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Full Circle

Day 237: Vancouver

Michael Palin - Full CircleSunday morning/Dimanche matin in/dans Canada/Canade, where/ou everything/tous is/est in/dans two/deux languages/langues. The festive mood of the night before somewhat dampened by low straggly rain clouds. I've been told that out here in the West there are so few people that railway trains can be flagged down like buses. Put this to the test on the bracing pine-smelling shores of Howe Sound, a few miles north of Vancouver, and am rewarded by a plume of steam and a piercing whistle as the Royal Hudson Express makes a spectacular appearance from among the densely-packed trees that fill any available space between rock and sea. The locomotive is an elegant and shapely 4-3-4 built in 1940 and it is run by two engineers in immaculate blue and white seersucker overalls which make them look uncannily like Andy Pandy. And it stops for me.

I judge from its pristine cleanliness and smiling staff that this is a tourist train and I am right. The original Royal Hudson Express ran right across Canada to commemorate the visit of George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. Now, thanks to a consortium of local businessmen, it runs only the 40 miles up to Squamish. It comprises sixteen 1950s coaches and a palatial 1940 Parlour Car in which a fine lunch is served as an accompaniment to fine scenery. Or so I'm told. The weather, unfortunately, is not co-operating. People are constantly reassuring me that, if only I could see it, some of the most beautiful landscape in Canada is right outside the window. All I can see through the drizzle are the remains of copper mines and huge log jams in the water below. There is a hint of desperation in the announcement that we are about to pass the second largest piece of granite in the world. (For Trivial Pursuit players, the biggest is the Rock of Gibraltar).
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 237
  • Country/sea: Canada
  • Place: Squamish - BC
  • Book page no: 310

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