Saturday, 26 December 2015

Lympne Castle Christmas.

The room before setting up.
As I mentioned a while ago on my blog, family friends of mine have set up an event dressing business. The business, LylacLily Event Dressing is based in Kent and caters for all occasions.They offer a full dressing service or a do-it-yourself rental. The selection of items available is excellent and they offer a friendly personal touch. Recently I was invited along to take some photos as they transformed the reception room at Lympne Castle for a Christmas party.
A sneak peek

The colour scheme as it was Christmas was red and green which idd in well with the decorations on the christmas tree that was already present in the room.

With the night drawing in, the log fires roaring and the twinkle of the lights, it felt like a magical setting in which to spend the evening.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Calgary to Salmon Arm and back again.

Sorry that there has been some time since my last blog post, I was off in Cambridge for work but my contract has come to an end, so back at home now and time for an update.

Approaching the Mountains
So here's my take on the journey from Albertan metropolis through to small town British Columbia. Having no access to a car this journey was taken via the Greyhound Bus. The coach was spacious and comfortable, the coach station was like many others I have encountered, a sort of lifeless hub with some vending machines and a cafe. Back to the coach the seats were a good size and the windows large enough to give great views of the ever changing vista. To break up the journey several stops are scheduled into the journey, but first lets go back to the beginning.

Heading out of the city you begin to leave behind the sprawl of houses and enter what I can only describe as the prairie, with the landscape stretching all the way to the mountains, which are visible from the city on a clear day. The grasslands populated by cattle and the odd farmstead give way to the creeping hills and mountains and the wonderful  Kananaskis Country which acts as a gateway to the Rockies. This is an area I have seen some wonderful photos of and had I the time and my own vehicle I would have spent some time exploring here. The first small stop off is at Canmore a small town with a slight Nordic feel which according to my Mum has a wonderful quilt shop.

From here the road stretches on towards Banff. Banff is a main tourist stop and is a lovely place full of touristic shops, gentle walks and beautiful natural scenery. The bus stops outside of the town at the train station. It's like no other train station I have seen, more just a parking area beside the tracks. The tracks are there for the Rocky Mountaineer and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Whilst stopped here we were lucky enough that one of these huge locomotives pulled in and stopped for a while.
Canadian Pacific Locomotive.

It's then off to Lake Louise, not the lake itself but rather the small shopping area where you can park up before heading to the lake. As we stopped for a while here I jumped off and went for a walk to the nearby river to stretch my legs. This is such a nice area and I remember it from my previous travels to Canada.

The journey to Salmon arm is an average of 7 and a half hours so it is worth taking along some food and drinks to keep you going. One good place to stock up on these is at the service station at Golden. A truck stop and petrol station it has a great selection of food items. I grabbed a large cream soda slushy from here as well as a packet of crisps. On the return journey I returned from my trip with a Canadian Rockies Calendar, so there is an option to pick up souvenirs along the route.

The view from the Golden stop.
After Golden you are really in the mountains with a climb up into Roger's Pass  which is the highest point on route. On the journey back we were held here for about an hour due to a road closure. We were given the option of returning to Revelstoke (the next stop on the outbound journey) but the coach voted against this suggestion, rather waiting for the road to re-open. Revelstoke seems like a nice town and it is a big skiing area however the coach stop leaves a bit to be desired unfortunately. I chanced crossing the highway to grab a subway sandwich instead of buying any of the food on offer at the petrol station as it didn't take my fancy.

Revelstoke slowly changes again into flatter land as you come out of the larger mountains on the way to Salmon Arm. Soon you find yourself in farmland once again and start catching sight of the lakes this area is known for. Salmon Arm and it's surrounding area claims to be the House Boat capital of the world. We were heading to Salmon Arm to meet up with family friends and that evening was spent on a deck having a cold drink and catching up with each other. All whilst taking in a wonderful sunset.

Some other points of interest along the way is Three Valley Gap which is home to an 1800's ghost town. There is also a hotel here which looks very nice. It's hard not to see places signposted along the way and want to go and explore them. I know if I had a car the drive down would take much longer than the scheduled 7 and a half hours as I would constantly be taking detours to explore places. I hope one day to be able to have the time to do this and take in more of this spectacular country. It is well worth keeping your eyes open along the route too as we saw a bear alongside the highway, so you never know what you might see. The weather changes the mood in the mountains and the drive is wonderful both in the sunshine and rain and I am sure looks magical in winter with a dusting of snow. Another thing to be aware of is catching sights you missed on the way back. One example of this is Mount Rundle at Banff which has a stunning view on the return journey.

Mount Rundle

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Calgary Stampede (2014)

We got a lift down to the Stampede grounds and so didn’t enter through the main gates. However this turned out to be advantageous as we ended up in the right place at the right time. On entering the park there was an announcer telling you to meet the drivers from the chuck wagon races. We ended up about fourth in the queue, got to meet them, pick up signed posters and trading cards and have a couple of photos. I was also told I could win a lovely car and they would transport it to me. This got turned down due to a lack of driving licence and the fact they didn’t seem keen to send it over to the UK.

Billed as the greatest outdoor show on earth the Stampede doesn’t disappoint. We picked up tickets to the rodeo for about the equivalent of £10 and this gave us four hours of the rodeo. The seats we had weren’t covered so my advice is to have a sun hat and lots of water. 

Taking our seats we brought a bag of delicious mini doughnuts and sat back to take it all in. To start off proceedings was the RCMP musical ride and then the introduction of the representatives of the Stampede.  Now I wasn’t sure about the rodeo before I went but I have since read up on all the restrictions and veterinary testing and although still not something I am completely comfortable with, I appreciate the animals are well cared for and respected.

It is worth noting that although entrance and rodeo tickets can be cheap, food at the stampede is more on the expensive side. I opted to have a fresh off the grill corn on the cob. Huge and delicious but slightly pricey for what it was. It is also important to note for visitors that if you want to go into the bar areas you will need to have two pieces of ID with you.

Next we went for a walk through the grounds to the Native Canadian Village. We were welcomed with the offer of a dance where people of all nations joined together in friendship. After this you were welcomed into the tents and to speak with people about their beautiful clothing and crafts. The whole area had a nice relaxed feel and  
the people were very friendly. Native craftwork was available to buy as well. From here we wandered back to the agricultural area to see the animals. We ended up coming out of this area with lots of free things, such as pencils, note boards, recipe cards and magnets about manure. There was a theme of field to plate and so you could opt to stand on a cattle scale as someone worked out how many beef burgers you would make.

 There are plenty of animals to see and if you keep walking, via the children’s fairground rides there is an opportunity to see the RCMP horses in their stables.  As we were leaving we met a lovely policeman in uniform who was very pleased to stop and allow me to take a couple of photos. From here it was onto the exhibition space where stands were trying to sell you all manner of interesting goods. Beyond this was a cool, calm art gallery featuring local artists and it made for a nice breather from the heat and the crowds.

Then we caught a bit of the performance on the Cola stage by the band Marianas Trench. It was actually great to know these bands were performing for no extra cost to your entrance ticket and they put on quite a long show. We ended our day by taking the sky ride above the grounds and taking in the lights as the sun begun to set. It was certainly an experience and a great way to round off an action packed day taking in the Western culture of Calgary.