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Vietnam and Cambodia 2011
Kenya and Tanzania 2010
Egypt and Jordan 2010
UK and Northern France 2010
Turkey and Greece 2010
Italy and Sicily 2010
Canada and Alaska 2009
After 17 hours travelling we arrived in Vancouver on the same day we left, Sunday 17th!! We were picked up and transferred to our hotel in a black limo and arrived to a beautiful sunny day with a temperature of 21° C. We are told that it was unusual for it to be such a beautiful day in spring but we lapped it up. We settled in to our hotel room and set out to explore Robson Street in downtown Vancouver. We found the most amazing chocolate shop called “Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory”. They have the most decadent chocolates, sweets and toffee apples like you have never seen in your life.
All along Robson Street we saw sculptures of eagles that are part of an art competition and they adorn several street corners.
On Monday, we were picked up by bus and enjoyed a half day tour of Vancouver which included Stanley Park, Chinatown, Gastown, Prospect Point and Granville Island. In Stanley Park we visited the West Coast Native Totem Poles believed to be the best collection of poles in Canada.
At Granville Island we visited the “Public Market” with an amazing array of fruit and veges, flowers, crafts, food and entertainment and at Prospect Point we listened to an old Chinese Man play beautiful music on his Chinese Violin.
Our tour finished with a visit to the top of Vancouver Tower where we had spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains.
Up early the next day to join our Brewsters Tour from Vancouver to Lac Le Juene. There were four of us on tour and we had a 40 seater bus all to ourselves!! We set off early with our driver Brian along the Sea to Sky Highway past the beautiful scenery of Howe Sound and Shannon Falls before arriving at our first stop, the ski resort of Whistler. Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics in February so the city is busily preparing for that. Many of the events will be held at Whistler so they are all abuzz. It was freezing at Whistler but we didn’t stay long, only long enough to pick up 6 more people so we ended up with 10 people on the bus for the rest of the trip and this continued right up until Thursday which made for a very comfortable bus journey. Our bus driver Brian was great. The tour company Brewsters, have been operating tours in Canada for over 100 years and they sure know how to do it well. Always on time and clean and comfortable coaches. We continued on our way towards Lac Le Jeune and were like kids in a lolly shop when as we got to Joffre Creek it started SNOWING!!
Margaret and I were straight out of the bus and just couldn’t believe our luck. When we arrived at the Lac Le Jeune Resort we told Wal the resort manager that “we would like snow everywhere when we wake up tomorrow please” at which he scowled so when we woke up to 4 inches of snow covered ground he told us we were not allowed to tell ANYONE that it snowed in May! Sure Wal, we won’t tell a soul :)
We loved staying at Lac Le Jeune, it was homely, comfortable, the food was awesome and it snowed. Real home cooked old style food like baked ham, roast beef and veges and sweets to die for. For breakfast we had all the old favourites like porridge and bubble and squeak, just like your Grandma used to make. I would definitely recommend this stop and the fact that it snowed just for us was a bonus!
We said goodbye to this beautiful place and travelled along the Trans Canada Highway towards the Rocky Mountains stopping at Revelstoke and on through Roger’s Pass. We visited the Discovery Centre and also stopped at Craigellachie where “The Last Spike” was driven on November 7, 1885 to mark the completion of the Trans-Continental railway. The Discovery centre at Rogers Pass provides much information about the hardships faced when the construction took place and a monument stands at Craigellachie to honour everyone who played a role in the construction of Canada’s historic railway.
From here we travelled on towards Banff via Lake Louise. This lake is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Canadian Rockies” and it isn’t hard to understand why. Even while it is frozen, the lake is beautiful and we got to have a quick look around and wouldn’t you know….. it snowed while we were there. Two days later we came back to Lake Louise and the contrast was amazing.
On our way from Banff to Lake Louise just before Johnstone Canyon we saw BEARS. Not just one but three!! We saw a mother black bear and 2 cubs which was amazing. We sat by the roadside (in the bus) and were mesmerized by these majestic animals. Some of the other tourists who had stopped to take photos where not as smart as us and were outside of their vehicles. Temporary tourists I like to call them :).
We really enjoyed Banff. The town is in the province of Alberta, in the southwestern corner of the Banff National Park. People can only live there if they work in or own a business in Banff. They can never own their houses or land but can only rent them for 40 years at a time and real estate prices are astronomical. It is only 4km square and is surrounded by mountain parkland and wilderness and it is not uncommon to see Elk, chipmunks and ground squirrels wandering around the town.
We stayed right in the main street and on recommendation, tried the ribs at Tony Roma’s not once, but twice and man did they live up to their statement, “The best ribs in the world”. We did a tour around the National Park, Lake Minnewanka, Bow Falls, the Hoodoo Lookout and then took the Gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain for spectacular views of Banff and it’s surrounds.
It was -3oC so you will understand why we are huddled up together in the photo above.
For most part the sun was shining and it was not too windy. You can see for miles and look right down on the valley. In the evening we went out on a wildlife safari around the Banff National Park including Lake Minnewanka and the Hoodoos, where we saw Elk, Big Horn Sheep, White tail deer, Mule deer and much more.
On Friday we said goodbye to Banff and headed down to Lake Louise. The lake was still frozen solid but the skies were blue. We stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and it was very swish. It is a hotel that was built during the time of the construction of the railway and is very much a display of old world charm.
You can see in the picture above, the view from our rooms. Just beautiful isn’t it? From Lake Louise we continued our journey through the Canadian Rockies towards Jasper on the Icefield Parkway passing Crowfoot Glacier and on to the Columbia Icefield where we enjoyed a trip up to the Athabasca Glacier onboard a snowcoach. The glacier covers 6 square kilometers and is from 90 metres to 300 metres thick.
We continued on to the beautiful Athabasca Falls shown below.
On Sunday we joined the Rocky Mountaineer train for our 2 day journey from Jasper in the Canadian Rockies down to Vancouver. What a wonderful experience this was and what amazing scenery we saw. The beautiful Moose and Yellowhead Lakes were picture perfect as we rambled by and after a delightful stay overnight in Kamloops we arrived back in Vancouver.
Along the way we saw wonderful scenery, bald eagles, black bears and other wildlife. The food was great, the service was great and I would thoroughly recommend this rail journey to everyone. Our last day in Vancouver included a full day tour of Victoria on Vancouver Island and the beautiful Buchart Gardens.
The next leg of our adventure was a 7 night Alaskan cruise on board MS Volendam through the Inside Passage. Wow, what an experience. Sailing out of Vancouver harbour we made our way north towards our first Alaskan port of Juneau. Juneau is the only state capital in the U.S. that is not accessible by car. You have to fly in by seaplane. It was cold and wet and sadly our land tours were cancelled but we explored the port all the same.
We made our way to “The Red Dog Saloon” which Johnny Horton wrote about in his songs way back in the 60’s and went up to the top of Mt Roberts on the tramway from where we could see the Governor, Sarah Palin’s house.
On through the icy waters of Tracey Arm and to Skagway where it seems that time has stood still since the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 when thick veins of gold were discovered in Rabbit Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River. We took a ride on the White Pass Rail up through the White Pass and the Yukon where it climbs almost 3,000 feet in just 20 miles and goes through places like “Dead Horse Trail” and some of the most treacherous terrain you will ever see.
We learnt all about the men and women of the gold rush days who carved their names in history like “Klondike Kate” and “Soapy Smith” and about the “One Ton” supply list. Every prospector was required to carry a year’s supply of food and supplies when they entered Canadian territory to ensure that they didn’t starve to death. This was done in several trips which meant that by the time they had trekked backwards and forwards bringing in supplies they had already walked over 1,000 miles before they started prospecting.
Glacier Bay was breathtaking, we had perfect blue skies. Glacier Bay is the spiritual homeland to the Tlingit Tribe, an Indigenous people who inhabit the far northwestern part of British Columbia and the southern Yukon Territory of Canada.
The ship sat at Margerie Glacier, a 34-km-long glacier named after a French Geographer and geologist and watched it calving as the ice melted. You hear a loud crack and then see the ice fall into the water below. A pretty amazing experience but cold!!
Our ship, the MS Volendam was great. Wonderful shows, friendly staff and the food, don’t get me started on the food!! Most afternoons we could be found at the Crows Nest, which is a bar at the front of the ship with 180° views where they served up great cocktails and had happy hour each day where you got 2 for 1.
Our next port was Ketchikan “Alaska’s First City and Salmon Capital of the world”. Much of the business section of the town hangs suspended above water on pilings driven into the bottom of the Narrows. Many homes are perched on cliffs reached by wooden staircases or narrow, winding streets. It is a quaint town, steeped in history. The average annual rainfall here is 152 inches and we were lucky enough to jag one of the rare beautiful sunny days.
We wandered through Creek Street, known in the 1900’s as the “red light” district and we visited “Dolly’s House” to get a glimpse of what life was like back then. Dolly Arthur was Ketchikan’s most celebrated hooker who was once quoted as saying “By the time I was 18 or 19, I realized that I could make a lot more money from the attention of men than I could waiting on tables." She set up her establishment at 24 Creek Street in 1919. There used to be brothels and bars all along Creek Street where, during prohibition, liquor could be brought right up the creek and into the buildings during the night.
Ketchikan also has a very good museum inside the town library for a couple of dollars which is very close to Creek Street. It also offers half an hour free internet to tourists and all you have to do is register. This might not seem much but when you see what is charged on the ship you will know why this was like striking gold!! While on board we had the chance to take part in “On Deck for a Cure” a walk around the deck to raise funds for cancer research.
All in all we had a wonderful tour of Canada and Alaska. Both places are breaktakingly beautiful and a joy to visit. Girls On Tour plans to return to Canada and Alaska in 2011.