Saturday, September 1, 2012

Picture postcard days

The last few days have been picture postcard days.  Many of the pictures I cut out of travel brochures for our Canada dream board featured Lake Louise & Moraine Lake.  A couple of those pictures featured people canoeing in perfect conditions on a mirror lake.  Well, we can now tick that box on our dream holiday.

We arrived in Lake Louise after a lovely few days in Banff.  We wandered down to the edge of the lake to where the very large Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise stands.  It sure is one large, impressive building!  We did venture inside to have a sneaky peak, and check out how much it would be for high tea, but we decided that CAD39pp was just a bit too much for our budget.  We did the next best thing and ate a picnic tea outside on the lake's foreshore (same view, just more rustic seating!).

The next day we headed off to Moraine Lake, and took up the chance to go for a canoe out on the lake.  It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip so far.  Sitting out in the middle of the lake, when the light breeze dropped right away, the lake turned to the picture perfect millpond that is so often photographed - it really was just breathtaking.

Emerald Lake was next on the list - another beautiful, glacier blue lake.  There were lots of tourists here too, but it wasn't hard to find a quiet spot to grab a bite to eat with an awe-inspiring view.  Although, as you can see from the photo - some things don't change no matter where you are in the world.  (Rhys would like to report that Half Brother, by Kenneth Oppel, is a really good book.  It certainly appeared to be almost unputdownable.)

Takakkaw Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Canada - and while impressive when we saw it, it must really be something during the spring melt.  The falls are 384m high, and water tumbling out from the ledge near the top is quite spectacular.

We finished the day with a soak in the hot tub on the roof of our hotel - a perfect end to a perfect day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The first few days - shopping, food, short skirts and dinosaurs

It's hard to believe we are actually here.  Friday was a very long day, but we finally arrived in Calgary about 6.15pm local time.  I was very proud of Rhys and Amy at the airports and on the flights - and I think they were quite surprised at the behaviour of some of the other kids on some of the flights!

Our first day in Calgary we spent having a good wander around, and visiting The Core - a big shopping precinct right in the middle of town.  We were really hungry (Amy's first words of the day were "I starving!") so we hit the food court straight away.  A huge choice - but the yummy crepes hit the spot.  Right next to one of the food courts is the Devonian Gardens - a beautifully lush garden setting, complete with waterfalls and ponds with gigantic gold fish in them.  We followed our yummy breakfast with a session of light shopping.  Nice ;-)

 The view from Calgary Tower was just amazing - it was such a clear day - we could see for miles.  Standing out over the glass floor area was OK - until you looked down!
The kids were braver than me - lying on the glass floor (I couldn't do it - but only because of all those germs on the floor you know).
We ended our day with a meal at the hotel bar & grill - which was great.  The food was good and it came with its own entertainment... we'd noticed throughout the day that really short skirts seemed to be the fashion choice for most Calgary females under the age of 25 (and some not so young!).... the only difference at night is that the skirts get really really short and the heels get really really high.

On Sunday we picked up the car and drove out of Calgary to Drumheller to visit the dinosaur museum.  Normally I love a good road trip but I was pretty nervous about this one - you know - other side of the road, other side of the car, big city and all.  All the things that you do instinctively when you drive (checking mirrors, being aware of how big/small your car is, not having to think about what side of the road to stay on) all go out the window when you have to adjust to driving on the other side of the road and on the other side of the car!  Simple things like checking your rear vision mirror - I'd keep doing it and then have to remember that it was up on my right hand side and not my left.  And I have to admit - that first day was pretty tense at times.  Rhys was just amazing as my navigator (aka Map Boy). 

T Rex
As an aside - Amy said today that it was much more relaxed - she could tell as I didn't swear anywhere near as much as yesterday.  I'm taking that as a positive comment.

The Royal Tyrell Museum was just amazing.  I wish that we could have had a bit more time to explore it - there were just so many amazing exhibits and displays - too many to take in in one visit.  We went out on a tour into the Badlands behind the museum to learn a bit about fossil hunting and what to look for.  Definitely one of the highlights so far.

And now we are in Banff, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.  It's quite an amazing town - very touristy - like Queenstown - but very picturesque.  It must look just fantastic in winter with snow all around.  Tomorrow we are off up Sulphur Mountain in the gondola - looking forward to it!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The excitement is building....

I'm not going to make any excuses for the rather lengthy delay between posts on this blog - I have them - they're just not very good.

I'm also not going to make excuses for the fact the over the next few weeks I'm going to hijack this blog from its original purpose, and put it to work as a family travel diary.  You see, in just a few short days, our Canadian adventure begins.  And goodness me - there is palpable excitement in the household!

In January 2011, I read an article about Vancouver and British Columbia - and right there and then - one of my lifetime dreams crystallised.  I've long dreamt of travelling to Canada and seeing grizzly bears.  Until that moment, it was just that, a dream.  But a little voice in my head started asking "why not now?"  The more I thought about it - the more it seemed like a great idea - and a great place to take the kids.

And so the planning began.  For the last 20 months we've been surrounded by pictures cut from magazines of bears, Orca, snapshots of Vancouver, float planes and maple leaves.  There is a calendar of bears in the loo.  We've had a map of British Columbia and Alberta under glass on the coffee table - a daily reminder of where we're going.  Rhys & Amy have saved almost all their pocket money for the last year (I'm very proud of both of them, and I admire their self control!).

I have to say that this trip would not have been possible without Mum & Dad's help, and their inspiration.  When I was 13, I was lucky enough to travel to England with Mum & Dad.  I loved it - I loved the travel, I loved the amazing things we saw, and the experiences we had.  I have such vivid memories of that time with them (although I have tried to dim the memory of the "expired passport incident" at Auckland airport).

For a number of reasons, I haven't followed up that first overseas experience with the usual Kiwi OE, but the dream has always been there.  One day, one day.  Now that day is very nearly here.  And I am going to share this experience with the two most important people in my world - my kids.

I do hope that if Mum & Dad are watching from "the other side", they are smiling with approval.  And yes Mum, I've just done all the cleaning today, so the house will be left in a clean and tidy state.  Oh, and I've double checked the passports too!