Sunday, May 15, 2011

August 2010 trip to Banff/Calgary

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Awoke bright and early (4:30 am) at casa de Perkins in Kingsland to head to Austin for a 7:55 flight to Dallas connecting to Calgary.  All went well, although we did decide that the drive from the LH to Austin airport was not really all that swell.  Will have to think somewhat seriously about it next time..

Things went smoothly at the airport, bit of a long line at security, but it went fast, so no big deal.  We had an extra half hour, so we scooted off to the Presidents Club, because we are a big deal, and because we can!  Fortunately, all went on time and we were in Dallas in no time at all.

Arrived Dallas and again had a little bit of extra time, so scooted off to the Presidents club again and took advantage of their free stuff to pack our little bags with.  Flight was on time again (thankfully) and it was uneventful.  We didn’t have seats together, but managed to have a seat mate offer to change seats, so that worked out.  Did sit next to a pretty chatty Chiropractor, he was the definition of the word weird.
Arrived in Calgary as scheduled and picked up our National rental car (a day late.. scheduling conflicts by the underpaid travel agent..).  That all worked out well though, they were very helpful, friendly, kind courteous and it was easy!

Headed to Banff with a stop at our ever  favorite Subway. Trip to Banff was very pretty and easy.  We arrived at our hotel, Tunnel  Mountain Resort, checked in, popped open a beer and the vacation was good to go.  Walked to town and wandered around to check things out.  Had a beer at an Irish pub, then dinner at the Elk & Oarsman.  Service was a bit slow (but they compensated with a discount so we compromised), we wished later on that we had discovered the upper deck…  Elk burgers were good though, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Headed back to the hotel, approx 1 mile walk, and settled in for the night.  A ridiculously beautiful area that we’re looking forward to scouting out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Got up around 7:00’ish, and looked around the area (well, Jim did..) to discover a restaurant across the street.  We decided to give their breakfast a try (Buffalo Mountain Rest ).  Very expensive buffet, which was really just ok, and way too much money.  Okay for a one time thing, but we won’t do it again.

After breakfast we trudged up Tunnel Mountain Rd (about a mile) to get to the trail head to get to the top of Tunnel Mountain!  Very pretty hike with lovely views.  Wasn’t a difficult hike, it was a beautiful morning, cool and clear.  We got there before there were a lot of people, so that was nice.

We walked back to our hotel to pick up our car to drive to the Banff (Sulphur Mt) gondola.  We could have hiked up that baby, but instead coughed up $30/pp to go up on the gondola.  Chatted with a nice couple from Tasmania, Australia, who are now are new bff, and they invited us to visit them when we are in the Tasmania area.  If only they had given us their names..!

Beautiful views from the top and the crowds really weren’t bad.  We got there probably around 11:30 a.m. and it was quite lovely!  Walked along the boardwalk to the top, to visit the cosmic radiation and weather station that was built in the early 1900’s.

After leaving there, we decided to head to Lake Louise as the day was so pretty, and the weather forecast for the next few days does not sound like it will be as nice.  Got to Lake Louise Village, purchased a sammy with the requisite chips (we already had some beer….) and went off to the prettiest lake we have ever seen.  Seemed like there were a ton of people there, but not that bad really.  It’s so, so pretty and we decided to take one of the trails up to Lake Agnes (~6 ½ miles round trip).  Did seem like the beginning of it was a bit rough (I was certainly breathing pretty hard.. I’m going to blame that on the altitude).  Hard to describe how really beautiful the whole thing was.  Fortunately, we have 1000 pictures that will show just that!  We left Lake Louise and came back to Banff on Highway 1A, a more scenic drive that the big (under construction) TransCanadian Highway.  Spectacular views all the way around.  We had already decided yesterday, that we would hit the Lobster night at the local Irish pub (St. James Gate), so that is just where we headed when we got back.

The lobster was good, not fabulous, but for $20 (included scalloped potatoes, veggies and fresh oysters – which Jim had, I did not), it was a pretty good price.  Decided I was very fond of the Round rock Grasshopper beer, served with a lemon slice, mmmmm; and Jim was quite happy with an Irish Crème Ale (Kilkenny).  A dessert of toffee pudding, which was actually a cake, with a jamoca type ice cream was a ridiculously swell way to end the day.

Picked up some astronomically priced groceries at the local store so we could have a less expensive breakfast (the jury is out whether that will be so….) and came back to the hotel.  This nice little hotel does come equipped with a Jacuzzi tub, which was just the thing for the ageing bones after so many miles.
A great, beautiful, awesome and well, just darn spectacular day.

Friday, August 20, 2010
After having our store bought breakfast, we decided to spend the day driving the Icefields Parkway.  We left Banff a little later than we would have liked, but justified the later departure because it was foggy outside and we thought we would wait until it cleared a little.  Left here around 9 a.m.  Decided to take the 1A, a little longer but more scenic road.  We were so glad we did, as we weren’t on it 10 minutes before we saw a bear foraging along side of the rode.  Got quite a few good pictures of it, told Jim to hop on out of the car and see if he could get some close-ups, but he opted not to add to the bears breakfast.  We stopped at Lake Louise Village and got a sandwich and more chips!!  For a mere $12.00 we had our lunch to go.

Icefields Parkway is absolutely amazing.  It was a bit disappointing as there are fires in BC and the smoke has drifted this way, so we spent most of the day in the smokes haze.    The scenery and the size and scope of the mountains were just beyond description.  We made a few stops along the way.  Stopped at Peyto Lake, just a short hike from the car was beautiful.  I guess I’ll keep using the same adjectives, but awesome kind of fits.  We met a nice couple from Vancouver and swapped travel stories.  They are light years ahead of us travel wise, but we had a nice long chat with them overlooking this unbelievable view.

Next stop was the Icefield Centre and a look at the Columbia Icefield.  We had our lunch there, but opted not to walk up to the glacier.  We had done a glacier or two in Alaska, so decided to skip this one (not to mention, we are a bit sore from yesterday’s hiking, I am anyway…).  We left there and stopped at Sunwapta Falls, this was about a 20 minute hike, really lovely and we were pretty much the only ones there!  We hiked on back to the car and headed to the Athabasca Falls. Took another bunch of pictures, which will never show the amazing force of this waterfall.  It’s almost scary to watch how forceful it is.

Off to Jasper, because we weren’t sure we would have enough gas to head back to Banff.  We left Jasper about 5:30 pm and got back to Banff about 8:15 and headed for dinner at Masala, an Indian Restaurant.  I had curry chicken and Jim had a bison, lamb and beef dinner, along with some garlic naam.  Very yummy.
Back to the hotel by 9:45’ish and put these sore old bones back in the Jacuzzi!  Saw such amazingly beautiful sights today… life is indeed, good.

Saturday, August 21, 2010
Had a casual morning, breakfast in our room and a departure time of 9:30 a.m.  Went to Safeway to pick up some grub for lunch (see yesterdays lunch… same thing) and hit the highway for Field BC.  This is where we will meet for our hike tomorrow, but we wanted to see how long it would take us to get there, so we would give ourselves enough time.  It took about an hour and 15 minutes, and we got to the Takakkaw falls.  Another pretty amazing site.  It’s another really nice day, so a beautiful drive with the sun shining.  We wandered around the area for a little while and decided to head to Emerald Lake to take a little tour of that area.  So glad we went there!!  Thought Lake Louise was beautiful, but Emerald Lake has it beat.  The area is just so beautiful and there is a lodge there that I just think we should stay there the next time we come.  There was a wedding being set up there and I just can’t imagine a prettier place to get married!  Lovely!  We had lunch there and walked around the lake.  Made a few stops on our way back (Natural Bridge and the Spiral tunnel lookout, which we never really could figure out…).  

Am so glad we decided to come here, it never ceases to amaze me about the really stunning places that are so close by that we could have missed!  Really feel like we will come back to this area again.  Seems this is the perfect time of year.  Not too cold, not too many tourists and the weather has been gorgeous.  There is a lot of construction going on, but think because the tourist season is winding down, it hasn’t been that bad.
Got back to our hotel and decided to have dinner close by.  Across the street is a restaurant called Cilantro’s, and it was perfect.  Small place, probably 10 tables.  Service was great, food was very good and we will definitely go back there with the little time we have left here.

Tomorrow will be an early day, heading to Field to do the Burgess Shale hike.  It will be interesting to see what I have to say tomorrow evening…

Sunday, August 22, 2010
And so, the day arrives.  Up at 5:00 a.m., quick breakfast, make sure all is packed up and we hop into the car for hour and 15 minute drive to Field to meet up with the guide and 12 others for our hike.  At 7:15 everyone is gathered, we sign waivers and do the whole chit chat thing before we hit the trail ~ 8 a.m.  There is a guide (Christy, probably 48’ish), 4 couples (us, 2 couples with 2 sons each ranging from 16-21 years old; another couple with a 19 year old son).  A nice group of people, half of them showed up in shorts (it was not that nice out).  The guide told them the shorts were a bad idea, but the young guys decided they would be ok.  One of the moms had some very short shorts that she added some pants to shortly thereafter.

It was not a very nice day, the only day of the vacation that the weather wasn’t perfect.  It rained through probably half of the trip, which was a big drag, but not a deal breaker.  Fortunately, it was not as difficult as I feared, but I was more than happy when we were done.  The Burgess Shale deposit was pretty amazing (even from a novice point of view), there were fossils everywhere and not difficult to find.  The clouds rolled in while we were there, the temperature dropped and there was even a bit of a snow flurry.  We stayed there about an hour before we headed back.  The couples with the sons headed back ahead of us, and the rest of us (6) arrived back in the parking lot at 6 pm.  Pretty much 11 hours hiking there and back.  We did do a number of stops with some lectures along the way.  All in all, glad we did it, but I wouldn’t be tempted to do it again, and I’m pretty sure Jim feels the same way.

Headed back to Banff, had the usual back-up of congested, construction highway.  All I could think about was getting into the hot tub.  By then just about all of my 54 year old bones were unhappy with me.  Didn’t get back to the hotel until 8, where we decided to just get a pizza, drink wine and soak in the hot tub.  Nice.
If I thought the old bones were unhappy with me then, on Monday it was difficult to roll over and get out of bed.  We did a bit of moaning and groaning throughout the day!

Monday, August 23, 2011.
I have moved up to another box and turned 55.  Started my 55th year barely able to move from the bed to the bathroom.  After an aspirin or 3, and moving around, it got a little bit better!  We went to the Coyote Grill in Banff and had a exceptional breakfast.  I had stuffed French toast (stuffed with fresh berries and cream cheese,  num num.., and one stuffed with Canadian bacon and swiss cheese, mmm), Jim had a frittata that he said was equally as good.  

We left there and wandered around the streets of Banff, we followed the Bow River along for a while then stopped at the Fairmont Hotel to have a GOW overlooking the river (it was after noon….).  We headed back the way we came and popped into the car for our drive to Calgary.  Saw some mountain goats on our trip on the 1A on the way to Calgary.  Got to our hotel (5 Calgary Suites) around 5’ish, checked in and then took a walk around the area.  Got settled in, showered, dressed and walked to our dinner reservation at ‘Q’ at 7 pm (there were only 2 other tables with people dining).  Had some lovely martini’s, watched the world go by, and had a yummy dinner before heading back to the hotel.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Had breakfast at the hotel restaurant (decided that a breakfast buffet is just NOT the way to go… haven’t I already said this??).  Mediocre breakfast and just not worth it.  Decided to follow the Frommer’s directions for a day or two in Calgary and headed out to wander the streets.  It’s really a pretty city and we enjoyed wandering around on Stephens Avenue, Olympic Park the Glenbow Museum (interesting, glad we went) and Chinatown.  We lunched in Chinatown (which was also just ok), then went to the Calgary Tower to see the city sights from up above.  We decided it was a total waste of $28, live and learn…  We walked back down the Stephen Avenue Mall (worth it) and had a few $5 mojitos at one of the outdoor restaurants.  Because of a glitch in my travel plans, we only stayed at the 5 suites one night, and had reservations at the Nuvo suites (about 1 mile away) for tonight.  A bit of a pain, should have just stayed at the 5 suites, but in the end it worked out alright.  Wouldn’t do it again though, would just stay put.  Had dinner at a restaurant called Gnocci’s (again only about 2 other table occupied).  Jim had bleu cheese gnocchi and I had pasta and clam sauce (good, but not as good as Jim’s).  Had tiramisu for dessert, and it was just ok.  We stopped off at Safeway for some breakfast food before we head out of here tomorrow.

The weather has been wonderful (except our hiking day!!), beautiful scenery, lots of wonderfulness all the way around!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Our last day!  Awoke, after a somewhat restless night (dinner did not agree with me a few hours later), got our stuff together and checked out of the hotel around 10 a.m.  We walked along 17 Ave (which is supposed to be an eclectic part of the area, stores, restaurants, etc).  It was okay, perhaps too early in the day to be too interesting.  We walked to the stadium which holds the famous Calgary stampede.  We were the only ones there, so just wandered around there a bit before we headed back to the hotel.

Got to the airport 12’ish for our 2:35pm flight.  Long lines for customs, so we were kind of glad we got there so early.  After security and all that, we got to our gate and tried to locate the Priority Pass club, took us a while, but fortunately found it, as all the goodies were great!  Had some soup, sandwiches, fruit, cookies a beer and some wine!!  Love that priority pass.

Flight left on time and we got to Dallas in time to see an earlier flight boarding to Austin.  We hustled on down to that gate and they let us on, so we arrived in Austin an hour and a half earlier than we were scheduled, sweet!  Got to the lake house around 9:30 pm and reminisced about well a ridiculously swell trip:)

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