This is the story of our annual trip. My friend Barbara and I always go away for a few days leaving our husbands at home, normally to Europe but this year we fulfilled a dream to go to the Rockies in the Fall. Trip Advisor have played a big part in our planning so I thought I would write down how we got on in the hope it may help others.
The day finally arrived and we headed off to the airport after a nice leisurely breakfast at the Premier Inn. We dropped off the car no problems and checked in. We walked through and our first great part of this holiday was the escape lounge. Never done it before but I will definitely do it again. It was so relaxing and the food and drink was plentiful and the time just flew and off to the gate we went Our flight was with air transat. The plane was great and recently refurbished and the crew were brilliant. Loved going over the icebergs.
The food was pretty awful and we amused ourselves watching Mrs Doubtfire and a bit of reading. The time flew - 9 hours and we arrived at Calgary. The immigration was straight forward and we got our luggage no problem and off to the dollar desk where a lovely young lady helped me and we got a Toyota corolla which was brilliant and off I set. It was a bit different from driving in Florida, which I am used to, as I didn't know the roads but we found it really easy in the end and circled round Calgary on the Stoney trail and headed for the mountains and our first nights hotel which was the Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn.
We checked in and our rooms were really big with a little balcony and a lovely view but we were so tired as it was now 7pm which really was 2am so we just went to a local Subway to get something in our stomachs and then crashed into bed.
We both had a restless nights sleep - over tired I think and we went down to breakfast which was a sort of continental buffet with a waffle machine as well so we managed to feed ourselves up. We left the hotel and popped to Sobeys the local store for some picnic stuff as everyone says it is a lovely drive up to Jasper but no shops or anywhere to stop. We did a quick drive round the town then left Canmore and headed towards Jasper taking the parkway. I don't think we have ever said so many wows, amazing, brilliant, awesome words during a drive.
We stopped at many places all the way up and my favourites were Bow lake and lake Peyto the reflections were amazing at Bow but the colour was out of this world at Peyto. We had a coffee sat around Bow lake and we thought we had gone to heaven, so peaceful -I drove for about 100 miles and it took us all day with all the stops.
We finally got to Sunwapta falls resort which is just before you reach Jasper and checked in for three nights. We got a little log cabin each and the staff here were brilliant. I think they hire gap year students or young people who are travelling and they were all so helpful and you could tell they loved their job. They check you in and take you to your little cabin and make sure they help as much as they can. We then went to the falls just round the corner and it reminded me of our own falls in North Wales but was pretty impressive then back for dinner.
The waitress here was French and so comical she really entertained us. The meal was ok, posh food I call it, bit expensive but then it is in the middle of nowhere!
It has a good reputation for the food but we did prefer the plainer food we ate later in our trip. Then back to our rooms for another crashing out early.
We were both awake early, around 5am but as it was pitch black we waited till the light arrived but sadly it also brought the rain. So we had to think of alternative plans. We were going up in the tramway to admire the views from the top so instead I drove up to Jasper and a lot of water on the roads and when we got there we found Smittys which had been recommended on trip advisor and had a great breakfast. It was the nearest thing I could find to a Perkins. It was still raining fairly heavily so we decided to look round the shops in Jasper. There were lots of souvenir shops and we parted with some money. It did then start to clear up a bit so we decided to head out to Maligne Lake. This was when we first started to see the elk. It was amazing to see them on the side of the road even though the weather was bad. The views were also pretty stunning and although the sun wasn't out it still had a very dramatic effect. We got to Maligne Lake and booked to go on the boat trip to the Spirit Island.
This was a great trip, we saw a rainbow and some lovely scenery. We got off during the ride and walked up a little hill for a fab view over the lake and the island.
We came back via the Maligne canyon to Jasper where we had a lovely steak before heading back just before dark to our lovely little log cabin and on the way we had another bonus of seeing deer on the road. The bed was so comfy here too even though I wasnt sleeping well. But loving our stay at this place.
Another restless night and I managed to Skype my husband early although the signal not very good, then we drove up to Jasper stopping at the beautiful Athabasca Falls. It was really quiet and very lovely. Then we went up to the same restaurant as yesterday for another yummy breakfast then the excitement began where we had booked an hours horse trail ride. Now bear in mind I have never been near a horse in my life but really fancied being brave and trying it. We had steps and a platform to get on and also we had to wear a helmet. I felt so unbalanced and didn't realize horses were so fat and felt my legs really stretched. Didn't help that I have arthritis in hip and knee and when we started I felt every move forward, to say I disliked it is an understatement and I doubt you will ever see me on a horse again. Also the advert said we went right round a lake. Maybe we did but for the majority of it, we were in amongst the trees and only a short time where we actually saw anything. Never been more glad to finish that ride. We both got off and walked peculiarly to the car and headed back to Jasper for a hot chocolate for the nerves to subside. Then we drove a little way towards the Mount Robson national park which was in British Columbia before returning back to Jasper and up to Lake Patricia and Lake Pyramid - so peaceful.
Then we decided to have an early dinner and back towards hotel as weather was beautiful so we could stop en route. We called at the Athabasca Falls we had seen in the morning as the sun was now out then back to our hotel for a lazy evening catch up with things and packing before our trip down to Banff for three nights. This hotel was closing down at the weekend for the whole of the winter as it normally gets snowed in so their gift shop was 30% off everything - very convenient
After our Skype with the men we had breakfast in the hotel, which was ok but not as good as our previous days then we left the hotel. Quite sad as we had loved it there. The weather was brilliant and we made our way back down the parkway this time stopping at the Columbia icefields for our trip on the glacier. We got an early slot which was great as it gets really busy later in the day. We got on a coach for the first stage and it took us to the edge of the glacier then we boarded a big tank like bus with big wheels for the next bit - you go down a steep slope then up and out onto the glacier. An amazing experience which we enjoyed. When we got to the middle we got off and had a walk round. Some people were collecting the water and ice into a bottle to drink. We then came back down and carried on driving and stopped for lunch at the crossing. Then down further, with many stops for the scenery. The lakes seemed bluer today and we stopped at the same places as on the way up and the photos seemed different. We finally reached Banff and found our last hotel of the trip Banff Aspen lodge . We had a bit of bother checking in as I had booked direct with the hotel over 6 months ago and had requested 2 rooms on a high floor with a mountain view and near each other. Had an email back saying this but when we arrived, one on first and one on third. After a bit of jiggling we got them both on third but at opposite ends and one had a view but one was over the parking lot! Decided we weren't in them long enough to complain any more, the rooms were very big though and the bed comfortable. But a bit disappointed with my view! The room was good though
We then walked up the main street of Banff and it was really pretty with lots of small interesting shops. We decided to eat at St James gate an Irish pub and had a steak boxty. I had no idea what it was but apparently it's a cheese and onion potato pancake. It was ok but very filling - then we strolled back to the hotel and just relaxed.
Another very restless night, we found out Banff is the highest town in Canada therefore the air is a lot less, I found it hard to breath easy at some points and poor Barbara has asthma so she suffered a bit more, but we got up and after our Skype we went down to continental breakfast which was included in this hotel. They had a home made granola which was rather tasty and the normal cereals and cakes and toast. Missed not having any eggs at this one. Anyway we managed to fill ourselves up then headed out and this time we went firstly to Moraine Lake.
I had seen photos of this and was really looking forward to it. The colours looked amazing. Anyway when we reached it my first reaction was disappointment as it looked quite dark in colour but as we strolled round it we realised it was very dramatic and we actually enjoyed it.
I think we needed to stay till midday when the sun was over it to get the colour effect. It was really cold first thing so we warmed up there with a hot chocolate then drove round to Lake Louise another beautiful lake and once again the colours were only just starting to come through - we just get up far to early! We looked round the little village then I drove us back along the Bow Valley Parkway which was a lovely route which gave us some fantastic views but sadly no wildlife
We stopped at Johnson Canyon and I did the hike ! Well sort of! Barbara waited by the car while I walked up to the falls.
It took just over an hour so it felt like a good hike for me!! We got back down into Banff and decided to eat early as we were going on the evening wildlife tour so we had a Chinese meal at the Silver Dragon which was yummy.
Then back to the hotel where we were picked up for our tour. It was a mini bus driven by Beau, a young Australian who was really interesting to listen to as he had a wicked sense of humour.
We drove round some lovely beauty spots and he took us up to the top of Mount Norquay where we overlooked Banff, and to the places where he thought we might see wildlife and we saw some elk and some deer. As the tour was finishing we even saw a deer right in the centre of Banff. They dropped us at the hotel and we were both shattered so an early night again.
Well, once again, not a good nights sleep, the beds were comfortable enough but after about 3am that was me done for the night.
Managed a very broken signal on skype - wifi is awful in most of the hotels in the Rockies - then Barbara and I went down for breakfast. The weather wasn't quite as clear today but we decided to stick to the plan and it didn't spoil anything but not quite as sunny as earlier during the week. As we walked out of the hotel, we saw some visitors, 3 deer right outside the front entrance, lovely to see them.
Firstly we went up Sulphur Mountain in the Banff gondola. It was lovely at the top with amazing views all round. We got back down the drove to the Bow Falls -Then around Tunnel Mountain Drive where we stopped many times to keep wowing the scenery. Then we drove round to Lake Minniewanka, we didn't do the boat trip as we had done the Maligne Lake one. Back via Johnstone lake which was lovely then slowly back to hotel. We had not made use of the hot tub in the middle of the hotel so we decided to try it out before shopping and it was heaven. Felt really relaxed after it and could easily fallen asleep instead we walked back down the main shops in Banff for last minute souvenirs then we ate at Ricky's Grill where I had a yummy steak.
Travel home day :(
We finished packing our cases leaving room for a Walmart stop then we decided to skip the hotel continental breakfast and go to Ricky's grill for a good full breakfast. It was delicious. I do love their bacon.
Back we went and checked out of the hotel. We drove slowly back down towards Calgary stopping off at Canmore where it had all began seven short days ago. We sat in the high street with a lovely mug of hot chocolate deciding that this had definitely been one of our best trips.
We carried on to Calgary stopping one last time for a backwards glance then as though by magic the Rockies disappeared. We found Walmarts and as I had some space left in my luggage it would have been silly not to stop and I bought some essentials!
We then drove to the heart of the city and enjoyed seeing the tower and the station then back to the Deerfoot Mall where we had a delicious Chinese buffet, it was really busy and loads of choice then we made our way to the airport. The car drop off was easy. We checked our luggage in no problem then went through security and spent the last of our dollars. The flight was on time the food awful as on the way out. We had paid extra for club class and it was good. The crew were amazing.
reflections - this was one amazing trip and I do think we picked the best time of year to visit as the colors were so amazing. I have never seen scenery like it in my life.
Thanks to everyone at Trip Advisor who have helped me with the planning throughout the year, you have been great.