As Julius Caesar’s wife Cornelia famously said “Veni, Vidi, Ca-ching-icci”, which translates into “I came, I saw, I spent much.” She must have been to Banff.
We came. You’d think it would be pretty simple to jump from the tourist mecca of Niagara Falls to the tourist mecca of Banff. After all, they’re both in Canada aren’t they? Here’s where we find that there are two distinct Canadas. We’re in “the east” and we want to get to “the west”.
Anyways, it’s not really that hard. All we have to do is – navigate our way to the little airport at Hamilton – sweet talk the nice Westjet lady into sorting our luggage and giving us seats inside the plane rather than on the wings – four hour flight – two hour time change – haggle with the car hire guy to minimise the amount of “essential” extras we sign up for – overnight in Calgary – drive to Banff – and here we are!
We saw and we spent “not quite that much”. Banff is a really pretty town. There’s a mountain at the end of every street. There’s an abundance of tourist shops, with an even greater abundance of tourists, and there’s no parking available anywhere. No worries, we’re driving a rental, so we can squeeze into those tight little spots that nobody else wants. Let’s go see some sights.
Day one – Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – old, beautiful. Our dodgy rooms at the Red Carpet Inn don’t come anywhere near this place, but the Fairmont’s $900 per night (breakfast included) is a tad outside our price range, so we’ll just walk around the corridors and pretend we belong.
Day one – Sulphur Mountain Gondola – the best way to get a view of the town, the Fairmont and its golf course, and the amazing mountain-scape. It’s a “must-do”. It’s also way more expensive than we expected. The ladies start to rationalise. “If we all share one banana for dinner, and fill our water bottles from that pond over there, we’ll save enough to be able to afford the gondola. And besides, it’s only half the price of the really expensive things like that glacier excursion up near Jasper.” Who can argue with such logic? So, after a bit of creative parking, it’s up the mountain we go. The view is indeed spectacular and all agree we’re glad we went.
Day two – Moraine Lake – If you’ve seen that iconic picture of a beautiful lake with rugged mountains behind on any Canadian travel brochure, you’ve seen Moraine Lake. Nanette and I missed seeing it on an earlier visit, but there’s no way that’s gonna happen this time. It’s not far away, and we can drop in at the Lake Louise Chateau afterwards, so, double value!
We reach Lake Louise around 11am. That’s funny, there’s a bunch of guys directing traffic. Ah, slight parking problems at the Chateau. No worries, we’re off to the lake. Me to guy in reflective vest – “We’re not parking, so if you can just point us in the direction of Moraine Lake we’ll be on our way.” Guy – “good luck with that.”
It is with some pride that I can now reveal that we did in fact find the lake, and, after dropping the team at the main entrance, I managed to find a semi-legal parking spot only about 1km away. Anyways, the lake is truly breath-taking, that is, any breath you have left when you finish the climb to the view point atop the “rock pile” is definitely taken away by the amazing vista. And, entry is free!
Day two – Lake Louise – By the time we get back to Lake Louise the crowds have dispersed enough for us to find a parking spot in the same postcode. It’s about 3:30 – time for a coffee. I’m feeling generous – “hey everyone, how would you like me to buy you a coffee at one of the fancy places up at the Chateau?” Everyone looks impressed. We find a great little spot with a view of the lake. I walk up to the young lady in the smart uniform. “Hi um, Eugenie, can I have a table for four please.” She gives me that look. “Are you a guest of the hotel Sir?” Ok, let’s grab something from that little place over there and go down to the lake.
We spend a relaxing hour or so wandering around the Chateau, strolling the pretty lake paths, or just admiring the view. At last it’s time to head back to Banff. As I drive, I’m reflecting on how successful we’ve been in getting to all of the “must see” spots on our Banff list. What’s more, apart from the over-priced gondola ride, we haven’t really spent “that” much. What clever little travellers we are. Sorry, what’s that you said dear? I don’t think I quite heard you right.
“I said, Cathy and I reckon that, since today hasn’t cost too much, and since we’re going right past that glacier excursion place on the way to Jasper tomorrow …..”