Absolute scorcher for our last day in Toronto. Went up the CN Tower first, beat the crowds almost had it to ourselves. 1800+ feet up, elevator - lift to you and me - takes just under a minute. Brilliant 360 deg view of the city and over Lake Ontario. Glass floor took a bit of dealing with. Took tin he railway museum iat the bottom of the tower. Big steam trains, I'm still ten years old. Brill. Then found a few areas of Toronto we missed yesterday, there are some green bits after all. Favourite was the distillery, used to be the largest distillery in North America, Toronto had a problem with its water so they drank Whisky instead. It's on the edge of Corktown where all the Irish settled. At one time over half the population of Toronto was Irish. The distillery isn't a distillery anymore it's been converted to galleries and cafes and the Mill House Brewery where we had lunch.
Sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for our transfer to the airport so this will be the last blog. We've had the best time, hope it's not been too painful reading about it. Looking forward to seeing you all soon
First chance to get a proper look at Toronto, hadn't realised what a big deal it is. It's the fastest growing city in North America, it's just overtaken Chicago in size, only New York and LA are larger. They've rebuilt most of it in the last ten years and by the look of it they will have rebuilt the rest in not much longer. Over 50% of the population were born outside Canada. Everywhere goes a long way up. Our hotel was for a long time the tallest building in the Commonwealth but is now dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers. It's all bright and brash and busy. Very impressive but I preferred Vancouver for the laid back style of the place and the green spaces which barely exist here. They have parkettes which are the size of our back garden. We took a tour of the city this morning and then a boat tour on Lake Ontario which gave us a great view of the skyline and the one green space the islands just off shore.
Sunday 14th June
Got to the hotel late last night, long day travelling and we lost three hours on the time zones. Today took a trip to Niagara Falls, one of the few things we had prebooked. It's about an hour and a half from Toronto by the time we got there it was very murky and rainy, it brightened a little as we took the boat to the falls, when we got soaked anyway, but most of the rest of the tour consisted of the guide saying "usually from here you can see......" Still worth the trip and it did brighten up late in the afternoon when we got to Niagara by The Lake which as Newark was the original capital of Upper Canada and has some of the best preserved buildings from the 1830s to 50s as they had to rebuild the place after the Americans razed it to the ground in 1814 as they retreated. Mind you we did burn down the White House.
Toronto Marathon today, if I'd only known I could have got an entry
Friday 12th June
Quiet day sailing south to Vancouver. The weather turned lovely as we left Alaska so plenty of opportunities for sun bathing on deck. Last night on the boat tonight travelling to Toronto tomorrow so unlikely to be able to add much as we won't be getting there until late as we lose a few more hours heading east. We will have changed time zone seven times by the time we get back.
Location: Ketchikan, USA
Thursday 11th June
Arrived late into Ketchikan after the hold up yesterday also someone was taken ill and had to be medivaced out. Ketchikan gets on average 334 days of rain a year and today was average. They have an annoying habit of calling it liquid sunshine which was mildly amusing the first time. It seemed a nice day to go Sea Kayaking so we did. Paddled out to Eagle Island which did what it said on the tin, we got a great view of Bald Eagles on their nest. A seal bobbed along with us for a bit looking very puzzled and we found a starfish which was much more rigid than I expected, great way to spend a few hours. Still up at the crack of dawn every day partly to make the most of it partly because we are getting over 18 hrs a day of daylight so whenever you wake up it feels later than it really is.Tomorrow is sailing back to Vancouver so last chance to make the most of the boat - not tried the hot tubs on the Lido Deck.
Wednesday 10th June
Grey and damp this morning which was a bit of a shame as we are spending the day cruising Glacier Bay. In the 1790's it wasn't a bay but a glacier 1 mile thick which melted after the mini ice age and within a hundred years became a 65 mile long fjord with a number of glaciers feeding into it. We sailed to the foot of the Margerie Glacier, 20 storeys high above the water and ten below. Over a mile wide. Watched icebergs breaking off, crack like a rifle shot as it breaks then a roar as it hits the water. Nothing Titanic sized fortunately. The photos don't do it justice - White on white against grey but it was wonderful to see. Reached the furthest point we get to, 59 deg N and 137 deg W.
Returned via the Lamplugh, John Hopkins and Reid Glaciers. Glacier Bay has been a national park for around a hundred years so has never been developed, one of the Rangers came on to talk about the area as did one of the Tlingit people whose ancestors lived here before the ice came and are now returning, they have oral traditions about the ice advancing faster than a running dog which match the geological record all very interesting.
Bit of excitement later on a day boat that had gone up to the glacier had an engine fire and we were diverted to take off the 40 passengers and drop them at Bartlett Cove - all well
Tuesday 9th June
Up early this morning mainly because my phone reset itself to Vancouver time and we were up and dressed before we realised it was 5:30 not 6:30. Docked in Skagway (or Skaguay, they seem to use both) at 7.00. The name comes from the local Tlingit word Skagua which means windy place which was pretty accurate on today's showing. Skagway has one road and about three streets leading off it. They have a bus tour which says its like no other tour which I can believe seeing we walked the length of the town in ten minutes. We took the White Pass and Yukon Mountain Railway up to White Pass which was built for the gold rush in 1898. It's classed as a World Heritage Site of Engineering which when you see where they built it and the fact it gets a bit brisk round here in winter is fair enough. From our point of view very scenic and some of the history was interesting. Followed that up in the afternoon with a visit to the Gold Rush Museum. This was the main route into the Yukon and prior to the railway no one was allowed in without taking a ton of supplies with them which they had to carry up and down the White Pass before getting to the Yukon River. Beyond belief anyone could do it but thousands did.
Monday 8th June
Went to the show last night.. There's a theatre that holds more than the Crucible as well as several other club size venues, bit cheesy - songs from the shows - but enjoyable. Up this morning to better weather another spin on the hamster wheel but there was a view this time. Pulled into Juneau around 12:30 but three other ships were there before us so they had to tender us off into town which involved a lot of hanging around. Juneau is the capital of Alaska, pop. 30,000 it gets up to 1,000,000 visitors a year from the cruise ships, there is no road in you can only get here by boat or plane. It also gets 5ft of rain a year so no surprise we got there in the wet. I have to say I'm not comfortable with the cruise ship mass descent on a place it doesn't feel good 8000 visitors landing in a place this size and it's a fairly poor looking place away from the touristy tack. Also Juneau has all the attraction of Wolverhampton on a wet bank holiday, it's Capitol building was voted the ugliest in the USA and everything else was shut. But if you get out of the town centre you are back into wilderness and we went whale watching and this time, gloriously, we saw lots of humpback whales, in singles, a pod of four or five and a mum with a calf, as a bonus their were some very lazy sea lions, absolutely brilliant. The weather even turned sunny for us. I've decided I like the bits where there aren't a lot of people around much better - no surprise to anyone there.
Got back late so we are having our evening meal in our state room overlooking Juneau which looks better from a distance! Oh we are moving again - Skagway tomorrow.
Location: Alaska, Queen Charlotte Sound, USA
Sunday 7th June
Glorious day yesterday as we sailed out of Vancouver. Getting on the boat was am experience, U.S. Border controls involve fingerprinting and photographing everyone as well as checking passports and ESTAs all for 2000 passengers - queueing for Britain doesn't cover it. Once on the cabin is fine, apparently it's a stateroom cos it has a balcony. Great views of Vancouver as we left. The ship takes some getting around. Great entertainment watching Jackie wander about, she has turned right out of the cabin every time despite the fact we are at the stern and there is nothing that way.
Evening meal in the Vista restaurant had a table looking out at the islands and sounds, very pleasant.
Woken up this morning by the foghorn. Today is supposed to be a scenic cruising day, we don't dock in Juneau until tomorrow, for all we can see we could be in the North Sea just off Hull! Can't beat the weather. Spent some time in the gym on the running machine, never my favourite but made slightly more entertaining by the rolling of the ship. The machines are right at the front end so technically there should be a sea view.
Booked for whale watching again tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed - this lot reckon you get your money back if you don't see anything, wonder if they've heard of our record so far.
Just found out Alaska is another time zone on so the clocks go back another hour tonight I think that puts us 9 hrs behind you. Suns just come out though, going to sit on the balcony and whale watch.
Friday - update
Arrived at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel to find we had been given a complimentary upgrade to a suite. We have a bathroom we could have parked the RV in a room with an ocean view and we are opposite the cruise terminal. Couldn't get into the Steamworks as its Friday night in downtown Vancouver and the place is heaving - again helps if you remember what day it is . Had to make do with the Lamplighter and Granville Island Pale Ale and a nightcap sitting on the waterfront - life's a pig sometimes.
Saturday 6th June
Having breakfast overlooking the docks. Our ship is in and is vast. Asked the hotel if they would mind our bags till we board -" oh no sir we will have them taken to your cabin" -I could get used to this.
Thursday 4th June
Last day in Banff
Best quote of the hol so far. Young lass in one of the shops in Banff asking us what we were doing and where we were from - all Canadians do. On being told we were from Yorkshire asked "is that near Essex?"- in so many ways love, no!
Drove along the Bow Valley and took a walk up Johnston Canyon. Tried to spot another grizzly and failed but found a lovely male elk and some very inquisitive ground squirrels. Back early to pack for the last leg with the RV. Into Banff for a meal tonight at Melissa's which is apparently famous for its breakfasts - something wrong there
Late addition to the wildlife roster, Wile. E. Coyote dropped by the campsite, no Roadrunner though
Friday 5th June
Drove to Calgary to hand in the RV. Currently sitting in Calgary Airport waiting for the flight to Vancouver. Just been stung for $75 for excess baggage due to a mix up over allowances not that I'm bitter at all. Never mind, looking forward to a pint of Empress IPA in the Steamworks tonight then on the boat tomorrow. Not sure how the wifi will work on the boat so may only be in touch while we are in port.
The aforementioned run had a couple of hiccups. Set off round the campsite.one lap is 2.5 miles so the site is about the size of Sefton Park for the scousers amongst you. At 2.25 miles theirs a red tape and a sign saying do not cross - bears. There are lines I'm prepared to cross and signs I'll ignore but not this one so I turned round and headed into Jasper instead got the mileage wrong and did over 7 instead of the planned 6. Got back to find Jackie starting to think I'd run foul of the wildlife. Hey ho.
Jasper to Kootenay Plains vie the Icefield Parkway
Highway 93 (Icefield Parkway) was picked by National Geographic as one of the Top Ten Scenic routes in the world and I wouldn't argue. Set off early to get it all in stopping off at Sunwapta Falls, mushroom and Diadem Peaks, tangle Falls Athabasca Icefield, Bridal Veil Falls and the Weeping Wall before turning off to Kootenay Plains at Saskatchewan Crossing. All outstandingly beautiful but the high spot was a trip up to the Icefield which feeds five glaciers and is a triple point in that the water from there feeds into the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. The trip onto the glacier was by bus with tyres taller than Jackie. Worryingly the glacier is half the size of a hundred years ago and may disappear in three generations - see it while you can!
In the evening had a talk from a couple of the Park Rangers. Apparently if Grizzlys get to much of a problem they are stunned and helicoptered to a really remote area known to the Rangers as the Valley of Pissed off Bears. They also told us the bear bells we bought are a good way of attracting bears - or rather they said they find them in bear poo!
Highway 93 finishes in Wickenburg, Arizona not going that far but carrying on to Banff tomorrow.
Tuesday 2nd May
Started the day with the warden at Kootenay taking us up on to First Nation land. No-one lives there but for three days in June all the tribes come together there and build prayer structure and sweat lodges and the young lads go through a coming of age ceremony. The drums go non stop for the three days but no white person has been allowed in.
Then on to Banff via Mistaya Canyon and Lakes Peyto, Moraine and Louise all gorgeous but not seen at their best as the weather turned rainy - first time since Hat Creek Ranch so we've done well and we saw Athabasca in glorious sunshine.
Here in Banff for three nights then we head to Calgary to hand the RVs back.
Wednesday 3rd June
Rainy day in Banff spending the morning getting the laundry done so we've got something to wear on the cruise. This afternoon we are off to see the sights of Banff.
Jasper - Miette Hot Springs
Horse riding didn't work out cos they were booked as its Sunday which was news to us no idea what day it is . So we went up to Pyramid Lake and took a walk in the woods complete with bear bells which must have worked as no one was eaten by bears. Then up to Miette Hot Springs saw a lovely Elk stag on the way. The hot springs feed three pools one hot one warm and one icy tried all three last one was bracing. Off to Kootenay Plains tomorrow along the Icefields Parkway looking forward to the Columbia Icefield biggest set of glaciers outside the Arctic Circle. Last chance for the dark sky reserve tonight cloudy nights so far, days have been gorgeous though. In the even more remote stuff for a coup,e of days so if nothing goes up on here don't think we've been eaten by bears - I am hoping for a run later though!
Breakfast delayed by the arrival on the pitch of two elk with a calf. Spent a lovely hour trailing them round the park, the only way to start the day. Drove up to the Athabasca Falls then took the tramway (cablecar) to the top of Whistlers Mountain. This afternoon we took a walk around Lake Beaivair and came across an open air wedding by the Lakeside.
Jasper is a railhead on the Canadian Pacific, the freight trains that roll out of here are up to two miles long, you do not want to get stuck at the level crossing, impressive to see though.
Our thieving birds yesterday were Grey Jays also known as Whiskyjacks or more fittingly Cornrobbers.
This is the only campsite I've ever been on where the expectation is that you will drive to the showers. From here on the edge of the site it's 20 mins to walk there and 20 back!
Off horse riding and then to the hot springs tomorrow