Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

One of the highlights of our North American trip was taking the famous Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver to Banff. This route is one of the company’s most popular and its name, “First Passage to the West” aptly describes its links with the past. Following in the footsteps (well actually on board a luxury train) this route helps you to understand the building of modern Canada. At Craigallechie we saw the memorial where the “Last Spike” was placed to finally join up the rail tracks coming across from the east to the west.

A few key points to note:

The Rocky Mountaineer is a privately-run railway company. In fact, no other passenger trains go along the tracks we took though there are plenty of large cargo trains (who usually get precedence for passing rights).

It is run with great precision and organisation. Our rail coach had a couple of hosts and a cook. Our hosts not only acted as wait staff but provided a full commentary on the many points of interest. We learnt about the First Nations people, the traditional owners of the land, who still retain fishing rights along the salmon runs, the early colonial explorers who charted unknown territories such as the Fraser River (named after Simon Fraser) and the famous Kicking Horse River and Spiral Tunnels (the latter an engineering feat designed to cope with the problems of negotiating the steep inclines of the Rockies).

It is not a cheap option. Our 2 days and 1 night (you get bussed to a hotel at the mid point in Kamloops) cost about 60% of the cost of our 7 day cruise up to Alaska.

You will be plied with food and drink at every available opportunity. By day 2 we had learnt to pace ourselves!

Taking photos from a moving train, albeit one going fairly slowly, is not that easy though they do “slow downs” at some of the exceptionally scenic spots.

On balance I would recommend travelling during the cooler months at either end of the season (it runs from April to October). It was unfortunate that our 2 days coincided with an incredible heatwave and by the time we reached Kamloops on the first day the outside temperature was around 38 degrees centigrade and the air conditioning in our carriage was struggling to cope.

We took the Silver Class option, which although very comfortable, means you don’t have access to an outside viewing deck like they do in Gold Class but you can still take photographs from the open windows between the carriages.

On our return journey a few days later, we drove from Banff back to Vancouver (this time via Kelowna). We retraced our steps for the first part of the journey as the road runs alongside the train line. Therefore I’ll cover some of the locations we passed through in more detail in later posts.

In the meantime here is a pictorial overview of our train ride. We passed through lush verdant countryside nearer to the coast, crossed the Coast Mountains and headed into a semi-arid rain shadow area, saw amazing rock formations, gorges and gushing rivers and passed through some places with interesting names such as Salmon Arm, Golden and Revelstoke.

On Day 2 as we headed up the Kicking Horse River into the Rockies we also began to see some wildlife: some fine-looking horned sheep were the only ones I managed to photograph, but we did see a black bear scampering behind a rock to hide from the train and a handsome elk munching away on some bushes in the early evening sun.

By the time we arrived in Banff (in Alberta an hour ahead of Pacific Coastal Time) we were naturally pretty tired but it had been a memorable couple of days!

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Western Australia is well known for its attractive jarrah trees. Native to the South West region of the State, these beautiful tall trees (they can grow up to 40 metres tall) have been prized over the years for their wood. A distinctive reddish hue, jarrah wood is hard and durable.  It has been used extensively for cabinet making, railway sleepers and in building work.

However if you visit the forests or walk around local parks you may notice some rather sorry looking specimens – trees that are clearly dying. They have fallen victim to “Dieback” a fungal disease that attacks many Australian natives, not just jarrah trees, but many other trees and plants as well including banksias and grass trees. Basically the fungal spores in the soil (probably introduced by European settlers at some stage) infect the root systems of the trees, weakening them. The trees are then unable to take up the water and nutrition necessary for survival so over time they wilt and die.

 

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Once it has taken hold it is almost impossible to stop though the parks departments are experimenting with phosphite fertilisers to try and strengthen the trees’ resistance to the fungal spores. You can read more about the problem and its management here.

One of our local parks has been particularly affected and we always try to avoid walking across it in case we trample mud around (especially in wet weather). Winston the Schnoodle seemed determined to go that way the other day on his morning constitutional though we kept him firmly on the path! You can clearly see the barren and stark trees contrasted with the verdant healthier ones.

 

 

We also saw some jarrah renewal areas in the winter when we took a day trip down to Dwellingup and did a train ride and nature trail in the local forest (see here).  Hopefully the efforts and conservation work will pay off in time.

I’m not a botanist though I do love seeing beautiful flora whilst out and about. We came across this lovely blue shrub in an alleyway near our house. I think it may be a type of banksia – our elder granddaughter has become something of a flower expert since she started school so I will have to ask her opinion when she next comes over!

 

 

Christmas is fast approaching – am not too sure where this year has gone! If all goes to plan I’ll write up the Banff and Rockies posts before then and I still haven’t made a proper start on Alaska – I’ve taken so many photos it’s hard to know what to leave out!

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

A montage from Vancouver – a few extra photos that I couldn’t include in my other posts!

 

 

Overall we found Downtown Vancouver easy to explore by foot. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the older colonial buildings with the ultra-modern tower blocks. Canada Place Wharf, where all the big cruise ships depart from, was just down the road from our hotel (at the end of our trip), the Auberge, but we also had pretty little squares and plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants nearby.

 

This post rounds off my Vancouver series (see here, here and here for the previous posts). Next time we’ll be heading off to Banff and the Canadian Rockies!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Somewhat confusingly we stayed in Vancouver on 3 separate occasions on our month long North America trip – the first weekend, a night in the middle (after a sideways trip to the Rockies and Banff) and a night at the end before we flew home. For ease of writing up for the blog I’ve decided to do the Vancouver posts in one go (see here and here for the previous posts).

We stayed in the municipality of North Vancouver the night before we boarded our Alaska cruise. We had booked an Airbnb house along with our travelling companions – it was just a quick ride in the car down to the water front or about a 20 minute walk (one way downhill, but back uphill!). Tired after the drive back from Banff (though we did overnight halfway at Kelowna), we took the driving option and found parking surprisingly easy though we did have to use the paid multi storey car park near the Lonsdale Centre.

Situated on the Burrard Inlet, which separates Downtown Vancouver from its northern neighbour, we had been told that there were wonderful views to be had across to the cityscape, especially at night time. The long hot spell had finally broken and it was a rather cool, damp and grey late afternoon.

 

 

 

The information signs were a good way to learn more about the local history and the old port. The area’s history is naturally tied up with the water and ferries regularly ply the waters across to Downtown Vancouver and back again carrying commuters and tourists alike. We had hoped to take the ferry across but time was of the essence so we admired the somewhat brooding view as dusk fell along with some light drizzle. In the distance we could just make out our cruise ship, docked at Canada Wharf.

 

 

The Lonsdale Quay Market has become the hub of activities in the area and apart from the fresh produce is home to many cafes, restaurants and a kids play area. Just to the west of the market is the Waterfront Park, which on a finer day would have made a lovely picnic spot. Further round again you come to the start of Stanley Park, a wonderful antidote to Vancouver’s urban skyscrapers. Alas we didn’t have enough time to walk round though we did drive through some of the leafy avenues en route back to the city the next morning.

 

 

As the sun set we headed off in search of dinner and ended up at Pier 7 right on the waterfront, which had the most spectacular view of the city illuminated at night (excuse the extra background lights on the flash!).

 

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Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

Our original plan for our first weekend in Vancouver had been to stay in Yaletown Vancouver  – a trendy part of town overlooking False Creek.

Once home to the Western Terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway, it had become a rather forlorn and run down industrial area until it was revitalised by the Expo86, a World Trade Fair with the theme, “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion – World in Touch”.

32 later it is a “happening” part of town with many trendy boutiques, bars and hip restaurants dotted along the waterfront.  However the best laid plans of mice and men… for various reasons our pre-booked apartment in Yaletown failed to materialise and so we ended up staying in a hotel closer to Granville Island (see here for previous post). Not wanting to miss out, however, we decided to wander down to Yaletown one evening to check it out and find somewhere for dinner.

I don’t normally do food posts alone but the Provence Marinaside proved to be an inspired choice and deserves a special mention.  Famed for its seafood and blending of the flavours of southern France with the abundant produce of British Colombia it was a memorable evening out – the food was beyond superb and the mainly French staff very friendly and helpful. Our waiter was from Montelimar in the Drôme area of southern France (famed for its nougat) and the sommelier, also originally from France, spent a considerable while going through the very lengthy wine list. Provence is definitely not a budget option but was well worthwhile for a special evening at the start of our trip.

Perhaps it is best to let the photos do the talking!

 

 

 

On the way back we walked past the Yaletown Roundhouse, home to the famous Engine 374.

Engine 374 pulled the first transcontinental passenger train, which arrived in Vancouver on 23rd May 1887. After being retired from service in 1945 it eventually found a permanent home in the Pavilion at the Yaletown Roundhouse, where you can visit it today (obviously it was closed when we walked past but fortunately still illuminated).

 

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Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here with school holidays and outings including to Perth Zoo (always a perennial favourite which I’ve blogged about before here and here) and yesterday we headed off with our elder daughter and 2 young granddaughters to another of our favourite places, the Swan Valley (previous visits here and here).

Unfortunately the weather gods put paid to our planned trip to an animal farm with the brooding clouds suddenly giving way to a heavy thundery downpour. We did, however, manage to have lunch at the charming Taylor’s Art and Coffee House, a first for us though our daughter has been a couple of times before.

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The setting is charming – an old vine clad courtyard with flower pots and casual table settings, the olde worlde feel enhanced by the adjacent art gallery and a whimsical pre-loved goods store. The owners serve fresh organic seasonal produce often grown in their own garden (I had a wonderfully simple pea and asparagus risotto and our granddaughters a kids’ tasting plate including fresh fruit and vegetables). Family friendly,  it’s the sort of place you can pop in for just a coffee or something more substantial. Although not normally licensed we’d come on the right day as there was a temporary pop up wine bar from a local producer Corymbia Wines (another new discovery for us in the Swan Valley).

 

 

Taylor’s also happens to be next door to the Chocolate Factory which naturally caught the kids attention! In the end we were able to get away without too many complaints from the girls (probably helped by the fact they were worried by the crashing thunder and flashes of lightning).

Spring is a bit hit and miss here in Perth at present but all the rain has been good for the gardens and nature reserves.

 

Our younger daughter arrives for a quick visit from London this week so we are hoping for some lovely sunny Spring Perth days!

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Granville Island Vancouver is a hip and trendy peninsula to the south of Downtown Vancouver. It sits perched under the Granville Street Bridge on the waters of False Creek, once used as a fishing inlet by the First Nations peoples.

Vancouver was originally called Granville after Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl of Granville (Britain’s Colonial Secretary at the time) but was renamed to its present day moniker in 1886. Formerly an industrial area, Granville has gradually been transformed in the last decades into a shopping and recreational district with an arty and laid-back vibe.

 

 

 

We were there at a busy time – it was the public holiday weekend for British Columbia Day plus the annual Vancouver Pride Festival so everywhere was bustling with people. Still it was not unpleasantly crowded. We enjoyed exploring the fresh food markets (the Granville Island Public Market has been in existence since 1979). As you would expect there was an enormous range of produce – I was happy not only to find so much fresh fruit and vegetables but an old fashioned tea shop selling a vast array of loose leaf teas in old fashioned jars and tins. We also had breakfast in one of the cafes at the end of the market – you are really spoilt for choice here and we found portions to be very generous!

 

 

A ride on the ferry is an enjoyable way to explore False Creek and get your bearings. There are plenty of stops along the way including the iconic glass dome of Science World British Columbia plus easy and fast connections to the main Downtown area.

 

 

After breakfast and a return ferry ride on the creek, we wandered round absorbing the atmosphere on the island. Street performers, arts and craft shops (including a wonderful bead and jewellery store), plus a pleasant cooling breeze from the water (it was an especially hot weekend) made for a most enjoyable Sunday stroll around.

The vestiges of the once industrial area are preserved too in a quaint and somewhat kitsch display of old concrete mixers.

 

 

If all the walking around makes you feel drained, you can always find a strong pick me up at the Liberty Distillery purveyors of gin and vodka or try some handcrafted beer at the Granville Island Brewing Company.

With frequent festivals there is always something going on at Granville Island – check the website here for up to date information. It’s definitely a must-see place on any trip to Vancouver!

 

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Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

We’re settling back into home life after a month on the road. We covered thousands of miles by air, rail, road and sea and took in some amazing sights along the way. After 11 different overnight stops it’s nice to be back in our own bed again and catching up with the pets and family.

 

I’ve so many photos to sort through from our journey through Vancouver and Western Canada, the Rockies, Alaska and finally Seattle so it will take some time to collate them all. Here is a preview of some of our Alaskan adventures – the scenery, dramatic landscapes and wildlife were just some of the highlights.

 

 

I’ll gradually post about it all over the next few weeks!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We’ve been on the road in Canada for the past week or so and are about to board the boat today for our cruise up to Alaska. So here’s a very quick update before I may be out of range for a while.

We’ve loved Vancouver and the Rockies (we went by the Rocky Mountaineer up to Banff and drove back via the Okanagan region). Unfortunately the area has again been beset by severe fires this summer season and the mountains were often obscured by thick smoke haze, which also reduced the air quality. We still explored the area extensively – there’ll be many posts coming up on my return to Australia but in the meantime here is a photo preview. Apologies if I am slow to respond to everyone – Wifi has been intermittent and not sure how we’ll go on the boat or in Alaska. I”ll be back in the blogosphere as soon as I can!

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Time has marched on and we’re now very busy getting ready for our upcoming trip to Canada and Alaska – we leave in less than 2 weeks. The rest of my UK travel write ups from March will have to wait for another day – it has seemed a bit strange writing about the spring arctic freeze when the UK has been basking in a heatwave!

We don’t get snow and ice here in the winter but we have had some wild storms and gales and spent a fair bit of time yesterday mopping up from floods in the garage, patio area and a small stream that flowed through our kitchen window from the gutter, which had backed up with the sheer volume of rain.

It seems a far cry from the glorious few days we had the other week – beautiful sunny skies and crisp winter’s days. As it was our wedding anniversary, we decided to drive out to the Swan Valley for lunch – only a half hour drive from our home near the coast and you are effectively out in open country. There are many cafes, restaurants and wineries to choose from and the countryside is dotted with vines, which grow well in the river valley (see here and here for previous posts about this area).

We ended up at a new place for us, the Riverbank Estate Winery in Caversham.  The Swan River meanders adjacent to the vines on the property and the food, prepared from fresh seasonal produce, was superb. Afterwards we had a wander round the grounds – probably just as well after a 3 course lunch and wine (not too much for Monsieur though as he was driving!).

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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