A Travellerspoint blog

Beautiful Banff

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Here's a picture of our hostel from the outside:

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No, not really. This is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the most prominent building in the area. Of course, it is dwarfed by the Rockies, as is pretty much everything else.

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This morning we visited the Hoodoos, pillars of soft glacial material protected from the elements by a cap of rock at the top of each column.

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From here we followed the Hoodoo Trail back into Banff. There were some breathtaking views along the way.

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After our walk we needed to relax, and couldn't think of anywhere better than Banff Upper Hot Springs. The pool is quite small and not really a patch on the spas in Budapest, but the view was fantastic.

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Now we needed cooling down so headed to Cows for ice cream. Beautiful!

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Posted by shoestring 18:50 Archived in Canada Tagged trees springs park national canada alberta banff rockies trail forest cows hoodoo Comments (0)

Time for Tim Hortons

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The promised thirteen-and-a-half hour bus journey ended up taking under eleven hours - since everyone on board was going to either Banff or Calgary, we simply drove past all the intermediate stops. This meant we were dropped off in Banff at 6am wondering what we were going to do with ourselves. Downtown seemed the logical destination for some breakfast, but we weren't sure if anywhere would be open. A short walk from the station and we were delighted to see the bright lights of a Tim Hortons.

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We were both introduced to the delights of Tim Hortons when we were each in Canada before. Tim Horton was a professional hockey player who, in 1964, opened the first of what would become a chain of coffee and doughnut stores, currently with some 3,000 outlets in Canada alone. The coffee is cheap, the doughnuts are sweet, and you can buy packs of ten Timbits, bite-sized doughnut balls. Breakfast here was just what we needed before making the journey up the hill to our hostel, which is approximately a million times nicer than the one in Vancouver.

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Posted by shoestring 07:25 Archived in Canada Tagged food bus breakfast canada alberta banff greyhound journey tim hortons Comments (2)

The World's Most Liveable City?

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Before we arrived in Vancouver a couple of events had put the city in the news. In February it was named as the world's most liveable city for the fifth year in a row by the Economist, a table where London comes in at only 53. Then, in June, riots erupted after the Vancouver Canucks lost the final game of hockey's Stanley Cup. So which reflects the real Vancouver?

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It certainly has a lot going for it. Its waterfront location and dramatic skyline - with mountains looming in the background - is very attractive. And while it's big, you can escape quite easily to the relative peace and quiet of Stanley Park, a huge area - larger than New York's Central Park - north of the main city.

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Granville Island, once an industrial area, is now a large market and home to lots of funky shops.

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But like every other North American city we've visited it has its problems too, and there are some very sketchy areas in downtown, near to where our hostel is located. But then again there's Gastown, one of the oldest areas in the city, which features a steam clock that whistles out the Westminster Chimes.

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Our experience has inevitably been coloured by our choice of hostel, which really hasn't been much fun, and by the weather, which has been terrible. Karen, though, saw the city from a different perspective when she lived in Canada for her gap year ten years ago and has happy memories of weekends spent here.

We're now moving on to Banff, and have a thirteen-and-a-half hour Greyhound trip tonight. After the hostel though, we're actually looking forward to it. Perhaps we'll get some sleep!

Posted by shoestring 15:00 Archived in Canada Tagged mountains park market city canada skyline vancouver british columbia stanley gastown granville liveable Comments (2)

Free Falls

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One of Vancouver's top draws is Capilano Suspension Bridge, a 136 metre long, 70 metre high pedestrian bridge strung over the Capilano River. We were keen to experience crossing it, but less keen about the price - $32.95 each - which we felt was a bit steep (ho ho). We were on the cusp of going anyway when we chanced upon a reference in our guidebook to another pedestrian suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon Park that cost our very favourite price - $0 - so we headed to the tourist information office to find out more.

The girl there was very helpful but said, basically, that we shouldn't go. 'It's not maintained,' she said, 'so it can be dangerous'. We decided to hop on the first bus to take a look for ourselves, but with her words ringing in our ears we were a little perturbed to see a bunch of fresh flowers tied to the end of the bridge. However there were plenty of people making their way across so we went for it.

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The bridge does not quite match Capilano's impressive dimensions, being only 48 metres long and 50 metres off the ground, but as we made our way across it bounced and swayed enough to justify our guidebook's claim that it's scarier. From the middle we got a great view down.

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The park is much less commercialised than Capilano and on the other side of the bridge a trail leads to the Twin Falls.

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With nearly $70 saved we decided to splash out a bit on dinner and headed to the Templeton, a 1930s diner we'd noticed yesterday.

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The interior was chrome and vinyl and each table had a mini-jukebox that connected to the main box in the corner.

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Best of all, they served the tastiest burgers either of us can remember eating. Money well spent!

Posted by shoestring 21:31 Archived in Canada Tagged park canyon bridge falls canada vancouver british columbia diner lynn suspension capilano templeton jukebox Comments (2)

An Alarming Development


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After staying in what was described in our guidebook as the 'Rolls Royce' of hostels, our hostel in Vancouver is, well, not so nice. We're staying in a cramped and messy six-bed dorm and, on opening the lockers to put our bags in, we found each and every one stuffed with empty beer cans, together with flies attracted to the stale beer. We haven't yet felt the need to complain about the state of a room and didn't want to incur the ire of our roommates, but on balance we decided that a line had been crossed and that we should talk to reception. The cans were duly cleared out.

The room also overlooks a busy road and, at some point last night, to the general din was added the non-stop ring of an alarm clock. It woke Ben, who couldn't believe that someone had set their alarm to go off so late, and that they weren't doing anything about it. Eventually someone in one of the other beds got up, made a bit of noise, and soon after the alarm fizzled out.

So it was with some confusion that Ben approached his locker this morning to find that his lock, while still intact, was badly twisted. Inside he spied his alarm clock but, remembering that he had removed the battery a couple of days ago to stop its loud ticking noise, knew the alarm couldn't have been his. Except the clock was merrily ticking, showing completely the wrong time. Anyway, the alarm was switched off... wasn't it? No. Clearly at some point in his bag the battery had slipped back in and the alarm switch had moved to 'on'. The noise in the night was the sound of someone else in the room trying unsuccessfully to break into his locker. Quite why the alarm stopped when it did is still something of a mystery.

So we'd replaced the empty beer cans with a ringing alarm clock that no one else in the room could turn off. Our moral high ground turned out to be a valley.

Posted by shoestring 19:49 Archived in Canada Tagged beer clock room canada vancouver british columbia dorm alarm cans Comments (2)

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