I feel privileged as a travel agent to have seen some beautiful places and some wonderful hotels but one place that was on my wish list was Canada and Alaska. This year we decided we would do this in style and after many months of precision planning of flights, coaches, tours, trains and a cruise, July was finally here.
Once we arrived in Calgary we really knew we were in Canada. Immediately we were greeted and assisted by airport staff dressed in red waistcoats and cowboy hats. The Calgary transit in the arrivals hall is really easy and costs $15 per person. It stops at all the major hotels and takes around 20-30 minutes.
There isn’t a great deal in Calgary itself apart from Calgary Tower. We arrived a week before the famous Calgary stampede so many of the windows had colourful cartoons depicting cowboys, bulls and horses.
We were picked up in the morning ready for our transfer to Banff. We chose Brewster, the leading tour company of the Canadian Rockies from Calgary to Jasper.
They also own and manage many of the attractions, including Minnewanka Lake Cruise which was our first tour. Minnewanka means of the water spirit and there are all sorts of legends associated with it. It is a pleasant narrated motor boat cruise.
Banff is a surprisingly young town and although pretty and twee as you might expect from a ski resort, there are plenty of bars, restaurants and a couple of shopping malls. We stayed at Caribou Lodge about 2 mins walk from town. This hotel has a cosy bar and laundry facilities. We discovered The Old Spaghetti Factory which was extremely good value at $40 for a 3-course meal with coffee for three people.Banff has a transit bus which is cheap but not very frequent. Banff lodgings give these to guests as well as some discount coupons, otherwise it is about a 10 minute walk from the hotel strip to the centre of town
The Discover Banff tour was even more enjoyable and we were also lucky enough to see a few animals as well as Two Jacks Lake, Banff Gondola, Bow Falls, The Hoodoos , Tunnel Mountain and finally Surprise Corner. Banff Gondola is very stable and goes to the top of Sulphur Mountain and this was the highlight of our morning. Bring warm clothes, it is windy up there.
We transferred to the iconic Chateau Lake Louise, where we lucky enough stay in a deluxe lake view room. I have seen many pictures of Lake Louise but even in the rain and cloudy sky when we arrived, it really is as beautiful as the postcards. The following morning the sun shone and a perfect mirror image of the mountains reflected in the lake. I will always remember this as one of the most spectacular and stunning sights I have seen in my life.
After our night in Lake Louise, we took the Brewster sightseeing transfer and we were blessed with beautiful sunny weather, the best conditions they had for weeks. This was to be our final journey with Brewster. They run a very efficient operation throughout the Rockies and although they have the monopoly in this region, they are still excellent value and their reputation is well deserved. Most of this journey was along Highway 93 otherwise known as Icefields Parkway, said to be the most scenic highway in North America. There are many miles of lakes, mountains and glaciers in Banff and Jasper national parks. We stopped at Bow Lake and the almost neon Peyto Lake but the highlight of our day was the Columbia Icefields Explorer. we had the opportunity to walk on a thousand foot thick glacier after lunch. Our final stop was the spectacular Sunwapta falls near Jasper. Just before reaching Jasper itself, we saw a black bear on the roadside
Jasper is smaller than Banff and most of the familiar hotels are in the same small area with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants nearby. We stayed in Jasper Park Lodge some way out of town, This consists of lodges round a lake and deers and elks roam freely
In the morning we had a very early start for our two day Rocky Mountaineer journey to Whistler and very soon crossed the border from Alberta to British Columbia
For more information on The Rockies or to book your own package or tailor made tour contact me