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Rockin' the Rockies:

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Saturday 21st October - Lac Le Jeune

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Sunday 22nd October  - Lake Louise 

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Monday 23rd October - Jasper

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Tuesday 24th October  - Banff

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Wednesday 25th October - Banff

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Thursday 26th October - Banff  to Calgary

Saturday 21st October

We had an early morning call - really early this time - 6 a.m.    Took a taxi to the Hotel Vancouver, a beautiful Canadian Pacific Hotel that took 11 years to complete.   It was completed in May 1939, in time for King George VI and the Queen Mum to stay there.  
What a lovely sunny morning!   It took ages to pick up the other four people who were to share our 56 seater coach.   The coach driver was Peter and the other two couples sharing the coach were from Auckland, New Zealand and the South Coast of England.   One other couple due to go with us did not turn up so we eventually left Vancouver and travelled until we crossed over the Fraser River which is a most important river for salmon.   There were lots of logs in the river.  They float them down and leave them in the river so they won't dry out.   We passed through the Fraser Delta where berries are grown.  About 60% of the berries used in Canada are grown here - it was unbelievably rich soil.   Drove along the Fraser River and stopped in Hope for coffee.   We thought of our Hope here.  The town was full of beautiful animal carvings and statues, apparently carved by chain-saw, which we found hard to believe until we saw people doing these in Calgary later in our trip.   We drove on through the mountains in very light rain for a while.  There were lovely trees everywhere.   Peter, our driver, had the most wonderful soft Canadian accent - lovely to listen to.  He told us it took until 100 years after the blasting of the railway before the salmon came back to the rivers. The people found that they had to make ladders in the Fraser River for the salmon to fight their way up the river.   We drove alongside the Canadian National Railway Line.  Two railway lines go through the Rockies - the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian National.  There were lots of waterfalls in this area.   Peter pointed out fish wheels used by the Natives for catching salmon.  They are allowed to catch enough for their own consumption.  There were absolutely beautiful colours in the trees.   It was once again a nice day.  We were so lucky.   We went through several tunnels and came to Hell's Gate, where we rode on an Air-Tram down to the bridge that spans the water.    It was so spectacular.    We had a magnificent buffet lunch looking out over the river, which roars through there.   After lunch we walked across the bridge and watched the huge volume of water flowing down.  During the day, lots and lots of trains passed us, both on the National Line and the Canadian Pacific Line.   It seems really ridiculous that there are two lines going through the same area, and even two bridges!  What a waste of money, but I guess that's the way they want it.    Then we left the Fraser River and followed the Thompson River where we then wound through the Nicola Valley with its lovely golden leaves, to Merritt. 
 As we were driving through here, we all became rather drowsy and at one stage I am sure Peter dozed off for a second, so I then chatted to him as I was in the seat behind him.  Better to be sure than sorry!    Up we climbed through light snow on the ground to Thompson Plateau, where there was snow on the mountain tops, on the ground and on the pine trees - very pretty.  Arrived at Lac Le Jeune where we were to stay the night.   This was a very pretty place.  
We went for a walk near the lake, in amongst holiday homes which are used in summer and also in winter, but not so much in the fall.   When we came in from our walk, we chatted with the New Zealand couple over coffee.  I thought I could hear the sound of loons calling and David made a rude remark about me being a loon, but I asked the young lad at the bar and he said I was right - but it was on a CD playing!   Oh well, you can't win them all. The sunset was spectacular over the lake.   It turned the lake to a beautiful pink.  Our accommodation was not too good, especially with what followed over the next few nights, but the huge buffet meal served that evening was amazing.  They obviously have a good reputation for their food as the dining room was quite full.  So were we when we left the table!   
David and I watched the movie "Fly Away Home" starring Anna Paquin. It was a movie about Canadian geese.   We both thought we would fall asleep pretty quickly but amazingly we were both wide awake at the end.   A great little movie and most appropriate for the lake setting.   I thought I could feel something in our bed that night, and I am still not sure!!!

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Sunday 22nd October

We set out early, at 7.30, following a delicious buffet breakfast.   It was a beautiful sunrise over the mountains, with the snow on the ground and the tops of the mountains.    As we drove off the plateau we came into very dry countryside.   This was once a copper mining area.  We drove through Kamloops, which is very dry - they only have 10 inches of rain per year, which surprised us.  There is a large native American population in this area.    We travelled by the unusually shaped Shuswap Lake - house boating is very popular on this lake.  Once again, there were lovely colours in the trees.  We stopped for coffee at our first Tim Horton's at Salmon Arm.   Tim was to become a very good friend of ours whilst in Canada.  They serve wonderful donuts, danish pastries and coffee not to mention their rolls.   This is an area with a lot of lumber mills - they put logs in the lake, then onto rail cars, into a drying kiln and out the other end.   When we made a stop at Craigellachie, where the last spike was driven for Canadian Pacific Rail on November 7th, 1985, there were lots of men with caps on wandering around and Peter informed us that they were in a German Male Choir travelling around.  Then we wound through the mountains, through glorious scenery - snow-capped mountains and lovely trees once again.   Stopped for a boardwalk through red cedars.  Thought how much Yas and Jordy would have loved this as they love the one at Chookarloo in Kuitpo Forest so much.   This area we were travelling in is part of Mount Revelstoke National Park.  We passed through an avalanche area in Rogers Pass where we went through several avalanche sheds.   The army is called out to set off avalanches if there is a build-up of snow and therefore a threat of an avalanche.  The summit was 1330 feet.  We had a delicious lunch at Glacier Park Lodge - a beautiful setting up in those mountains.   When we left there we crossed the time zone into mountain time.  Then it was on through Kicking Horse Pass and into Yoho National Park.   Beautiful scenery once again.   When we arrived at Lake Louise Chateau and walked into our room we nearly cried - six floors up, jutting out and right in the middle of the view of the lake.   So beautiful - a perfect room.  It had six windows, giving us views in all directions.  The water of the lake was calm and clear and the weather unbelievable.   We went for a walk around the lake.  After a while David sat and looked at the view while I walked on further.  It was an unbelievable place! - a dream come true, as Yas would say.  The room was perfect. We decided it was time for beers in the Lounge looking at the lake through a lovely picture window - what a view - and yes, beers.  
After wandering around we settled on dinner in the saloon, where I asked for nachos because I wasn't very hungry and only wanted a snack.    Oh boy!  What a mistake.    It was the biggest serve of nachos you could ever imagine, piled with heaps of olives, salsa, sour cream, etc., etc.   AND topped with slices of chicken.  I only ate about a third of it - you could hardly tell I'd eaten any!    It would have been a normal meal for three people at home.  We staggered back to our room and watched TV before I climbed into bed, while David played the 'cursed' Yahtzee.   I was just dozing off when the fire alarm went off.   Up I jumped, panicking, wondering what to take with me. I had just decided on films were the most precious things and reached for them when a message came across the loud speaker that it was a false alarm.    Thank goodness.   A bit of excitement for us anyway.  We settled down but I did wonder what had caused the false alarm.  Visions of burning hotels with screaming voices passed through my mind.  That imagination at work again.

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Monday 23rd October

Woke to a beautiful sight over the lake.   Once again, what a room with a view!   We packed, then went for a walk.   Oh, that lake.  We were rather reluctant to leave, but all good things come to an end.   Chuck, our new driver set off with us at 9.45.  The passengers were mainly older Yanks, from Reno - only 19 all together, which was a good number.  They were good fun and very interested in Australia.   One of the women is an author and has a new Australian publisher so she was very interested in our country.   We started out for Jasper, along the Icefields Parkway, which is surely one of the most beautiful roads in the world.  Our first stop was at Hector Lake, then on to Lake Peyto, which was the most magnificent blue - unbelievable.    I remember the waters in Norway being this wonderful blue/green colour, caused by the water coming off the glaciers.  We had to walk very carefully here out to the lookout, due to the ice on the pathways.  It was extremely slippery.  It was pretty cold here, but a lovely day.  Then it was a hot chocolate stop at Bow Lake/Glacier.   The scenery was unbelievable - glaciers everywhere.  They were cinque glaciers, which cause huge bowls in the mountains.  Very interesting. The Icefields Parkway is the highest highway in Canada, with the highest point of it being 7,000 feet.  There were huge glaciers everywhere we looked - MAGNIFICENT!    We kept saying, "Look at that!"   Real "Ooh!  Ah!" country.  I was quite excited when I saw that a young chap on our tour had a red jumper with navy blue letters across the front saying "a.f.c.".  I wonder why?   However, it wasn't for Adelaide Football Club - it was for Arsenal Football Club because he came from England.    He said he would barrack for Adelaide though, so one more recruit!     We enjoyed a cafeteria style lunch at The Crossing, where the road crosses the Saskatchewan River.  The view here once again was magnificent.    There were huge ravens (like big crows!) on the ground and on the cars.   After leaving the Crossing, we saw quite a few white goats up on the hills.  Our driver, Chuck, had trouble in getting his words out.  I think he had a speech impediment and when he got on the microphone it was quite funny, as we were to find out next morning.     He always referred to his left or his other left as he had trouble sorting out his left and right.   He was great fun.    We climbed our way up to a great view back down the valley.    On a bit, four big horn sheep were right in the middle of the road, apparently eating the salt put down on the road for snow and were they going to move?    Never.     We had to go around them.  We stopped at the Athabasca Glacier and Columbian Icefields where it was sunny, but VERY cold and windy.    We couldn't go on the Athabasca Snow Ride on the glacier as that had finished for the season, but we knew this before we left home so we weren't disappointed.   On we drove through wonderful scenery to Athabasca Falls - a huge amount of water rushing down.   These were quite amazing, crashing down through the rocks.   Very pretty.    Then it was on to the beautiful Jasper Park Lodge, where we were 'buggied' to our wonderful room (once again) looking out over the lake - a huge room, with a lounge room, bedroom which could be enclosed by folding doors, a small kitchen and bathroom   A really big room, to say the least.    It was so quiet there.   The Lodge stretched along the shores of the lake and we had individual units.  Different, but lovely.   We decided to go for a look at the main building and on the way we called in at the golf club house.  There is a wonderful golf course at Jasper Park.   We then walked around and had a look over everything and of course, in the shops.    David bought Jack a lovely little suit, with a polar bear in the pocket - well, I had a bit to do with it! 
On the way back to our room we saw quite a few Canada geese on the lake.  They looked so lovely. We were to see many of these later, in the Chesapeake Bay area as they fly down there for winter and it was about time for their big trek.  After a bit of a break, we walked to the main lodge and had dinner.  On the way we caught up with a lovely lady who was staying there and she told us about the good deals they do for seniors.   It was a package for several days and unbelievably good value.   It would be great fun.  I wish they did that in Australia in the big resorts during off peak times.   We chose to eat in a restaurant called Tent City, mainly because of its prices and good menu.   It was still a big meal but more sensible than the night before!    On the way back, some people pointed out an elk grazing near the golf course.   What a lovely quiet place to stay.

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Tuesday 24th October

We had an early call at 7.00 a.m. and had a hasty breakfast of crackers, etc. in our room.  We were finding, with the size of the serves, that three meals a day were too much for us, so we often had crackers and something light to start us off.    We walked to the main lodge for our pickup for the tour of Jasper.   As we drove out of the Lodge area we saw quite a few elk resting.     There were 32 on this tour (people, not elk) - quite a crowd by our standards.    The sunrise was magnificent over the mountains - quite spectacular - it put a lovely pink glow on the snow.   In fact it was once again a lovely morning.  We picked up the rest of our group and we were greeted with "G'day" from our author friend.   She said she'd been driving her husband mad all night, practising "G'day mate".   On our drive around Chuck became tongue tied when asked what a certain tree was.   He said it was a Clitoris tree, all soft and furry!  It was really a Clatoris tree, and this set David and I off chuckling.  We could hear murmurs from the rest of the bus too.    David thinks Chuck may have done this deliberately, but I'm not sure to this day.  We visited the Patrica and Pyramid Lakes.   The reflections in them were wonderful.    It reminded us of New Zealand and one particular lake we visited there.   It was a lovely clear morning - of course.  We were starting to expect this.   From the lakes we could see the Tramway we were to ride on shortly.     This left from near Jasper and rose up, up to the most amazing view.   We were very lucky, once again, as it was the second to last day the Tramway was operating for the season.   Our luck was holding out!   We could see way off into the distance, the Lakes we had visited earlier and the parkway we'd come in on the afternoon before.  We were to travel on this in a few hours, back to Lake Louise and to Banff.   As well as all this, the mountains all around us were so beautiful, with their snow-capped peaks.  We then travelled to Maligne Lake and Canyon.  The canyon was so spectacular.  It just dropped off suddenly for hundreds of feet.   In fact, we couldn't see the bottom at all.   As David said, explorers coming through that area in earlier times would have received a shock when they came to the canyon as there was no sign of it when we were approaching it.   As we were leaving, one of the women tried to convince David that I needed a jacket like she had bought at Banff, as I had admired it on her.   It didn't work though, so I still admired the jacket on her and wore my old top.   Chuck then drove the other people back to the Jasper township.   Most of them were catching a train the next day to go back across Canada by train before travelling home to Reno by coach.    Chuck said he couldn't see why, as he agreed with what we'd been told, that the train trip is very dry and boring after you leave the Rockies, and from what we saw later around Calgary, I can see what he meant. He drove us back to the Lodge and as we walked along the lake back to our room, we saw an elk grazing just outside our window.   From our room we ordered a hikers' lunch - not that we were hiking anywhere, but it sounded good, and we ate it in our room.    Then it was time to pack up and wait to be 'buggied' back down to the main lodge.    Chuck picked us up shortly after this and we were on our way to Banff.   We once more traversed the Icefields Parkway with its beautiful glaciers in wonderful clear weather.   Peter, our driver for the first couple of days, had told us the Icefields Parkway is the most beautiful road in Canada.   Well I would go so far as to say it must be one of the most beautiful in the world.  The young lad on the desk at Jasper Park Lodge had told us that it is listed with two other roads in the world as the most beautiful - the Amalfi Coast in Italy and guess where?   Our Great Ocean Road, so how about that?!     The glaciers seemed to be even more beautiful on the way back.  Their wonderful colour is so amazing.  We stopped once again at The Crossing, this time for coffee.    Chuck told us before we started out that this was an express coach and he would not be giving a commentary, but as he said to us, we had heard it all before so "just sit back and enjoy" and we did.    There were pretty little spruce trees along the sides of the road, which added to the scenery.  It really is a most wonderful place.   We called back at Chateau Lake Louise, which was still glorious, then set out for Banff. The Bow Valley Parkway, to Banff, was pretty but not so spectacular as the Icefields one.   As we were driving into Banff we saw lots of elk grazing near the road.   We drove through the very pretty, lit up main street of Banff - dropping people off at different hotels until we came to the Banff Springs Hotel - our Castle in the Rockies, as Chuck called it.   My comment was "Wow!"   It didn't let me down.   I've seen this place many times on calendars, in books and on jigsaws and we were actually going to stay there!   
They are working on a new entrance to the hotel so we had to go in a back way. I had to literally push my way through a very loud group of conventioneers who were blocking the way the bus was supposed to pull in to let us off.   The way they were dressed, they looked like a lot of line dancers 'gone wrong'.  So loud and pushy.     Anyway, they did not spoil the place for us once we made our way to the main desk.   We were met by two wonderful chaps who commented on the fact that we must be very important people because, once again, our room nearly blew us away.   The Vice Regal room, no less, which was where King George VI and the Queen Mum slept while they were in Banff in 1939.    Well, what did we expect you may ask?!    There was memorabilia about the royal visit all round the walls, and you could practically feel the aura of the room.   What a place the Banff hotel is.  We had a buffet dinner in the Bow Grill Room and once again we ate too much.    This was becoming a bad habit.  Our waiter was such a happy little fellow.  Very attentive and very .well...mincing!  David asked for a glass of beer so I thought, why not.    They were HUGE.   I couldn't finish mine so David 'forced' himself to drink it.    As we left I spoke to the maitre de and told him that I had a complaint.   You should have seen his face.     My complaint was that I had eaten too much.  He laughed but I'll bet he nearly fainted when I first spoke to him and I'll bet he thought "stupid Aussie" as we walked away, but it was a bit of fun.  (We found out when we met Tracy and Lisa that we had not been tipping enough, as the wages are dreadful compared with ours, especially in the U.S.    They really rely on the tips to make a close to decent living.)    We phoned Tracy to gloat over where we were staying, then watched the World Series baseball.  I had terrible strife that night with a rash all over me.    I then realised that I shouldn't have been using the soap in the hotels as this can sometimes set off an allergy.  It's happened before.   Stupid me.  (Or could it have been the "things" in the bed at Lac Le Jeune?)
We had room 693, a room to be remembered.    The furnishings were old but so grand.   I am sure though that the King did NOT use this bathroom as it was so small that a cat wouldn't even have fitted in it, let alone be swung around.  By the way, I am sure I heard a ghost in the room next door...more about this room later.  

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Wednesday 25th October

For breakfast we had a snack in our room, while we watched the Calgary Flames play in an ice hockey game on TV.  The Flames is Chris Sletvold's team so it was good to see them play.  We set out for the village in fairly crisp, cold, but fine weather.    Called at the Indian Trading Post near Bow River, which flows right through Banff, then had brunch at the American Embassy as one of our drivers called it - yes, Macca's.    We chatted to an English lass who was on our bus to Jasper and back.    Walked the shops and of course, bought some things including a lovely copy of "Anne of Green Gables" to put under the Christmas tree at Lisa's.   We bought this at the Banff Book Den, a wonderful book shop.  I would have loved to spend a lot more time there, but book shops are not really David's 'thing'.   As we started to walk back up the hill to our castle, the commuter bus came along and the driver stopped for us.  We must have looked as though we were struggling, which we were.   We bought a few 'bits and pieces' at the little shop opposite the castle, then up to our room where I wrote postcards once again, and then we explored the hotel.    It really is SOME place!     I then talked David into a game of five pin bowling, which was part of the hotel complex, but across the square.   It was great fun, better than ten pin I think.   The balls are not so heavy and you don't put your fingers in them, so there is less chance of hurting yourself.     David thrashed me of course, so that made his day.    Then it was time for a swim, on my own of course.   The pools were wonderful.   There was a magnificent indoor pool and then you could go through plastic strips and down to a wonderful heated pool outside, looking at the mountains all around.  This pool was so warm that I had to ease myself into it.     It was like a huge hot bath outside in this wonderful scenery.    Talk about spoilt.    David sat and read a book while I enjoyed myself swimming around.  Unbelievable.    I then went into a whirlpool, as they call it but didn't stay in there very long.    It was all great.   We had pate entrée in our room and then went for a pizza 'dinner' in the deli.   When we went to the front desk to book an early morning call our two friends were there once again.   They must have recognised the royalty in us and gave us a key for a special look at the room next door to us (the one where I heard a ghost).   We unlocked and I was nearly blown away as it was the royal parlour used by the King and Queen.  There were all sorts of 'artefacts' in this room about the royal visit.   We were so lucky to see this.   The 'boys' said if we had been staying longer they would have let us use the room, but that is easy to say when you know people are leaving.   Nevertheless, it was a great honour to see it.   I am sure now that the noises I heard from that room the night previously, were actually King George VI inviting us in for a brandy, but we'll never, never know.
What a magnificent place to stay!

For more information on the hotel we stayed in, visit one of the following sites:

The Banff Springs Hotel and nearby attractions

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Thursday 26th October

We were picked up at 8.00 for our Banff Discovery Tour.   It was, as we were beginning to expect, a beautiful morning once again.   Our driver was Murray - once again a wonderful soft Canadian accent and once again only a few of us on the tour - 5.    Two Japanese girls, one of whom reminded both David and I so much of Meredith Maraun, and a chap from Costa Rica.  Such lovely friendly folk.  We found out that Banff is named after the founder's birthplace in Scotland.  I had thought it must be something like that as I knew Banff was a Scottish name.    Off we went, travelling through Bow Valley and very soon we saw a coyote trot, trot, trotting along.   As we travelled through the countryside, Murray told us quite a bit about the animals in the area.   He also told us to keep our eyes peeled as many tourists had 'seen' lots of animals during these tours.  In fact, he told us that lots of his passengers think they see bears, wolves, etc. - of course the fact that many of the tree stumps and rocks look like those creatures, could probably have something to do with this. We did see one white tailed deer on the road though.  He also said that wolves have been known to come into Banff Springs onto the golf course in winter. They are encouraging them back to control the elk and deer.  This seems cruel, but I guess it's really nature taking its course.  It was 4 degrees celsius or 27 degrees farenheit outside.    Rather chilly, but sunny.    We saw Two Jack Lake with the beautiful mountains all round - also Lake Minnewarka.   The trees stop growing at 7,000 feet so the tops of the mountains are bare.     We went into the site of Bankhead, which was an old mining community.   When the town closed, many of the homes were towed into Banff on large skis and set up there.   They're still there to this day.  We did the Lake Minnewarka Loop, which was very beautiful, then on to Tunnel Mountain and the Hoodoos.   We had a great view of the hotel from here.   This looked like real Indian territory to me - but of course I do have a rather vivid imagination.   As we walked back I saw a coyote cross in front of our bus in the car park, but as no one else saw it David suggested that I'd had a few too many cokes the night before, or my imagination was working overtime.   I did see it though, believe me.    Murray then took us through a university area where the 25th anniversary of the Banff International Mountain Film Festival was to be held very shortly.    This festival is for films about outdoors and is quite a prestigious event.  Then, as we turned a corner, we had a wonderful view of the Banff Springs Hotel.   It was then time for our trip up Sulphur Mountain, so we were driven to the foot of the mountain, where we boarded a gondola for the ride to the top.   From there we had a wonderful 360 degree view.    Once again we had to be careful walking as it was rather slippery on the wooden decking.   There were young Japanese people everywhere.    There seemed to be a lot of school groups right throughout the Rockies and in Vancouver.     We each had a cup of hot chocolate there and then I spied Benny the Bruin.   A gorgeous cuddly brown bear who I felt just HAD to come to live in Kangarilla.   After much wheedling and whining and reminding David that it WAS our anniversary next day, Benny left the mountain in very safe hands.   Down we came, in the company of a young Korean couple who had been married the Saturday before.  By this time we were running a bit late, so we had a quick visit to the Cave and Basin Sulphur Springs, which smelt like rotten eggs, and then back to the hotel to pick up our bags.   On the way to the hotel, we actually passed the bus we were supposed to take to Calgary but our driver told us not to worry as he would take us to the depot and the bus would still be there.    He tried very hard to convince us that we would be better off to stay in Banff for the rest of the day rather than going on to Calgary too early anyway.   There was another bus at 7.00 that evening.  Unfortunately we didn't take any notice of him.
  We caught the bus at the depot and off we set for Calgary.  The trip started off through a pretty area but it was so dry when we left the mountains and Calgary isn't much of a place, so we then realised what Murray had meant.    Never mind.    We drove to the Palliser Hotel which was good - another Canadian Pacific Hotel.    I think I was getting fussy by this time, because our room didn't quite come up to scratch, but when you consider where we'd been, was any room in the middle of the city going to come up to scratch?    The foyer etc. was wonderful as are all Canadian Pacific hotels, well any we've seen anyway. We walked to the Calgary Tower, which is a very distinct landmark in the city.   You can always find where you are by looking up.  It was a good view, but of what?  Most cities look the same from up above - and this one was so dry.   No green anywhere.    Like E.T. we phoned home, had a snack, watched TV and went out for dinner - wait for it - at McDONALD'S!!!  It wasn't a very nice one either.  Talk about living high.

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