Waterton Lakes National Park

We keep seeing photos from friends of ours who visit Waterton National Park.  We have been meaning to go ourselves for some time. Well, the other day, the sun was shining and it seemed the ideal day for a drive to see this little gem in the Rockies for ourselves.

Before we go any further, we saw a bear, we didn’t manage to get a photo, but we saw a BEAR!  ONly our second ever bear!

Waterton is a sweet place.  The mountains seem to crash together with the foothills right infront of them, which makes for quite beautiful scenery.

The first thing we came across was the very appropriately named, Driftwood Beach.
Our first glimpse of the famous Prince of Wales Hotel atop the hill in the distance.
Outside the hotel were quite a number of Big Horn sheep.
Then, as we were driving down towards the high street, we saw this house with loads of deer outside, and not the plastic ones either!
This one was so sweet, lounging out, with face pointing up towards the sun!
We are not saying it is windy here much, but just look at the angle of all the trees.
And we came across some more deer.
And a woodpecker.

But we saw a bear too, honest!

Alberta’s Legislature Building

On the way back from Jasper, we stopped off in Edmonton and decided to have a good look around.  On previous visits, we had only ever got as far as the shopping mall and hadn’t really given our capital city a chance. 

This time we had a look around the old shopping district and some other areas of the city, which were all very nice.

We also took the time to look around Alberta’s Legislature Building.  It was a wet day, but great to see.  We could imagine it would be stunning in the Summer with the grounds full of flowers and fountains.

Construction began in 1907 and it was officially opened in 1919.  The building is made of granite and sandstone.

Before going inside, we had a walk around the grounds.  There are lots of different statues, symbolising and celebrating people and events in history.
The first one we came across was this broken cup, which is dedicated to those who perished in the Holocaust.
The Pillar of Strength is a monument dedicated to Police and Peace officers of Alberta who have died in the line of duty.
The oldest one we could find on there was John Nash, who died in 1840.
On the last Sunday of Septeber each year, the fallen are remembered here.
Lord Strathcona, was a successful businessman and one of the directors of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He took part in the ceremony to drive in the last spike to complete Canada’s first transcontinental railway
in 1885.
Linda and Andrew standing by the Centennial Flame.  This eternal flame was erected to commemorate 100 years of the Canadian Confederation. 

Ukrainian Centennial Pioneer Monument – This was added to the grounds to commemorate 100 years of Ukrainian settlement in Alberta. 

Just before a downpour of rain, we made our way inside for the free guided tour.  The hallway was very impressive and made with 2,000 tons of marble.

We were first shown the statue of the 4th daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.  The Province was named after her, as was Lake Louise.  She was the wife of the Marquis of Lorne.
The Great Marble Staircase leads to the Assembly Chamber.
The Assembly Chamber.
There is a lovely stained glass roof in the chamber.  This was one of the first buildings in Alberta with electricity.  The architect went slightly overboard.  In this ceiling alone (if you expand the picture you can see) there are around 600 lightbulbs.  Unfortunately not a lot of thought went into how to change them in such a high ceiling and it is a several week job, every few years, to change them all out!
In the dome, there are a number of palm trees.  As palm trees are not native to Alberta, nobody really knows where these came from!
One of the most fascinating stories for us was that of the Mace, which is the symbol of the Legislative Assembly’s authority to make laws.
Parliament cannot sit without a Mace, and in 1906 the First Legislature had to get one in a hurry. No time for gold, silver, and jewels; so Alberta’s first Mace was fashioned in a few weeks’, from plumbing pipe, shaving mug, cup handles and scraps of wood, a bit of red velvet and then painted gold.  They ended up using it for the next 50 years!  Even to this day – it looked pretty good!

In 1956 a new Mace was made, which reflects Alberta’s history and culture:  The crown features a hand-carved Beaver, engravings of Wild Roses and sheaves of Wheat, and a ring of precious stones that spell “ALBERTA”: (Amethyst, Lazulite, Bloodstone, Emerald, Ruby, Topaz and Agate).
The Mace at the front is the new one, the one at the back is the old one.

They do not leave the fountain running the whole time, but they did switch it on for us to see and hear!  The fountain causes a very odd sound effect in a particular spot in the building – but we’ll leave that for you to discover should you ever choose to visit!

We also learned about Alberta’s Coat of Arms, topped by the George Cross atop a depiction of the natural resources and varied beauty of Alberta’s landscape: the Rocky Mountains, a big blue sky, the foothills, the grass prairies, and the cultivated wheat fields.

Would we go back to Edmonton on the back of this visit?  Absolutely, yes!

Jasper Trip

We have just had a week up in Jasper.  We have posted about Jasper in the past, but it is such a stunning place and looks so different at different times of the year.  We just had to post what we have been lucky enough to see on this trip.
On our journey we decided to stop off in Banff for a stretch of our legs before continuing to Jasper.

As always there are many Ground Squirrels running around the area.
We continued our drive to Jasper, up the stunning Icefields Parkway. 
We drove through a few snow-storms, but once we reached Jasper, it was quite a pleasant day.  This was the view from our accommodation.
Our accommodation was just outside Hinton (about 40 mins outside of Jasper).  On our regular drive into the town, we passed this mountain goat high up on the side of the mountain.
We also saw plenty of Elk on our trip.
On our first day we decided to have a walk around Pyramid Lake – a wonderful setting.
Unfortunately we took a wrong turn and ended up way off the beaten track.  It began to get quite scary, especially when we could see all the bear scratches on the trees! 
Thankfully though, the biggest thing we saw was this Loon!!
Later on that evening, we went to the beautiful Beauvert Lake, definitely one of the most peaceful and picturesque places we have ever seen.
It was starting to go dark and on our drive back, we saw this deer in the water.  It looked so light and agile as it ran back to the shore.
On our second day we started with a little bit of shopping in Jasper High Street.  After a bit of retail therapy, we decided to take a trip to Athabasca Falls.  On the way, we passed a herd of Big Horn Sheep.
The Athabasca Falls were still frozen in places, and the water level was very low, but it was still very impressive.  It was also a great time of year to visit as we almost had the place to ourselves.
We then made our way down to Sunwapta Falls, which was just as amazing. 
We think the highlight of our holiday was having an early dinner and heading back towards Hinton to the recently developed “Beaver Boardwalk”.  We aren’t entirely convinced that a boardwalk made of wood is sensible when there are many active Beavers in the area, but for the moment it seemed sturdy enough!  We were so lucky to see our national animal of Canada in the wild.  It truly was fantastic to see.
On the drive back from Beaver Boardwalk, we spotted something on the side of the road.  We were lucky enough to see our first Moose.  It was very dark so the photos are terrible, but we were still incredibly pleased to have seen it.
It was another lovely visit to the Rockies, and again we pinch ourselves to have such an amazing place within driving distance.