So it begins! We're planning our train trip across Canada! This will be our first trip since we opened the shop three years ago. We've closed down between Christmas and New Year's every year, but we've mostly stayed around Toronto, relaxing, packing a few online orders, cleaning up the shop after the holiday craziness. Now that we have Caleb, and a bit of help in the shop, we're finally venturing out for our first trip as a family! We don't have all of the details nailed down yet, but the basic idea is that we're taking a train trip for around a week or two in the summer.

It's a bit of a shame that Toronto is near the middle of Canada, because it's meant we have to pick either going west or going east. My Canadian geography has gotten a lot better since we've begun the business, because we've shipped orders all over Canada, but I've yet to see the west coast with my own eyes. There are some beautiful places in the West Coast of Canada and other areas, staying in accommodation that is both low-budget and high-quality is doable by searching apartments for rent mississauga, if Mississauga is the location that you want to stay in. It is located near Toronto on a breath-taking and adventurous lake - one of the outstanding locations in the West to explore! I'm around 90% sure we're heading west, mainly because I think it would be amazing to see the mountains, but there's still a chance we could head in the other direction. I spent a semester in Nova Scotia and it was really gorgeous there. You know me and my flair for nostalgia. And also good seafood. And Anne of Green Gables.

I wanted to plan most of the trip by booking individual train fares to different cities, and stop for a few days along the way, but it turns out it's super expensive and kind of complicated to do that. I talked to a very friendly person at Via Rail who said "lots" of people do it, but after around 15 minutes on the website checking arrival and departure times, I've once again realized that my logistical and organizational skills have a fairly low limit. So we're thinking we're going to take the train straight across western Canada, which should take around four days, and then hang out in Vancouver for a few days. I've never been to the west coast, but apparently it's gorgeous, and there's hiking and trails and water and good sushi. If you have any advice on what to do or see in BC, or tips on train travel, I would love to hear it! This is going to be our first time with baby in tow. While for the most part he's a pretty easy-going kiddo, he's a kid that likes to run around barefoot and lounge half-naked on the floor. I can't wait for this trip - I'm already planning out which pens and notebooks to take.

I think traveling by train must be the most romantic way to travel, and if I had more time and money, I think I'd take the train back and forth across Canada just for fun. You can walk up and down the cars, you can sit at a table, staring dreamily out the window with your notebooks and pens in front of you, a cup of coffee rattling on the table, the windows open so you can feel a breeze. Now years ago, Jon and I took the Trans-Siberian from St. Petersburg across Mongolia to Beijing, and it was one crazy ride. The toilets drained straight onto the tracks, so as you did your business, you could see the tracks and stones flying underneath you. When we were crossing the Gobi desert, we had no air conditioning, and we were right behind the coal engine, so we could either open the windows and breath in coal dust and heat, or close the windows and suffocate more quickly. We had one stretch of four days with no showering, so we became a bit pungent, but at least we had love.

I think if the Chan family is going to travel, we're going to do our best to do it by train. Next summer, Jon has promised to take the family to Japan, and I'll bet the Japanese train system is something else.

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March 16, 2016 — wonderpens



wonderpens said:

Wow, some really great suggestions!! I’ve definitely added Iona Jetty to our list, I love the idea of watching planes and walking around. It’s nice with Caleb to be in less crowded places so we don’t have to worry about him grabbing someone else’s cup of coffee or bumping into someone’s knees. And I also loved your suggestions for hiking and just sitting down – as much as we want to get as much of the west coast in as possible, with Caleb, I’m hoping for some time to just walk and explore and soak in some nature :)

We will definitely have to check out the pen shops!! I can’t wait. I’ve heard only great things about the pen shops on the west coast, so we’ll have a lot to learn ;)


Sara said:

My parents took the train from Toronto to Miramichi, NB to visit us. Shortly after, my Dad was in an accident where a tree he was cutting fell and pinned him for nine hours on a thankfully above zero March day. As they were loading him into the air ambulance, he said that the experience was still not as bad as taking the train East.
They didn’t have a sleeper, which my Mom said might have made a world of difference. Apparently it was very hot with no way to control the temperature or grab a breath of fresh air. And the washrooms quickly deteriorated.
That being said, I wasn’t with them and I still envision the romantics of train travel, and I’ve heard the West route is a beautiful way to explore.
And as someone who travels a lot with a toddler, I recommend a big bag of small and exciting bribes. (ex., pocket calculators, play dough, pom poms in a tube, magnet dolls, water marker paint sets from Melissa & Doug, plastic slinky, glitter and gel in a ziplock bag for poking, and finger foods in a flat fishing tackle box). Good luck, and I hope you share your adventures :)


Rene said:

Where to start? First of all, if you do come out this way, welcome! I’ve been happy to have been getting a few things from you guys and am glad you might be dropping in! :) I guess one of the first things I should mention is the two venerable pen shops in town (there are a couple others that carry fountain pens and such, but these are the two main ones): The Vancouver Pen Shop downtown (Hastings St.) and Perks on Cambie @ 41st (across Cambie from the Oakridge Mall, Canada Line Skytrain, Oakridge/41st stop). Both have wonderful people working there.

In terms of sights, if you have a car, the Iona Jetty (and beach nearby, both by the airport) are lovely strolls, especially before sunset (they close at sunset). They are by the airport, so you can watch planes take off and land from there. The jetty is a walk on top of a sewage pipe, but you forget about that very quickly (it’s not obvious and it’s not smelly – and it’s a hidden treasure, so it’s rarely crowded). Stanley Park’s Seawall is always a beautiful stroll as well. The False Creek walking path (you can start from Vancouver Island, too!) is nice for a bit of water and a bit of city kind of walk. Jericho Beach and the Spanish Banks (one leads to the other) are great places to sit down and let your pen wander on your notebook pages (great with sunsets), especially when the tide is very low and you can walk way out from the beach into the sandbanks. For hiking, Lighthouse Park (North Vancouver – if you have a car) and Lynn Valley (also in N. Van.) are good, pretty light hikes with beautiful nature.

Anyway, lots of ideas, depending on what you’re looking for, the weather, what your plans are and so on. Feel free to drop me a line if you have more questions! :-)


wonderpens said:

Oh, no!! Your dad’s experience sounds terrible!!! I am keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be a bit more comfortable. We are getting a sleeper, or a cabin just for us, so Caleb can nap a bit more comfortably, or at least his messes will be a bit more contained ;)

I’m hoping to do one or two blog posts from the road, but if I can’t find access to internet or if we’re just swamped, I will certainly be posting after on how the trip went! Keep your fingers crossed for us :)


wonderpens said:

Wow, what great tips!! A great point about rain gear, I didn’t even think of that.

I think we’re going to get our own cabin, since it’s the three of us, and also so Caleb can have a bit more space to scamper around, without spilling anyone else’s coffee or grabbing their books. I’m hoping he’ll also be able to run up and down the train cars, although I may need to imagine up some more crying and boredom to match up with how traveling with kids really is ;)

I’ve added everything you’ve mentioned to our list! I think we’re definitely going to check out Chinatown – how could we not?? Chinatowns all over the world are some of our favourite places to travel, and I hope we end up picking a good restaurant, although like you say, it might be a bit hit or miss. Ogden Point Breakwater also is definitely on the list, someone else also recommended it, and that sounds like something we couldn’t miss. Plus, the goat run.

Haha – we’d love to carry our whole shop out west with us!! I’m pretty sure our bags are going to be full of Caleb’s snacks and toy cars and wooden tool set and plastic boats, but maybe ;)


Pamela said:

Hello from Vancouver! The west coast is full of awesome local coffee shops if you’re into that. Check out the Okanagan area for a lot of beautiful vineyards and winery. Then when you reach Vancouver, check out Gastown, Granville Island and Steveston.


wonderpens said:

Hello! Thanks so much for the great suggestions! I’ve heard Granville Island is a must-see, and we’ll have to check out the other two as well :)


Graeme said:

I did the Canadian last fall. Amazing. My father in law is a train engineer, and he recommended going west to east (which we did). The train loses time as it goes, so the west —east hitch guarantees you hit the Rockies in the daylight. Also, get a private room with your own bathroom. Worth it.


wonderpens said:

Amazing! I think we’re trying to go east to west so we can fly home after, but maybe one day when Caleb’s a bit older, we’ll do west to east all the way to the east coast, and then hang out on the east coast for a while! Actually, I was just saying to Jon it would be amazing to do the trip in the fall and see the changing colours, but it’s back to school season and also prepare-for-the-holidays season….

Haha! Yes, I think we might spring for our own cabin, just because I would hate to subject anyone else to Caleb’s nap schedule and possible late night/early morning adventures :)


wonderpens said:

I had no idea!! I guess that would make it a true adventure, although I was envisioning something bit different in mind from the pictures while browsing through the VIA rail website…………you know, relaxing with a nicely dressed waiter offering me cups of coffee, and my young child sitting quietly and patiently, playing on his own…

Chris S.

Chris S. said:

Also, check out the Science Centre just outside of Chinatown, and then head to Granville Island Market.
When you’re in Victoria see if there’s anything interesting at the Royal BC Museum and be absolutely sure to catch the Goat Run at the Children’s Farm in Beacon Hill Park

Chris S.

Chris S. said:

and just on the other side of Beacon Hill Park, you can walk along the ocean on Dallas Road. At the east end of that walk, you might see kite and wind surfers off Clover Point and on the west end there’s the Odgen Point Breakwater and the Odgen Point Cafe for a bite to eat. The breakwater itself offers a spectacular walk (although Caleb might need a safety harness) with views of the Olympic mountains, where you might see scuba divers, seals, and octopus below in the water and the point itself where these giant cruise ships dock. While you’re in the area, you might want to try Barb’s Fish and Chips, or line up at Red Fish, Blue Fish. Finally, there’s the Inner Harbour, the B.C Legislature Buildings, and the Empress Hotel all within 1 block! Have I left out anything?


Mark said:

This sounds like a brilliant idea! Enjoy!

I will note, however, that there are some VIA trains that still flush directly onto the tracks.


wonderpens said:

I can’t wait! I’m sure we will enjoy it, I’ve heard only amazing things about the beauty of the west coast.


wonderpens said:

We will definitely add those all to our list, especially the driving around Vancouver island! We may have to rent a car to make the most of our time in BC. We are hoping to spend time in both Vancouver & Victoria! Thanks so much for taking the time to share :)

Chris S.

Chris S. said:

Wow, what a great trip! And the West Coast (specifically Victoria) is where I call home. When you get to Vancouver, be sure to visit the Chinese Cultural Centre (50 E. Pender St.) and the Dr. Sun Yet-San Garden (578 Carrall St.) and on the way to the Cultural Centre, drop by The Chinese Tea Shop (101 E. Pender St.) and have a look at their great selection of teas and teaware. (Maybe not such a great place for Caleb…)?
I haven’t eaten in Chinatown in years (it’s gotten a bit run down), but I’m sure there’s still some good places left. Most of the good places are in Richmond now where it’s also a bit (not by much) easier to negotiated traffic-wise. Have a look at this article (some info may already be out-dated) to see what might pique your taste-buds!
As for travelling with a child, hmmmm, when we went to Singapore years and years ago, before iPads, etc were around, it was actually really nice to have a huge selection of kid movies and programs available on the airline video system! My son (7 years old at the time) sat still for an extraordinarily long time! Don’t know if Caleb would be interested at all?…
What else is there? The weather… be sure to check at the time you are coming out. We’ve had very warm spring weather, but we’ve also had storms and torrential rain, so bring whatever is necessary to be comfortable.
Have a great trip!
(…I don’t imagine you’d want to pack an extra suitcase full of pens, inks, Rhodia dotpads, Midori calender inserts, etc., would you?)


Amanda said:

Hope you enjoy your family trip to my home and native land! I promise the west coast will not disappoint.


Jack said:

Definitely check out the hot springs in BC! I went to the Harrison Hot Springs last spring on a drizzling day, the feeling of cool drizzles on your back while in hot water surrounded by mountains is simply amazing. Also the Vancouver Island is just out of the world, with its coastal highways, the Long Beach / Tofino, Butchart Gardens and the wonderful Victoria. You can catch the whole Vancouver / BC with cherry blossoms if you shift your dates a little, late April, with prices of hotels and other tourist expenditures relatively lower than the summer. Hope this helps!

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