Enjoy your (long) weekend! I’ll be spending time outdoors with family, bike-riding along canals, and trying out some new recipes from this book. Have a good one!
photo from Johnson Canyon on our trip out West
While a quicker route to Vancouver would have been to cut straight through the mountains, stopping in the Okanagan Valley for the evening, we decided to drive up to Whistler instead. Site of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Whistler hosted many of the skiing and snowboarding events, and is often called one of the world’s best ski resorts. We stayed at the Pan Pacific hotel, right in the hear of Whistler village, and had dinner at Ric’s Grill. I tried the blue rare ahi tuna and was pleasantly surprised by the spicy wasabi and ginger rub!
The next day was spent sipping cappuccinos at the base of the hill, watching skiers and snowboarders take the lift up the mountain. I was amazed and impressed by the tiny skiers, some as young as 2 years old, who would zip down the hill with no fear and impeccable technique! Whistler is an interesting blend of people – wealthier families with ski chalets who drive up from Vancouver to hit the slopes, mixed with young twenty-somethings from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand who work in the resorts and snowboard throughout the season. Whistler Village has great little shops, world-class restaurants, and beautiful accommodations. I can just imagine how bustling and vibrant the village must have been during the Olympics!
When I planned my trip out West, I naturally expected to see snow-capped mountains and tall evergreen forests. What I didn’t expect to see were rolling hills dotted with desert-like shrubbery, tiny cacti, and tumbleweeds. Just before entering Lillooet, British Columbia, driving along the Caribou Goldrush Trail, we were smack-dab in the middle of cowboy country. It felt like being in Arizona or New Mexico! I had no idea that such a unique landscape would be sandwiched between the snowy Rockies of Banff and Whistler. What this trip made me realize is how vast, diverse, and unique each area of Canada is. From the lobster harbours of the Eastern Canada, to the desert-like landscape of Eastern British Columbia, and the snowy bits in between, our country’s landscape is as unique as the people that inhabit it. Driving along this stretch of highway, inhabited largely by First Nations people, was especially interesting for me since I studied Aboriginal law last year. To read of land claims in our property class, and then drive through those very areas, was eye-opening and put everything into perspective. Canada is So. Beautiful. I’m clearly a proud Canadian, eh?
I was so surprised by the amount of wildlife we saw while travelling across Alberta and British Columbia! Keeping my eyes peeled for all the animals turned out to be one of my favourite parts of our trip. From the big-eared, wide-eyed deer grazing at the side of the road, to the prairie dogs (as many as 20 of them) popping out of the holes near a rest-stop (a la “whack-a-mole”), it was fun to check the guide-books and tick off which animals we saw. The elusive moose and black bear were never seen, unfortunately! Next time hopefully :)
We said goodbye to Banff and drove to lovely Lake Louise, Alberta. On our drive, we passed under a few wildlife highway overpasses in the Banff National Park. Put in place along the TransCanada highway, these overpasses (and many underpasses), allow animals to safely cross the roads, cutting down on animal-vehicle collisions. Unfortunately we didn’t see any animals passing as we drove under, but I can imagine that seeing a family of bears or deer crossing above you would be quite the sight!
The turquoise blue waters of Lake Louise were frozen over when we visited, but it was still a breathtaking sight to see. Since it’s a major tourist attraction, I would recommend visiting before 11am or after 5pm to avoid the tour buses and crowds. We spent the afternoon having lunch at the Chateau Lake Louise, which offered a yummy gluten-free menu and unobstructed views of the lake.
I think Lake Louise is the perfect afternoon stop, if you’re traveling near the Banff area. In the summertime the views are amazing, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a magical hotel (I felt like it was something out of Beauty and the Beast!) to enjoy a cuppa.
After flying from Toronto to Calgary, we drove directly to Banff, Alberta. Banff is a beautiful town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, and is home to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel (pictured above). The hotel, styled after a Scottish Baronial Castle and built in 1888, is located in the Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent an evening at the Banff Springs, swimming in the outdoor heated pools (even though it was freezing outside!), and enjoying coffees at the Waldhaus pub. I loved exploring the vast hallways of the old hotel, which truly feels like a castle retreat in the Canadian wilderness.
The next morning we took a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain. Looking down through the glass of the gondola, we spotted bear paw tracks (the black bears were just coming out of hibernation while we were out West, causing people to caution us more than once about their presence). At the top of the mountain, we walked from peak to peak across a wooden pathway, as snow fell softly around us. It was so quiet up there, and with 360 degree views of the mountains, it was easily one of the prettiest sights I’d ever seen.
On our way out of Banff, we spotted an elk nestled in the forest near the Banff Springs golf course. As we slowed down the car, and I began snapping shots, more and more heads turned. There were about 50 elk laying down in the forest, camouflaged in such a way that it made it difficult initially to discern how many animals there were. We were astounded by the size of the herd, and by their calm yet powerful presence. From the beautiful elegance of the Banff Springs hotel, to the harsh beauty of the mountains filled with wildlife, Banff was the perfect place to start our Western Canada adventure.
I just got back from a beautiful and relaxing vacation across Western Canada. After finishing my first year of law school, a week of stunning scenery, delicious meals, and new places to explore was bliss. It’s hard to believe that the last time I posted was back in February. Reading cases and the scenery at the library don’t make for good blog posts though :) I’ll be back this week with more on our trip, including the amazing wildlife I saw, my thoughts on Vancouver, and the prettiest hotel nestled in the mountains.
Happy Mother’s Day to my sweet Mom, and all the other mothers out there. No one can make me laugh like my Mom, and I’m so grateful to get to talk with her every evening, and learn from her constantly.