On 27th August I flew from Glasgow to Calgary on a work related trip. On this journey Graham and I accompanied Charlie on his dream venture, which was a train journey through the Rockies from Banff to Vancouver on the famous Rocky Mountaineer train. The photos were taken by myself as a narrative of the adventure and are reproduced here with Charlie's kind permission. As usual I am not really writing a full travel blog but rather using this script as a guide to fill out more details of the photographs, which I have divided into three sections.
This was my first serious trip to Canada having been a day tripper over from the U.S. on two occasions as far back as 1994. I was interested to get a good look at the country and its famous natural beauty.
At Calgary airport we got a disabled taxi transfer to Banff which took about an hour and a half. On leaving Calgary, although it is a city of c. 1.2 million people you still had a conception of the vast space available in this country with major green belt and spaced out housing on the outskirts. Our driver Brian told us about the First Nation (Indian) people, their reservations and casinos. We did pass one or two casinos and tepees set up by the roadside but were very tired after the long flight and did not take up an offer to stop. We drove along Route 22, the Trans Canada highway.
Arriving in Banff we checked into the Caribou Lodge which I would recommend. We would have four nights in Banff, which is a resort town within the National Park and is at an elevation of c. 4,600 feet. (Population just under 10,000) On the first morning we had breakfast in Tooloulou's diner, which has cooking with a Louisiana twist. Given that we went back on subsequent days you can take it that I am recommending it! http://tooloulous.visitors-info.com/
It was raining so we got our ponchos on and spent time in the excellent Whyte Museum of the Rockies. (http://www.whyte.org/). We saw an exhibition on the Canadian natives called Indigenous Ingenuity as well as a Gateway to the Rockies exhibition which gave a superb historical account of the development of the area. On the way back to our hotel we stopped for a coffee and when I went to pay found out that our bill had been paid for us by a woman who told the waitress she was sitting near us and that our chat/accents? reminded her of her father! We never did meet this woman but it began to give us an understanding of the deep Scottish roots which exist in Canada.
The following day we took the Sulphur Mountain Gondola Ride which gave us fantastic views over Tunnel Mountain and the whole area. A real highlight of the trip. I hope you enjoy the views, which compare with the Alps (north and south), the Andes, and of course our own Highlands. The other main trip we undertook was a boat trip out on Lake Minniewanka (pronounced Minnie- wonka). The weather in Banff is very changeable as it passes over the mountains and you can get four seasons in a day, but despite the rain on the morning of our trip, we got sunshine out on the lake in the afternoon. It was time to move on to the main event of the trip, a train ride through the Rockies!
The Rocky Mountaineer
I intend to let the photos do the talking for this part of the trip. However the journey takes two days. We travelled 309 miles from Banff to Kamloops on the first day, spending about 10 hours on the train and got off for an overnight in Kamloops at Hotel 540. We were on the Red Leaf section of the train which is the basic package but still very luxurious by normal train standards. Our host on the coach Ron gave us a great running commentary and kept us fed and watered to a very high standard. The fact that the coach was only about 60% full made it even more relaxing. The first day's scenery is very mountainous and dramatic. We went along the Kicking Horse River and then the Columbia River with its blue/green colours. At Golden we changed our watches from Alberta time (1200) to Pacific Time (1100) so got elevenses instead of lunch, with lunch still to come!
Kamloops means 'the meeting of the waters' as the north and south Thompson Rivers join there. We did not really see the town as we had to be up early for the train next morning.
The scenery on the second day was different but still very interesting. Ron told us we were passing through the Canadian desert. Later on we would see huge amount of timber washed up beside the river shores. Our train has 27 cars and 3-400 people on board. However we were dwarfed by a freight train which passed us. Graham counted 228 cars on it! The Thompson River ran into the Fraser River and we passed Skuzzy Creek Bridge and Waterfall before passing alongside 'Hell's Gate' where 200 million gallons of water pass through a 110 ft gorge every minute.
By the time we were heading into Vancouver I was beginning to think that despite the luxury two days on a train is just about right! We had built us a good relationship with Wendy (the train manager) and at the end of the trip she let us have access to the Gold Leaf section of the train so we could see the other end of the luxury scale. A great and memorable journey came to an end.
I have done another selection of photos to cover this part of the trip, which I enjoyed thoroughly. We were based in the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel which was downtown and very central. We visited Joes Grill on Davie Street (http://www.joesgrill.ca/ ) every day for brunch and then went on to see a variety of the city sights. We visited Flyover Canada a virtual experience which takes you right over the whole country. Do not miss this if you are in Vancouver! I hope they do one for Scotland someday, it would be great. We took two tours. Firstly a walking tour of Gastown (the oldest part of the city) and Chinatown. The other tour was on an accessible bus and took us around the city, stopping twice in Stanley Park and also at the Lookout Tower which gave us a different perspective on the city. Both tours did not have a big group so were intimate and enjoyable. We visited Granville Island with its market and restaurants twice.
A great boon for me personally was the opportunity to meet up with my cousin Hugh Fraser and his family. I had not seen Hugh since 1982 and it was great to catch up on tales of people we knew and spend time together on my days off. Hugh took me over to the North Shore for an afternoon so I got a different view of the city and its environs from there.
I found Canada to be a beautiful country with of course plenty of Scottish roots still very evident. The overwhelming memory is the friendliness of its people (and I don't just mean my own family!).The customer service is second to none but you very rarely spent time on the street or in a queue without getting friendly chat from your neighbour. Vancouver seemed to be very prosperous and although similar to US cities in terms of signage, city layout and shopping, it felt much gentler and safer. Canadian women are beautiful and for both sexes obesity does not seem to be the issue compared to the other part of North America. Possibly this would be a good time to stop!
Thanks to Charlie for letting us help him to make his dream come true. To Graham for being the ideal companion and to Roslyn for helping me organize the trip. It was memorable. Enjoy the photos and don't forget to let me know if I have got any place names wrong.