Thursday, July 6, 2017

Alberta, CA: Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise

I landed in Calgary mid-afternoon and my friend, Carol, picked me up at the airport. Carol is Barb’s sister, my former neighbor and current friend. We first went to meet her son, son’s girlfriend and her first grandbaby, Atticus. He’s 7 months old and adorable. We drove around Calgary a little bit, stopped in at her house and went to a great Italian restaurant called Scopa.
On Friday we headed to the mountains and Banff National Park. Banff wasn’t what I expected as it’s really a small mountain town in the mountains. I expected it to be a bit more like the parks in the US and not so built up. Very cute town on a gorgeous river that is light green in color.

We first went to the Fairmont Banff Springs for high tea. The hotel was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway to attract tourists to the region. We walked through the grounds and the building is magestic, partway up a mountain. Called Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies,” it has been open for over 125 years. The lovely Samantha served us, and we had a gorgeous view of the mountains and river cutting through the valley from our seat. Our teas were amazing, and the three-tray food display was both beautiful and incredibly good! In looking into this hotel, I learned that Banff National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I enjoy checking off these sites on my list!! We wandered the stately hotel enjoying both the views and the ambiance inside.

We then went to check into our hotel, the Rundlestone Inn. It was really nice and the front desk staff was incredible helpful. Sam, I’m followed by Sams on this trip, was from Australia and an adorable young guy. We wandered the town a bit enjoying the views then headed for dinner at Ticino. We were told it has better fondue than the restaurant known for it, the Grizzly House in Banff.

Our waiter is from Poland and was both very outgoing and charming. He suggested a vew dishes instead of the fondue, so we did decide on cheese fondue but then we got the osso bucco and serloin. Both were very good and the service was excellent. He is a film director and does some acting and other things as well, and was very interesting to talk to. Another guy came over a few times, and is the son-in-law to the owner of the restaurant. Apparently they also have a vodka distillery in Canmore, Wild Life Distillery, a nearby town.

We walked around a bit and it’s so interesting there as it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 or 11 pm. As a result, we went to bed a bit later than I usually do in the summer, so slept in later than usual.
The next morning we went to Coyotes Southwestern Grill for breakfast. They are known for their blueberry pancakes, which is a thin pancake with a blueberry compote. Yum! We walked around a bit then lined up on the sidewalk with a large crowd to enjoy the Canada 150th anniversary parade. I didn’t realize it was a big holiday weekend when I booked this trip, but there was no mistaking it now! There were a lot of people in Banff for the weekend, but especially on the 1st!

The parade was a lot of fun with marching bands, floats, lots of horses and horse riders, some antique cars and even the Mayor of Banff. I thought it quite funny when I saw a mini-trash truck (about the size of a car) following the parade, with a guy scooping up horse poop. Now, that’s a job.

We walked around a bit to see parts of downtown Banff that we hadn’t seen previously, then went to the Whyte Museum for a history and local art lesson. It was a nice museum and small, but well done.
We then went to the Banff Gondola, which is an 8-minute ride to the top of Sulfur Mountain overlooking Banff. We bought tickets in advance as we were recommended to do with the crowds, and lined up in queue. It didn’t take very long and we got onto the gondola with two other people. I’m quite afraid of heights though thankfully the gondola was enclosed so not quite so bad. It wasn’t as large or clunky as the one going up the Zugspitze in Germany, which I did last fall. The views were amazing of the mountains and the valley with sprinklings of snow of pine-covered mountains and the beautiful light-green river snaking through.

There is a four-story building at the top of the gondola with views from two of the floors. We went up to the top and walked around, taking in the mountain ranges and all of the views, with the Canadian flag flying overhead. Incredible views and well worth the high cost ($62).

We went back down, catching the last shuttle back to the town, and grabbed dinner at a Greek place called Balkan. It was very good and the baklava.. mmm! We left to enjoy the band playing, which was a fun local reggae band and then went to the bridge to find a good viewing spot for the fireworks. It was quite crowded but had a great view over the river. I love fireworks!

The next day we grabbed a quick bite in the hotel and checked out to drive to Johnston Canyon and Lake Louise. We got a caution to park in the shuttle lot for Lake Louise and decided to try Johnston Canyon first. There was no parking so we went over to the parking lot for Lake Louise and waited. And waited, and waited. We waited with over a thousand of our new best friends but finally made it onto the shuttle.

Breathtaking. In a word, Lake Louise is absolutely breathtaking. We took some pictures and made our way towards the dock where you can rent canoes and kayaks. Over $100 an hour and the line was hours long. You can’t make a reservation so we decided to pass and just enjoy the views. We grabbed a snack at the Fairmont Hotel there, also built by the railroad company. Simply amazing and as beautiful as Banff is, Lake Louise is just stunning.

We left and headed to Johnston Canyon where we were able to park after stalking the lot for a spot for a good 15 minutes but thankfully lucked out. The river is beautiful and a light green flowing through the woods. We walked on a path near the river, and though it was incredibly crowded, we still got to enjoy the beauty of the area. We hiked to the waterfall and took some pictures. It was so incredibly crowded that we decided to give up our quest and head out.

Hoping to get to Morraine Lake, a smaller and we were told, even more beautiful lake than Lake Louise, we drove in that direction to learn that the road was closed due to so many people visiting there. Instead of waiting in the incredibly long line to get on the highway, we went on a back road, which was longer to make our way to the next exit. Apparently we were meant to do this as we came across a black bear on the side of the road eating berries! We tried so hard during a trip to Yellowstone to see a bear, and anytime we heard of sightings, we’d drive to that area with no luck. Wow!

We drove back to Canmore, a small town near Banff, and stopped to walk around a bit and to grab dinner at Tapas Restaurant. Yum! The service was great and the food amazing with a really fun presentation.

We headed back tired but happy. Such incredible beauty here and so very magestic.
On my last day in the area, this happened. (TJ pics)

We first visited the Calgary tower to enjoy views of the city, and then we went to Prince’s City Park to meet my name doppleganger, Samantha Glauser. Yes, you read that right. Crazy, huh? She had reached out to me via social media many years ago, and we actually met in Phoenix in February when she went to Phoenix to visit her dad. He has a home there though lives where she grew up in Saskatchewan.

We got to see her guy, Kelly, as well. I got to see Sophie again, a precocious 7-year old whom I met in Phoenix. Brady was there too, her 8-year old, and Madelyn, her 16-month old. They were all adorable! Brady is a bit more quiet than Sophie, who very much loves attention. Maddy has the cutest underbite and smiles all the time.

This was a fun trip and simply gorgeous. I’d love to see more of the lakes and check out Jasper, so many another visit is needed. J I knew the Colorado rockiest were beautiful, but didn’t expect this area to be even more glorious. It’s well worth seeing and amazingly, was just under a three-hour flight from Phoenix.


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