Vancouver to Jasper Part 2

(November 3rd 2010)

So, as Amanda didn’t sleep very well she was up first and headed to the shower room. Once she was out it was my turn. The shower was really good considering you’re on a train. A nice changing/drying area and the shower itself was good. hot and reasonably powerful. Once that was sorted off we went to breakfast which meant a wobbly walk along 3 carriages to the dining car. Not much like First Great Western trains really. This dining car had table cloths and real metal cutlery and also attentive staff. The food was pretty decent too it has to be said.

Food taken care of, it was time to chill out, watch the world go by and enjoy the scenery. Not much to add really except that the journey was smooth, the scenery was in places quite spectacular and our little cabin was comfortable. The time went by with a little reading and Angry Birds being played and a short visit to the observation car. I say short because just as expected it was full of ‘old people’ who had gotten there early and camped there for the day determined not to let anyone else sit there. It’s not as if they were even watching the scenery. One was reading and I’m sure I heard the click clacking of knitting needles somewhere. We went back to our haven and stayed there until it was time to venture to the dining car again for lunch (which was very nice) and then back until we got to Jasper thirty minutes early.

Jasper train station is small, so is the town, but immaculate and we only had to wait about 20 minutes for the hotel shuttle to come and collect us. Four couples from the train are staying here in Jasper Park Lodge but I bet none of those experienced what we did on arrival.

I’d booked a junior suite with a lake view, which actually meant a small cabin by the lake. It was quite nice but nothing to go mad about. As we were settling in, and about to unpack, I needed to use the loo. After I washed my hands and noticed that the hot tap was actually very hot. I turned on the cold tap and that was slightly less hot than the hot tap but not cold. I let it run, and run, and run but it stayed hot. I went to reception and they said they’d send a maintenance guy to look at it and if they couldn’t fix it they would move us. Mr fix-it couldn’t fix it, so we were moved. A bellman came to move our luggage and we moved 4 cabins down the lake. When I opened the door I noticed a musty smell which Amanda immediately said ‘sewage’. The bellman with us also said ‘hmm that’s not right. Wait and I’ll get you another room’. We waited and then moved down the lake some more to another cabin. It was lovely. Clean, no smell…better check the water. Guess what? No cold water. At this point I explained that although we had booked a lake view, we really wanted to stay closer to the main lodge building and if it meant we had to lose the view we would rather than keep moving further and further away. After a few discussions between the bellman and the front desk, he came back and with a small smile said that he thought we’d enjoy our new room. The good news was it was back in the main building. On the way back through the lobby I was stopped by the lady who originally checked us in. She wanted a quick word with me before we went upstairs to apologise and to offer something in they way of an apology. I had mentioned that it was our anniversary during our stay and they had left us chocolate covered fruit in the original room. I said to her thankyou and just mentioned that they had the wrong day and in fact it was the 4th Nov. When she offered to have the chocolates moved to our new room, I admitted that we’d eaten them while we were waiting to sort the room out. As it was our anniversary the next day she offered us a meal in their restaurant with their compliments and I gratefully accepted.

Upstairs we went to our new room….sorry HUGE SUITE. We now have two rooms connected. One large bedroom with king size bed, one large sitting room with giant tv and two bathrooms, of and a large patio/balcony area overlooking the lake. Quite an upgrade I’d say. We went downstairs once we’d unpacked a bit and I went to say thankyou for the room, then we had a couple of drinks and a small meal then headed back upstairs to watch some tv and chill out. While we were gone MORE CHOCOLATE arrived. Altogether a good day with a little short-lived disappointment in between. They may have had some slight technical difficulties but as far as customer service goes I can’t recommend the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge highly enough.

Vancouver to Jasper Part 1

(November 3rd 2010)

Vancouver railway station is old but that doesn’t mean that it’s crap. In fact the staff were very helpful, the lounge was nice (if a little hot), free tea,coffee and biscuits (Peak Freans…we’re talking good stuff here). We checked in, they took our luggage, including our carry-on bags, and left us to relax until we had to board. Our cabin is small, there’s no getting away from the fact that even if you could smuggle a cat on board and it had a tail suitable for swinging, the cat would be safe. Saying that, it is completely ingenious. There is no single little space that is unused. We have two chairs which fold away and two bunks appear. We have a washbasin AND toilet and a wardrobe and storage space for our bags. All that and an attendant called Beven who was amazing and converted the beds while we left for a champagne reception with the other passengers in the observation car. It feels very civilised and of a different era. You expect to see men in fedoras smoking cigarettes and women with tiny waists and huge skirts struggling to get down the small passageways. Instead we had old people, and more older people. We’re not the youngest on this train but we’re not far off it (and yes,we’re old too by some standards).

Amanda tells me that she always wanted to have bunks as a kid and so, just like in ‘Big’ she wanted to be on top (movie reference, just in case you didn’t get that). Bedtime came and the movement rocked me to sleep. Sadly for the other person in the room, the movement just made her feel nauseous and she probably got about an hours sleep. On a ‘glass half full’ note, this did mean she was first in the shower when they opened at 6am.

On the way to breakfast, Beven asked how we slept and offered to ‘sort something’ for Amanda as she slept so little. When we got back, he’d made up a day bed for her so I could sit and watch the world go by and she could sleep a little. Pretty soon though the train worked it’s magic and I was asleep too, hehe.

To be continued…… running out of battery…sorry

Nice Day for a Walk in the Park

(November 2nd 2010)

Today was a bit of a shocker as it wasn’t raining and in fact it was completely gorgeous. We got up slowly, packed, had breakfast then I asked at the hotel desk, very politely if we could use the wheelchair even though we had officially checked out of the hotel. The said we could so long as we actually returned it (not much chance of pinching it to be honest as it wouldn’t go in our hand luggage) so we wrapped up warm and headed out.

I’m not sure exactly how far I pushed the wheelchair but we went down to Canada Place and past the new conference centre built for the winter Olympics, along the seawall. It’s supposed to be finished as far as I’m aware but after walking quite some way we came across some construction which had blocked off the path and Amanda had to do a ‘Little Britain’ and leap out of her wheelchair, race down some steps and wait for me as I carefully took the chair down the same steps. Around Coal Harbour we found a café which seemed to have some quite tasty stuff (see the photos page for evidence) so we stopped a while and had coffee and cakes.

After some lush refreshments and after I stopped Amanda several times from stealing some very cute puppies, we headed along the seawall to Stanley Park. The plan wasn’t to walk the entire length of the seawall (about 9km) but just to have a nice walk in the lovely sunshine. The nice thing about the walk along the seawall is that they have thoughtfully put a walkers/runners lane and a cycle lane. As we crossed boundary of having feet AND wheels sometimes we used both. Rebels, I know, so sue us. We walked/rolled enjoying the sunshine and took a few photos as we went. We reached the statue of The Girl in The Wetsuit near the Lionsgate Bridge and frankly my knees were aching and I needed a break. Instead of walking all the way back we took a shortcut across the park, this would save us quite a lot (0.7km compared with about 4km) but the payoff was having to go up a small incline. OK this small incline actually felt like the north face of the Eiger and I was more than a little sweaty and out of breath but we made it and it was worth the effort. Back along the seawall towards downtown is a restaurant called Lift which we spotted on the way. A nice place to stop and for me to get a well deserved beer. Once we were in there the hunger pangs took over and we decided to eat too. Amanda had Linguine Vongole and I had fish & chips (she married beneath her). It was lovely and was exactly what we both needed.

After that stop we headed back, this time using a taxi (I’m not stupid, it was uphill all the way), waited in the hotel lobby until it was time to go to the station ready to catch our train to Jasper.

Canuck 3 Devils 0

(November 2nd 2010)

Last night we stayed up very very late. In fact it was past 11pm when we went to bed. Almost like grown-ups. We got a taxi from the hotel and tried to get to the Rogers Arena. I say tried because he had to drop us off about 200m from the entrance, so we took a slow walk and soaked up the atmosphere. Once in the stadium we had a look in the store and I bought a cap (of course) then found our seats and took a couple of photos to show our view.

The first thing that strikes you watching hockey live rather than on the tv is how fast they skate and how fast that puck travels across the ice. I left Amanda in her seat and went in search of food. The choice was too much for a man to take and I ended up getting the first thing I saw, two chicken burritos. I have to say that they were really rather good but left a chicken-y chiil-y taste that only beer could remove, so I went to do more hunting and gathering and returned with two beers.

Pretty soon some hockey players came on to interrupt the feeding frenzy and the game began. I’ve watched a few games but not really completely up with all the rules. However it didn’t really matter as the game was exciting and even more important ended with a home win for the Canucks. The couple next to us also gave us the news that The Giants won game 5 to take the World Series which I knew would happen as I wasn’t able to watch the game…typical. Never mind congrats to the Giants, our adopted team. I should also say that the girl sat next to Amanda caused me pain, in that I got a punch for saying she was the perfect woman. Obviously I don’t mean that she was perfect for me but that she loves hockey, she was easy on the eye, eats pizza and drinks beer. If I wasn’t already married……….

We finally managed to get a cab home from the stadium and popped into the hotel bar for a drink before bedtime.

This morning we’re going to beg the hotel to lend us their wheelchair and take a stroll down to Stanley Park as the weather has finally been nice to us and it’s dry and completely gorgeous.


Lazy Day. Shopping and then Hockey

(November 1st 2010)

Had a nice lay in this morning and when we looked outside it was peeing down with rain. The rain was expected and to be honest we’d been lucky until now but still it’s not that welcome. So a lazy start to the day was in order.

Once the rain had slowed down and eventually stopped we went in search of a travel hairdryer for Amanda. There’s a shopping mall a few blocks away so we took a slow walk down there and borrowed a wheelchair from customer services and took a stroll. Went in to Sears which was fairly rubbish and popped into the Apple Store to ogle at the lovely toys. The guy in there thought I was ready to buy a new MacBook Air but if I buy one it’ll be at home. sad for him (and me). The mall is fairly small and we saw no travel hairdryers but then saw a store at the end of the mall that we hadn’t visited. Amandas face lit up like a small child at Christmas when she saw that it was shoe heaven. Christian Leboutins red soles screamed out to her and I persuaded her (that’s my version) to try a pair on. Sadly…hehe…they didn’t have her size but I think it’s only a matter of time before that pair of shoes will be ensconced in her wardrobe only to be brought out occasionally to be stroked a la Golum and his ‘precious’. The rest of the store had equally lust inducing ladies apparel including stuff by Prada and Gucci and some other foreign johnnies. The only thing we did buy was some smelly stuff by Jo Malone. Yes that’s right we’ve travelled to the west coast of Canada and buy things that are from London.

After lunch in the food court (chinese and overpriced…or I was over charged) we handed back the wheelchair and slowly walked back to the hotel. Oh we did pause to visit Roots a Canadian clothes shop (I bought a scarf) and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Before any work colleagues get excited this is far too nice to share and will be eaten well before we get to Toronto…sorry. We also managed to get a travel hairdryer in London Drugs where I DID buy some chocolates for work. Gee, I hope they make it home…………

Now we’re getting ready to get a cab down to Rogers Arena to watch our first NHL hockey game. The Canucks are playing the New Jersey Devils and although I’m really looking forward to it, I’m also gutted that I might miss the SF Giants win the World Series as they are winning 3 games to 1. Oh well.

Tomorrow is hopefully a decent day, weather wise and we’ll be taking a trip down to Stanley Park if the hotel allows us to use their wheelchair that they’ve loaned us so far, so will be taking more photos. Then in the evening we catch the train to Jasper in the Rockies. Should be fun.

Whales Ahoy

(October 31st 2010)

After 10 hours sleep (or 12 1/2 hrs sleep in Amanda’s case) we got up, had a little breakfast and got ready for our whale watching trip. Amanda had booked this ages ago as I’d given up. It’s the end of the season and I figured that we’d be unlikely to see anything…how wrong was I?
The shuttle picked us up and took us to Steveston fishing village which is where the boat leaves from. The driver gave us a bit of a commentary as we went and as we came into Steveston he told us that this is a historic village and some of the buildings were 100 YEARS OLD. Can you imagine something THAT old? Our house is 105 years old so I hope he forgave us for not swooning when he mentioned this gem.
It turned out that even though this was the last trip of the season there was still a full boat and we set off on time. The route would take us out towards the gulf islands and Vancouver island in search of whales, porpoises, sealions and whatever else we could find. The first thing we saw was a harbour seal and sealion but was only a short sighting and not worth even trying to take a photo. The the skipper heard that a humpback whale was sighted about 20 miles away so we set off in pursuit.
The sea was calm and the boat was fast and we finally reached the spot where the whale was spotted. There was already two small boats there and we soon found out why they were hanging around as there were in fact three whales there and not just one. It was amazing watching them cruise around and dive several times.

Whales Ahoy – Amanda

(October 31st 2010)

I thought I’d come in and add an editors notes as you can never trust men to remember everything (So true I know!!)

I must say from the start that if you were relying on me for pictures there wouldn’t be any, I had enough trouble staying upright without trying to take pictures and why bother when Ian’s so much better than me. In fact we are also sending a few onto a lovely lady we met from Florida.

Ian missed out some wild life we first saw the largest flock of snow geese they were so noisy and spectacular looking against the dark water. The whales were awesome though the hump backs hardly made a splash and I was so excited when the radio call came in that they’d spotted orca it was dashed a little though as they were on the hunt and just killed a seal. When we caught up with them they were surrounded by sea gulls picking up the scarps. After the first kill they then made 3 more I am so glad they didn’t throw it up in the air though it’s bad enough when Elmo kills a butterfly I think I may have cried if I saw the seal flying through the air.

We’re off to hockey tonight (I’m editing in the morning with coffee made by my lovely husband) I do hope I can stay awake longer than 9 o’clock.

Vancouver At Last

(October 30th 2010)

I’m sat here in our apartment in Vancouver after having two beers and a large club sandwich, watching game three of the World Series and wondering how long I can stay awake. It’s 4:25pm. Saying that, it’s 25 past midnight at home so I’m allowed to be grumpy as I was awake at 4am.

The flight went really well apart form the fact that Amanda had booked a low fat meal and got a steamed chicken breast and some salad with no dressing …. yummy….not. My food was fine, sad about her isn’t it? The pilot landed the plane so smoothly that we didn’t even know we’d landed until we heard the engines whine like it does when it slows down. He can fly us home please.

We made a trip to the market next door to the hotel so we could make packed lunches for tomorrow and also stuff for breakfast, oh and some gorgeous looking sticky buns to go with coffee. The packed lunches are for our whale watching trip in the morning. The bus is collecting us at 9:55am and I think it’s about 5-6 hours in the boat looking for wildlife. Hopefully we’ll see orca, which is the whole reason we’ve booked it and I’ll post some photos.

Can’t think anymore to type anything. Need coffee. Did I say I was tired? I’m tired.


Been Busy

(September 11th 2010)

Yesterday evening at 6pm tickets went on sale for the Vancouver Canucks vs New Jersey Devils (that’s ice hockey in case you didn’t know). The Rogers Arena is about 8-10 blocks from the hotel which presents a few minor transport issues. Do we take a wheelchair and walk? Do we get a taxi and risk having to queue? I persuaded Amanda to phone the venue (I don’t do phones) and see if they could advise.

Here is the difference between our country and North America. The gentleman who answered the phone just told her to buy any ticket then nearer the time contact client services and let them know where we are to be seated. We can then either take our wheelchair with us (if we decide to take it) or THEY WILL LOOK AFTER IT FOR US AND ESCORT US TO OUR SEATS. After the game they offer a fast-track taxi service back to the hotel. I have a BIG problem with this level of service…..I might get used to it then god help us when we get back home.

So I bought two tickets kinda behind the goal and we’re really looking forward to it. Hockey in Canada is a religion and we’re going to church baby.

This morning I got up early to go for a bike ride but being as it decided to rain I made coffee and decided to update this on-and-off blog. I also purchased a SIM card for our old mobile phone so we can get local calls and cheaper calls to home while we’re in Canada. We used the same company when in New Zealand so we know it works well. You can call home (which Amanda does frequently) from around 40p/min compared with over £1/min with our existing UK phones and it’ll make it easier with things like calling hotels when the train gets delayed hehe.

If you missed it the first time around you can still read my exciting* New Zealand blog here but then of course you read that way back when didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?

*I say exciting but really I might be over-egging the pudding there.

Trying to Decide What We’re Going to do in Jasper

(August 29th 2010)

Jasper presents a slight problem. We decided to go in late late autumn for a reason, in that Jasper will be cold but not mind numbingly cold. The problem is that early Nov seems to be between seasons. A lot of the summer activities have shut down but the winter ones haven’t started yet. I have found a company that does tours and activities on a more flexible basis though so it should be fine. If the winter is late arriving they carry on with their summer activities but if the snow arrives in any quantity then they switch to the winter schedule. Sounds like a sensible idea to me.

We’re staying at a boutique hotel in town. It’s quite new but looks quite nice. It’s very near restaurants and a brew pub (result) so we shouldn’t starve or die of thirst.

It’s been a long time since we last visited Jasper and even then we only stayed one night and left pretty early in the morning so we’re looking forward to getting to know the town. We won’t have a wheelchair here so walking will be at a minimum but it’ll be a nice relaxing few days whatever.