Rocky Mountaineer to Banff

Tuesday 13th September, 2016
Wednesday 14th September, 2016
Thursday 15th September, 2016
Friday 16th September, 2016 (part one)

Tuesday 13th September, 2016

Rocky Mountaineer Piper photograph

Rocky Mountaineer Piper


Drop Cap n board the Rocky
This was a great experience all up. I am just making a few notes because what we did was sit and watch the marvellous scenery and eat and drink far too much!

Drop Cap e were picked up at the hotel before breakfast and bussed to the station. After a drink and sorting of us into our carriages we were piped aboard by a Scottish piper in full highland fig.

On Board RM photograph

Mac and Geoff on Board the Rocky Mountaineer

Drop Cap here were more than eight hundred passengers in a very long train. Our car had seventy two seats upstairs, huge windows and dome above so you missed nothing. The dining car was downstairs and smaller (to accommodate the kitchen) so we were fed in two sittings, we were first sitting today and second sitting tomorrow. The food was very good, lots of choices. Breakfast started with croissants and a small fruit plate, then choice of three kinds of egg dish, oatmeal, pancakes, French toast and a berry, yoghurt and granola "parfait". Today I had apple and cranberry French toast with yoghurt and maple syrup, tomorrow I would have the berry granola parfait.

On Board RM photograph

Mac and Rosemary on Board the Rocky Mountaineer

Drop Cap or lunch, the offerings started with soup or salad. We had salads, Geoff had neither, then choice of beef rib, pork tenderloin, chicken, beef burger and prawn risotto and vegie curry. Mac had pork, I had chicken and Geoff had the burger. On Wednesday we both had the vegie curry and Geoff had the prawns. There were small tasty desserts and wine.

In between meals there was a constant beverage service and the late sitting people were offered warm scones or cheese and biscuit plate and a beverage while they waited. Some people started on the booze straight after breakfast but nobody actually fell down the spiral stairs or became obnoxious.

Drop Cap ome people amaze me. We were on a very expensive trip through amazing scenery and a group of women set up a card table and played canasta all trip, barely glancing at the windows, while another couple of women knitted all the way. Unbelievable!

Hells Gate photograph

Hell's Gate on the Fraser River

Drop Cap ur first day's travel led us out of Vancouver, over the river where there were huge log rafts to be seen, and up the Fraser River. We passed the rapids known as Hell's Gate, although we did not think it was very hellish today, perhaps the summer has dried up some of the river.

Freight Train photograph

Freight Train over the River

RM Round the Bend photograph

Rocky Mountaineer Goes Round the Bend

Drop Cap ome of the time we were on one side of a lovely river and the Canadian National line was on the other. We passed some quite incredibly long freight trains, I could not believe it was the same train! We curved round bends and hurtled along the few straight sections.

Abandoned Church photograph

Abandoned Church from the Train

Drop Cap e passed through a rather barren area, a former mining environment, with deserted miners' huts scattered along the line and a small abandoned church sitting evocatively in a wasteland. Picturesque, but rather too much like home!

Kamloops Hotel  photograph

Kamloops Hotel, our Kitchenette

Drop Cap n Tuesday we stayed overnight at Kamloops in a riverview hotel called the Sandman Signature. We got a bus transfer to the hotel which was so close it would have been quicker to walk. Our room was an incredible full suite, with two queen beds, a full kitchen with fridge, microwave and dishwasher, and a full bath also.

Kamloops Hotel  photograph

Our room, Kamloops Hotel

Drop Cap ery swish, considering the apologetic tone of the brochure at being unable to offer the same high standard of hotel (as the Fairmonts, I suppose) in Kamloops. We were expecting motel style - definitely not the case. I wondered why we had bothered to get Geoff a room of his own.

River at Kamloops   photograph

River at Kamloops, sunset

Drop Cap e went out to explore the riverside park opposite the hotel, it was sunset and getting dusky. We walked a couple of kilometres by the river until it was quite dark - there was a very pleasant Japanese garden, always a favourite of mine - then had a cheerful, if not cheap meal in a local eatery recommended by our crew called Mittzis.

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Wednesday 14th September, 2016

View from Train photograph

Viewed from the Train

View from Train photograph

More Views from the Train

Drop Cap oday's route took us into the high Rockies, lovely lakes, blue green glacial rivers and high mountains topped with glaciers and sprinkled with snow. The weather has been wonderful so far, cloudless blue skies, quite warm (until Wednesday night in Banff when it got cold for the first time). Of course it also means that there is really very little snow yet and the trees are still green.

View from Train photograph

Viewed from the Train Again

Drop Cap nfortunately, I found taking photos from the train was very difficult. Either they are very blurred because we were moving fast or if I tried through the windows they were full of reflections. I took some in the outside observation car but it was always quite full. Geoff almost lived out there because his allocated seat was an aisle, not a window. However we shall see how they go at home.

Glacial River photograph

Glacial River near Banff

Rockies photograph

The Rockies from the Train

Drop Cap he only wildlife we saw were birds, bald eagles and herons and ospreys (their nests anyway) but nothing larger, rather disappointing.

Mountains photograph

The Rockies through the Dome

Drop Cap eally our only disappointment with the Rocky Mountaineer (apart from the trip being too short!) was our inability to purchase souvenirs of the trip on the train. We could not believe that company policy refused to accept debit as opposed to credit cards, and also did not accept cash. We do not use credit cards as we prefer to use our own money but came upon this attitude also on Air Canada, when we were unable to buy food for Geoff on the long flights from Halifax to Vancouver because we did not have credit cards.

Train Crew photograph

Our Wonderful Crew

Drop Cap he crew on the train, however, was really first class. Two really cheerful girls, Alex and Brittany, dispensed beverages, snacks and info lectures with unfailing smiles and patience in answering the same questions over and over again. The dining car had Deanna and Ben (a really extrovert Aussie from Mackay) and of course the culinary wizards who produced attractive and yummy meals for seventy from a kitchen probably smaller than mine.

Train Service Area photograph

The Service Area

Drop Cap ur dome car had a service area from which the crew produced drinks, snacks, stories and music.
They even found a Gordon Lightfoot DVD at my request.

Banff Springs Hotel photograph

Foyer, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Drop Cap n Wednesday night we arrived at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, another incredible castle-like edifice, far too expensive to want to eat there, but we had lovely rooms with a beautiful mountain and river view.
The foyer was very grand and old school with a sweeping staircase meant for crinoline ladies and spiffy gentlemen in cravats and top hats, not us in our jeans and fleece jackets.
We found a scratch meal at the Castle pantry, quite enough after all our fancy meals. Tomorrow we have a wildlife tour and exploration.
Sad to say farewell the Rocky Mountaineer, but tomorrow, "to fresh fields and pastures new"!

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Thursday 15th September, 2016

Banff Springs Hotel photograph

Rosemary at Banff Springs Hotel

Banff Springs Hotel photograph

Mac at Banff Springs Hotel

Drop Cap nother early start this morning after not a very good night. We breakfasted quite well at the Castle Pantry, a self-service place on the ground floor.

Then we went off to meet our Banff Discovery and Wildlife tour. The meeting place was in the Stanley Johnson Wing, (of the hotel, which is vast) a warm and comfy lounge, decorated with stag's heads and crimson and leather, very men's club style.

Banff Springs Hotel photograph

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Drop Cap he driver, Graham, picked us up and led us on foot to a spectacular view over the Bow Valley from one of the hotel terraces, and told us lots of stories about the beginnings of Banff. Then we went off to see some lovely photo op places, starting with yet another spectacular view, of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, another castle-like building perched on the crags. These old railway tycoons certainly knew how to build a comfortable hotel. Their rationale was that if you could not take the mountains to the people, you had to make it attractive for the people to come to the mountains. Prior to the railways the only visitors were rugged fur trading types.

Bow Falls photograph

Rosemary and Geoff at Bow Falls

Hoodoos photograph

Bow River Valley and the Hoodoos

Drop Cap hen we went around to the Bow River Valley. First to the Bow Falls, some rather wild rapids, rather than a drop waterfall, then to the Hoodoos, intriguing eroded rock formations.

Lake Minnewonka photograph

Lake Minnewonka near Banff

Lake Minnewonka photograph

Rosemary and Mac at Lake Minnewonka

Drop Cap he pick of the morning was lovely Lake Minnewonka and even lovelier Two Jack Lake which was fringed by aspen trees with bright yellow leaves. They are glacial lakes and absolutely beautiful. The colour of the water is breathtaking.

Two Jack Lake photograph

Two Jack Lake

Geoff in Gondola photograph

Geoff in the Sulphur Mountain Gondola

Drop Cap fter the tour finished (no wildlife sightings except a distant elk in the river below, only visible through Geoff's telescopic lens) Graham the driver dropped us off at the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. I was not keen because I had been so scared last time, twenty years and sixty kilos ago, but the cars had been updated and were much more comfortable and I felt much safer.

View from top photograph

View from the top of the Gondola

View from top photograph

View from the top of the Gondola

Drop Cap e had a light lunch at Starbucks at the foot of the Gondola, then went up the run. It was truly spectacular, despite the mountains having very little, if any, snow. The range was lovely, nevertheless. We wandered up the currently being refurbished top station, which is much more fancy than it was twenty years ago. We had a photo taken for a 3D crystal set keychain, which is quite an interesting artefact, but very difficult to describe.

3D keyring photograph

Indescribable Keyring

The Indescribable artefact has our photograph set in to a 3D crystal. You could get quite large versions but the keyring seemed as much as we wanted to spend. Interesting though.

Banff Bridge photograph

Banff Bridge from the Riverside Park

Drop Cap e caught the free Gondola shuttle back to Banff centre and had afternoon coffee before wandering around the town, looking at the many souvenir and gift shops, buying some relatively inexpensive trinkets, and relaxing in the lovely riverside park. From the park we could look over the river and the Bridge to the Buffalo Museum. This is dedicated to the local First Nation people and we would visit it tomorrow.

Buffalo Museum Banff photograph

Buffalo Museum Banff

Drop Cap e went to a pub called the Elk and Oarsman for dinner (one of our tourmates this morning worked there, but she was not on shift this evening). Geoff had fish and chips and Mac and I had grilled steak and vegs. Overdone, unfortunately, but we had a cheerful waitress and ate on an outdoor rooftop patio (and bottled a wasp which the waitress carefully removed for us).

Drop Cap e got the local shuttle back to the hotel and settled down to repack for tomorrow's trip to Lake Louise. The weather has been wonderful so far, long may it continue, especially for the next three days!

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Friday 16th September, 2016 (part one)

Bow River Again photograph

Along the Bow River, near the Falls

River and Mountain View photograph

River and Mountain Views along the River

Drop Cap nother lovely day dawned this morning so we finished our packing, had a light breakfast and checked out, leaving our luggage with the storage staff. Then walked out the back, via the Terrace, down the grounds to the lovely riverside walk to Banff town. We first made it to Bow Falls, which we had seen with yesterday's tour but got a much more extensive view as we walked along. It's about two kilometres and we really enjoyed the walk.

Bow River at Banff photograph

The Bow River, in Banff

Indian Headdress photograph

Indian Headdress in the Buffalo Museum

Drop Cap eoff had morning tea, then we walked to the park by the river where we found an "Indian Trading Post" and a very interesting museum of the local "First Nation" or Indian people. At the trading post I bought a couple of Inutshuk (or stone figures made by the Inuit) as gifts for Bernie and Geoff next door, whose sixtieth birthday is the day we get home.
At the Museum we saw some very interesting exhibits, my favourites being the craft and costume.

Drop Cap hen we caught the local shuttle bus back to the hotel, had lunch at the Pantry, then retrieved our luggage and waited for our transfer to Lake Louise. This arrived right on time, and we arrived at Lake Louise at about 1500.

(Continued in the next chapter, Lake Louise to Jasper)

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