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The Canadian Rockies Rail Adventure with Country Tours...

The Canadian Rockies Rail Adventure with Country Tours...

Jan 30th, 2006, 12:22 PM
  #1  
bonniebroad
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The Canadian Rockies Rail Adventure with Country Tours...

Has anyone taken this tour ... nine days, eight nights ... from Vancouver to Calgary? If so, would love to have your thoughts on it!

Thanks!
 
Jan 31st, 2006, 10:03 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Who runs that tour? I tried to google for details.
SallyCanuck is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 11:39 AM
  #3  
bonniebroad
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SallyCanuck, you can find it at:

http://www.countrytours.com/

It's the "Canadian Rockies Rail Adventure." We have never been to Canada, and what I'm wondering is if it's easy to see these same sights on your own, or will you see things from the train/on this tour that you would not easily see otherwise? My husband is a great driver, and we can plot a trip for ourselves but I hear a lot about train-touring in Canada, unlike here in the U.S., and I'm wondering WHY these trips are so popular there, and are they worth the bucks?

Thanks for any insight you (or anyone else) can give me!
 
Jan 31st, 2006, 12:03 PM
  #4  
 
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Personally I don't think train travelling is better in Canada than it is in the USA, nor it is really common. I generally consider it the least efficient way of seeing Canada because train schedules aren't frequent, and the fare is expensive. You also lack flexibility when you travel by train.

I think people use these trains as a "land cruise" so to speak. For example, some people see Alaska by cruiseship, and some people see the Canadian Rockies by train. It's attractive to people who just want to sit and observe the scenery without having to interact with it, without having to drive. These are also the old CPRailway lines that were highly promoted in the late 1800's - very prestigious train routes that were promoted for tourism to the high classes of society. I suppose these trains play off that legacy, hence their popularity.

Personally, if your husband is a great driver, I'd opt for driving, because you'd be able to stop and go as you like, visit all the sites that you wouldn't get be able to access. Of course, this is coming from someone who has never taken the train trip, but if your prime purpose of seeing the Rockies is to explore, I believe driving would be ideal.
Carmanah is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 01:54 PM
  #5  
 
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I totally agree with what Carmanah said. Like her, I should also admit that I've never caught a train in Canada, so cannot comment from personal experience.

However, I've looked at several of these itineraries that combine the Rocky Mountaineer with an escorted coach tour.

None of them goes to one to the loveliest places in Jasper National Park, which is Mount Edith Cavell. It's obvious why they don't. The side road to Mount Edith Cavell is so winding that buses cannot negotiate it. But that is something you can do if you have a car.

Most of them do the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise, but some of them don't stop at Peyto Lake. That is sad, in my opinion. The Country Tours itinerary doesn't provide enough detail for me to determine whether it stops at Peyto Lake or not.

Several of the itineraries I've seen don't go to Moraine Lake (9 miles from Lake Louise). The omission of Moraine Lake is beyond sad IMO. The Country Tours itinerary does not appear to go to Moraine Lake.

The Country Tours itinerary also does not include visits to Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, which also is a shame IMO.

In any case, even if tours do go to the places I've mentioned, I've seen how much (or rather how little) time many of them give their passengers to walk around those places. In many cases you just have time for a quick photo opportunity, and then you have to climb back into the bus.

As for the train portions of these journeys, the train tracks follow essentially the same routes as major roads. In many cases, the train tracks and a major road share the same river valley and the same pass through a mountain range, as those were the only feasible places for the early engineers to install transportation corridors.

As Carmanah said, if you like driving, you can devise an itinerary that shows you the same things as the train / coach tours show you, and more.

If you like the idea of being pampered on the train, then something you could think about doing is catching the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff. Once you're in Banff, you could rent a car and do a self-drive trip to Lake Louise / Moraine Lake, Yoho National Park, up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, and then to Edmonton or Calgary for your flight home.

The reason I recommend the Rocky Mountaineer's Vancouver to Banff route (which it calls the Kicking Horse route) is that it takes you through British Columbia's Glacier National Park (not to be confused with Montana's Glacier National Park) and Yoho National Park. That is a very scenic route.

If you want to devise your own itinerary, my web site may give you some ideas:

http://groups.msn.com/CalgaryandCana...kiesTravelTips

I also recommend the web site of Vancouver resident Paul Beddows:

http://www.vancouver.hm/drivebc.html

For the Vancouver portion of your trip, I recommend the web page of our very own Carmanah.

http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/1b080/dc80f/
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 02:16 PM
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Bonnie,

I've seen the Rockies a few ways. The Canadian Pacific train in the '60s travelled through the mountains in the daytime which doesn't necessarily happen now - I took it from Toronto to Vancouver when I was a teen (THAT was a long time ago!)

One fellow (Daniel) has written very eloquently about his train trip (and Vancouver) just last year on this forum. So eloquently, I want to do it again. Soon.

A few summers ago, travelling with an English cousin on her first trip to Canada, we took the Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf Service from Vancouver to Banff. We first spent a few days in Victoria, then took the ferry to Vancouver for overnight as the train leaves early. I'd been to Vancouver but we took a tour bus around so cousin got a taste of the city.

The train overnights in Kamloops so there was only daylight travel.

We booked a hotel on our own and stayed in Banff for 4 days (that tour you mentioned only has you in Banff for one day - it's not enough time in my opinion). We got around by walking, hiking or taking some of the many bus trips offered for day or half-days including to the glacier via the Icefield Parkway.

There's a hike from Lake Louise to a tea room WAY at the top - I thought I was in shape till I did that (although I did make it). The views from up there are spectacular and you can treat yourselves later with a meal at the Chateau Lake Louise.

For Banff info see www.discoverbanff.com.

Got ourselves to Calgary via bus and flew home from there.

I would opt for the Rocky Mountaineer and then do the rest on your own; a car can't go to the places the train does and the guide on the train gives a lot of history and commentary PLUS warm cookies for snacks - the service is super, the train is comfortable and the food is great. And it's only two days.

You could always rent a car in Banff and drop it off in Calgary at the airport if you really want wheels.

I'm off home now. I'm sure you'll hear from others with different opinions but will check back tomorrow. Hope this helps you.
SallyCanuck is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 04:49 PM
  #7  
bonniebroad
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Thank you SO MUCH, SallyCanuck, Carmanah, and Judy_In_Calgary!!! I appreciate your input MUCHOS. My husband and I are in the talking stages about this, and just today, I picked up a Frommers guide for this part of Canada. The idea of maybe three days being pampered on a train combined with driving the rest of the trip ourselves would probably be our preference. Any more comments will be appreciated ...

Thanks again, all! (Can I get Poutine in this part of Canada? I've had a couple of Canadian e-friends who rave about the stuff!)
 
Jan 31st, 2006, 09:36 PM
  #8  
 
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You're very welcome!

Canada's a very regional country, with different provinces having different food specialties. Poutine's a Quebecois food, as in, it comes from the province of Quebec and isn't traditionally a part of the local snack food diet in BC or Alberta. However, in recent years it's becoming popular and you can often find it. Many places do their own take of it. Generally avoid any fast food (ie: Burger King) restaurant that offers it, instead, if you happen to be at a roadside diner type restaurant, that's where you get it best.
Carmanah is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 05:13 AM
  #9  
 
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Bonnie, looking forward to what you decide and a report after.
SallyCanuck is offline  
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