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Crowfoot Glacier along the Jasper-Banff Highway

Our final day in Canada was a beautiful, crisp morning in Jasper. We had a busy day  with the drive back to Banff, our third attempt to see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake before heading to Calgary where we would return the rental car and spend the night. We had an early morning flight the following day.

After a quick stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast, we filled gas before bidding goodbye to charming Jasper. I wanted to stop by the Valley of the Five Lakes but the rest of the family was keen on shortening the trip time. They allowed me to stop once at Mt. Kerkeslin to look for the sheep, but I had no luck that time, either.

With a determined Mr. JJ at the wheel, we made good time reaching Lake Louise by 1 pm. We first tried to park at the Samson Mall and catch the bus to the Lake. But the bus would only take us to Lake Louise and not to Moraine Lake, we were allowed only 2 hrs parking time and the return trip timings did not work well. So we drove instead to the main parking lot where we boarded a bus to Lake Louise. The third time was the charm and we finally reached the iconic lake.

Lake Louise, as expected, was quite crowded at that time of the day. The sun shone down mightily. After having had most of the other attractions to ourselves, we were spoilt. It was hard to enjoy the beauty of this lake with a ton of other visitors. We walked around to find spots that were less crowded. We were also hungry by then and in no mood to do any of the treks around the lake.

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Lake Louise, in her shimmering glory

We walked to the Fairmont Lake Louise hoping to snag a spot at one of their many restaurants overlooking the lake. But the wait was long. Instead, we went upstairs to their bakery and feasted on Nanaimo bars and coffee.

Refreshed, we joined the long line of tourists patiently awaiting the arrival of the bus to take us back to the parking lot. We had very little time to transfer to a bus to Moraine Lake. We could have driven to Moraine Lake in our car, in hopes of finding a parking spot. But by then, we had had enough of lakes and beating the crowds.

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The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

So, instead we drove to Banff and ate dinner at Pad Thai, a small restaurant off Banff Avenue. It had good reviews and offered many vegetarian options. The food portions were just right and the aromas tempting. Having snacked most of the day, we were hungry and enjoyed the wholesome meal.

Before leaving town, we stopped at Nourish Bistro. They boasted the only vegetarian poutine we could find in this area and so we ordered to go and waited for more than 20 mins. The place was packed with many guests waiting about 30 mins for a table. We tried the poutine as a family that night at our Calgary hotel and liked it.

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Nanaimo Bar

After saying goodbye to Banff with a heavy heart, we drove to Calgary, enjoying the last few observations from RoGeorge, our GypSy guide. We stayed overnight at the Candlewood Suites Calgary Airport North. It was situated less than ten minutes from the airport. The clerk at the desk was inundated with travelers from an Air Canada flight that had been cancelled. But I must say, she was very efficient and handled their check-in, their questions and taxi reservation requests with aplomb. We dropped off our rental car that night and the hotel paid for our ride back from the airport, as they didn’t have a hotel shuttle yet.

Soon, it was time to turn in for the night. Visiting Lake Louise certainly wasn’t the stellar experience I had imagined. But it was our own fault for visiting at a crowded time, for visiting a very popular place at the end of a trip full of amazing natural scenery. The very fact that I chose to skip Moraine Lake was a big deal to me and to the family. Where normally I would have chosen to pout and complain, this time I made the decision all on my own and it felt good. Especially when we reached Calgary with some time to rest, refresh and pack for the early departure the next day.

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Lake Louise from a different angle

I have come to realize that seeing every little place on my list doesn’t have to be the ultimate goal of the trip. Working within the restraints of time, convenience, common interests and shared passions to make a trip enjoyable to all should be the bigger achievement. To that end, I can see myself growing and maturing as a traveler. I might never see Moraine Lake in my lifetime, but I will certainly cherish the hearty laughter and conversations we shared en route to Banff from Lake Louise. I will cherish having had the children’s attention all to myself, without classes, practices, homework, work, friends and social media competing every moment with me. More importantly, we went to celebrate Mr. JJ, his life and his specialness to our lives. I think I can safely say, we did just that!