We woke up at 6:30am and were downstairs by 8 o’clock. The breakfast buffet was included in our tour so we had that, eating with Kari and Chris from San Diego (the restaurant put all of us from our tour into the same anteroom…I guess they knew what troublemakers we were, LOL!). The selection for this breakfast buffet was much better than at the hotel in Montana, with the typical eggs, pancakes, waffles, bacon, oatmeal, etc. but also bagels, sliced fruit, meat, cheese, etc. They even had a selection of Japanese breakfast foods for their Japanese guests! I skipped the miso, salad and sticky rice and had some Irish oatmeal, grapefruit slices and a tiny piece of banana bread…all REALLY yummy. Oh, and the coffee was so much better than at the last place, too…it actually had flavor!

Breakfast Buffet

I'm glad they had the Japanese spread, in case we wished to so partake. Personally, I didn't. So desu.

We all met in the lobby at 8:45am (how wonderful is it that NO ONE on this tour is EVER late? We are, all 33 of us, always on time or early) and loaded onto the bus at 9am.

Our first adventure of the day was a biking trip. I had already checked with Tiffany & Geraldine and was assured that yes, they had “Sharon sized” bikes, so I knew that wouldn’t be an issue. We got to the bike shop and sure enough, after a few false starts (first bike was too big, second bike had to have the seat lowered, etc.), I was ready to go with everyone else, complete with a bike helmet for each of us. We looked so cute, LOL! We had one person who chose not to ride…apparently she had a double hip replacement and couldn’t maneuver the pedaling without pain. So with instructions from G&T of what time to meet us back at the bike shop, she went on her way to shop and “sussed out” a restaurant for her and her husband’s dinner for later on.

Joe always looks good in hats

I am SO gonna have helmet hair when this is all over...

Getting ready to roll...

All ready to go!

Does this bike make my butt look big?

Well, I started off fine – it was alleyways and streets, so it was generally level ground. Then we started biking on a trail…and that’s when I started having problems. It was a rainy day so the trail was muddy. My seat, which I had lowered enough so my feet reached the ground (I wanted the security of being able to have both feet on the ground if/when I had to stop) was now causing my legs to not have enough leverage for the downward pedaling so I was working harder than I needed to. I was at a much, MUCH higher elevation that I was use to, so there was less oxygen. And, let’s face it, I am VERY out of shape. So it wasn’t long after we started on the bike trail that I started getting tired and winded and wound up being at the very, very back of “the pack.” I even had to stop and rest one time, which brought me even further behind. We had 3 bike guides, plus T&G, so one of the bike guides stayed with me. He was very sweet, raising my seat again so I would have more leverage, keeping me company, asking me questions (and, I’m sure, judging how out of breath I was, LOL!) and stayed with me the whole time until we reached our first rest stop.

Geraldine & Tiffany with our bike guides. The guy on the far left was my 'knight in shining armor.' The guy on the far right is someone else's...

I eventually caught up with everyone else (someone was in touch with “my guide” so T,G and Joe knew I was OK and on my way) so we could see the beauty of the Banff Springs Hotel and the nearby waterfall. Fortunately Joe took pictures of these two landmarks because I was too busy huffing and puffing and trying to get oxygen into my lungs again. Yeah, I wasn’t having a very good time by then ;-).

The Banff Springs Hotel

I'm not doing strenuous work, I'm not huffing & puffing, I have rocks to stand on so I'm up to Joe's shoulder instead of his nipples - THUMBS UP!

After a while we walked back to our bikes (we had done a bunch of hills and downward steps to get to where the waterfall was, which meant we had to walk UP the stairs now – all 58 of them and yes, I counted. I’m OCD like that. Don’t judge. – so, of course, by the time we were done I was tired and huffing and puffing again. Crap.) and took off again. I made it my business to stay in front so it would take longer for me to wind up in the back of the pack again. Fortunately, this part of the tour was a lot shorter so I was only maybe 2/3 back (still in front of the members of our tour group who were in their mid-late 60’s. Go me!) when we stopped again, this time to see the Cascade Gardens, which is located on the property of the Banff Park Administration Building. It was a cute building with lots of manicured flower gardens all around it. Very pretty, with lots of nice picture opportunities. Unfortunately with the drizzle and clouds, the mountains that would usually backdrop our photos were hidden, but what can ya do, right? Weather is one of the few things on an Adventures by Disney tour that cannot be controlled.

Banff Park Administration Building, Cascade Gardens

One of my signature 'artsy' photos - 'flowers and stuff'

Joe wanted to take the helmets off for this but I think they just add to the charm of the picture, don't you? BTW, there really is a mountain in the background - you just can't see it because of the clouds

After a 15 or 20 minute rest, it was back to the bike shop. Since we were on paved streets, I was back to doing OK – decent speed, feeling good about myself again – and then we had to dismount in order to cross the street. And as I hopped off (because, remember, my feet didn’t reach very well anymore), my coat got stuck on the bicycle seat, so dddooowwwnnn I went, falling onto the floor. How embarrassing. I mean, just shoot me now, y’know? Especially since this just the day after I fell out of the raft yesterday. Sigh. I was physically fine (2 falls in 2 days and I still didn’t need to see my chiropractor – now that’s saying something!) so I got up and, after walking my bike across the street, asked one of the bike guides how much longer until we got to the bike shop. “Just to the end of that alley,” she said. So I figured “screw it” and I walked the rest of the way. What a wuss, LOL!

It was 11am and after giving back our bikes, helmets, and, for those who used them, pant guards (to keep their pants legs out of the gears of the bike), we walked over to the Whyte Museum, where we met Bob, one of the docents who told us about the museum and its artists. He was accompanied by Nathalie, who helped with information about individual paintings because, as it turned out, Bob was blind. Pretty interesting for a museum docent to be blind, I must say, but he had a good personality for it (outgoing, good sense of humor, knowledgeable, etc.) and it looked like he had a little residual vision, which I’m sure helped. But Nathalie was the one who told us about specific use of color, landscape, etc.

Nathalie (L) and Bob (R)

After 30 minutes or so of speaking, we were invited to become artists ourselves and paint a landscape. Woohoo! Our table include Chris and Kari from San Diego, Judy from OH, plus Joe and I (Joe and me?) Nathalie led us in how to draw a horizon line (best non-Disney line from someone in our group – who shall be nameless – but I’ll have you know it was, surprisingly, not me OR Joe, so there!: “All I did was draw a line for the horizon and I already f*cked it up”), plus trees, clouds, and so on. In looking at all of our paintings, apparently we ran the gamut from “pretty good” to “Joe, what the hell IS that???” ;-). Best Disney-friendly line, in response to regular museum visitor who asked if we were taking a class: “No ma’am, they just let us out of the Home today so we could paint.” Yeah so, it was a fun way to spend 45 minutes or so – much more fun than I expected. But then again, carving soap and making dolls out of corn husks in our Southwest Splendor tour wound up being fun, too! I guess sometimes it’s good try to something you haven’t done, or at least haven’t done in a long time – you never know what might tickle your fancy!

Clockwise from left: Judy, Chris, Kari, Joe

'...they just let us out of the Home today.

Me and my masterpiece

You'll have to ask him to explain it. I have no idea...LOL!

From 11:45 on, we were on our own. The plan originally was to have lunch and then re-group to go on a gondola ride for a view from a mountain, but with the rain and clouds that didn’t make sense. So G&T made the executive decision to postpone the gondola ride for another day when the weather might be better. So with plans to re-group in the hotel lobby at 3:30pm, we were on our way in search of shopping and lunch. Not necessarily in that order.

Joe and I did a few crap shops and eventually agreed on a restaurant called Earl’s. We later found up it was a chain. Whatever the case, it had really good food. Joe had the soup, salad and bread option, while I had a salad of greens, strawberries, pecans, quinoa and what seemed to be the sweetest prawns I’ve ever had, with a bacon vinaigrette dressing. Delicious! We chose not to get dessert (although the S’mores sounded awfully good!).

Earl's

Awesome salad!

We wandered and shopped a little more and eventually wound up back at the hotel at 2:30ish, at which time Joe took a brief nap and I continued the struggle with my blog software, which kept crashing. Argh!

We met everyone downstairs at 3:30pm and off we went to the Banff Hot Springs, which was located inside the Banff National Park. We had brought bathing suits but were encouraged to get the “historic” bathing suits that were modeled after bathing garb from the early 20th century. The guy behind the desk started to get me a kids’ size when I reminded him to not just got by height – that I have hips and curves, LOL! He gave me a quick check-over and proceeded to give me a size medium. I figured it would be too big/tall but as it turned out, it fit me perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that I bought one ;-).

Entry to the Banff Hot Springs

After changing in the Ladies’ changing room (an Adventures by Disney first for me – everyone in the tour getting naked in front of each other! 😉 I didn’t care, though – I didn’t look at anyone else and am finally at the age where I don’t care if anyone looked at me), I met Joe in the hallway between the Mens’ and Ladies’ changing rooms (the hallway had heated floors, by the way. AWESOME! We always used to see those on “Save my Bath” on HGTV but I had never experienced it before) and we made our way to the outdoor hot spring pool.

Joe in his

...and me in mine. Joe says I look very buoyant in this picture. I think I just look like a blow-up doll in, LOL!

Hangin' out at the Banff Hot Springs

Now THAT was neat! Outside temps of probably 40-something and you walk into a 102-degree pool. It totally rocked! We all just hung out, those of us with waterproof cameras took pictures and we just had a lovely time. Not-so-lovely was the fact that our camera, while waterproof, didn’t seem to like the 102-degree temperature and started becoming temperamental – it seemed to be taking pictures but the LCD screen wouldn’t work. Either that or the battery was conking out – but I didn’t remember “low battery” ever acting like that. Eventually we just put the camera near our towels to start the drying process and hoped for the best.

Inadvertent self-portrait while I was trying to figure out why the camera had stopped working. Obviously not the most flattering picture of me, but is that look not the epitome of, 'WTF???'

G&T told us at 4:35pm that we needed to be loaded onto the bus by 5pm, so we worked our way to the changing rooms and changed back into our street clothes. I stopped at the gift shop to buy my “butt ugly  but hey, it fits and is comfortable” historic swimsuit.

We were back at the hotel by 5:30pm and had the rest of the evening to ourselves. T&G were available to give recommendations for dinner and since Joe and I had internet access, we also looked up places on Trip Advisor and Urban Spoon. Eventually we settled on a place called Coyote’s Southwest Deli & Grill, but since we were going to do some more crap shopping before we ate, we figured we would keep our options open and check out the menus of other places we passed. So after showers for both of us (and re-checking the camera…it worked now. Hooray, it was just condensation!),  out we went to explore the shops of Banff and find a place to eat. As it turned out, none of the menus tickled our fancy as much as Coyote’s so that’s what we went with. You wouldn’t think that a place in Southwest Canada would know much about southwest US food but besides being a nice break from the continuous Alberta Beef we were being offered, their food really rocked! We started with some blue corn cornbread (highly recommended – and yes, it was made with sugar. Yay!) and then Joe had a chicken enchilada while I treated myself to a pasta dish with the smokiest smoked chicken I had ever had. Absolutely delicious!

Inside the restaurant

We were too stuffed for dessert so we ended the evening with a walk to the local liquor store to see what wines and stuff we could find in Banff that we couldn’t find (or at least not easily find) in the US. I discovered that Innskillin (my favorite ice wine) also made chards, pinots, etc., which piqued my interest. But then I found an organic pinot noir ice wine. I figured that was it and would be “my” bottle…until I found out it was $72 a bottle. Um, no. Not even with the conversion to US dollars, thank-you very much 😉 Ice wine is good but could never be good enough to me to cost that much. Joe was looking for a maple flavored booze he had heard about but had not heard the exact name of, so until we had a better idea of what we wanted (or found something we wanted that wasn’t $72/bottle), we left empty-handed.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were already fading. So with a 7am alarm set, off we went to bed.

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