Friday, November 10, 2017

Last Day in Calgary

The last day of the trip was spent exploring Calgary (and shopping).

We drove around downtown and checked out the Saddledome, the Calgary tower, the waterfront area and pedestrian area.

We went to the Lougheed House for lunch. This house was built in the late 1800s by the grandparents of the past Alberta premier Peter Lougheed.

After lunch, we toured the house. 

After a bit of shopping, Cheryl made a delicious supper and we played board games. 

Packing was a challenge since I only took carry on. To bring everything back, including my purchases and Christmas gifts from my sister,  I had to layer on a lot of clothes. I wore two pairs of socks, a pair of cords, a tshirt under a thick cable knit sweater, a padded vest, my white winter jacket, a big white hat, thick gloves and big boots. The final look was an eclectic mix between the Michelin Man and the abominable snowman. 

At airport security, they had me open my suitcase. It took forever to get it closed again.

We took the red eye West Jet fight back to Hamilton.. We arrived home at 5am.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dinosaurs in the Badlands

Dinosaurs were on the menu for Tuesday. We hopped into the car and drove about 1 3/4 hours through prairies to the badlands.

This area was named the badlands in the early 1900s by fur trappers because of the rugged terrain, extreme temperatures and lack of water. It’s like a desert of eroded clay spires, ridges and gullies. 

We stopped at a viewpoint to see the area from higher ground. Due to the snow, it was not as impressive as it is in the summer but we still got a feel for the terrain.

This area has the most diverse dinosaur findings in the world.

We passed the Worlds Largest Dinosaur (which actually has a viewing deck) on our way to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. 

This Dinosaur and fossil museum is excellent; the exhibits are well presented and many are interactive. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful. It’s collection contains more than 130,000 fossils which is why their exhibits are always changing. The Tyrrell is also a working centre for ongoing research. I strongly recommend this museum for all ages.

Too soon it was time to head back to Calgary where Louise and I cooked a lamb dinner and we played board games for the rest of the evening.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Gaming with the Bride Ghost at the Banff Springs Hotel

Our last day in Banff was bright and sunny with -20 degree temperatures...and that was without factoring in the wind chill. On the bright side, Louise could finally see that big blue Alberta sky that Cheryl had spoken of.

We began our day at the Cave and Basin Springs area. Unfortunately after the summer season, the museum is closed on Monday’s and Tuesdays. However there are a few walks with excellent information plaques around the museum. This was the birthplace of the Canadian National Parks.

We took the higher walk where we could see many of the smaller thermal pools which are the habitat of a very rare and endangered snail that is only found there. Numerous little guppy like fish also swam in the warm waters.

The smell of Sulphur permeated the air. What made it magical was the hoar frost which dressed the trees with a delicate beauty.

Louise had her gloves off and didn’t stop taking pictures until she couldn’t feel her fingers. All of us were feeling the cold so we rushed back to the car. Hiking was definitely out for this day but I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

We went back to our condo, packed up and had a light lunch before heading to the Banff Springs Hotel.

We realized when we got there that they only had the 1pm guided tours of the hotel during the week in the summer; and it’s only on weekends for the rest of the year. Apparently these tours were supposed to be only for hotel guests but I’m not sure how stringent they would be on that.

Missing the tour was ok, because we had another plan. We went up to the massive hallway just outside of the Crystal Ballroom. A few people were setting up for a conference but said it was no bother if we sat at one of the tables in-front of one of the many gigantic windows lining the hall. The mountain view was spectacular.

I pulled out a board game which I just happened to be carrying and we played three relaxed rounds of Sequence as we took in the view and listened to musicians in a nearby ballroom, practicing for an upcoming event.

Stopping to use the opulent facilities on our way out, I noticed that even the bathrooms had stunning mountain views.

We took a curved stairway to the main level, only to discover that it was the place where the famous bride ghost of the Banff Springs Hotel had fallen to her death on her wedding day in the late 1920s. She is said to haunt that stairway and the ballroom above.

We stopped in Canmore on our way back to Calgary where we were finally able to clearly see the Three Sisters Mountain. 

I also got a cute picture of a fluffy magpie. These birds as well as large ravens ( or crows?) are so prevalent in the area.

Back in Calgary, we admired the sunset behind the distant mountains and ended the day with a delicious steak dinner at my sisters place.

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Day In and Around Banff

We woke to sunny skies, cold temperatures and a lovely elk (also known as wapiti), grazing just outside our window. She knew we were watching her but continued to do her elk stuff before wandering off.

After breakfast, our first stop was to Bows Falls which were mostly frozen. Then. It was on to the stunning Banff Springs Hotel.

I never tire of this fairytale castle nestled in the mountains. We spent a few hours exploring its grand ballrooms, cozy restaurants and gorgeous views. A deer ran by when we were looking at it’s hot pool.
After browsing around it’s rather pricey shops, we headed back to the condo for a quick bite of lunch.

Our next explorations took us on the Lake Minnewanka loop drive with stops made at Two Jack Lake, a viewpoint of the Palliser range and numerous other vistas. The snow laden evergreens made it look like a Christmas card.

Heading back towards the hotel, we checked out the Banff thermal springs where despite the cold weather, many people bathed in its warm waters. We drove to the base of the Sulphur Mountain gondola.

Our last drive was along Vermilion Lake. People were already skating along its shallow edges. Further down, warm sulphuric water entered the lake from another thermal hot spring. A light scent of sulphur permeated the air.

After, Louise met some friends in town and Cheryl and I went back to the condo for a nap.

Banff holds a yearly food festival called“Taste for Adventure” where restaurants in the area offer specific meals at a special price. We had reserved a table at the Sleeping Buffalo restaurant which was located directly across the street from our condo.

We all had the smoked salmon on latkes appetizer and the Vanilla espresso creme brule dessert. Cheryl and I had the elk as a main course and Louise had the duck. Delicious.

I love the tasteful Canadiana decor in this restaurant, especially the large antler chandelier. After supper we sat in front of the gigantic fireplace adorned by a humongous bison head...I couldn’t resist sticking my finger up its nostrils.

We ended the night by playing board games at the condo  in front of our own roaring fire.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tunnel Mountain and Lake Louise

I kept waking between 3:30-4:30am and was unable to fall back asleep which meant that by 7:30pm every night I was toast. 

Louise woke in a panic and tore into the shower thinking it was 8:30am when really her cell phone clock hadn’t adjusted to the two hour time difference.

The temperature outside was -17 degrees. Yikes.

The day started with a drive around Tunnel mountain which included checking out the stunning views from the Banff Centre for Performing arts and the beautiful vistas near the hoo doos. I was excited to see a lone bald eagle riding the air currents above the valley.

A stop back at our condo was required to get extra clothing before taking a 45 minute drive to Lake Louise.

We first checked out Lake Louise ski area which was busy with last minute preparations before season opening. Mount Norquay had already opened on Friday; being the first ski hill in Canada to open for the winter.

Being a Saturday, Lake Louise and it’s Chateau were busy but we still found a parking spot. Fluffy magpies kept a watchful eye in the lot for tourists willing to share food.

I noticed new signs all around the hotel stating that only guests of the hotel or restaurants were allowed on the premises. 

We did take a brief walk through the hotel before hiking around the lake. I was glad for my rubber cleats which I’d attached to the bottom of my boots.

The Lake was like a sheet of glass with bits around the edges showing signs of freezing. These frozen areas increased the closer we got to the back of the lake where running water, frozen mid stream adorned a small section of the mountainside.

A lonely snowman was the sole inhabitant at the end of the lake.

It was overcast so although we could see the tops of the mountains, the lake didn’t show off the brilliant turquoise colour as it would  on a sunny day. Nevertheless it was still gorgeous.

The whole lakeside hike was just under 5 km.

After warming up with frothy hot chocolates at the Chateau Lake Louise cafe, we took the quieter Bow Valley Parkway back to Banff; breath taking views at every turn.

We stopped in Banff just in time to catch the tail end of the Art Gallery Hop...which included $1 glasses of wine and lots of appetizers. After a visit to the old fashioned candy store and a few shops, we headed back to the condo for supper in front of our fireplace and an early night.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Calgary to Banff

Girl time was on the menu this week. My dear friend Louise and I packed our bags and took a 4 1/2 hour flight to Calgary to visit my sister.

The 3:30 am drive to Hamilton’s John C. Monro airport in the pouring rain was stressful but once there, parking was only a short walk to the small terminal which was quick and easy to navigate. The West Jet flight with its delightful singing pilot was smooth and non-eventful. Unfortunately I only slept through half of it.

Arrival in Calgary was a shock to the system. It was rainy and 11 degrees (going up to 16) when we left Toronto but arrival in Calgary presented us with a snowstorm and a teeth numbing -10 temperature.

We spent the day catching up with each other, doing some last minute shopping and preparing for our trip to the mountains. By late afternoon, Louise and I were exhausted due to the time change and lack of sleep.

The next morning roads were rough with many accidents in and around Calgary so we waited until after rush hour to head to Banff National Park.

Louise had never been to the Rockies so it was disappointing that the mountains were shrouded in snow clouds when we arrived in Canmore.

Canmore is just outside of the park gates, so it has a different feel to it than the town of Banff; a little less touristy. We decided to check out the unique boutiques on Canmore’s Main Street. Fortunately, the clouds had started to break up when we left Canmore and the skies were clear upon arrival into Banff. 

Louise was awestruck by the beauty of this place. I have visited these mountains since childhood and The Rockies still leave me breathless. This is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We checked into our condo on Tunnel Mountain before.heading to Banff’s Main Street. Our first stop is always the quaint Banff information building where we get informed about the local weather reports, animal sightings, what’s open, local events and conditions of the numerous hiking trails.

Banff has a gorgeous downtown; quaint shops and restaurants surrounded by majestic mountains. I love the Christmas store and the olive oil store. The Hudson Bays store here is always brimming with Canadiana goods.

Still catching up on the time change, we had supper at the condo in front of our wood burning fireplace and hit the hay.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017



It was foggy, cold and rainy. Graham met us at the townhouse and we literally headed for the hills. Heiligenberg to be exact, which means holy mountain. Apparently this mountain was used a lot by pagans in the past.

Heidelberg is in a valley surrounded by high hills. We drove up and up through heavy mist to the top and then we got out to walk.

The fog cloaked our surroundings in mystery. Our first stop were the ruins of a Nazi amphitheatre built in the law 1930’s. It was very similar in style to the Greek or Roman ones.

We passed some innukshuk like rocks with a sign that read inner gate. A black and yellow salamander creature crossed our path.

The ruins of the medieval Cloister of St Michaels was our next stop. I am sure it would have a total different atmosphere on a sunny day. Very cool.

Unfortunately we had to leave for the airport, so we dropped Graham off at the townhouses where he had left his bike. It is always so hard saying goodbye to either of my boys.

We plan to do more exploring in and around Heidelberg in the spring.

Getting gas into the rental car was a pain in the butt. The GPS took us all around and through the airport area only to find that the gas station was closed. Then we had to go through the airport area again and we found a gas station that was different than the one we were looking for... but it did the trick.

The rest of the trip to Canada went without a hitch.