As we’re beginning to look forward to our adventures this summer I’ve found myself reminiscing about everything we got up to last year – our first summer as a family. The flip side of all the hard work Leigh is slogging through in term time as he trains to be a doctor is that he gets some pretty awesome holidays. We’re under no illusion how tough things are going to be in the first few years after he actually qualifies, but for now we’re determined to make the most of it.
We spent lots of last summer in the UK enjoying the incredible weather, but in the middle of it all we took a trip to the US and Canada – and it’s not one I’m going to forget in a hurry!
It all started when we were watching Big Easy Express for the umpteenth time. Of all the adventures my brother has had since his career in music has taken off, this was the one I most wish I could have been a part of: a vintage train full of extremely talented musicians travelling through the US countryside stopping off to play gigs along the way. When their plans for last summer started to come together – a series of Gentlemen of the Road festivals in out-of-the-way locations across the pond, with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show along for the ride again too – I began to think that just maybe this was our opportunity to get a taste of that adventure.
Fast forward a few months and we were off: flying to New York with tickets booked to take us by train to Halifax in Nova Scotia, stopping off at Simcoe, Ontario on the way for a weekend of music and festival fun.
We were in New York for a week, spending some of it catching up with Ben and Jemima who had moved out there at the beginning of the year and the rest seeing the sights and soaking up the rhythm of the city. Arthur was quite happy to hang out in the sling, looking around or dozing as we explored. We barely scratched the surface really of what New York has to offer, but there was certainly plenty to keep us entertained!
From New York we got the Maple Leaf train to Toronto: it was a twelve hour journey but actually went way quicker than we expected.
Arthur was excited to be doing something new and different, and stunning views kept us all entertained.
The most tedious bit was at the Canadian border when we had to get off the train with baby and luggage in hand and walk through customs only to get back on the same train an hour or so later!
Toronto was awesome. Smaller and more manageable than New York, but still lots to see. The CN Tower was particularly impressive: both from the ground looking up and the spectacular view from the top.
We had friends to catch up with when we got there too. Arthur’s Oddmother, though she lives in London, was in a nearby town visiting her family, and a mutual friend of ours had recently moved back to her hometown nearby. It was great to see them both on their home turf – and Arthur loved the opportunity we had for a bit of lake swimming too…
Then a few days later we were off to Simcoe. We rented a car, picked up my brother Greg and his wife on our way – they’d flown in for a long weekend – and headed out to the countryside. The festival had completely taken over the town – it was pretty surreal to see images of Ben everywhere, but brilliant how completely the locals had embraced their British visitors.
The music was of course the highlight of the weekend, and we found some pretty fantastic vantage points where we could watch and listen without getting caught up in the crowds. Arthur was fascinated by the bits he was awake for – but also showed a remarkable ability to sleep when he needed to, whatever else was going on around him!
Then it was back to Toronto ready for the longest journey of the trip: thirty hours on a train to get to Halifax where Leigh’s extended family live. This was actually the bit I’d most been looking forward to, but as the dream became a reality I did start to get a little nervous about what our increasingly mobile baby would make of it all…
Turns out I need not have worried. Our cabin was cosy, but Arthur was happy to snuggle up with me in a bunk (I did put him next to the wall when we actually went to sleep!)
We spent a lot of our time in the vintage observation carriage – just like the one in the film! We got chatting to the host there and said we’d been inspired to make the trip after my brother and his band did some gigs on a train. He was very excited to hear which band we were talking about and said he often held screenings of Big Easy Express which was one of his favourite films. Arthur of course had no idea about any of that but certainly seemed to enjoy being on the train whilst the world sped by outside the windows.
When we finally got to Halifax it was brilliant to catch up with Leigh’s family and to introduce Arthur to them for the first time – especially his Great Grandad.
All in all it was a wonderful adventure, full of friends, family and new experiences for all of us. Our plans this summer will keep us closer to home, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before we’re off exploring the world again!