Roy and Wendy V. are avid photographers and the Rocky Mountain Lodge in Banff, Canada, was their starting point for endless and stunning photo opportunities. See what these Global Discovery Vacations members captured on their joint birthday getaway in this week’s Member Monday!
Where would you recommend a fellow member to go to…
BANFF: Friday night dinner at top of Sulphur Mountain Gondola was very special – prime rib cooked perfectly, plenty of good food and a huge view of the valley and beyond. Balkan The Greek Restaurant has tasty wraps that were the talk of visitors to the Banff Food and Wine Festival. Our friend highly recommended Melissa’s Missteak & Lobster Bar and Grizzly House (fondues and grilling at the table). Every meal we had in Canada was good and fairly priced, except for the itsy bitsy handful of lettuce “salad” that cost me $14 at the Banff golf course restaurant. There were a bunch of restaurants we didn’t have time to visit but will do so on our next trip there.
CALGARY AIRPORT: The Delta Hotel had excellent food, was reasonably priced and was just across the drive from ticketing. Eat there if you want a meal at the airport before you check in.
COOKING IN YOUR ROOM: Best grocery in Banff is Nesbit’s, though food prices in Banff are very high compared to the United States. It’s cheaper to shop in Canmore just south of Banff and not in the Banff National Park (stock up on your way from the airport). We took a lot of picnic sandwiches on our many outings to wilderness areas and lakes.
Banff has lots of cute stores on the main street through town. Stores in Canmore are a bit cheaper. We found the prices fairly consistent between Banff and resort stores in the area. The photography store at the far end of the main street is a great place to find gadgets and advice on where to get great photos and see wildlife.
Definitely take the gondola to Sulphur Mountain for the amazing views and a mountaintop hike. The golf course is a bit costly, but it’s beautiful with mountains all around. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is very expensive but fun to visit and see the extravagant shops.
Beautiful places for photography (our added category!)
Two Jack Lake just a couple of miles from Banff is beautiful and has a special lakeside campground. Vermilion Lakes on the edge of town are perfect for mountain reflections in water early morning and late evening (pictured above). The edge-of-town switchback drive up the Mount Norquay to the ski resort gives big views of Banff and the lakes.
About 40 minutes north is Lake Louise, which is just gorgeous, and its mountain gondola for big views. A short ways beyond is the Natural Bridge and waterfall and then Emerald Lake, a deep green lake surrounded by mountains. While driving around Banff and Jasper parks, we saw 27 bears (half black bears, which can be brown and cream colored, and half grizzlies, including four cubs), a moose, a wolf, mountain goats, sheep (including rams with the big horns), lots of elk and deer, some eagles, etc. Most were within sight of your car on side roads.
Up north in Jasper we loved Lake Maligne the best (take the boat around the lake or rent canoes). South of Banff, we loved the Kananaskis Valley where there is a horse ranch that takes folks on rides through the valley. Since it was light at 5:00 a.m. and dark after 10:00 p.m., we had easily 16 hours a day to travel around and do photography.
What was your favorite:
Resort/Condominium Amenity or Room
We stayed at the Rocky Mountain Lodge in Banff (arranged by Global Discovery Vacations), at the first entrance off the highway. We were in a two-story, two-bedroom condo with all the right amenities, which was a great base for all of our travels. They have a good laundry facility and front desk people who have all the info about the area. We would definitely stay there next time. We saved $2,600 in our two weeks with the Global price over the usual rate for the condo.
Place to go in the destination
Around Banff, we kept going back to Two Jacks Lake and lakeside campground and also Vermilion Lakes for the photos. In Jasper we liked Maligne Lake the best.
Why did you choose this destination?
I have been there twice for shorter trips and always wanted to return to do photography. Banff and Jasper parks are one of the most beautiful mountainous areas anywhere, especially since Canada minimizes signs and nobody lives there except in the main towns. We heard the last two weeks in September might be the prettiest time for weather and minimal crowds.
Who did you travel with?
My wife Wendy and I. We’ve been married almost nine years and I taught her photography, so we love to travel to beautiful places to take pictures and commune with nature and wild animals.
Were you traveling for a special occasion? If yes, what?
This trip was a combined birthday present for the two of us (she is June 8, I’m June 28), scheduled for the early fringe period of late May and early June that turned out to be terrific weather and small crowds, even though some of the lakes (Lake Louise and Moraine, for example) were still frozen.
What was your favorite memory of your vacation?
Ah, way too many to single one out. Being together for two straight weeks in gorgeous country (versus our crazy work schedules) was the main highlight. Seeing all the animals. Our beautiful images we have to share. Best meal memory (other than Wendy’s chicken salad sandwiches for our picnics in the wild) was prime rib atop Sulphur Mountain with that huge view for Wendy’s birthday.
Any tips for a traveler to this resort or destination? Anything you think they should bring?
Definitely rent a good vehicle since you’ll be driving a lot if you explore and do photography (we loved our Jeep Grand Cherokee with four-wheel drive). If cooking in the room, shop for groceries in Canmore on the way from Calgary to Banff. Bring lots of money because you won’t be able to resist the shopping and cool stuff there. Don’t just stay in town – drive all over, check out every lake you pass.
Unless you are very fit, don’t believe any advice on how easy the trails and climbs are (Maligne Canyon is a strenuous drop and climb that almost killed me). Make noise when hiking and stay back from the wildlife. Fill up your tank with gas before heading out into the parks (can be a long ways to the next station). In summer bring netting hats/hoods (check online) and plan on flies and mosquitoes (not a problem in September).
Try bison burgers! Bring cameras and tripods (necessary for sharp images of scenery and wildlife). Be adventurous, explore, and take only pictures, leave only footprints.
Many thanks to Global for the accommodations. We recovered more than half of our membership fee on this one trip, and believe me there will be many more. Your customer service people did a great job of helping us find and plan this location.
How long have you been a Global Discovery Vacations member?
We joined June 2013, so we’ve been a member for one year and this was our first trip. We actually got two memberships so we could make more trips per year.
Why did you join the club?
Despite initial misgivings about spending money to join a travel club (and wondering what kind of places we’d find), we decided it was the best way to make sure we travel instead of work all the time. With that commitment, we’ve planned more trips and are doing what we promised each other when we got married, kind of a forced savings plan for travel that will bless us many times in the future. I think we will have amortized the membership fees for both memberships by the end of next year, and thereafter we’re traveling at a fraction of what others are paying.
What is your profession?
I’m a retired training developer for major corporations, a published author, and a professional photographer. My wife is manager of clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies and a natural photographer. Hopefully she can retire soon and help me with my book writing and take care of our granddaughters more often.
How many trips have you taken using your membership?
We took a Caribbean cruise on Norwegian January 2014 to Jamaica and Cozumel and saved probably $1,000 through Global. Canada was our second trip but first time staying in one of your condos. We plan two big trips a year (two weeks each) and a couple of shorter ones too. Hope to get to Hawaii, northern Italy and Switzerland, plus various places around continental U.S. Now that we know the Global system better and how far ahead to plan, we’ll be regulars from now on!
Photos courtesy of member Roy V. – “We took 2,000 pictures, so it takes awhile to boil them down to favorites, about 50 of which will be in a Canada album on our web site after July 1: http://www.ambientlight.com.”