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Posted by on Jun 28, 2009 in North America, TripJournals |

Pride Travel’s Rocky Mountain Rail Journey Through Canada – Day 3: Vancouver To Whistler; Sea To Sky

Day 3:  Vancouver To Whistler; Sea To Sky

Well, Marc says it’s my turn to blog today and I couldn’t be happier.

Today was full of excitement as it was our first real “rail” day. We started our morning with an early wake up call at The Fairmont Waterfront. After slowly waking up and getting ready, we made our way down to the lobby of the hotel to await our transfer to the train station.

Our train was scheduled to leave at 8:30 AM, and at 7:35 we started to worry since the rep for Rocky Mountaineer had not arrived yet, however the concierge reassured that the train company was very reliable and we needn’t worry. Sure enough about 10 minutes later the bus for the transfer arrived. Checking in for the train and receiving our rail vouchers was a breeze, and before we knew it we were on the bus headed over the Lion’s Gate Bridge to North Vancouver to catch the train. Our journey throughout the rocky mountains is in Rocky Mountaineer Vacation’s “Gold Leaf” service, the highest level of service available on this journey, and it feels great to be treated like a star. The on-board attendants met us at car #1, helping us up the red carpet, (literally there was a red carpet for us use as we boarded the train) and to find our seats.

On this leg of our journey aboard the Whistler Mountaineer, we are seated in one of the Glacier Dome cars, with large scenic windows and curved glass built into the roof, allowing for spectacular panoramic views. Now I know that this car is not larger than any of the others, however the huge amounts of glass coupled with the wide first class seats and aisle provide a feeling of greater space and comfort. Shortly we were on our way, our on-board staff, Angello, Doug, and Jennifer, began our morning service with mimosas. Our linen-covered trays (with real cutlery and china) were handed out filled with a fruit starter. After a champagne toast, they began serving our hot breakfast: ham, omelet, potatoes with coffee, tea, or juice. All through the service the staff would alternate brief breaks and provide us with a commentary of the passing scenery, also interjecting humorous banter back and forth. This may sound silly or trite but it was actually quite fun, the staff really enjoy their jobs and that shines through, with sparkling personalities and genuine smiles.

The three hour train trek to Whistler flew by, passing through some wonderfully beautiful scenery. We were able to view many of the natural sights along the way. For the first 40 or so miles the train traveled next to the Howe sound, the most southerly fjord in North America. At mile 26 we passed Porteau Cove, a popular park for overnight camping in summer and for scuba diving during the winter. Scuba in Canada during the winter, I know, I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard this, however, it seems that during the winter the snow runoff stops, allowing the silt to settle providing excellent visibility. This area has been “scuba formed” with artificial reefs made from old tires and even some intentionally-sunken ships.

A little later we passed the Stawamus Chief, a huge granite monolith that was polished by retreating glaciers. The First Nations have a legend that if you point with a finger at this mount you will bring bad luck in the form of rain. Now the face of the mountain has some of the most arduous mountain climbing areas, some of which can take 12 hours, and some medium hiking trails trails (1 1/2 – 2 hours) to reach the summit. We traveled through the Cheakamus Canyon, over 2 trestle bridges perched 2000 feet above the rapids below. [Marc, added at a later date:] Tip: under no circumstances should you attempt to open a bathroom (lavatory in Canadian) door on a train without first firmly knocking even if it says ‘VACANT’ on the door latch locking mechanism. Unless you are ready to be so deeply traumatized by the full naked silhouette of an elderly prune-like woman in her full birthday regalia, JUST DON’T DO IT. Always knock first, just in case the occupant forgot to lock the door; it’s a more frequent occurrence than anyone would admit to, this blogger included.

74 miles after the start of our journey, we arrived at the Creekside/Whistler station and boarded the half-sized transfer bus to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. A quick pip-stop to use the facilities, I overheard a pair of passengers from our car comment that this was the first time they got off a group trip and all the travelers were smiling. Now that they mention it, everyone was smiling and our car had a blast of a time.  Upon check in we decided to treat ourselves and upgrade to a concierge level accommodation: “Fairmont Gold”. This is really a hotel within a hotel, with very personalized service, our own concierge, access to a lounge for evening canapes and morning breakfast, in-room fireplace, jetted tub, bose wave surround system with very nice ‘Fairmont’ tunes on a cd, even more plush robes, and daily bottled water, to name just a few of the upgraded amenities. The room has a great “slope” view overlooking Upper Village. Believe me when I say that service is definitely one step above and definitely makes you feel special.

Today is Sunday so the local farmers markets is in full swing; we decide to make our way down to Whistler Village stopping to buy a few pastries, and some gelato. I’ve always loved the feel of small alpine ski villages and Whistler definitely delivers, with a compact, pedestrian friendly village center. And did I mention shopping? Ohh I’m in heaven.

After a lovely afternoon and evening we make our way back to the room; listening to jazz, watching the sun set and getting ready for a nice hot soak in the jetted tub, we smile…. this is just the beginning! What will the next few days bring? How will tomorrow’s ski lift gondola and peak to peak sightseeing unfold? Just wait to see what we have in store!

Make sure to look at the itinerary map and photos posted to see our journey’s route by visiting our facebook page by clicking the button at the bottom of our homepage at www.pridetravelonline.com or directly by using this URL : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pride-Travel/82073804377?ref=ts

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