10/14/12

On Slow Mode in Banff

Alpenglow on Cascade Mountain

Just before summer in North America faded away, visiting one of the world's most scenic national parks back in early September got me giddy with excitement. To top it off, I was reuniting with family members: my parents who I haven't seen since March this year in the Philippines and my younger brother (and his family) who I haven't seen in two years since he immigrated to Edmonton, Canada. Gorgeous views with loved ones make a trip truly special.

Thanks to Delta and its oft-maligned Skymiles program, I was able to get a free open-jaw air ticket to both Calgary and Edmonton (capital of the province of Alberta in Canada) after paying only $64 in taxes. Not a bad redemption really considering I booked the tickets just 2 weeks before the trip. After about 5 hours flying time, there I was at the arrivals hall of Calgary International Airport getting hugs - it might as well be the airport in Davao where I usually get such a treatment.

Queuing at the entrance to Banff National Park

While I've been to the east (Toronto) and west (Vancouver) of Canada, this was my first time setting foot on its "wilder" mid-section. Just an hour after driving away from Calgary, we were in a car queue to pay for our entrance to Banff National Park, Canada's first since being established in 1885 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mind you, this is one huge park in the Rockies - a major mountain range straddling Canada and the US.

The namesake town of Banff, right within the park itself, was where we based ourselves. To make our 3-day stay comfortable, I booked a 2-bedroom unit at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. At check-in, I was pleasantly surprised to find we were upgraded to their more expensive "2-bedroom Wolf Condo" unit which has all the creature comforts one doesn't associate with wilderness: 2 attic bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room with sofa bed, a full kitchen, an LCD TV, even a wood-burning fireplace.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort in the shadows of Cascade Mountain

The resort itself is about a 5-minute drive away from town center which all the more makes it quieter from all the hubbub during a busy summer season. There were already plenty of things for the outdoor enthusiast to do right within and just outside the resort premises. But this being a family vacation, my usual speed had to be slowed down somewhat. To get us started, we did our groceries in the town center. My sister-in-law wanted to take advantage of the kitchen.

I first heard of Banff while visiting friends in Vancouver some years ago. The strange name got me curious. It turns out this mountain town - the highest in Canada at 4,537 feet above sea level - was named after Banffshire in Scotland (the birthplace of a railway company president who built the transcontinental rail tracks spanning between Montreal and Vancouver). Each time I mentioned "Banff" to others back in the US, all I get was a "huh?".

Banff Avenue looking towards Sulphur Mountain
Banff Avenue looking towards Cascade Mountain
After attending Sunday mass at Our Lady of the Rockies church

Banff's townsite is small, cozy and easy to walk around. As one of Canada's most popular destination, it does get crowded during the height of summer. Even though we were there during shoulder season, many visitors from everywhere were still there, including seasonal workers from other parts of the globe. Depending on time of day, temperature was hovering somewhere between 16-21 degree Celsius, still manageable with just the right amount of light layers.

As we walked along Banff Avenue - the town's main drag dotted with hotels, shops and restaurants - my parents can't help but find themselves loving the alpine atmosphere (after just arriving from the heat of the Philippines). Shadowed by nearby towering peaks like Sulphur and Cascade, Banff quickly revealed its charm to us. We couldn't wait to explore beyond the town center.

10 comments:

  1. Oh Canada! Somehow this country has always captured a soft spot in my heart. I've never been to Banff before, so seeing pictures of it as well as the pictures of the grand peaks near it makes me just so excited! Whenever I see those mountains, all I can think of is "Another peak to bag, another peak to bag!"

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    1. I wish I had time to do hikes but since my family was traveling with me, it wasn't just meant to be - I do intend to go back. Banff is a great mecca for outdoor pursuits!

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  2. I'm glad you "discovered" Banff and I presumed, Lake Louise. I'm sure you had a great time checking the place out and reuniting with your family. Btw, I have siblings based in Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton. It's a great country.

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    1. Wow, you have family scattered all over North America! Canada is a wonderful place to settle down with family - my brother says so :) Oh yes, my family and I went to Lake Louise - which is what my next post will be about.

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  3. this is my dream destination. some parts of it like the rocky areas remind me so much of yosemite.

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    1. You should visit Banff - it's not so far from your city compared to where I live.

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  4. such a beautiful place, dennis!
    i felt stress-free while reading your post and looking at your captures; it's so relaxing!
    and your accomodation looks equally awesome! you really have good taste!

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    1. I was fortunate to get a very good discount on our accommodation. Talk about a $200+ savings!

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    2. I should really take note from your practicality. Your savings, could of course send you to your next destination. Ang galing talaga!!! :D

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