Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

Having taken the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff (see here), we took the road option for the return journey via the Trans-Canada Highway. The road hugs the side of the rail tracks for quite a bit of the route and winds through some spectacular scenery along the way.

Unlike the train journey we were free to stop off and explore some of the sights at our leisure. First stop out of Banff was Lake Louise – world famous for the picture perfect calendar and postcard shots of the pristine lake surrounded by the magnificent Rockies.

 

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However unless you choose to stay in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise you’ll find it quite hard to get easy access to the lake.  Lake Louise Village is actually situated a couple of kilometres or so down the road from the lake itself and we didn’t have time to park and walk from there. We continued on by road up to the lake area but found parking impossible (you probably need to arrive first thing in the morning to get a spot). There is no way of seeing even a glimpse of the lake from the road. Packed with tourists, it was something of a disappointment. I did manage to get a couple of shots of the hotel from the car as we drove along!

 

 

However we had more luck further along the highway. Crossing over the border to British Columbia, we came across the turn off for Emerald Lake, which had been highly recommended to us. As we drove up to the parking area we fully expected it to be full. Although reasonably crowded we were able to get a spot only a couple of hundred metres or so from the lakeside. A bridge led out onto the trail at the head of the lake. Part of the Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake is the largest of the 61 lakes in this region. It is jaw-droppingly beautiful – the turquoise/green waters reflecting the dense foliage of the trees, the mountains in the background and the air surprisingly pure despite the post wildfire smoky haze in the distance.

 

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The first path led up to a luxury lodge  – one could hardly imagine a more perfect setting on the shores of the exquisitely emerald waters of the eponymous lake. Apparently the distinctive hue is caused by the effect of powdered limestone being swept into the waters as the snow melts and it is particularly stunning in July though it didn’t look too bad in August! The lake is frozen from November to June owing to its high altitude.

 

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A 5.2 kilometre trail (the first half suitable for wheelchairs) wends its way right round the lake though we were on a tight schedule and couldn’t stay too long. Again, as we found in all the parks we visited in Canada, there was plenty of information about the flora and fauna, the climate and sensible precautions to take in the event of bear encounters or snow season (avoiding avalanches for example).

 

 

 

Although we had to get going I did have time to have a quick look inside the well stocked gift shop and enjoy a last long lingering gaze across the beautiful lake.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

Lake Johnson a few kilometres out of Banff was, according to guide books, well worth a visit. A short drive out of town, it has a good walking trail round the lake. As it is at a reasonably low elevation it is usually snow free from April onwards though that wasn’t a consideration for us on a sultry August day.

With Banff being rather hot and smoky we were looking forward to the chance to walk in slightly clearer surroundings. 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) in total, the walk was relatively straightforward, a little uphill in parts though not particularly strenuous. For much of the trail you can enjoy lovely views back across the lake to Cascade Mountain.

 

The path also passes through spruce forests, crosses over a few mountain streams and winds through several glades where an abundance of juicy looking red berries were growing. We weren’t sure whether they were edible for humans but they would certainly appeal to the local bears. We knew that around late summer the bears are particularly keen to eat as much as possible to sustain them through the long barren winter months. Hence we went a little gingerly through the clearings full of ripe berry bushes (which our friend described as a “bear smorgasbord”) not wanting to come between any hungry bears and their afternoon snack!

 

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No sightings however and we wended our way back unscathed to the picnic and recreation area at the entrance to the lake. Evidently this was a very popular spot with the locals – many families were enjoying picnics (we were a little surprised given the abundance of bear warnings round the place) or kayaking and swimming in the cooling waters of the lake.

 

 

Information panels gave us more insight into the eco system and environment in this part of the world.

 

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Although there were quite a few visitors to the lake, for much for our walk along the trail we felt we had the place to ourselves. The lake was pristine and we had some respite from the smoky air caused by the drift from the wildfires further north. A peaceful and serene place, Lake Johnson is a lovely spot for a gentle hike.

 

 

Restless Jo does a wonderful job of writing up her regular walks in her new home in the Algarve Portugal (and prior to that out and about in the UK). She collates both her own and other people’s walking posts in her weekly “Monday Walk” – well worth checking out for ideas, inspiration and virtual travelling!

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

January has flown by and the long summer holidays are officially over – school went back this week and as seems to be tradition the weather has heated up!

We’ve spent the past month or so out and about most days with several overseas visitors enjoying the (up to now) milder summer weather and also taking advantage of the summer film festivals and another favourite of ours the Perth Fringe Festival.

I have still been taking photos though not blogging as much, so by way of a recap here is a photo montage of January summer days (see here for various previous posts I’ve done about Perth and its environs).

 

 

I’ve set myself the challenge of finishing my Canada and Alaska series before we head off again to the northern hemisphere at the end of April!

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

One of the tourist highlights in Banff is to take the Banff Gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the spectacular views of Banff, the Bow Valley and the surrounding Rockie mountains afforded from the summit.

However any thoughts of stunning vistas and breathtaking scenery were put to one side as Banff was blanketed for our entire visit in the smoky haze drifting from an enormous wildfire burning some distance away in the national park beyond Lake Louise.

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However we were only in Banff for 3 nights, had no idea when we might be back again and it seemed a pity to miss out completely on such a treat – well for me anyway. Monsieur hates heights and so he left me and one of our travelling companions to go up in the gondola on a hot, smoky August morning whilst he headed back into town with the other.

It definitely pays to get there as early as possible in the morning before the crowds arrive. Even on a day when visibility was poor and warning signs were in place about the lack of views and the possible smoke effects, there was a surprisingly large number of people at the summit. Children also go free before 10 am so it is well worth it for families to take up that option as it certainly isn’t cheap. Also a 10% discount applies if you book 48 hours or more in advance.

At the summit there are a number of retail outlets and cafes including the Northern Lights Cafe where we had a late breakfast before setting out on the self-guided Banff Skywalk. Despite the reduced view, the walk was actually very interesting in itself. Up a series of interconnected boardwalks, regular information signs tell you about the flora and fauna of the mountains. For example the increasingly rare Whitebark Pines still grow here, an endangered species since 2012.

 

Wending your way to the top of the walk you reach a craggy cairn known as Sanson’s Peak. The name commemorates Norman Sanson, curator of the Banff National Park Museum from 1896 to 1932, who not only collected a myriad of specimens for the museum during his lifetime but also recorded meteorological data for many years, regularly climbing up the peak to obtain data.  Sanson’s Peak is also the home of the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site , a scientific station set up as part of International Geophysical Year in 1957-1958. Canadian scientists were an integral part of the data collection studying cosmic rays and space particles entering the atmosphere. The station was closed in 1978 and so this rocky memorial perched above Banff is all that remains today.

 

I did hesitate whether to include the Banff Gondola in my Banff series of posts (see here and here for the others) as it was hardly the best day to see the usually stunning views. However travelling doesn’t always go to plan – there will be delays, inclement weather and other glitches. The photos hopefully still give you a flavour of what Sulphur Mountain would be like on a clear day. In addition to the boardwalk trail there are also hiking trails criss-crossing the mountain. It wasn’t really the day though to be lingering outside too long – we started to get itchy eyes and tickling throats from the effects of the smoke so headed back down the mountain again after a short while.

 

Later that day we drove out to the other side of the valley near the site of the Banff Centre (an arts and creative centre affiliated with the University of Calgary) where you can look back towards Sulphur and Rundle Mountains and normally enjoy a wonderful view. In the late 19th century hot springs were discovered in the area and today there is a large hotel and spa complex in the valley, which you can just about make out in the haze!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

A very happy New Year to everyone!

We have had a busy Christmas and New Year with family visitors including our daughter, Mlle, from London for 3 weeks and my cousin from New Zealand for a few days. All this has taken precedence over blogging!

We have done outings to the zoo where the highlight for our granddaughters was Zoorassic Park, following the dinosaur trail, though we also had an unexpected treat when we literally nearly bumped into Tricia, the 61 year old matriarch of the Perth elephant herd, on one of her daily walks round the zoo.

Cafes, restaurants, outings up the coast to Yanchep Lagoon and inland to the wineries of Swan Valley plus a cricket game at Optus Stadium have taken up our time too. The weather is pleasantly mild – am hoping it stays that way as I much prefer the cooling effects of the strong coastal breeze.

Hope everyone else has had a good holiday period and very best wishes for 2019!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

We arrived in Banff on an extremely hot August day. The heat and prevailing winds had unfortunately fanned the spread of wildfires in a national park to the north west of Lake Louise and the Rockies were blanketed in thick smoke for most of our visit (clearer in the mornings but drawing in more as the day progressed).

Nevertheless we managed to get out and about even if the scenery was somewhat obscured and the air heavy with the smell of smoke. Accommodation is at a premium in the Banff area and as we were there at the height of the summer season, we stayed at the Inn of the Rockies in self-catering apartments off the road out to Canmore (a more affordable option). We had pre-arranged to hire a car the day after our arrival in Banff. So we used the local taxis to get around initially, which we found efficient, reasonably-priced and the drivers friendly and helpful. There are also plenty of buses in the Banff area and environs if you prefer that option (tricky when you are arriving with a month’s worth of luggage as we were!).

 

 

The next morning we headed into town and strolled round the centre gathering our bearings. Banff is in a very pretty setting surrounded by mountains such as Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain and on the banks of the Bow River, which in summer was meandering gently through the town. Certainly it must be a place of strong seasonal contrasts. When we were looking round the many souvenir shops in the centre, we noticed underground arcades that all seemed shut up but apparently in winter they come alive as people seek shelter from the biting cold at street level.

 

 

Being both a summer and winter resort Banff must always be a hub of activity. We came across a great holiday program that the town was running in conjunction with the local Blackfoot First Nations people. We were attracted by the sound of the drums and went to take a look – it was a wonderful program of song and dance, storytelling and learning about the Blackfoot Culture, a great activity for the summer school holidays. On a different note we also saw the memorial to Armistice Day in 1918 and discovered a charming colonial era church.

 

 

The visitor centre is down near the river and it is also the site for a farmers and craft market (the Banff Farmers Market) which meets every Wednesday. Happily for us we were there on the right day. Not only was it a great place to pick up some supplies such as fresh fruit and vegetables but a good place to indulge in some souvenir shopping – there were a myriad of stalls selling jewellery, prints, gem stones, art work as well as edible produce.

 

 

In the afternoon we headed a few kilometres out of town to Lake Minnewanka, a glacial lake largely man-made where you can hike, take a picnic or head out on a cruise on the pristine waters. Just a note that you need a permit to drive into the national parks – you can pick these up at the visitor centre in town. Originally the Stoney people called this beautiful place “Minn-waki” which means “Lake of Spirits”. Even though the smaller natural lake has now been flooded to provide water for an electric power plant down the Cascade River, the area still has a feel of unspoilt beauty and charm. On a stiflingly hot and smoky day a boat trip was a very refreshing way to spend part of the afternoon. The mountains nearby are home to many wildlife species such as elk and black and brown (grizzly) bears – not that we saw any that day, most probably they were all seeking the shade too!

 

 

 

On a more poignant note, I’d like to dedicate this post to the memory of a special fellow blogger, Joy from Joy Loves Travel who very sadly passed away at the end of November after a long illness.  Some of you may have read Joy’s wonderful blog – full of inspiration about overseas travels she took with her beloved husband and son but also activities and outings nearer to their home in North West England. I never met Joy in person but she shone through as such a warm, friendly person in her writings and she was an avid and generous reader of other blogs. I will miss her comments and friendly chats on each other’s blogs as I know will many others. Her husband Paul and son Reuben hope they may carry on Joy’s blog in time. They have bravely posted an update on Joy’s blog recently if anyone would like to post their own tribute there. Rest in Peace Joy.

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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