Toronto – The perfect holiday destination.

Toronto is not a city where the tourist has an exhaustive itinerary.

It is more of a city that grows on you slowly – the traveller is seduced by its summer festivals, markets, boardwalks and food, rather than engaged in a breathless stomp around endless cultural attractions.

Toronto makes a great holiday destination from the UK.
Toronto makes a great holiday destination from the UK.

Situated reassuringly near to Niagra Falls, it is untrue to say that Toronto has no ‘wow’ factor, although the city has a reputation as a clean, safe metropolis.

Toronto is also one of the great ethnic melting pots of the world: its many immigrants have meant that the city is in constant cultural flux.

Toronto sits in the Great Lakes region of Canada, on the shores of Lake Ontario. The downtown area has a distinctively heteroclite aspect: at once bohemian, ethnic and historic.

The Harbourfront area, the CN Tower and the SkyDome, Toronto’s vast sports arena are the features on Toronto’s wannabe New York skyline.

There is a proper Chinatown (not just a row of vaguely Oriental eateries a la London) starting along Dundas Street.

Just north of Chinatown is a bustling university area and to the west, Little Italy and The Annex.

To the east of downtown lies Cabbagetown, a gentrified neighbourhood that retains some Irish immigrant character.

This ethnic diversity compensates for the paucity of world-class museums and restaurants.

With a wide range of flights to Toronto from UK airports it’s easy to reach Toronto, even just for a sjort break.

Discover the Beauty of Nelson, BC

Our guest blogger is Connie Motz, a freelance travel writer, living in British Columbia, Canada.

Many visitors to British Columbia (BC) make it only as far as Vancouver or Victoria with only a few venturing into the beautiful area known as the West Kootenay. In fact, if you ask a Vancouverite where the West Kootenay is, chances are they won’t have a clue.

But Nelson likes it that way. Located in the southern interior just 1.5 hours north of the US international border, the quaint town of Nelson is one of the highlights of the area. While some may call it quirky, Nelson buzzes along happily to the beat of it’s own drum.

Sandwiched between the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains on the edge of Kootenay Lake, Nelson is a trendy little town of just under 10,000 residents. It’s a popular summer destination for boating, year round fishing for species like Kokanee trout, hiking, skiing and snowboarding at Whitewater, and is a frequent stop for the Vancouver live music circuit.

What makes Nelson truly unique is it’s striking display of Victorian era heritage homes spread amongst the hillside and it’s fun loving population of hippies. There’s a free & easy vibe to Nelson that comes complete with dreadlocks, 70’s clothing, organic locally sourced food and distinctive restaurants like the garlic-themed Outer Clove or Max & Irma’s set in a former funeral home. Be sure to try local micro-brews like Nelson After Dark and Faceplant.

Besides people watching on Baker Street, Nelson offers a nice selection of shops (vibrant arts & crafts including handmade jewelry, vintage clothing, galleries); family friendly areas like Rotary Lakeside Park; a restored streetcar from the 1920’s, and fun productions at the Capitol Theatre. Commercial wise, Nelson has vetoed McDonalds and Tim Horton’s (one of the largest doughnut/coffee shop chains in Canada) but they did reluctantly give way to Walmart though many still boycott them today.

And speaking of people, Nelson offers some of the most friendly, sincere people around. With names like Namaste and Moon, it’s easy to realize there’s something to the trend of not being so materialistic in our day-to-day lives. Reuse and recycle is a common theme in Nelson households.

Nature lovers praise Nelson for it’s abundance of outdoor activities – golfing, mountain biking, rock climbing and ATVing (All Terrain Vehicles) are just a few examples of the fun to be had. Nearby 32,035-hectare Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park gives way to glacial fed lakes, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, camping and picnicking. Be sure not to miss the photo ops while taking the world’s longest free ferry ride across Kootenay Lake.

If you want to experience what life is really like in BC, head into the West Kootenay for a down-to-earth experience you’ll be recommending to your friends!

For more information on the multi-cultural hub of Nelson, visit Discover Nelson and HelloBC.

Map – Discover Nelson

Our Guest Blogger, Connie Motz, is the author of Travel Writer travel blog. She’s been published in U.S. periodicals, Canadian newspapers, as well as online.

 

Canadian Houseboat Holiday on Shuswap Lake, BC, Canada

Our guest blogger is Connie Motz, a freelance travel writer, living in British Columbia, Canada.

When the crimson and gold leaves are falling in southern British Columbia, it can only mean one thing – ski season is just around the corner!  But there’s still plenty of time for some great fall hiking, cycling or whatever floats your boat. 

 And in fact, this is the perfect time of year for houseboating on Shuswap Lake in BC’s North Okanagan area.  Why?  Because the majority of tourists have gone home so you’ll have the lake to yourself, the fall weather is great, and the prices are down, down, down!

 The beginning of September to the end of October is the traditional low season for houseboating in BC where visitors can save up to 55% off peak season prices (June through August).  While a weeklong summer houseboat rental could cost £2,010, you get one in the fall for as low as £1,131.

 Like a floating hotel with all the amenities, a typical houseboat can range from a comfortable 90 h.p. cruiser for 4 passengers up to a mega party boat for 24 (£4,730 low season/£8,731 high season).  While it might seem like a steep price to pay, it works out to be as little as £197 per person for a one-week stay!  Think family reunion while inviting your Canadian cousins – houseboating is truly an affordable Canadian vacation option.

 All houseboats come complete with sleeping cabins, full galley kitchens, dining area, and a rooftop deck for sun bathing.  The larger three-deck houseboats also offer an outdoor barbeque area, fireplace, hot tub with swim up bar, diving board, and a waterslide so you can enjoy the warm Shuswap Lake waters.

 There are more than 30 marine parks where you can safely dock your houseboat for the night as anchoring is not allowed on the lake; the water is just too deep to be safe, up to 267 metres!  Once onshore, you’re back to enjoying beautiful fall hiking, biking, picnicking and more.  Don’t forget your camera as there will be plenty of wildlife viewing and photo-ops along the way.  It’s no wonder houseboating is one of BC’s most popular vacation pastimes!

Photo of beautiful Shuswap Lake is by Alex Ristea

Our Guest Blogger, Connie Motz, is the author of Travel Writer travel blog. She’s been published in U.S. periodicals, Canadian newspapers, as well as online.

 

Vancouver and rail trip across Canada – Holiday Review

In 2011, my best friend and I decided to fulfil our dream of travelling across Canada. After much thought and research we decided to fly to Vancouver first, spend a few days exploring before heading to Victoria on Vancouver Island and then catching the Rocky Mountaineer train through the Rockies to Banff. Afterwards we organised to fly from Calgary over to Nova Scotia, catch a train to Quebec City and finish our journey in Montreal. We wanted to see as much as possible in the three weeks we had, so to save searching for accommodation on arrival, we pre-booked all the hotels and transport before hand to save us time.

It was the end of May and we boarded our fight from London Gatwick to Vancouver. The flight was comfortable and we had the middle 4 seats of the row to ourselves. The touchdown in Calgary added an extra few hours to our flight time, which we could have quite happily done without and arrived in Vancouver pretty exhausted. There is a regular bus service from the airport to all the major downtown hotels and we got dropped off directly outside our home for the next 4 days, ‘The Pacific Pallisades’. The hotel was in the heart of downtown Vancouver, on Robson Street and was a great way to start our holiday. Our room was huge and the hotel had only opened 6 months beforehand and so was newly renovated and modern. We chose this hotel as the rooms had a kitchenette and we thought we would save a bit of our cash by making our own breakfast and lunches.

The night we arrived we went for a long walk and stopped at a 7-11 convenience store to pick up some cereal and milk for breakfast the next day. We set the alarm to get up early, to make the most of our first day. As I was getting the cereal ready we realised that our kitchen did not have any bowls, but did have large coffee mugs, so my first entertaining memory of our holiday was eating Special-K out of a mug in a very smart hotel room!

I fell in love with Vancouver the first time I walked down the street during the day. You are closely surrounded by all the snow capped Costal Mountains and it’s stunning. There is so much to do and see in Vancouver. I recommend ‘Bridges Restaurant’ on Granville Island, an amazing seafood place that serves a wide variety of different cuisine right on the dockside. The market on Granville Island is interesting to explore and whilst you are there you can see all types of street artists, a bit like Covent Garden. There is a ferry service to take you to North Vancouver and we took a tour to Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain (wouldn’t recommend for those suffering from vertigo) It actually snowed when we were at the Mountain and the views over Vancouver are fantastic – don’t forget your camera.

The best (and cheapest) way to get to Victoria from Vancouver is on the ‘Greyhound’ bus, which takes around 3 1/2 hrs from start to finish. We stayed at the Dominion Hotel, which has since been renovated, but was one of the worst hotels I’ve ever stayed in. It was in the ‘dodgy’ area of Victoria between Douglas and Yates St. and our room resembled something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The weather was great and we were only spending 2 nights there so we didn’t plan on spending too much time in the room anyway. Victoria has a very colonial feel; you will see red double decker buses, tea-shops and gardens. It is a great city for fresh seafood and for wondering around the shops. I spent the evenings sitting on the docks, watching the sunset and listening to the local buskers. There is the National Museum, great for a rainy day, and gives you a well-rounded perspective of real Canadian History.

Back to Vancouver for 1 night at the Comfort Inn before boarding the train at 6am. The Rocky Mountaineer is really the best way to see the Rocky Mountains as it takes a route that isn’t possible by road. Continue reading “Vancouver and rail trip across Canada – Holiday Review”

Wining & Dining in the Okanagan

You know it has to be good when they have an official handbook including a directory and regional maps.  Add to this rolling hills of green, sparkling lakes and some of the best wines in all of Canada, and you’ve got the southern area of British Columbia known as the Okanagan.

 With lakes and streams perfect for fishing, swimming and seemingly endless watersports, the Okanagan is a popular summertime destination for many British Columbians.  They come to enjoy just picked cherries, juicy peaches, luscious raspberries and of course, a variety of wines harvested from those famous Okanagan grapes accompanied by world-class five star restaurant experiences.

 Running from Osoyoos (just minutes from the Canada U.S. border) in the south to 150 miles north at Salmon Arm, the Okanagan Wine Route provides some of the province’s most diverse landscape with opportunities for wildlife viewing along the way.  Showcasing more than 200 wineries ranging from small mom & pop operations offering treats like blueberry and blackberry wines up to full-scale facilities producing world class Malbec, the Okanagan Wine Route is truly the perfect destination for any wine connoisseur.

 Also known as Okanagan Wine Country, the area produces principal varieties including Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Whites: Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.  Ice Wine is another favorite of Canadians; picked during freezing temperatures in the middle of the night, these grapes produce an intense sweet delicacy with limited production varying from year to year.

 Plan your Okanagan visit around one of their three annual celebrations – the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival in May, Summer Okanagan Wine Festival in July, or the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival held every September/October.  These five to ten day events encompass outdoor barbecues, concerts and parties while showcasing the area’s best wine and delicious regional cuisines. 

 Don’t forget to pamper yourself with a few bottles to take home – it’s totally affordable as the average price for a 750 ML bottle of award-winning British Columbia wine is about CAD $18.  If you’re thinking of renting a car and meandering along the Okanagan Wine Route tasting as you go, it’s important to note that British Columbia enforces strict drinking & driving laws so be sure to follow proper wine etiquette – spit, don’t swallow.  Better yet, sign up for a wine tour and leave the driving to someone else.

Our Guest Blogger, Connie Motz, is the author of Travel Writer travel blog. She’s been published in U.S. periodicals, Canadian newspapers, as well as online.

Note about the image in this article

Canola blooms on ranchland in the Richter Pass in the south Okanagan. Chopaka Mountain in Washington State rises in the background. British Columbia, Canada.
 
Image is copyright. Please do not copy

Rocky Mountaineer Railtours Provides Unexpected Challenge

While offering some of the most breathtaking views found in all of British Columbia and Alberta, a trip onboard the Rocky Mountaineer promises spectacular holiday memories that will last a lifetime.  But the popular Rocky Mountaineer trip also comes with something quite unexpected for most passengers during the 2012 season – the chance to cross a picket line.

 The initial disagreement between employees and Rocky Mountaineer Railtours (RMR) occurred on June 22, 2011, when RMR locked out more than 100 train attendants due to unsuccessful contract negotiations.  RMR has chosen not to provide this information upfront to their passengers resulting in a very surprising shock when union-supporting holidaymakers arrive at the Cottrell Street terminal in Vancouver.

 While the ‘Rocky Mountaineer Train’ continues to receive top-notch reviews on TripAdvisor, it doesn’t diminish the act of crossing a union picket line for many unsuspecting visitors.  RMR has adopted somewhat of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy when it comes to it’s passengers during this strike period – there is no noticeable mention or warning about the current strike situation on their website.

 RMR spokeperson, Ian Roberston, has advised that holidaymakers choosing not to cross the picket line will have their payment credited to another departure during the 2012 or 2013 season.  Robertson went on to say that passengers choosing to travel during the strike “can be assured that they will receive the same, if not better service, than they received in the past.”

 If you’re scheduled on a Rocky Mountaineer Railtour this summer and don’t want to face crossing a picket line, start the rescheduling process as soon as possible by contacting your travel agent or RMR directly at their toll-free telephone number available from the U.K., 00-800-0606-7372.

Our Guest Blogger, Connie Motz, is the author of Travel Writer travel blog. She’s been published in U.S. periodicals, Canadian newspapers, as well as online.

Rocky Mountaineer Update – 24 September 2012

The strike has been called off on 10 September 2012.

Just one thing to do before you die!

Have you read the book “50 things to do before you die”? Did you look through and think to yourself that it would be nice to do just one or two of those things? The BBC even did a TV program with their slant on the subject. You can even buy a book called “501 things to do before you die” and “501 places to see before you die”. 50 things was tough enough but getting around to seeing 501 is going to need two lifetimes! I even bought a book called “501 cities you must visit”. At this rate I’m going to be travelling the world for a very long time!

When I flick through these books I try to rank them in order of preference. Where should I go to first? It’s a really tough decision because there are so many wonderful places to visit.

I think I have now decided which is the first on my list of exceptional places to visit before I die. This trip has twice been Voted Best Attraction by the North American Travel Journalists Association. It was the Winner of the 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 World Travel Award as “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train”, as judged by 170,000 travel agents worldwide.

This trip appears in books like “Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the Worlds Greatest Trips”, National Geographic. It has been voted many times as “one of the great train rides in the world”, and of course train journey enthusiasts vote for this trip as the best in the world year after year.

What is this journey of a lifetime? It’s a train journey on The Rocky Mountaineer!

This amazing train journey takes you through some of the best mountain scenery in the world. You are taken over amazing bridges over the most fantastic raging rivers and you see all this from a train carriage that has a panoramic view from its see-through dome.

The Rocky Mountains in Canada is where this incredible train journey takes place. The journey appears in all the books with suggestions about what we all need to do before our time is up. I have just decided that the Rocky Mountaineer train journey is high up on my list of things I need to do and it’s not as expensive as I thought!

Take a look at The Rocky Mountaineer holiday experience we can book for you.

Is this the Best City in North America?

Vancouver, BC – Global Holidays

Voted to be the ‘Best City in the Americas’ by readers of Conde Nast Traveler, Vancouver, BC, Canada, is a vibrant city that truly offers something for everyone. And one of the most beautiful times to visit Vancouver is the spring when the blossoms are in bloom and you can you ski the slopes in the morning and still play a round of golf after lunch.

To come away with the quintessential Vancouver experience, you have to become one with the natural vibe of the laid back Pacific Northwest. This includes enjoying Vancouver’s delicious food offerings, striking natural beauty, and of course, the Pacific Ocean.

One of the top attractions for visitors (over 8 million annually) and locals alike is downtown Vancouver’s Stanley Park. As Canada’s second largest park, Stanley Park is a showcase of the province nestled in between English Bay and Coal Harbour. Locals run the 12km route around the Vancouver Seawall while everyone marvels at the wildlife, authentic carved Native Indian totem poles, and the abundance of huge Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and Red Cedar trees dating back between 600 to 800 years in age.

Stanley Park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium, the largest one in all of Canada. This non-profit organization has been welcoming visitors for over 50 years to view the wonders of the ocean through the 70,000 creatures on display. Highlights not to be missed include the Beluga whales, dolphin show, and viewing the otters up close and personal but especially at feeding time.

The great outdoors are also showcased at the daring Capilano Suspension Bridge where visitors can immerse themselves in nature by crossing the 70m high bridge that spans 137m across the Capilano River. In case that’s not daring enough, Capilano Suspension Bridge has just introduced their newest attraction, Cliffwalk, which allows visitors to follow glass-bottomed walkways jutting out from the cliff sides as if they were suspended in air.

When it comes to eating, Vancouver is a literal smorgasbord of the world. One of the most interesting places to explore are the mom & pop authentic restaurants and foods to be found in historic Chinatown. Second only to San Francisco in size, Chinatown can easily be explored on foot while taking in highlights like They Han Dynasty Bell, Chinese Cultural Centre, and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Gardens.

As the birthplace of Vancouver, the Gastown area dates back to the 1860’s. Once a derelict area snubbed by most, today Gastown is a vibrant culmination of shops, Native Indian art galleries, and restaurants spread out along the original cobblestone streets. Visitors enjoy strolling and taking photos of the Gassy Jack statue, the prospector for which Gastown is named, and waiting for the world’s only steam clock to emit it’s vapors to capture that perfect Vancouver photo souvenir.

Fast Facts About Vancouver:
Population 578, 9696 (metro Vancouver 2.2 million)
Location: south western British Columbia, Canada
Currency: Canadian Dollar
Temperature: average in January 3°C and 21° in July
U.K. Citizens Entry Requirements: valid Passport; no Visa required if staying under 6 months

Our Guest Blogger, Connie Motz, is the author of Travel Writer travel blog. She’s been published in U.S. periodicals, Canadian newspapers, as well as online. Follow her on Twitter or view Travel Writer at http://conniemotz.blogspot.com/

Canadian Rockies by Train Escorted Tour

 C A N A D I A N  R O C K I E S  B Y  T R A I N

Travelling by train across the Canadian Rockies must be one of the most spectacular train rides in the World. This escorted tour is in our opinion one of the seven wonders of the holiday world !

You will visit -BRITISH COLUMBIA • VANCOUVER • BUTCHART GARDENS • VICTORIA • VIA RAIL’S ‘THE CANADIAN’ • JASPER • COLUMBIA ICEFIELDS • LAKE LOUISE • BANFF • CALGARY

What you see• Enjoy an overnight journey aboard ‘The Canadian’ byVIA Rail viewing coastal forests, roaring river canyons and the snowcappedpeaks of the Canadian Rockies. • See the glistening glaciers of the Albreda Icefields and Mount. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.• Stand on the amazing 1,000 foot/305 metres thickAthabasca Glacier during an exciting excursion at the Columbia Icefields.• Overnight at the magnificent Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, properly nicknamed the ‘Castle in the Mountains’. 

YOUR CANADIAN ROCKIES BY TRAIN ITINERARY 

Day 1: ARRIVE VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIAJoin Global Holidays Holidays for a remarkable journey through Alpine vistas, stunning landscapes, charming towns and beautiful lakes. Explore the beautiful Canadian Rockies by train. Your adventure begins in Vancouver.

Day 2: VANCOUVER – VICTORIA – VANCOUVEREarly this morning you depart for the ferry ride to Victoria Island where you visit lovely Butchart Gardens, created on the site of an old quarry. The gardens are among the world’s most beautiful and are a veritable explosion of colour and frangrances.Next, take a short sightseeing tour of the ‘City of Gardens’,Victoria, and have some leisure time to explore this lovely seaside city. This evening you journey back to the mainland via a short ferry ride. 

Day 3: VANCOUVER – VIA RAIL’S ‘THE CANADIAN’Enjoy a memorable breakfast at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, taking in the fascinating sight of people ‘walking on reetops’,making their way across the swaying planks. A sightseeing tour of Vancouver begins at beautiful Stanley Park, Canada’s renowned urban rainforest, and continues to Chinatown, the city’s waterfront, and Gastown, a turn-of-the-century centre comprised of pubs, art galleries, boutiques and the world-famous steam-powered clock, perhaps the most photographed subject in all of Vancouver. This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant before boarding VIA Rail’s ‘The Canadian’ to begin your journey to the majestic Canadian Rockies. Relive train travel in the days of old as you are rocked to sleep tonight in your private accommodations. Today breakfast and dinner will be included.

Day 4: VIA RAIL’S ‘THE CANADIAN’ – JASPER, ALBERTAEnjoy a lovely hot breakfast in the dining car as your eastbound train whisks you past the peaks of the Monashee Mountains and the stunning sight of Pyramid Falls cascading down Mount Cheadle. Relax in the Dome car as you experience 360-degree views of the glistening glaciers of the Albreda Icefields and on a clear day, view Mount Robson, the highest peak of the Rockies. Moose, mountain goats, bear and caribou call this wonderland home. This afternoon, arrive in Jasper, nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies at the gateway to the incredible Icefields Parkway. Settle into Fairmont’s Jasper Park Lodge for a relaxing two night stay. Today breakfast, lunch and dinner will be included.

Day 5: JASPERBegin your day with a trip to the dramatic Maligne Canyon, one of Jasper’s most spectacular landmarks. Later, behold the picture-perfect sparkling waters of Maligne Lake, the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies, where you can embark on an optional cruise highlighting the beauty of Spirit Island. Return to Jasper with leisure time to explore this lovely town.Today breakfast will be included.

Day 6: JASPER – ICEFIELDS PARKWAY – LAKE LOUISESet off for a wonderful day of sightseeing en route to Lake Louise. Journey along the unforgettable Icefields Parkway. Waterfalls, rushing rivers, glacial peaks, imposing cliffs and snow-capped peaks paint the breathtaking canvas so have your camera handy.Enjoy a stop at the Athabasca Falls and marvel at its sheer beauty and power. At the Columbia Icefields, enjoy a fun ride* across a mass of glacial ice over 1,000 feet/305 metres thick, the largest accumulation of ice south of the Arctic Circle. Continuing down the parkway be on the lookout for bears, furry marmots and stately elk. Enjoy a stop at Peyto Lake, a turquoise glacier-fed lake that evokes pure serenity, before arriving in Lake Louise. Enjoy a stay at the world-famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.Today breakfast and dinner will be included.

Day 7: LAKE LOUISE – BANFF Jagged Ten Peaks are distinctively saw-toothed, standing out amidst stunning Alpine scenery. Arrive in charming Banff and visit a local ammonite specialist to learn about this rare gemstone found only in Alberta. Arrive at the grand Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, known as the ‘Castle in the Mountains’, for a luxurious two night stay. Today breakfast and dinner will be included.

Day 8: BANFFSet off for a scenic drive through Banff featuring the powerful Bow Falls and impressive Hoodoos, known as the ‘Land of the Sleeping Giants’. During an afternoon at leisure, perhaps you will take a stroll through Banff’s delightful downtown.Today breakfast will be included.

Day 9: BANFF – CALGARYHead to the cosmopolitan city of Calgary for the final stop on your scenic adventure. Tonight, join your new friends during a special farewell dinner at a popular local restaurant.Today breakfast and dinner will be included.

Day 10: CALGARY – DEPART FOR HOME

Day 11: ARRIVE U.K. Included in this Canadian Rockies By Train Escorted Tour:11 DAYS, 13

 MEALS:7 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 5 Dinners

PRICES FROM ONLY £2469Prices are in £’s per person and are based on 2 adults sharing a twin/double room departing from London Heathrow with Air Canada. Regional Flight Departures are available.

CALL GLOBAL HOLIDAYS FOR YOUR CANADIAN ROCKIES ESCORTED TRAIN TOUR FREE  ON 0800 433 2300