Our day of touring started with a quick breakfast in the 18th floor Concierge Lounge at the Hyatt Regency in Calgary, where we are staying for a couple nights. The lounge offered a wide variety of hot and cold food, juices, coffee etc, and we had plenty to eat before heading out for a day of spectacular touring and fun.
We met our tour guide Petar at 8am, where he picked us up at our hotel. Petar is the owner of Hammerhead Scenic Tours, and provided us with a tour dreams are made of – simply fantastic in every way. While I’m not usually a fan of all day tours, this private tour with Peter, Steve (DOS) and me was really a perfect length. It lasted from 8am until around 6:30am, and fortunately the weather was nearly perfect for touring. Petar drove us around in a new Doge Suburban, and it was clear he was used to driving in the snowy Calgary weather! While it wasn’t snowing today, there was plenty of packed snow on the roadways throughout our day-long journey.
We did many things throughout the day, but I will blog about our favorites of the day; notably Banff, Lake Louise, and the site of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
We first headed out along the Trans-Canadian Highway, which connects all of the major Canadian cities from coast-to-coast. Along the way, Petar provided us the history of Calgary, saying it was a relatively new city established in 1875. The real boom to the economy, however, was led by the discovery of oil, and by the 1950’s the economy really started to thrive. Today there are scores of high-rise buildings, mostly thanks to the oil industry, and a landmark tower which was down the street from our hotel. While the oil industry has gone down in profits over the last few years due to falling oil prices, it is still the principal piece of the economy, although tourism is increasing due to the close proximity to fine skiing, Banff National Park, Lake Louise etc.
We drove for about an hour and a half, while Petar pointed out various Indian reservations alongside the highway. We made a short rest stop in the Canmore area, before heading on thru massive and spectacular Banff National Park. Here is an official link to Banff National Park.
Petar took us down some snow-covered trails, and we were fortunate to spot several Elks out in the wild. The quiet and serene nature of Banff was in total contrast to the high rises of Calgary. The air was crisp and clean, and the snow covered mountains were picture-perfect.
We drove around the park for awhile, before continuing on to Lake Louise, as it was furtherest away from the hotel, and about another 45 minutes away. (We would come back later in the day and tour the tourist town area of Banff).
Lake Louise, like Banff, was one of those picture-perfect places you’ve heard of, seen pictures of, but can’t really imagine the pristine beauty of it until you see it firsthand. Here are some photos of Lake Louise, with the large Fairmont hotel in some of them, as well as people skating and playing hockey on the ice, ice carvings from the recent ice-carving competition and more. Truly a winter paradise! Although Petar said it was actually more popular in summer-time. The bottom series of photos shows us and Petar on the right.
Our next stop was a drive back to Banff National Park, but this time we spent awhile in the quaint town of Banff, with it’s Bed and Breakfasts, motels, gift shops, and of course the grand and historic Banff Springs Hotel.
We had lunch in town with Petar at Squash restaurant, and then DOS and I went on the gondola up Sulfur Mountain.
After a bit of souvenir shopping, we headed on to the Bath Springs area for a quick look, and another view of the mountains.
As it was getting late in the afternoon by now, we headed back to Calgary, but not before a final (and awesome) stop at the site of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. We took several photos there, including one by the giant flame, which was lit as a nod to the current Seoul Winter Olympics which are going on now.
Petar explained a couple fun trivia things while there, including the story of Eddie the Eagle ski jumper, of which a movie was made. Seeing those giant ski jumps up close makes you wonder how anyone would be brave enough to do that! LOL!
Petar also took a photo of us in the actual bobsled used by the Jamaican team in the 1988 Olympics. I remember seeing that on TV years ago; it was funny thinking Jamaicans would be entering the bobsled competition, and there was also a movie made about that. Two movies to check out when we get home.
After an absolutely incredible day of touring, we were back at the hotel around 6:30pm. It was truly an outstanding day tour with Petar, and we are already planning a trip back! Thank you Petar!