Canada Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report Long-overdue Trip report for Ontario, Albert and British Columbia.

Jump to last reply

Firstly, I apologise to all those lovely people who gave me such useful assistance while I was planning this probably-once-in-a-lifetime trip to Canada that I have taken so long to report back. When we returned I had school reports to write, a classroom to sort out and pack up as I retired from teaching, and am now in the throes of sorting out and packing up our house to move to Hawke’s Bay! However, my conscience has got the better of me so here goes.

I LOVE CANADA. A funny little story to start with. A great-uncle, his wife and small son emigrated from England to Brantford in about 1910. He was a regular correspondent with my grandparents and my mum. When my mum was 19 Ernest invited her to visit them in Brantford with a view to working there. After much consideration my mother regretfully declined (she had met my dad by then) and remained here in New Zealand. If she had gone I would be Canadian!!

We flew from London into Toronto on 19 September, where we were met by our good friend, Lee, aka Kodi whom many of you will remember. What a wonderful tour guide she was, and nothing was too difficult for her. Lee drove us to Brantford where we stayed at The Best Western Hotel. Comfortable hotel, lovely large studio room with the living area separated from the bedroom area by a wall in the middle of the room. We had breakfast and dinner at the hotel both days, which were enjoyable.

So why did we go to Brantford? I wanted to find the grave sites for my uncle and aunt and their daughter and her husband. I did, thanks to the lovely helpful lady at the Mt Hope Cemetery’s office. I wanted to see the place where they lived and worked. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because for some inexplicable reason I didn’t have that information with me.
Lee picked us up from the hotel and we went to the cemetery (where I saw my first Canadian squirrel!), drove round the streets of Brantford looking at the different architecture before driving to St Paul’s, Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks. This is a beautiful, well-maintained small chapel with beautiful stained glass windows from England. It is the first Protestant church in Ontario, erected by King George III in 1785.
http://mohawkchapel.ca/html/history-of-mohawk-chapel.shtml

A quick drive through around the Woodland Cultural Centre for a look at the old buildings, erected in 1904, and then it was to the nearest Tim Hortons for our first-ever experience. Very pleasant although I found the hot chocolate rather sweet for me. However, that didn’t stop me indulging another couple of times in different cities!

Next stop was the Canadian Military Heritage Museum as we noticed it on our drive around Brantford. We were very impressed with the amount of information and exhibits displayed. It was a spur-of-the-moment visit, and I would recommend it if you have time.
http://www.cmhmhq.ca/

The next day we were heading to Burlington but first paid a visit to Alexander Graham Bell’s house and the First Telephone Business Office museum next door. What a lot of interesting history displayed in both buildings. Again, if you are in the area I urge you to visit these historic buildings. And if you are peckish or dry I recommend The Homestead Café next door. We had a delicious lunch here, with great tea and coffee, and accompanied by plenty of smiles and friendliness from the lovely lady who served us.
http://www.bellhomestead.ca/Pages/default.aspx

(To be continued)

  • Report Abuse

    I'm glad you enjoyed your tour of Brantford. I have never seen Brantford mentioned in a trip report. I grew up near the Bell Homestead and used to work there in summers while I was in University.
    Love Timmies . It was our first stop after we crossed the border back into Canada, after our recent trip. Couldn't wait to get a decent cup of tea.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi, outdoor1. Thank you for reading the start of my report. If I had realised just what there was to see and do in Brantford I would have planned another day there.
    As to Timmies, my DH also enjoyed their tea and their coffee while I enjoyed the HC and coffee. I found the paninis were not like paninis we have here in NZ, but delicious nonetheless.

  • Report Abuse

    Part 2 of Ontario.

    Burlington was our next stop, this time for a few days. We were booked into the Waterfront Hotel on Lakefront Road. This hotel had been recommended, and seemed to be an ideal spot. Large room on the corner of the building looking over the water and the “boardwalk”. Clean, comfortable but very tired. We found the staff to be rather less than forthcoming when we greeted them each morning and evening, which created the impression of unfriendliness.

    Burlington is a city of approximately 170 000 people. We found those people we met when out and about were very friendly and helpful. Lee drove us around the suburbs in the vicinity of the hotel when we arrived, and we saw some beautiful homes, and lots of well-established leafy green trees. It struck me as a place I would be very happy to live in.

    http://cms.burlington.ca/

    First on our learning about / sightseeing plan was the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. My DH was really keen to visit this museum although I wasn’t, but at the end of the visit I was so pleased we had. This museum is so well set out. Information boards contained just the main points, were well-written, and unobtrusively displayed. Items on display were also well-labelled. I was interested to read about New Zealand pilots being trained in Canada during WWII, more so when talking to my uncle who was one of them! We watched the Lancaster take off and land which was thrilling. The restoration of the recovered planes is excellent. Definitely worth a visit, even if, like me, you are not normally an avid museum visitor.

    http://www.warplane.com/

    The Crawford Lake Conservation area seemed a good contrast to the museum. In this area there is a reconstructed Iriquoian Village which we found interesting. There is a palisade around the site, and within the village are 3 longhouses – one complete, and two in stages of building. Notice boards placed around give you some information about the village. The rest of the conservation area consists of the lake, several walking trails, and an informative Visitors Centre. I bought a pair of turtle earrings here, which I wear often and have had many compliments about.

    Our main interest was a walk around the lake, which we all enjoyed. It is not a long walk but there are some interesting spots around the lake. We saw a snapping turtle at one area where there was a viewing platform, and some incredible rock and stone formations that look man-made but would appear not to be. There are several well-written information boards around the lake at points of interest. It is a meromictic lake meaning its basin is deeper than the surface area. The Crawford family bought 100 acres around the lake in 1883, building a lumber mill and a house. Near the start / end of the track are the remains of the Crawford Family house porch. I took some interesting photos, especially stunning reflections.

    http://www.conservationhalton.ca/crawford-lake

    Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake have beckoned for some years so of course being in the area a visit here was automatic. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a beautiful town, well-maintained, and with many little garden plots adding beauty and interest to the streets. Again, many trees around the streets. We decided to have lunch here, and so Lee headed for the Niagara Golf and Country Club. It was intriguing to be sitting opposite Old Fort Niagara, which to me seemed very close and yet was in another country. Very pleasant setting and the food was very delicious. We had a quick stroll amongst the starting point of the golf course where the trolleys and carts were, and then to Niagara Falls.

    https://www.niagaraonthelake.com/

    Now, before proceeding I must advise that we have been to, and stayed at, Iguazu Falls on the borders of Argentina and Brazil, and I knew the Niagara Falls were much smaller. However, I found the Falls well worth a visit. I guess the trick is not to compare the two Falls but to treat and assess them individually. We drove through the town first of all, taking lots of photos of the dinosaurs for our young grandson, and deciding it was a pretty hectic place to be. Lee dropped us near the Falls complex, and off we wandered.
    At Niagara the Canadian falls are obviously more impressive than the American but that could be that we were there in late September when I figure the water flow may not be as great as at other times of the year. I was intrigued that both falls are basically side by side. There were lots of rainbows spotted here, of course, often two at a time. Interesting that the barge that foundered some years ago just beyond the falls is still sitting there where it came to a standstill.

    http://niagarafallstourism.com/

    An extra bonus on the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake was visiting Lock 3 of the Welland Canal. This is part of the waterways between Lakes Eerie and Ontario to avoid the Niagara Falls. We were so lucky to see two vessels go through, one very large boat, the Algoma Progress, that took up most of the lock, and the John J Carrick (barge)which was ably assisted by the Victorious (tug) forming an articulated tug barge. (I hope that’s right!) It was pure luck that we were having a look through the museum when we heard the ATB was about to go into the lock. The museum contained many interesting items, and as with most museums we visited, while many exhibits were not relevant to us, they built up an informative picture of Canada and her people.

    http://www.stcatharines.ca/en/St-Catharines-Museum.asp

    Our final day in Ontario was spent in Toronto. It was a leisurely later-than-the-other-days start to the day, and followed that vein for the rest of the day. We drove around with Lee pointing out the sights – The Hockey Hall of Fame, the Rogers Centre and the magnificent buildings of the University to name but a few. We parked and wandered around the centre of town, and then headed back to Burlington where DH and I continued the wandering bug around the waterfront and boardwalk by the hotel and the lower part of the city.
    It was a relaxing finish to a wonderful 6 days in Ontario. We enjoyed visiting places we had only ever heard of, absorbing the area, being introduced to Tim Horton’s, and most of all renewing our friendship with Lee.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks for this report. New Zealand is a long way; I'm glad you decided to bite the long-plane-rides-bullet and come!

    I live in Montreal and you tempt me to stray outside the only spots in Ontario where I've spent the night so far(Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, Niagara Falls).

  • Report Abuse

    Next instalment

    ALBERTA
    An early start this morning to catch the 10:00am Air Canada flight to Calgary. This was our second flight with Air Canada, London to Toronto being our first. The hostesses were helpful and cheerful on both flights, making this nervous flyer feel more at ease.

    Once we had checked into the Sandman Hotel City Centre, we went walking. As we only had this afternoon and early next morning to explore I had tried online to book a tour that would take in the Stampede grounds and the Winter Olympic Park, or a walking tour of the city but it was too late / too early in the year for such tours. Maybe something for the Visitors Centre to pursue.

    One place I needed to go was to the Calgary Tower. As a person who has a fear of heights and is mildly claustrophobic, in the three months we were travelling I had managed to accomplish a number of activities that pushed out my comfort zone in this area. I had decided before arriving in Calgary, the Tower was another place to overcome. I was agitated going up in the lift, but the view and experience were worth it. I even stepped on the glass floor by the window city-side to take a photo below! From up there we could see the Stampede grounds, a few mountains with snow atop, and generally enjoy the view of the city.

    http://www.calgarytower.com/

    Where to next? As we came out of the tower building we walked past the interesting full-size horse standing on the corner of Centre St and Stephen Ave. This horse is made of old metal bits, many of which seemed to be parts of discarded farm implements. It is impressive, and has a gentle expression on its face (if an inanimate object can have such!) We decided to wander along Stephen Avenue (purely because our son is called Stephen!). My DH was pleased to see the Imperial Bank of Canada as he used to deal with them in his former life as a banker. I was equally pleased to see a name I had often heard and read about in my younger days – The Hudson’s Bay Company. I like the concept of a pedestrian street – we have one in our city – where you can leisurely stroll and spend time looking at buildings or whatever else takes your fancy. As a tourist we appreciated the occasional information stands telling us about the buildings, the builders, celebrations, etc. There are some interesting additions to the street e.g. The Conversation statue, a very whimsical piece, and a large concrete ball – not sure what that was about but it was a foot-stopper!
    Cash was something we needed, and eventually found a bank that was open and could help us. We walked through the bank to a shopping arcade, had a look around and then back into Stephen Ave. Next stop was the Devonian Gardens, a huge indoor garden at the top of the Core Shopping Centre. This is a great display of palms and other tropical plants, and water features including a fountain. While we wandered around there was a young lad fiddling around on the piano. Although I didn’t know the pieces he was playing I formed the impression he certainly knew his way around a piano.
    Not sure what the arty constructions around the Core Shopping Centre are but they create a discussion point.

    As everywhere was beginning to close we headed back to the hotel, where we made a booking for dinner. Our meals were delicious, and cooked beautifully. Service was a little slow but there was quite a large group and it was warm in the restaurant so we were happy to sit and people-watch.

    Next morning we were out and about early to finish exploring the inner city area before 10:00 am. We jumped on one of the light-rail vehicles and travelled for a couple of stops. What a smooth way to travel. In a little corner park I spotted some more squirrels – well a couple of them – having the time of their lives. We saw several interesting statues / memorials, as well as a display of several over-tall statues called Family of Man on the old Board of Education site at 555 Macleod Trail. Intriguing. A quick walk took us back to the hotel in time to check out, and get our luggage out to wait for the next exciting stage of our journey to begin.

    (Perhaps a quick recap is necessary here. For many, many years I have wanted to visit Banff, thanks to the uncle who emigrated to Brantford. He used to send pictures and calendars to my parents, which piqued my interest in the beautiful mountains around the town of Banff. Since my DH and I were going to be spending our Big O(verseas) E(xperience) travelling in Europe I thought “What the heck, we might as well visit Canada too!” The hardest part of the planning was deciding where, apart from Brantford, Burlington and Banff, and for how long. )

    On time, at 10:35, we were collected by the Brewsters coach for the drive to Jasper, 8 hours away. We drove to the airport to collect some passengers and then we were on our way along the Deerfoot Trail. Oh, it was a great drive, and once we met the mountains I was like a child again, over-awed by the constancy and size of these huge, snow-covered landmarks. A short stop in Banff gave us the chance to have a quick view of the town – and a quick snack and drink at Timmie’s. Back on board we carried on to Jasper via Lake Louise, past the Columbia Icefield, and arriving at the Tonquin Inn at 18:30.
    We had booked a king standard room for 2 nights, and were very happy with our choice. It is always a risk when booking online, site unseen, but this room was great. Very comfortable bed, full kitchen, comfortable chairs and soothing shower. Okay, it was at the far end of the town but it doesn’t take long to walk there, and the surroundings were quiet. Dinner at the inn’s restaurant was enjoyed, good service and tasty meals.

    Next morning was fine with a hint of a cool breeze. The Sundog Tour Co bus arrived to collect us for our trip to Lake Maligne. Wow! Our driver, Sean, was a real gem. He had so much information at his fingertips for a young man (rapidly written down in my trip notebook), and was so patient with those of us who just had to get a photo of that blade of grass over there! I would definitely recommend this tour. It covers quite a bit of interesting land, and at the right time of year you will see wild animals such as grizzlies, black bear, and maybe some caribou. Unfortunately we were there 27 September so not many animals around. However we did see an elk sitting down with his antlers standing well above the grass, a couple of mule deer, and a pika. What an interesting little creature this was.

    http://sundogtours.com/package/maligne-valley-sightseeing-and-boat-cruise/

    Just prior to arriving at the lake, we were under attack from snowflakes! Very exciting for someone from Wellington, NZ who has not had much to do with snow in all her 60+ years! Luck was with us, and the cruise of Lake Maligne was still on. I found this a very pleasant and relaxing trip across the lake to Spirit Island, snow and all. The girls driving the boat were also very informative about their area (and added to my trip notes, too). We had a few minutes to explore the area around the coast, and then it was back across the lake to the Maligne Lake Chalet and some very welcome warming lunch. And so back to Jasper.

    http://www.malignelake.com/

    We asked to be dropped in the township so we could explore. After a stroll and look around the mainly- souvenir shops, we headed out to Connaught Terrace to walk back to the motel. First, though, a deviation to the railyards. Before we knew it we were counting the wagons – yes, truly! 200 wagons on one of the trains, pulled by a couple of engines. Most of our trains these days would be lucky to have more than 30 wagons, so this was quite staggering. Lots of useful information is found on Connaught, to help develop knowledge and understanding of Jasper.
    Another enjoyable dinner at the motel’s restaurant, packing the cases and a good night’s sleep to follow.

    http://www.jasper.travel/

  • Report Abuse

    On Saturday 28 September our pick-up time of 8:10am with Brewsters saw us ready and waiting for departure to Banff. Although we were travelling the same route as two days earlier this trip was laced with points-of-interest stops, thus allowing us to explore a little more of this stunning country. We learned that 30 freight trains go through Jasper each day plus passenger trains VIA Rail and The Rocky Mountaineer, although the latter only goes April to October.

    The first stop was at the Athabasca Falls. We had seen photos friends took a year before so had some idea of what to expect. However, the noise of the water flow and the depth was something to behold. The rock structures around the falls’ area are as if man-made – flat, thin rocks piled up to create layers. It’s a pleasant, easy walk through the park with many native trees, bridges over deep channels, and lots of information boards. And I saw yet another squirrel!

    We made a short stop at Sunwapta Falls, primarily for a hot drink and comfort stop. The store / restaurant sells some local souvenirs which some of us perused. There was a rather large model of a brown bear wearing an RCMP uniform, something we saw in several spots.

    We continued south past beautiful snow-covered mountains, icy-looking rivers, tall trees (just as I remembered from pictures seen when a girl), and the construction site of the new glacier skywalk. I don’t think I’ll be lining up to experience that walk, although DH thought it would be excellent!

    The Columbia Icefields was next on the agenda, and in particular a trip onto the Athabasca Glacier. As the weather was pretty cold I bought a cheap pull-on hat, hats being something I tolerate when necessary. I was very grateful to that hat! We transferred to a Brewsters ice bus, and began the journey onto the glacier. It was sooooo cold up there, and the wind was whistling around. The ground’s surface was quite slippery, too, so we needed to be careful. All in all, it was an amazing 20 minute experience.

    http://www.canadianrockies.net/john-andrew-mckiernan/cold-hard-facts-about-the-icefields-parkway-and-athabasca-glacier.html

    Back at the centre we had some lunch – help-yourself buffet, reboarded the bus and carried on down towards Banff. We went over the Sunwapta Pass, which seemed a long way from the Sunwapta Falls, and then the Bow Summit Pass.

    Next stop was at Peyto Lake. Here there was evidence on the fir trees of recent snow falling – they looked so picturesque. The lake is glacial, appears to be reasonably small, and surrounded for the most part by fir trees, while the glacier itself has diminished in size over many, many years. There are a couple of trails to follow if you have time, one going through the forests and glades, and the other going to the land above the trees.

    Bow Lake is on the roadside, so we pulled in and had a quick look at this lake which is also glacial with a magnificent backdrop of interestingly shaped mountains.

    Lake Louise was the last stop before Banff.
    Lake Louise is reputed to be the most photographed lake in Canada, and the second attraction to Niagara Falls. We had time to have a look around the hotel and down by the lake before it was back on the bus minus some travellers but in their place some new travellers.

    http://www.banfflakelouise.com/

    Down the highway still beside the vast Canadian Rockies we went. We drove under the specially-created wild-life crossings, and shortly we were in Banff.

    (to be continued in a few days)

  • Report Abuse

    Hi, panecott.

    Thank you. You are so lucky to be going to Alberta - I really enjoyed our time in this area (and all other places we visited too!) I will be adding Banff tomorrow - I have been away for the last few days, so time now to knuckle down and complete my report.

  • Report Abuse

    Ah, Banff.
    We arrived late in the afternoon and were dropped off at our accommodation., Hidden Ridge Resort on Hidden Ridge Way. This resort is tucked on a plateau up above the Banff township, not really close to town but served by a good and regular bus-service, for which the hotel gives travel passes (well they did when we were there.) We had booked a Queen Condo, giving us a separate bedroom with a very, very comfy bed, a full kitchen complete with dishwasher, and a comfortable lounge area all in one room. There was a little patio area, too, but the weather was not terribly conducive to sitting out there. There is a hot pool situated by the office area, plus laundry under the office. All the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful. We would definitely stay here again if we returned.

    http://www.banffhiddenridge.com/rooms/one-bedroom-condo

    One point about the hotel surprised me – there was no restaurant or café attached to the hotel, nor a shop selling food items. Luckily, just a short stroll away there was a small grocery store with most of what we needed to cook dinner. We were served by a girl from New Zealand, on her OE, and enjoying her time in Banff!

    Online I had booked three tours through the Discover Banff website - Discover Banff and its Wildlife, a 3-hour trip; Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, also a 3-hour trip; and what was supposed to be a 3-hour personal tour locating local wildlife. More about that later.

    http://www.banfftours.com/

    Cameras charged and notebook ready, we were at the front of the hotel at 8:30am on 29 September when our guide Olly was to collect us. This tour took us for a quick walk to the Banff Springs Hotel to view the mountains and the Bow Valley before heading to the Bow Falls. The setting for the falls is quite pretty yet rugged with rocky outcrops topped with firs going down to the river, which is tree-lined, and snow-capped mountains where the river disappears from sight. Next stop was the Cascade Gardens. These are lovely, but then I do enjoy gardening. The back of the section is terraced with further plants and some interesting pavilions some made of stones and others of timber. There’s even a small pond, and yet another squirrel! From the front of the gardens there is an amazing view looking right down the main road of Banff and Rundle Mountain.

    From here we drove past the Banff Museum (definitely more about that later) while Olly told us some interesting information about Banff.
    • All streets are named after animals in the Banff National Park
    • Tunnel Mountain has no tunnel. Railway organisers named it so, planning to put tunnel through but found it easier to go round!
    • Banff used to be called Siding 29
    • Tunnel Mountain Drive is closed in winter to allow wildlife to roam free to forage for food – mainly wolves, cougars, deer

    From there it was a short drive to the observation point in Buffalo Road, overlooking the Bow River. There is a great view of the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel from here, as well as interesting information boards about the development of the park and the area.
    A few minutes’ drive up Tunnel Mountain Drive took us to The Hoodoos. They are pillars of glacial matter with Rundle Mountain behind them and the Bow River below. Intriguing and interesting. Again, beautiful scenery surrounding The Hoodoos – snowy mountains, meandering river, Douglas Firs. Pika, elks and bears are some of the inhabitants of this area.
    Bankhead was the next stop. This used to be a mining settlement, producing coal. At its height, Bankhead was bigger than Banff! Unfortunately, the mines were closed about 1922, and people moved to Banff, causing the town to disappear.

    The last stop of our discovering Banff tour was at Lake Minnewanka. This lake has been artificially raised twice, burying the old village at Minnewanka Landing, and the old dam. Again, this is a setting not unlike that of the Bow Falls River – rocky fir-topped outcrops, and snow-capped mountains.
    While this tour was called Discover Banff and its Wildlife, unfortunately we were in Banff at the wrong end of the year, when most animals are about to hibernate, have moved higher up the mountains, or are just not venturing onto the open spaces. We were disappointed but that’s the luck of the draw.
    It was back to the hotel for a quick lunch, a rest, and then back out front to be picked up for the Lakes tour.
    Again, Olly was our guide. He headed for Lake Louise first, sharing further information about the area we were travelling through.

    We went under some of the overpass wildlife crossings but didn’t see any animals using them. The overpasses are not cheap to build but allow the animals to move around freely without being maimed or killed. The scenery was still stunning – high, jagged mountain tops and peaks, some snow-covered, some just bare rock, straight, tall green firs, and beautiful glacial rivers. Even though this was the third time we had travelled this piece of highway it was like seeing it for the first time.

    Lake Louise is a glacial lake, fed by the Victoria Glacier which is over 200 metres thick! It is probably the most photographed lake in Canada I think, because it has such a beautiful setting – high snow-topped mountains with green firs covering the lower slopes forming the banks of the lake. This time it was fine weather, and so many people were out enjoying the walking paths, and the kayaking, or just soaking up the atmosphere.

    www.banfflakelouise.com/

    As we were driving towards Moraine Lake Olly warned us the road may be closed as there were only a couple of days until the closing date for the area. However, we were lucky. The snow had not yet arrived.

    The lake is another example of the beautiful lakes in the Banff National Park. I think the lake is fed by the Wenkchemna Glacier (found it very difficult to find this out), and it has that lovely glacial blue colour. There is a rockpile made of debris left by the glacier, which is a walking trail with amazing views of the lake and surrounds. As I wasn’t able to make the gentle climb I am going by my DH’s photos from up there! Oh, the people who live and work in this area are so spoilt with their stunning surroundings. (I guess they are probably so busy they don’t have time to stop and admire the view.) The staff I spoke with were in the throes of getting ready for closure in two days. Once again, we were pleased to have been able to visit the lake.

    http://banffandbeyond.com/the-lake-with-the-twenty-dollar-view-moraine-lake/

    And so it was back to Banff and the comfort of our accommodation, and a visit from a curious squirrel!
    The next morning we were collected at 8:45 for our personal guided tour. Unfortunately it was damp, and as most animals were preparing for hibernation, our plan had to be changed. At first I thought it was going to be an expensive disaster but it turned out to be a very interesting morning. After a quick discussion about our interests and places we had already seen, we visited these places
    • Sulphur Springs, in the Cave and Basin Historic Site, which lead to Banff being established. This is an interesting spot, with plenty of information boards
    • Past the Bow Falls and onto the end of the road by the river
    • Through the golf club in an effort to locate at least some elk – signs of recently-damaged tree trunks but no animals. Different views of The Hoodoos from below this time. Beautiful grounds through here.
    • Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for the view over the Bow Valley, a walk around the exterior which lead to us looking inside the ballroom and conservatory, the croquet lawn, then inside the main entrance and the memorial gallery
    Although it doesn’t look as if we saw much, in fact we went over our three hours.

    We were dropped off in town so we could have a look around Banff. We had lunch at Subway first, then had our first proper look around the town. Lots of souvenir shops, a few cafes and surprisingly, several fudge and sweet shops. We finally located a supermarket where we could buy ingredients for dinner. (By this stage DH and I had been away for two and a half months, and Banff was the first opportunity for me to prepare dinner! We were on a 33-day tour of Europe, then staying with friends / family in England as well as hotels which did not have cooking facilities.)

    Next morning, Tuesday 1 October, we headed into Banff to start our exploration at the Banff Museum. Alas, it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Oh, well, tomorrow. The Whyte Museum was a place I had read about so we paid our entry fee and wandered around in here for well over an hour. As I said earlier, the names of people and places were generally not familiar to us but we still found the museum interesting. After we visited the Information Centre at the other end of the main street we basically spent the day wandering around the town, looking in shops, searching for Heritage markers. We thought we would follow the town Heritage trail as it would take us to different parts of Banff where we could learn about the Banff history. We were halfway through when the sun began to set. Oh well, finish tomorrow.

    We had an early morning visitor next morning. A young mule deer was around the hotel, looking a little lost. Fortunately his mum was not too far away, and they happily trotted off into the sunrise.

    Unfortunately, DH was not well, suffering with a heavy cold and cough, so we tootled into town to a pharmacy for some cough mixture, and then he went back to the hotel to bed. My first stop was the Banff Museum. I was really impressed with this museum – from the beautiful wooden building that is 103 years old to the well set out and labelled exhibits. The museum has one of every animal, bird, insect found in the Banff National Park, so I could see some of the animals I hoped to see but missed! Most definitely worth a visit, even if you just go in to look at the building.

    I carried on with the heritage tour which took me to all corners (almost) of Banff. There are several different heritage trails, all of which I would like to have done but did not have enough days. The brochure is called “Walking through Banff’s History”.

    For our final evening we had dinner at the St James’ Gate Old Irish Pub, where our hostess was a girl from New Zealand! We had quick chats about home during the evening when she wasn’t busy. Our meals were quick and delicious – Bangers and Mash for DH, and Liver and Onions for me. Not adventurous but we were in an Irish pub, and it just seemed right.

    Back at the hotel we repacked our cases, and made sure everything was ready for our early morning start on the next stage of our Canadian adventure.

    (to be continued)

  • Report Abuse

    Just some observations that occurred to me while re-reading my report.
    - sorry it is so long-winded. I do tend to want to include every minute detail!
    - we would like to have had at least two full days in Jasper, to enable us to do more exploring. The Jasper SkyTram experience and Maligne Valley / Canyon are two activities that spring to mind.
    - we didn't feel Banff was overcrowded but that could be because it was late September / early October when we were there.
    - we discussed going on the gondola up to Sulphur Mountain but when I was booking tours in January 2013 I had absolutely no intentions of going in a gondola firstly, and secondly going up that high, because of my discomfort at being up high in something swinging around with nothing below it. That was before we went to Hong Kong (the first leg of our 3-month trip) and I had to travel from the Big Buddha down to ground level in a gondola; before we had a visit to the Eagle's Nest in Germany, and before we travelled up Mt Pilatus in Lucerne in a cogwheel train, and back down in a small gondola. However, we thought about it again once we arrived in Banff, but as DH was really feeling miserable with the cold / cough we decided to forgo the pleasure. On the list for the next trip . . .
    - there are lots of places we could have gone if we had been prepared to drive on the right-hand / incorrect side of the road for us, but we did enjoy walking around Banff. It's a very easy town to walk in, and there's even a Timmies on the way around!
    - when / if we are fortunate enough to return to this area of Canada we would probably go in August when we would hopefully see more wildlife.
    - and we would allow more time, especially now we know what else is offered in each area, and because we are now both retired. :)

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks, panecott. I hope you have a wonderful time.


    Overnight, the snow fairies visited Banff and left about 2 centimetres of snow around the hotel. What a magical way to be farewelled by Banff. :)

    It was an early start as we needed to be down at the Railway Station by 8:00 am. We combined travelling through the Rockies with an interest in trains, and came up with The Rocky Mountaineer. (I told our travel agent to book SilverLeaf class and she wasn’t to tell me the cost in NZD, as I knew the cost in CAD, and it sounded better!)
    Once checked in we went through the lounge area to the platform to watch for the train. Standing on the platform was a Royal Mounted Canadian Policeman in full uniform! And he was happy to have his photo taken by and with passengers. Another item marked off the bucket list. :)
    It was a really buzzing place to be, with many travellers chatting amongst themselves and with the lovely station staff, while patiently waiting for the running-late train to arrive. Once the train was at the platform we boarded our carriage, found our seats, sat back and waited for the journey to unfold its scenery. We were welcomed aboard by our hosts, and once the train was on its way we were served breakfast.

    I am not going to bore you with a mountain-by-river-by-mountain commentary. This trip was a very relaxing way to see the country from mountains down to the plains, through the forests, and then along waterways, all the while being served hot breakfasts and lunches, and snacks and coffee / tea / non-alcoholic drinks. Extremely civilised. :)  Our hosts, Mandy and Johnny, were entertaining and informative. They pointed out the bald eagles and an osprey, the deserted osprey nests, along with important points of interest related to the history of the railway and the area we were passing through. The overnight stop at Kamloops was comfortable and quiet. We arrived there quite late, so were given a meal box.

    The next day was more of the same with a few additional extras. Still the same hosts, passengers with a few extras boarding at Kamloops, still the top quality meals and snacks. Different – big-horn sheep, white-tailed deer, salmon, the end of the train journey, and another city, Vancouver.

    Well worth indulging yourself by going on this trip if you like being looked after, seeing beautiful scenery, and enjoy travelling by train.

    (to be continued)

  • Report Abuse

    BRITISH COLUMBIA

    When we disembarked from the train, as we were travelling independently, we were shepherded into a queue for transport into the city. A taxi duly arrived, and within a short space of time, we were delivered to The Blue Horizon in Robson Street.

    Again, this hotel was recommended to us, and appeared to be ideally placed and comfortable. I was rather taken aback when asked to hand over my credit card, for them to earmark $CAD 200 to cover incidentals. I had already paid for our accommodation prior to leaving NZ. This is the first and only time in all our years of travelling that either of us has ever been asked to do this, and it rather threw me. However, I did understand it was security for the hotel, and calmed down.

    Our room was overlooking Robson Street, and down towards the Stanley Park area. It was a large room with very comfy beds (2 queen size beds), h-u-g-e wardrobes, a large desk, reasonable-size bathroom, and tea/coffee facilities. I particularly enjoyed having the use of a coffee filter machine – set it going as I went into the shower and hey presto! lovely, hot coffee waiting for me on my way out of the bathroom. In addition to the room we had a small private balcony which would be good to sit on in summer. (All rooms in the hotel are on a corner and have balconies.) We were very comfortable, and would stay here again should we return.

    Where to eat was the next problem, and quickly solved. Next door to the hotel is the Shenanigan’s Bar serving pub-style meals. A sound night’s sleep was welcome.

    Just before we left home I decided to book a day trip to Whistler after reading reports and must-do-and-see sites. We are not skiers, but one of the attractions for me was the fact that Whistler had been the base for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. I hoped to be able to visit the mountain, and in fact had made the decision during our travels through Canada to travel to the top of the mountain and do the Peak2Peak experience.

    Curses! It was drizzling when we were collected, and so confined our en route stops to the Squamish Adventure Centre and the Brandywine Falls. The Centre contains souvenirs, snacks and light meals, information brochures, booking office, and a beautiful deceased-but-taxidermied brown bear. The walk to the Brandywine Falls provided some fabulous trees-and-creeks etc photos to and from the Falls, and even a squirrel or two. :) The Falls drop 66 metres into a chasm, and the stream at the bottom disappears into the forest.

    Unfortunately, once we arrived in Whistler the weather had not improved. The mountain was covered in mist so that was the end of my Peak2Peak experience. Several of our group were interested in zip-lining, or going up the mountain, and were sure it would be better up the top. I wished we had believed that too, as the mist lifted, and they saw bears, one couple seeing a grizzly and 2 cubs, and the zip-liners a couple of brown bears! We wandered around the village, which we didn’t find terribly inspiring. It’s a great place if you are into winter sports and the appropriate clothing and equipment, and are hungry! I did find the Olympic memorial and enjoyed reading the information, and trying to soak up the atmosphere. Very impressed with the children’s play area.

    On our way back the weather began to improve, and we were able to make some stops. First at the Tantalus viewpoint aka Cultural Journey Kiosk. We had an amazing view of the mountains topped with snow, the valley and river below, and the bay which still had mist hanging around creating quite an ethereal picture.
    Shannon Falls was quite impressive at 335 metres, and the park area where we strolled was picturesque. Stopping at Porteau Cove restored our faith in the weather. The mist had disappeared, and the sun was casting its sunset across the other side of the bay.

    From there we headed up to Cypress Provincial Park, I think it was called, for the most amazing view across Howe Bay to Vancouver. It was quite magical for two reasons – the view and the sunset. What began as a disappointingly dismal day ended with a bright and cheerful evening.

    Capilano was on my must-do list, because my great-uncle had sent photos of the bridge and a totem pole! Also my SIL, who does not cope with heights, etc either, had walked across the bridge and my DB hoped I would be able to follow her example. We were lucky as our hotel was on the Free-to-Capilano HopOnHopOff bus, and so with excitement mixed with fear and trepidation we enjoyed the trip through Stanley Park and across the Lion’s Gate Bridge. It isn’t a long journey but a picturesque one.

    Capilano is a real touristy place, with lots of interesting exhibits to interest you on the way to the bridge. I suspect some of these are seasonal, such as the fabulous Hallowe’en displays. We spent some time looking at the varying-sized totem poles, then on to the bridge. I took a deep breath, and then, clinging tightly to the wire fence, walked across the bridge. It was a little scary when there was a slight swinging motion when about a third of the way across. But I made it, and even took several photos of the river below! On the other side there we joined a small group on a guided Rainforest Tour. That was after spending some time with a Douglas Fir squirrel. :) Next was the Treetops adventure, where you follow a route through a series of short suspension bridges (which are ergonomically attached to the trees, and checked every year for security and possible damage to the trees), learning about the flora and fauna as you go per courtesy of precise information boards. I didn’t find this part too bad.

    After a welcome cup of hot coffee, we re-crossed Capilano Bridge, and I was so brimming with confidence I didn’t need to hold on – except when some smart alecs decided it would be fun to bounce on the bridge. They were sternly told off by the observers. And then, while I still had the courage, we did the Cliff walk. That wasn’t at all scary, just interesting, and again lots of photos of above, below and eye-level points of interest. Between the cliff end and the shop is an informative and interesting walk. The shop contains the usual range of souvenirs plus beautiful fudge.

    As we arrived back at the hotel in the middle of the afternoon we went for a stroll around our neighbourhood, and down Robson Street.

    Next morning we were up early, small case packed, other cases in store for our return, and out the front of the hotel waiting for the bus to collect us for the trip to Vancouver Island. What an enjoyable trip from leaving Blue Horizon Hotel to arriving at Laurel Point Inn, and quick, too.

    Once checked in, we explored the area around the hotel before venturing around the waterfront. What a very busy place, and what a lot of history contained in this area in the form of plaques. We went as far as the Empress Hotel, then along the roadside to the hotel. From here we were able to watch the floatplanes landing and taking off, the cute little water taxis buzzing around, and larger vessels entering and leaving the port.

    Another early start to enable us to get the first bus out to Butchart Gardens, another item on my bucket list. I know there are other gardens around but my DB and SIL have visited many times, I have wanted to go for years, and so we decided to leave the others for next time. Being the start of October I was not sure that there would be much to see, but oh how wrong I was. There was so much colour, and the grounds were immaculate. I was intrigued to see a merry-go-round tucked away in one area, just ideal for young children. Many items of interest adorn the Gardens - a boar and some ponies made of bronze, an amazing water fountain, totem poles, statues, works of art, a water-wheel. I would love to have heard the pipe organ being played for two reasons – I learnt to play the pipe organ in my late teens, and we have had a pianola at home for over 40 years. We had an early lunch while waiting for the bus back to Victoria.
    It was still warm and sunny, so we just leisurely strolled around the harbour, the State Building, and up to the shopping area. There were many people out enjoying the warmth, and a few First Nations artists displaying and / or working on their crafts.

    And then it was time to collect our bags, and head around to the float-plane base. On AndrewDavid’s recommendation I booked flights back to Vancouver. Yes, it is not the cheapest way to get back but it is quicker, and a very different experience. I really enjoyed the flight (I am not a happy flier) and took lots of photos of the amazing scenes below us. Thank you, AndrewDavid. :)

    And now we had one more day in Vancouver and thus Canada. Which activity from the many we hadn’t yet done should we do? In the end we returned to Capilano for a quick trip for my DH to buy another special souvenir which he bought on our first visit then lost, and then we strolled down to Gastown to see the steam clock, and absorb the atmosphere of this old town.

    After dinner we packed our bags, and worked out what we needed to send home to help alleviate our rather heavy cases.
    In the morning we walked to the Post Office, just down from the hotel, sent the parcel, had a quick last look around, and then it was to the airport to fly to San Francisco.

    I LOVE CANADA, and I will return to soak up some more of its beauty.

  • Report Abuse

    hi dotty, glad you enjoyed the float plane. it's always quite beautiful and every flight different depending on weather conditions. i use it as transport to vancouver or yvr unless it's not flying due to wind or fog.

    although i stay @ the coast plaza on denman because a friend can get me a great rate. i have stayed at the blue horizon and it's a lovely place

    glad you had a good time in bc

    cheers
    AndrewDavid

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks, AndrewDavid. I really hope we can return albeit probably not for another 5 years when we will be really old! You gave me so many good ideas for activities that I was disappointed we didn't accomplish so we have to return. I also want to see Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and Ottawa and . . . . :)

  • Report Abuse

    Hi, Daniel_Williams,

    Just re-re-reading my report checking I had included a couple of points, and realised I have not acknowledged your comment. I do hope you manage to visit some of the other places in Ontario, and for more than just a night. We were very lucky with the places we were able to visit, and the weather.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Dotty a very interesting report. Just wondering how many days in total were you away. I am planning a trip to Vancouver, Victoria, Jasper, Lake Louise etc early September 2015. There is GTG planned for Sept 12th which we are hoping to attend. I have taken note of the places you stayed in Vancouver and Victoria.

    Unfortunately we will only have two weeks hopefully this will be long enough. Did you think the train would be better than a rental car. We are from Nelson NZ and DH was adamant he did not want to drive on the other side of the road on our previous trips to the US. However when we visited Hawaii earlier this year we did hire a rental car and DH mastered it fine. He didn't start to relax though until the last few days of the trip.

  • Report Abuse

    hi, Nelsonian. We are just over the ditch from you, in Wellington!

    It is such a pain we are so far away that it takes at least a full day of our holidays to get to where we want to go! And then of course trying to adjust to days lost and gained en route with the date line!

    We were in Banff and Jasper, including the day's trip between the two for 6 full days, 2 days for the Rocky Mountaineer, and 5 1/2 days in Vancouver / Victoria, a total of 13.5 days - definitely not long enough but enough time to just touch the surface.

    We really enjoyed the train journey. Our only other option would have been to fly as we refused to drive in Canada or San Francisco. Flying would have given us an extra day but I'm not a big fan of flying if there is another feasible way of getting to our destination! Plus I had dreamed about the train trip through the Rockies for many years.

    If you want more specifics just ask, and I'll try to help. :)

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks Dotty good to know that it is about the same amount of time we will have. I am thinking about taking the train to Calgary and flying home from there rather than back-tracking to Vancouver. Alternatively could do an Alaskan cruise instead of doing the Rockies. Too many decisions!!!! Just as well there is still quite a few months to work it all out.

19 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

View all Canada activity »
  1. 1 iPhone in Canada
  2. 2 Trip Report Relentless Beauty - Panecott's Trip to the Canadian Rockies
  3. 3 Victoria Dining
  4. 4 Trip Report Lake Louise/Jasper trip report
  5. 5 Christmas Day in Quebec City
  6. 6 Is anyone has visited eagle lake in ontario
  7. 7 Quebec City trip.report
  8. 8 Trip Report Bromont - a perfect getaway
  9. 9 Family holiday in Canada ( winter)..accommodation in Montana and Idaho too!
  10. 10 Ottawa to East Coast Maritimes
  11. 11 Quebic City or Montreal
  12. 12 Trip Report Fabulous five days/Montreal & Quebec City
  13. 13 ft nelson bc
  14. 14 Canadian Rockies Trip: Hiking priority
  15. 15 Trip Report Trip Report - Banff & Jasper - Early Agust 2014
  16. 16 Happy Thanksgiving!!!
  17. 17 Niagara Falls October 10-12
  18. 18 canada in the winter?
  19. 19 Canada in winter
  20. 20 10 Day Trip to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
  21. 21 Banff - Jasper weekend itinerary October
  22. 22 HELP revamping Nova Scotia trip due to illness
  23. 23 Telegraph cove
  24. 24 Trip Report trip report rockies
  25. 25 Bringing mountain bike on flight to Can Cun.
View next 25 » Back to the top