Seeing mountains for the first time is hard to take in at first. That’s what the next two days of our trip mainly consisted of, but we were also blessed to be staying at this nice hotel with an awesome rooftop hot tub. And, on these couple days, we ran into a couple problems along the way, but they got resolved thanks to God. This post is going to continue recapping the amazing girls’ week I still find hard to believe has already come and went. This is the second part of four posts recapping the trip, and while you can read them in any order, for the full effect you have to start from the beginning. Read my first post here, which is all about the road trip portion from Minnesota to Canada! I won’t spend too much time distilling information because all you need to know is in the first post. I’ll get right in to sharing the amazing memories of continuing our trip up to Calgary, then heading to Banff where I saw mountains for the first time, heading back and checking into our hotel, and then also the next day we spent at Banff.
Day Three: Driving to Calgary and Exploring Banff
Breakfast in Medicine Hat
Picking up right from where we left off, we did have free breakfast at our hotel in Medicine Hat, so after getting ready we headed down there right away. I learned from prior experience that eating healthy on this trip just wasn’t going to work for me and accepted the fact that for breakfast I would only be eating chocolate muffins, so, that’s what I did. Afterwards, we got back to loading up our car and getting back on the road.
Driving to Calgary and Banff
The drive to Calgary followed the routine of the other one in that it was not too exciting. Except I believed we stopped somewhere on the way because Corrine found another Dollarama. There was a legitimate reason why we stopped, but I don’t remember now. I was exhausted, and Kir and I both slept for a portion of the drive. I wasn’t really all there until something wonderful happened on the road to Calgary… Just wait for it.
Kirsten took this picture for me when I didn’t even know it. Gotta love having a photographer for a cousin!
I was ecstatic once I could see those skyscrapers!! It was also surreal once the horizon was not full of hills but literal mountains. I have never seen the mountains before, and I know Kirsten really wanted to see them on this trip, and she’d heard of a nearby town, Banff, which we saw lots of road signs for. We didn’t drive through the main downtown of Calgary on this day, and when we arrived we decided to keep driving to Banff because we couldn’t check into our hotel until three in the afternoon anyways. It was not that hard to drive to Banff, and thankfully Mom was still able to see our location on her GPS, but we had no reception! I sure missed that aspect of Canada, not…
But back to that wonderful moment. On the road, it was like three lanes and we were in the middle, well, Kirsten found this cute guy in a black pickup next to us. Well, Kirsten and I were trying to look at him, and I guess we weren’t being all that discreet or quiet because he ended up looking back at us, and then my mom said he waved, but neither of us witnessed that unfortunately because that, I’m sure, would have been hilarious to see. We wanted to get a picture of him without being creepy, so I just was casually holding my phone and talking to Kirsten since he was by her side, and I was just casually pushing the camera button while he drove by without actually glancing at him. I actually got the most perfect photo ever, just at the right time when he’s right next to us, and he’s looking right at us. It’s gold. Kirsten put it on Facebook even. You’re welcome. I’m getting too good at this. Unfortunately he ended up turning off on an exit, but there’s nothing like flirting with a guy you’ll never see again in your life for a solid few minutes. I’m not as brave as Kir so I’m not going to post that pic, but I bet you can never guess who’s right in the lane behind us here…
We drove right by their tower for when the Olympics were hosted here. I’m not posing it though because it ended up being a traumatizing landmark for us on the way home. Let’s just say we had a dumb, rather unfortunate incident on the road…not a car accident, but definitely the potential for one. That was really a downer after coming off the high from Banff, when we were all exhausted and just wanted to get to our hotel. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The views going into Banff were breathtaking. The mountains kept coming at us, and then you could fully appreciate their size. Like Mom said, we were like little ants driving into them. There is actually a main, very busy road that goes into them. SO MANY TOURISTS!! Oh my gosh, Banff was about as populated as the Disney parks we went to as a family in May, which you can read about here. And I don’t mean anything by saying this, but it was surprising how we hardly ever saw any Americans. There was people from all over. This is fine until it becomes near impossible to take photos without people getting in the way or in the background. Kirsten was about ready to blow a gasket. It is a stunning place, though, with LOTS AND LOTS to do. They have many various towns in this area—Banff is just one of them—and there’s so much you can do without even entering the Banff park. What we explored on both of the days was really only the tip of the iceberg. You could easily spend a whole week just at this place, and they had many resorts, but Kirsten said they were super expensive. We got to see so much for free, though, which was priceless.
Back to seeing the mountains. Those trees from Ontario literally were littered all over the mountains. I tried putting the size into perspective by thinking how I’m not even as big as one of those trees, and one of those trees on the mountains is like a dot. It’s amazing to see them and how God made them.
Stopping for Lunch
They had towns and exits periodically, which was interesting in and of itself. Normal looking towns with normal fast food chains and such right between ginormous mountains. One even had a high school. We ate at an A&W, which was busy. Everything was, really, but I was starving and also somewhat irritated because our cooler had leaked onto the seats and got the bottom of my jeans wet… I do love the jeans I’m wearing on this trip, though; the material is very durable, and I love the color of the wash. I literally brought every piece of denim pants I own with me haha, which was still not an insane amount but definitely overpacking haha.
We then kept driving into Banff. Like I said, there is tons to do here, and this could be something you do for a week on its own. There are also many towns along the way (everything was Banff to me, though, haha). Kirsten had some spots in mind, though, for taking pictures, so we kept driving around for a spot we could pull over at. The roads in the mountains and by the lakes were so crowded, with so many people pulled over for hiking and things like that.
We made another quick stop at an information site for tourists. Scored free WiFi, too!!! I was starting to get tired by this point, but I’m glad we stuck it out for the views to come.
We made our first turn onto a backroad by this mountain, which had a very small waterfall trickling down it. There were signs for a bunch of lakes around here, as well as exits for the actual town of Banff and some others. It could be very overwhelming, honestly, with all there is to explore and especially because we were just looking around without any concrete plans.
We actually stumbled across this spot by accident… We were on just a basic two-lane road with no place to turn around, and we all freaked out a bit when we start turning onto this big bridge, and then this crystal blue lake pops out. It was gorgeous!
Then, not too far from here once we got turned around, we stopped and parked by the Cascade Ponds. Parking was definitely an issue here with all of the crowding. We had this problem the next day also, but thankfully we were able to find a spot here, and we went out to explore this hidden gem of views. All. The. People. So much camping. This is where Kirsten started getting irritated about all the inevitable photobombing haha. The air also had a bite to it—I didn’t want to hang around too long for photos in just my t-shirt.
Also, it’s worth mentioning to enjoy this obnoxious pink shirt while you can because you’ll never see it again. I was stoked when I found this bright pink shirt while shopping for my birthday because the pinker my life is the better it is, but I’m also realizing I have to have boundaries when it comes to pink, which is something this shirt does not have. It stained all of my clothes once when I wore it up at my grandparents’ house INCLUDING my white denim shorts, but thankfully that came out. I thought maybe I’d try washing it since I didn’t think I had since buying it, but no. It ruined my bras, too. I was not happy about that. But I guess that’s just an excuse to buy more, right!! RIP my pink shirt, though. It was nice while it lasted.
Cascade of Time Garden
This is actually in Banff, and we got to do some driving around the town before arriving here. SO MANY PEOPLE! I mean, the little town streets were overflowing with multitudes of people. The town was so quaint and cute, though, and so nice looking, wedged right in between luminous mountains. It was such a sight and fun to recognize some of the stores—like they had one for The North Face and stuff like that. Corrine had wanted to check out this garden, and I’m so glad we did. While this was also pretty crowded, it wasn’t as bad as some of the lakes, and the pictures and views were to die for. The sunshine also felt great on my skin. This photo is a view looking down one of the roads in Banff.
Thanks to the nice people who took this photo for us!
There were sweeping views around every corner, full of such vibrant color and natural wonders. Photo opportunities were definitely in abundance! At first I wasn’t so sure about all there was to do in Banff, but I was quickly humbled by the vast array of views. Just taking them in is amazing to behold. God’s creation is beyond beautiful. I can still remember seeing the sights like it was yesterday, and it’s hard to believe I was actually in these places, sensing all of it. I’m thankful to have the photos and memories now. I definitely wouldn’t mind going back!
I love waterfalls! I have another fantasy that I am going to have something like this in my backyard one day. #whenimrich haha
It actually reminds me of the Rock Garden in Estherville I love to visit when I see my grandparents, except times a thousand with water flowing through it and in the valley of mountains.
My mom was pretty proud of herself for directing this photo, and Kir and I couldn’t be more thankful!
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
This is a luxury hotel in Banff that is literally a castle. Kirsten told me it is super expensive for a night—I think she said like a thousand dollars or maybe a little bit under that. We drove into a nearby parking lot to get some photos with it. I can’t remember if we were technically allowed to do that or not, but it worked out that we could jump out quick to get them. I only wonder what it looks like inside.
This is another secret treasure of the area. And we discovered it by accident when trying to find our way out! As soon as we saw it, I’m pretty sure Kirsten made some obnoxious, raw noise that made me die. Talk about all the heart eye views. We were able to actually snag a couple photos where it looks like no one is around, but don’t be fooled. This was probably one of the most crowded spots. There was a big ledge up to this river that everyone was getting pictures by, and the parking lot was completely full. A lot of people were just driving through and then would stop and jump out of their car, which is what we did quick.
Hotel Clique Calgary Airport
Alas, time to introduce the grand hotel we stayed at while in Calgary. Kir found a great deal on this fancy hotel, which was not far at all from their airport. While it wasn’t in the heart of the city (read: SKYSCRAPERS), it still held plenty of mesmerizing views, especially at night. Our fave thing, hands down, was the rooftop hot tubs. I’ll recap these plenty of course. When we first got there, we were still nerved out by the ride home. Okay, we actually had quite the traumatic experience on the way home that made us homesick for our country because on our first day there, we encounter a frightening situation and rude people. We were already anxious to get back and find our hotel and get checked in after a long day of being in the car and exploring Banff, and running into this scary situation on the road, when we were so close to arriving, was very unsettling. It killed the mood for awhile, and then to make matters worse, once we parked at the hotel and Kir and Corrine went to check in, Mom had called Dad and then laid her phone down and couldn’t find it. It honestly was like it disappeared, so that was a fiasco trying to find it. We knew it had to be in the car somewhere.
Long story short, I couldn’t really stop to appreciate the hotel until I caught my breath because they came and got us, we headed up to our room, and then I had to get connected to their WiFi and get on Facebook Messenger to text my dad if he could call Mom’s phone, since she was the only one of the four of us to have phone reception—another hiccup on the trip in and of itself, since Corrine and Kir had to call their provider to get theirs figured out. There was actually a moment that was funny in a sad sort of way because Kirsten was wondering about what would happen if she gets charged, and she goes, “Like what if someone blows up your phone?” Then the poor girl gets to find out after being put in a group chat on Messenger with her co-workers, had about 60 incoming messages including both photos and videos. She about had a heart attack, but I don’t think they got charged too much. And Mom did find her phone. Corrine found it for us thankfully. She was down in the car listening for it while Mom kept searching all our stuff in the hotel room. It was somewhere wedged in the seats. I know I was frazzled after all of that stress, but then it’s like no, take a deep breath and relax. There might be bad things that come, but God will get you through it, even if it feels super uncomfortable for awhile. It WILL pass.
After getting settled and attempting to catch our breath, Kir wanted to scope out the hot tubs with me and the views, so we went for a little walk around. Our room was not too far from the elevator and stairs on the corner, which was nice. We were also on the fourth and highest floor. We walked the opposite direction of the elevators down this hallway where there was a big window giving a panoramic view of the city and nearby highway—which reminds me that another blessing was how easily we were able to find our hotel. This is also where their ice and vending machines were. The hot tubs were actually on the third floor on a section of the roof, and right by the elevator there was a window overlooking them, which was nice when we wanted to spy on whoever was out there!
When we got back, we needed to decide on what we were having for supper. They had a restaurant and bar in the hotel, and Kirsten and I also walked down there to get a menu. The hotel had a sleek and modern appeal to it. There was also a shelf by the check in with movies you could rent, which was cool, but we ended up not having the time for it. Even though we felt frazzled, we decided just to go down there and eat. Unfortunately that probably wasn’t the best decision, as we were less than impressed with their food selections and the quality, and plus the service, once again, just wasn’t there. Welcome to Canada…not. That didn’t help with lifting the mood unfortunately, but as time went on and we got more relaxed, it all turned out okay.
The rooms were awesome, though. I absolutely loved ours. Once again, they had very comfortable bedding, and the beds GLOWED. The overall decor was modern, almost futuristic, but classy and neat. The bathroom was also super nice, and the shower was another story! It was a great shower, but it took my mom and I like ten minutes to figure out the controls because it was definitely different. All of it was nice, though. I enjoying getting ready in the bathroom because the walls were almost this cool orange sort of color, and it was cozy and fancy at the same time. They even had a mini TV on one of the shelves in the bathroom that you could watch while in the shower!
Rooftop Hot Tubs
Let’s be real, this is the selling point for us on the hotel. It was always nice having to look forward to these at the end of each day. It was breathtaking at night! City lights—I was in heaven. Kirsten and I were eager to check out the hot tubs after the long day, and with all of the stress, our moms wanted to come along, too. Just Kir and I went at first, and then they came out closer to dark. Kirsten wanted a picture of the sunset, but unfortunately we were a little late. I just couldn’t believe the views, though. I love the city and seeing it at night. We could also see planes coming and going. On all sides of the hot tub, there was just beauty to take in. We got dressed then, and the hotel provided these cute little robes, which was nice as the nights got chillier. Before we ran off to the hot tub, though, we had to get pictures of the views.
Another random little note about this trip is all the kissy faces we made hahaha. It’s only natural, I guess, that when you want a picture, gotta blow that kiss! No, but we actually tried to get our moms to do it and thought it’d be funny if we had them doing it while we smiled normally because usually it was the opposite way around and they made fun of us for it, but let’s just say they don’t really understand the art of the kissy face… Hahaha. I don’t think I’m allowed to post our selfies in the car of said attempts because…yeah. A for effort though!!
The views of the hot tub, though. They have this whole little hangout area by the hot tubs, and there’s two, which is nice so they don’t get too crowded. There were chairs and furniture off to the side, and they also had convenient benches and hangers for robes and towels, as well as a rack of towels. The fitness room was also right across the hall from the hot tubs, where we helped ourselves to some of their water, which they had branded, haha. The views were just a dream for me. They also played music, and our boy Shawn was on!!! It was also nice how late they stayed open, about until midnight I believe. Corrine and my mom took pics for us at first, but then when we all came back Kir and I wanted our phones, and thankfully I didn’t drop mine in the hot tub, but the risk was worth it haha.
We always liked the one on the right. It was closer to the bench and the side views of the city—THE LIGHTS!
This hotel was right by another one also, so we think people from there would come over also. It never got that busy, though, for us. It was so nice because when Kirsten and I were in there, we were planning out the next few days in Calgary and what we wanted to do. We decided to spend half a day in Banff the next day and then start doing things in Calgary. We went over the spots we wanted to check out in the city, also, and reflected on life together.
After that full day and I finally showered and got caught up on my beauty routine, I think we all slept good. We planned on getting up pretty early again to head back to Banff. On Canada Day. We didn’t realize it was going to be Canada Day on our trip, so that may account for some of the craziness. We were excited, though, to do a bit more exploring and take more photos and then get ready to see Calgary.
Day Four: Another Day in Banff and Exploring Calgary
The Absence of Breakfast and Driving to Banff Again
I was excited and optimistic for a new day in Canada despite the previous day’s struggles. To wrap up this post, I’ll just share the part of the day in Banff, and then the next post will pick up where this one left off. Instead of bringing my purse, I had brought a cute backpack I’d gotten for Christmas with me to haul around, the perfect size for all the essentials and for adventures like these. I had fun transferring everything into that, and then we were on the road once again. Revisiting driving again after the traumatic experience was somewhat bitter, and pretty early on I was ready to die because we hadn’t had breakfast. Another unfortunate thing that happened was we thought we had free breakfast at this hotel because the site they had used to book it said so, but then they told us it wasn’t included… That was probably okay because we were not fans of their restaurant anyways. But I was still dying, and the drive to Banff was still over an hour. Views of the mountains were a welcome distraction.
I just can’t imagine climbing a mountain. I kept thinking it would have been fun to actually see someone on one, though.
We tried to find Lake Louise, and we went up along the roads to it, but it was so busy that all of the parking was gone, and the wait for a shuttle was hours long. That was a little disappointing because Corrine had wanted to see it, but we had no idea the wait could be that long, and when we found these cute shops near a cafe we ate at, the local workers told us the best time to go is at night or super early in the morning, but we didn’t have time to do that. The views we did see were more than sufficient, though. And I was just happy to find a cafe. We ate at Laggan’s Cafe. Everyone loved it, and I loved the views and such, but I was slightly disappointed by what I ordered. I’m so picky though with food, so take that as you want. I got a hot dog that was good but pretty tough for my taste, but what upset me most was this giant chocolate cookie I got. I thought it would be super soft, but it was hard and crunchy. I only like my Oreo’s that way, otherwise I like my cookies soft and gooey haha.
Bow Falls Again
Kirsten wanted to come back to this spot again for more pictures. Since we’d found it the first time by getting lost haha, we had to consult our map and pay close attention to the signs to find it again. We did, though, and it was just as beautiful. There were tons of people again, and we had to just park off to the side somewhere again and get out quick to take the photos.
Kirsten bought me this hat just for this photo she had planned. I was supposed to wear it the day before, but seeing as it was buried in my suitcase which was the first suitcase to go in the trunk before all our others…that was out of the question. It would have clashed with my shirt anyhow, so it was much better I wore it this day, and I made sure to take it with.
Kirsten was mad at the people on that island for getting in our photo haha.
Downtown Banff and Cascade Shops
One of the things we wanted to do today that we hadn’t the previous day was explore the downtown of Banff and their shops because they were a town full of various places, from a full fledged mall to cute little bakeries. In fact, one of the interesting things about Banff was this mall. We entered on a regular corner, and there wasn’t anything flashy about it; it just looked like a regular store of theirs except it was right by a Gap. You step inside, and the first thing you see are these escalators and glass overlooks, just like at Jordan Creek. It still blows my mind how it ended up expanding into that. They had clothing stores, places to eat, and more. We went into an Ardene, which reminds me of Forever 21 to a T (and a lot of things are named differently in Canada…like Reese’s candy bars are just called “Reese”), and then we saw an Old Spaghetti Factory, which stirred up our appetites all over again, so we decided to find one in Calgary for when we explored later. At Ardene, Kirsten got a few things, and while I really wanted to, I knew we would be going shopping later in Calgary, so I decided to hold off.
I enjoyed walking around their downtown, though it was stressful trying to find a place to park. So many of the parking places were full, but eventually we found a street nearby one of the main ones to park on, and then we just walked the rest of the way. We ended up exploring a few souvenir shops and tried to find an ice cream place for Kirsten because she had been craving it for many days, but all of the places were so busy we decided to wait.
I still can’t get over the amounts of people. Even at pedestrian crossings, it wouldn’t even be our turn, yet there was such a big group of people just walking across a four-way main intersection, forcing traffic to stop. We followed the crowd I guess because what do you do? Go with the flow of traffic, haha. That didn’t really work out too well for us on the road during our traumatic experience, though…
It was Canada Day, which I think is like our Fourth of July, so Corrine and I snagged one of these cuties they were giving out at one of the shops! Gotta love all the food we ran into on this trip!
Kirsten Gets Her Ice Cream
We decided to stop at a McDonald’s in one of the towns on the way out of Banff. That was crazy busy also to wait in line, but then we sat down at one of the booths. Kir and I both got Oreo McFlurries because I guess they don’t have the Reese’s peanut butter cup ones we normally like. I can’t complain about Oreo’s, though. While we were eating, the one thing I was responsible for on this trip was finding the mall we were going to shop at. I did some research and scanned the directories and screenshotted the one I liked best along with the address using their free WiFi. We did not have time for this today, though, as our day in Banff got pretty long, and Canada Day shortened the regular hours anyway. I was excited, though, and a little nervous about making everything fit, but things did have a way of working out, and after awhile I realized it was not worth it to get all uptight about making things happen. Rather, I was just going to be along for the ride and take in whatever we were blessed with. And God blessed us abundantly.
The Drive Home
This drive was much more low key, thank God. It got cloudy as we left and looked like it could storm, but the views of the clouds crowding the mountains were amazing.
Kirsten got this cute hat at one of the shops. I also thought the weather was really nice on this day, but it seemed to get colder as we got to Calgary, where I wore my jacket more. It was also a sad feeling to leave the mountains, as this was the last we’d see of them up close anyways. Like my mom had said, seeing the mountains is truly a special experience and not one we can just have anytime, whereas doing things in the city we pretty much can do anytime. At first I was nervous about being in Banff so long, but once I realized that I remembered to soak in every moment. It’s definitely not worth it to waste away beautiful moments like those just because you’re anticipating something else. Enjoy every single moment as it comes because that’s what makes up a life. That’s when God will grow you and show you things you never dreamed you’d see. About yourself, about others, about the world, about life, and about Him. And that’s what life is about.
I am so thankful to God we got to see Banff. I guess I had never heard of it until Kirsten told me about it, and when she showed me a picture I thought it was beautiful, but I thought it was just a lake and mountains, but WOW! It blew my expectations out of the water. I didn’t realize how big it truly is and all it includes, and we literally explored probably just a bit of it because we didn’t even go into the park. I didn’t realize it was such a big tourist attraction either, which makes me feel all the more blessed to have been able to go there. It was truly unforgettable and a very humbling experience. It makes me in awe of how big God is and what a small place I have in the world but also knowing that it’s that spark that can change and influence the world. I’m so thankful for all He’s created and for Him letting me get to see it. Stay tuned for the next recap of the trip—all about the city!! Thank you for reading and being a part of this!