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By Michael Hepworth

I want to tell the readers about a special train trip on Royal Canadian Pacific that will be a lifetime of memories for those lucky enough to get aboard. The season is just about starting now, and it runs through October with weekly trips starting out at Calgary with the opportunity to see some pristine scenery in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.  I went in October on the final trip of the season, and can vouch that autumn in that part of the world is fantastic, so many wonderful colors.  You have to find a way to get to Calgary sometime that Thursday, and on arrival at the airport you are picked up by a limousine and whisked to the Fairmont Palliser Hotel, and after you have settled in, you go to a wine and cheese reception in the Canadian Pacific Railway Pavilion. Here you will meet your fellow travelers (usually no more than 24) for the next four days, and continue on to dinner in the Rimrock Dining Room in the hotel.

The trip starts next morning, and as you settle in for a champagne breakfast on board, the train slowly makes its way out of Calgary on the way to Banff , one of the most famous spots in the world. Here they stop and you get to see the turquoise wonder that is Lake Louise, and get a chance to learn about the Banff National Forest and the habits of the bears and other wildlife in the region. I fact after just a few days in Canada , I learned so much about Grizzlies that I became to appreciate them for the smart animals they are. I also found out that bear droppings are called “scat,” which is typical in the way that most Canadians have a far more relaxed approach to life than their counterparts down south.  The train continues west across the Continental Divide, through the famous Spiral Tunnels to Field, then along the Kicking Horse River Valley . At Golden, the train stops for the night alongside the Columbia River . Next morning a luxury coach whisks the passengers away to Kicking Horse Gondola for breakfast in the Eagle’s Eye restaurant where you experience a 360-degree view of the Rocky Mountains . After breakfast, the train heads south through the Columbia River Valley to Cranbrook , for a private tour of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel . That evening they serve up a gourmet dinner and an overnight stay on the train at Summit Lake on the Continental Divide.

The fourth day begins with a gentle descent to the Alberta prairies and a chance to visit one of my favorite spots on the journey, Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a spot where the Indians used to coax the Buffalo to, and then see them charge over the cliffs and fall to their death. Next up is a return to the train to meet it at Lethbridge , for an amazing crossing of the High Level Bridge , known worldwide by train enthusiasts, before spending the night in Eltham. The final day of travel starts with a trip to Homeplace Ranch where you enjoy a guided horseback tour along with a rustic steak pit lunch, before returning to the train for the casual cruise into Calgary . Checking back in at the hotel, you have a farewell dinner with your new friends and spend a final night in Calgary . Next morning the limousine takes you back to the airport for your trip back to Los Angeles . Now all this sounds great you might say, but how much is it going to set me back. Prices for the “Royal Canadian Rockies Experience” are $5,100 plus tax per person double occupancy, or $5,450 per person single occupancy. All this includes all food and drinks on the train, and there are no hidden extras except tips for the excellent staff on board the train.  The rooms themselves are of course small, but are actually bigger than those found on the Orient Express according to reliable sources, and they also include a shower. The train rolls along quite smoothly, allowing for plenty of rest at night. The dinners are always different and creative with an emphasis on British Columbia food and wines, and considering the unique difficulties of preparing gourmet food, they do a fantastic job.

Finally, I should say a word about the train itself. The carriages have been painstakingly restored to their former grandeur, bringing back memories of famous politicians and movie stars who used to travel across Canada in sheer luxury. Trust me on this one, you will feel like someone special if you get the chance to take this trip. Dates for May 26-31, June 2-7 have passed, but August 25-30, September 11-16 and September 25-30 are still available. There are other trips focusing on fly fishing, golf, food and wine and private charters.

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