A-Z Travels: R is for Rocky Mountains: Winter V Summer

When you think of Canada you think of the Rocky Mountains, the outstanding mountain range is the crowning jewel of Canada. Even before arriving in the country I knew that I wanted to explore the snowy capped mountains and crystal clear turquoise lakes. Therefore, we started our two-year adventure in Calgary. The city has all the advantages of the city, but you can still get to the mountains within an hour.

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Rocky Mountain Facts

The Rocky Mountains stretch through the Canadian Provinces of British Columbia and Alberta and the US states of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.

Most of the mountain range has been protected by National Park status which make them popular for hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding.

The Rockies are home to an abundance of wildlife such as bears, moose, elk, deer and bison.

The range stretches over 3000 miles.

Matt and I have been fortunate enough to experience the Rockies through a variety of seasons. We arrived in winter and were able to make several day trips to Kananaskis Country before completing a road-trip through Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper during spring. It was during this time that we fell in love with the area. The sound of nothing but snow crunching beneath your feet as you walk through a forest of snow covered trees to a frozen lake or waterfall is truly one the best feelings.

Barrier Lake (17).jpg

Even after venturing through British Columbia and over to the Maritimes the  Albertan Rockies have always been calling. Luckily, Matt and I, have been able to return to Calgary for the summer where we will be able to explore the mountain range through to autumn/fall.

We are trying to get back to the places we visited before to be able to see the difference between now and then. Between frozen and snowy and hot and green! The palette of Calgary during our first stay was white, grey and brown but now it is so green it hardly looks like the same place.

So, this week I’d thought I’d share a few now and then pictures for some of the locations we’ve managed to revisit already.

Johnston Canyon

This was one of my favourite hikes during Spring as the waterfalls were spectacular when frozen. However, it was super icy and if you do head there during winter/spring I would recommend ice cleats and poles.

During summer the trail is incredibly busy. Matt and I hit the trail mid-week before 10am and we only just managed to get a parking space in the overflow parking lot. It was crazy. Due to this the trail was slightly less enjoyable. In parts it can be quite narrow and with lots of people fighting to get through it can take a bit of time. There were even line ups to view the waterfalls!

However, it was still a great trail. This time around I didn’t slip on ice which I was grateful for as there would have been far more witnesses this time around. We were also able to extend our hike up to the Ink Pots to make it an 11km roundtrip.

Morants Curve

Not a hiking trail but a great roadside spot for a beautiful picture. If you pull over just once on the Bow Valley Parkway, then this is the spot to do it. You’ll get a snap of a quintessential rocky mountain scene of mountains, railways and blue waters. Just look at how GREEN it is!!!

Canmore

The town of Canmore is one of the first places you’ll get to on your way out of the city and it is beautiful. We passed through on our first trip but managed to hike the stunning Grassi Lakes and hope to attempt one of the Three Sisters peaks before we leave.

Drumheller

Whilst Drumheller is not in the Rocky Mountains I thought I’d include it in the now and then section as when we first visited we were in near white out conditions and when we returned last week it was outrageously hot!

 

When is best to visit?

Maybe controversially Matt and I both commented that we were glad to have visited during the winter and spring. Unsurprisingly, the Rockies are busy during the peak summer months. But for both of us this did take away from the experience a little bit. Not only was it more crowded but we found ourselves becoming infuriated by the naivety of fellow visitors. For instance, we saw at least five people actively following a bear cub. If it’s a cub there is going to to be Momma bear not too far away and I am not up for that fight! Another time we saw people climbing over the wet rocks at the top of a waterfall. This just days after three hikers died doing the same thing in British Columbia. Whilst we are going to continue to explore the area we will be rising early to avoid the crowds!

However, no matter how many people are there, the mountains are still the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. You have to weigh up your options and see what is best for you. If you don’t like crowds but don’t like minus temperatures I’d recommend Spring. If you love winter sports than head there when the snow is plentiful.

For more tips of travelling the Rockies check out:

Top tips for Spring travel

Banff: When should I visit?

Thank you again for joining me for A-Z Travels. The next instalment will be in two weeks’ time and will be S for Sports. Happy Travels 🙂

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A-Z Travels: Q is for Quebec City: City Guide

Like New York, New York, the capital of province Quebec is Quebec City. However, the city is very different from New York. Quebec has a charming European feel as you stroll around cobblestone streets inside the fortified city walls. It’s almost as if you’ve hopped on a plane and landed in France. The buildings, language and food all have a heavy French influence and its super fun to explore.

In a nutshell the French influence is nestled in its history. French explorers landed in the area in the 1500’s but were unable to survive the winter. (Canadian winters can be tough!) The city was later founded by another French explorer in 1608, Samuel de Champlain. Champlain set up a trading post alongside the St. Lawrence river and the city has been growing ever since.

You can explore the interesting city in many ways so here is my city guide to the beautiful Quebec City.

Fact File:

Currency: Canadian Dollar            Population: 538,200 (2014)

Language: French.

Everyone will speak to you in French first, all signs etc are in French but people are more than happy (or seemed to be!) to switch to English.

Typical weather:

Month High °C Low °C
January -7 -16
February -1 -14
March 1 -8
April 9 0
May 18 6
June 22 11
July 25 14
August 24 13
September 19 9
October 11 3
November 4 -3
December -3 -11

How to get there:

Quebec City has an international airport which makes is accessible from all over the world. The Jean Lesage International airport is about a 25-minute drive away from the city centre. A taxi is going to cost around $35 CAD from the airport to downtown. Alternatively, you can get the number 78 bus for $3.50 CAD (a day pass is $8.50)

Quebec City Map.png

How to get around:

This is not a city I would recommend driving around. Like any big city it is going to be busy on the roads. However, combine that with tiny one-way streets and it can be difficult. We had to squeeze our big Dodge van into the tiniest parking space and it was not easy… I ended up having to climb out of the opposite side of the car!

Fortunately, it’s a great walking city. The streets are so pretty that walking is one of the best ways to see the beautiful architecture, you can take in the city walls, river and much more easily by foot so pack some comfy shoes.

If you get tired of walking, you can use the local transit, Reseau de transporte la capitale (RTC). A single fare is $3.50, day pass is $8.50. If you are staying for the weekend you can get an unlimited weekend pass (starting at 5.30 on Friday) for $15.50. For a longer stay in the city you can obtain a five-day pass for $29 (all prices in CAD)

What to do:

Visit Chateau du Frontenac

Hotel Chateau du Frontenac is the ultimate example of chateau-style hotel built by the Canadian railway companies across Canada. It provides a great starting point as it is next to the river, citadel and funicular down to Petit Champlain. For most people a night in the hotel is out of budget but you can admire the architecture by walking around the perimeter.

Top tip: visit at sunset for great views

Explore Old Quebec

Old Quebec is a historic neighbourhood in the city comprised of Upper Town and Lower Town. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage site where you feel like you’ve been transported to Belle’s provincial life in France. You can spend hours strolling around the cobble stoned streets.

Ride the Funicular to Petit Champlain

To get to the Petit Champlain district you can either walk the steps or ride the Funicular. I would recommend walking down and riding the funicular back up, Matt and I did it the other way around and were a little out of breath by the time we made it to the top!

It’s well worth visiting as you can explore its unique boutiques and cafes. The neighbourhood is also home to the city’s first port and some of the first houses built in Quebec.

Visit the Parliament Buildings

As you know I’m a fan of visiting legislative buildings (read why you should too here.) The top tip here is to get there early as tours book up quickly and are done on a first com first served basis. Because of this we missed out on touring the building. However, the grounds themselves are nice to walk around and there are some great statues with informative boards to peruse.

Walk the city walls

The Ramparts in Quebec are the only remaining fortified walls in North America north of Mexico. Surrounding most of Old Quebec it is an integral part of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. There are four remaining gates to explore and spans over 4.6 kilometres. Plus it’s a totally free activity.

Where to eat:

Le Chic Shack

A top-notch burger option here! I was amazed at the reasonable price of the meal considering the restaurants location, burgers on average were $12 CAD. Matt and I sat out on the patio with views of the Chateau Frontenac whilst eating juicy patties on a sunny afternoon.

In addition to yummy burgers the Chic Shack also has great drink options. Matt enjoyed beer from local microbrewery, Archibald, while I enjoyed their home-made sodas, made with real fruit purees.

Café Boulangerie Palliard

I cannot resist pastries… particularly French pastries.  With four locations across the city there is no excuse not to indulge in a buttery croissant. The bakery combines the talents of French artisans with the ‘American’ experience of it owner, Yves Simmard.

Restaurant Le Comptoir

This place was super sweet and informal. It reminded me of European restaurants in its layout and relaxed vibe. After a long journey we were able to enjoy a great smoked meat sandwich and local beer. The waiter was really kind and let me take a copy of the menu, so I could practice my French.

Day Trip from Quebec City:

If you have the opportunity then head out to Montmorency Falls. The falls are just outside the city and are a sight to be seen. Standing at 83m tall they are 30m higher than Niagara Falls. We visited in spring and there was a large amount of water flowing making it even more interesting to see.  However, this did mean the stairs all the way to the bottom were not open.  You still got a great view by following the steps about 3/4 of the way down. But you will get wet with spray!

You can either drive and park at the site (around$10 CAD but includes entrance fee)  or get the bus from downtown.

Have you ever been to this wonderful city? What was your favourite thing to do ?

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you enjoyed my guide please give it a little like or share. Next week will be R for the Rocky Mountains. Happy Travels 🙂

 

A-Z Travels: P is for Provinces: How Well Do You Know The Canadian Provinces? QUIZ!

It is a common mistake to call the provinces of Canada, states. Unlike its American neighbour which is comprised of fifty states, Canada is made up of provinces and territories. I’ve learnt so much about the geography of this massive country on my travels so thought I’d share so of it with you. I’m not going to lie I didn’t even know how many provinces there were before my plane touched down 18 months ago!

I’m won’t give too much away in terms of facts as this week I’m presenting you with my first ever quiz. I’m quite proud as its my first attempt at coding, whilst its a simple quiz for me its a huge achievement. So , test out your geography and take my Canadian Province and Territories quiz! Don’t forget to let me know your score in the comments!


How many Provinces and Territories are there in Canada?
13
Correct!! Canada has ten provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador and three territories, Yukon, North West Territories and Nunavut.
50
Wrong.. but the USA does have 50 states
10
Wrong… you forgot the territories
Which three Provinces make up the Maritimes?
Nova Scotia, British Columbia and New Brunswick
Wrong.. British Columbia is on the west coast and not part of the Maritimes
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island
Correct!! These three Provinces are all on the East Coast and are affectionately known as the Maritimes
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba
Wrong… these Provinces are known as the Prairies
Which Province has the largest population?
British Columbia
Wrong.. British Columbia has a population of 4,849,442 where as Ontario has a population of 14,318,750 (estimated populations for 2018)
Ontario
Correct!! This province has an estimated population of 14,318,750 making it the most populated
Prince Edward Island
Wrong… the smallest province has the smallest population of around 152,768
When did Newfoundland and Labrador join Canada?
1867
Wrong… this is when Canada was founded
1949
Correct!! Newfoundland became a part of Canada in 1919 although its name only became Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001
2001
Wrong… but close this is when it’s name was officially changed to Newfoundland and Labrador
What are the 3 Canadian Territories?
Yukon, Yellowknife and Nunavut
Wrong… Yellowknife is the capital of Yukon
Yukon, North West Territories and Nunavut
Correct!! These three are all territories
Alaska, Nunavut and Yukon
Wrong… Alaska is next to Yukon but it is an American state
Which province/territory is also known as ‘Wild Rose Country’?
Nova Scotia
Wrong… Nova Scotia is known as Canada’s ocean playground
Alberta
Correct!! Alberta is known for it’s wild roses
Saskatchewan
Wrong… this province is known as the land of the living skies
Which province/territory shares a border with the US state of Washington?
Yukon
Wrong… the Yukon shares a border with Alaska
British Columbia
Correct!! British Columbia shares a border with Washington State… the home of Nirvana and Starbucks
Prince Edward Island
Wrong… this province has no American neighbours

This is not Mount Logan… but it is from the same part of Canada!
In which province/territory will you find Canada’s largest peak, Mount Logan?
Alberta
Wrong… home of the Rockies but not Mount Logan
Yukon
Correct!! Mount Logan is 19,511 ft tall and is in the Yukon territory
British Columbia
Wrong… but it is home to the highest peak in Canada outside of the Yukon, Mount Fairweather

Which province/territory is home to the Winnipeg Jets hockey team?
Ontario
Wrong… this is the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Manitoba
Correct!! The Jets play at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg
Alberta
Wrong… home of the Calgary Flames not the Jets
In which province/territory is the Capital city, Ottawa?
Alberta
Wrong… home of Calgary and Edmonton
Ontario
Correct!! Ottawa is in Ontario
British Columbia
Wrong… but you will find the popoular Vancouver in B.C.

How did you get on? Drop me a comment below to let me know how you did in my first ever quiz and attempt at coding! If you enjoyed it please share it … after all sharing is caring 🙂

A-Z Travels: O is for Ottawa: Ten FREE Things To Do

Canada’s Capital city is Ottawa. Formed out of the small town of Bytown in 1855 it is now home to over 1 million Canadians in the city limits alone. Unlike Vancouver, which can be expensive to visit as a tourist, Ottawa is extremely budget friendly.  There is something for everyone, from outdoor activities to museums to great food, Ottawa has it! With the Rideau Canal at its centre surrounded by the beautiful Parliament Buildings Ottawa is most certainly worth a visit.

ottawa-13.jpg

Here are my top ten FREE things to do in the city:

  • Tour the Parliament Buildings

    Views of Parliament Hill

I was super excited to learn you can go on a free tour of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Parliament Hill is home to the Senate, House of Commons and Library of Parliament so there is a lot going on. Depending on what parliamentary activity is being conducted for the day will determine how long your tour will be.

 

The website claims they are between 20- 50 mins in length. When Matt and I attended we had a shorter tour as Parliament in session so could not view the Senate or House of Commons. However, the tour was still interesting. The library gave me flash backs to Belle in Beauty and the Beast, it was such a gorgeous room.

Parliament Hill (31)

 

You have to rise early for this one as tickets are only available on the day. From 9am tickets are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis. Matt and I scooped the last two spots on an English tour for the day and we arrived at 10.30ish, so be out of bed early!

You can also get tickets to the Peace Tower (Big Ben inspired clock) and go up and have views of the city. However, the elevator was closed on the day we went so no visit for us. Within the Peace Tower however you can see the Book of Remembrance which lists the names of Canadians for have fought and died in service.

Its worth a visit if you have time after your tour.  Each day they turn the pages to show different names, I was lucky enough that on that day, it was open on my last name.

  • Tour the Supreme Court

Just down the road from Parliament Hill is the Supreme Court. Here you can learn about the Canadian judicial system from informative law students.  In addition, tours give you an insight into the beautiful art deco architecture. If you are lucky and court is in session you can sit in on a hearing.

Tours for this place are easier to come by as well. English tours start on the hour and French on the half-hour with each lasting around 30 minutes. Don’t be afraid to take photos, photography is allowed!

Both the Supreme Court and Parliament Hill require you to go through security, lockers are provided for tours of Parliament Hill at the ticket office.

  • Walk the Rideau Canal

The Canal runs through the heart of Ottawa and was built in the 1800’s in case of war with the US. Stretching 202km the canal connects rivers and lakes along its way. Operated by Parks Canada and is opened from mid May to Mid-October each year. During the winter it becomes the worlds largest and second longest skating rink where you can pick up a Beaver Tail pastry as you glide down the canal.

 

  • Chow down at ByWard Market

You can also get a Beaver Tail at Byward Market. The eclectic neighbourhood boasts quirky boutiques, bustling streets and trendy restaurants. In the centre is a beautiful outdoor market selling fresh vegetables, flower and maples syrup by local artisans.

Matt and I not only enjoyed a Beaver Tail but a great curry, rice and naan inside the colourful market.

  • Learn about the formation of Ottawa at the Bytown Museum

Inside Ottawa’s oldest stone building you can learn all about the formation of Ottawa and the building of the Rideau Canal.  The Museums collections take you from the early days of the city’s life when it was known as Bytown and residents were mostly canal construction workers.

Check out their free admission days here.

  • Window shop at the Rideau Centre

If its raining and your want to spend a bit of time inside without having to pay entrance fees, then this is your place. Browse over 180 stores including fashion, home, books, toys and much more. You just have to make sure you don’t get tempted to keep it budget friendly!Window shopping at Rideau Center

Top tip: the centre has free WIFI

  • Get views for miles at Nepean Point

Take a walk to the top of this hill to get stunning panoramic views of Parliament, the Ottawa River, downtown Ottawa and much more. At the top you’ll be greeted by the statue of Samuel de Champlain, who explored the Ottawa River in 1613.  Located just behind the National Gallery of Canada its also super accessible.

  • Take a Picture with the huge spider Maman

While you are in that area you can also grab a selfie with Maman the huge spider outside the National Gallery of Canada. The bronze sculpture was made by artist Louise Bourgeois in 1999 as is one of six in the world. Standing at 30ft tall it’s a pretty interesting sight.

Ottawa (35)

If you are there on a Thursday, you can also visit the gallery for free between 5-8pm

  • Visit the Canadian War Museum

Another museum that is free on a Thursday evening is the Canadian War Museum.  Even if you can’t make it on a free evening, its well worth paying the admission fee. We spent over three hours here exploring the collections that cover all aspects of Canadian military history.  They also have an impressive collection of military vehicles such as tanks on the lower levels.

Before you head home walk across the road and see the National Holocaust Memorial. The monument titled Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival presents images and facts about the Holocaust inside walls of varying heights that form the points of a Star if David.

  • Hike in Gatineau Park

If you want a day outside the downtown core to stretch the legs head over to Gatineau Park just fifteen minutes away. Covering 361 km² the park has a rich ecosystem that can be explored via its well-groomed trails.  If you head to the visitor centre in Chelsea, you can also visit a wonderful ice-cream shop called La Cigale for a sweet treat after your hike.

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you’ve liked this weeks installment please give it a like, comment or share it! Next week will be P for Poutine. Happy Travels 🙂

A-Z Travels: N is for Nova Scotia- A City Guide to Halifax

I mentioned last week that Halifax had been voted fourth on the list of 2018’s top places on the rise. So, I thought N for Nova Scotia would be the perfect time to give you a guide to the province capital. Having spent the past six months just half an hour outside of the city I had plenty of opportunity to explore all it has to offer. It has beautiful nautical views, a rich history and super yummy food… so why wouldn’t you want to visit?

How to get there:

Halifax has an international airport just a 30-minute drive from the city centre. However, a taxi from the airport to downtown is going set you back at least $60 and you’ll want to be saving your pennies for activities.

Halifax Airport to Downtown

So instead you can take the bus which is only $3.50 for adults and $2.75 for children. The #320 bus operates every 30 minutes during peak morning (6 am to 9 am) and afternoon (3 pm to 6 pm) times. The regular schedule departs every 60 minutes so hopefully not too much hanging around after a long flight. In addition, Halifax airport is not a massive airport, so it is less crowded and easier to navigate than others. I suggest grabbing a coffee and some Timbits from Tim Hortons while you wait.

Typical Weather:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High °C -1

-1

2 8 15 19 23 23 18 13 7 1
Low °C -10 -10 -6 0 5 10 14 14 10 4 0 -7

Halifax does get some stormy weather during the winter months so do take time to consider when you want to visit. Skiing is available here but it’s not good as other areas in Canada. Spring is a wonderful time to visit if you don’t like the crowds but still be prepared for some cooler weather.

Click here for top tips for travelling during Spring time in Canada.

How to get around:

Halifax is best seen on foot, so pack some comfortable shoes. You can spend a day or two immersing yourself in Halifax history as you can easily walk to many of the cities museums such as the 18th Century Citadel, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic or Nova Scotia Art Gallery.

You can also catch the ferry on over to Dartmouth. The ferry service offers two routes the Alderney Ferry service crosses from Halifax to Alderney Landing in downtown Dartmouth and the Woodside Ferry service crosses from Halifax to Woodside. Another bonus is that you can transfer between bus and ferry services for even more exploring opportunities.

Halifax Ferry

If you fancy a day out of the city then guided tours are available, alternatively you can rent a car for the day.

Where to stay:

Matt and I were housesitting during our time in Halifax so didn’t need to think about accommodation. However, when Matt’s parents came to visit we stayed in a great Air BNB not too far from Halifax’s North End. This place had become one of my favourite areas in Halifax, despite it having a bit of a reputation. In fact, I struggled to see why people gave it a bad name, but maybe I had tourist goggles on! This neighbourhood is ‘up-and-coming’ for sure with a great artsy vibe, funky breweries and amazing food options.

Another time we stayed over in Dartmouth, again in an Air BNB. We had lovely accommodation here and were within walking distance to downtown Dartmouth. However, there is more to see and do in Halifax so would recommend staying there for lodging.

Top Tip: Parking is a nightmare in Halifax so make sure your accommodation comes with free parking if you need it.

Things to do:

There is so much to experience in Halifax, even though I spent most of my time there during the winter season I was never left without anything to do. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Pier 21

The old ocean liner terminal turned into a museum offers a chance to learn all about Canadian immigration, the permanent exhibitions tell you all about the lives of those who came through the port in the hope of a better life. It is well worth a visit as it provides a unique insight into Canadian history.

Pier 21 (2).JPG

  • Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

Right next to Pier 21 is the farmers market. Here you can grab so lunch from a number of vendors, anything from Jamaican curries to traditional pastries are waiting for you. There are also many arts and craft stalls where you can talk to locals and pick up a unique souvenir.

  • Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk

After the market you can head back along the seafront via the boardwalk. Along the way you’ll find statues and installations along the way by local artists. In addition, there are restaurants and bars open all year round offering up some great maritime lobster options. During the summer there are little huts with ice-creams, poutine and more for you to try.

  • Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Here you can learn all about Nova Scotia’s maritime heritage. Go back in time and gaze upon treasure from great ships. They have a permanent Titanic exhibition which includes pieces from the ship itself. It’s also a great place to learn about an important part of Halifax history, the Halifax Explosion. In addition they have free admission on Tuesdays.

Check out 3 Titanic Things To Do in Halifax

  • Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

There are some great folk artists that have come out of the Maritimes and many are on display in this huge gallery. The collection extends beyond to include contemporary photography, Aboriginal art from across Canada and sacred arts from centuries past. I was lucky enough to see the Maud Lewis collection, a great insight into a true Nova Scotian artist who captured the colour of the province perfectly.

  • Halifax Central Library

Even if you don’t have time to sit down a read a book there is plenty to do here. They have events on throughout the year ranging from free films to quiz nights and music events so check the schedule before your visit. Furthermore, architecturally it’s interesting to visit, the building is quite unique. There is a viewing platform open during the summer and reading room with views for when the weather is poor. A great way to get views of the city for free!

  • Halifax Public Gardens

Right in the heart of the downtown area are the Halifax Public Gardens. This Victorian-inspired space has been open since 1875 and is one of Halifax’s most beautiful spots. Huge iron gates open out into grass plots lined with flowers, trees and water features. For the first time ever (2017/2018) it was also open during winter. In the snow it is a stunning winter wonderland making you feel like you are in Narnia.

Day Trips from Halifax:

  • Peggy’s Cove

I’ve written about this place a lot, but that’s because I love it. It is the quintessential maritime fishing village. Faded wooden huts surrounded by colourful lobster pots and buoys are perfect for the insta account. Not to mention the famous lighthouse. Get there at sunset for amazing photos. Even better see the village from a different perspective by doing the Polly’s Cove trail.

  • Wolfville

This place is super cute and perfect day trip material. Have a stroll up and down the high street stopping off at Annapolis Cider for a tasting paddle before heading to the Naked Crepe for lunch. Feeling more adventurous? Then head on out to Cape Split for a hike with amazing views.

  • Lawrencetown Beach

Even in cold weather this place is beautiful. You can stroll through the beach up to the peninsula for panoramic sea views just half an hour outside of downtown. What’s more is that this spot is also great for surfing and is in fact on of the best places in North America to ride the waves.

  • Lunenburg

This UNESCO World Heritage Site on the provinces South Shore is well worth the hours drive from downtown. Lined with colourful houses, historical churches, quirky little stores and plenty of opportunities to sample local lobster its great day trip. On the main street there is a sweet little antique store where you can pick up a unique souvenir or two.

Where to eat:

After all that adventure you’ll want to refuel with some lovely food and drink. There are plenty of options in Halifax. These are my favourite:

Hali Deli- for an amazing brunch this Jewish deli is the place to go, don’t forget to try their latke and always opt for the challah toast.

Relish- a maritime favourite, Relish offers a brilliant burger. I recommend going for the Halifax Explosion burger which is topped with pineapple and curried onions.

Vandal Doughnuts- for a quick bite or elevenses then head to Gus’s pub and grab a doughnut. Different flavours each day range from classic Homer Simpson to Earl Grey and Raspberry Crumble. They also do burgers that are apparently well worth a try.

Stillwell- Great place for drinks, you can get a tasting paddle of beers and ciders at a reasonable price for a downtown location. In addition many brews are from local craft breweries. They also serve small plates such as Korean fries in case you get peckish.

Darrell’s- a cute retro diner complete with booths. This place has something for everyone and is home to one of the best burgers in Halifax.

Johnny K’s- sample the Nova Scotia speciality of donair at this downtown location. The sauce is to die for!

Smoke’s Poutinerie- another chance to try a Canadian classic, this place has loads of options including pulled pork, perogy, jerk chicken and Philly cheese steak.

For more burgers options check out my guide here .

Thanks again for joining me on A-Z Travels, if you enjoyed this week then get it a like share or drop me a comment below. Next week will be O for Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Happy Travels 😊

A-Z Travels: M is for The Maritimes: The Ultimate Canadian Destination

The Maritimes is the regional name for the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  The islands and peninsulas of the Maritimes are beautifully rugged, and its landscape is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  Despite its beauty, travellers often choose to visit Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal over places such as Halifax, Charlottetown or St. John’s.

Map of the Maritimes

Even though this section of Canada is comprised of three provinces, they are the smallest ones so in total it amounts to just over 1 per cent of the country’s land surface.  But, while it may be small in size, it sure packs a punch! In fact, Nova Scotia’s capital Halifax was voted fourth on TripAdvisors list of top ten tourists destinations ‘on the rise’.

Here are my top reasons for visiting the Maritimes!

Stunning Coastal Views

No matter where you visit in the Maritimes you are never far away from the coast and what a beautiful coast it is. Small fishing towns line the coastline providing many an Instagram worthy pic of lobster pots and buoys.  Many communities are kept afloat by shellfish and lobster exports.

 

Highlights include the famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove (Nova Scotia) one of the most photographed landmarks in Canada which sits on the rocks of a colourful fishing village. In New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy hosts the highest tides in the world at 16 metres high. I’ll be visiting here in September and can not wait! On PEI the red cliffs provide a beautiful sight on a peaceful coastal drive.

Great Hikes

With fantastic coastal views comes fantastic hikes, what better way to take in the beautiful vista than on your own two feet!? There is something for everyone in the Maritimes from casual boardwalks along the seafront to scrambling across the rocks. Plus, you can spot all sorts of wildlife, including bears, moose, deer and bald eagles. Local highlights include Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Fundy National Park and PEI National Park.

Tip: if visiting in winter, don’t miss out on these wonderful hikes, grab the snowshoes

Yummy Food

After all that hiking you’ll want to refuel so it’s lucky there are loads of brilliant restaurants and cafes throughout the three provinces. Maritimes boast some fantastic local eateries for any budget and appetite. In fact, I had the best pizza of my life in Charlottetown (PEI) at Piatto Pizzeria! I would thoroughly recommend the Piccante e Affumicata, a creamy garlic ‘white’ pizza base topped with mozzarella, crispy prosciutto, finished with a drizzle of honey… it’s to die for! Plus, they have locations across the Maritimes. There is no picture as we ate it too fast!!

In Nova Scotia I would suggest heading to The Back Sheep, Hali Deli, Vandal Doughnuts and The Naked Crepe.

I’ll be visiting New Brunswick more thoroughly in September so check back for more recommendations.

If it’s burgers you’re interested in, check out my guide to Halifax Burgers here.

Top Notch Beer

To wash it all down sample some of the local beers. Craft breweries are booming across the whole of Canada and the Maritimes are no exception. I personally am still trying to find a beer I like so recommendations here are from Matt and his Dad.  In a host of ‘achingly trendy’ (actual quote from Matt’s Dad!) locations you can try some of Matt’s favourites:

Nova Scotia: Had good beers from Good Robot, Propeller, Unfiltered and Big Spruce Breweries but all-time favourite was Priority Pale Ale (North Brewing Company, Halifax)

PEI: Do Good-er APA (Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown)

New Brunswick: Maritime Pale Ale (Grimross, Fredericton)

If you are not a fan of beer, like me you could also try some of the local cideries or vineyards. Many open their doors for tastings, including Annapolis Cider Company in Wolfville (Nova Scotia) which was my personal favourite.

Cultural Heritage

Whilst Canada is a young country a lot of its history is in the Eastern provinces. For example, Prince Edward Island is the birthplace of Canada, you can explore the historic founding town of Charlottetown through a host of informative boards, statues and plaques dotted around. Or drop by the local legislature building, Province House.

Check out more reasons why you should visit Canadian legislative buildings here.

The cultural heritage of the area is also very varied. First Nations people such as the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet were present in the Maritimes long before any European settlers. Europeans came from France, Scotland, Ireland and Britain. Their influence can be seen throughout the provinces. For example, Nova Scotia means New Scotland. The history of the area can be complicated as many have tried to make it their home, sometimes in harmony and sometimes not. It is well worth taking the time to learn about it.

 

Fun fact: New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada (English and French)

Easy to get to

As I mentioned at the start these are the three smallest provinces in Canada this makes it great for road tripping. Its super easy to hire a car and cruise around all three. Driving from Halifax to PEI is easily do-able in one day for example, although you can take more time. Driving to PEI also means you get to cross the Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge in the world over ice covered waters.

 

So, what’s stopping you visit the Maritimes now, eh?

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you enjoyed it please give it a like and if you loved it give it a share! Next week I will be exploring the Maritimes more with N for Nova Scotia. Happy Travels 😊

A-Z Travels: L is for Legislative Buildings- 5 Reasons You MUST Visit

Welcome back to A-Z Travels after a three-week break, during which I’ve begun my journey from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Calgary, Alberta. Last time I left you saying that the next instalment of A-Z Travels would be L for language. However, after a chat with friends over pizza we decided it just wasn’t that interesting (also hard for pictures!), so this week I’m going to write about Legislative buildings… how is that more exciting I hear you say? Well let me tell you!

Matt and I are history and politics nerds, having studied the subjects at university. This led to us finding city halls on our American road trip and legislative buildings in Canada. Legislative buildings are where elected officials meet to shape the future of their province. Inside their walls debates rage and laws are passed. It is a politics nerds dream and once you start visiting them you won’t stop!

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I loved this statue of some of the most prominent female Canadian politicians

Even if you’re not that into history there are plenty of reasons why you should visit. Here are my top five:

Free

One of the main reasons we have visited legislative buildings is that they are completely free! This makes them a great activity for anyone on a budget. You can wander around the grounds and gardens (if it has any) freely and often they have statues and informative boards dotted around. In addition, many host tours which are also completely free. In some places these are guided, others are self-guided.

In Edmonton we had a great chaperon and we were even able to sit in on a session. Whereas, in Victoria we strolled around by ourselves. However, Quebec City was a guided tour only and would need to book in advance.

Interesting buildings

As they are important buildings they are often very nice to look at. They are often some of the oldest buildings in the cities which provides a sense of history and some great architecture. Styles include neo-classical, Gothic revival, neo-baroque, Palladian and Beaux arts (quite a mix!). In comparison to the UK, Canada has very few old ‘historic’ buildings so seeing these structures make me feel a little bit more at home too.

Many also have beautiful gardens surrounding them filled with colourful flowers. That’s if you’re there in the summer! Having visited Edmonton and Halifax outside of summer we didn’t explore the gardens too much, but Victoria was refreshing with lots of fantastic colours after the brown of an Albertan winter.

Good locations

Once again, they are important buildings, so they need to be convenient and accessible to everyone. There is a Legislative building in every province and territory in Canada. They are often located in downtown areas which is great for any traveller.

Here is a list of all locations:

Province or Territory Location Name
Ontario Ottawa Parliament Building of Canada
Alberta Edmonton Legislative Building of Alberta
British Columbia Victoria Parliament Building of British Columbia
Manitoba Winnipeg Legislative Building of Manitoba
New Brunswick Fredericton Legislative Building of New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador St. John’s Confederation Building
Northwest Territories Yellowknife Legislative Building of Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia Halifax Province House
Nunavut Iqaluit Legislative Building of Nunavut
Ontario Toronto Legislative Building of Ontario
Prince Edward Island Charlottetown Province House
Quebec Quebec City Parliament Building of Quebec
Saskatchewan Regina Legislative Building of Saskatchewan
Yukon Whitehorse Legislative Building of Yukon

Educational

Sometimes we flit through places without ever learning about where we are. Legislative buildings are a treasure trove of facts that will please anyone with even a tiny amount of interest in history. They include beautiful art works and informative boards to keep you interested.

Favourite facts: Province House in Nova Scotia has sat every day since 1819, making it the longest standing legislative building in the whole of Canada.

In the top of the dome of Edmonton’s building are five palm trees grown from seeds believed to have been donated to the Legislature by the U.S. state of California in 1932.

Great in any weather

We can’t be blessed with sunshine on all our travels so sometimes indoor activities are required. Depending on the size of the location you can kill a few hours away from horrible weather inside. If its sunny take a picnic and enjoy the gardens. The perfect activity for any type of weather!

Tips for visiting

Check out the website to see if you need to book in advance

Travelling out of season: check opening times

You’ll have to go through security so try to pack as little as possible in your bag

Charge your camera, there will be lots of opportunity for photo’s

Be prepared to leave phones and cameras locked away securely if you get to sit in on a session, they can’t be taken in with you.

Thanks for joining me again on my A-Z Travels of Canada. I hope you’ll join for the next installment, in the mean time please feel free to comment, like and share this one. Happy Travels 🙂

A-Z Travels: K is for Kettle Valley Rail Trail: Conquering My Fear of Heights

Last summer the Okanagan Valley was hot, hot, hot! You could quite literally see the heat around you. Matt and I were volunteering on a vineyard in a small town called Cawston where we were rising at 6am to hit the vineyard working four or so hours before the sun got too much. Finishing our work day early enabled us to spend the rest of the day exploring the local area, after a nap of course!

Cawston Vineyard

Whilst Cawston itself is relatively small, there are lots of places nearby that are incredibly interesting. One of our favourites was the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, just over an hour away. It is an abandoned stretch of railway line with an abundance of trestles and tunnels. We’d seen many sections of abandoned railway lines across Canada and each holds a place in Canadian history. For our visit we joined the trail at one of its most scenic points in Myra Canyon.

The entire railway stretches over 325 miles of Canadian scenery and mountain ranges. The work was particularly gruelling, and lives were lost during its construction. Originally the railway was used to transport fruit into world markets and families on vacations, it also created employment when it was built between 1910-1915. However, over time with the building of more convenient roads and the advancement of air travel, the railway began to face challenges. By 1964 the passenger segment of the railway ceased to exist and by 1989, the last freight trains made their journey.

However, with thanks to funding, the Kettle Valley Railway has been re-imagined and re-utilised as a recreational area. Thanks to the enthusiasm of local people it is now a fantastic trail for cyclists and walkers alike. It is only a gradual grade of 2.2% so not a hardcore ride by a long shot. But, you wouldn’t want to miss the amazing views along the way.

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I was a little sceptical going into this trail as I have a fear of heights. I get woozy in tall buildings, lifts or staircases. In fact, even mountains make me feel a bit funny. But, I try not to let it stop me from experiencing unique travel moments. For example, I didn’t want to miss out on the glass-bottomed elevator at the CN Tower in Toronto, suspension bridges in Vancouver and climbing the steps in the Berliner Dome. So, I took this trail as an opportunity to try and overcome this feeling. The many trestles along the way would pose a challenge but one I was ready to face head on!

Our generous hosts were able to lend us a couple of bikes and helmets, so we packed them up in the back of the van and set off towards the trail. The Okanagan Valley is a stunning place to drive, the road sides are lined with vineyards, fruit sellers and orchards. The temperatures were reaching upwards of 35 degrees (Celsius) so boy were we grateful for air conditioning!

If you don’t have a bike you can hire one once you reach the trail from Myra Canyon Rental . In fact, the people running the facility there are very helpful. My seat was too low on my bike and even though I hadn’t rented from them they were more than happy to help. Its best to be comfortable while riding so check tires, seats, brakes etc before departing (that’s if you know how to… unlike me!) If you don’t fancy cycling then you can walk, the path is easily shared and big enough for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

The gravel road leading up to the trail is pretty long and winding and if my memory serves me right there were quite a few potholes as well, so take it easy. Once you reach the top there is ample parking, free of charge. Here you’ll find some pit toilets too (another essential before heading out!) Head to the far end of the parking lot to find the entrance to the trail.

The Myra Canyon stretch of the trail boasts 18 trestle bridges and 2 tunnels and each one is spectacular. These structures must’ve been back- breaking to construct as the bridges are at terrifying heights along the steep canyon slopes. Being in the mountains the air was a little cooler and much more comfortable for cycling. However, due to local forest fires there was smoke in the air giving a hazy glow across the landscape. But even this didn’t detract from the wonderful views.

In fact, it was the views that distracted me from the height of the trestles. I found if I didn’t look directly down I felt ok. There are gaps in between the planks of wood which often made me feel unstable, but more often than not I was looking out over the canyon, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Then Matt challenged me to look down and the tumbling sensation returned. The feeling of falling when you are at the top of something incredibly tall is not an enjoyable one! So, the rest of the ride my head was up, and I survived! Whilst I’m not totally cured it was definitely a step in the right direction.

With over 70,000 visitors each year according to Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society , the trail does get busy during peak seasons. Here are a few tips to make your trip enjoyable:

Cycle at low speeds- there are steep drop offs, that you don’t want to go down

Pedestrians have right of way

Enjoy the view by getting off your bike and walking it over the trestles

Take out what you bring in- there are no bins between Myra Canyon and Ruth Gates so be prepared to take any litter with you

Take water and snacks- no one wants to get hangry!

Mountain weather can change quickly so be prepared

Don’t smoke anywhere- as I mentioned before, forest fires do happen and often they are started by careless dropping of cigarettes

Don’t forget your camera- you’re going to want to capture these trestles.

Do you think you could cope with the trestles? Have you ever been to the Kettle Valley Railway?

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels. Next week is going to be L for language and all the times I’ve been misheard, misunderstood and misinterpreted despite speaking the same language! Happy travels 😊

A-Z Travels: J is for Joffre Lakes- the most instagrammable place in Canada

Joffre Lakes was simply one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve done on our entire trip and that it quite an achievement. It is one of the most instagrammable places I’ve been in my entire life. In fact, Instagram is where I found out this place even exists. When you see pictures of Canada online they are often of outstandingly gorgeous turquoise blue lakes and by gosh they actually exist in real life! Combine viewing these beauties with a great hike and you’ve got a fantastic day out.

However, this hike was also where I had my biggest strop. The information board at the start of the trek claims it can take six hours, as we’d arrived at around 2pm I didn’t feel we had enough good daylight left to complete the hike (You can see from the pictures… we had plenty of time!) As an overly cautious hiker in the land of bears and coyotes Matt and I argued over how far to continue for quite a large chunk of the walk. Of course, he was correct we had time and it didn’t take us six hours at all! My anxiousness was not a welcome walking companion at all. However, as there were plenty of other tourists continuing along the trail we continued… I will be eternally grateful for Matt pushing me to carry on and witness the stunning views!

This hike is an extremely popular trail all year round, although June to September are best to see the colours of the water nice and blue. Located just north of Pemberton, B.C. this 10km hike has something for everyone. The first lake is easily accessible via a flat pathway just 500 metres from the carpark. From the first lake you can see the end point of the hike Matier Glacier and gives some great inspiration.

From the Lower Lake you’ll turn back on yourself and join the main trail to the middle and upper lakes. This is where the trail starts to get more challenging and rugged so be prepared with proper footwear. I saw some tourists attempting it in ballet pumps rather than shoes with ankle support. They were an accident waiting to happen as you climb over boulders and rocky paths. As you go up the trail you’ll wander through forests of Hemlock and Spruce trees.

This section climbs sharply uphill until you reach the Middle Lake. It was at this point that I had a mini breakdown. It felt like the hike was never going to end and dusk was settling in. We had not had lunch yet, so hanger was starting to settle in. Luckily, we reached the Middle Lake in time for a late lunch whilst viewing the second lake.

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It’s pretty busy during the summer so can seem less peaceful because of the crowds. In fact, one tourist was complaining about all the tourists ‘just taking pictures.’ To be fair there, isn’t much else to do than enjoy the view, have a picnic, take a picture and carry on to the next lake. (check out my article on why you shouldn’t be ashamed to be a tourist here. )

The main part of the hike is now behind you, several other hikers informed us that it was a much shorter distance between lake two and three with much less elevation gain too. As you continue along the trail you’ll come to a beautiful waterfall.

Joffre Lakes (19)

Past this point the terrain becomes rockier and there are more roots on the ground, but it’s a relatively short distance to get to the Upper Lake. once your get past the trees you get to the last lake.

The view here was worth all my moaning, it was absolutely breath-taking. Again, there are lots of other people enjoying the view but there is plenty of space for everyone. Whilst we were there, there was a couple having a wedding photo shoot. What a stunning backdrop!?

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Check out the bride having a photo shoot

You can view the Matier Glacier from here as well as Joffre Peak which stands at 2,721m elevation.

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Beautiful Upper Lake with views of Joffre Peak and Matier Glacier

From here you can either turn around and make the return journey or you can continue to the back-country camp site. This site is perfect for small tents, remember you will be having to carry all your equipment to the site so pack light. There are no proper toilets and the park operates a ‘Leave no trace policy.’ Matt and I made our descent and enjoyed the views all over again on the return to base. On the way back down, you can appreciate the talus slopes (slopes formed when debris from weathered rock piles up) even more.

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Looking down on the Lower Lake

Overall, this was an enjoyable hike and one with massive rewards. I wish I hadn’t complained as much as I’m 100% sure I was big pain on this one. I’ve learnt my lesson… do your research and learn how long hikes are going to take. For us it took less than 4 hours, this may vary depending on your fitness and ability.

Tips:

Pack snacks, it’s a day hike so be prepared to have a picnic along the way.

Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

Make sure to take insect repellent to deter mosquitoes and black flies.

Leave enough time for the return journey.

Wear suitable footwear.

Leave no trace- take a plastic bag to collect your rubbish and take it back with you.

Go to the bathroom before you leave the car park- the next opportunity is at the Middle Lake.

Have you ever done this hike? Would you stay for the camping? What’s the most beautiful hike you’ve ever done?

Thanks for joining me for A-Z Travels. Next week will be K for Kettle Valley Railway, where i worked at conquering my fear of heights. Happy Travels 🙂

A-Z Travels: I is for Ice, Ice Baby

It’s going to be a little different this week as I’m attempting my first photo essay. I pondered for several days on what to do for the letter I. My first thought was ice hockey, but as I sat thinking about what I could write about it all seemed a little dull, plus over here it’s just called hockey. I continued thinking and the jeopardy thinking music went through my mind for quite a while. I didn’t feel I knew enough about Canada’s indigenous people to write an informative article. So here we have my very first photo essay.

My intentions are to show you the several types of ice we have come across whilst on our journey. Even though it gets cold back in the UK I have never seen ice quite like some of the formations we’ve seen in Canada.  I’ve had ice so thick on my windscreen it broke my scraper! Who needs the arm-day at the gym when you’re scraping an inch of ice for 45 mins? But, for the most part it’s been beautiful, frozen waterfalls are stunning and made me feel like Elsa!

So, sit back and enjoy a little taste of our icy adventures from natural icicles to sculptures.

Sometimes its just hanging around…

In many different shapes and sizes…

Sometimes it used to be a waterfall…

Sometimes there were entire lakes in a winter wonderland…

And in Nova Scotia even the ocean succumbs to winter…

Glaciers are the giants of the ice world and one of natures most spectacular sights…

And there are plenty of fun things you can do with ice…

My favourite is in a cocktail… but eventually it all must start to melt!

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How did you like my first attempt at a photo essay? Are you a ice lover or hater?

Thanks for joining me for A-Z Travels. Last week I got my alphabet wrong and so this week made sure to get it right. Next week will be J for Joffre Lakes and the most spectacular lakes there. Happy Travels 🙂