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Canada: Banff, Jasper, Montreal, Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls (Visit 2), Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara on the Lake (Visit 2), Quebec City, Toronto, Toronto (Visit 2), Vancouver
Banff, Canada: Picture post card perfect
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Our final destination for the day was Banff in the Canadian Rockies. Our flight to Calgary would leave early morning from Montreal. To go to Montreal international airport, we were advised to take a regular taxi rather than hailing an Uber. Fare to airport from downtown Montreal is fixed at $41. Being a weekend, there was minimal traffic. We were at the airport in about 25 minutes.
It's a 4-hour flight to Calgary. For our next days of travel in Banff and Jasper, we had hired a car. At the Avis counter at Calgary airport, we were offered a Chevrolet Equinox. I also opted for their GPSÖ which unfortunately stopped working after a couple of hours. The charger provided was useless. Thankfully, Google Maps on my smartphone came in handy for the rest of the trip.
At around noon we were ready to roll. Using highway 201 and 1A (Trans-Canada Highway) we arrived Banff in about 3 hours. Actually, 2 hours should suffice; but as tourists it's hard to avoid the temptation of making stops at various viewpoints. We were in Banff National Park in Alberta Province of Canada... nature at its best... blue skies, snow-capped mountain tops, green pastures interspaced with turquoise lakes!
There are no tolls in Alberta. However, you need to buy a permit to drive around in the park region. The permits can be purchased enroute. We paid $39 for our entire stay. A fee that's worth every cent!
For our 2-nightís stay at Banff we were booked at another Fairmont's iconic property - Fairmont Banff Springs. As luck would have it, we got our room on the 8th floor, directly overlooking a waterfall on the Bow River and the snow-topped Cascade Mountains on the horizon.
We left our car in the safe hands of hotel's valet and chose to use the hotel's shuttle facility to go downtown and walk thereafter. The best way to soak in the beauty around is to walk. And walk.
Banff Avenue is town's main road and indeed the most happening. Both sides of the avenue have shops of sorts and scores of restaurants to suit every palate. The shuttle bus dropped us downtown. From there we commenced our walk along the Banff Avenue. Spent some time at the Cascade Gardens and then took the Bow River trail to return to our hotel.
The Bow River begins in the Rocky Mountains and winds through the Alberta foothills onto the prairies, where it meets the Oldman River, the two then forming the South Saskatchewan River. These waters ultimately flow through the Nelson River into Hudson Bay. The Bow River runs through the city of Calgary, taking in the Elbow River at the historic site of Fort Calgary near downtown. The river is an important source of water for irrigation and drinking water. Between the years 1910 and 1960, the Bow River and its tributaries were engineered to provide hydroelectric power, primarily for Calgary's use.
Banff National Park has scores and scores of trails... short and long; easy and hard. This trail was about 3 kms. long, running parallel to the Bow River on one side and forest on the other. On the foothills was a beautiful waterfall - the one that we could see and hear from our room. From the waterfalls, we took steps that got us to our hotel.
After spending an hour at the hotel's terrace, we were again ready to go to town. The plan was to have an Indian dinner. The shuttle dropped us very near to Masala Restaurant that served Indian cuisine. After filling us up, we walked back to the hotel and dropped dead for the night.
The weather report for the next morning was not encouraging. Rain was scheduled. However, when we woke up, the sun was up and the sky was clear. Without wasting much time, we got ready and headed out to take the Banff Gondola up the Sulphur Mountains.
The Banff Gondola is a major Banff attraction. It costs $70 per person. We purchased our tickets at the hotel's desk. The cost included a shuttle ride by the gondola company. We took the first shuttle out that departs at 9 AM from the hotel premises itself. We were rushing all through - just to ensure that we get the advantage of a clear sky. Going atop with rains and clouds is surely not a good idea. The base of the gondola was 3 kms. away on the Mountain Avenue. Since tickets were on hand, we could avoid the queue at the base.
We spent a little over an hour at the top. The views of the various mountains, Banff town below and lush green trees on the slope made our day. A cup of hot chocolate in hand with eyes set on snow peaks was a good combination. By noon we were back at our hotel. This time we took our car and drove to Lake Minnewanka which was a 20-minutesí drive.
Lake Minnewanka ("Water of the Spirits" in Nakoda) is a glacial lake. The lake is 21 kms. long and 142 metres deep, making it the 2nd longest lake in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies. The lake is fed by the Cascade River, flowing east of Cascade Mountain, and runs south through Stewart Canyon as it empties into the western end of the lake. Numerous streams flowing down from Mount Inglismaldie, Mount Girouard and Mount Peechee on the south side of the lake also feed the lake.
Aboriginal people long inhabited areas around Lake Minnewanka, as early as 10,000 years ago, according to stone tools and a Clovis point spearhead discovered by archaeologists. The area is rich in animal life (e.g. elk, mule deer, mountain sheep and bears) and the easy availability of rock in the mountainous terrain was key to fashioning weapons for hunting.
We spent an hour walking around the shores of the lake. The turquoise blue waters were inviting but we dropped our plans to hire kayaks as it was very windy. Back in town, we got a parking spot on Wolf Street, a little away from Banff Avenue. The next couple of hours was spent entirely on Banff Avenue. Lunch was at McDonalds.
That evening, dinner was at Indian Curry House. The name suggests the type of cuisine we had. Next morning, we would drive to Jasper and on the way spend time at Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.
Lake Louise is about an hourís drive from Banff falling just off the Trans-Canada Highway 1A. And Lake Moraine would be another 25 minutesí drive, uphill, from Lake Louise. Having said that, itís good to know that finding a parking spot, especially during summers is almost next to impossible. Irrespective of how lucky you are, itís a good idea to use the services of the park authorities.
During the peak summer time, a parking lot on the highway, about 5 kms. from the village is operational. From the parking lot, a shuttle takes the visitors right up to the edge of Lake Louise. The cost is $4 and cash is not accepted. There was a long line at the parking lot. We got our shuttle after a wait of 30 minutes.
From Lake Louise, another shuttle takes you to Lake Moraine. The cost is $6. Long story short, for $10 per person, you get to park your car, enjoy Lake Louise and Lake Moraine and return back to the parking lot.
The last shuttle from Lake Moraine leaves at 5 PM. Itís nice to reach early, plan your walks at both the lakes and make the best of the day.
Lake Louise is a hamlet in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake ringed by high peaks and overlooked by a stately chateau. Hiking trails wind up to the Lake Agnes Tea House for bird's-eye views. There's a canoe dock in summer, and a skating rink on the frozen lake in winter. Standing proud on the shores is the Fairmont Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake 14 kms. outside the Village of Lake Louise. It is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of approximately 1,885 metres. The lake, being glacially fed, does not reach its crest until mid to late June. When it is full, it reflects a distinctive shade of blue. The colour is due to the refraction of light off the rock flour deposited in the lake on a continual basis.
The area around the lake has several walking / hiking trails which are, from time to time, restricted. The trail most commonly taken by tourists is The Rockpile Trail, which is along the actual moraine. The trail is approximately 300 metres long, with an elevation change of 24 metres. The view of the lake from the top of the rockpile is one of the most photographed locations in all of Canada. That view of the mountains behind the lake in Valley of the Ten Peaks is known as the "Twenty Dollar View", as Moraine Lake was featured on the reverse side of the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian twenty dollar bill.
I think, it's best for the pictures to do more of the talking. At 3 PM we were back at the parking lot, ready to begin our drive to Jasper.
Banff Image Gallery Photo viewer
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