In October 1997 we travelled to the Rockies in our RV, we enjoyed the scenery and majesty of the Rockies immensely.
In 2008 we decided to do a train trip from Vancouver to Calgary. After much research we found out about the Rocky Mountaineer train, further research suggested we book on their Gold Leaf Service, which we did. That decision proved to be correct - the service and attention to detail, as well as the glass-topped coaches were really great.
July 2008 - We left Vancouver in the rain (no real surprise!), but what was surprising the rain lasted almost until Kamloops - our day 1 trip. It did not spoil the trip one little bit as the scenery is still stunning.
When we left the station at Vancouver, all the Rocky Mountaineer staff lined up on the platform and waved us bon voyage. Within minutes of departure we were served Champagne & orange juice which set the tone for the rest of the trip.
Most of day 1 we travelled along the Fraser and the Thompson rivers from downtown Vancouver to Kamloops. The history associated with the building of the line as told to us by our coach manager was extremely interesting.
An interesting aspect of the trip was whenever we passed through towns or villages everyone stopped and waved at the train and its passengers, including the railroad workers and policemen - this was quite special.
Our fellow passengers - about 70 per coach, although ours had only about 45 on it, were all very friendly and we met some very pleasant people.
There was just so much to see on day 1, from the lush green forests close to Vancouver until way past Hope, then fairly suddenly the scenery changes to semi-desert and then to almost barren desert close to Kamloops. It's as if one has entered a totally different country.
Going through Hell's Gate, this time by train was interesting, on previous trips we visited Hell's Gate by car and crossed the suspension bridge by foot after getting the cable car down to the bottom of the gorge.
In Kamloops we decided to go to a live show, we choose the Lumberjack Show, which included a buffet meal. The show was fun and light hearted albeit a little amateurish, but it was fun to just how fast lumberjacks can chop trees and logs. Their axe throwing was unbelievably accurate.
Another very nice feature of the trip is the handling of one's luggage - it's handled by the train company totally, it's collected from the hotel room in the morning and is ready and waiting in the hotel room when one arrives.
The next day's trip was from Kamloops to Banff. As we were going to be staying at Banff we could not complete the train trip from Banff to Calgary, but as it turned out that was not a problem at all. We had been booked into Fairmont hotels at all our stops (except in Kamloops where there isn't a Fairmont). In Banff we were booked into a Gold Class room, which is serviced by its own Reception and dining rooms, very, very posh and most pleasant. The view from our room was stunning.
We spent the afternoon in Banff exploring the very pretty, small resort town. We had been here before but like most popular resorts worldwide it has grown somewhat, but it remains unspoiled.
The next morning we were collected by a luxurious coach to be transferred to the Fairmont Lake Louise Chateau. We had also visited this hotel in 1997, but in early winter, so it was interesting to see the difference in summer.
As always, the hotel and view of the glacier was stunning, the glacier is not as large as it was in 1997, but no doubt that's due to us now seeing it in the middle of summer. It was our 37th wedding anniversary - what a special place to celebrate this milestone.
After checking in, we were taken by coach to the Icefield parkway, a 90 minute drive from Lake Louise towards Jasper. This is where we were going to do our "chopper" flight over 6 glaciers. On the way there, we were again totally "gob-smacked" by the mountainous rocky scenery, and the may glaciers. As we travelled it became windier and windier, to the point where I wondered if our flight may be cancelled.
I realised just how windy it was just after we took off, the wind buffeted us quite badly, but not dangerously so - it just made the flight a bit bumpy, much to Yvonne's consternation. What discomfort we imagined, the views from the chopper were absolutely fantastic (so many adjectives, but I can't help myself). The 35-minute flight over the glacial fields were an experience one will remember for a lifetime.
On the way back to Lake Louise we saw our first grizzly bear as well as a black bear. I videoed both sightings.
That night we had a really good meal at the hotel - not cheap by any standards, as an entree and a glass of wine each cost us over $250 - truthfully though, my glass of wine was a glass of Moet!
The next day we were collected for the trip to Calgary, but first we were taken to a number of Banff attractions such as Bow Falls and also for a ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the gondolas (cable car).
The trip to Calgary was about 90 minutes long and was comfortable but uneventful, by now we were tired and "sights" done.
Calgary is like any large city, although at present it is booming due to the very high oil price. We stayed at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel, another fine establishment, very colonial with splendour fitting that era.
We did the usual sight-seeing things and went to the top of the Calgary tower, where after much cajoling I managed to get Yvonne to stand on the glass floor for a photo.
On Sunday, August 3, we collected a car from Avis at Calgary airport for our drive south to Yellowstone National Park, via Great Falls and Gardiner - both in Montana.