Canada – highlights from a summer trip
As the advertising leaflets I’m currently receiving in the post inform me, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Canadian Affair flying to Canada – so what better time to reminisce about my own trip to the country? This took place in 2011 and I will always remember Canada warmly as one of the very best countries I’ve visited. My partner and I took a two-and-a-bit week trip to the country, which began with a flight into Calgary, where we would spend two nights before moving onto Banff and then later Vancouver. Here’s five things that struck me about Canada at the time and have stayed with me since.
Sun and ski
Canada’s climate allows it to be perfect for both summer and winter holidaying. During our stay the weather was hot and sunny, although perhaps we were a little fortunate in the way it worked out as a tour guide did inform us that such sustained good weather was unusual, in particular for Vancouver. A proper picturesque spot, Banff is popular with holidaymakers throughout the year, with the difference being that in summer you can admire the stunning views of mountains, whereas in winter you can, if you so desire, go skiing on them.
Friendly and welcoming
It’s a small and simple act but being asked: “Hey how are you?” by locals was a particular feature of our trip to North America. As I generally deal with life from the part of the UK where even being squashed up against somebody’s armpit doesn’t lead to a conversation icebreaker, this easygoing, welcoming approach did take me by surprise. And it seemed the norm in the parts of Canada that we stayed.
Our first couple of nights were spent in a hotel in the business quarter of Calgary. The sight of the skyscrapers were impressive and the sheer heat from the sun bouncing off them helped begin our stay in Canada in fine style. It’s worth taking an afternoon trip to the Calgary Tower and looking down through the glass-bottomed view 191ft metres below.
The Rocky Mountaineer
If you ever get the chance to ride the Rocky Mountaineer train – in the style of Ben Stiller in Starsky and Hutch – DO IT, DO IT! We took the route First Passage to the West route and to say the sights on the way were spectacular would be a clear understatement. The many photographs I took still don’t do the scenery justice so get on that plane and then get on that train! There are three levels of travel – GoldLeaf, SilverLeaf and RedLeaf. It’s awe-inspiring, romantic and a jewel in the country’s crown. Find out more here.
There are many reasons for putting bears on this list, not least because their presence keeps tourists like me on their toes! I forget just how many warnings we received during our Canada stay regarding the need to be: ‘bear aware’. And then there were the many tips (when you go walking, attach a bell to your bag or person which jangles as you move) to keep them at bay, which were both useful and bloody scary! We saw one bear during the journey and it was on a coach – I mean we were on the coach, bear was on the side of the road just chillin’ bear-like, chewing on berries.
Our tour guide told us that if you were outside of your car and you spotted a bear, you wouldn’t even have enough time to open the car door before the bear would be on you.
In hindsight he may have been a complete and utter liar but anyway it’s a frightening thought and a healthy respect for Canada’s natural surroundings is vital for those not used to it.