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Falling For Canadian Life

Laura Stapleton, sales consultant at our Bury St. Edmunds travel agents, enjoyed a marvellous week of firsts in Canada. This action packed trip included visits to Niagara Falls, Toronto and Ottawa. Here is how she remembers her experience.

Destination: Canada
Operator/Host:
Prestige
Accommodation (Hotel names/Ship name): 
Blue Mountain Inn, J W Marriott Rosseau Muskoka Resort + Spa, Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Eaton Chelsea Hotel, Sheraton On The Falls
Airline: British Airways
Duration:
7 Nights

Flights

Those who know me will know I come from an aviation background, so to say I was excited about travelling on the new BA Dreamliner was an understatement. What I wasn’t ready for however was travelling in business class for the outbound journey; an amazing opportunity which meant I arrived in Canada refreshed, relaxed, well-rested and content after watching two films and enjoying a three-course meal, afternoon tea and a delightful flatbed cat nap.

The aircraft does feel different. It is supposedly better for the passengers’ well-being, with more oxygen being used rather than re-circulated air, higher ceilings, comfier seats, bigger windows, more natural lighting, lower pressurisation, higher humidity and much more personal space. I can agree with all of the above. As a plane spotter, I was excited to find out if these differences were noticeable – and they are.

Obviously, being in business class, the food and refreshments were vastly different to that of economy class. However, the benefits of the aircraft itself are available for all classes to experience and enjoy.

Accommodation

Blue Mountain Inn, Blue Mountain

The reception area gave the Blue Mountain Inn a youth hostel feel. We had eaten dinner at Trillium House at the Blue Mountain resort which is the 5-star property, so as a contrast to this I really did feel the Inn was a ‘lay your head’ hostel. The room was comfortable, but I would not say it was overly luxurious; I felt it served a purpose and that was it. The fixtures in the room were geared up for the sporty traveller such as ski equipment containers rather than the plush sofas which can be found in the accommodation at Trillium House.

J W Marriott Resort and Spa, Rosseau Muskoka

For me, the Marriott Resort and Spa was everything I thought Canada would be. It was cosy, plush and opulent with open fires, rocking chairs and fire pits to curl up by all over the hotel and grounds. Inside, the hotel was beautiful with expensive sophisticated furnishings making you feel relaxed and serene; everything you expect from a spa hotel. Outside there were fire pits surrounded by wooden relaxer chairs which could be taken advantage of, with a hot chocolate and a blanket around your shoulders after a long walk through the extensive grounds. Alternatively, you could enjoy a glass of red wine and a tranquil moment, having been pampered in the spa.

Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier was my favourite property out of the six that we stayed at. For me, this ticked every box. Glamorous, regal and steeped in history, the hotel really did blow me away. I realise this may not be the sort of property everyone would like to stay at with its old-fashioned, traditional décor, but for me it was perfect. I love art deco and, as this hotel was finished and opened during this era, everything inside is either original or has been restored to its original state. I did, however, have a moment from the film ‘The Shining’ when I exited the lift on my floor but at the wrong end of the corridor…….sometimes history can be a powerful and spooky thing.

Eaton Chelsea, Toronto

In comparison to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, the modern, central Eaton Chelsea hotel was busy, crowded, hectic and well used. It was somewhere to rest your head in the centre of the busy metropolis which is Toronto. Perfectly located for a city break and to explore, but if you are looking for something slightly more romantic or luxurious then I would not recommend it to meet those requirements. The room was comfortable but not particularly quiet and was certainly well worn with wallpaper missing and the bathroom not completely what you would expect from 4-star accommodation.

Sheraton On The Falls, Niagara

The view from the Sheraton on the Falls was by far the best view I have ever had from any hotel room. My superior room overlooked, and was pretty much directly in front of, the breathtaking Niagara Falls. In fact, you could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner overlooking the falls with the same view as my room but at a lower level in the restaurant. The Sheraton boasts an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and even a cute outdoor Wedding area (yes you’ve guessed it – overlooking the falls) so has certainly used their unique position to the max. This is certainly the hotel I would recommend if you want to see the falls as soon as you open your eyes in the morning and to leave the window open all night and hear the rush of the water is an absolute must.

 Toronto

Excursions

It was a full-on trip which was non-stop every day but certainly made the most of Ontario’s attractions.

  • Blue Mountain – Gondola ride to the top of the mountain (more activities were planned but due to weather we could not participate in all of them).
  • Scandinave Spa – Very relaxing and adventurous time enjoying the hot to cold plunge pools, eucalyptus steam room, sauna.
  • Algonquin Park – Visited Arowhon Pines; a log cabin activity retreat in the centre of this beautiful National Park which is famous for being in Moose country.
  • Ottawa Parliament Buildings – Private tour with guide including entry to the library
  • Bytown Museum Ottawa – Country house style museum showcasing the history of Ottawa, folklore etc.
  • Aboriginal Experience – Explanation of first settlers in Canada, visit to one of the remaining aboriginal plantation sites.
  • Canadian Museum of History – Private tour through the museum.
  • Ottawa River Cruise – Taking in all tourist attractions (visited on foot) now on water from the boat.
  • Rockport Boat Line – 1000 Islands cruise crossing over to American waters.
  • Trolley Tour in Kingston – Unique tram/bus vehicle tour of the original capital of Canada, Kingston.
  • Two days with a private tour guide in Toronto taking in: The Old Distillery, Yorkville tour, St Lawrence market, CN Tower, Kensington market and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
  • Outlet Collection Shopping Village, Niagara – Designer shopping village outlet newly opened in 2014.
  • Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara – Private tour of ‘Journey behind the falls’, to experience being behind the falls, feeling and hearing the rush of the water.
  • Hornblower Niagara Cruises – Falls boat tour.
  • Niagara Helicopters – Helicopter flight over the falls.
  • Wine Tasting Inniskillin – Private tour and wine tasting of Inniskillin.

Trip Highlights

It is very difficult to choose just one part of this trip to call my favourite as I experienced so many amazing things. I loved the business class flights and the helicopter over Niagara because I love flying and all things aviation. The Scandinave spa was brilliant and definitely something I would do again as it was outdoor, relaxing, adventurous and different (even if it was a little strange getting into swimwear in front of people I’d only known for 12 hours).

The Rockport 1000 Islands cruise was very interesting; teaching me where my favourite salad dressing originated from. I adored staying at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier – I could have spent days just wandering around exploring the hotel and its history.

Dinner at the Ritz Carlton was a culinary extravaganza with cheese specifically selected from their ‘cheese cave’ and handmade French macaroons; another memorable experience. We were even told to be careful when taking photos as there were some celebrities in-house who don’t always like their photo being taken.

Everyone who looked after us – tour guides, hotel hosts, tourist board reps, coach driver, and hotel staff – were absolutely lovely, extremely welcoming and friendly Canadians. And I sampled some out of this world food and drink at prestigious hotels, restaurants and local eateries.

Possible Improvements

I am wary when saying a little more free time would have been nice because, at the same time, I am so pleased I did and experienced so much.

I personally wasn’t particularly enthralled by the Aboriginal Experience. I feel the people running the experience let the whole thing down really with a lack of enthusiasm and an almost ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude. It is sad that their culture and people have disappeared and continue to do so, but I feel this visit should have been made to the site after the Museum of History. This would have provided more of a scene setter and given me a better understanding of the Aboriginal first settlers. I also wasn’t keen on the linking hands well-being dance that was forced upon us either, but again I guess that is my own personal preference.

 Ottawa

Recommendations

I would definitely recommend this trip, although possibly in a different order to the way in which we did it. It is a great way of exploring Ontario and the East coast of Canada. There is so much to see and do in this country, and it is worth seeing and doing everything. I would also say going at a similar time of year to when I went would be most recommended as you get to see the traditional September/October fall colours. Again, I was totally unprepared for the beauty of the trees and colours I saw there.

We had the added benefit of it being Thanksgiving whilst we were there which, in contrast to the Black Friday shopping brashness in America, the Canadian celebrations were much more enjoyable. Canada celebrated with a much more traditional homely relaxed feel that you really felt part of.

Additional Comments

This was my very first familiarisation trip. I have been on work trips before with previous employment but these were not the same as this. As a result of this, I was apprehensive and nervous about what to expect and with the added element of having never been to Canada before, it really was a week of firsts for me.

Prestige Holidays made me feel very welcome, everyone in the group was fantastic and Canada is a warm and friendly country where I felt very relaxed wherever I went. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and it will stay with me forever as it was a wonderful mixture of firsts, unique adventures, culinary delights, warm hospitality and relaxing treats.

Must see? Niagara Falls
Must do? Helicopter flight over Niagara
Must try? Standing on glass floor in CN Tower, Toronto

If you would like to experience the power of Niagara Falls for yourself, or tour the east coast of Canada, we can help you arrange a trip similar to Laura’s. With nine travel stores throughout East Anglia, you can speak to our passionate team at many different locations.