Pride Travel’s Rocky Mountain Rail Journey Through Canada – Day 10 : Banff to Kamloops, back on the rails
Day 10 – Banff to Kamloops, back on the rails
A scary thought crosses my mind: are we actually getting used to 18 hour-long days of active traveling? Either the pain has so dulled our nerves as to be almost imperceptible or we really are beginning to enjoy on-the-go style. We cannot refute one inexorable fact: we are seeing so much, doing so much, and absolutely maximizing all the daylight hours…. Now we only need to schedule a sleep day for when we return home!
The morning greets us with a light dusting of rain, so light in fact that we barely become wet while waiting for our transfer to the train station. The low lying clouds cover the summits of the surrounding mountains, giving us a almost other worldly view. Our short transfer (maybe 7 minutes) drops us in front of the Banff train station. The station is a scene from a classic movie. The building is quite small, yet the staff still manages to bring everyone in out of the sprinkling drops of rain and warm our bodies with hot coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
Since the train only travels during the day to afford us the opportunity to take in the wondrous scenery, it typically will park out of town and be waiting for us in the morning. However this morning our train was heading into town from Calgary, and we have to wait a little longer than we are used to but will be treated to a great view of the locomotive engines as they pull into the station. [Marc] Nathan, being restless as usual decides to brave the light mists and photograph the clouds and the approaching Rocky Mountaineer. He also snagged some very cute pictures of groundhogs playing on the tracks.
Quickly we realize that our train trip on the Rocky Mountaineer from Banff to Vancouver will be a much fuller car in contrast to our trip from Whistler to Jasper. Our first journey was about 50% full and allowed for us to spread out more, created more personalized atmosphere of service, and a much more leisurely dining experience. Consequently, those of us that had been on half-occupied train up to Jasper and now were experiencing this full train quickly and collectively concluded how spoiled and accustomed we were with the personal attention and service we received; sadly we realized that our expectations of the same level of service were unrealistic given the logistics, and while this would be a different experience, we were very fortunate to have had a superlative experience previously. This would simply be another wonderful trip with a lavish program and gastronomical cuisine, just with different logistical challenges for our staff to overcome.
Our four servers aboard were divided into a crew of two downstairs in the dining room, and two upstairs in the gold leaf dome. When the train car is full, the staff is operating at full capacity and like any hospitality business whether on land or mobile, the staff is stretched beyond normal capacity. Of our four servers Matthew and Tim stand out; perhaps it’s because of their continuing desire and drive to do more than just what is satisfactory, and go above and beyond the normal call of duty. This is truly what guest service is all above: not only meeting but exceeding expectations. Since our car is completely full and the dining room can only accommodate a limited number of passengers during a seating, we will be split into two groups to enjoy our meals much in the same way a cruise seating works. The back of the car will have first seating, with the front following for both breakfast and lunch today, but tomorrow the rotation will switch and then the front half of the car (where we are sitting) will be first. The crew kindly delivers snacks to those who are patiently waiting while the first seating dines to tide them over until their time has come to go downstairs. We are treated to warm scones and tea. Breakfast offers the same full menu of gastronomical options as our Rocky Mountaineer journey to Quesnel and Jasper, options we are not soon to tire of; Marc opts for the GoldLeaf breakfast which is scrambled eggs topped by smoked stealhead salmon (because you can never have too much salmon in British Columbia!). I go for the buttermilk pancakes with the candied orange zest and berry preserve.
Today we pass through the spiral tunnels that we had previously seen during our tour of Yoho National Park. The tunnels are quite long and we are asked to make sure that we do not stand on the vestibule during the transit as the tunnels can become filled with soot and smoke from the engines. Watching the mountains and pine forests pass by while seated in the car is quite relaxing, many of those onboard fall into naps but we are too excited to see everything to contemplate that, at least we are this early in the morning.
Slowly and surely as we travel we begin to see the environment around us change. After a few hours, we have left the Rockies, Banff National Park, Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park with the view shifting to plains and then arid and desert-like. With the alpine regions behind us as well as the rain the temperatures begin to rise, and quickly. This of course means that the vestibule comes to life with activity. Those that have enjoyed their sleep and those hiding from the chilly air make their way out to enjoy the sun.
Lunch today, as it has been in our Gold Leaf car, is a gastronomical affair. Marc orders the Wild BC Salmon, with a fennel slaw, smoked sea salt and mustard vinaigrette and I opt for the equally local Alberta pork tenderloin with its sweet onion demi-glace whipped garlic potatoes and parsnip chips. It occurs to us that we should snag a menu to share with our blog readers… and we do. [click the thumbnails for our mouthwatering menus from breakfast and lunch].
We finish lunch and it’s four o’clock; some would not like this later seating, but we actually prefer eating later as it is more leisurely and easier on our systems. I make my way back up to our seats while Nathan heads off to the vestibule to take even more photo’s. It soon becomes evident why so many of our travel companions take a nap and I soon fall prey to a little shut eye myself.
With only an hour or so remaining before reaching our way-point for the night, the environments changes yet again. The area would remind one of the Badland’s area of South Dakota. There are still large hills with the occasional mountain but they are almost devoid of plant life. This allows us view the different layers soil and focuses one’s attention on the geology of the area. With the sun slowly dipping to the horizon the light plays off of the natural features reflecting beautiful hues of reds, yellows and browns. A few natural outcroppings, Hoodoos, dot the landscape.
Despite the disclaimer from the rail company that Kamloops does not have any real “big city” accommodations we find ourselves pleasantly surprised with our hotel and room. It contained muted, modern furnishings and some of the small amenities that you would expect to find in a four or five star. Perhaps this is because it is owned by Rocky Mountaineer.The on-site restaurant is not open to the public, only to guests of Rocky Mountaineer vacations. Dinner was shared with our new friends from Australia and was quite good. We drift off to bed with the satisfaction of knowing a good nights sleep will certainly be had, and are justified in thinking so.
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