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”