train

Stuck on a Paris train in 38C weather

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a Paris RER train

July 1, 2015 (Wednesday) – After our day at the Chateau de Versailles, we headed back to the RER train station to grab a train back into Paris. We were looking forward to doing some extra stuff when we got back into Paris. However, things did not go smoothly for the end of this hottest day of the year so far.

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D’Orsay Morning

View of Montmartre and Tuileries Gardens from the Musée d’Orsay

June 30, 2015 (Tuesday) – Our fifth day in Paris started with a visit to the Musée d’Orsay. It was a 30 minute Metro ride on the green Line 12 from our Marcadet-Poissoniers. Even though we got to the Museum early, it was already a long line-up to get into the d’Orsay. We had our Paris Museum Pass that allowed us to go through a different line. However, that line was just as busy as the regular ticket line this morning.

The Musée d’Orsay was another high priority on my visit to Paris. One of my clients had talked about how much she loved the Musée d’Orsay over the Louvre Museum. I know that the Musée d’Orsay houses many of the great works of the great artists. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed.

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小樽 Otaru Day Trip

We had finished our first week of Japanese language classes at JaLS and we were upon our first full weekend in Hokkaido. We originally tried to get bus tickets to Hakodate for the Saturday, but all the times we wanted to take were sold out. So we decided to visit Otaru this Saturday instead.

Rapid Airport at Otaru Station

Otaru is a about a 40-60 minute train ride on the JR train. If you grab the Local train, then it stops at every single station. However, if timing works for you, then you can grab one of the express trains and bypass all the smaller stations. Regardless of the speed of the train, the ticket still costs ¥640 for a one-way ticket. The ride from Sapporo to Teine is all above ground and offers a view of the city from high above the streets. However, soon after Teine station, we are travelling right along the coastline of Ishikari Bay until we reach Otaru.

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Getting Around Sapporo – Japan Rail (JR)

In Japan, Japan Rail (JR) is a name that can be found across the country. It comes in many flavours. There’s the green JR East that most people will see in Tokyo, the blue JR West found in Kansai townships, the orange JR Central that serves everything between Kanto and Kansai regions, and more. In Hokkaido, there is the light green manifestation of JR known as JR Hokkaido.

In Sapporo, almost all the JR trains must go through Sapporo Station. This is probably the busiest train station in all of Hokkaido seeing about 90,000 passengers a day go through its doors. If you walk through the station around 6pm, you will feel the rush of 90,000 passengers a day.

If one must get to destinations beyond Sapporo or outside of the subway system, then JR is one way to do it. You can think of JR as a commuter rail system serving the “suburbs” of Sapporo. JR Hokkaido is more than just a suburban commuter rail, but for the purpose of getting around the outer areas of Sapporo, that’s the closest description that matches its services.

Sapporo JR Lines Map

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Getting Around Sapporo – The Sapporo Subway

Sapporo, just like other Japanese cities, is well serviced by rail transportation. The subway system serves most of the inner city. The Japan Rail Hokkaido (hereby referred to as JR) trains connect Sapporo to the surrounding towns, the New Chitose Airport, and other major destinations throughout Hokkaido.

The System

The Sapporo Subway system is made up of 3 lines and is very simple to use.  Rides on the subway range from ¥200-360 depending on how far one travels through the system. The blue Toho Line runs north-south and serves the northeast and southeast of Sapporo. Major destinations accessible on the Toho Line include Toyohiro Park (Toyohiro Koen station), and the Sapporo Dome (Fukuzumi station). The green Namboku Line runs north-south as well, but serve the areas directly north and south of the city centre. Major destinations along the line include Nakajima Park (Nakajima Koen station) and Hokkaido University (Kita 12 Jo station). The orange Tozai Line runs mainly east-west and serves the city’s northwest and part of the southeast.  Famous attractions on the Tozai Line include the Shiroi Koibito Park (Miyanosawa station) and Maruyama Park (Maruyama Koen station). All three lines feed into Odori Station. Like most Japanese subway systems, all stations in the system have a letter and number combo to identify the station. Because you know it’s a lot easier to say station H-05 than saying Higashi Kuyakusho Mae station for us foreigners.

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In Transit – The Union-Pearson (UP) Express

On my last trip to Toronto, I actually could see part of the construction of the new express train station at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. It’s due to open in Spring of 2015 in time for the Pan-Am Games. It looks pretty exciting to me. 25 minutes to downtown Toronto would be way better than the current 60 minute ride by the Airport Shuttle Bus.  Add that to my transit checklist. Here are some pictures/renderings from the Union Pearson Express site.

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Edmonton LRT – South LRT

checker cap side view mirror on Edmonton LRT

After the Health Sciences Station at the University of Alberta, the Edmonton LRT continues south along 114 Street.  The next stop is McKernan Belgravia.  It’s a small, unassuming station near 76 Avenue.  The largest landmark around here is the McKernan School across the street.  Photographically, what interested me was the underground pedestrian/bicycle passage way and the ramps on either side.

Further south along 114th Street is the South Campus/Fort Edmonton station. I didn’t realize that the University of Alberta had a south campus.  Also, the Fort Edmonton name is a bit of a misnomer.  Fort Edmonton isn’t really close to here (unless some early settlement of Fort Edmonton was here).  Fort Edmonton Park is a 5 minute drive or a 15 minute bus ride from the station.  

U of A South Campus football field

After the South Campus/Fort Edmonton Station, the LRT swings east past the Alberta School for the Deaf along 61st Avenue towards 111 Street.  Then the train continues down the middle of 111 Street to just before the Whitemud Drive Freeway.  The next stop is for the giant Southgate mall. There are a giant pair of legs sans body right at the transit centre there.  I took the liberty to go through the mall to get out of the heat and grab some liquids.

After Southgate, the next station is about a 24 blocks south.  Century Park marks the current end of the south LRT.  In my mind, I remember Century Park originally as Heritage Mall.  A large shopping centre used to dominate this part of Edmonton.  However, it was torn long ago.  There is a much smaller shopping complex, a large parking lot, a large empty lot, and condos beyond that large empty lot.

Edmonton LRT – Downtown and University of Alberta

The downtown Edmonton LRT stations are currently all underground.  It starts at Churchill Station in the east.  Churchill is right under the Sir Winston Churchill Square which is home to festivals every weekend in the summer.  It’s also right by Edmonton City Hall.

Edmonton City Hall (2012)

The signature undulating Frank Gehry curves of the Art Gallery of Alberta (2012)

The LRT then swings straight westward underneath Jasper Avenue.  3 stations sit underneath Jasper Avenue.  From east to west the stations are Central, Bay/Enterprise Square, and Corona.  I didn’t get to spend much time visiting the downtown LRT stations.  I got a few shots in Corona Station that turned out, but the rest didn’t make the cut.  The glass chandeliers from the mezzanine hanging over the platform are what caught my eyes at Corona.

After Corona Station, the LRT then turns due south to the Alberta Legislature grounds. The grounds can be accessed by disembarking at Gradin/Government Centre.  It’s a quick walk up to the parliament buildings.  Tours of the building are always available.

Alberta Legislature reflecting pool and fountain

Stained glass in the Alberta Legislature

The train leaving south from Gradin/Government Centre soon exits the darkness of the downtown tunnels and emerges along the LRT Bridge crossing the North Saskatchewan River.  Just east of the LRT Bridge is the towering and historic High Level Bridge.  The train’s exposure to the sun is brief and it soon enters the deepest underground LRT station in the city at University Station.

View of LRT train crossing the North Saskatchewan River from the High Level Bridge Streetcar (2012)

University of Alberta crest and motto

U of A’s HUB Mall connected to University Station

For the longest time, University Station was the end of the line for the LRT.  It wasn’t until 2006 that the LRT had finally expanded further south.  The first of the stations on the Southern Extension was Health Sciences Station. I think one of the most impressive collection of health and medicine facilities surround this ground level station.

Health Sciences Station

Stollery Children’s Hospital

Beyond Health Sciences Station are 4 more stations that make up most of the Southern LRT extension.  All of which were completed between 2009 and 2010.   More to come in the next post.

Edmonton LRT – the Northeast

I was up in Edmonton back in July. I was up there for about a week or so. On days that I had to myself, I made it my goal to ride the Edmonton LRT. Previously, I never really had a chance to try it, so I was bent on doing so this time. Being a transit geek, this was only natural for me.

My plan was to get out to one end of the LRT with a DayPass and then make my way to most of the stations along the way. So I headed out to Clareview way out in the northeast of the city. This is where this transit journey begins.

190 Eaux Claires bus at the transit exchange surrounding Clareview Station

LRT train leaving Clareview Station

A very happy park n’ ride bicycle at Clareview Station

There was not much within walking distance out at Clareview Station.  There were two transit exchanges on either side of the station.  Then there was the large park and ride parking lots.  Beyond those were some 4-5 storey apartment buildings.  Oh and a giant overpass just south of the station which offers a tiny view of the downtown skyline.  However, it is quiet out this way if you are looking for that.

The tracks out by Belvedere Station

Edmonton LRT Crossing Arm

train leaving Belvedere Station

The biggest landmark around Belvedere Station would be the Century Casino.  There are the standard bus exchange and park and ride parking lots around the station.  On nearby Fort Road there are a few businesses and a collection of detached single family homes.  Most are more accessible by car than by walking from the station.

Coliseum Station

Rexall Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers

This is where the northeast section of the Edmonton LRT gets more interesting and meaningful to me.  Welcome to Coliseum Station and the surrounding Northlands. Northlands is the exhibition grounds for K Days, formerly known as Klondike Days.  Northlands is also home to Rexall Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers.  I was once a giant Oilers fan as a young child.  They were Stanley Cup champions in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990.  Oh the heady Oilers dynasty days.  Good memories.

Commonwealth Stadium electronic billboard – inviting the BC Lions to play

Edmonton Eskimos advert at Stadium Station

Then the last of the northeast stations before heading into downtown Edmonton is Stadium Station.  The station takes its namesake from the Commonwealth Stadium next door.  Edmonton hosted the Commonwealth Games back in 1978.  The stadium is now home to Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos brandishing their green and gold trim.  This is also where I decided to take a lunch break at a nearby McDonald’s.  I thought I’d let you know just in case you’re ever in this part of town looking for lunch.

Rocky Mountaineer Whistler

In early August, I was lucky enough to be invited for a quick one-day round trip ride of the Rocky Mountaineer Whistler.  Being a train/transit fan, I couldn’t resist and take up the offer.

The ride started so early that the company actually put us up at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel the night before.  This way, it was guaranteed that all of the group would arrive on time for the shuttle bus to take us to the North Vancouver Rocky Mountaineer Station.

We got to the station a little bleary eyed and in search of tea and coffee, but discovering that we were going in the dome car of the Rocky Mountaineer instantly brightened me up sans caffeine.  This dome car would definitely prove to have some of the best views on the ride.

We rolled out of the North Van station along the tracks towards West Vancouver.  I had to take the standard Stanley Park/Lions Gate Bridge.  Such a tourist in his own town.  It was looking beautiful this sunny August morning.

The train rolled past Ambleside Park and all the West Vancouver apartment buildings.  We passed by one building where they said we should look out to the left and wave hello to a lady.  Sure enough.  There was a lady standing at her window waving back to us.  She was so cute.  Apparently, she’s a regular at her window waving to the train.

Breakfast was served on the train as we started passing through the tunnels in West Vancouver.  A good old sausage, bacon and egg breakfast along with berries in a yogurt blend.

As we finished off breakfast, the train started to snake its way along the rocky coast line of Howe Sound.  There were wonderful views of the sound all the way up.  It was hard to try and a get a clear shot of the water without any trees in the way, though.

Being a scenic train ride, there are quite a few sights along the way.  If you ever wonder how you get to see all these sights as you whiz pass, not to worry.  You won’t whiz pass.  The train actually slows to a crawl as it passes key places.  The one above is the mini waterfall of Deeks Creek.  It’s a fair amount of water still coming down in early August.  The dome car paid off in spades with this view.

At Britannia Beach, we cozy right up next to the Sea To Sky Highway.  The major attraction in Britannia Beach would be the Britannia Beach Mining Museum.  I remember years ago that this building looked run down and almost derelict. The museum has really cleaned up and the museum actually looks attractive.  If I am to believe the ads, then the museum is highly rated on TripAdvisor.

Then there are places that are only viewable from the Rocky Mountaineer Whistler train ride.  The Cheakamus River Canyon is one of these places.  Those who travel along the highway can never see the awesome power and rush of the Cheakamus River rapids.  The train follows along the canyon and climbs up past the rushing water on its way to Whistler.

As we closed in on Whistler, we passed the Black Tusk.  It’s a giant black triangular rock that juts out at the mountain top.  It literally looks like a giant black tusk thrust out of the mountain. Black Tusk can also easily be seen from the highway, they say.  Although I’ve always been to busy driving to notice it when I’ve taken the highway.

The Rocky Moutaineer Whistler pulled into the Nita Lake area of Whistler.  Our final stop was the Nita Lake Lodge attached to the Rocky Mountaineer station.  If we wanted to head onto the Whistler Village, we would have had hop onto a shuttle bus for a quick ride in. However, we had actually come up to have a meeting at the lodge.  Nita Lake was ideal and serene this day.  I couldn’t have asked for a better day trip with summer sunshine and a luxury scenic train ride experience.

P.S. The name Rocky Mountaineer Whistler is a bit misleading.  The mountain range in which we find Whistler and Vancouver are actually the Coast Mountains, not the Rocky Mountains.  The Rocky Mountains straddle the BC and Alberta border which is in another time zone.