What a great getaway! I just returned from a fabulous trip through the Canadian Rockies with Rocky Mountaineer! I know that the railroad is in my soul, as both my great grandfathers worked on the original American Railroad, which is probably why I love riding the rails so much!
We started our voyage in Calgary Alberta, home of the Calgary Stampede! We were there one week ahead of the herd, and the city was already getting ready; you could see the trademark hay bales all over. The Delta Bow was our hotel and had the appropriate décor to welcome the Stampeeders!
After a wonderful welcome dinner with our Rocky Mountaineer host, Richard Bravo, we headed back to the hotel for our “White Hat” Ceremony. I had no idea what this was either, so no worries! Here’s the deal…the White Hat ceremony is a long standing tradition in Calgary, a symbol of western hospitality and good cheer. The white Smithbuilt hat had been bestowed on numerous celebrities and visiting dignitaries on their visits since the 1950’s, when the then mayor, Don MacKay, started the tradition.
The next morning weheaded to Banff, a town that I have always loved. Banff is a cute town that has the most magical backdrop with the mountains and the national park and, of course, the stories! Banff proper has a lot of shops and restaurants with that Canadian charm.
We adventured up the Banff Gondola, an eight-minute ride which, drops you off at a lovely boardwalk where you keep trudging up to the top, where the air is very thin, but the most beautiful surroundings make it worth it! After such a glorious climb, we headed to The Rimrock Resort! I have stayed there before and love this hotel! The beautiful outdoors almost come inside with you as the hotel's views are stunning! The fine dining restaurant, Eden, is one of only six Five Diamond restaurants in Canada! A must taste experience!
On our way to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most beautiful drives, we stopped for a visit at Lake Louise! Again stunning scenery! The Fairmont is located perfectly in front of the lake so diners and guests can just sit indoors and view the beauty all around them! Many waterfalls and we even caught a bear (with our cameras of course)! We visited the Colombia Icefields glacier, where we rode on a specially equipped “Ice Explorer”vehicle up to the glacier and walked around. I brought a water bottle and filled it with the water from the glacier, and drank it! They told me I would be 10 years younger in the morning… ok that didn’t happen.
After such a beautiful day we arrived in Jasper. It’s almost like a small cowboy type town where in the center of town a giant totem pole from the First Nation greets you. A friendly strip of restaurants, shops & bars are very welcoming. A very pleasant walk. And you are right across from the train station!
We joined the Rocky Mountaineer train in Jasper. The red carpet had been rolled out and we were on our way! We were in Gold Leaf Service and it truly was golden! Onboard, the dining car is on the lower level and seating is upstairs via a small spiral staircase that was easy to maneuver. (If you are needing assistance they also have a small elevator operated by the crew). There is an extra-large viewing vestibule on the back of the car, great for picture taking!
The seating was somewhat like a business class air seats and being on a cruise, with 1st and 2nd seating for meals! The crew kept us entertained with great stories and their excellent service! We rode the rails to Kamloops, stayed at the Double Tree, and enjoyed a nice city walking tour along with a lovely dinner.
Next day we were bound for Vancouver on the train. We were able to view Silver Leaf service as well as some private parlor cars that are available for groups. If budget is of concern, the Silver Leaf is beautiful, the exact same food is served to you, but your seat is coach class and you do not have a dining room for meals.
In Vancouver we stayed at the Sheraton Wall Center. After dinner we strolled down to Canada Place where my new friend Angela and I tried out “Flying over Canada,” a 4D experience (similar to Soaring over California at California Adventure). It was as if you were on a small plane flying over all of the beauty of Canada (we even saw our train!). And it ended with the Northern Lights! Wow!
We departed early to make the train for our final rail journey to Seattle. It is not as long a ride as it was to Kamloops or Vancouver but it had its own charm. Upon entering the USA, the crew paraded a US flag through the train while we all stood with our hands over our hearts and sang The Star Spangled Banner. I had picked up a special cocktail mixer in Vancouver and asked the crew to make us each my signature drink onboard. They obliged and we toasted “Cheers Mountaineers!” Upon arrival in Seattle US Customs and Border Patrol were waiting, and we went through Customs quickly.
Our Seattle hotel was the Fairmont Olympic, one of my favorites. The rooms, of course, were lovely and the bathroom was exquisite! Located right in the middle of the city and walking distance to Pikes Place Market, Pioneer Square and many other happening places to see while there!
If you have ever wanted to do a luxury rail vacation through one of the most scenic areas of this world – please DO IT!