First Rail Trip in Canada

Happy Rail Trip

Traveling has been one of the most amazing extracurricular activities in my university life since I moved to Canada a couple years ago. I didn’t have many opportunities to travel during high school until I started to study at the University of Toronto three years ago. Since then, I have taken advantage of every opportunity to travel to a variety of cities in both Canada and America during summer and during winter breaks, particularly when I had a chance to take part in two summer aboard programs in both Hong Kong, China and Oxford, and in England during my freshman year. However, since I went to most of these destinations by plane, I was really hoping to have a rail trip in Canada as a great number of travelers had shared their wonderful experiences with me in traveling by train in North America. Therefore, before the Fall term began, I had achieved the goal in having a rail trip to Quebec City. I took the train of VIA Canada to travel to three major cities in eastern coast Canada which were Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. This rail trip completely changed my stereotype of traveling by train as I used to have terrible experiences on Chinese rail trips when I was very little. I felt that the rail trip in Canada was an incredible traveling experience as I were able to relax and enjoy the amazing scenery on the way.

img_0698Day 1: Toronto Union Station to Ottawa Station

The journey started in Toronto Union station; since it was my first time to take the VIA Canada train I was so excited. Compared to traveling by air, the rail trip was much more convenient mainly because I didn’t have to arrive at the train station to check in at least two hours prior to departure and ended up spending a long time on boarding. When I walked to the cabin reaching my assigned seat, it really surprised me as the seat offered much more room for passengers than airplanes normally do. You can imagine how comfortable the trip is although it takes approximately four hours to arrive in Ottawa. More importantly, the train offered free Wi-Fi services on board and it was so punctual that I was able to have the opportunity to watch the Northern Light show on Parliament Hill. This bilingual show is normally highly recommended for travelers as it had wonderful audio and visual spectacles of lighting. The forty-minute show vividly demonstrated the formation of Canada from a historical perspective. However, the highlight of the day was not the mere show, but the hotel at which I was going to stay at for the remainder of the night. I booked a hostel which used to be a jail in downtown Ottawa. HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel was the most interesting place I had ever lived in for such a short period of time. I was so shocked when I checked in that I would be locked up there for one night. I was led to a woman jail cell and you couldn’t imagine how tiny the room was as it could only fit a single bed. But it was a good option to spend a night in downtown Ottawa with an economical price and cool experience.

img_0729Day 2: Parliament Hill Guided Tour & Train to Quebec City

I couldn’t believe that I stayed a night with bugs stuck on the walls on the both sides of the bed. And that was why I woke up very early in the morning and checked out as quickly as possible. I missed the jail tour in the morning which was the highlight of the stay as my friend who had attended before told me it was really wonderful. The jail hostel was as cool as I had expected and the only advantage of the hotel was its location which was in the center of downtown Ottawa. The walking distance from the jail hostel to the Parliament Hill was less than two kilometers. It took less than 20 minutes to walk to some hot spots before getting a free ticket in the information center for the guided tour in Parliament Hill. I would recommend backpackers to book this jail hostel if you intend to stay a day or two in Ottawa.


It was my second time to visit Parliament Hill and last time I came was during winter time so I didn’t have a chance to join the tour. The guided tour in Parliament Hill lasted for around one hour and it was also highly recommended for visitors as they would be able to appreciate the internal part of parliament which was worth walking around in. The most impressive place for me in the tour was the library and I couldn’t help taking pictures and videos in the place until the tour guide asked me to leave. The internal decoration of parliament was magnificent as you could also take the elevator to reach the top of the tower to appreciate the beautiful scenery of the heart of Ottawa. Since I spent only half a day in downtown Ottawa, I just had a quick lunch with my friend before I got on the train to Quebec City.


I arrived at Quebec City very late at night; however, the train was perfectly on time and old Quebec City was too quiet without any passengers walking on the road. The city was so beautiful at night.


Day 3: Old Quebec City Tour


I liked Quebec City the most among the three cities in the trip mainly because this old city has its unique atmosphere in welcoming visitors. Unfortunately, I came on a rainy day, which negatively affected my mood when walking around the city. The last time I went there was during a snowy day and this time it was rainy so I decided to go for the best brunch in town. Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is the best hotel in Quebec City which is located beside the northern part of St. Lawrence River. I spent a morning there for a fabulous brunch enjoying the best view in town. If you don’t have the budget to stay in such a luxurious hotel, you can go for a brunch there and it is worthy for its priceless panoramic view of the entire city. Although old Quebec City is not big, it is worth spending half a day to walk around as there are so many unique boutiques and cafés in town. The city also boasts many fabulous French restaurants in town and I went for dinner in one of the most famous ones in town: Initiale. This restaurant was rated as the No. 2 French fine dining restaurant in Quebec City and it was also my first official French diner experience. There is no doubt that it offered terrific food but I really appreciated its service with attention to details and hospitalities. The waiter and waitress tended not to bother me too much but they approached when I wanted to be served. I think that having good service in a restaurant takes experience and much training.


The purpose for this trip was to relax at the end of the summer vacation and having a good time in old Quebec City. And it was also very sad for me as this could probably be my second last summer vacation in life before my graduation next year.