks south at Spring Break. 

In some moment of sheer lunacy, I determined that it would be a good idea to drive.  Perhaps it was the mild shock of air fares, or some crazy idea that it would be ‘fun’, but at any rate by 6am early friday we departed our house and began our two-day journey. 

For those of you contemplating the drive, I can attest that the advice of my colleagues and friends has turned out to be quite accurate.  You should budget two long days of driving – planning a minimum of twelve hours on the road, factoring in another two or more hours of stretches, meals and pee breaks    A couple of colleagues, real pros at this, strongly advised going hard the first day – up to 18 hours(!) such that the second day is easier.  No doubt they all have teenage kids who can entertain themselves.  Anyone travelling with two small children must invest in a portable CD player.   This wonderful invention, I am sure has prevented the untimely demise of an untold number of children.   

In the end we opted for a more or less balanced two days of about 12 hours driving each – although due to somewhat inclement weather on the first day, we actually did not accomplish half the distance, stopping just past Roanoke Virginia.   Mind you once we joined I77 in North Carolina, we managed to progress at a much faster rate and had we not encountered a traffic accident on I75 near ocala,  would probably have made it in to our destination before 715pm.  As it was we arrived at 8pm, and collapsed into our beds.

cheerfully incompetent

VIA Rail

My few readers will have noted by now that Junior travels a wee bit – perhaps more than is strictly necessary.  In my roamings, I have had on occasion the pleasure opportunity to travel on Canada’s own VIA Rail.  For uninitiated, VIA Rail is a passenger rail service wholly owned by the taxpayers of Canada, known in the parlance as a Crown Corporation.  In this regard it is not unlike AMTRAK (USA), or any of a dozen or more European state-owned passenger rail services.  Thus it is run largely for the benefit of its employees and where passengers are noticed at all, it is with at best diffidence and more often with sufferance.

In comparing modes of transport it is often difficult to find true comparisons of merit, since the modes differ significantly enough as to pose problems finding commonalities.  Except where it comes to service.  Leaving aside private automobiles, where the service offered to the passengers is diffident at best and downright awful at times  (particularly in Junior’s chariot), passengers in Canada have two options – fly or ride the Iron Horse.   Edward the Corgi  has heard my theory before – but for those who have never heard it – thus.   On the whole and with evidence of my own eyes, Air Canada is miserably incompetent, whilst VIA Rail is cheerfully incompetent. 

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around canada – part 5 (montreal)

09 March 2010: 

weinsteins and gavinos pasta bar factory

 

Back in Montreal for the first time in many years (notwithstanding transiting through Dorval) and it seems to me on first glance as though that while the city structure is clearly a little distressed, what with the potholes and dodgy sidewalks (mind you, KTown can offer craters as awful as the best of them), there is much more excitement now then when I last called it home.   Maybe I am wrong, but I didn’t see too many storefronts for let, I did see plenty of sharply dressed folks and everyone seems fairly cheerful.   Despite my shocking neglect of the place, Montreal still remains my favourite Canadian city. At Wednesday night dinner comfortably ensconced in the window and indulging in a bit of people watching, I did notice that an inordinate number of vehicles flowing south on Stanley were of the Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, BMW variety – perhaps indicative of a local economic confidence which seems to be ignored in the rest of Canada.  I suppose it is easy to overlook Montreal especially in afterglow of the Olympics and the ‘me first’ attitude of Tranna.   Thursday night off to Weinsteins and Gavinos for a meal, and then down the block to Three Brasseurs for a couple of beer, before heading back to the hotel. 

How to get there

  • VIA RAIL:  I am more and more convinced that this is the best way to travel to Montreal – no headaches with traffic, no time wasted looking for or paying extortionate rates for parking etc. 
  • By Car:  If you must insist on taking your vehicle, then of course Montreal is well serviced by several major highways leading into the city.  The roads are a bit rough in places – comes from overbuilding the infrastructure and then neglecting it for decades I suppose.   Please note that there isn’t actually much of a bypass around the city – especially to the south.