4,000 miles, 39 days, two children … this trip is amazing. It changes us and brings us together as a family. But it’s not just the positive experiences that do that. It is the journey. And the journey comes with good days and bad. We can plan to the nth degree – but with so many factors outside of our control, travelling cannot be “unicorns and rainbows” all the time.
By day nine on the road, we are exhausted. We have been together for days on end (hint – no “alone time” = grumpy children + grumpy Daddy + grumpy Mummy!). Hubby still hasn’t completely recovered from his flu, and to top it off it has started snowing.
We have no rest days scheduled in our itinerary- today is our day for Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, Moraine Lake and Banff – snowing or not.
So we have to make a decision to get out there and make the most of it!
Day 9 – Lake Louise, Lake Agnes Tea House, Moraine Lake, Banff
A slow start was called for today. We are all feeling exhausted, and the weight of snow seems to be threatening to break us. We need to take some time.
So we start the morning off slowly. A sleep-in, a beautiful breakfast and drinking coffee in front of the fireplace at Cathedral Mountain Lodge while the girls play chess. Heavenly.
Our first stop is Lake Louise – the most photographed spot in the Canadian Rockies. But not so much today. The snow is coming down consistently and the visibility is not great.
One option for a Snow Day at Lake Louise is to have High Tea at the famed Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Although I agree the views would normally be stunning, and this would be a chance to learn more about the history of the Chateau and the area, the price tag is just not appealing to me – at CAD52 per person just for the food. And personally, although the Chateau is a famous historic building, I thought it was a bit of a monstrosity, it doesn’t at all blend into its surroundings. To me, it appeared as a blot on the otherwise stunning scenery.
Lake Agnes Tea House
I am more interested in the lakes and the natural beauty of the Alps. And despite the snow, I am determined to see everything I can. I have my heart set on hiking up to Lake Agnes Tea House.
Lake Agnes offers a bird’s eye view of Lake Louise and the surrounding Rockies, and the Tea House is described as “a precariously perched alpine-styled teahouse that seems to hang in the clouds beside ethereal Lake Agnes and the adjacent waterfall. The small log cabin runs on gas power and is hike-in only (3.4km uphill from the Chateau).” Lonely Planet Guide
“Perhaps it’s the thinner air or the seductiveness of the surrounding scenery, but the rustic $6 tea and scones here taste just as good as the $43 spread at the Chateau Lake Louise” [Lonely Planet Guide]
Hubby is the voice of reason – the path might be open but we are not prepared for hiking in the snow, especially not with two children. So, unfortunately, we don’t get to make the 3.4km uphill hike today.
We do however compromise and walk to the other end of Lake Louise (photo above). It is a chance to get outside and get some fresh air, and also to have some time to myself (after Hubby and the girls decide to head back).
Moraine Lake is the next on our list. This Lake has spectacular deep-teal coloured water and is set in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. It is more remote and rugged than the more popular Lake Louise. I’m looking forward to getting away from the crowds.
However, the road to Moraine Lake is, of course, closed for snow.
Nevermind, the girls seem to be enjoying the novelty of the snow – teal coloured lakes or not!
Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway is the scenic road between Lake Louise and the Banff township.
It has become one of our travel customs to take the scenic route wherever possible. And our plan is to have our picnic lunch at one of the scenic or educational stops on the way. Our picnic was, unfortunately, the car, but we still had a nice view.
We did manage to spot a bear and a number of deer before the heavy snow started.
We got halfway down the Parkway before Parks Canada closed the road and sent us back out to the highway for the rest of the trip to Banff.
More details about Bow Valley Parkway here.
We have tickets booked for the Banff Gondola for today – zero visibility or not.
We did manage to spend an hour or so at the museum at the top of the Gondola learning about the history of the Banff National Park. There were interactive exhibits that entertained the girls, whilst also ticking off an educational experience.
The museum also had a theatre which was interesting, although I have to say it – Tourists – you do not need to film the film with your phone! Put down the phone and actually see something FOR REAL. Do I have to explain further how annoying it was to have 20 smartphones held up in front of the film – filming the film?? Uncalled for.
We also got outside and had some fun in the snow (I did try to get the girls to put their jackets on):
This is the view we were hoping for when we booked our tickets:
Another Snow Day activity option is the Banff Hot Springs, at the base of the Gondola. Unfortunately, everybody else had the same idea, and the carpark was full. This was a little ominous for us, so we decided to give it a miss.
We decided to head to Cranmore (where we had pre-booked our accommodation) and to drop into The Grizzly Paw (pub and brewing company) for beer tasting and hot snacks. Although it looked fantastic, unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones with this idea either – it was an hour wait for the table which was a bit much with the girls in tow. So we found a wholesaler, bought some local beers to try, and curled up in our apartment in front of the heater.
A hot shower, simple pasta meal, and the girls into bed early.
A surprise announcement
And then we get a phone call.
Hubby’s father has called. It’s unexpected. I hear “well congratulations… I guess….”
Did I seriously just hear what I think I heard?
Yup. Hubby’s father is getting remarried.
You will recall from the background to this blog we lost Hubby’s mum only 4 years before this. She was our rock, and definitely the love of my father in law’s life. But he had become lonely.
My father in law had been seeing his new partner for barely a year at this time. There had been no family dinners, we wouldn’t even be able to tell you the names of her children – now step brothers to be. In all honesty – we’ve hardly seen my father in law since they started dating.
I don’t know how to react to this one.
My question is why the need to rush into marriage?
And what about our girls? Their grandmother had been the love of their lives.
How do we explain this to them?
Yes, your grandfather is getting married after being in a relationship barely a year – but I expect more from you? I expect you to get to know your future husband and to know his faults and flaws as well as his strengths? And to know his family. And that your family know him. I expect you to have a deep founded love for your husband to be.
I’m grateful Hubby has made the decision not to tell the girls just yet. And I’m grateful that we are away from home and don’t need to deal with this right now.
Sometimes there are tough days travelling too.
But tomorrow we are off to the United States.
Tips for dealing with a tough day’s travel:
- I’m going to caveat this post upfront – our tough day’s travel has nothing to do with Banff – other than perhaps bad weather – and everything to do with us. And with planning.
- So my first tip to deal with a tough day’s travel – try to avoid it. Put extra “free” days in your itinerary. We were exhausted. And the weather turned bad. Hubby was still feeling the effects of the flu. We had no “free days” in our schedule – so we had to keep pushing on. We had no flexibility to come back the next day.
- Get some space. We may be surrounded by amazing mountains and landscapes – but we are experiencing it together. 24/7. We need a break from each other, to find some room to breathe.
- Sometimes it is inevitable, unpredictable, or outside your control, like my father in law’s surprise announcement. But it doesn’t mean you have to deal with it straight away. Being away travelling gave us the opportunity to sit on this little surprise, to think it through, and to (eventually) present a united front to our daughters.
- Attitude, attitude, attitude. We may have fallen over with this one. But the reality is we were still in Banff! We were still on the trip of a lifetime. Sometimes things may get a little hard, and no doubt you will get tired at times – but at the end of the day, travel is still an amazing opportunity to learn, and to grow.
- Put it into perspective. Did somebody lose a limb? Did somebody die? Probably not. Are you still in an amazing place that most people will never get a chance to see?
This blog is part of the Amazing Journey Series.
Five years ago we re-evaluated our lives and our goals after the sudden loss of my mother in law. We vowed to slow down and to enjoy life with our small children. We got outside and explored. And we travelled. This Amazing Journey series documents our journey through Canada and the US, provides an insight on travelling with children, local destination tips and tricks, and, of course, gives an Accountant’s perspective on making the most of your holiday dollar. Earlier entries are here:
Coming up – United States – and the Bear Tooth Highway