Category Archives: Canada

‘The Canadian’ Rail Journey with Via Rail – Part One

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I’m taking on more rail travel and now on my own to cross Canada with Via Rail’s ‘The Canadian’, an epic and sought-after journey with locals and international passengers. The tracks were built by Canadian Pacific Railway which was founded in 1881, linking Canada’s populated centres with the vast unpopulated West. This incredible engineering feat was completed on 7th November, 1885.

Today’s Canadian train takes the more northerly Canadian National route across Canada via Edmonton and Jasper and was completed in 1917.

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So it’s bye now to Calgary and I was quite impressed with its friendly people, incredible array of food choices and value for money.

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From Calgary, it’s necessary to travel by Red Arrow Coaches which has partnered with Via Rail. At a cost of approximately CAD75.00 one way it includes amenities, meal and wifi – it was a seamless trip across to Edmonton to pick up the train from there. The ticket office is a short walk from Le Germain Hotel and the Tower. www.redarrow.ca for bookings online saving $5.00.

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The bus trip from Calgary to Edmonton is less than 3 hours and really comfortable with a short break enroute.

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Red Arrow’s bus service and ticket office at Edmonton is right next to the Holiday Inn if you wish to have an overnight stay. The Canadian train from Edmonton Station departs around midnight, might be an idea to spend some time here and enjoy some of the sights.

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West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping mall in North America and the tenth largest in the world by gross leasable area. Time went really fast here with so many shops and eateries to choose from. Mmmm think I’ll be coming back to Edmonton somehow … Really liked it here.

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Or you can just chill out, have a cuppa and watch the all the potential Torvill and Deans practise their routines on this indoor skating rink.

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Edmonton Station is just on the outskirts of the city and the journey from here becomes three-nights on the train heading to Toronto – its final destination. However, being a major transit city there’s connections to all the other services Via Rail have to offer at Toronto’s Union Station.

 

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You can travel very affordably in Economy class in a reclining seat, or in Sleeper Plus class with a private sleeping-car room and restaurant car meals included. And new from 2014, there are deluxe Prestige class sleepers too.

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Speaking of meals, there’s a different selection from the menu each day.

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If you ever see Hot Beef in a Yorkshire Pudding Bowl on the menu – order it – just the best and extremely popular. Simply delicious!

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Obviously, someone has to do some work while we all just watch the world go by eating our breakfast.
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Landscape has changed so much now as we traverse across Canada.

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Freight trains take precedence over the tracks, but that’s fine with me when you have time on your side.

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Days gone by …
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And as dusk envelopes the day, we’re ready for more food and relaxation …

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Calgary, Canada – Part Eight

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Calgary is far more artistic and cosmopolitan than I expected. It’s not just the annual Calgary Stampede which turns the city into an inflated cowboy town; it’s really an easy-walking city with a definite vibe and eccentricity all its own.

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It’s also a city full of high-rise buildings, restaurants, parks and fabulous hotels and bars.

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Hotel of choice, the stunning up-market Le Germain – smart, contemporary and central to everything.

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Snazzy and opulent, Le Germain is plush without any regard for its competitors with many endearing attributes – noticeably a nespresso coffee machine which makes a great espresso! Other inclusions are as follows:

  • Rainfall shower
  • Bamboo and cotton towels
  • Le Germain 100% cotton bathrobes
  • Molton Brown toiletries
  • Magnifying mirror
  • Hair dryer
  • Iron and ironing board

 

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Looks great and I’d be happy to have a nap, but we’ve not hit the town yet …

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Great view from the gym, however won’t be needing this as we’ve our running shoes on to see other parts of Calgary with only a short time here.

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Straight across the street from the hotel is the Calgary Tower and at 1,228 metres above sea level, it’s home to the highest 360° observation deck in the world with a restaurant at the top.

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Standing on a glass floor and looking down, but not too long for me – yikes.

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Spectacular views from every angle.

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No shortage of parks and gardens whichever part of the city you visit.

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Within a short walk of virtually anywhere, you can find an array of eateries/bars for all budgets and taste buds – especially in Stephen Avenue.

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This sculpture cries out “climb me” … Only it’s not permitted. Lot of disappointed kids!

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Calgary to me is best known for The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth each July, with the Calgary Stampede featuring a vast array of arts and agricultural exhibits, musical performances, intriguing cuisine, along with shopping, rides and games.

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Lucky enough to watch some classy barrel racing. I’ve not done this since Pony Club days.

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And on the other side of the city, there’s burgeoning areas with art deco buildings being preserved.

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Heritage Park is worthy of a visit with lots of interesting exhibitions of a by-gone era.

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Remember the days when there was customer service at the bowser …

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At Fort Calgary, the exhibits give an insight to the North West Mounted Police, who built their fort at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in 1875 and the foundations for the city were laid with many other impressive artefacts which can be found here.

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Head down to the Calgary Zoo with your kids, family and friends to see over 1.5 million lights twisting around trees, tracing animal and dinosaur shapes and flashing to music. Zoolights is only on offer towards the latter part of the year.

The train stop is not at all far from the Zoo entrance and costs about $3.55 per adult. Calgary Transit offers bus or C-Train (LRT) service to virtually anywhere in the city. The C-Train is free downtown – simply hop on at any stop along 7 Ave. As long as you hop off the train before leaving downtown, no fare is required.

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Awww … Had to check out the kangaroos at the end of the day!

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Banff to Calgary, Canada – Part Seven

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Banff, incredibly picturesque and yes very much a tourist town. Much too lovely to miss though, especially at this time of the year when Maple trees and similar are gearing up for a magical change of colour.

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Recognisable wildlife crossings are found in Banff National Park, Alberta, where vegetated overpasses provide safe passage over the Trans-Canada Highway for bears, moose, deer, wolves, elk and many other species. The 24 wildlife crossings in Banff were constructed as part of a road improvement project in 1978.

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Can’t help stopping often for a photo opportunity as we’re all happy to take in the amazing views.
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Speaking of views, take the Banff Sightseeing Gondola  to see the escarpment and mountains as the trees are readying themselves for a change to gold and red. The Gondola is on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain just in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

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And then not too far away is the Icefield Heli Adventures which have a number of tours and flyovers available. Book early as they’re quite busy during peak season.

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Not a trick question; are we excited? You bet!

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Up and away, perfect weather with the overland aspect and mountainous regions are undoubtedly one of the best things you could want to see on any trip to Canada.

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The Icefield Base is located between Jasper and Banff National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, so it seems sensible to see it from up above.

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Once we’ve finished our sightseeing in and around Banff, we’re heading to Calgary which is less than two-hours drive, and a comfortable one at that. The landscape changes quite dramatically now to more flatter plains and noticeably farming and crops.

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Banff to Lake Louise and the Athabasca Glacier, Canada – Part Six

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How many times have you seen photos of Lake Louise, Alberta? It actually looks and feels surreal, even when you’re there!

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Just superb, especially early in the day with no breeze.

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Chateau Lake Louise grew from a simple log chalet and then the implementation of the Canadian Pacific transcontinental railway which was completed in 1885.

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Food at the Chateau is simply delicious and healthy choices available.

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A Grumpy Bear beer isn’t too bad either!
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On our way towards Calgary we stop at Lake Moraine which is a glacially-fed lake in Banff National Park – 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) outside the Village of Lake Louise.

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All along the way, just can’t beat the views.

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We’ve come over by way of a snow coach which has to climb one of the steepest gravel roads in Canada to gain access to it.

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The Athabasca Glacier is one of the six principal ‘toes’ of the Columbia Icefield located in the Canadian Rockies. It currently recedes at a rate of about 5 metres (16 ft) per year.

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Very impressive!

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The leading edge of the glacier is within easy walking distance; however, travel onto the glacier is not recommended unless properly equipped. Hidden crevasses have led to the deaths of unprepared tourists.

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Group shot before heading onto Calgary.

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It’s not going to look like this for much longer as Canada heads into its cooler months and will be whiter than white.

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Kamloops to Banff with The Rocky Mountaineer, Canada – Part Five

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Another early start from Kamloops and the water’s vapour is just waking up as well.

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Have quite a few more bridges to cross yet and heading onto Banff which is another 309 miles.

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A full day on the train is fine by me with these kinds of views.

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Keen fishermen and the water is crystal clear. Great time of the year as it’s not yet really cold for September and this is the last Coastal Passage journey for 2015.

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Little bit foggy but the air is fresh and crisp with gentle hills along the South Thompson River. The countryside is more arid here, rocky and sandy with fewer trees.

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We pass a lot of small townships and farming is the main industry of the area.

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Starting to see a lot more fresh water lakes as we track around the edges of many and in particular Lakes Shuswap and Mara.

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The train passes Craigellachie, whereby on 7 November 1885 the last ceremonial rail spike was driven in, completing the Canadian Pacific Railway and linking Montreal to Vancouver by rail. There’s a monument and small museum by the tracks for visitors.

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Love to, but we’re currently experiencing one of the best trains!

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Freight trains take precedence on the tracks and on odd occasions we need to stop along the way for them to pass.

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Noticeably starting to climb into the mountainous regions.

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The glass dome in Gold Leaf allows viewing at all angles and is tinted to reduce any glare.

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Mmmm, must be time to eat again and we’re passing through some long tunnels. Sophie’s taking good care of us and as an Aussie, she still speaks ‘the lingo’ well after being abroad for a while.

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Photo bombing a selfie …

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Always seem to meet up with a great lot of people on trains and this one was no exception.

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Heading into Banff after a full day travelling, eating, drinking, filming and chatting.

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Our last day on the train and really sad to farewell The Rocky Mountaineer at Banff. However, there’s always next year with the season commencing in May through to October, 2016.

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Vancouver to Kamloops, Canada with Rocky Mountaineer – Part Four

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Early motorcoach transfer from our Vancouver hotel whereby all luggage is taken care of and loaded onto the train.

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As the Rocky Mountaineer Station is separate to the Pacific Central Station where we arrived at from Seattle, this is the train’s departure point from Vancouver.

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Light refreshments are served with a pianist playing a number of favourites for the passengers whilst waiting to board at 7:30 am.

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This would have to be one of the most photographed and well-documented luxury trains in the world.

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A Scottish Bagpiper gives us a hearty welcome.

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The face of lovely Enzina tells us she’s ready for the whistle to blow and let’s be on our way.

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Here with Steve Farrelly, our National Sales Manager for Rocky Mountaineer. This is the second day of our Coastal Passage journey and it’s definitely worth the long-haul trip from Australia.

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Just a starter for breakfast …

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Bye Vancouver, was fantastic and enjoyed every minute of being there, but we’ve some more sightseeing to do and a train ride to enjoy.

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Still early in the day and the scenery is stunning.
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As there is a vestibule at the end of the Gold Leaf carriage, photographs are uninterrupted with a clear outlook and no glass reflections to worry about.

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At Cisco Crossing, CP and CN tracks swap sides of the river. The CN line crosses first on an distinctive arched orange-painted girder bridge, the CP tracks then crossing in the opposite direction on a squared-off black steel bridge lower down on the right.

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Sit back and enjoy the views.

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We’re starting to climb now and before our eyes, the landscape is changing dramatically.

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We’ll also follow a number of rivers over the duration of the day.

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We’re not even in the last carriage for us to be able to watch the front engine going through a myriad of tunnels.

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On the other side of the river, often seen are freight trains and it feels like we’re in a race!

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This legendary route along the Canadian Pacific track is famous for uniting the country and connecting British Columbia to Canada over 125 years ago.

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We’re just on the outskirts of Kamloops now where we’ll have an overnight stay.

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Buses are already waiting to take all passengers to their respective hotels with rooms already pre-assigned and keys given prior to check in.

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Vancouver in a Day – Part Three

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Ok so it’s raining in Vancouver today, but what’s unusual is they’ve not had rain for a while? We’re heading for the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park for a rainforest experience.

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Our group is gathered here today for a Rainforest Walk. And, we’re not disappointed …

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Oh, you want me to cross the Suspension Bridge? Ok, righto … Just a minute while I think about it.

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On our way. The bridge is 140 metres (460 ft) long and 70 metres (230 ft) above the river and draws over 800,000 visitors a year.

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Just one quick glimpse down.

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Easy to see why it’s one of Vancouver’s best attractions for visitors near and far.

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Granville Island Public Market, fun part of the city and a massive drawcard – even for locals every weekend.

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My friends with pooches would certainly not leave this place empty handed.

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For a take home item, some might like a broom stick! You know who they are …

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Love hats, should be more millinery stores about for customisation and better fittings.

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And just when you thought time stood still, you can venture to one of the back street areas under the bridge.
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At the Aquabus ferry wharf whereby you can take a ride up or down the river to other popular areas within the city.

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OSGEMEOS, which literally means “the twins” is the Brazilian twin brothers Gustavo and Otávio Pandolfo who are known for their public art, transforming buildings and walls into colourful spray-painted characters. The Granville Island Silos is their best work so far.

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We’re heading for Yaletown dock, then a tour through to the historical neighbourhood once known as ‘Gassys’.

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At the Gastown Steam Clock area there’s no shortage of fab shopping, bars and eateries.
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A number of ships are in port. Easy enough to combine a cruise with a Rocky Mountaineer journey from Vancouver, as well as Seattle.

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And at dusk, you can do some ship spotting from the Vancouver Lookout whereby you can capture spectacular panoramic 360 degree views of the city.
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