Alberta, CanadaAuthor: Judy P. (More Trip Reviews by Judy P.)
Date of Trip: July 2001
The Calgary Airport is very nice. I'm not sure if it's still there, but keep an eye out when you land and are taxiing down the runway-- there's an oil rig pumping that has a statue of a bucking bronco and a cowboy riding it as a tribute to the big rodeo there every year. It's cute. Once you get off the plane, you will stand in line at the custom's counter. Make sure you have your passport!!!!
I'm an Olympics nut, so I really enjoyed seeing Olympic Park in Calgary. The Olympics were held there in 1988. The fake luge ride inside the building was a lot of fun. So was actually sitting at the start line of the bobsled run. And standing up on the medals podium pretending I just won the Gold was cool! I got goose bumps just seeing the Olympic Torch burning. And the different country's flags all hanging made for a colorful photo.
Alberta, Canada is my favorite place in the world! I've been there twice in the summer and once in the winter, though several years ago now. There are SO many sights to see, it's hard to name any in particular. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (Valley of the Ten Peaks) are spectacular.
All I can say is when you drive the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise or Banff up to Jasper, plan on taking the whole day. There are so many places to stop and take photos! Peyto Lake is gorgeous, as are Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls. Herbert Lake at sunrise is really pretty. If you get a sunny morning, the water is still and you can get a great shot with the mountains reflecting in the lake. (It's not too far a drive from the Post Hotel.)
Jasper -- Spirit Island on Maligne Lake
For some reason, my heart belongs to Spirit Island on Maligne Lake in Jasper. We bought our tickets for the Maligne Lake boat ride at the Jasper Park Lodge. Unfortunately, you only get to actually stop at Spirit Island for a quick (10 minutes or so) photo op, and they always warn to look out for a possible porcupine at the bathroom there. They don't actually let anybody onto the island (which technically is not an island), but you'll stop at the best place to get a good photo. As I recall, when you get off the boat, you have to go uphill to get to the best spot for photographing. I ran up there as fast as I could to get there first and get a good shot without having to jockey for position. Beware that the sky is bright and the mountains, lake, and island are kind of dark. I've had several washed-out photos due to the bright sky overpowering everything. If you're really into it, a split, neutral-density filter would really help to even out the exposure, I'm sure.
Also, the drive through Maligne (muh-leen') Canyon is FULL of wildlife. Make sure you leave early to get to your boat ride, because chances are you'll want to stop many times along the canyon before you get to the lake. Be on the lookout. I got photos of big horn sheep with their noses right up against the car window, mountain goats, black bears, and even a grizzly. Every time you see a car pulled over, get your camera and get ready for action! Although, you should just drive with your camera at the ready at all times.
At one point along some highway somewhere, we spotted a black bear swimming towards us across the river alongside of us. We slowed down to follow it for about 5 minutes (as the river flowed), which was great because there was nobody else on the road. As the bear got out of the water and onto the bank, we pulled over and waited for it to come up the banks and hopefully cross the street in front of us. I was SO looking forward to this photo op! Since it was down at the bottom of the bank, we couldn't see it for a moment. Just as it came up in front of us, wouldn't you know, an RV pulled over right in front of us and ruined our view! At that point, the bear ran like the dickens across the street, and all I got was a photo of its wet paw prints going across the street! Ugh!
Jasper Park Lodge is a neat place to look around (very expensive to stay there) and have a drink on the veranda overlooking Lac Beauvert and Mt. Edith Cavell, at sunset (remember it's later up there - about 10:00 I think.) When the alpenglow lights up on Mt. Edith Cavell, it takes your breath away. Everywhere you look, it's more and more gorgeous!
My favorite place to stay in Jasper is Alpine Village (nice little cabins, reasonably priced) in Jasper. Oh - and Alpine Village in Jasper is right across the street from the Athabasca River, which is quite large. One of my favorite things to do was go into town (about a 3 minute drive), to Jasper Park Pizza, get a pizza and Coke to go, and take it back and eat it out on the lawn-- a little picnic. You'll probably see crazy rafters riding down the river, and many elk mosey around the grounds there. It's a great place for a lazy afternoon.
My favorite place to stay in Lake Louise is the Post Hotel (kind of expensive, but worth it)! The décor is what I would call "fancy rustic." Beautiful flower arrangements, gorgeous wood walls, attention paid to every detail. The bellmen were wonderful. Very friendly and helpful. As were the front desk clerks. The rooms were very nice, very homey. We had fluffy comforters, a fire place, and a spa bath tub. Wonderful! On the exterior, the windows were lined with flower boxes and the large green lawn sprinkled with pine trees made you want to sit out on the patio in one of the adirondack chairs and just soak in the beauty. The indoor swimming pool is gorgeous. And the restaurant and bar are beautiful, with moose and buffalo heads hanging to give it that outdoorsy lodge feel. Sitting in the piano bar was lovely. Enjoying a hot chocolate on the comfy sofa in front of the fireplace-- relaxing to the quiet piano music in the background while looking outside at the beautiful scenery. Too romantic! The meal in the expensive restaurant was excellent. It's very foo-foo. When they brought out the fancy dessert, we were in awe! It was a piece of art. So pretty, we hated to eat it! The last time I had dinner at the Post, I only wore a nice sweater and jeans. I THINK my boyfriend just wore a decent shirt and jeans-- no tie or jacket. But you may want to check with the hotel for a dress code before going.
Outside of the main lobby area, in a separate building, they also have (or had) a bar/restaurant called The Outpost that had the BEST rib eye steak sandwich with onion straws and french fries for a reasonable price! Unfortunately it could get rather loud in there, since there's a big screenTV usually turned to some sort of sports. There, along with anywhere else, whenever we sat at a bar, the people were so friendly. Everyone is on vacation, and they all want to share their stories. It's great to socialize and hear so many interesting stories!
Behind the Post is a little outdoor mini mall. It's a real pretty walk out the back of the hotel, over the bridge over the river, and there you are. It was nice to walk over there to get a snack or some film. And maybe even a T shirt or two. There was also a small bakery/coffee shop that made sandwiches to take with you on hikes, and a small pizza-by-the-slice place (with no ice in the Coke). We also went horseback riding at Lake Louise. It was spectacular. And we paddled a canoe across Lake Louise. That was a little too much like work for me, but it was neat. We had lunch at the Poppy Room at Chateau Lake Louise. It was pretty nice. It overlooks the lake. How bad could it be?! I loved all the Icelandic poppies out in front of the hotel. Every time I see some, I have such fond memories.
Oh -- the Banff Springs Hotel is very cool! Very expensive to stay there, but you really should go look around. Lots of good shopping and a neat place to see! Try to take the Tunnel Mountain Road in Banff-- it winds up and around the top of a mountain, and you see a spectacular view of the Banff Springs Hotel (looking like a castle) down in the woods. You would think you were in Bavaria. I believe it also gives you the view of the HooDoos, some strange rock formations that are like giant stalagmites (or is it stalagtites?) coming up out of the ground from the mountainside.
The town is so cute. Very "touristy" for sure, but I loved it. And the drive around the Twin Lakes(?) (Johnson and Minnewanka Lakes) was very pretty. I hear that there's good fishing on Minnewanka at certain times of the year. There are fishing boats available to rent.
I was told by the locals there that it usually rains in June. I hope you don't have that problem! When I went in July, it was 85 degrees F. Don't forget they do the temperature in Celcius! And mph is kph, so when you see a Speed Limit sign that says 100, they're talking about kilometers, which is about 60 miles per hour! If you do 100 Miles per hour, you'll be asking for time in the klinker!
A lot of places in Alberta don't serve ice in/with their drinks.
All of the signs are in English and French. That's kind of neat.
The best thing about Canada is the exchange rate. If you buy something marked at $20 (Canadian), and hand them an American $20 bill, they give you change back! It's best to use your credit card to get the best exchange rate. (Why places can do different exchange rates, I don't understand!) Everyone was happy to take American money. If you go to a bank and use an ATM, they will give you Canadian money. It's so much prettier than American money.
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