Dec 122019
 


Long, long walk to immigration from our gate in Toronto and when we got there fortunately there was zero wait. Scanned my NEXUS card, the machine told me it couldn’t be processed, and please see an agent.

Very polite agent manually filled out an arrivals form for me, few questions, and sent me on my way to customs…where it turned out I’d been given secondary. No indication why (one way from Vietnam maybe, bypassing the US?) but I earned myself a completely thorough baggage rummaging.

Quite oddly the agent was interested in my dirty clothes, bag, and briefly scrolling through photos on my iPad, but paid zero attention to prescription meds or anything – so clearly their interest wasn’t pharma (which is often the case at the US/Canada border since the legalization of Cannabis – although I was asked if I had any) – and seemed like they were more interested in who knows what.

To their credit: everything was very polite, professional, and efficient, and the whole secondary lasted 10 minutes tops…which is very efficient for lots of questions and rummaging through luggage. I really wonder sometimes why everyone at anglophone immigration finds me so fascinating…but never comes up with anything that interests them….lol.

Off to my hotel of choice – the Sheraton YYZ – and ready to rack out for a good night of sleep.

This was probably the third time I’ve flown direct from Asia to the Eastern North America time zone, and the last two times I landed, worried I might not sleep since I slept a lot in flight, and had no problem passing out for eight straight hours.

This time, however, wasn’t quite so good. Grabbed a couple beers at the hotel lobby bar and went to be nice and early…only to wake up at 4am wide awake. I tried to sleep a little more, and it wasn’t happening, so I did a little work and decided to go check out the domestic lounge scene in Toronto.

When flying out of YYZ it’s almost always longhaul or US for me, so the domestic lounge scene would be new. First stop, of course, was Starbucks to wake up even more, which is when I spotted the Air Canada Café across the haul which I’d totally forgotten about.

The concept of this lounge is really “grab and go” as opposed to hanging out, having a wide array of food items you were welcome to pick up and take on board with you. Could it really be that awesome?

For some reason, I thought I was hungrier than I was, so had a yogurt parfait (delicious), pain au raisin (tasty), and a turkey and provolone to go just in case the Air Canada omelet wasn’t on my flight. Really loved this lounge and concept – I’d suggest United try it, but knowing United passengers people would bring empty suitcases just to fill them with food to go. No, totally not kidding knowing Americans around free lounge food.

On top of the nice atmosphere, there was just a sorta classy feel to the café – I really liked it!

Off to the gate, where it was clear we would be on a completely packed flight today. I admit I totally stalked the Group 1 boarding area knowing things were full and overhead space would be at a premium, and was shocked at the number of people going up to the counter rather indignant their upgrades weren’t going to clear.

Air Canada flight 135
Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Calgary, Alberta (YYC)
Depart 08:00, Arrive: 10:17, flight time: 4:17, flight distance: 1,675 miles
Airbus A330-300, Registration C-GEGC, Manufactured 2009, Seat 2E
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 198,224
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,890,526

Sorry Air Canada, but 1-800-WTF. Why did you have to get on the ex-Singapore A330 bandwagon too? It’s all about expectations, and it’s a decent seat for a mid-haul flight (second time this trip – got this on OmanAir too) but it makes me wonder what in the universe seems to have me flying on ex-Singapore planes on so many airlines this year. This was my fifth time in 2019 and fifth different airline! How many of these are out there?

The Air Canada version was in extra-rough shape, with the seat taped together. I tried to joke with the crew (who seemed fun) about the ex-Singapore plane, and I quote “you are wrong, this is an old TAP plane!” Yes, it spent 9 months at TAP between Singapore and Air Canada, but dudes – I totally wouldn’t be bragging about buying from the TAP thrift shop. At least poppin’ tags from Singapore is quasi-respectable….

What’s for breakfast ce matin? The omelet! YAAAAAS!

Fruit was below average for Air Canada which usually does much better, but it was sorta artistic in a triangular configuration at least?

Today’s omelet featured a perfect balance of cottage cheese and salsa, and was absolutely delicious. Comfort food for sure.

About an hour before landing, mixed nuts were offered. Always nice to get a small snack/drink service on a shorter flight. The crew on this flight was great overall.

Landed nearly an hour behind schedule due to de-icing in Toronto, but still had just enough time for a pop into the lounge between flights. Somehow, I’d never been in Alberta before, and all the stereotypes were confirmed with the giant cattle painting in the lounge.

Caesar and some unusual peach flatbread in the lounge. Yum! Nothing says Canada like clamato!

If the cattle painting wasn’t confirmation enough I was in Cowtown, the “assistance” agents roaming the terminal definitely confirmed it! Yee haw!

Our flight to Vancouver today seemed pretty lightly loaded, and boarding was a breeze. I was a bit surprised a new crew boarded in Calgary (but then again, I know nothing about Air Canada flight attendant bases) but we still boarded on time.

Air Canada flight 215
Calgary, Alberta (YYC) to Vancouver, British Columbia (YVR)
Depart 12:20, Arrive: 12:54, flight time: 1:34, flight distance: 428 miles
Airbus A320, Registration C-GKOE, Manufactured 2002, Seat 2C
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 198,652
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,890,954

For some reason, as an East Coaster, I just assumed Calgary was “closer” to the East Coast, so the flight to Vancouver should be longer. But, today, it was just over an hour. In true Air Canada fashion, however, we still got a small snack. Small potato chinks and salmon…plus bagged nuts. Beats the United snack basket…

Fairly short connection in Vancouver, but stopped by the Maple Leaf Lounge because….I could. Every seat was taken, and they were turning people away at the reception due to “being at capacity.” Seriously? Ugh. I wasn’t upset because I didn’t have much time, but that’s pretty poor.

Off to the gate, where I got the tingles from the sign. Yellowknife had always seemed so “exotic” to me, and I was finally headed there!

Today’s load was nearly full in economy, but there were only two seats taken in business, so I pretty much had my choice of seats. I moved from 1A to 1F so I’d have to seats instead of one.

Air Canada flight 8833 operated by Jazz Aviation
Vancouver, BC (YVR) to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Depart 14:00, Arrive: 17:23, flight time: 2:23, flight distance: 977 miles
Canadair CRJ-900, Registration C-FRJA, Manufactured 2007, Seat 1F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 199,629
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,891,931

Again, despite being a two hour flight, a full printed menu on a regional jet. Simple things, but impressive.

As we went on the takeoff roll, I began to wonder if I might miss impressive views because I’d switched sides of the plane. No reason to worry, the mountains were absolutely amazing the first twenty minutes in flight:

What’s this? Proper warmed nuts served before the meal? On a regional jet? On a two hour flight? Air Canada for the win, once again. It’s a simple thing that really doesn’t make a “difference” but it’s a nice touch.

This is probably a good place to say the flight attendant working business was stellar. She was friendly, personable, and when I told her about my trip was thrilled to give me all sorts of advice about Yellowknife. She even advised me to cancel my rental car, telling me that there was a hotel shuttle from the airport, and everything I was planning to do was walkable.

The forecast for Northern Lights was nonexistent for my time in Yellowknife, so no point trying to drive out of the city to see them.

I went with the General Tso Chicken because a friend told me it was good, but unfortunately…yes, it was “healthy” because it wasn’t breaded and fried, but it was also dry and completely lacked flavour. The desert blondie, however, was excellent!

The flight was over all too soon, and I was still working on my wine…which was quickly poured into a plastic cup so I could “enjoy” it all the way to the gate. Did I mention how awesome this crew was?

Sunset…at just before four in the afternoon.

No jetbridges in Yellowknife, so we had a very chilly walk to the terminal. Fortunately, I somehow contorted my 6’4 self to change from shorts to trousers in a CRJ washroom (believe me, this is an impressive feat) so I only partially froze.

Coming from Asia, I had zero warmies with me, so the trousers and a hoodie would have to do. I had shipped ahead tundra-wear to my hotel in Yellowknife, so I just prayed it had arrived and I would stay warm.

The polar bear in baggage claim reminded me what would happen if not:

Outside the terminal, walking to the hotel shuttle. Yup, we’re not in Bangkok or Manila any more!

Next up, time to enjoy my time in Yellowknife (which I never saw in the light of day) before heading even further north…to Inuvik!


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