A Travellerspoint blog


VIA Canadian - Vancouver to Jasper

sunny 10 °C
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Day 25 - Sunday 10 October – VIA Canadian
Temperature 20 °C & Bright Sunshine

Right on 5:30 the special lounge opens and we found a table and chair on the patio (complete with outdoor gas heaters). Tea, coffee and water as well as biscuits – help yourself. An older bloke sets up a sound system and entertains us with key-board, guitar and saxophone, his voice is not too shabby either. At 8 pm the 'other' passengers are allowed to board and when they've cleared the 'platform' we 'sleeper class' are invited to board.
Live Music
The VIA 'Silver and Blue' Patio

Typical of North American country trains there are no raised platforms, steps fold down from the carriage and you climb aboard. The first step is a big one for little short ladies :-). We find our cabin and as the train rolls out at 8:30 PM and our attendant explains the features of the cabin. It is quite compact, it has a toilet and wash basin but very limited storage space. There are two arm chairs which fold down and store under the bed when made up.

We are encouraged to visit one of the three observation cars where they serve us champagne and canapes. There is a constant supply of tea, coffee, muffins and fruit. After an hour or so we return to the cabin and find the room converted to a double bunk bedroom. We turn in and try to sleep not easy when there's the constant noise of the train and the multi directional rocking as the train snakes its way up the mountains.

Day 26 - Monday 11 October – Aboard the VIA Canadian
Temperature ??°C & Fog clearing to Bright Sunshine

We wake up at 6 am at Kamloops North – 428 Km out of Vancouver. We head for the dinning car a little ahead of the 6:30 serving time – no big deal and when they open we're one of the first in. Good choice of breakfast options – Jenny chooses cereal and toast, I have eggs, sausage and hash-brown (sounds like the $4.75 breakfast at the Grove Inn, but presentation and quality are way better).

After breakfast we spend time in the observation car and see snatches of mountains on both sides of the train. Gradually the fog lifts and the train follows the river as we climb North East. Our lunch sitting is at 11 and after lunch we head back to the observation car. By this time there are views of distant snow clad peaks, the trees line the track and see glimpses of the river. Simply spectacular.
Obvervation Car
Another Observation Car
Distant Mountains
Distant Mountains
Distant Mountains

At about 1:30 the highest peak on the Canadian Rockies comes into view. Mt Robson is 3,954 m (12,972 ft) in elevation and stands out from the terrain by 2,829 m (9,281 ft). The train crew claim that a perfect view occurs only about 20 days per year – what luck, this is one of them.
We advance our clocks by an hour to go to US & Canada Mountain Time. We arrive in Jasper about 30 minutes ahead of schedule having travelled 886 Km from Vancouver. We disembark and retrieve our checked baggage. We sit and wait for the hotel shuttle which turns up at the 'normal' time.

Mt Robson

Jasper Station

The reason we were ahead of schedule is because of the Thanksgiving Holiday there were fewer freight trains. The freight has priority over our train and because there were fewer times where we had to wait for them to pass we arrived early.
Freight Train
Will report on the Fairmont Jasper Lodge in a separate entry.

Posted by greynomadm 19:41 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Last Day in Vancouver

sunny 19 °C
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Day 23 - Friday 8 October – Vancouver
Temperature 14 °C & Overcast with light showers

Make and mend today, first job get the laundry going, then we seal the box for another package home. Take it to the Post Office – overweight by 49 grams. Back to the hotel, open the box and take out one item, seal it again. This time it is 1.909 Kg so it passes the maximum limit and will cost only $22.

Found a new place for breakfast, great value and greater range then Red Umbrella so the Grove Inn Restaurant 1047 Denman Street looks like being our breakfast stop for the next few days. Emptied the drier and folded the washing. Found some good books in the laundry, will read them and have them back before we leave.
The Grove Inn

Final maintenance item was hair cuts for us both. We were assigned a 'stylist' each and for just over $40 we came out quite spruced up. Dinner at the Grove Inn, read the book, watch TV and yes, plenty of water for me.

Day 24 - Saturday 9 October – Vancouver
Temperature 16 °C & Overcast with light showers

Breakfast at the Grove Inn and we head off to try the other Hop On-Hop Off company. This one has buses dressed up as trams, the voucher was part of the cross Canada package so thought we may as well use it. Buses appeared to be in better mechanical shape and the commentary varied considerably. The final leg was driven by Brian Q who made up for all the mediocre commentaries we'd heard. So good in fact that we made a date to ride with him again in the morning.
The Kid's Market Granville Island

Bath-tub Ferry - False Creek

Lazy afternoon and an early dinner at the Grove Inn. The cook was asleep on his feet, I think he'd been there since early morning and there was no-one else in the restaurant, we felt almost guilty for getting him to cook. Meals were OK but I think he was operating on auto-pilot. The fact that there's an open kitchen made it all the more obvious he didn't have his heart in it.

Day 25 - Sunday 10 October – Vancouver
Temperature 20 °C & Bright Sunshine

Last breakfast at the Grove Inn, the waitress even remembered our order from the previous day. Back to the hotel, packed and checked out, we left our luggage and wandered down to the HO-HO pick-up point and met up with Brian Q. Travelled the Red Route to Canada Place and filled in a half hour at the 'Official' Mountie Retail Store – Jenny bought a Mountie Moose. Back on the HO-HO Blue Route and then the Stanley Park stops on the Red Route. Back at the hotel about 2 pm.
Mountie Moose

Amazing Laugh - English Bay

Amazing Laugh - English Bay

Retrieved the luggage and ordered the taxi, it was there in a flash and we were off to the VIA Railway Station. We are somewhat early – like five and a half hours EARLY. The reception was friendly, professional and most helpful. We exchanged out vouchers for tickets and then went across to the check-in where we were told our two suit-cases could not be taken into our cabin. Not to worry, here are some free 'tote bags', just take out what you need for the night and then check your cases through to Jasper. Oh, you don't need to carry those bags, we'll deliver them to your cabin. Also at 5:30 the Panorama Lounge will be opened and we'll provide live music and refreshments until boarding time of 8 pm. What a contrast to the check-in at Sydney Central for the Indian-Pacific !!
VIA Railway Station

VIA Railway Station

VIA Railway Check-in Desk

More too come soon !!

Posted by greynomadm 18:15 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Day in Whistler, BC, Canada

Fantastic day out

semi-overcast 15 °C
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Day 22 - Thursday 7 October – Vancouver & Whistler
Temperature 15 °C & Partly Cloudy possible showers

Early start to the day, we're at the Red Umbrella at 7 am and have a quick breakfast, I think he's getting to know us. Back to the hotel and ready well in time for the 8 am pick-up. We've booked a sightseeing tour to Whistler with an outfit called Vantage Whistler www.VantageWhistler.com

Right on time we are picked up in a very modern Mercedes 11 seater bus. The driver makes us welcome and explains that we have two more to pick up and we'll be a party of four. He wheels the bus to the Waterfront area where we pick up a mother and daughter. He then drives us through Stanley Park to Prospect Point and we stop for a while to take photos from the excellent vantage point.
Lions Gate Bridge

We cross the Lions Gate Bridge into the North Vancouver district and joint Highway 99. Soon we turn off to look out over Vancouver from the Cypress Mountain Lookout, the view is spectacular despite the fact that there's a heavy overcast and early morning haze, take the obligatory snaps and back onto the bus.
From Cypress Mountain

From here on Highway 99 is called the “Sea to Sky Highway”, a masterpiece of engineering that showcases the spectacular mountains, the trees and the constant presence of the ocean inlets. Next stop is Porteau Cove where we take time for some more photos, a comfort stop and some refreshments.
From Porteau Cove

After some time we climb back aboard the bus and continue up towards Whistler. Next stop is Shannon Falls a spectacular cascade that rushes from a height of 335 meters. The park is spectacular also for the diversity of trees standing there. There are also views of “The Chief in Squamish” which is a series of 700 metre massive granite cliffs that stand at the southern entrance to Squamish.
Shanon Falls
The Chief in Squamish

On the bus again and we turn off for the Brandywine Falls, the gate to the car-park is locked but the driver manages to squeeze the bus off the highway and we stroll through dense, lush growth the view the falls. Here the water plunges 70 meters into a deep gorge that has been carved out over time. Spectacular !!
Brandywine Falls

By about 12:30 we arrive in Whistler, here we are turned loose to explore the village. It is one huge theme park of lodges and shops. Despite it being the 'between season' there are lots of people bustling back and forth. We wander down the “Village Stroll” a pedestrian only walkway that runs North and South through the village. To the East are the mountains with the ski runs and to the West another range of mountains.
Images in Whistler

We don't have any trouble filling in the 4 hours but are quite happy to meet up with the bus again as the weather was becoming quite ordinary. For the trip home I got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat and had the unusual experience of taking photos through the windscreen of a moving vehicle. The results hardly live up to the reality of the spectacular drive back to Vancouver.

Back at the hotel just before 7 pm after the very best single day out so far.

Posted by greynomadm 22:12 Archived in Canada Tagged landscapes mountains Comments (2)

Vancouver in Sunshine

Stll lots to see in Vancouver

sunny 20 °C
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Day 19 - Monday 4 October – Vancouver – part 2
Temperature 15 °C & Partly Cloudy possible showers

Well I need to eat my words !! We were directed to a Canada Post Agency inside Shoppers Drug Mart in the Denman Place Mall and the very friendly assistant did everything but pack the box for us. We were able to buy a box for just over $5 and were advised that if we kept the weight at or below 2 Kg it would be sent for just $22.26. Back to the hotel, weighed the box and contents, adjusted a bit and addressed it, sealed it and filled out the customs declaration and got it back to him. Couldn't be more convenient.

Day 20 - Tuesday 5 October – Vancouver
Temperature 17 °C & Bright Sunshine

Checked out some alternative breakfast options, the Red Umbrella is still a good deal so we'll go back to that. Braved the HOHO bus again and got off in Stanley Park, a very impressive collection of very old trees, colourful flower gardens and lots of walking tracks. Best part for Jenny was seeing all the squirrels from jet black to light grey.

Wandered through the Aquarium, C$16 each for old farts, good value. They have seals, dolphins and porpoises. There were three beluga whales, two adults – stark white and a juvenile who was light grey. There was also an otter, didn't realise how big they are. Lots of indoor exhibits too and many stairs up and down. I'm sure we missed a whole lot.

Back on the HOHO and got off at Gastown, very interesting neighbourhood. Very old and lots of unique shops. Back on the HOHO and got off at English Bay and returned to the hotel.

Downloaded today's photos, the squirrels obviously moved too quickly for my camera. They are there but not very clear. Watched some TV and got ready for tomorrow.

Day 21 - Wednesday 6 October – Vancouver – On The Buses
Temperature 17 °C & Sunshine

Today we decided to travel by public transport $7 each for all day all zones. Started with an electric bus to Downtown where to transferred to a SkyTrain ride to Waterfront. There we boarded the SeaBus to North Vancouver. This 'ferry' leaves every 15 minutes and takes less than 5 minutes to unload and load up to 400 passengers. The craft slots into a double-sided berth, the unloading is done on one side and the loading on the other. There are 6 ramps on and 6 ramps off and the whole thing takes little to no time.

We landed at Lonsdale Quay which is the North Vancouver terminus. We spent an interesting hour or so browsing the market stalls and enjoyed some excellent ice-creams.
Back to the Waterfront terminal and watched the float-planes take off and land (?). Found a bus which runs through Stanley Park and returns us back to Downtown.

Wandered up to the Hudson's Bay Company store and explored the various underground connections and the Food Court. Back on a SkyTrain at Granville and travelled the Millennium Line for about an hour. For the majority of the trip the train is elevated and appears to hop over and duck under main roads and other rail lines.
Very fast, very clean and efficient. The trip was not without incident, when I got on at Granville the doors closed and Jenny was left standing on the platform. No massive panic, I got off at the next station and waited for her to arrive on the next train. Some words exchanged and we both got on the next train together.

Back to Granville and catch a bus to Davie St which stops right outside our hotel. Downloaded today's photos and caught up on the email and news from Oz. Jenny's reading the Sears Catalogue we picked up today while watching some TV.

Vancouver appears to have an excellent public transport network, some exquisite buildings, lots of trees and green spaces and the widest footpaths of any city centre I have visited.

Posted by greynomadm 16:12 Archived in Canada Tagged trees trains Comments (1)

Still in Vancouver

Partial report - more to follow

overcast 15 °C
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Day 17 - Saturday 2 October - Vancouver
Temperature 17 °C & Partly Cloudy

Unpacked our gear and sorted out the facilities, read the emails and caught up with some news from Oz. Wandered around the local streets – lots of small eateries and bars, drug stores and even a Safeway Supermarket within a block or two of the hotel. Bought some stamps (CAN$ 1.76 each pack of 6 only), cookies, apples, bananas and Coke. Joined the Safeway Club at the check-out, funniest guy, had a great laugh when we put our Australian address on the form.

Found a small diner and had an excellent meal there for just over CAN$ 20. Back to the hotel and checked out the laundry facility and learned a new term when asking for change at the front desk, the $1 coin is called a “Loonie” because it has the image of a common loon (looks like a duck to me) on the reverse.

Day 18 - Sunday 3 October - Vancouver
Temperature 16 °C & Partly Cloudy possible showers

First order of business is to do the laundry then back to the little diner for breakfast, eggs, bacon and toast and a cup of coffee all up CAN$ 15 for the two of us. Bit more crowded than it was yesterday evening. Jenny's high point was when a black squirrel ran past on the outside window sill.

Up the street to the Drug Store and consultation with the pharmacist to get something for runny nose and dry cough, very helpful and professional. Light drizzle falling so back to the hotel and do some serious spine-bashing. Played with the TV and snoozed through the afternoon, Jen still insists in keeping me hydrated. There are 50 something channels available but we've no idea what's showing where and when.

Dinner at the diner again, generous pasta dishes for $8 each, we are the only ones eating there at 6 pm, guess it might get busy later. The place is small and cosy and just a very short walk from the hotel, it will do us just fine.

Day 19 - Monday 4 October - Vancouver
Temperature 15 °C & Partly Cloudy possible showers

An early start to test what's open for breakfast around 7 am. We have booked a tour to Whistler on Thursday and it picks us up at 8 am so we'd like to have breakfast early. The Red Umbrella was open about 7 as were McDonald's and Tim Horton. We may try McDonald's as they have the best range of options and they're open 24/7.

Joined the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Tour (HOHO) at the English Beach stop. Bus was quite late, dark and cramped – it was certainly beyond its Use Before Date. The commentary was a combination of pre-recorded snippets and the driver's personal observations. Left us a bit confused rather than informed. Got off at Granville Island Markets, quite interesting but not set up for wet weather and a bit disjointed. The food markets displayed a wide range of fresh food, baked items and take-away meals. Seating was at a premium but Jenny managed to snag a table and we enjoyed a hot lunch – Jenny Chinese, me Indian.

Back on the HOHO and headed home where we're sorting out some of the problems associated with mailing a parcel home. First, find a place that will sell you a cardboard box then find a Post Office that can process parcels. Most of the Post Offices listed are sub-agencies in convenience stores and I'm not convinced they are up to dealing with the challenges of Overseas Parcel Post.
Will post more from Vancouver later

Posted by greynomadm 16:53 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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