During May I travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury train that runs on four different routes in western Canada. I was aboard for the First Passage to the West, the scenic route between Vancouver, in British Columbia, and Banff, in the neighbouring province of Alberta.
A visit to Vancouver
I thought it was fascinating to watch the float planes landing and taking off in the harbour, a short stroll from the hotel.
Later during my first full day in the city I boarded a Zodiac boat, at Sewell’s Marina, for a sea safari of the Howe Sound. Sightings included a bald eagle and a harbour porpoise, plus a multitude of seabirds.
A walk in Stanley Park provided some outstanding views of the Vancouver skyline and an opportunity to visit the totem poles, carved by several of the First Nations of western Canada.
Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer
I travelled in one of the bi-level GoldLeaf carriages, whose dome windows provide panoramic views.
Even with my long legs I had plenty of room to stretch out in the reclining leather seats, though I did keep heading down to the open vestibule to photograph.
The first European settlers were attracted to the area around the Fraser and Thompson Rivers because of gold, and used to pan by their banks.
Eating and drinking on the train
That said, the food served aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is both delicious and plentiful. Executive chef Jean-Pierre Guerin took the time to explain some of the challenges his team face in cooking in a moving galley kitchen.
Their creations are served in the dining carriage on the lower-level of the train.
Members of the guest experience team and the train manager Zebulon Fastabend took time to explain the intricacies of their roles to me, meaning I left the train at Banff with a far greater understanding of how the Rocky Mountaineer operated.
Along the way we spotted a male grizzly by the side of the track, an experience I wrote about for National Geographic Traveller.
The landscapes of the Canadian Rockies were gorgeous and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit Lake Louise, which was still frozen, and to take a ride in the Banff Gondola to take a look down over the beautiful town of Banff.
The gourmet tasting menu at the Rimrock Resort Hotel’s Eden Restaurant was served in a dining room with spectacular views over the Banff National Park, which is Canada’s oldest.
Would I recommend riding the Rocky Mountaineer? Absolutely. And ensure you pack plenty of memory cards!
Take a look at the Rocky Mountaineer website for more information about routes and the availability of packages.
The Destination Canada website also has a wealth of information about the region.
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