It's official. I am finally back in Wisconsin, and will be for the foreseeable future.
My trip, AKA the longest trip I have ever taken, is over. As a refresher, that was a flight to Nova Scotia, where I stayed for 2 weeks. A 6 day drive back to Wisconsin. A 6 day travel "break" in which I spent running errands and going to appointments. Then a 7 day drive to Calgary, where I spent 5 days. Then a short drive up to Edmonton where I spent another 2 weeks (including a 2 day side trip to the mountains), and a flight back to Wisconsin.
It was a whirlwind. I was busy almost every day, with pretty much no routine to speak of. Those of you raising a toddler know how difficult that can make things.
I'm lucky I have a little pro traveler and she was pretty easy going most of the time. I think the fact that we were so busy kept her distracted. Here's some highlights. (Note that all the reviews are strictly my own opinion and I did not receive any compensation from any of the mentioned businesses).
On the road: From Wisconsin to Alberta
Most of the drive was through corn fields and wind farms. Then we came to South Dakota, in which we saw some amazing things. Peanut said her favorite part was Badlands National Park. I agree that it was definitely awesome - the landscape almost makes you feel like you're on another planet.
From there we drove to Custer State Park, which I think was everyone else's favorite part of the trip. There are some spectacular rock formations to look at, as well as tons of wildlife.
We loved it so much that we camped for two nights. The second morning we woke up to a Bison a few feet away from the trailer.
In the park there are also several lodges which all have yummy restaurants to eat at. We did - 3 times. The park is also a short drive from Mount Rushmore, which is definitely a must see if you're in the area.
On our way up to Montana, we went out of our way to see Devil's Tower in Wyoming.
I have to say I had high expectations, and I was slightly disappointed. However, had we had the ability and time to do some hiking around the park I think I would have felt like it would have been more worth our time and $10 park admittance.
Calgary and Edmonton:
One of the reasons I was super excited to go back to my Home in Alberta was to eat at my many favorite restaurants. I was sad to have missed out on some, but I guess that is a reason to go back again soon (never mind family, right?).
I didn't eat out much in Calgary, but since I spent my birthday there, I made sure to drag my family to one of my long-time favorite Thai restaurants, Thai Nongkai. Even though the menu had changed drastically, the food was as good as I remembered.
Since Hubby joined me in Edmonton almost as soon as I arrived there, this is where we did the majority of our eating out. And we did a lot of it. Like, A LOT. I've been afraid to step on the scale since we've gotten home. As soon as I picked him up from the airport, as well as several subsequent times, we indulged in Bubble Tea from Dream Tea House. Plain Taro is my favorite, but the restaurant's namesake, the Dream is a close second.
We ate twice at our favorite Vietnamese restauarant, Golden Bird. We have eaten there countless times, almost always ordering some version of a Rice Vermacelli Bowl, with an order of Spring Rolls to start. Seriously, this place makes THE BEST Spring Rolls ever!
I was also excited to eat sushi twice - Alberta is not close to the ocean, but it sure is closer than Wisconsin. My favorites are Ichiban Japanese Cuisine and Furusato Japanese Restaurant.
Jasper National Park
- Whether or not to take 2 days of our short visiting time to go to Jasper was a hard decision to make. In the end, we decided to do it, and it ended up being a nice little break for us - though even that wasn't relaxing. Despite most of the attractions, and also many restaurants and accommodations being closed for the season, we were constantly on the go. If you've never been to Alberta before, you ABSOLUTELY need to see the mountains at some point. Both Banff and Jasper National Parks are good options, with the Icefields Parkway running between the two being a gorgeous drive. We prefer Jasper for it's more low-key feel.
- On day one, we drove in from Edmonton, stopped at Jasper for lunch, then continued on to the Columbia Icefield to see some sights. Along the way, we saw Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls and Tangle Creek. We also saw lots of wildlife - the highlight of Peanut's trip for sure.
- We stayed at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. It wouldn't have been our #1 choice, for we would have chosen to stay at Tekarra Lodge, where we got married. BUT - it, like many other things, was closed for the season. Anyhow, our stay at JPL was great. The property is spectacular, the main lodge is beautiful and the rooms are nice too. We had a nice view of the lake.
- For food in Jasper, we always, ALWAYS go to the Bear's Paw Bakery (or The Other Paw, which is just down the street). The sticky buns are the absolute best I've ever had. The raspberry white chocolate scones are amazing too. And the whole family loves the Jalapeno Olive Pizza pretzels. YUM! I'm super excited to have picked up the bakery's own cookbook for myself. Now hopefully I can make their tasty treats at home, since I get there so infrequently. We have also had some great meals at Tekarra Restaurant, and I would not hesitate to say that it's some of the best food I've ever had. I will admit that I'm probably biased though, since we did have our wedding reception there. This time, we didn't get to eat there, since it too, was closed.
- No matter what time of the year, a trip to Maligne Canyon is always beautiful. I've now been here both in the winter, and the fall. When it's frozen, you can actually go down into the canyon and walk inside it, on the ice. This time of the year, the water was still in it's liquid state. That means sticking up to the trails and looking down on the canyon from the edges or from the 6 different bridges that cross it.Almost all of the rest of our time was spent visiting with family and friends. It was a great trip, but after 1.5 months of traveling, I'm sure glad to be back in my own bed and getting back to normal life. And of course, back to cooking!