This morning we woke up pretty early to start our trip to Whistler. Without breakfast we packed up our suitcases and headed to the Rocky Mountaineer, a three and a half hour scenic train that travels from Vancouver to Whistler. Into the lobby and onto a bus we began our journey…as we neared the station, passing an Native American reservation along the way, our tour guide told us not to be alarmed if we came across protesters as we were boarding the train. She continued to say that the main focus was our safety and that we would be perfectly safe if we encountered them. Sure enough there they were. Holding signs that said things like “I love my job.” they were picketing outside the train station. Even now I can’t tell you what they were protesting… (this just in, I found out: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Labour-Industry/2011/07/07/NastyStrike/)
We passed them easily and walked down to the second train car from the front where we entered the train between Canadian flags. Soon we found our seats and the train was off. Warm towels were distributed to wash our hands. Then they passed around an absolutely delicious orange juice (with some pear juice added) and we all toasted the beginning of the trip. Then breakfast began in stages. First we got some fruit and a rice cake. Then we got green tea with cream and finally our main course arrived of asparagus, a plain omlette and tomatoes. It was very very good. Over the course of the trip we would be given many more drinks–looking back on the day I think the number was 5.
Besides the food the train ride was incredible. I’ve never in my life seen scenery like I saw today. The train car had very large long windows that we could easily see out of and there was an open air car directly behind ours where people could stand and get a closer view of the view. We passed enormous mountains, forests of trees, small ports filled with tug boats, canyons and waterfalls. All I can really say is wow. Even the pictures don’t really capture the expansiveness of this view.
It was a complete surprise to me when I discovered that we were nearly there are 3 hours had passed already. As we neared the station there came a crash from the people across the eisle. The man had smashed his wine glass and in the process spilled broken glass and wine all over himself. After enlisting a waiter to help out the mess was cleared and the wine that had spilled on his clothing would eventually dry. Can’t take dad anywhere I guess.
We proceeded to take a walking tour of Whistler when we arrived. We got to see the different village areas, some bear poop, a parking lot and the Olympic Rings. Natalie also learned how to open a bear-proof trash can (which are all over Vancouver). There’s actually a very impressive effort to keep the bear population in Whistler safe by keeping them from eating potentially dangerous trash. We ended the tour at our hotel where the room still had some time until it was ready.
Since the only other thing to do in this situation was to seek out a restaurant that is exactly what we did. We ate at an Italian restaurant where we could see the ski lift to the top of one of the mountains a few yards from our table. Natalie and I split a salad, a gluten-free pasta dish, and a ganash which was wonderful. I also had my first mamosa–yum. When we finished we were more than ready to attempt the peak-to-peak chair lift rides. Essentially this consists of going on a ski lift up one of the taller mountains and then taking a gondola (not the water faring kind) between two mountain peaks with a massive dip imbetween and back down the other mountain.
The views were incredible and the trip went by quickly. We even spotted a marmot, which is the beaver/racoon/squirrel-like animal that gives whistler its name because of the sound it makes. Unfortunately we didn’t hear the sound but it was our first wildlife sighting if you don’t count the two snails we saw at lunch… The chair lift across to the other peak was much larger and had a solid floor beneath our feet. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Finally arriving at the other peak, of course, Natalie and my dad wanted to climb higher.
Now let me preface this by pointing out that I had no idea that this would be a vigorous hiking day and as such had worn a sundress and flip flops. So when they decided they wanted to hike down a rocky trail to the chair lift to the top of the mountain I was feeling incredibly prepared. The sign that said “No flip flops. They are unreasonable footwear.” made me feel particularly good about the whole ordeal. Fortunately we made it to the top without any trouble and were able to take a few great pictures. On the way back down…well let’s just say the way back down was very steep. My mom and I spent most of the journey in a state not unlike that of a mild anxiety attack. There was some hyperventilating. Some raucous laughter, but we survived.
On the way all the way back to the bottom I spotted a deer (wildlife sighting #2) although the moose and bears were nowhere to be seen today. At the bottom of the mountain we encountered people celebrating 100 years of Whistler’s history with a seemingly insane obstacle course that they had just completed on the mountain. Although we’re still not sure what was going on many people were dressed as vikings, most were covered in mud, and everyone was having a good time. As we continued to tour the village we ran into a small art competition in the square where you could vote for your favorite painting out of 9 being painted at that moment. We all selected our favorites and then headed back to the hotel.
The desk clerk congratulated my mom on our World Cup Win (something we’ve been avoiding with the lovely people of Canada since we arrived) and we got to finally go to our room where, of course, a surprise was awaiting us from Disney Cruise Lines. On the desk when we entered we could see a beautiful dessert platter with chocolate dipped strawberries, a chocolate chip cookies and wonderful designs like bear claws. That would be eaten after dinner by our parents and the time for this dinner would be now.
We ate in the hotel restaurant and got some really great food but I think the highlight from the evening had to have been our waiter, Louis. He may have lost a few of his marbles and the whole dinner process ended up taking over two and half hours. He would disappear from the table for long periods of time and often return forgetting what he had set out to do, he tried to convince Natalie that because chickens ate wheat they were not gluten-free, and most oddly he picked the candle up off our table and then (realizing what he had done) put it back down. I can’t say that I understood what was going on but he was very funny and we had a good time even though we had to wait for him for a while.
At the end of the night we headed back to the room to get some sleep for another day in Whistler tomorrow.