August 9, 2011

Sleepy near Seattle

Good morning! I writing from car 7, seat 19 of the Amtrak train from Vancouver to Seattle. I've got two seats to myself on this beautiful, nearly-cloudless morning. I'm finally making it to the scenic part of the journey, the strait leading to the ocean is on one side of me and rolling hills and forest is on the other. Up to this point, I've seen primarily industrial parks. That's what I love about traveling by train, regardless of what country you're in, trains let you see the raw and real part of the landscape that cities would prefer to hide.

Graffiti-covered concrete walls open up into large industrial parks, and if you look closely most times you can spot a makeshift camp where someone slept the night before. This morning, I saw one man picking berries off a bush near his staked spot in the industrial yard. Once we got out of the city, there were farms with big groups of migrant workers handpicking the crop. The workers' children were wrapped up in blankets and were playing near the edge of the field. The scene I just described can be played out in almost any country in the world. Railways give you a good feel of the raw, gritty underbelly of the city. 

I left for the train station by 5:40 a.m. after three hours of so-so sleep. I was on the first floor of a hostel that had a massive pub with live music on the ground floor... I had ear plugs, but it didn't do much good. I should have just stayed in the bar for more than just the pint I had earlier in evening, but I was beat and really didn't want to be a little bit drunk boarding the train this morning. So I waved my old lady card proudly and tried to go to sleep by 11. 

The handful of hours I spent walking around a bit of Vancouver were great. The city is charming and clean -- as it ought to be from the Olympics. And it was certainly easy to get around. I had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant recommended by a girl in the hostel. The restaurant was packed, but there were a few stools at the bar so I grabbed one. 

Some people think it's awkward and uncomfortable to go to a nice restaurant alone. I happen to love it. It's the most perfect opportunity to people watch and being alone forces you to pay close attention to the food. I ate tabouleh and falafel with shredded beets and pita and washed it down with the most delicious mix of Pimms, cranberry, mint and grapefruit juice. Though I made small talk with the bartender, I was mostly engrossed with my food. 

Then I grabbed a pint of beer at the aforementioned bar, chatted with some Chinese-Canadians, and then pretended to go to sleep. And now, I think is a perfect time for a little nap on the train...

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