Drumheller

Royal Tyrrell Museum

From Lake Louise, we left the Rockies and drove east: destination Drumheller. The road was flat – very flat – and I was puzzled when we came to the 3km sign for Drumheller: where was it? Surely we should see it by now? Then the road suddenly plunged down into the Red Deer River Valley, and there it was at the bottom. We were in the Badlands! (Badlands are a type of dry terrain where soft sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water.) The next surprise was how small Drumheller is. We were here to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, a world leading institution, which we expected to have rather more sophisticated surroundings (sorry Drumheller).

The third surprise was unpleasant. Our hotel claimed to have no knowledge of us and was “fully booked”. Now, I spent my entire career in public service and I know that the answer to a problem is “Oh, I’m sorry that has happened – let’s see what we can do to fix it.” The two staff here had obviously missed that memo and were truculent and defensive. Apparently, it was all our fault for booking through a third party, despite the fact that we had booked most of our accommodation through the same site months in advance and had no problem anywhere else.  It became my responsibility to call the booking company to sort it out – I was grudgingly allowed to use one of the hotel phones when I pointed out that it would cost me a fortune to use a UK mobile. I have nothing but praise for the young lady I spoke to who then spent half an hour talking to one of the staff, and – surprise again! – it turned out they did have a room, although more expensive than the one we’d booked. I don’t know why they couldn’t have found this in the first place: presumably the booking company was inveigled into paying the extra amount. I shan’t name the hotel, but I definitely won’t be using that chain again.

After my blood pressure had returned to normal, we set out to explore Drumheller. They love their dinosaurs. This T Rex is the largest dinosaur in the world, apparently – the one on the right is much smaller, it’s just the perspective making them look similar.

There were also smaller dinosaurs all around town. We even met one in our (nameless) hotel lobby! He arrived every morning to entertain the children, but didn’t seem to mind being photographed with a couple of slightly older visitors.

Drumheller is a former mining area and, if we’d had time, there is a mining trail we could have followed. We did visit one historic mine (which I’ll include in a later post) and stop for reflection at the memorial in town to all those miners killed in the area. A lot of names.

As for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, which we visited on our first full day, it blew us away. It has to be one of the best museums I have ever visited. The layout was so clear that you could easily follow a logical path through it, and the signs had just the right amount of information. And if all you wanted to do was look at dinosaurs (there were many young children who were there to do just that), you could still have a ball.

Why have so many fossils, particularly dinosaurs, been found in Alberta? Apparently, it’s because of the high sedimentation rate in the Late Cretaceous Period which meant that dead animals were buried quickly before they started to decompose, preserving the skeletons intact.

The museum also has a Badlands Interpretive Trail (below) which we spent some time exploring before, mid-afternoon, returning to our hotel to freshen up for our next event at 6pm – the Canadian Badlands Passion Play.

We didn’t know until after we’d decided to visit Drumheller that this was on, but we jumped at the chance to get tickets when we found out. The epic representation of the life of Jesus has been produced every summer since 1994 and, if you live nearby or are likely to visit next July, I strongly recommend it. There are a few professional actors involved, but most are amateurs and they are simply amazing. Photography during the play is not allowed – the first picture below was taken by John beforehand and the other two were supplied to me as part of a set sent to ticket holders after the event, hence the attribution.

The Canadian Badlands Passion Play 2017
The set © Canadian Badlands Passion Play
Cast and crew © Canadian Badlands Passion Play

The site for the play was a few miles out of town and there were hundreds of cars parked, yet the volunteers directing us out were so efficient that we hardly had to queue at all before we were back out onto the main road. An excellent and well-organised event.

On our second day in Drumheller we set out to explore the Badlands further and get some hiking in. More next time!

74 thoughts on “Drumheller

  1. Joanne Sisco October 18, 2017 / 22:00

    That is actually one of my big fears – to arrive at my destination hotel, tired and cranky, then be told there’s been a mistake and I have no room.
    That’s a terrible experience made even worse by the attitude you encountered.

    I’m so glad that Drumheller, in spite of its modest size, and less than warm welcome at the hotel, was still able to wow you.

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 18, 2017 / 23:43

      True – we got over it! One bad incident in three weeks is a good record. In fact in all our years travelling together we’ve only had a few instances of really shocking service. Some of those are still conversation-pieces after 30+ years.

      Like

      • Joanne Sisco October 19, 2017 / 13:09

        Which just reinforces my belief that yesterday’s disaster is today’s really good story 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. susan@onesmallwalk October 18, 2017 / 16:18

    It’s nice you made a success of the visit, despite the greeting. (and I’m happy it didn’t happen in the USA for you, since we seem to be the leader in rude sometimes – selfish, I know, but there it is;) )

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 18, 2017 / 16:58

      Most people we’ve met in US hotels etc have been great, ditto Canada. I was really surprised at this, it was so unusual.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) October 18, 2017 / 15:35

    Ugh, that hotel experience sounds awful. I’ve had similar bad ones with various chains, possibly the same one that your hotel was part of. I’ve never been anywhere near Alberta, but Marcus had to go to Calgary a few years ago for work, so he made a special trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and was really impressed with it, though he was possibly even more impressed with the hoodoos. Personally, I’d be happy just to get a picture of myself riding in that dinosaur’s sidecar!

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 18, 2017 / 16:30

      Maybe the sidecar was a missed opportunity?! There is a picture of me sitting on a bench with my arm round a dinosaur, but it looked too silly so it didn’t go in. Come to think of it though, not as silly as the one of us in the lobby so my judgement is possibly off.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. cassam101 October 18, 2017 / 09:28

    My granddaughters would love those dinosaurs. What bad customer service especially when dealing with people from overseas. The passion play must have been lovely to watch. I read you have trouble commenting on blogs. I’ve had that trouble with blogger blogs for over a year and have tried everything. I now have to comment as anonymous and write my name in comment.

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 18, 2017 / 10:47

      I’m sure they would! There were a lot of children having a great time. That’s strange that you have a problem with Blogger even though that is the platform you use. Same with me and WordPress. However, having decided that I was a spammer yesterday it seems to think I am ok today. So far.

      Like

  5. karen207 October 18, 2017 / 00:16

    The hotel problem would have put a big damper on the entire trip for me. I’m glad you were able to overcome it and enjoy the positives of the region. I love the photo of the dinosaur in the motorcar!

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 18, 2017 / 08:19

      He was definitely cute! Once we knew we actually had somewhere to sleep that night, we were fine. I admit to walking past with my nose firmly in the air when either of these two were on reception though!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jemima Pett October 17, 2017 / 16:49

    Glad it was all sorted out for you, but I hate that sort of thing happening and it really upsets me when it does.
    We have a Dinosaur park near us; I don’t think the dinosaurs were ever real, though. 🙂

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 17, 2017 / 17:51

      It was certainly upsetting at the time! I hope your dinosaurs are not real: too scary….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy October 17, 2017 / 15:02

    This looks like a must-see next time we are out in that part of the world. The dinosaurs look worth the trip alone, and everything else is just double bonus!

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 17, 2017 / 15:12

      We loved the area which I first read about on a blog, so hurrah for bloggers!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sarah Ferguson and Choppy October 17, 2017 / 17:52

        I have found more than a few places thanks to recs from bloggers (even if they aren’t ones I typically follow).

        Like

        • Anabel Marsh October 17, 2017 / 17:54

          Sarah, can you check something for me please? I’ve just commented on several blogs including yours (post about the mouse) and my comments seemed to vanish into thin air! Did the comment come through? If not I have a problem. Thanks.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Anabel Marsh October 17, 2017 / 18:10

              Oh, so all my comments will have gone into people’s spam, how annoying! I wonder why I have suddenly become toxic? I’ll have to figure that one out. Thanks so much for checking.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Sarah Ferguson and Choppy October 17, 2017 / 18:14

                You’re welcome – good luck figuring it out. Your other comment came through. It’s odd that one did and one didn’t.

                Like

                  • Sarah Ferguson and Choppy October 17, 2017 / 18:18

                    Can’t live with it, can’t toss it out the window (because in a few minutes you’ll want it back and it’s expensive to keep replacing things).

                    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ann Coleman October 17, 2017 / 14:51

    That museum looks amazing! I had no idea there were that many dinosaur artifacts in one place. The passions play looks interesting as well. I’m sorry you had such bad luck with your hotel, but glad the rest of your visit was such a good quality that it made up for it.

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 17, 2017 / 15:11

      Yes, I would definitely go back to Drumheller but choose different accommodation! Mind you, it’s not a place with a lot of inns or b&bs which we usually prefer, so the choice was between several chains and we picked unluckily.

      Like

  9. Blue Sky Scotland October 17, 2017 / 01:04

    And Canada is even less well known outside of a few areas :o)

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 17, 2017 / 08:04

      I was about to reply to your last comment that this is Canada and even les well known!

      Like

  10. Blue Sky Scotland October 17, 2017 / 00:58

    I’m another one who hasn’t heard of Drumheller but we hear so little in the UK about outdoor USA attractions in general apart from Yellowstone, Hollywood, Cowboy films, L.A. or forest fire zones that it might as well be on Venus. I still wonder why that is considering that America has such a large influence on our daily lives and culture. Very few programmes about the USA outside of these over done districts and no info at all about anything else that might be of interest. Over a hundred different cities and major towns in the USA as well but we usually see the same 10 or so featured for the last 60 years in films or on the news. Only Louis Theroux or American Pickers let you see a glimpse of that other America.

    Liked by 1 person

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