The train and the Rockies

I’ve been MIA again. But wow. Canada.

My mum came to meet me in Toronto and we got the train for three days to the Rockies. We have had some amazing moments here and will head onwards to Vancouver the day after tomorrow.

I don’t usually do travel #thisishowwedoit style blogs but this has been a pretty good experience and I’d like to remember exactly how we did it for … next time. We have booked everything ourselves which, I would say, keeps the price down.

Between seasons

First thing, after we had booked most of our trip, we realised that nothing really opens until mid-May. There are two major seasons: winter and summer. Coming between the two means that there are fewer options from a skiing, touring and accommodation perspective. The lake boating trips are definitely not on.

That said, we’ve been incredibly lucky to enjoy whole days of sunshine and catch the landscape in all its excellence, knowing that it will never look exactly this way again.

On the train

We got on the VIA Rail train at 1am one Sunday morning. It was due to leave at 10:30 the previous evening but didn’t due to severe freezing rain in Toronto. Apparently the train frequently runs late and so, if travelling, be sure not to book any connecting flights or rail journeys without some time in between.We were then on the train for 3 days to Jasper. We had a sleeper cabin with 2 bunk beds, a sink (with fun mirrors – see below) and a private toilet. The shower was shared but beautifully clean.We sat with strangers at tables of 4 for 3 meals each day. The food was exquisite and we learned new stories from people all over the world. We got off at stops to stretch our legs. Had a bit of a wander (and a sit down on the bench) when we got to Winnipeg. It was truly beautiful.Best of all, we were able to view the beautiful nature outside from the dome carts which had elevated seating. The rooves were glass “bubbles” revealing panoramic views. The view for the majority of the 3 days was a mixtures of flat and less flat snow-covered land and lakes, decorated with streams.The relatively repetitive patterns of snow and Douglas Firs lulled us into a sense of security so when the Rockies shot out of Jasper, they were truly striking.

The Rockies

We got off the train in Jasper for our week in the Rockies. At this time of year, there are two trains each week across the country. We decided that one week would give us enough time to travel around the Rockies without being rushed. We don’t ski.

We stayed for two nights in each of Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise and will return to Jasper for a final night before getting back on the trian. There is a load of accommodation in all these places ranging from hostels to Chateaux hotels.

We haven’t hired a car so got on the Sundog shuttle. Every day this goes from Jasper to Lake Louise to Banff and back again. This is a shuttle service only so there is no chat about the breathtaking geology of the Columbia Icefields and no time to stop at the sites for photographs. One toilet break only. But it’s a good service and cheaper than a taxi!

Some of the things we have done:

  • took the Jasper Skytram (the highest and longest aerial tramway in Canada) for incredible views and an epic hot chocolate
  • watched a lot of ice hockey … oooph this Stanley Cup
  • had the most delicious and hearty salad I’ve ever eaten at the Raven Bistro, Jasper (other choices are available)
  • walked along the walkways along the Bow river in Banff
  • visited the hot spring caves at Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff (photo above)
  • had a great guided bus tour to see some of the top spots with Discover Banff Tours (photo of Lake Minnewanka below)

I write from the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louise where I’ve just finished a delicious creme brûlée. We had lunch and overlooked the frozen lake. What dreams are made of.

There’s a restaurant and deli here and it’s an absolute delight.

I am equally excited about being here and getting back on the train. If you have any questions about this stuff I’d love to answer them so I can talk more about this trip!

Thanks for reading!

Em x

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