“We have a name for the day that comes after two days of rain,” our Canadian friends previously informed us, “We call it Monday.”
The joke has been prove true so far – this morning, we woke up to a gray, drizzling rain. I didn’t realize how rare our perfect Friday was – beautiful sunny skies, nice, relatively warm temperatures. Today, the locals are still talking about yesterday.
We refused to literally let this rain on our parade. As an early birthday present (my real birthday is on the 24th, for anyone interested in present buying…just kidding!), my parents surprised me with a day trip on the Whistler Mountaineer from Vancouver to Whistler. We woke up at the crack of dawn (is it still considered dawn if there is no sun to dawn?) and took a quick bus ride to the train station, where friendly Rocky Mountaineer staff greeted us and led us to our assigned cars.
Dad made the right call in upgrading us to Glacier Dome service, a well-lit car with an expanse of windows and first-class service. The staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating, the food was wonderful, and the trip was just stunning, even in the rain.
When we first got to our seats, I was a little nervous – we had a 3 1/2 hour train ride, rain was streaming down the windows, and I didn’t even think to bring a book for entertainment. Could I really stare out of a window for 3 1/2 hours and be completely satisfied? Usually, the answer would be “no” – I genuinely don’t know how to relax or function without some sort of entertainment – a magazine, book, computer, whatever. However, the slight rain droplets did not ruin the beautiful scenery; we were all completely entranced going over bridges, staring into the bay, and taking in the natural scenery of mossy forests and roaring waterfalls.
We passed through West Vancouver, known for its wealth, where locals stood on their balconies and waved as the train went by. We received the same greeting upon our return, a man even held up a sign that read, “Cheers! Welcome Home!”. Before that point, however, we had a lot of ground to cover – we saw Howe Sound, Cheakamus Canyon, Brandywine Falls, and a lot more that meant absolutely nothing to me before taking this trip – now, however, I realize just how beautiful Canada is. I can see why people might like camping…not myself, but I guess I could see the merit of the hobby.
Once in Whistler, a team of Rocky Mountaineer employees greeted us at the station. My family and I were in the minority of individuals who chose to participate in the walking tour. Despite the rain, we still wanted to see and hear about the village, which was a really great experience. When our guide, Lynda, greeted us, we were surprised to see a woman on two crutches, missing one of her legs. Lynda quickly put any concerns to rest as she vibrantly talked about the bears she saw after her morning bike ride.
This woman was incredible. With a feisty personality and obvious compassion for the individuals she was leading, she has been one of the coolest people I’ve met on this trip. We watched as she helped guests onto the bus, happily took photos of families at every opportunity, and out-paced most of us on the tour. She talked about her time in Vancouver and how quickly she fell in love with Whistler and the mountain lifestyle: she still had time to bike and ski in the mornings before going to work in the afternoon. She boasted about her 40+ ski days for the year so far. Her passion for Whistler was evident and contagious and her personality and story were an inspiration.
Catching Lynda’s enthusiasm, we were taken by the charming city and beautiful scenery. The village was full of shops and restaurants with a young, energetic crowd. It was the second day that the Mountain Bike trail had been opened, so die-hard bikers were walking around, covered in mud and grinning ear to ear.
Whistler is an adrenaline junkie’s heaven: at the very top of the mountain, people were skiing, and at the very bottom, they were biking. I, of course, am not skilled in anything that requires adrenaline, but I am a very good sightseer, which is exactly what we did. We also happened to stop in every chocolate shop we came across – I’m now the proud owner of B-52, tiramisu, and mocha flavored fudge, as well as honeycomb, caramel, and mint chocolate bars…although I probably won’t be for long.
The cherry on top of my Whistler trip was meeting up with Phil, my long-lost Aussie friend who recently relocated to Whistler within the past year. Phil, being a pretty adventurous guy, obviously loves his new home. It’s always great to see someone take a risk, like packing up and moving across the globe, and have it really pay off.
When we expressed our disappointment over the Peak to Peak Gondola being closed (it opens next week, naturally), Phil laughed and said, “I love how people actually travel to Whistler to see that – for me, it was my commute to work when I first moved here.” Just another day in the life of a Whistler-ite, who told me about his 60+ ski days and night job at the Four Seasons. Tough life.
Phil told me about the hairy marmosets, a creature that whistles when scared (this is where Whistler gets its name), and shared stories of the wildlife he’s encountered. We, of course, have only seen fat sea lions. No bears. No moose. No hairy marmosets. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that our trip through the Rockies will provide some wildlife spottings….
Our time in Whistler was short – about 3 hours total – but well worth the trip. We said goodbye to Phil, Lynda, and the awesome town of Whistler before hopping back on the Whistler Mountaineer and returning to Vancouver. They served a three course afternoon tea, which we are just not refined enough to participate in. Please enjoy:
For anyone interested in the Whistler Mountaineer experience…DO IT. It was phenomenal, but this wasn’t even the whole shebang that Rocky has to offer, it was really a sampler of the larger, more elaborate Rocky Mountaineer trips. My family and I are a little sad that we didn’t take the train from Vancouver to Banff – we’ll come back one day and go on the Gold Leaf Service, where guests can sit upstairs in a dome car with 360 degree views and head downstairs to the restaurant with freshly made meal choices, all before resting your head in a hotel every night (naturally, you should upgrade to the Fairmont Hotels!). We are so tempted to go ahead and make our plans for a Rocky Mountaineer trip.
All in all, this was the best birthday surprise I’ve ever had. I’ve got some pretty awesome parents/travel buddies 🙂 Also, I’ve got to give a big shout out to Kim, for helping arrange the trip, and for putting my dad in touch with Nathan, one of my Travel Mart friends…I was so excited when I found out a fellow Next Gen had helped my parents put this together. The travel industry is a small world, and I’m learning to love that.