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Our Great Canadian Adventure

“Nature is inspiring and intimidating, we are at the mercy of the world around us and my oh my isn’t it magnificent”

Madison Cass, Post Canadian Adventure

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Banff & Yoho National Parks  in The Rocky Mountains 

Where we stayed:

Buffalo Mountain Lodge £/££– We weren’t the biggest fans of this hotel. Whilst the setting was not just idyllic but also ideal in terms of the proximity to the main strip, we felt the rooms were dirty and needed some improvements made. We only stayed 2 nights and as these were two of the most action packed days we were actually very rarely in the hotel.

Cathedral Mountain Lodge £££: How lucky we were to stay at this haven of pure luxury in the woods. Now don’t get me wrong it wasn’t the four seasons and it certainly wasn’t cheap. However, it was thoughtful and intimate without being “kitchy”. Every detail was considerate and perfectly crafted. The food was exceptional and we had our first proper Canadian maple syrup drenched breakfast here.

What we did:

The Rockies are all about exploring, hiking and being awed by the scenery, I had many moments of ‘this can’t be real life’. Now it is important to note that neither me nor my boyfriend are hikers, we do not own hiking boots and we do not camp (unless you count bronze Duke of Edinburgh). So if you are a hard-core explorer this probably isn’t the guide for you. Our first take at a “hike” was through the Johnston Canyon. It is a fairly easy hike with catwalks that are fixed to the limestone cliffs meaning anyone of any age or fitness could partake. We hiked up to both the lower and upper falls and then returned (fairly drenched from the rain), with the entire experience taking under 2 hours.

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Other activities included being awed by the beauty of Emerald lake (tip go as early as you can) and also being slightly disappointed by the tourist and overcrowded nature of Lake Louise. However, we did hike up to one of the viewpoints, away from all the crowds, and that was worth it. Although we feared being attacked by bears on the way up…

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On our second day in the Rockies we traveled up to the Athabasca Glacier along the Icefields Parkway. I have been to many places in my life, but this drive will always stand out. It suddenly dawned on me how vast the natural world truly is, how its beauty can be both breath-taking and daunting at the same time. We were able to go out and walk on the Glacier for 30 minutes and even drink directly from the water flowing through, it doesn’t get fresher than that!

 

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One of the main luxuries of our second hotel was that we received free parking and a complimentary hour canoe ride at Moraine Lake. We followed the advice of our hotel and arrived early, however due to our pass it meant we didn’t have any trouble getting in. They limit the amount of people they allow in which means the lake always stays tranquil. We walked around the lake (took the lower path as a Grizzly and her cubs had been spotted on the higher trail). We then hopped in our canoe and took to the water. You must go here, it will change your view of nature and the world. It was pure beauty.

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Whilst in the Rockies our food highlights:

  • Cathedral Mountain Lodge £££
  • Truffle Pigs Bistro & Lodge £
  • Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar £/££

Kelowna/ Okanagan

Where we stayed:

Hotel Eldorado ££: This quaint hotel sits right on the Okanagan Lake. We chose it because of this location but also the price. The style was quite old fashioned and not to my liking, however for one night I couldn’t fault it.

What we did:

This was very much a stopover for us on the way to Vancouver. The Okanagan valley has been dubbed Canada’s Nappa…now I’m not sure I would go that far, however the climate means a vast amount of wine is produced in this region. So whilst we were there we went to the most luxurious vineyard, Mission Hill. It was an institution and really quite magnificent. We ended up getting a lift back to our hotel from one of the workers who recommended Smack Dab for dinner, where I had the best tuna salad of my life. This was the perfect pit stop however one day was enough.

 

Vancouver

Where we stayed:

Sutton Place Hotel ££: Great location and large room! These are the two things about this hotel that are important. Negative we were under the assumption parking would be included however there was quite a large additional cost…

What we did:

Some of our highlights included renting bikes and riding around Stanley Park along the seawall. Visiting Granville Island and indulging in treats at the market, we also liked that we had to take a sea taxi to get there. Our biggest accomplishment was completing the Grouse Grind – essential hiking up the side of a mountain. This is a true Vancouvian experience and as long as you have a good level of fitness, I highly advise you do this. What stood out to me about Vancouver was the amazing Asian influence on the food and culture. We had one of the best Japanese meals of our lives here and to be honest I would go back to the city for the food alone!

 

Where we ate:

  • Gu Garlic  – Japanese Restaurant (MUST GO)£/££
  • Ritual – Brunch/ Lunch £/££
  • Tacofina – Funky Mexican food in the heart of Gastown £/££
  • Dynasty Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum) ££
  • Jun Sushi – Kitsilano £

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Vancouver Island

Where we stayed:

Oak Bay Beach Hotel ££/£££:

Oak bay is a seaside community just outside of Victoria with what I suppose Canadian’s would call a very British heritage. Being slightly removed from Victoria was a blessing, it was a true quaint beach town right on the water. The hotel was great and our room was exceptionally large. I suppose one downside would be that this seems to be a popular spot for weddings so keep that in mind.

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What we did:

This part of our trip was very much about relaxing and recharging our batteries and what a beautiful part of the world to do it. Our hotel boasted an array of mineral pools on the sea front where we spent time relaxing. The main highlight was the sunset Whale Watching Tour, I could do this over and over again for the rest of my life. We had a moment when our boat was surrounded by 10/15 Blue Whales, once again the force and power of nature fully took me.

Where we ate:

  • Nubo Japanese Tapas
  • Olo – Farm to Fork
  • Canoe Brewpub

 

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Toronto

Where we stayed:

Fairmont Royal York: I am going to be honest this hotel is an institution with heritage and history and many would call it a landmark. However, I would never ever return. In the hotel’s defense we booked the cheapest room so I mean I am sure their luxury suites are very desirable. However, our room looked as if it hadn’t been touched since the 1940’s, the only positive was that our Air Conditioning was broken so I got us moved into a better room.

What we did:

We only had 48hrs in Toronto, which honestly is not enough but we packed a lot in. I think if you were to visit my number one thing would be to visit the Distillery District, it seems to be a cultural buzzy part of the city. We had a great Mexican lunch there and my only souvenir of the whole trip was bought in one of the cute boutique shops. Other areas to explore include Kensington Market (not a market at all – think grungy Shoreditch) and also St Lawrence Food Market. On our final day we booked ourselves onto a tour of Niagara Falls, the falls were mind-blowing but the tour itself was lack luster and disappointing.

Where we ate:

  • Elcatrin Destilleria ( Lunch)
  • Figo

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