Trip is far more than the bear necessities

The Rocky Mountaineer winds its way through the Canadian Rockies.
The Rocky Mountaineer winds its way through the Canadian Rockies.
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Mesmerised by awe-inspiring views of the majestic Rocky Mountains, I was in a world of my own until a loud shout of ‘BEAR!’ jolted me back down to earth.

Throughout the first half of my week in Canada, the subject of bears was one of the main topics of conversation in our group.

Will we see a bear? What do we do if we see a bear? What would a bear do if it saw us?

Taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs, tour guides and locals – we asked nearly everyone we encountered.

But when the yell of ‘bear’ was bellowed out by Rod, a member of our group, there was no need to demonstrate my survival techniques by playing dead or reaching for the pepper spray, as I was in the safe haven of the Rocky Mountaineer train.

An excited Rod informed us that this particular brown bear was perched at the top of a tree, so we had clearly been well informed when we were warned not to clamber for our lives if we encountered the wild mammals.

Despite my disappointment at not clapping eyes on the bear, we were not far into a train journey which had already exceeded my expectations.

I had spotted bald eagles circling for prey and marvelled at scenery that you could never tire of, while being treated to five-star service and culinary delights.

I knew this was not going to be your average train journey and, soon after setting off on our two-day trip from the idyllic town of Banff to Vancouver, I realised why the Rocky Mountaineer attracts tourists from all over the world.

Sitting in the comfort of the GoldLeaf coach, with full length windows extending to the roof, I enjoyed a panoramic view of breathtaking snow-sprinkled mountains, ferocious rivers, gorges, waterfalls and wildlife.

After an overnight stay in Kamloops, the friendly staff rolled out the red carpet for us to board the train for a second time. Before I knew it we were pulling into Vancouver, where the tranquillity of the Rockies was replaced by the hustle and bustle of a vibrant city.

Before boarding the Rocky Mountaineer, I had felt like the red carpet had

already been rolled out for me on several occasions.

My first night in Canada was spent in The Fairmont Pallister in Calgary – a grand old hotel where the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stayed just a year before.

Then it was onto the stunning little town of Banff for a two-night stay in the impressive Rimrock Resort Hotel, in a great location at the foot of Sulphur Mountain.

Banff National Park is billed as one of the greatest destinations in the world and the town had the feeling of an Alpine resort. It is very popular with skiers, but given it was June we settled for walks through the woods.

In Vancouver we spent a night at the swanky Fairmont Hotel. Despite such a short stay in the thriving city, I saw enough to understand why it is so popular.

I then boarded a float plane for the first time as we made the short trip to

Victoria and checked into the Fairmont Empress

Hotel, before embarking on a boat trip where we got up close to three huge orcas – one of which appeared in the film Free Willy.

So although I failed to spot a bear, I did see a movie star.


Seven nights in Vancouver with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow direct to Vancouver, internal flights with Air Canada to Calgary, one night at the Fairmont Palliser, two nights at the Rimrock Resort, one night on the Rocky Mountaineer on the First Passage to the West, Red Leaf Service, one night at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and one night at the Fairmont Empress, from £2,399.

Call 0844 557 3859 or visit