Getting Home

There are joys to flying on bonus points, but routing is never one of them.  We were fortunate that at least for this trip, it was Montreal-Dublin, then return Dublin to Montreal.  Except that we had to go back home through Toronto, then Montreal and train it back to the loved ones.  One of our original routings saw us going Ottawa – Toronto – Frankfurt – Heathrow. Given a choice between having a Brazilian ballwaxing by Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS who has hooks for hands or flying into Heathrow, I’d have hairless balls.  Heathrow is a complete and utter shitshow of the first order on almost any level you care to measure, as well as being an eight to twelve hour time suck to get anywhere near out of the joint.

Dublin was easier getting in and getting out.  Looking at our itinerary we did see if we could change our flights.  Rather than flying to Toronto, then flying over Ottawa, landing in Montreal and taking a train back to Ottawa, we figured why not ask if we could just go Toronto to Ottawa, even if it cost us a few bucks.  Air Canada doesn’t actually have ticket folks in Dublin, Swissport handles those things for Air Canada, as is the nominal practice worldwide. We eventually found the guy, who was amazingly adept at spinning his pen in his non-typing hand, but wasn’t entirely sure where Ottawa was, or if there were flights from Toronto to Ottawa.  He stared at his screen for a good 6 minutes, spinning his pen, then said sorry, we don’t have that information. Oh well, through the veal pen lines for Security, then on the aircraft.

We were fortunate the aircraft was an Airbus 330-300 which actually has a seat pitch that almost fits humans.  According to SeatGuru.com the pitch and recline on the 737-MAX Hate is 30” with a 3” recline, while the A330-300 is 31” pitch and 4” recline.  Trust us, that one inch in pitch and recline makes all the difference in the world. We could actually sleep on the plane home, so we did. Meal?  There was some chicken thing that ate like food.

We disembarked in Toronto and had to hot foot it through Customs to catch our flight to Montreal. The Montreal flight was uneventful, part of the usual rotation and it landed successfully in Montreal.  Where the wheels fell off was in Baggage. Ten minutes, then twenty staring fitfully at the belt with about 100 other people. I approach the ‘Service” counter, tugging my forelock. The baggage guy gets on the radio “We’re missing a can from that Toronto flight, where the hell it is?” is the radioed question.  

The reply is unintelligible and I do make out “Tabernac!” but they assured us it won’t take long. Another 20 minutes and bags start falling out the belt. We grab ours and go in search for the Via Rail Shuttle Bus. Eventually, having been misdirected by a paramedic to the wrong level, we find the right place and nearing the last possible moment, the shuttle appears.  We’re going to be tight making our connection, even though the Dorval Via stop is not that far, getting into and out of the airport is never quick.

The Dorval Via waiting room is utilitarian, with employees hiding behind their desks for fear they make eye contact with customers.  We roll out to the actual platform and consult the signage as to where we should stand to come approximately near where our car is supposed to stop.  A bright light in the distance, ostensibly down the rail line gets bigger and bigger, then becomes a train that grinds to a halt. Boarding commences and we settle into our seats for the last leg, a last beer and avoid the food offerings.

The measure of a trip might include Planes, Trains and Automobiles and we exceed that measure. Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Ferries, Narrowboat and Bus, not to mention Walking.  We did miss Funicular, Cog Railway, Hot Air Balloon, Street Car, Sedan Chair, Horseback, Rickshaw, TukTuk, Scooter, Jeepney and Zip Line, but we can live with that.

 

The Trouble With Via 1

So the journey is about to begin and we are meeting at the train station. For reasons I can’t even remember, but possibly tied to some ancient Scottish blood, I’ve book us economy to Dorval rather than VIA 1. As the missus and I arrive as the station we find Marylou and greet her, David is off in the distance picking up the tickets. This confuses me as I’ve already printed the tickets and have this covered – only to discover as David appears that he has upgraded us to VIA 1; all of the Europe travel I’ve booked is first class and this inequality seems disturbed his sense of balance and well being.

Bidding the ladies farewell the two adventures fight the madding jungle of peasants to reach the safety of the first class lounge. Brief struggles and we are in, hoping for coffee and perhaps some nectar of the golden fruit, alas we are beckoned to the adventure, of getting from Ottawa to Dorval in moderate comfort. Boarding the train we settle into our seats. New seats on VIA 1 that make it nearly impossible to have a discussion with the person beside you. We sojourn on with grave reserve; eventually our grand patience is reward with a drink, one beer each.

Serving staff do what they can, but the true horror has yet to be revealed. We finish our drinks, faster perhaps then was planned as it takes some time before the announcement of the feast – chicken tikka or a cheese plate are the options (weren’t there three before). Slowly the meal is served front to back ladies first as it should be. As the cart finally rolls up to us and the ladies opposite in the aisle and facing us, it is our turn. Having now seen both of the meal options there is a sense of dread – neither option looks edible. Gone I guess are the days where train travel, nay, VIA 1 meant you were well fed and well liquored for the extra money.

Bravely we choose the chicken dish. The chicken cooked so dry it probably came off an Air Canada flight as a rejected meal, the vegetables near mush, flavourless. The tikka flavouring an insult to the companies that make imitation tikka flavours for women’s prisons. The chicken is accompanied by a spiced carrot cake the has no really flavour and a mushy sticky texture. There is also a bag of “Sun Chips”, chips designed for the infirm and insane on the basis the the infirm don’t have a choice and the insane will either assume this to be a sign of the apocalypse and kill themselves or try and determine exactly what the flavour is and this will tip them over the each to a fully to a catatonic state.

This is at least accompanied by a glass or two (not more) of wine. All of this leaves you wondering if the VIA 1 is worth the extra cost and if VIA itself understands the term service. All of this reinforced by a formula one style driver in the shuttle bus dropping us in the far end of the terminal leaving us to walk the mile or so back the international end of the terminal. Where we meet Air Canada’s 737 MAX 8.