Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Canada/Alaska Day 5: Banff.

Today was a free day in Banff. We woke up at around 7:30 and Megan swept open the blinds and exclaimed, “It’s snowing!”

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of bed faster! 

The snowflakes were almost as big as my head. They floated down so lightly. It almost made the car park that we were looking down on seem picturesque.

We set out for breakfast and ended up talking with a local woman called Barb, who was lovely.

She gave Megan the tip to log in to the camera on top of the mountain to see what we’d see if we went up on the gondola for the view overlooking Banff. She saved us a lot of time, as well as $120 each!

Every time Megan checked it was cloudy and raining, so we didn’t bother trying.

Instead, we walked every square inch of the town. There’s no way that we can say that we don’t know Banff.

We went into every gallery we saw. I’m keen to find a painting/drawing/photograph that I can put in my room of travel. I don’t know what it’ll be, but I’m starting to get a feel for Canadian art.

I didn’t find anything, but I was fairly tempted with these whimsical prints. Luckily, I brought some paint chips of my duck egg blue walls in my lounge room. The decision was made instantly. It would look awful!

So the hunt continues…

Speaking of hunting, the first major stop we made was to the taxidermy museum. 

The first big exhibit is from 1914 and so is the glass. The curators were very anxious that no one would touch it. These are mountain goats. I felt very sorry for the baby ones in the right-hand corner.

This place was two floors jam-packed with stuffed animals and birds. I mean – jam-packed. Case after case full of taxidermy.

Not content with putting the animals in the cases, they also put them on top. On every single case.

It was extraordinary.

Sad bison communing over the staircase.

I don’t know what this beaver was having before it died, but it was clearly having an effect.

Even way back in the early 1900s, they were trying to educate people about the environment the animals lived in. This case had bison, with tiny birds perched on them. In the front corner, they had this:

Coyotes catching birds!

After viewing all of the animals and birds, we headed towards the Banff Springs Hotel. It’s very grand. Barb, the woman we spoke to over breakfast, said that she had a gym membership there, and would people-watch, wondering what these people earned, if they were able to afford to stay there.

Here’s a view from the bridge as we were walking towards the hotel. The clouds are totally hiding the hills that surround the town. It gave the place a moody, mysterious feel.

Here’s a more elevated look back at the town. You can see the lower part of the mountains, but the clouds were still very low.

Mountains totally encircle this place. There’s no clear view of the horizon at all. I wondered what effect that would have on a child growing up here. The place is so isolated – it’s not as if you’d be leaving town every day for another place, just to see the horizon.

Anyone living here would have a feeling of being contained, almost cocooned.

After the animals and birds, we headed off towards the Banff Springs Hotel. This is the view from the bridge.

The hotel itself is very swish.

We drove up yesterday in the bus and I was sure I’d be catching a bus or something to get up here, but I’m proud to say that Megan and I made it up there by foot. Good on us!

It was a consciously opulent place. You could tell the people who were paying to be there from the blow-ins like Megan and me.

The shops were on the lobby level and were filled with beautiful things. We looked but didn’t touch.

We wandered around. Megan had mentioned that she wouldn’t mind a cuppa, and I was intent on finding the view that a couple of backpackers had told us about.

I saw this in the café in the lobby. I liked how they grow their own garnishes. That’s something I’d do if I ran a café.

We made a wrong turn and saw a wedding reception being set up, before we found the bar with the view.

It was spectacular. The photo doesn’t do it justice at all. Legend had it that when the first version of the hotel was built, the builders turned the plan around the wrong way and the servants had the great view and not the guests!

When the first, wooden, version burned down, the owner made sure that the permanent stone version was facing the correct way.

The best part of the day for me was when we were going down the hill on the way back to the town. I heard a loud chirping sound that I thought was birds. Then I noticed a motionless ground squirrel standing upright beside its hole.

I squeaked and grabbed my camera, while Megan was asking, “What?? Where? “

There were a lot of them. They were all there in plain sight, but their coats blended in with the lawn so well that people were walking past on the footpath only a few metres from them, oblivious.

Megan and I quietly sat down on a couple of benches and watched them for about 10 minutes. The chirping noise abated the longer we stayed, but they were definitely on alert the whole time. They were ducking in and out of their holes, eating and scampering around, just being themselves.

It was lovely.

There was a trapping and trade place that we had a look at, full of moccasins, mittens and furs.

Then we had an “interesting “ conversation as we wandered through the park. There was a pavilion where bands could play and people could eat a picnic or shelter from rain. I managed to get a shot of the full Canadian flag that was flying from the top.

I said something about the pavilion, and Megan said, “It’s called a rotunda.”

“Huh. I’ve always called it a pavilion,” I said, and I thought the conversation would stop there.

But Megan likes to dig deeper into things, in order to prove that she’s right.

“It’s definitely called a rotunda. Every band camp I’ve been to, I’ve always told the kids to go to the rotunda,” she said.

I still didn’t grasp how much she wanted me to say that she was correct. I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but I was starting to feel pushed into a corner.

“Oh really?” I said, angling my way towards an interesting-looking sculpture in the park. “ We’ve always called it a pavilion.” 

The conversation went on like that. It was such a stupid thing to talk about, because who cares what you call it as long as people understand what you’re talking about? But Megan wouldn’t let it go.

“ You know, it’s interesting that you call it a pavilion when rotunda is …”

I snapped. 

“Oh please stop!” I said.

Megan turned and walked towards the bridge in silence, while I snapped a photo of the sculpture.

It’s nice, isn’t it?

I joined Megan on the bridge and the conversation was a little stilted for a couple of minutes.

As we turned back through the park, Megan suddenly turned and walked towards the pavilion. There was a sign in front of it. I walked a couple of steps behind her, praying that the sign didn’t describe it as a rotunda…


We looked at each other and started laughing our heads off. Megan, no joke, was doubled over with her hands on her thighs, she was laughing so hard.

After that, harmony was restored.

Megan found this in a gift shop. I don’t know who needs this, but good luck to them! A bendable, poseable Jesus doesn’t fit with my decor.

The rest of the day was spent just walking around Banff, looking at the shops and gazing at the mountains encircling the town.

Just an ordinary street, until you look up and see the beauty that surrounds it.

Just incredible.

Megan pointed out this sign while we were walking along. We all know I have a fondness for a pun.

In a gift shop I found the perfect gifts for both Megan and myself.

Mine is a magnet that says, “ I only like 3 people and my dogs.”

Here’s Megan’s magnet:

Fortunately, she saw the funny side!

Dad joke of the day: 

I’m going to start a music group named Tarpaulin.

We will be a cover band.


  1. FIRE for One

    I couldn’t resist doing a quick Google to see how much the Banff Springs Hotel is for a night – over AU$1700!!! You’d be expecting some top notch service and amenities for that! Mind you, that seems to be the summer price – it drops to a bit over AU$900 in December. Christmas night is just under AU$1300. Wow.

    That was an impressive set of horns on that goat in the taxidermy display.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yes, happy to walk through, see the view and just keep walking.

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