FROM THE MOUNTAINS TO THE SEA… Yes, there are those that feel like they have seen and done it all. Those of us in this industry know that there is always one more adventure, activity or unique destination, just around the next corner. And if that corner was in Banff, AB Canada, the adventure, activity or unique destination could be rolled up into one – The Rocky Mountaineer. Having the option of participating in this amazing SITE Texas Tech Summit post FAM was like being offered an extra spoonful of your favorite topping to pour over the two big scoops of Banff & Lake Louise awesomeness you’ve been enjoying. Could it get any better? The voices in my head say, not likely.
– At this point, I need to stop and thank Danny Becker, Business Development Manager, Southwest – USA for Rocky Mountaineer for making this special topping FAM possible. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank Roxanne Kennedy with Tourism Kamloops and Tyson Andrykew with Sandman Signature Hotel Kamloops; Erin Donahue with Trump Hotels; and Paul Li, General Manager of the Trump International Vancouver, but more about them in a minute –
6:45 AM, April 28, 2019, and we are boarding our transfer to Banff Station and The Rocky Mountaineer. We were soon to learn there was one problem – The Rocky Mountaineer was trapped in Calgary due to a frozen switch on the tracks. If you read my previous post, you are aware of the big snowstorm that had settled in for the previous 48 hours. No worries – our departure was backed up a bit, but the hospitality was everywhere you turned while you waited in the comfort of the Banff Station.
At long last, you could hear, and soon see, the train making it’s way to us – what a sight. You could feel the anticipation of my fellow travelers in the air. We were going to experience GoldLeaf Service. We all knew we were in for something special but I’m not sure we were prepared for what was to come. Except for going below for a chef prepared, cooked to order, gourmet breakfast and lunch both days, we spent our time on the top deck of a two-level, glass domed coach with seemingly endless passed snacks (We’re talking about a hand crafted, international assortment of amazing hot and cold treats, and a level of service to match.) More than most days, it was good to be me. And by that I mean to be so fortunate as to be included in something that many might only dream about. One of my dreams was coming true.
A quick boarding and we began our two day trip to Vancouver including an overnight stay in Kamloops, BC and a final special dinner at the Michelin starred Mott 32 for our night in Vancouver with flights home the next morning.
Once underway, the scenery continued to take our breath away as each new vista came in to view. Snow-capped mountains, low meadows, elk, mama bears with their cubs (sooo cute), beaver, bald eagles (almost too many to count), otters, osprey, ducks, geese and more. More than once, someone mentioned how being so close to so many animals made them think of Marlon Perkins and the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom. I suspect many of our readers are way too young to even know what we were talking about.
With our brains still trying to absorb all we had seen, we pull into Kamloops, BC to spend the evening. If you are unaware, all of the travel done by the Rocky Mountaineer is during daylight hours to make sure you don’t miss any of the fantastic sights on your journey.
I spent one night in Kamloops long ago. And while pleasant, it didn’t rate a bullet point in my travel brain. My, how times change. Kamloops is charming with a very can-do vibe/spirit about everyone we met. This is where Roxanne and Tyson enter the picture. One of the best things about being in the hospitality business is the ability to recognize and experience a genuinely exceptional experience. This visit to Kamloops moved it way up my list. I had several conversations with my fellow FAM travelers, each revolving around how to bring the destination into the mix for the right group. I loved it!
Bright and early the next morning we heard “All Aboard!” one last time. Following the changing landscape as we traveled from the high desert (For a visual, think Northern New Mexico, near Santa Fe) to the coastal mountains and rain forest. Between those two were miles and miles of lakes, rivers and canyons to enjoy. A delay near the end of the day – a tree had fallen across the tracks up ahead – put us in to Vancouver later than planned. No worries, like any planner rushing to arrive at their event, once off the transfer to the Trump International Vancouver Hotel, a quick shower and change of clothes, we all arrived at Mott 32. Greeted by our hostess, Erin Donahue, and the Hotel GM, Paul Li, we were all ushered to our seats, and a genuine gastronomic event began to unfold. With a vibe almost identical to the one I felt while dining in Hong Kong earlier this year, course after course arrived, only to be followed by one even more delightful. The highlight at my table was the demonstration by Paul, of how to correctly assemble, fold, and eat a Peking Duck pancake. Paul’s might have been prettier, but mine tasted pretty darn good. I owe it all to the duck.
The evening wound up around 11 with most of the group headed to the airport at 3:30 AM for a 6 AM flight. A quick round of goodbyes and our adventure had come to an end.