We seem to spend forever planning and preparing for the imminent arrival of Christmas and all the festivities that go along with it, and yet no sooner has it arrived, then it’s over and we’re now already heading midway into January. It’s frightening how fast time goes. But in terms of Christmas, we’ve just had the fortune to celebrate our second Christmas over in Canada – and we made a concerted effort to try to make the most of the break by doing new things and trying different activities.
My last blog mentioned the various shows and attractions we went to see with the kids just prior to Christmas (click here for a reminder). As soon as we’d recovered from the Christmas Day excesses, we hit the road, and travelled the 4hrs over to the Rocky Mountains and Banff. Edmonton isn’t renowned for its hills, so you can never take away the delight of seeing the Rockies slowly appearing on the horizon after 2 hours travelling, and the size and scale of the mountains covered in snow. Ironically, we left Edmonton in -20, and arrived in Banff at -5. The heady temperatures didn’t last for long and the cold flipped on its head and plummeted us back to the ever so familiar ‘minus double digits’ for the remainder of our stay. That’ll teach us for thinking it may be warmer further south!
It’s always nice to have people visit, and extra special this year was my best friend from home who flew over from the UK along with all her family to spend New Year’s week together. We’re both of a similar mould, and making the most of a week together with family members whose ages ranged from 6 to 76 required a detailed plan and meticulous planning which we’d been developing for the last 2 months. One of the first activities all bar the seniors of our party were first to attempt, was skiing. We opted for a family lesson, and ended up with a tutor from Cardiff in good old Wales. I lived in Cardiff for a while years ago, and we happily compared notes and places as we traversed the mountains. It’s the first time I’ve been skiing in the mountains since doing it in Europe many moons ago, and you forget the staggering views and scenery at the top of the mountains, just after you disembark from the chair lifts. Trying to concentrate on the terrain is hard work when your eyes are constantly drawn to such wonderful views – and the skiing itself is crisp, dry, and beautiful powder snow to ski on. We had a brilliant day.
Another highlight and ‘must do’ in the Rockies is a trip to the hot springs. There are several different locations and last year, we visited the one just outside Jasper. Banff equally have hot springs, and the view across the mountains is amazing when you get there. There’s nothing quite like the experience of sitting in a blistering hot pool of 40C, whilst your shoulders and head are exposed to the outside elements of -25! It’s much more pleasant doing this in winter than it is in the summer I’ve found, and there’s also a comical element as your hair, eyebrows and eyelashes start to form ice crystals and freeze. It’s hilarious! The worse part, is the decision to come out of the pool and move indoors to get changed …… brrrrrrrr…………
Next on the itinerary was ‘dogsledding’. It’s been on our bucket list of things to do in Canada and it didn’t disappoint. We opted for a firm just based outside Canmore – probably one of my most favourite places in the Rockies – who take you via minibus about 17km towards Spray Lake. There, you’re greeted by tour guides and 185 huskies who are all excited about being hooked up to sleds and going for a 10km run. The dogs howl and jump with excitement until the sleds are off and then within an instant, there’s complete silence as you move along the trail except for the patter of paws on the snow and the occasional encouraging command shouted by the guide.
The sleds are surprisingly comfortable and the winter views of the lake and forest scenery, spectacular. We even had the rare pleasure of spotting a moose with her youngster moving through the trees – brilliant! Nature at it’s very best – and certainly puts life into context when you can be out and about just witnessing such majesty. Amazing.
Spending time together, doing stuff together, sharing experiences together is what makes such things memorable. And it truly was. It was a great week spent with friends and family – and all the more important to us as they’d flown from the UK to spend it with us. We certainly had a few comic moments too – and we’ll be dining off and recounting these for years to come! What a way to start 2016 ….
Happy New Year one and all 🙂