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Posted by on Jul 7, 2009 in North America, TripJournals |

Pride Travel’s Rocky Mountain Rail Journey Through Canada – Day 12: Journey Home, Unforgettable Memories

Day 12 – Journey Home, Unforgettable Memories

With a wonderful night’s sleep behind us we awaken to wish that we had booked one extra night in Vancouver, just to rejuvenate in this most cosmopolitan and yet down-to-earth haven. Skipping breakfast (we were still so full from eating so late last night) we casually repack and redistribute our luggage to meet the guidelines of the airlines; sad to say, we’ve become experts at re-balancing, and woe be it to the ill-informed gate guard who tries to make us check in carry on luggage that ‘looks’ too big but is in fact meeting size standards. I’ve been known to challenge the knowledge (or more frequently the lack thereof) of the gate guards who are ill informed…. Your cary-on absolutely does NOT have to fit inside the wire framed contraption of doom they always have to intimidate travelers. It only has to meet the total linear dimensions of Length + Width + Depth specified; in most cases stating that fact itself and sticking to it (and it would help to know what it is for that particular airline) is enough to demonstrate your lack of ignorance and contrast that with theirs, usually resulting in a casual “oh go ahead” wave”. In extreme cases, you could insist they measure the bag, though in all our combined years of travel, I’ve never had anyone take me up on the challenge. Keep one thing, however: these are ‘Gate Guards’ or rent-a-cop personnel hired by airports and airlines. It’s highly recommended to obey all requests and answer all inquiries politely from TSA personnelle without challenge as that authority stems from congressional and national security rather than commercial or corporate concerns.

After kindly asking for a late check out, we venture out to grab a quick bite, but before doing so Nathan requires that I visit the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police store, he was still trying to find a cap to replace the red one that was lost on the train. Not finding anything we wander to Cactus Club Café and Bar for lunch nearby. This restaurant is the brain child of Iron Chef Rob Feenie and an excellent place to grab a quick bite for lunch. Even on a rainy day, Vancouver is such a walkable city with logistics designed to allow full enjoyment of the outdoors rain or shine. The Cactus Club’s parasols double as rain umbrellas and are strategically position and aligned with the buildings overhand for optimum coverage. We chose to sit outside on the patio enjoying the cool fresh air, and ordered Martinis sublime. The fare here is very light but filling, with healthy and creative options mixing contrasting flavours in such a skilled fashion as to warrant another visit. Menu items include fresh fish, meats, and vegetables all artfully blended into signature dishes. When next in Vancouver, we will need to fully catalog the experience to feature in our dining HotSpots section.For now, we can offer you the website to tantelize your pellettes –>

After lunch we head back to the hotel and grab the luggage and a taxi cab to the airport. The cabbie informed us that there will finally be a train from the airport to downtown Vancouver next year, most assuredly as a component of preparations for the Winter Olympics. This, as those of you who have traveled to Vancouver know, is no small undertaking and will greatly help ease the congestion on the road to and from the airport that has been a challenge to visitors for two decades. Nathan and I both wonder how much this will affect the cab drivers as they have pretty much had a monopoly on the airport traffic until now.

We arrive at the airport two hours before departure, dreading US customs and airport security lines, only to find our fears are unjustified. As this was the middle of the day the airport was empty, making going through US Customs a breeze and airport security was a cakewalk. When returning to the USA from Canadian airports, you clear US Customs and Immigration at the airport before taking off; this has its advantages and disadvantages, but front-loads your clearance so when you arrive home back in the US, you simply exit and reclaim your luggage as if you had traveled domestic. Without a doubt this had to be the best airport experience we have had in years. Once inside the terminal we settle in for the wait to board the plane. Nathan, being figgedty as he is, wanders around taking quick pics of the public art on display and even finds himself a cap at Roots.

As we take-off from Vancouver heading home, our thoughts return to the majestic Rockies we left behind, and the unforgettable memories we brought with us…. This has truly been a trip of a lifetime, even for seasoned world travelers. We can’t wait to plan this experience for our clients using what we learned first hand!