Vacation Destination Tips
I'm a very picky vacation connoisseur. Vacations, to
me, are opportunities to explore. And relax. O.K.,
and to eat things my doctor would kill me for...
With that in mind, I figured I'd
share a bit of my vacation travels. And give lots of
unsolicited travel advice.
Vacations in Western Canada - with highlights of a
railroad-based tour via the Rocky Mountaineer
US tourists may begin their journey to western
Canada by using Seattle, Washington as a gateway to Vancouver,
Canada. I chose to fly to Seattle, and take Amtrak to Vancouver to
begin my 2006 summer vacation.
Seattle’s King Street Rail Station, just south
of city center, is undergoing a renovation to restore the
architectural heritage of this station designed by the same
architectural firm as Grand Central in New York. Stripping away well
intentioned generations of “improvements” such as Formica and
suspended ceilings covering beautiful plaster decorated features,
the station is slowly returning to much of it’s earlier elegance.
The relatively small but stylish main entryway features a striking
compass inlay on the floor.
Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, Canada by
Leaving the station (on what was the Amtrak 510
from Seattle to Vancouver Canada in 2006) the train, passes Pike’s
Peak market and quickly exist the city, hugging the shoreline
offering uninterrupted views of the Cascades to the left of the
train’s forward motion. (Ask for a “Water Side Seat” at seat
selection time). The water side scenery offers striking views of
marinas, pleasure craft and hints of mountain ranges in the
distance. As the train literally rides a few yards above the surf’s
edge, you are treated to views of the evergreen, hilly curves ahead
with cottage style homes clinging to their sides. You’ll likely make
a mental note to see how much these houses with jaw dropping views
might cost as a retirement getaway.
The 510 Cascade Train offers both standard
coach class and a slightly more comfortable business class with a
bit more legroom. The single-level cars are single aisle plans, with
some chairs facing each other but most facing forward in the
direction of the train’s motion. 120V electrical outlets are
available at your feet.
Both a sit-down dining car and an adjacent
“Bistro” (aka snack car) provide continuous food service. You may
need to sign a waiting list to get seating at the dining car. Prices
are reasonable. Food selection varies but tends to be very limited.
After passing through a tunnel immediately
before Everett Washington, the landscape changes to a combination of
inland and water views. Through towns and farmland, the ride shows a
peaceful, quiet but evergreen side of Washington state.
In July 2006, the Cascades 510 departed Seattle
at 7:40 am arriving in Vancouver at 11:30am. The ride was
comfortable and interesting, featuring diverse relaxing scenery,
bright sunshine, hazy blue skies on a day with 70ish temps. Between
Everett and Vancouver, a short family-friendly movie was presented
on small, in-car TV overhead screens. You need standard headphones
(like those used on Ipods) that plug in on armrests like airline
seat versions or you can buy headphones from the attendants.
Be careful on the water side if you are
traveling with children in the summer. The isolated beaches
occasionally attract nude sunbathers.
If you are looking for good food in Vancouver,
Jasper Park Lodge -
Old Lodge Road, Jasper, Alberta, Canada T0E1E0 Phone:
A beautiful yet simple resort just outside the
very small, near-alpine town of Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Originally
a tent-camp, it was taken over by the railroad in the early 1900’s
and is now a series of clustered non-air-conditioned cabins arranged
around a modest central lodge. Within the lodge are several
- Generally, the most casual of the three, "The Emerald"
utilizes a small indoor space and tables on a stone terrace
commanding a majestic view of the nearby turquoise blue lake.
- I enjoyed an upscale dinner at “The Moose’s Nook Northern
Grill”, an establishment specializing in offbeat foods sure to
please carnivores. Rabbit, deer, bison and grouse were on the
menu during my July 2006 visit.
- The Edith Cavell - a 4 Diamond Restaurant - I didn't try
this experience during my stay, but it looked like very nice
The town of Jasper itself is small; supporting
5000 year round residents, most of whom support themselves by
providing goods or services to more than 5 million visitors
annually. Jasper’s downtown is easily walked in a few hours and
features dining, Souvenir shopping, and very little else. From
Jasper’s sidewalks, you are surrounded by regal mountains and
Athabasca Parkway connects Jasper to Lake
Louise via alpine roadway. Jaw dropping scenery, waterfalls,
glaciers and snow-touched mountains nested in evergreens paint a
palette of stunning natural landscapes. Midsummer attracts
bicyclists and motorcyclists who travel in a separate adjacent lane.
At the southern end of the Parkway is the very
small community of Lake Louise.
Comprised only of a small strip shopping center, a cluster of small
but nicely maintained lodges, the signature feature is a large,
elegant 8 story hotel ( Fairmont’s
Chateau Lake Louise)
sitting proudly on the shores of turquoise blue Lake Louise sitting
at the foot of Victoria Glacier in a V shaped alpine canyon.
Although the front entrance and foyer of this grand hotel is
impressive, nothing competes with the “Chateau’s Back Porch”: an awe
inspiring view of the pristine lake and the rugged mountains
A small boathouse on the left side of the
Chateau’s view provides canoe rentals. A series of hiking trails
sprouts from the other side providing a choice of hiking
destinations and trail difficulties.
Within the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel are
several dining opportunities, including the Victoria restaurant with
tall arched windows overlooking the lake.
A short drive down the Trans Canada highway
from Lake Louise (this section under development)
|Canadian temperature is given in Centigrade. For those of us
used to Fahrenheit, this can be maddening. Especially if you,
like me, find it hard to remember the conversion formula. The
precise formula is F = c times 9/5 plus 32. But a easier to
calculate (though less precise form) is: Centigrade = (F times
|Canadians, particularly those living outside the stress of
the big cities, are a friendly unpretentious lot. Smile. Speak
to them. Ask for directions if you are lost. |
Top Tips for booking your
|The RM brochure lists very specific itineraries. You can
customize your trip by adding days at each stop (subject to RM’s
group transportation options which are not always daily
|Kamloops, the halfway point of the train trip between
Vancouver and the rest of the rail trip is a modest comfortable
modern town. Rocky Mountain Tours has created some overnight
entertainment opportunities, but be careful not to compare this
experience to the high end hotels in other parts of the tour.