Fly to - Vancouver (Canadian Rockies)
Travel date - Sept 2010
Well as I write this blog entry I sit at Heathrow Airport waiting to board a flight to Vancouver to meet up with 3 members of our sales and operation teams who flew out yesterday. We will be following the route and for the most part experiences of anyone who books onto our flagship Canadian programe, the 'Ultimate Canadian Rockies'
We hope to offer anyone following the blog a unique first hand insight into what this wonderful programe and awe-inspiring part of the world has to offer our customers. We will endeavour to update the blog on a day by day basis, reporting on on our experiences and we welcome any feedback or questions you would like to post to this page. We will be in Canada for 10 days although the Ultimate Canadian Rockies programme is a 14 night itinerary. Please keep in mind we can amend this itinerary to suit any individual needs.
If you are inspired to talk to use about you desire to visit this region please call our sales team on 0115 961 0590, they will be glad to help and offer unparrelled advice and assistance.
Sep 10th 2010
Claire Harwood, Jessica Lasota and Alistair Bell arrived in Vancouver after a comfortable flight with British Airways.
We chose to travel to our hotel, The Westin Bayshore via the new Canada Line railway which was easy to negotiate. The cost was $8.75 per person and took 25 minutes to travel from the airport via downtown Vancouver to the Waterfront.
It was then a 15 minute walk along the waterfront to the Westin Bayshore. There are other ways to get into Vancouver such as the shuttle services and by taxi and whilst the Canada Line was convenient a taxi may be the most convenient and cost effective option especially if your party consists of more than two people with luggage.
Check in at the hotel was smooth and efficient and we were pleased to see the comfy beds after a long journey from the UK.
After a quick freshen up we decided to start exploring the city and headed along Denman Street arriving at English Bay to enjoy the sunset. Denman Street, located close to our hotel is a lively area with restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world from Japan to Greece and even Mongolia!
However we chose to have dinner at the Boathouse where we enjoyed the local seafood whilst overlooking the scenic English Bay.
We were now feeling the effects of our long day of travelling and headed back to the hotel for an early night.
The following morning we had breakfast at a local diner close to the hotel and after a welcome plate of Eggs Benedict we headed to the recently built Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel for an inspection of the property.
The hotel is located on the Waterfront about a 15 minute walk from the Westin Bayshore close to the Cruise terminal and the shops and restaurants of Robson Street. It's not a traditional Fairmont, having a more contemporary feel but still offers the high standard expected from a Fairmont.
We then visited the Fairmont Waterfront , just around the corner from the Fairmont Pacific Rim which is also well located close the Cruise Terminal and the Downtown area. The hotel also offers a high standard of accommodation as does the Pan Pacific Hotel across the street which we also visited.
It was now time to start exploring the rest of Vancouver so we boarded the Hop On Hop Off bus for a tour of the city. There are 2 routes, the Blue and the Red and we started on the Blue route which took us the through the Downtown area and onto Granville Island. We 'hopped' off at Granville Island, an area just south of the centre of Vancouver which is well worth a visit. There are lots of interesting shops selling arts and crafts as well as a great local market.
We took the opportunity to have lunch here at the recommended Keg restaurant before 'hopping' back on the bus to tour through Chinatown. We then got off the bus where we boarded and got onto the Red route which took us along the popular shopping street, Robson Street before exploring the beautiful Stanley Park where we got fantastic views back into Vancouver.
We 'hopped' off in Stanley Park for a walk before 'hopping' back on to tour the 8km perimeter of the park before heading back to the hotel after a full day of sightseeing.
We were then joined by Duncan and David who flew to Vancouver a day later and met for dinner at Cardaro's Restaurant and Marine Pub . After a selection of steak and local seafood along with a local beer or 2 it was time to call it a night ahead of another busy day exploring this fantastic city.
Below is the view from our room this evening at the Westin Bayshore.
Saturday September 11th 2010
Our day started with a meeting with Erwin Mah from the department of sales in the Westin Bayshore Hotel who kindly offered to show us around the hotel and its facilities. The hotel was built in the 1960's in a great location which benefits from the marina surrounding three sides of the hotel. We discovered that 80% of the hotels rooms include either a harbour or marina view and 20% of the rooms include a city view.
The rooms that we all stayed in we found to be clean, comfortable with fantastic views of the harbour and the mountains in the distance. Along with their famously talked about 'Heavenly Beds' which has given us all a good night's sleep. We later sat down to eat an enjoyable breakfast buffet with a wide variety of food which we all took advantage of.
After breakfast at the hotel we were picked up by the West Coast Sightseeing bus tours at 10.30 from the hotel greeted by a friendly local tour guide to take us to Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge. We then set off through the city past Stanley Park over the Lions Gate Suspension Bridge onwards to the mountain with a narrated talk of the history of Vancouver.
As we climbed the mountain we stopped off at a Salmon Conservation site located in the middle of a scenic river. We here learnt about the salmon life cycle and the preservation of the salmon population. As we departed Duncan captured some fantastic close up shots of a magnificent osprey hovering over the river.
We then headed up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge where we enjoyed walking over the 450 feet high bridge which we braved successfully after discovering its width was as long as two Boeing 747 planes wing tip to wing tip. However the views half way over the bridge gave amazing photo opportunities from such a great height. If you are brave enough to take on this mission the entry price is just $29.95 per adult.
Our guide then took us up to Grouse Mountain where we took the Gondola ride to the top of the mountain which was a 6 minute journey with spectacular views of Vancouver. As we reached the top of the mountain we were grateful for our warm coats as the temperature dropped with the altitude.
We all decided to the visit the Grizzly bear Habitat Refuge first as there were a couple of ranger talks throughout the day about the two bears Coola and Grinder and we didn't want to miss out. As we arrived we found the two bears playing with each other in the water showing off to all the spectators. We were very surprised to be so close up and personal to such huge grizzly bears which made our day!
After the bear talk we got quite peckish and had to try out the famous 'Beaver Tails' which is a long flat doughnut with a variety of sweet or savoury toppings , David found much amusement from this local delicacy. We then took the peak chair lift to the top of the mountain where we stumbled across a few deer's strolling across the mountain. This gave us a panoramic view of Vancouver which by far was the best view of the day. On our descent from the mountain we sat caught the end of the Lumberjack Show where we found two strapping young men climbing poles just as high as the forest trees. Their comedy and games drew in a large crowd from the mountain.
After our gondola ride back down the mountain and the bus journey out of the park back to Vancouver we stopped off for a quick site inspection at the Century Plaza Hotel located in downtown Vancouver. We found the lobby to be very inviting with a boutique feel yet the rooms were very modest and functional with little reflection of the boutique style of the lobby. This was also reflected on the lower price of the hotel compared to the waterfront properties we viewed yesterday.
As we departed back to the hotel we took this opportunity to visit Robson Street famously known for its excellent shopping. We stumbled across a funky bar/restaurant called the Cactus Club which we spent the rest of our night drinking cocktails and sharing their appetisers.
The picture below shows two likely lads (Alistair & David) happy to have made it across the bridge!
Sunday September 12th 2010
We started off today, Sunday at the local White Spot diner for a tasty eggs breakfast before returning to the hotel for our 8.45 collection from the Pacific Coach service who took us out to Tsawwassen ferry dock. We then took the hour and a half ferry over to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island which passed through the Gulf islands yet our view was limited due to the mist caused by the unfortunate rain.
Once we arrived the bus quickly transported us to the world famous Butchart Gardens the gardens are a family owned attraction which required a strong team of 600 staff to maintain these beautiful gardens in all their glory. The weather by this point was very wet and grey yet we still got to appreciate the beauty of the Japanese and Rose gardens. Having spent two hours here we got back on to our guided tour bus and headed off on out 40 minute journey to Victoria the capital of British Columbia.
We were dropped off outside the magnificent Fairmont Empress Hotel which overlooked the harbour; here we would use this landmark hotel as an upgraded option from the Laurel Point Inn. Having walked over to the harbour to discover that although he weather in Victoria had now cleared up our scheduled float plane that we had pre arranged had been cancelled due to the poor rainy weather in Vancouver.
To our disappointment the only option left was to catch the next bus/ferry back to Vancouver. Once we got back to the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay we understood here why the float plane had been cancelled as the weather was very gloomy and wet. Once we arrived back into the Westin Bayshore Hotel we all enjoyed a relaxing evening in preparation for tomorrows awaiting adventure of the Rocky Mountaineer Train to Banff.
Below is a picture of the Butchart Gardens.
Monday 13th September
Today is going to be the start of the stand out part of the whole trip, The Rocky Mountaineer Train, one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world. We all jump in taxis, that are pre-paid to make life nice and simple and we transfer from the delightful Westin Bayshore Hotel in the harbour of Vancouver to the Rocky Mountaineer Train Station. There are two travelling options for the train, REDleaf service and GOLDleaf service, for day one we are to travel in REDleaf and day two in GOLDleaf to gain exposure to both options. The check-in process is so straight forward, we are given our boarding passes and REDleaf pin badges and await our boarding time. Check in is from 7am through to 7.30 am, we board after hearing the whistle and 'All Aboard' cry at around 8.15. We are all so excited at the prospect of the journey and the sites to see along the way. We are shown to our comfortable seats and before we know it we are on our way. Breakfast is served soon after we have taken our seats, which was most substantial, however if more is required, or any additional refreshments you can just help yourself. And we're off the staff at the platform wave us away, Kamloops here we come!!!
We travel along the route very slowly and gently climbing higher this morning on our 285 mile journey from Vancouver to Kamloops, the scenery is initially quite flat and meadow like but approximately 2 hours into the journey we begin to increase the climb to more undulating and mountainous scenery. On board passengers are told to shout if any wildlife is seen, bears are the main target, alas we spend the whole day in vein looking without joy!! Regular refreshments are served throughout the morning with a running commentary of the key sites and history of the journey from our fabulous train attendant. A chilled lunch is served at 1.30pm, a choice of beef or turkey salad and a tipple of white wine is an option if required, probably best not as we don't want to be too sleepy in the afternoon with many sites to see!! The journey continues as we wind our way parallel to the Fraser River, stopping occasionally to let enormous 200 carriage freight trains pass us by as our need is to chillax and theirs is to get their goods to market. There is so much to see along the journey and the refreshments just keep coming, 5000 calories so far consumed and counting!! The journey is so relaxing, a little reading, lots of sight seeing and even fresh air as one regularly heads to the vestibules between carriages, what a way to cross British Columbia heading to the Rockies. The history of rail in Canada is most fascinating and there are several papers and magazines to read to hear the stories of the 150 year rail history, Rocky Mountaineer is relatively new, at 20 years of age, in comparison to the initial rail pioneers of this vast country. The exact train time is very fluid depending on the traffic on the line, ranging from an arrival time in Kamloops of 5pm to 7-8-9 pm but who cares, the longer the experience the greater feeling of relaxation.
The sun is setting on our day as we get close to Kamloops, we spot a few beavers swimming in the Lake, our last glimpse of the plethora of wildlife we have seen on the journey so far. Options in Kamloops range from the variety show 'Rhythm on the Rails' or a nice evening in one of the many restaurants in town, buy your tickets with C.N.A. in advance to save disappointment if you wish for a dinner show of hilarity and fun at just £50.00 per person. We disembark from our REDleaf carriage, saying goodbye to our fellow travellers and are quickly coached to our hotel. We split into two groups to experience the options for this evening for ourselves. Claire, Alistair and Jessica head straight to the dinner show - Rhythm On The Rails, as we are later than usual arriving into Kamloops, average arrival time usually 5.30pm, the trio head directly to the Theatre. Baggage for GOLDleaf passengers is transferred directly to your hotel, for REDLeaf passengers you need to take an overnight bag as your main luggage is not available overnight in Kamloops. Duncan and David are transferred directly to The Thompson Hotel, arguably the best in town, the rooms are well appointed but are quickly into the local bar The Noble Pig next door to the hotel, newly opened and serving locally brewed beer. They offer a number of beers, lagers, wines and a great menu to get stuck into and maybe take in the ball game on the many TV screens. The restaurant choices are many in Kamloops to satisfy any need but can certainly recommend the chicken wings and fries at The Noble Pig!! The intrepid trio arrive back at the hotel at 10.30pm following their evening at the show, reports from Claire, Alistair and Jess are mixed, the food was a buffet and of a good standard and the show was quite 'cheesy' but fun. The choice for future travellers is theirs, for those who wish to extend their train experience into the evening and take part in an organised event the variety show may be for you, for the slightly more adventurous the town awaits for you.
Early night in the very comfortable beds- 5.30am alarm call to ensure we are ready to be transferred at 6.15am on our coaches back to board the train and GOLDleaf service !
We are all aboard the Rocky Mountaineer below for one of the greatest train journeys in the world.
Tuesday 14th September
We awake bright and early, well maybe not so bright!! And its shower and dressed, grab a coffee in reception and jump on the coach. We arrive at the station and board our GOLDleaf domed coach WOW! We climb the spiral staircase to the top deck and take our seats in sheer luxury. The whole feel of the experience has just soared, REDleaf was fantastic, GOLDleaf so far is out of this world!! We start the morning by descending the spiral staircase for the first breakfast sitting, another wow moment as we sit in the restaurant section of the carriage to eat smoked salmon, eggs and caviar, one of 5 beautiful breakfast choices, what a way to start the day!! Following breakfast we take in the fresh air out on the vestibule, there is a chill in the air but we don't care, this is paradise!! At the rear of the carriage there is a sitting area which offers a very sociable setting to chat and take in the beautiful scenery, cameras click away furiously as new views come into sight. The journey is so relaxing and such a sociable way to travel allowing time to share your stories with fellow passengers as everyone has the combined aim of spotting as much wildlife as possible, unfortunately we still see no bears!! Lunch is next on the agenda, another fabulous menu , amazed at the quality of the food considering everything is freshly cooked on the train. Salmon seems the popular option which is appropriate as we watch so many swimming along the river to their spawning areas from the train. Lunch is complete and now time to relax for the last leg of the journey through the stunning 'Spiral Tunnels' a spectacular section of the journey, surrounded by the high peaks of the Rockies we climb at an unfeasible rate for such a vehicle thanks to the ingenious design of the track constructors. After a few gin and tonics we fast approach the end of our journey, Banff is just around the corner, what a shame we are not delayed today like yesterday, everyone would dearly love a few more hours in such luxury. For more details regarding the Rocky Mountaineer Train, its facilities and routes please speak to David or Alistair and we can ensure you make the right choice for your vacation. We reluctantly gather our belongings and say farewell to our new travelling friends and disembark our beautiful machine. The baggage is waiting for us and we are able to collect our hire car immediately from the train station, a huge 7 seater beast of an SUV and we are off on the next leg of our journey. Banff is a very compact town and we are soon at our next hotel The Fox Suites, the newest property in Banff with its own Spa facilities and full restaurant, an excellent location makes this a very popular hotel to stay in this warm and friendly town.
Quick turnaround and we are out to sample the evening in downtown Banff, we are looking for an authentic 'cowboy' bar and enter Wild Bills, a renowned local bar with live entertainment each night, we are 'fortunate' to have the final of their 'Idol' competition to watch as we tuck in to our local beers and food. The singing is pretty good, Simon Cowell should come to town to spot a new star, North Americans take Karaoke very seriously!!! Alas the competition ends and we make our way back to our well appointed one bedroom suites which are on two levels and so in keeping with the feel of the town.........off to Jasper tomorrow for the next leg of our adventure.
Life in the Goldleaf dome on the Rocky Mountaineer below... despite the faces they are happy...honestly!
Wednesday 15th September
After enjoying our complimentary breakfast at the Fox Hotel and Suites we set of for a site inspection of the impressive and extravagant Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. For those wanting to treat themselves to a luxury resort then this is the place to do it. After seeing a variety of the rooms they offer we would suggest upgrading to a Valley View room as the views are spectacular looking down the valley with snow capped mountains in the distance. Once we had finished our tour of the grand Scottish castle style property we passed through the main street in Banff to collect our GyPsy guide. It was simple to set up and is a fantastic addition to a holiday in this area with the guide providing detailed and informative commentary of the journey to Jasper as well as help with directions along the way. We then began our journey to Jasper, travelling along the scenic Icefields Parkway.
We began by taking the slightly longer scenic route to Lake Louise along the Bow Valley Parkway. After 45 minutes and several stops to admire the impressive scenery we arrived at Johnston Canyon where you can stop to admire the waterfalls here. A further 45 minutes later we arrived at the small town of Lake Louise, however we are saving our visit to the lake itself until tomorrow as we are returning there for our stay at the nearby Moraine Lake. Lake Louise is a small town but there are a few shops and restaurants and we took the opportunity to stop for a spot of lunch.
After replenishing our energy levels we continued our journey north towards Jasper stopping to view the impressive Hector Lake. It was a good job we were alert as shortly after leaving Hector Lake we spotted a black bear in the bushes close to the roadside. We were lucky to get some great views of such an impressive and elusive animal, which was quite happy to meander along the roadside for several minutes. It was an amazing experience and will be one of many highlights of our trip to the Canadian Rockies. We continued our journey and approximately an hour after leaving Lake Louise we arrived at Peyto Lake which is located 7000 feet above sea level. A short walk from the roadside was a viewing platform which overlooked Peyto Lake and what a view! The lake was an incredible turquoise colour and was set in a valley surrounded on all sounds by impressive snow capped mountains. A definite highlight of our journey along the Icefields Parkway. We continued our journey admiring the changing colour of the leaves which gave the base of the mountains a beautiful covering of yellow, green, orange and red colours. We all agreed that this added to the already impressive scenery and were surprised to see that the Fall colours were occurring about a month earlier than would be expected in New England or back home in the UK.
An hour after leaving Peyto Lake we arrived at the Athabasca Glacier located in the Columbia Icefields, an area comprising of numerous glaciers and ice fields. Here we took a tour onto the Athabasca Glacier on an Ice Explorer, a bus fitted with huge wheels allowing it to travel on the glacier. We were then able to get off the bus and spend some time exploring the glacier before the Ice Explorer brought us back to the Columbia Icefields Information Centre, the whole experience taking an hour and 45 minutes. It was another fantastic and unique experience on a day full of highlights. We then completed our journey to Jasper which took us an hour on the road from leaving the Athabasca Glacier. There are plenty of other places to see however as the weather was closing in we decided to head straight to Jasper, choosing to visit these places on our journey back to Lake Louise tomorrow.
We checked into the Sawridge Inn and after spending a few moments to reflect on our amazing day we headed into town for dinner at Evil Dave's. Evil Dave's however was not as evil as anticipated and was a relatively sedate restaurant offering decent food in the centre of the small community of Jasper. Once dessert was finished we caught a taxi back to the Sawridge Inn and off to bed before our journey back down the Icefields Parkway tomorrow.
Below is what we all hoped to see... and did as my picture shows!
Thursday 16th September
This morning we met up with the sales manager of the Sawridge Inn for a buffet breakfast and a tour of the hotel. This four star rated hotel is located at the end of the main road in Jasper. The hotel itself has a large atrium with a log burning fire in the centre which gave the hotel a welcoming and warming feeling. The rooms offered the option of either an inside atrium view or an outside balcony view, which were both clean and comfortable with restful beds which we all enjoyed.
After leaving the Sawridge Inn we then headed to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge which was about a 10 minute drive away from the main street of Jasper. This 600 acre property was originally built in 1918 with a variety of rustic lodges set upon the magnificent lake side and golf course.
The property has undertaking a $17 million renovation which will come to a end in this October. Cabins range from 2- 8 bedrooms in which we discovered that The Queen stayed in one of the signature cabins in 2005. As the lodge is set upon such a beautiful lake there are many outdoor activities on offer such as bike and canoe rentals, yet we were informed that these are all at an extra charge. This property boasts amazing opportunities to see wildlife in the area as we were learnt that grizzly bears roam around the golf course yet fortunate for us we did not come face to face with them!
After the hotel visit we departed back onto the Icefiled Parkway and headed to Moraine Lake. On route we stopped off at the Athabasca Falls which is a must to our clients. The boiling waters of the Athabasca River plunge into a chasm gorge out of the valley floor which offers many photo opportunities. As we reached the highest point of the parkway the heavens opened upon us and then quickly turned into snow. This soon settled upon the trees and the mountains which turned the scenery into a winter wonderland.
We arrived at the Moraine Lake Lodge greeted by a tranquil location set upon a spectacular turquoise lake at the base of the valley of 10 peak mountains. We met Mike the manager of the lodge who showed us our individual cabins in which we were excited to find our own log burning fires which we hastily lit. Having had a hectic few days we had time to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings as we were at one with nature with no television or phones in our rooms. Once we spent the afternoon relaxing in our cabin we strolled over to the fine dining restaurant and tried our taste buds on some of the local cuisine including venison which was amazing. After a mouth watering meal we all retreated back to our cabins with the snow still falling descending into a deep sleep as our open fires glowed and crackled.
Friday 17th September
Today we had a selection of hotel visits set up in the area of Lake Louise and nearby Field which helps us gain the personal experience to recommend, or otherwise, each property.
The first was the Deer Lodge in Lake Louise where we met up with Wendy who showed us around. The highlights of the lodge was the rooftop hot tub which overlooked the Victoria Glacier in the mountains and their rocky mountain cuisine in their restaurant. If you were to stay here we would suggest staying in the lodge superior room or upgrading to the heritage room which are both larger than the small and cosy standard lodge rooms
We moved on to the extravagant Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and met up with Nick Farrell. This historic landmark hotel also draws in a lot of tourists who have chosen not to stay in the hotel as the view over the lake is outstanding.
The hotel originally started off as one log Cabin in 1890 and now stands as a Grand Hotel boasting lake and mountain views with many original touches still remaining in and around the hotel. We would recommend to upgrade to the lake view rooms as the view is certainly one in a million and so mesmerising, what a way to start your day?
Our next stop was the Lake Louise Inn which is a moderate standard hotel yet offers a few nice little touches such as a kitchenette in the rooms perfect for families, a tea cottage and a man made ice rink in the winter. We would suggest booking a superior room and not the economy room as these are a lot smaller but ok for a client on a tight budget.
After our time in Lake Louise we departed up the road to Field passing through the Kicking Horse Pass and the spiral tunnels which are built in the mountains for trains to incline up the hills. If your lucky with your timing you may catch a train passing through. This crossed us over the border back into British Columbia into Yoho National Park as we arrived half an hour later at the Cathedral Mountain Lodge. This lodge has more of a modern individual cabin feel which is ideal for families with some cabins including a loft area to keep the kids quiet!!!!
Many people would stay here if they loved their hikes with the option of hiking up to Takkaka Falls above into the mountains. However we chose the easier option of driving to the falls and stopped off for a great photo opportunity of the second highest waterfall in Canada.
On our route up we stumbled across a small group of elk with huge antlers climbing across the hill and crossed our roadway in front of us. This was a great surprise as we turned the corner, a word of warning however do not approach this very mean beast especially in the rutting season as they do not take prisoners!!
We reached Emerald Lake Lodge which we all had high expectations of and which were more than exceeded. To keep in with the tranquil setting of the lodge all guests are required to leave their car in a secure car park at the bottom of the hill and then a shuttle bus will collect you to take you to the lodge.
The lodge sits on a 13 acre peninsula overlooking the glorious lake. Originally built in 1902 by the Canadian Pacific Railway it has been completely restored into 24 chalet style buildings all with a wood burning fireplace and a private balcony. When booking a room request a lake view it is a must as the view is one of the most breathtaking sights you will ever see.
The outdoor fire pit and hot tub overlooking the lake give the opportunity to sit under the stars at night offering a romantic setting for couples. This truly is a top notch lodge!
Our hotel visits were completed for the day so we headed back to Moraine Lake Lodge and took advantage of the complimentary canoe rentals for all guests to take out on the lake which we all enjoyed. Duncan even spotted some trout swimming around which we later found that the chefs would cook for your dinner if you caught one. As we were right under the mountain side in the canoes we could just feel how extravagant and high the mountains were!
We later had dinner again at the lodge which was once again first class and moved upstairs to the library in which a talk was taking place especially for the hotel guests about the cycle of a bears yearly life leading up to hibernation in the winter. This was presented by a local bear expert who purveyed an array of interesting facts of grizzly and black bears. After an hours interactive talk we all headed back for our last night in this beautiful location, light the fire and drift away dreaming of those mountain views.
Saturday 18th September
This morning we awake to a mist over the mountains and the lake but blue sky is peeping through!!
Breakfast time at the Moraine Lake Lodge, which is included for all guests, and is once again excellent with an array of hot and cold options and lashings of coffee and juices.
Sadly it is time to leave this oasis of peacefulness, the fire is out, the case is packed and off back to Banff we all go for three hotel visits this morning.
As we travel towards Banff the mist and fog begin to lift and we drive into Banff in bright sunshine and blue skies, with amazing views of this most picturesque of Rockies towns.
We arrive at our hotel after a 50 minute drive and meet with the Front Desk manager of the Banff Caribou Lodge where we are to stay for the night and commence our hotel inspection.
The hotel is the sister property of the Fox Suites where we stayed on our initial visit to Banff a few days ago and offers a fabulous Spa to relax in which is free for all guests, and has many treatments which can be pre-booked at a very reasonable cost.
The hotel rooms are very spacious and half the rooms have been recently renovated with the remainder being completed ready for the 2011 summer season.
The Caribou Lodge has a bar and restaurant renowned for some of the best steaks in Banff, we will be back for lunch a little later to sample a few dishes!!
We walk a few doors down back to the Fox Suites Hotel where we stayed and have a full inspection of the facilities, again they offer a Spa which is like a grotto underground very peaceful.
The rooms are well appointed especially the one bedroom suites we stayed on Tuesday night, the cost differential for the one bedroom suites is not too high in comparison to the standard rooms and offers twice the amount of space.
Both hotels are great options to stay in Banff and free car parking is available to all hotel guests, they are just a 5 minute walk from the shops and bars a walk in which you are likely to see deer in the hotel gardens en route as we did on each occasion we walked into town.
The next hotel on the agenda was The Spruce Grove Inn which is a lower grade/cost option for Banff, rooms are very nice however with all the facilities you need, the hotel does not offer any other facilities but is twinned with the hotel next door, The Voyager Inn, which is a lower cost option but does give you access to its outdoor pool, shops, restaurant and bar.
Banff offers so many options for all budgets and tastes along with a town bursting with shops, restaurants and bars as well as many many places of interest to keep you busy within a very short distance.
Following lunch at The Caribou we drive to the base of Sulphur Mountain for our gondola ride to the top of the mountain, the ride is included in our ?Ultimate Canadian Rockies? itinerary and ?Western Canada Circle? itinerary and is a must do for anyone visiting Banff.
You rise 3000 feet to the peak at 7500 feet in eight minutes in the four person gondolas. The views from the top are breathtaking, the cameras took a pounding with shots from every angle as well as during the journey up and down the mountain.
The Fairmont Banff Springs and her golf course stand majestically below, from this viewpoint you really can get an even better understanding of the vast size of this stunning property.
A couple of us take part in a little gym work and a much deserved Jacuzzi in the hotel spa, before we all head out for dinner.
We call in to ?The Rose and Crown? for a swift pint before dinner at the ?The Maple Leaf? restaurant, one of the best in Banff, the aim for several of us is to taste a Bison steak! And we are not disappointed as the menu is full of mouth watering options including Elk and the promised Bison.
Main courses cost from $20-$45 dollars which is fabulous value for the atmosphere and quality food served in this beautiful restaurant.
Dinner over we head back to the ?Rose and Crown? for a night cap and its back to the Caribou to sample a proper bed for the last time on the trip!!
Sunday 19th September
We awake to heavy rain and a gloomy look to the town, so much different to the bright sunshine of yesterday.
Breakfast is not included in the rate at The Caribou Lodge but they offer either a buffet option $13.95 with many options both hot and cold or you may choose from the breakfast a la carte menu.
Both options were sampled by the team and there were certainly no complaints.
This morning we are to embark on a tour of Banff and the surrounding areas, guided by the amazing GyPsy GPS Guide we mentioned in our blog earlier in the week.
The tour of Banff takes you through 16 must see points of interest in and around the town with options to take in many walks and of course stunning views from every angle, we certainly recommend that everyone take the tour which is made so interesting by the ever informative GyPsy GPS Guide.
Unfortunately the rain inhibits our ability to take part in the many walks on offer but it is a great way to spend a morning in the area.
The British Airways flight does not depart until 21.30 this evening and we therefore take the opportunity to check out what the shopping facilities are like along the Banff Avenue.
Shops are aplenty with every item you require available, some credit cards are hit hard!!
And now our final journey to Calgary Airport, just a 90 minute drive from Banff and our last chance to hear a few more stories and interesting facts from our ever useful GyPsy GPS system, it is truly akin to having a personal guide sitting in the car.
Quick tour of Calgary again guided by GyPsy and to the airport, all the car hire drop off points are adjacent to the terminal making the process of returning the car most painless, we say goodbye to our huge Chevrolet Suburban, a must for parties of 5 to 7 passengers as luggage space is excellent along with the three rows of seats.
Calgary Airport is one of the better North American departure points for facilities with many options for food, refreshments and duty free goods.
The flight is on time and we board our Boeing 777 aircraft back to dear old blighty with so many memories and more importantly all fully armed with information to share with our clients and to help enhance and grow our product range.
Western Canada has proven to be a magical place, so much to see and do backed up by some of the most stunning scenery on the planet???if you haven?t been yet, make it your next holiday, give us a call and we can realise your dreams for next year?s adventure - just pick up the phone and dial 0115 9610590 for more information, Alistair or David will be delighted to assist you to create your perfect package.
Thank you for reading our story, we look forward to taking your call!