We took about seven hours to drive to Banff from Kelowna. It was a very scenic drive and we took our time to stop too. Banff is in the Rockies and I always have problems pronouncing its name.
The hotel receptionist cheerfully told us that we came to Banff at a good time because it was warm that day: PLUS five degrees Celsius. "That's nice. So warm," I said, realizing that this is considered warm by Banff standards, where temperatures commonly go way below zero.
I notice that Canadians say Eh a lot. Singaporeans say Eh at the beginning of our sentences. Canadians say Eh at the end of theirs. Would a Singaporean in Canada say "Eh, this Rockies very nice, eh?"
It also took me a long time to realize what a Loonie is. I thought retail staff were calling me one. But it turns out that a Loonie is a Canadian dollar coin (because of the bird on the coin) and the two dollar coin is called a Toonie (or Twonie).
We brought our winter clothes in preparation for this leg. By the time we were dressed, we looked like Bak Chang.
Our first destination was the Banff Gondolas, that took us to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. I will let the photos speak for the views.
We also drove to Lake Louise and boy, that's a sight to behold. When sunlight hits those waters, the emerald colours are stunning. The shifting of Victoria Glacier causes rock particles in the waters to reflect the lovely blue and blue-green colours.
Needless to say, EVERYONE took photos here. It was like an auto-postcard. I bet many people drive here to do wedding photos, though I am not sure if the bride in her gown will be able to tahan the cold in winter.
At the edge of Lake Louise is the hotel with probably the best views in Canada, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The wife and I looked longingly at the hotel. It looks expensive. Maybe we will stay here next time.
We spent longer than we expected at Lake Louise. The wife and I walked for quite a while on the snow-covered boardwalk (thank you, my hiking boots), just soaking in the breath-taking views. I am so glad we drove this far to see this.
The wife and I departed Seattle for Canada in our Toyota Prius rental car (kindly sponsored by Hertz) and hit the i-5N, driving north. Our drive took us to town Sumas, at the border of the USA and Canada. It felt like Sumas (and probably many US towns at the US/Canadian border) was the JB of Canada, a place where people pop over from Canada to buy cheaper petrol and duty-free liquor (but without the 3/4 tank rule).
Crossing the border with our US rental car was painless. It was even easier than crossing the Causeway in Singapore. The Canadian immigration officer just checked our passports and off we went.
When we reached the Trans Canada Highway, we knew we were truly in Canada when we saw sights like these.
Frankly, we didn't have a plan or itinerary. We did not know where exactly were were heading first or where we were going to stop. That's the beauty of self-drive, and I have enjoyed this freedom of going-with-the-flow.
We stopped at rest stops like this A&W at Revelstoke when we felt like it. Also partly because we got hungry and my butt hurt from driving for so many hours (Pro-tip: Rest often when doing long distance driving. It is better for your alertness and your butt.)
We decided to stop for the night at Kelowna. We spent two days here, enjoying the views of the Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley. We spent a lovely afternoon at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, where we had lunch with a view, took a tour of their winery, and did some awesome wine tasting.
Their wines are stored in a pyramid-shaped cellar, which is believed to make the wines taste better.
This is Ruth, our host at the winery. She was a most knowledgeable guide, about wines and about the geography of the Kelowna area.
According to Ruth, the Okanagan Lake was created when two tectonic plates collided long ago and then glaciers melted. The collision was so big that parts of the lake are as deep as 1km! The fertile sediment of the banks of the lake, together with the climate, made this place ideal for growing grapes.
We hit the road for Banff after our stay in Kelowna, but always ready to pull over whenever we saw sights that we liked.
I think I could get used to the massive sense of space in Canada. And also the awesome views.
Travel confession: We take the coffee & tea packets from the hotel room when we leave to drink at the next location. Very auntie, I know.
In fact, today's breakfast menu is: a loaf of bread from the grocery store, mini packets of butter & jam from the previous hotel's breakfast, coffee from coffee maker in the room (supplemented with coffee packets from the last hotel), and leftover pizza from last night's dinner.
Besides the saving money part, it is actually fun. It feels like a little picnic in the room.
This comes from the training I received from my mom and dad when we traveled as a family. We were blessed to get annual free travel because my late father worked in an airline, but because we were not a rich family, and because the US dollar then was THREE Singapore dollars, we had to be frugal in our ways. Children of airline parents will understand this.
So mom packed coffee powder, instant noodles, and even her own belacan. In fact, mom even used to pack a gas camping stove (which was later upgraded to a safer Sanyo travel electric hot plate) to whip up entire four-course meals with rice in the hotels and motels we stayed in, for our family of five, with groceries from that country's supermarkets (and oyster sauce from home).
And their kids (we three sons) were not allowed to ask for popcorn in Disneyland, Anaheim, USA, because it cost a small fortune in Singapore dollars. In fact, lunch for us in Disneyland back in the Eighties was the Tupperware-packed fried rice she cooked in the hotel kitchenette.
The wife and I aren't as hardcore but we still have our frugal ways.
Like taking the extra plastic fork and knife from our dinner outside to be used for our next in-room meal.
You do become your mother and father as you get older. Only in their time, they didn't need to find a way to share wifi Internet too.
This is Idylwood Park. Located on the shores of picturesque Lake Sammamish, the wife and I stumbled upon this park after driving from Microsoft to meet some Singapore friends there.
It was an unusually sunny day in Seattle, more used to rain and overcast skies. The wife flew in to join me in Seattle and I guess she brought some of our Singapore sun here too.
We spent a pleasant time just enjoying the view and the scenery.
Did I say we visited Microsoft? Yes, some friends met us there and we toured the place which was buzzing with Windows 8, Surface and Halo 4 activity. Yes, I played some Halo 4. I may need to dust off the Xbox 360 when I get home.
Of course, I could not resist opening my blog on the browser. Hey, I do it to Apple Stores, so why not the Microsoft Visitor Center, right?
We drove our Hertz rental car (a Toyota Prius, 2012 model!) to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. The Ballard Locks was built in 1911 provides a link for boats between the Puget Sound (sea water) and Lake Washington (fresh water).
Stay tuned for more driving adventures as we drive out to Canada from Seattle. The Canadian city of Kelowna, BC next!