Our vacation in Banff (Alberta, Canada) went great after a rocky start checking in with United Airlines/Air Canada at the Portland airport.
Remember the good old days when, even though you were traveling in coach, you were checked in by a real live person who could deal with problems and questions on the spot?
Those days are gone if you're traveling United/Air Canada out of PDX.
We were forced to use an annoying electronic kiosk prior to checking our bags. It recognized my passport, but was clueless about my wife's reservation. The machine told her to pick up a phone and talk to someone.
Who, not surprisingly, had an Indian accent.
Eventually this incompetent bodiless voice told Laurel to talk to an agent. Only problem was, none of the people behind the counter were agents -- just worker bees whose sole job was to handle luggage after the kiosk check-in process was finished.
So we had to flag down the only real agent, a guy who was simultaneously directing a long line of people to open kiosks, and also deal with frantic passengers who, as their departure time approached, were getting understandably angry at the inability of the electronic kiosks to manage their check-in.
The guy took Laurel's passport, said he'd help her, then dashed around for another ten minutes or so before getting back to her.
The experience was deeply frustrating. It shows how airline passengers are getting screwed by cost-cutting moves, since error prone machines have now replaced competent humans at United/Air Canada (in Portland, Oregon, at least).
Having gotten that negativity off my chest, here's photos of our positive first day in Banff.
Walking from the Rundlestone Inn, where we stayed, to central Banff only took us about ten minutes. Just before we reached the shopping area we came across a charming memorial to pioneer travelers. They were lucky they didn't have to deal with United/Air Canada.
Turning the other way, down Banff Avenue, reveals another inspring view if you're into quality shopping, as both Laurel and I are (she more than me, but I'm an avid browser of t-shirt and outdoor stores, both of which abound in Banff).
Leaving downtown, we walked across the Bow River in a steady drizzle. As Oregonians used to dealing with rain, we were prepared. I wished I'd brought a breathable jacket, though, after walking a while in my cheapie Columbia Sportswear piece of plasticosity.
Leaving the hotel under sunnier skies, the Fairmont looked much less Jack Nicholson'ish.