Sleep eludes me, so I stay up late and decide to wash my hair in the tiny bathroom sink. With only two washrooms for three dozen or more passengers, it wouldn’t be fair to overstay my turn, but most people are sleeping silently in the carriage, or watching movies on their laptops. I curl up in my double seat with my daughter’s purple blanket and brush my hair dry while I watch episodes of Outlander on my computer. That’s what I like about the train. You can do what you want – sleep, watch movies, read a book, stare out the window or socialize.

Today is the longest day, because we should have arrived in Toronto at 9:30 this morning, but it’s 9:30 in the evening by the time we pull into Union Station. By then the many children on board are getting restless and noisy. Others are trying to phone their loved ones to tell them they’ll be late. Cell phone service is very intermittent, mostly inaccessible, in northern Ontario.

But somehow, I’ve anticipated this. It’s Via Rail’s long haul train, after all, and it always has to give way to freight trains. I take advantage of the extra time to get lost in George Martin’s Clash of Kings.

The Royal York

The Royal York

Via attempts to placate its hungry passengers and maybe entice our loyalty by giving us sandwiches and drinks and, later, a free dinner. I choose the bison burger. They take our individual orders and bring the food to our seats.

Along with other Ottawa-bound travellers, I’m put up at the The Fairmont Royal York Hotel directly across from the train station, and given a $15 voucher for breakfast in the morning.