Friday 1st July 2011
A bit of tourist activity today as I caught a chartered bus from downtown to the North Vancouver station of the Rocky Mountaineer. This is a luxury train service that operates in Western Canada over several routes. My destination today was the mountain resort of Whistler, home of a lot of the Winter Olympics events earlier.
It was a stunning journey. After the train had left the metropolitan area, high above the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay that I had arrived at less than two days earlier, it travelled along Howe Sound and then climbed up into the mountains crossing many rapids and waterfalls on the way. Out of Switzerland this was the most scenic train journey I'd ever made.
We were served a small "breakfast" but before arriving into Whistler something stronger was offered. I chose a beer, it was Whistler Brewery's Pale Ale and I can honestly say it was one of the worst beers I've ever tasted. All malt with no bitterness at all. I couldn't finish it and, not wishing to try their Lager, I asked the waitress to change it for a glass of wine.
Then an interesting incident. As it was Canada Day, flags were distributed to passengers and the time came to sing the National Anthem, O Canada. Of course, I absented myself from this as I wasn't Canadian and didn't know the words. Yet I wasn't alone, as one of the train hostesses excused herself as she "was French Canadian and we wouldn't know the words in French" Her English was perfect, so she knew the words. A lot of people would have also known the words in French. My interpretation of this was that she wasn't going to sing the Canadian National Anthem in any language. So it seemed to me that spirit of Quebec separation still lives on, interesting.
The train arrived in Whistler and the passengers were conveyed by bus to the Village, as it is known. I made an immediate association with the dilemma of Patrick McGoohan as No 6. Everywhere was false and there was no way out. That last part wasn't really true but I still had two and a half hours to kill as I strolled along the recently built streets with their shops representing every single fashion house in the world.
At least there was an objective in this brewpub at 4355 Blackcomb Way. This pub is in a nice artificial setting, see photo.
Inside it wasn't so good, having a rather bleak atmosphere. I ordered a sampler tray and it consisted of Big Wolf Bitter (5.4%), Grizzly Brown Ale (5.0%), Lifty Lager (4.5%), Alta Lake Amber Ale (5.0%) and Five Rings IPA (7.0%). Apart from the IPA they were all light in body and taste, so I had a pint of IPA and enjoyed it.
My visit was spoiled by the know-it-all barman who wanted you to think he knew about beer but in fact, his knowledge extended no further than the beers he served, gained by reading the descriptions.
I found another bar that had Granville Island IPA, that's the best it got.
Back on the train the scenery compensated for Whistler, and unlike No 6, I could escape and did.
An interesting view from the train was where we went over the head of a waterfall. I was told that the drop was twelve feet greater than that of Niagara. I'm not sure about that, but it did seem a long way down.
Whistler Brewhouse, 4335 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC. V0N 1B4. Tel: 604 905 2739
Open: Sunday to Thursday 11.30-24.00; Friday and Saturday 11.30-01.00
When I visited, this brew pub was known as The High Mountain Brewhouse. It has subsequently changed its name.
Being a ski resort Whistler is fairly isolated. You can get there, as I did, on the Rocky Mountaineer train. There is also a good service of long-distance buses from Vancouver.