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Thursday, 29 October 2009

In Toronto now

(This is my second episode today, so scroll down to see round Banff and Lake Louise first)

Sunday 11 October 2009

It was an early start from Lake Louise village in the morning, as I had to catch the 7.00a.m. bus to Calgary airport, so it was just before crack of dawn when we set off.  The grandeur of the Rockies wasn’t as in evidence till we reached Banff, which is surrounded by mountains as you saw in the last blog, and the views were pretty spectacular for quite a way CIMG3422  – and I think those two peaks to the right on the horizon could be the Hoodoos I wanted to see from nearer at hand in Banff!. 

The flight to Toronto took nearly 4 hours,and the time had changed by another couple of hours to Eastern Daylight Time.  My friend Jean was waiting for me, and her hubby Jimmy was outside in the car.  So, luggage stowed in the trunk – see, I’m getting into Canadian speak – we were on our way to the flat where they live, the basement of their elder daughter’s house. 

sulphur mountain 123 Next day, Monday, was Canadian Thanksgiving, so a public holiday for most.  Jimmy and daughters Amanda  and Jane had things to do, so Jean took me out to try out a forest trail for the autumn – sorry, fall - colours .  Tea and a muffin at Oakville – Tim Horton’s, a Canadian institution -   then the walk. 

sulphur mountain 070 The colours were beautiful, not quite at their peak, Jean said, as they reach a time when it’s like a light bulb has been switched on! 



sulphur mountain 120 Anyway I still thought it was lovely.  There were three different hiking trails and several routes for mountain bikers, and I chose paths that would reach the Hilton Falls.


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Most of the trees were maple thought some were oak, and others weren’t!



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Once at the falls I discovered a bonfire burning and several families toasting marshmallows and cooking sausages on sticks over the fire.  Thanksgiving in the great outdoors.  Marvellous!

 sulphur mountain 085 The falls themselves were pretty, once used to power a mill-wheel in the 1850s/60s..  A couple of young children were holding breadcrumbs out on their hands and before long some little birds that had been tweeting away in the trees above flew down to peck and fly off again.  I thought I got a photo of one but by the time the shutter clicked the bird had flown, and is only a blur!  The birds were chickadees, I found out later.

( And here I am putting in a little extra, sulphur mountain 083 as when I looked again at the photos – look what I found!  The bird hadn’t flown after all…)


The barbecue had made me realise that breakfast had been a good while ago so I headed off down the track again to meet Jean who had turned back earlier.  We ate at a branch of “Swiss Chalet”, and had our Thanksgiving meal of chicken pasta soup, chicken and fries followed by pumpkin pie – pumpkin pie was a first for me and I found it was …. OK.  I think it must be an acquired taste, really.  Jean’s not fond of it  She had caramel  pecan pie instead of pumpkin pie - all for the special price of $12.99……plus tax – everything has tax added to it over here, so the prices you see in shops, on menus, etc, aren’t the prices you pay!  It’s pretty confusing!

Back at home we found the rest of the family home again and making supper.  I loaded the day’s photos so Jean could see what I had seen, and showed her some of the pictures from the first half of my trip.  Half way through already!  Amazing!

 sulphur mountain 077 The next day we were up early and ready for the drive to the very pretty town of  Niagara-on-the-lake, where Jean and Jimmy have bought a small cottage.  It seems that a lot of Canadians tend to have a“country cottage” where they’ll spend weekends and holidays. sulphur mountain 066 

The one at Niagara on-the-lake was cute, two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bathroom, which they have only recently bought, and are now planning on alterations before they “move in”!  While Jean waited for a tradesman to come and give a quote Jim and I headed off for a look at Niagara Falls!

  sulphur mountain 016 WELL!   To be honest I was even a little disappointed in them too, as I thought they were about twice the height they actually are!  I’m not saying they aren’t high, cos they are, and if the river wasn’t as full that day as it sometimes is,  I shudder to think how they could be!  But despite the fact that they aren’t as high as I expected,

sulphur mountain 027  they are still pretty impressive





niagara falls

and pretty powerful, sending all that spray high into the air!  Another awesome force of nature at work!

This is the Canadian part of the falls,

and across the water,  the United States, and their part of them niagara falls2to the left of the spray 






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The Americans have another fall as well, a little further downriver but it’s the Canadian side really gets the benefit of the better views. 



 sulphur mountain 024 We looked down on the falls as the little boats – The various Maids of the Mist – carried raincoat-clad visitors up to a point very close.  I guess the falls looked pretty high to them!  It was a long walk down to river level, and as both Jimmy and I have problems with our leg joints we decided to stay where we were and just view from above.  niagara going behind falls There’s even a walk that somehow goes behind the falls, but I think that would be pretty scary.  I certainly wasn’t up for that!

Once again I took plenty of photos, as you can see,




niagara falls and me and had my photo taken with the falls behind me – just so  could say “I was there!”


Talk again soon.

Round Banff and up to Lake Louise

Saturday 10 Oct.09  (This episode I actually wrote up at the time!)

sulphur mountain 002 There wasn’t a bus to Lake Louise till 3.00p.m. today, so I booked a ticket and then spent the morning looking around Banff.  I wanted to see the rock formations called the Hoodoos, but couldn’t get there by the local bus service.   CIMG3309It would have been a long walk to get to them so I gave that idea up.



   CIMG3315Instead I walked around looking at the old trading post shop, and took yet more pictures of the views from alongside the river which was already icing up!


CIMG3299 I had lunch at Evelyn’s coffee house – well I had to, didn’t I!  There are three branches in Banff – Evelyn’s, Evelyn’s too, and Evelyn’s again.  Nice food!

Finally the bus came to pick me up at the hotel, and we were offCIMG3327  – over the

railway lines - up the road to the village of Lake Louise, mountain views on route, and widening of the road going on in parts along the way.  I was dropped at the Lake Louise Inn where a foreign – even to Canada – girl tried to do the check-in!  What a muddle!   Then I found there was no elevator to Floor two of the quite modern accommodation wings.  No elevator either to the only restaurant they had open tonight, on the second floor – well, first floor to us in UK .  I finally got a room on the ground floor, but there was a nasty step and threshold to manoeuvre my suitcase-on-wheels over. It’s getting heavier every minute I think!

I found that the village is actually about 6 miles from the actual lake Louise, and there are no buses.  The only option if you haven’t a car is to get a taxi, so I did!   They must do really good business!  It took me to the Fairmont Hotel, another chateau-like hotel a bit like the one at Banff and the Empress at Victoria.  I took a look around the ground floor later!  A bit grand!

CIMG3344 Anyway my first impression of the lake was a bit disappointing!  I had expected it to be larger, with a glacier at the far end.  The glacier wasn’t that obvious and the lake quite small.  I’d been led to believe the view was perfectly stunning, and the water a beautiful aqua green because of the sediment from the glacier.  Well, the view was nice, but the water wasn’t that green, probably because the sun was in the wrong direction.    

sulphur mountain 009 However I found there was a nice easy walking track through the snow along the lakeside which I took, hoping for better things. 



sulphur mountain 005Well,  it was a lovely walk and further round the green colour did start to show; the mountains were pretty high with a drizzling of snow on them, and the trees and forest quite attractive.

sulphur mountain 016   I did take a lot of photos, trying to be “artistic”, and some were not so bad!  It was about  about a mile and a half to the point where the path began to go uphill, and I decided then that it was time to turn back. 

sulphur mountain 004 Besides it was round about 7 o’clock so it would be getting dark by the time I got back to the Chateau (That’s it in the distance, between the trees).


sulphur mountain 011The sun was shining on the mountain tops, but the light was already beginning to go when I started back, so I had to be quick.





sulphur mountain 027 Before getting the taxi back to the Inn/motel, as I said before, I took a look around inside the Chateau.   It looked very grand, not unlike the Banff Fairmont!

There was an art gallery amongst the shops that sold rather exclusive stuff, and it had some beautiful paintings and sculptures.  sulphur mountain 024 I quite fell for one painting, an impressionist view of the far end of the lake, in winter when the lake was frozen and the mountains covered with snow, but at something like $800  it had to stay where it was.  I must look up the artist on the net……….  no, couldn’t find him or her!  Shame!  He/She has a beautiful style, and with the name Cameron, must have Scottish roots!

I managed the climb up the stairs back at the Inn/Motel with difficulty – can walk on the flat quite well but stairs are the killer on my hips just now – to the restaurant, basically a pizza/pasta choice!  I ate almost all my spag bog with garlic bread, but couldn’t have managed the tiramisu or berry crumble that I quite fancied for afters!

So here I am in my room, writing up the day’s events.  I should have disciplined myself into doing that at least, each night even if the photos weren’t edited and ready to insert!  That’s why I’ve fallen behind in giving you the news.

So, all for today.  Talk again soon.

Playing catch up

I’ve posted two episodes of my blog in the last few hours, so if you have missed it, scroll on down to read about a rather special train journey.  Then read about the view to die for!  I’ll maybe do the same thing tomorrow,as I have to get you caught up with my travels!

A view to die for

Thursday 8 Oct.09

The first day in Banff dawned grey and misty, so there seemed to be no point in going on the gondola up Sulphur Mountain as I had planned.   It was a disappointment, but I hoped the next day might be better.  Instead I had lunch in town with Lynda from California, who I had met on the train.  While we were eating flakes of snow began to fall!!   Pretty!  Lynda was staying at the Fairmont hotel on the outskirts of the town, and suggested that I might like to go back there later for the 3.00p.m. tour of the place!  We caught the local service bus back from town, and arrived in plenty of time to join the others who were also booked on the tour.  banff tony Our guide was a lovely Jamaican guy, resplendent, as they say, in a kilt, with tweed jacket. The kilt was because the hotel had been built by a Scot, whose home had originally been been in Banffshire, Scotland.  Thus also the town name of Banff.  The tour was interesting though I don’t remember a lot of the history.  I just enjoyed the sight of the various public rooms we were shown.

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Fairmont Chateau Hotel, Banff  - the new part



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 Snowing heavily now






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That’s Lynda on the left in one of the beautiful foyers/lobbies




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 One of the sitting rooms




During that day we had  more snow, about 4 inches, probably, but next morning was it ever cold!  Minus 19, someone said in the breakfast room.   However, the sun was shining!

I went out wearing a pair of jeans with another pair of trousers on top, a tee-shirt, cardigan, fleecy jacket and shower-proof jacket, two pairs of socks, and my inevitable Crocs!  Oh and I had a woolly hat I just thought I’d better pack!  I’m so glad I did  My ears were just about frozen off.  The sky was vivid blue, and the mountains round about glistened with snow.  It was wonderful – definitely the day for the gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain.  sulphur mountain 021 The bus dropped me off at the foot of the mountain and before long I was sitting in a small gondola being swung up the mountain over the tops of the fir trees, and the several walking paths down below.




 sulphur mountain 032 Once at the top station the views were stunning!  You could see right down to Banff (sort of centre left) and the Fairmont hotel (bottom right) and up all the different valleys that seem to converge on the town.  The forces of nature – i.e. the ice during the ice ages - carved out these valleys.  Awesome, really awesome!  

sulphur mountain 092There's a trail that takes you on up higher to the very top of the mountain!   The trail is mostly on a wooden construction of paths and steps, which serves to protect the alpine plantlife on the mountain, and that day it was under snow,  but by the time I got there it had been pretty well walked on, so I decided I was going to make for the top where there is a Cosmic Ray Station, from days of old!sulphur mountain 088   

It was wonderful and you can imagine my camera was kept busy.  I could have stayed up there for hours just looking at the view over glacial valleys to so many snowy peaks, and down to Banff itself below us.  We must have been at around 7000 feet up there! 


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Here I am at the top with my woolly hat pulled right down!



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I just have to show you more views from up here!




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sulphur mountain 041 I must have stayed there for an hour or more before coming back along the trail to the top station…



sulphur mountain 046  …and the cafe! 




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Another quick walk about and another picture or two …



sulphur mountain 131 and finally, I took the gondola ride back to the base station and returned by bus to Banff, very happy that I have finally achieved an ambition and not only seen the Rockies, but been up there in amongst the peaks!

Banff itself is a very attractive alpine town with a nice buzz about it.  There are lots of little shops and cafes as well as the touristy shops that stay open late at night.  

sulphur mountain 155How’s this for a main street, with a muckle mountain at the end of it?    -Well, not right at the end.  It’s a wee bit further away! -



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or this as a residential one??

I loved it!


Talk again soon.