Searching for locations: – Lake Louise, Canada, ice, snow, and cold

The Fairmont at Lake Louise, in Canada, is noted for its ice castle in winter.  This has been created by the ice sculptor, Lee Ross since 2007, using about 150 blocks of ice, each weighing roughly 300 pounds.

When I first saw it, from a distance, looked like it was made out of plastic  It’s not.  Venturing out into the very, very cold, a close inspection showed it was made of ice.


And, it’s not likely to melt in a hurry given the temperature when I went down to look at it was hovering around minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.


And that was the warmest part of the day.

Searching for locations: – Lake Louise, Canada, ice, snow, and cold

The Fairmont at Lake Louise, in Canada, is noted for its ice castle in winter.  This has been created by the ice sculptor, Lee Ross since 2007, using about 150 blocks of ice, each weighing roughly 300 pounds.

When I first saw it, from a distance, looked like it was made out of plastic  It’s not.  Venturing out into the very, very cold, a close inspection showed it was made of ice.


And, it’s not likely to melt in a hurry given the temperature when I went down to look at it was hovering around minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.


And that was the warmest part of the day.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise, Canada

We survived the first night and woke the next morning to look at the sun rising, and the fact everyone else was not lingering in bed when there was ice, snow, skating, skiing, and walking on (perhaps) thin ice to be done.

I was the first to brave the elements, it was about mins 10 still, or maybe a little colder, but I had come prepared with a hat, gloves, multiple layers of clothing and a (maybe) windproof jacket.

Of course, there was no wind, just cold.

Stepping out of the warm inside of the hotel to the cold outside was a shock, but after a minute or so to get used to it, I still didn’t think I’d be out too long.

First, a photo of the hotel, it was immense, and it explained why there were so many people about.

Then it was the partly frozen trees.  I suspect there had been a little thawing of the snow on the branches

Then of the frozen lake, and it is quite a large lake, and incredible one so large could completely freeze.  I’d like to see it in summer.

Then the brave adventurers who, in summer would be rowing to the end of the lake, who now were taking a hike, and praying no doubt, there was no thin ice

Were they trying to get a close look at this mountain, or considering climbing it.  Yes, there were actual mountain climbers staying at the hotel, and though we didn’t know it till later, there was a frozen waterfall which proved the most adventurous with an interesting challenge

More of course, on a unique feature at this hotel, the ice castle.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise, Canada

We survived the first night and woke the next morning to look at the sun rising, and the fact everyone else was not lingering in bed when there was ice, snow, skating, skiing, and walking on (perhaps) thin ice to be done.

I was the first to brave the elements, it was about mins 10 still, or maybe a little colder, but I had come prepared with a hat, gloves, multiple layers of clothing and a (maybe) windproof jacket.

Of course, there was no wind, just cold.

Stepping out of the warm inside of the hotel to the cold outside was a shock, but after a minute or so to get used to it, I still didn’t think I’d be out too long.

First, a photo of the hotel, it was immense, and it explained why there were so many people about.

Then it was the partly frozen trees.  I suspect there had been a little thawing of the snow on the branches

Then of the frozen lake, and it is quite a large lake, and incredible one so large could completely freeze.  I’d like to see it in summer.

Then the brave adventurers who, in summer would be rowing to the end of the lake, who now were taking a hike, and praying no doubt, there was no thin ice

Were they trying to get a close look at this mountain, or considering climbing it.  Yes, there were actual mountain climbers staying at the hotel, and though we didn’t know it till later, there was a frozen waterfall which proved the most adventurous with an interesting challenge

More of course, on a unique feature at this hotel, the ice castle.

Searching for locations: Vancouver to Kamloops, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

Searching for locations: Toronto, Canada

Usually, the transfer from the airport to the hotel is one of those serene moments after a long, or short, plane trip.

Usually.

Our first from Vancouver airport to the hotel was in something akin to a party bus, a stretch limousine that was very uncomfortable after 24 hours cooped up in an economy seat.  Surely they had a large enough SUV.

Apparently not.

This time around we got what the driver said was a town car, and our looks of amazement that it could take the three of us and 4 large suitcases and 3 cabin bags, was met with a shrug and a statement that the limo company had got rid of their larger cars a year ago.

This driver was determined.  He fitted the cases in, and we crammed in the back, all squishy.

But that was the best part of the journey.

We had the original kamikaze.  It was 140km or nothing, and being tossed about in the back of the car was just what we needed.

Score: 1 out of 10.

The driver just stopped long enough to toss the bags on the sidewalk and drive off, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

Of course, the hotel didn’t have a 24-hour concierge and I guess it was part of a learning curve for staying in downmarket hotels.

So, we’re staying in a Doubletree by Hilton, a downmarket hotel chain that we have stayed in before, in Melbourne, Australia.  That was a pleasant and surprisingly good experience, leading to giving the chain another go in Toronto, Canada.

Its a case of chalk and cheese.  Maybe it’s the late hour, maybe it’s my expectations, but the experience was flat, and for a chain that Hilton has put its name to, maybe it’s time they started policing the hotel’s standards.

Not that the over the counter experience was bad, I just didn’t feel like I was welcome in the usual Hilton manner.

It’s a long time since I was a Diamond HHonors guest, and I was not expecting a lot, but being a member, at whatever level you are on, should count for something.

Today, it didn’t.

But it didn’t end there…

The room on first viewing was a disappointment, but on reflection, I think my expectations were geared to what we have had in Australia where real estate is less expensive and therefore the rooms are larger.

This also means most rooms have double queen or double king beds, not twin double beds.  I have not slept in a double bed for about 40 years, anywhere.

Of course, I should have read the fine print.

My bad.

So…

I go down to the front desk and ask if there are larger rooms.  Of course, there are, if you want twin double beds, or a king bed and a fold away bed, which we do not.

I understand their dilemma, the rooms are just too small to fit larger beds.

Lesson learned for the next time if there is a next time.

On the upside…

Breakfast is included, and it’s really good, and the service is above expectations.

So, it’s the new year

I just watched America ring in the new year.

15 hours after we did here in Brisbane.  It was, if anything, a non event.  Covid put paid to anything as lavish as it had been in the past.  It reminded me of thetwo times we were in New York for New Year’s Eve and the first time we couldn’t get near tTimes Square, and saw the ball drop in Central Park, and the second, in a Times Square hotel not far from the action.

This year we saw it on TV.  Oh, hang on, the TV coverage didn’t cover the ball drop.  What the?

But not to put too fnei a point to it, I didn’t really miss it.  Notthere, and not here.

Any other year?  Perhaps.

Two years ago we were in Lake Louise in Canada, and it was amazing to say the least.  The Fairmont hotel had been setting up for it all day, right down to watching a hoard of staff trying to put together the portable dance floor, and later, when exiting the restaurant, watching the crowded hoards dancing to their own music.  Or so it appeared.

We dined in the restarant, and it was a magic night of dining, in a magical setting.

Just saying that I don’t think that New Years Eve will be topped in what might be the rest of my lifetime.

This year, nothing.  I was up writing, and on the dot of midnight there was 15 seconds of fireworks.

We usually watch Sydney’s New Year’s Eve party and the fifteen to twenty minutes of fireworks after, but Covid put paid to that too.

Ten or so years ago, when imbibed with more enthusiasm, we went to a club on the border between Queensland and New South Wales where one had daylight saving and the other didn’t.   It was fun to celebrate New Year’s Eve twice, but not when we went back to the motel and discovered, after a rain deluge, all our rooms had sprung leaks and everything was wet.

The days of those adventures are more.

I’ve got used to staying in five and six star accommodation, but now we have retired and the income doesn’t match the lifestyle we used to have.

And with Covid always lurking in those dark corners waiting to pounce when least expected, I’m guessing my 2021 will be much the same as 2020, in isolation until we get a vaccine and the idiots finally realise they’re dicing with death, ours not theirs.

Still, it could be worse.

But, despire the glass half empty attitude, I hope everyone else has a happy new year and a much better 2021.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise to Toronto, via Calgary

All the worries we thought we might have in getting from Lake Louise to Calgary, in the end, it was just like driving to work, only a little longer.

When we left the Fairmont, the car had two frozen bottles of water and a frozen donut, left in the car for the two days we were there, so hiding in the garage might not be a good idea.

At the garage where we refueled, it was so cold I could barely clean the windows and glad to get back into the warmth inside the car.

Thankfully as we got closer to Calgary, it got warmer.

We bypass the city going to the airport, but, as it turns out, we would not have had much time to look around anyway.It’s nice to go to an airport and actually find the car rental returns first go with adequate signing to get there.

Returning the car took a few extra minutes because we were at the end of a dozen or so others who turned up at the same time.  All good, they remembered giving us a half full petrol tank.

At the check-in, it is very smooth sailing, the kiosk working and once the booking reference was entered, it spat out the desired number of boarding passes and baggage tags.

Then to baggage drop, through customs where I managed to lose my jacket, which is amazing that you would be allowed to leave anything behind.

So…

We have an hour and a half to kill, so a long soda and two long island teas settle the pre-flight nerves if we had any to start with.

Time to consider the vagaries of the flight.

Today we’re on an Airbus a320, and we are seated in the very last row, row 33.  It’s always a bad thing to look up planes on seatguru.com, because it has painted them as the worst on the plane.

What’s the downside, sometimes the seat pitch is less than further up the plane, the seats don’t recline and you get the seat in front in your face, and you get the constant flushing of the toilets.  And my major bugbear there’s no overhead luggage space.

What’s the reality?

To begin with, the seats recline, but not very much.  We’ll wait till the plane is cruising before judging how far the seats recline in front of us.

The seat pitch is good and it doesn’t feel like were cramped into a small space, but again this is relative to what happens with the seat in front.

Overhead baggage space, none whatsoever, so if you don’t get on first you are basically screwed.  We were almost first to the rear of the plane so I suspect others also know about the lack of overhead bin space.

Being at the read most part of the plane affords you a view of how the baggage handlers treat your baggage, and it’s interesting, to say the least.  They smile a lot, so I suspect that a few bags might get the ‘treatment’.

Enough already.

We’re now backing out of the bay ready to leave.

We’re getting endless announcements in foreign languages so when next I fly with Air Canada I should at least learn French.

Or not…

Ah, the smell of kerosene floods our end of the plane.  So much for air quality, which so it happens is being covered in the safety video at the exact same time.

But as it turned out, the flight was uneventful.

Searching for locations: Vancouver to Kamloops, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel at about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – 4

Staying at Hampton Inn and Suites downtown, whatever that means because it looks like we are in the middle of nowhere.

But, judging by the crowd in the breakfast room, it’s a popular hotel.  Of course, it is Sunday morning so this could be the weekend escape people.

Two things I remember about staying in Hampton Inns is firstly the waffles and whipped butter.  It’s been five years but nothing has changed, they are as delicious as ever.  The other, its where I discovered vanilla flavored milk for coffee, and it, too, is addictive.

They also used to have flat burgers that were made out of sausage meat which was delicious, but on the first day, they were not on the menu.

Nevertheless, it was still a very yummy breakfast.

After some research into where we might find this pixmi unicorn, it appears that it is available at a ‘toys are us’ store in one of the suburbs of Vancouver.  So, resuming the quest, we took a taxi to West Broadway, the street the store is located.

A quick search of the store finds where the toys we’re looking for are, after asking one of the sales staff, and we find there are at least a dozen of them.  Apparently, they are not as popular in Canada as the might be in America.  Cheaper too, because the exchange rate for Canadian dollars is much better than for American dollars.  Still, 70 dollars for a stuffed toy is a lot of money.

We also get some slime, stuff that our middle granddaughter seems to like playing with.

After shopping we set off down West Broadway, the way we had come, looking for a taxi to return us to the hotel.  There’s no question of walking back to the hotel.

A few hours later we walk to the observation tower, which was not very far from the hotel,

a place where we could get a 360-degree view of the city of Vancouver although it was very difficult to see any of the old buildings because they were hidden by the newer buildings, nor could we see the distant mountains because of the haze.

After leaving the tower we walked down Water Street to see the steam clock and the old world charm of a cobbled street and old buildings

We stopped at the Spaghetti Factory Italian restaurant for dinner and is so popular that we have to wait, 10 minutes to start with.  It doesn’t take all that long to order and have the food delivered to the table.  Inside the restaurant, there is an actual cable car but we didn’t get to sit in it.

I have steak, rare, mushrooms, and spaghetti with marinara sauce.  No, marinara doesn’t mean seafood sauce but a very tasty tomato-based sauce.  The steak was absolutely delicious and extremely tender which made it more difficult to cut with a steak knife.

The write up for the marinara sauce is, ‘it tastes so fresh because it is made directly from vine-ripened tomatoes, not from concentrate, packed within 6 hours of harvest.  We combine them with fresh, high-quality ingredients such as caramelised onions, roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil’.

Oh, and did I mention they have a streetcar right there in the middle of the restaurant

I’m definitely going to try and make this when we get home.

After dinner, we return to the observation tower,  the ticket allowing us to go back more than once, and see the sights at night time.  I can’t say it was all that spectacular.

Another day has gone, we are heading home tomorrow.