I’ve mentioned in past blogs about the delights of travelling in Canada, the ability to enjoy the country and savour the surroundings without significant numbers of tourists and volumes of traffic. There’s an imaginary line which starts at Lake Louise and follows the Trans-Canadian highway down to Banff – both beautiful places and the highway connecting the two has wonderful vistas, but it’s also the honeypot every tourist is seeking to taste.
The drive south of Lake Louise down to Banff is relatively short (by Canadian standards) – and not deprived of scenic vistas and mountain views. In fact, I thought the Banff National Park particularly stunning but for those wishing to savour the experience and the views with an element of authenticity, an out of season visit would be more fruitful. Upon arrival in Banff, and as in Lake Louise, you’re surrounded by tourist coaches, cars and people whisking tourists and their cameras to their next destination stop. It has character, but this is masked somewhat by the volumes of people equally wanting to sample some of the atmosphere and views.
We stopped and walked along the main street. They have a great playground for kids which is just outside the Banff Information Office and museum – a large granite stone which encourages children to climb and play on – the kids loved it. I just felt it too touristy (sorry Banff), and was keen to continue our journey to Canmore which is only a further 20 minutes drive south.
Canmore has the feel of a working Canadian town – almost the place where those working in Banff actually live and relax. There’s an excellent brewery – the Grizzly Paw Company – which brews it’s own beers and sodas in a beautiful wooden brewery just outside the main town centre. Definitely worth a visit – they offer ’tastings’ of both beers and sodas, but after my youngest ‘kid’ asked for her fourth ’sample’ of the grapefruit soda, we felt we were outstaying our welcome. (As an aside, they do tours around the brewery on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday – had we managed to coordinate our schedule, we’d have loved to participate in this). We had to be content with tasting some of the beer, buying a dozen bottles of both beers and sodas, and chalking this up as a ‘must visit again’ when we move over to Canada properly.
The town of Canmore has real character and a buzz about it. Each store is individual, distinctive and seems to epitomise Canadian living. We stumbled across ’The Banff Bagel Company’ – a cafe which makes it’s own bagels and offers coffees in a variety of strengths and flavours. It’s homely and warm, and we ordered several bagel sandwiches which were ‘to die for’. The pace is relaxed and unhurried, you really do feel as though you could stay in there all day. As for the bagels themselves, if I ever want a bagel sandwich in the future, each and every one will be measured by the superb taste and texture of the one I devoured here. We loved Canmore and felt it was a truer reflection of a town in the National Park, and one without significant numbers of tourists – although the irony that we are tourists too, isn’t lost on me!!!
Sad to leave, we progressed along the Trans-Canadian Highway to Calgary. All in all, from Lake Louise to Calgary it takes approx 2 hours. You exit the National Park and slowly the mountains get more distant, the land gradually flattens out as Calgary looms closer.
The city calls …