A Travellerspoint blog

Edmonton to Toronto

Day 14

overcast 0 °C
View Canadian Adventure on jrp_pedal's travel map.

Thursday 22 Dec 2011

No time really this morning to do anything other than pack up and make sure everything was in order for the next leg of our journey by plane to Toronto. We were on time for breakfast and the excellent staff at the Alberta Place Suite Hotel had booked our shuttle bus to the airport. We were on time for that too, and waiting in the lobby for a while, so the reception desk attendant came to check our pick-up time and was about to call on our behalf to see where the bus was when it arrived.

There were several other pick-ups and we were sitting at the front so we could hear the conversations between the driver and his base. The driver had reported a no-show and the dispatcher asked him to go by the place again as the passenger was there and had insisted he was there when the bus came. The driver insisted that the passenger had not been there when he checked the lobby, but went back. When the passenger was boarding the driver called him a liar to his face, and there were a few tense moments.

In spite of that we were at the airport in plenty of time, more time than we needed as it turned out – our Air Canada flight was delayed, and didn’t leave until an hour after the scheduled departure. As had happened in Sydney, the flight was heavily overbooked. There must have been at least a dozen people waiting on standby, and there was an announcement asking for a volunteer to give up their seat on the flight – in return the volunteer would be guaranteed a seat on the next flight to Toronto and would receive a $200 travel voucher. Fortunately Robyn and I had our seat allocations this time.

The pilot made up some time, about half an hour, however, by the time we disembarked in Toronto, we were still an hour late because we had to wait for all the passengers with connections to other flights to leave the plane first. We losing faith in Air Canada, especially since we had no access in our row (and the row behind) to the in-flight entertainment system for the 3 ½ hour flight, and it couldn’t be fixed.

Our next challenge was to get ourselves to somewhere that Jeremy or Phoebe, our hosts for the night, could collect us. Hurried SMSs back and forth had us taking a shuttle bus into the city to be dropped at the Royal York Hotel about 40 minutes later. I told Phoebe what colour coats we had on and she told me what vehicle to look out for, and in no time at all Jeremy was there and we were on our way past beautiful old buildings (city hall) and Christmassy shop windows to the house in Gough Ave.

Dinner was mostly over, but the people, family and friends of Phoebe and Jeremy, were still there so we just sat down and joined the party. It was wonderful to be welcomed so warmly and made so welcome. We were still on Alberta time (2 hours earlier than EST) so it didn’t feel late for us so we probably kept people up far too late, especially since Jeremy and daughter Robyn had to go to work next day.

Posted by jrp_pedal 05:41 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Edmonton

Day 13

sunny 0 °C
View Canadian Adventure on jrp_pedal's travel map.

Wednesday 21 Dec 2011

We had a very late start this morning (that’ll teach me to watch old black and white movies until midnight) and arrived at the breakfast room just as all was being packed up. However, the staff were very obliging and agreed to wait until we had made our selections from the continental array and sat down to eat.

Stepping out into the frosty air we only had a short walk to the bus stop where we had only a short wait for the no. 100 bus that would take us to West Edmonton Mall. What can you say about such a place? It is huge; it is amazing to have a wave pool indoors and to see people in the pool area sitting on deck chairs and wearing bathers; it is astonishing to see a live animal show (sea lions) in a shopping area. A live show was due to start at 4.30pm but people began lining up about 3 hours before. Galaxyland - an amusement park within the centre - was alive with young people and children going from ride to ride. The roller coasters range from mild to medium to hair-raising and my heart rate increased just watching them. One man was trying to take a very small child on a roller coaster ride where the carriage revolved as it went arond the tracks. The child was plainly too small and it seemed the attendant said so however the man appeared to argue the point to the extent that the attendant phoned someone for confirmation. End result, the child was passed to another adult and the man got on the ride by himself. Both Robyn and I were relieved to see that OH&S prevails. The mall was not so busy in the morning. However, in the afternoon the number of shoppers towing small children and laden with big bags of goodies increased.

We did a bit of shopping – who could resist 3 pairs of pyjama pants for $20, and all the other specials on outerwear mostly made in China, jewellery, footwear, and all the cheap lingerie made in Vietnam and Bangladesh and Thailand.

It was sunset by the time we caught the bus back, and what a glorious sunset it was – flaming brilliant.

No restaurant at our hotel so we stopped in at the Russian Tea Room nearby and had soup and homemade, super-fresh Russian brown bread and tea, of course. It’s a quirky little place with a bar, and strange eclectic décor. There were cartoons or cards or pictures on all the tables between the glass tops and the table cloth and lace runners below and the three Chinese gods in the glass cabinet near the cash register.

Posted by jrp_pedal 07:44 Archived in Canada Tagged west_edmonton_mall Comments (2)

Calgary to Edmonton

Day 12

rain 1 °C
View Canadian Adventure on jrp_pedal's travel map.

Tuesday 20 Dec 2011

We’d spotted a likely looking breakfast bakery on our way back from the Tower yesterday and it lived up to its promise – fresh fruit salad and breakfast Panini, and some savoury scones for later to sustain us on the bus to Edmonton.

The most valuable map we were given by the hotel was the one showing the +15 routes. The +15 system is a series of elevated connecting corridors one floor up that allows pedestrians to walk all about downtown without going outside. Sometimes there are shops at that level but mostly eateries for coffee and snacks. There were also a surprising number of dentists – handy for those lunchtime appointments, I guess. It was fun following the corridors and occasionally coming to dead ends because the navigator (me) had failed to turn at the required location. We were able to go from just near our breakfast stop via a big loop back to the hotel without going outside again. We found our coats superfluous and could have left on the +15 from the hotel itself and stayed in the system wherever we wanted to go. We arrived back somewhat heated, being dressed for outdoors.

Bit of a debacle when it was time to go to the Red Arrow bus station. There was a line of taxis and the first driver was unable to start his vehicle’s engine. So instead of the second taxi pulling ahead and taking us, he pulled up alongside the first and the drivers pulled out the jumper leads. I’m not sure that any of the gentlemen taking part in the exercise were at all mechanically minded because there were sparks at first indicating they may have connected the wrong terminals. Eventually the motor came to life and the driver came forward to where we were waiting. Then the driver seemed to be uncertain of the location of the bus depot. When we arrived there he jumped out and started unloading our luggage before we could pay the $7.20 fare and insist on receiving change. We didn’t have the correct money so had to hand him a $10.00 note which he quickly pocketed and drove off, scoring a $2.80 tip that we felt he did not deserve.

The Red Arrow coach was great – comfy seats (and we’d been assigned front seats so had a fabulous view, movie (though you had to purchase the headsets), toilet, snacks and drinks available, and best of all, free wi-fi. The scenery was flat, flat ranch land – mostly wheat and cattle – all covered with a couple of inches of snow, reminding us that while we’re warm on the coach, we’ll need our coats again at the end.

Our accommodation at the Alberta Place Suite Hotel was 350 metres from the bus depot according to my little map so we walked. A chilly wind was blowing, making my eyes stream, and it was raining, making it difficult to see the map. However, we made it and were soon settled in our suite, which has two bedrooms, one with sofa, desk and dining table in it, plus kitchen and bathroom and plenty of clothes storage place – a veritable palace, and it will be the first night Robyn and I have slept in separate rooms since the beginning of our adventure.

The very helpful Cathy at reception told us how to get into the Pedway system and we were able to walk to Edmonton City Centre without being outside for about 25 metres. The route goes through the University of Alberta city campus – it seemed a little bizarre to be able to see into classrooms. In the ECC we found a pub, The Elephant and Castle, that looked good, very busy, and we had to wait a while for a table to be free. Lots of tasty meals on the menu but when we came to order, our server advised that the EC’s Nachos that Robyn wanted would be more than enough for both of us. Luckily we took his advice and ordered one dish only. It was a mountain of nachos – very tasty and filling, and a very economical dinner.

It was late night shopping so the shops stayed open until 8pm and the sales were on so we had a lovely time checking out the goods and prices, and trying on some clothes (Robyn had success with a very attractive skirt that was on special).

Posted by jrp_pedal 08:28 Archived in Canada Tagged calgary_edmonton Comments (2)

Banff to Calgary

Day 11

sunny -1 °C
View Canadian Adventure on jrp_pedal's travel map.

Monday 19 Dec 2011

Visual weather check this morning showed a pretty pink sunrise against the snowy crags, which augured well for a trip up Sulphur Mountain. We stepped out of the hotel into a chilly -9 °C and spent half an hour or so looking in the shops while we waited for it to be bus time. We managed to be first in the queue when the gondola opened at 10am. Fabulous views from the gondola however I did not feel really comfortable in it. For some reason I feel safer in the bigger gondolas than in these smaller bubble-like ones that take only 4 people maximum.

At the summit the wind chill dropped the temperature several degrees and the wind stung our faces. Fingers became chilled very quickly so we took our photos on the observation deck and retired inside to revive with a hot drink and a snack. Robyn and I reversed our seating in the gondola on the way back however I still felt a little weak at the knees back on the ground.

We took a taxi back to the hotel to check out and be ready for our coach transfer to Calgary. First view of Calgary was a bit of a shock – it’s so flat after our days in the Rockies. Also there are a number of new subdivisions where the houses look all very similar, and pained neutral colours so that they appeared camouflaged in the surrounding straw-coloured grassland. It gives the suburbs an uncannily homogeneous appearance.

Our room at the International Hotel turned out to be a suite with dining table and chairs, sofa and armchairs. We had lovely staff to greet us and explain the amenities of the hotel; they also supplied us with maps of the downtown. Just a short walk from the hotel brought us to the famed Calgary Tower where we met up with Meg by prior arrangement. She had been doing roughly the same tour as us and we’d met her first on the train, then at other stops and transfers along the way.

In the evening I’d arranged to meet with Pat and Larry whom I’d met on the Alaska cruise I took with Jim back in 2007. They very kindly came to the hotel and we went to dine in the hotel café because of not knowing any downtown restaurants. Not the best choice – the food was adequate but there was no ambience and only 3 other diners came in the whole time we were there (makes you wonder). However, the company was delightful and we had excellent conversations that covered the whole spectrum of births, deaths and the world as we see it. Larry and Pat very generously shouted us the dinner, and were sorry we were spending such a short time in Calgary. They’ve been to Australia, staying in Sydney and visiting Melbourne and Tasmania, so I hope next time they come, they’ll visit Queensland and give me an opportunity to return their wonderful Canadian hospitality.

Posted by jrp_pedal 13:44 Archived in Canada Tagged calgary banff to Comments (1)

Banff

Day 10

snow 0 °C

Sunday 18 Dec 2011

When we awoke and did our daily visual weather check it was well and truly snowing – everything was covered and the flakes fell like rain. We could not see beyond the end of the street. We went back to Lammle’s to change an item bought the day before and found yet another Aussie on duty in the store.

Fortified by hot chocolate for Robyn and a ginger coffee latte for me, we took a lovely slidey taxi ride up the snowy icy road to where the Banff hot springs are. We had a voucher as part of our Brewster’s Winter Wonderland to ride the gondola up to Sulphur Mountain, however, with such low visibility the trip would have been wasted. Fortunately we also had a voucher for the hot springs. So we walked sort of cross-country, hoping we were on the path, to where we could see steam rising. We had brought our bathers with us but had to hire towels. Once changed, we tiptoed out to the pool – the entrance to the water actually starts inside the building via a ramp. The water was 39 °C and too hot for me (shouldn’t have had the coffee) so I sat with upper torso out of the water but Robyn loved it. The snow continued to fall, some big flakes too – amazing to be sitting in the hot water with a cap of snow on your head trying to catch snowflakes in your mouth! The tough part was getting out, drying off and trying to re-layer all the clothing we came in wearing.

We decided we would try for Sulphur Mountain tomorrow – we had a taxi voucher to return to the town so we thought we’d keep that for next day, and take the bus. No idea where to catch it but saw it go past outbound. Unfortunately it came past just before we realised where the bus stop was. Picture two mature aged ladies trying to hasten safely along the icy path, waving madly and hoping the bus driver would see us and that we would not fall flat on our bums in the snow. What a wonderful bus driver – he waited even though he was already running late.

Back at the hotel it was laundry time – the tiniest room with one washer beside one dryer on one side, and on the other, a sink and a laundry powder dispenser. However, it did the job.

Then it was time for our ‘progressive dinner’ beginning with a wine tasting at the Banff Wine Store – a white and a red from British Columbia, the first a bit too sharp and the latter a bit too woody. Dinner was across the street at the Maple Leaf Grill – a delicious salad (which had thinly sliced beetroot in it) and a salmon dish topped with pickled ginger. A short walk up the street brought us to Georgio’s Trattoria where we had dessert and a cocktail. A lovely way to spend the last night of our Winter Wonderland tour.

On the way back to the hotel we were astonished to find many of the shops still open – some stay open until 11pm, and it was a Sunday night too. We stopped into The Fudgery and found yet another Aussie (from Perth this time) behind the counter. The confectionary in that shop has to be seen to be believed. Just as well we had just dined so well or temptation may have overcome us.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the situation where you’re a stranger in a place and someone will ask for directions – it happened to us too, but, wonder of wonders, we knew where the Macca’s was! We had seen it earlier in the day when we lunched at the pub (Tommy’s) next door to it. I don’t know who was more amazed – us or the young Germans who asked!

I must tell you about Robyn’s hat – it’s fleecy beanie (Kaos brand) that once had a pompom. And since she took the pompom off, the hat has been trying to escape. It’s managed to be left behind in the lift, in hotel foyers, on steps in and out of buildings, and in shops. Luckily it’s black and easy to see against the snow. We hope we can prevent it from escaping irretrievably before the end of our trip.

Posted by jrp_pedal 07:46 Archived in Canada Tagged banff Comments (1)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 29) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 »