After a mad dash by Steve to finish decorating the house after the builders had moved out in the Spring (Phil had been working in Blackpool at the time), the three week holiday in Canada was very well-deserved. While the country's winter wonderland reputation may appeal to many, we prefer sunshine to snow and so chose to visit in July.
Our good friend Martin who had moved to Montreal a year or two previously
was there to meet us at the airport. He took us to his magnificent
wood-panelled house not far from the centre of the city which was to be our
base for the first few days of our holiday.
Being at the same latitude as Rome the mid-summer weather in Montreal was scorching, but we managed to cool ourselves off one afternoon riding the rapids on the St. Lawrence river. Other highlights of the stay were visits to 'Vieux Montréal', the Tour de Montréal in the Parc Olympique and the Botanical Gardens.
|At less than five hours, our first train journey west across this vast country was relatively short. Toronto, Canada's commercial capital, proved to be a relaxed city by the side of Lake Ontario. We got a spectacular view from the CN Tower which boasted what at the time was the world's highest observation tower. We also tried to locate where Phil's mum had lived for a few years as a small girl.|
Being only a couple of hours south of Toronto (by train again) Niagara Falls
made an easy day trip. Not content with seeing the falls first from
underneath (thanks to the famous 'Maid of the Mist' boat) and from behind
(via a tunnel), we decided to splash out on a spectacular 10 minute
helicopter ride to see them from above.
|We first took an internal flight from Toronto to Edmonton in Alberta where we picked up a hire car. After an overnight stay in an out of town motel, we drove for several hours north-east along virtually deserted roads towards the small town of Bonnyville. Phil's friends Greg and Siara - who he had met on his trip across Africa over ten years previously - looked after us for a few days in their lovely home a short walk from Moose Lake.|
A full day's drive across Alberta took us to the town of Jasper, situated in
one of several national parks covering the Canadian Rockies. The town was
surrounded by picture postcard perfect mountains and lakes. Especially
beautiful was Lake Maligne where we took a boat trip to Spirit Island.
Also memorable was a trip up the Jasper Tramway cable car which afforded us
spectacular views Jasper and the area all around.
The Icefields Parkway
Leaving Jasper towards the south is a road which is known as one of the most
beautiful in the world, the Icefields Parkway. The reputation was well
deserved, with hours of one stunning vista following another. Lake
Louise was the stuff of a million photos, while at one point a glacier came
right up to the road.
The Icefields Parkway ended in Banff which, like Jasper, is a popular gateway to the Rockies for tourists. For us, it was to be the starting point for the next stage in our journey.
The Rocky Mountain Railroad
|We left our hire car in Banff and, after a night in a hotel, made our way to the station where our seats on the Rocky Mountain Railroad train awaited us. It was to prove a fabulous way of spending two days (including an overnight stop in the town of Kamloops) sitting back in comfort enjoying the mountain scenery.|
|Arriving at the train's terminus in Vancouver on the Pacific coast of Canada, we stayed with Steve's brother and sister-in-law Mick and Wendy and their four kids. One afternoon was spent at a funfair where Steve and Mick did a sort of double bungee jump. For another afternoon, they took us to to downtown Vancouver. Here we explored the city's beaches, and then took a ferry to Granville Island with it's markets and cafes.|
Tofino, Vancouver Island
|We hired another car in Vancouver, and immediately drove it onto the ferry to Vancouver Island. The last few days of our Canadian adventure was spent around the small coastal town of Tofino. The place had a reputation of being laid back, and we were certainly in a relaxed state of mind when we boarded our return flight to London.|
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