Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Touring Western Canada - A Spectacular Winter Idyll

A trip to Canada is right for anyone with a sense of adventure and a love of magnificent scenery and friendly faces. Here we outline some highlights of a tour which starts in Calgary and ends in Vancouver - easily covered in 10 or 11 days, with a few nights in Banff and Jasper to savour the mountain scenes, and an unforgettable train ride too.

Starting in Calgary, a simple morning tour is a great way to take in the atmosphere of this go-ahead, elegant city of skyscrapers and diverse shopping centres. Amongst the attractions is Calgary's Saddledome, the city's 17,000-seat stadium hosting a huge variety of sporting and entertainment events.

After Calgary, a drive west takes you to Banff National Park, known as the gateway to the Rockies, and a spectacular mountain resort. There is so much to do here, including an excursion to Sulphur Mountain for a gondola ride with spectacular views of the mountain scenery, and a visit to Bow Falls. Main activities can be hiking, boating and fishing, and the extra-adventurous might try a helicopter trip over the mountains; or perhaps for those who enjoy the quieter life sometimes - a cruise on Lake Minnewanka?

From Banff, a great place to visit next is Jasper - but on the way it is a good idea to take in the resort of Lake Louise with its clear blue waters a perfect natural mirror which reflects the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The scenery here is breathtaking, with steep gorges, snow-capped mountain ranges, and turquoise lakes. Another stop might be the Columbia Ice field for a snow coach ride on the Athabasca Glacier. Great adventure.

Once in Jasper, you will marvel at the continuous stream of beautiful scenery again with hiking options (how about an evening hike looking for elk?), or a trip to Maligne Lake and its huge canyon. But Jasper is also famous as a starting point for a fantastic 2-day trip by rail on the Rocky Mountaineer - a classic rail journey from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast. It takes in Mount Robson the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies and follows the route of the 'Overlanders', 19th century homesteaders who tried to settle down in this wild region, and the Thompson River with views of the Monashee Mountains. Staying overnight at the ranching centre of Kamloops, the next days sees the Rocky Mountaineer continue on to Vancouver via the Fraser Canyon and the churning rapids of Hell's Gate where the Fraser river squeezes through a 100-foot gap.

The Rocky Mountaineer offers two choices of service. RedLeaf Service which provides guests with assigned, spacious, comfortable reclining seats, large picture windows, delicious chilled breakfast and luncheon selections served at your seat in an air-conditioned traditional rail coach environment.

On the other hand, the GoldLeaf Service allows you to use one of the 11 custom-built, bi-level GoldLeaf dome coaches with an upper level offering 360-degree panoramic views. The whole experience includes elegant dining and top class service - probably the rail trip of a lifetime for many.

After this, Vancouver offers beautiful beaches and fine harbour, Chinatown, Gastown, and the beautiful Stanley Park. From Vancouver you can sail across the Strait of Georgia through the Gulf Islands, an area known for its Mediterranean climate. A nice idea is to take in a sightseeing trip to Victoria with its Butchart Gardens and Bastion Square. An interesting collection of totem poles can be found in Thunderbird Park. Staying overnight before a return to Vancouver, you can enjoy a more leisurely stay in Victoria, which will repay you with memories of fine attractions such as the Royal British Columbia Museum, or afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel, or even a whale watching cruise on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

With flights by Air Canada amongst other to Calgary and back from Vancouver, this itinerary is a great recommendation for an unforgettable taste of Canada's pure and spectacular beauty.

Penny Church writes for several Travel Companies in the UK, including Country Connect and the Airport parking specialist http://www.airport-parking-offers.com who offer a wide variety of airport parking and hotel arrangements for UK travellers.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Touring Canada Highlights

Thinking of touring around Canada this year? From coast to coast this country is packed with beautiful scenery and interesting features. Being the 2nd largest country in the world, the best way to see all Canada has to offer is by taking an escorted or guided tour but going your own way can be as rewarding if you know the best places to visit.

Starting in the west, the Rocky Mountains are a breathtaking backdrop to a day exploring areas of Vancouver such as Chinatown, Gastown, and Stanley Park. Outside of the city is a paradise for nature lovers as the Rockies offer some of the best hiking and sightseeing found anywhere in the world. Kayaking, canoeing, sailing and white water rafting excursions are also popular and plentiful. North of Vancouver you'll come across Whistler. As the world watched Whistler host the 2010 Winter Olympics, you couldn't help but not want to be there and join in on the celebrating. Not just a Ski Destination, Whistler is a happening, hip city that charms and welcomes. A must do in Whistler is a trip on the world's highest and longest gondola ride but however you decide to spend your days, make sure you have your camera and plenty of batteries as rarely a minute will pass in Vancouver and Whistler that doesn't captivate you.

The drive from Vancouver through the Rockies to Calgary is a true photographer's heaven. After an incredibly scenic drive through the mountains, you will come across Jasper National Park where the white water rafting, kayaking and hiking is unsurpassed. For more amazing scenery and wonder, Lake Louise and Banff National Park are not to be missed. Canoeing on the spectacular Peyto Lake is almost surreal and hypnotic with its turquoise water glowing amidst the mountain peaks. If you time your trip right, head over to the Calgary Stampede for The Greatest Show on Earth.

From one coast to another, The Maritimes are charming in their own right. The Cabot Trail is repeatedly described as one of the most beautiful and scenic places on Earth. The Bay of Fundy features the highest tides in the world and for true Eastern Hospitality, visit the historical town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Also in Nova Scotia is Peggy's Cove, one of the most popular stops in Atlantic Canada with its iconic lighthouse. Of course, no stop to the Maritimes is complete without an ocean-side lobster dinner and the best way is with a smaller, local, family run restaurant to experience the authentic charm this part of Canada is famous for.

In between these uniquely Canadian locations is a corridor from historic Quebec City to the Majestic Niagara Falls. Along this corridor you'll find the cities of Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, and Toronto featuring historic forts, top vineyards, the CN Tower, first class live theatre, splendid architecture and some of the most multicultural areas in the world.

From The Pacific to The Atlantic Ocean and all cities and towns in between you could literally spend a lifetime discovering all Canada has to offer. Taking an Escorted Vacation not only maximizes your time and brings better insight to your trip but when you are dealing with a country the size of Canada, it is also the most economical way.

Fully Escorted Tour Operators like Trafalgar Tours bring an experience to traveling that leave you accomplished and that you didn't miss anything. Consider taking a Guided Tour through Canada for a journey packed with breathtaking scenery, excitement and charm.

The Calgary Stampede - Why Do So Many Students Rush to Calgary For Their English Course in Canada?

When destinations are being tossed about for the best place to do an English course in Canada, the same old names keep cropping up, with Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal tending to top the list.

But anyone who's spent a period of study in Calgary can testify to the fact that it's more than the match of those other slightly better known Canadian cities.

Perfect Size

For starters. Calgary is a good size. Neither too big nor too small, it's on just about the perfect scale for a student living and studying in the city to really get to know it, without ever feeling like they're constantly retreading their steps over and over again.

What's more, downtown Calgary is a mass of different districts and neighborhoods, each seemingly more fascinating than the last. The real heart of the city - which should probably be sought out first - is the area to be found on and around Stephen Avenue.

Fantastic Shopping

Here there are not one, but three malls, packed with shops, and all manner of fantastic shopping. Not far away, meanwhile, the Eau Clair and the Festival districts are similarly vibrant neighborhoods that offer a compelling mix of boutique-style shops and striking riverside walks.

Perhaps most interesting of all from the point of view from the student on an English course in Canada, is Inglewood. Just over the Elbow River, it's Calgary's oldest neighborhood, and it has an alternative vibe to its shops, cafés and bars that makes it one of its most engagingly mixed.

Urban Spectacle

The city also has a fairly extensive Chinatown (around Centre Street S) which, aside from being a great place for students studying English in Calgary to pick up a cheap meal, is an intriguing urban spectacle in its own right.

In the winter, when the temperatures - although relatively high for Canada - begin to drop, there's even a convenient system of covered walkways and bridges (called the '+15') to shepherd the pedestrian around town. The largest network of its kind to be found anywhere in the world, it really opens the city up for exploring.

As you'd expect from a city of its size, Calgary has plenty of attractions with which the visitor to the city can fill their time. Of these, a couple of museums - the Art Gallery of Calgary and, especially, the enormous Glenbow Museum - really stand out (although the Telus World of Science, Calgary, runs them pretty close).

Swept Away by the Calgary Stampede

Then, of course there's the (actual!) Calgary Stampede, that rumbles into town every July. A week of rodeos, partying and unapologetic embracing of all things 'cowboy', few events anywhere in the world can match it for sheer exuberance.

And if there was any doubt left in their minds, one thing's for certain: any student lucky enough to be in the city when the Stampede comes to town will certainly be congratulating themselves at having chosen Calgary for their English course in Canada!

Calgary is one of travel writer Paul Collins' favorite Canadian cities. As a former English teacher with friends in the city, he's always held it to be one of the best places to do an English course in Canada.

A Guide to the Exhibition Centres in Canada

Located north of Old Montreal, the Palais des Congrès de Montréal has doubled its capacity since its renovation between 1999 and 2002. The exhibition centre is easily accessible due to its close proximity to Paris' business center, the Quartier international, the Quartier des spectacles, Chinatown, and Old Montréal, as well as the international airport and underground pedestrian network. The Centre offers two large, fully equipped reception halls for large events or two smaller events that run simultaneously. The two halls each provide a registration area, ticketing, bus terminals, coat check, washrooms, access to other levels, and parking.

These services are provided on Level 1, where the commercial mall is located. The mall is home to approximately 20 stores and service centres. Level 2 provides 200,000 square feet of exhibition space that can hold up to 1,000 booths. It is also home to Canada's largest multipurpose room that is not supported by columns. Audiovisual and telecommunications points of service are accessible at every 29 feet. On Level 3, visitors will find the promoter's offices that include a meeting space, office, and secretariat, while private lounges equipped with a satellite kitchen are found on Levels 4 and 7. Level 7 opens up to a wide terrace that is perfect for cocktail luncheons for VIP guests.

The Vancouver Convention And Exhibition Centre was founded in 1987 as the Canada Pavilion during Expo 86. The Five Sails of the complex are a recognized landmark in Vancouver City. The East building offers exhibitors more than 150,000 square feet of space that covers two levels. This space includes a lobby and delegate concourse, exhibition halls, ballroom capacity, and meeting rooms. The West Building is expected to be open to exhibitors in 2008. It will provide unique features to best enhance its position with a waterfront setting, offering 340,000 square feet of space. The two buildings will be linked by a harbour-view connector. After the expansion has been completed, the complex will have tripled in size to a total area of almost 500,000 square feet. The expansion plans are being expedited in order to make way for the upcoming 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, for which the centre will become the Games' the international broadcast centre and main press centre.

The Direct Energy Centre was awarded the Trade Show Executive's 2006 Innovation Award as well as two BOMA awards in 2006. Offering a wide variety of halls of various heights and sizes, the center aims to serve the needs of all kinds of events. It provides loading and unloading facilities, floor loading, a range of sound and lighting systems, temperature control, state of the art telecommunications equipment, and numerous utilities.

Catherine writes about UK exhibition stand design and Literature Stands.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Visit Victoria, British Columbia Canada

Victoria is a beautiful city located at the Pacific Coast of Canada on Vancouver Island. This quaint and charming city enjoys the mildest climate in Canada. Golfing and gardening are a way of life for many residents, and outdoor activities can be enjoyed year round.

The city was named after Queen Victoria and its British heritage is apparent with many gift shops selling fine china, Irish lace, and woolens and tartans. There also are several tea rooms. A visit to the Empress Hotel at the waterfront to enjoy their afternoon tea is an experience many tourists don't want to miss. This hotel overlooks the Inner Harbour, the area where the Washington state ferries arrive, and across the street from the stately Parliament buildings which are brightly lit at night.

Ferries go from Victoria to the British Columbia mainland and Washington state many times a day and all year. The ferry trips are all very scenic as you enjoy passing by many small islands and the mountain views. Be prepared for possible long line ups, particularly on weekends and holidays.

Walking tours downtown are very popular, and you can also see the sights by taking one of the many horse drawn carriage tours. There is much to see and enjoy downtown all within short walking distance.

Thunderbird Park is small but is renowned for its native heritage and totem poles. Close by is Beacon Hill Park, absolutely beautiful in the spring with the rhododendrons, tulips and daffodils, but it can be enjoyed even in the winter months. Victoria has winter pansies, heather, and primrose flowers that time of year.

The Carillon bell tower chimes on the hour and is a gift to the city from the Netherlands marking Canada's centennial back in 1967.

Victoria's Chinatown is small but beacons the visitor with its ornate gate featuring two stone lions. It is the oldest in North America and has fine restaurants and shops.

There are many restaurants featuring every cuisine. Especially popular is salmon and shellfish, fresh from the Pacific waters. You may also enjoy Italian, Greek, and British among many others.

The world renowned Butchart Gardens is located about an hour away from downtown Victoria. The sunken garden is breathtaking and the gardens also feature roses, a Japanese garden, two fine restaurants and in the summer spectacular fireworks. The gardens are illuminated at night in the summer time.

Victoria is rated one of the world's favorite places and with good reason. With so much natural beauty, lots of activities to enjoy, pleasant climate and outstanding accommodations and dining it is a city that is not to be missed!

To learn more about Victoria BC please visit http://www.squidoo.com/victoriabc

Hotels in Canada - Know Where to Stay

If you are vacationing, regardless of which part of the world you plan to go to, having a nice, clean, and comfortable place to stay should be put to primary consideration. After a full day of sight-seeing, it would be nice to have a place to go to that is not only relaxing, but also worth every penny you spend for it. There are so many hotels in Canada, with different rates depending on the kind of accommodation you are looking for. It is important that you set a budget for it before scouting for a place to stay. And of course, you should already have decided which cities you plan to go to as well.

Considered as the most ideal city to visit in Canada, Vancouver has a very temperate climate where summers aren't too hot, and winters aren't too cold. This city is quite famous because it holds so many festivals all year round such as the Vancouver International Jazz Festival which includes 400 performances and more than a hundred free concerts. Also, if you are a hockey fan, you'll definitely come to the right place as this is tagged as the 'hockey city' in North America. Whether you are there for business or for pleasure, you will find hotels in Vancouver usually complete with basic amenities such as internet service, room service, dining, and fitness centers. You can also choose from luxury, mid-range, and economy accommodations.

Being one of the world's top 3 multi-cultural cities, Toronto is basically a hotspot for numerous cultures, and if you are up for diversity, this is the city to visit. You can check out the CN Tower or the historical Distillery District. It is also home to several 'Chinatowns' with the biggest one located in downtown Toronto, at Dundas and Spadina. If you are looking for a hotel in Toronto, you should not have any problem at all. Depending on your budget, you can have luxury accommodation, standard, budget, and even discount hotels.

Montreal is a city that is strongly influenced by the French culture, it exudes sophistication and style. Here you will find street cafés, historical buildings and landmarks, museums, and shopping districts. Being widely popular for their 'boutique hotels,' you will find shopping a pleasurable experience when you are in Montreal. When you want to book a hotel in Montreal, you can expect luxurious and superior accommodation, especially if you are willing to spend more for it.

These are just 3 of the major cities in Canada, and if you happen to visit one of them, be sure to know which hotel you should stay.

Samantha is an avid traveler and writer on a variety of subjects. From hotels travel and more, her work appears in several publications and online.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Canada Travel Tips


As the second largest landmass in the world, there's plenty to see in Canada. But even with its vast size, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, it is by no means insurmountable, and is a more than welcoming environment for budget travelers.


In a country so vast, travel is one of the first issues that will concern the budget traveler keen on getting to hostels in Canada on time, but also in the cheapest way possible. Rest assured, though, that when it comes to efficient and competitively priced travel, Canada is on a par with its southern neighbors the US.

As is to be expected, the quickest way of getting from city to city is by airplane, but for those whose finances may not be able to stretch even as far as the budget carrier WestJet, there is the Greyhound Canada coach service that operates between cities.

Of course, an additional bonus of the coach option is that it allows travelers the opportunity to see some of Canada's awe-inspiring, but often inhospitable countryside on the way.

British or French Canada?

Canada's rich cultural history has endowed it with both French and English-speaking quarters, each offering a different set of attractions that will separate respective travelers' different tastes.

In French-speaking Montreal and Quebec, where the French relinquished power to the conquering English in 1759, there is an unmistakable blend of European and North American culture.

Nowhere has this become more evident than in the Montreal Jazz Festival. As the world's largest jazz festival, it attracts the cream of talent from the distinctly contrasting European and US jazz world on a yearly basis, with some shows attracting audiences in excess of 100,000.

By contrast, English-speaking Toronto has become the epitome of multiculturalism, with established communities from all over the world that not only mean its hugely hospitable, but also offers plenty of cheap accommodation and boasts some of the best Canada hostels.

Highlights include Chinatown, among the largest in North America. But tourists should not miss out on the bohemian Kensington Market, Queen Street West Fashion District and Greektown.


Blessed with more than its fare share of snow and exciting peaks (such as Mount Robson and the Glacier and Revelstoke), reveling in one of Canada's self-proclaimed sporting pastimes is highly recommended.

For the less energetic, experiencing the landscape can be done on foot, with plenty of cheap tours available of the Glacier and Revelstoke mountain ranges or the Waterton Lakes.

Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for Twizi. Paul Scottyn did a backpacking tour of Canada, he checked out a variety of the country's budget accommodation, including a number of most Montreal hostels

What You Need to Know About Canada Travel

Canada is one of the celebrated countries of the world. The second largest country in the world has unique blend of French-English culture. With plenty of worth watching cities, the country is not densely populated. The cities of Canada have their own magnificence and grandeur that magnetizes people round the globe.

The Land of Provinces

The vast area of the country along with variation in flora and fauna varies in other attractions too. The different provinces have the aura that leaves no visitor from getting beguiled. They vary in not just flora and fauna but also the culture and other temptations.

· The capital city of Canada -Toronto has any and everything. Where on one hand the city is the home for the longest street in the world- the Yonge Street, on the other hand it has the 1815 foot tall CN tower that is well known to be the tallest free standing structure in the world. This isn't all. The visitors also take delight in the ravishing and enticing antiques displayed at the Sigmund Samuel Canadian Gallery and the eternal tourist destination-the Royal Canadian Museum.

· The Prince Edward Island, the smallest province enthralls the visitors with its scenic splendor. The place is blessed not just with beautiful landscapes, sandstone cliffs on its southern coast but also sparkling green fields in the interior, crystal blue beach water of the sandy beaches around the coastline.

· New Brunswick that is rooted in the French tradition s rich in seafood and fishing. The place has nestled the largest and busy town of Saint John that reminds of the history of the province.

· Fishing and hunting are adored in the Newfoundland region too. It is the largest of the Atlantic Province that has the eleventh century Viking outpost as its outstanding attraction.

· The New Scotland or Nova Scotia smells of Scotland as well as French fragrance. The amalgamation is also of the contemporary and the archaic structures like from the nineteenth century historic buildings there are exclusive latest shopping malls, apartments, hotels etc.

· The British Columbia province is distinctively bifurcated into the lush green forests and the dry and arid region.

· The Quebec province and the Quebec City have a lot to treat the visitors. The Montreal region of the Quebec province has special seasonal festivals. The winter season is a host to the La Fete des Neiges festival; the summers welcome all the Jazz and opera lovers with its Montreal International Music Competition and the International Opera Festival respectively. The Festival Internationale de Nouvelle Danse and the International film festival add to the beauty of autumn season. The Quebec City that is the capital of the Quebec Province is quite significant from the perspective of trade and commerce and its noteworthy historical buildings.

· To hail all the golf, tennis, baseball and soccer lovers, the third largest city of Canada - Vancouver has more than numerous golf courses, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields. The city has an exotic forty storey Harbor Center climbing up at which one can gaze at the Gastown (a renowned tourist spot) and Chinatown (the blooming Chinese community of Vancouver). For the children as well as the adults there is Stanley Park Zoo that is nestled in a thousand acre Stanley Park.

· If Canada happens to be your holiday destination in the first two weeks of July, not to miss is the Calgary Stampede i.e. the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. This show has worldwide popularity that fetches innumerable tourists to Calgary.

· Last but not the least are the Canadian Rockies- the Rocky Mountains on the edge between Alberta and British Columbia, the 4200 square mile Jasper National Park and the first national park of Canada i.e. the Banff National Park.

Canada is the place where sports never say die. The country is known for its water sports like canoeing, sailing and so forth. Apart from these there is the national game of Canada- Lacrosse, the Canadians adorable game of Hockey, Basket ball and the like.

The moment Canada ranks first on your dream destinations, just collect little information about the weather of the place that varies with the provinces there. For instance, the Quebec and provinces adjacent to it have hot and humid summers with cold winters. But the Northwest Canadian Territories are different with short cool summers and long cool winters. However, the concoction or fusion of diverse cultures and climate, picturesque attractions, cuisine, language, people etc. make Canada what it is- a place worth loving and visiting.

Mansi Aggarwal writes about canada travel topics. Learn more at http://www.vacationingincanada.com.

Vancouver, BC Canada

Vancouver, BC - Don't Miss It

If you're searching for travel information on Vancouver Tourism, then chances are you may be planning some Holidays in Canada. If you are thinking of visiting or just looking for some helpful information on this beautiful city, then here's a little insight into this beautiful city located on the west coast of Canada.

As many of you are probably aware, Vancouver was host City for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Winter Games. Vancouver tourism thrived as a result of these prestigious world events, inviting people from all over the world to the city at a time of year that is not necessarily considered your peak months for tourism. But tourists arrived from all over, enjoying the Olympic Games and at same time soaking in the sights of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vancouver Tourism is Soaring!

Vancouver, BC Canada, considered to be one of the world's finest cities and honoured over the years with countless awards for being one of the world's top travel destinations, most liveable cities, and also voted as one of the 'Top Cities of the Americas'. The list just goes on and on with nothing but good things to say about Vancouver. For those planning holidays in Canada and in particular to the west coast, then we at Holidays for Family, recommend Vancouver and Victoria as the two top "must see" places to visit.

The scenery is simply spectacular, from the beautiful North Shore Mountains, ocean views to colossal nature parks for biking and hiking in and around the city. Vancouver is known for its great natural green space, including the world renowned Stanley Park which borders the Pacific Ocean. The climate on the west coast is ideal, with mild year round temperatures and very little snow. Instead of the frigid cold and snow of other Canadian Provinces, Vancouver enjoys rainfall instead, keeping things green and beautiful year round.

Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada with an area population of over two million people. Tourism Vancouver is considered one of the area's largest sources of income and employment opportunities for many inhabitants. This area receives almost 3 million visitors each year, many arriving by Cruise Ship from May to September.

Plan a trip in your Recreational Vehicle, fly into the city or drive, it doesn't matter. There is always a place just waiting for you and your family. Need a campground, motel, B & B or luxury hotel? No problem, Vancouver has something just right for everyone!

Vancouver Tourism - Invites You and Your Family

There is so much to see and do in this city it would take a book to cover the possibilities. Here are a few exciting things for you and your family to do when spending some time in this grand city.

• Stanley Park - a must see visit! Walk, bike, drive or take a city bus tour around this magnificent park bordering the ocean side. Voted as one of the best parks in the world.

• Canada Place - stroll this amazing facility, British Columbia's biggest tourist attraction. Located at the waterfront, housing the World Trade Center, Vancouver Convention Center, Pan Pacific Hotel, Cruise Ship Port and much more.

• Robson Street - conveniently located downtown for shopping, dining, bars and much more! The city comes alive at night on Robson Street!

• Granville Island - hop a water taxi and explore art galleries, various shops and boutiques. Also, visit the outdoor public market and restaurants.

• Grouse Mountain - take the sky ride to the top of Grouse Mountain and view the city high above on our local ski hill. Many hikers enjoy climbing this mountain side known as the "Grouse Grind." Enjoy a casual meal at the top or plan an evening of fine dining while taking in the spectacular night scenery.

Chinatown - one of the largest in North America. Stroll around in the evening when the streets are closed to vehicles and open markets are put up for shopping.

• Vancouver Aquarium - a must see visit with many ocean exhibits and shows.

• Capilano Suspension Bridge - walk this 450 foot bridge in over the Capilano River. Located just minutes from downtown, yet escape to nature and the beauty of British Columbia.

The list is endless of exciting things you and your family can do when visiting this great city. Vancouver tourism is thriving, so why not start planning those Holidays in Canada today! You won't be disappointed.

Happy travels!

Robert Tellier

Robert Tellier offering travel tips and much more for: Holidays in Canada.
For more detailed information, please visit: Holidays for Family
Sharing special tips, destinations and much more making family travel stress-free and enjoyable.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Hello From Toronto - Exploring Chinatown and Kensington

In all my explorations of Toronto over the last few years I have learned that in addition to numerous world-class sights and attractions, Toronto has many lesser known nooks and crannies that are full of history, interesting stories and anecdotes. One of the best people to learn from about the twists and turns of Toronto's history is Bruce Bell, a well-known author, playwright, actor, standup comedian who is also a passionate historian and has become one of Toronto's most well-recognized history experts.

The story of how I met Bruce is also quite intriguing: my brother, who happens to live in Austria, was reading a German travel magazine that was featuring a story about Bruce, so he called me up and said that there is this guy that is doing all these neat walking tours through Toronto and that's how I connected with Bruce - through a European detour. Over the past couple of years I have taken two of his tours, covering the downtown area and featuring a culinary exploration of Toronto's famous St. Lawrence market. I have always enjoyed the experience and wanted to do another tour with Bruce for a while.

Well, I figured it was definitely time for more entertaining and informative explorations of Toronto; this time it was going to be Chinatown-Kensington, one of Toronto's most vibrant and fascinating neighbourhoods. So I called up Bruce and said let's do another tour. To share the experience I brought out six of my friends and we met yesterday at 6:30 pm at one of Toronto's modern architecture icons: the OCAD Building at 100 McCaul Street, just south of the University of Toronto campus. The OCAD Building, I call it the "gift box on stilts", is part of the 2004 redevelopment of the Campus of the Ontario College of Art & Design. The Sharp Centre for Design has a unique "table top" structure which has quickly become one of Toronto's most recognizable landmarks.

We met in the Butterfield Park area, surrounded by the stilts holding up the table top of this extraordinary building. From there we headed west into a green space that features Toronto's oldest house: "The Grange" was built in 1817 for D'Arcy Boulton Jr., a member of one of early Toronto's most prominent families who owned about 2000 acres of land in the area. The classical mansion reflects the British architectural traditions of the 18th century. Today, the Grange is owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario and is in the process of being renovated and integrated into the AGO's Frank Gehry-led redesign.

After leaving this park we walked north on Beverley Street which features several yellow-brick mansions of some of Toronto's most pre-eminent families, the "Family Compact" - the true power brokers of the early 19th century. Families such as the Cawthras and others owned huge tracts of land in what is today's downtown Toronto. The Bolton family even owned a private racetrack near the intersections of Dundas and Beverley and many formal social occasions were celebrated on their enormous estate. We also passed by a former hotel which dates back to 1822, one of the very few hotels left from that era which today is a men's residence.

Our stroll took us westwards on Baldwin Street, a street with a mix of imposing mansions, historic apartment buildings and narrow Victorian homes with attractive architectural details and amazingly intricate woodwork. Bruce stopped at a mansion of one of Toronto's most influential historic figures: George Brown (1818 to 1880) was a Scottish-born Canadian journalist, politician and one of the Fathers of Canada's Confederation. He was also the founder and editor of the Toronto Globe newspaper which today is known as the Globe and Mail.

Bruce enlightened us that George Brown was an important figure in the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses that allowed African slaves to escape from the United States to Canada in the 19th century. Ironically, as much as George Brown supported the cause of freeing black slaves, he remained a staunch anti-Catholic. Bruce elaborated that while the United States was characterized by an ongoing conflict between Blacks and Whites, early Canada's conflicts mostly unfolded between Protestants and Catholics. Bruce added that in 1880 George Brown was shot by one of his former employees at the Globe newspaper, a certain George Bennet who had been fired from his job for drunkenness. Although George Brown only suffered a leg injury at the time he died about 6 weeks later from the wound.

Just a few steps further west we saw the mansion of Robert Baldwin, a member of the Parliament of Upper Canada and a key public figure around the time of the 1837 uprising of the Toronto population against the entrenched British power structure. The unsuccessful Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 was an uprising against the British colonial government, particularly about the issue of land allocation. Most of the land in and around the old City of York was owned by the "Family Compact", a group of extremely wealthy Anglican conservative families that represented Canada's elite at the time. Robert Baldwin was instrumental in establishing Responsible Government, which advocated increased independence from Britain and self-government for Upper Canada.

We had finally arrived on Spadina Avenue, the expansive north-south artery that is the centre point of Toronto's Chinatown. This historic neighbourhood, one of three Chinatowns within Toronto's city boundaries, is centered around Spadina and Dundas and is the largest Chinese shopping area in the city. Old Chinatown is actually one of North America's largest, not surprisingly as Toronto features the second largest Chinese population in Canada after Vancouver.

Recent years have seen a migration of Chinese immigrants to the suburbs which has led to the closure of some of the local restaurants. Many former Chinatown residents, originally from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have moved outside the City's boundaries and the void has been filled by many ethnic Chinese people from Vietnam. As a result an increasing number of store signs are now in Vietnamese, in addition to the well-established Chinese stores.

Goods sold include fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, low cost clothing and general merchandise, all of which are sold at very reasonable prices. Recently there has been a noticeable local increase in Latin American immigrants, testament to the fact that Toronto's demographics continue to be in flux.

The same story applies even more to Toronto's Kensington area, roughly bounded by Spadina Avenue, College Street, Queen Street and Bellevue Avenue. As Bruce explained, it is one of Toronto's most ethnically diverse and eclectic neighbourhoods and has been attracting immigrants from different countries of origin for the last 130 years or so. Originally the Denison estate, the Kensington area became a residential area for Irish and Scottish immigrant labourers. The small working-class houses in this historically inexpensive area have been inhabited by successive waves of immigrants from different places. From 1910 onwards, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe as well as some Italians started to stream into the area. The entire Kensington area became known as "the Jewish Market", and about 60,000 Jewish residents lived here in the 1920s and 1930s who worshipped in about 30 local synagogues.

We stopped at the Minsker Synagogue at 10 St. Andrew Street, home of the Congregation Anshei Minsk, Toronto's Downtown Synagogue. Construction of the synagogue commenced in 1922 and was finally completed in 1930. As a result of the out-migration of many of the Jewish residents from Kensington, today it is one of the few synagogues still in active operation in downtown Toronto.

Captivated by the colourful and unusual variety of stores we walked through narrow streets filled with a jumble of vintage clothing stores, bakeries, restaurants, shops selling anything from fish, cheese and meat to dry goods and assorted merchandise. At about 7:30 pm most of the stores had closed or were in the process of closing, but the diverse and unusual storefronts and murals illustrate the Bohemian flavour of this area. Bruce pointed out numerous favourite hangouts: places such as Cob's Bread, Graffiti's Bar and Grill, My Market Bakery, the Chocolate Addict and many other unique nooks and crannies illustrate the free-spirited character of this unusual neighbourhood. At the intersection of St. Andrew and Augusta we stopped to admire a "half a house" that was attached to some flat-roofed houses and the complex was then capped off on the other side by another "half a house".

One of the most poignant symbols of Toronto's multi-ethnic mixing is a restaurant called the "Hungary Thai", an eatery that surprisingly combines European and Asian culinary traditions originating in Hungary and Thailand. There is no better area than Kensington Market to come face to face with Toronto's culturally diverse makeup. Today's Kensington features residents and merchants from all over the world, including people of Latin, Caribbean, European and Asian origin.

Southwest of Augusta Avenue we turned onto Bellevue Square Park, a green space that is frequented by a very Bohemian crowd of people, representing some of Toronto's artists and counterculture. Kensington Market is one of the few areas that features Cannabis cafes and products, and there is a distinct marijuana culture that pervades the area, particularly on Bellevue Square Park. The northwest end of the park features a statue of Al Waxman (1935 to 2001), a Toronto actor who starred in a popular television series "The King of Kensington" and was involved in numerous charitable organizations and events. Bruce pointed out that Al's wife Sara is immortalized on a bench right next to the statue in a carving that says "Sara loves Al".

Right opposite the Al Waxman statue at the corner of Bellevue Avenue is another relic from Kensington's Jewish history. The Kiever Synagogue on Denison Square was built in 1912. Its twin towers are crowned with Stars of David which give it a distinct middle-eastern or Byzantine feel. Although many Jewish residents have left the Kensington area over the last few decades to move further north in the City, the Kiever Synagogue continues to be active and to offer religious services every Sabbath as well as educational services to the remaining Jewish population.

We proceeded southwards on Augusta Avenue until we reached Queen Street. At the corner of Augusta and Queen we stopped and Bruce made us aware of one of the emblematic statues guarding the entrances of Kensington: an oversized cat prancing on a globe, an appropriately offbeat symbol of this colourful neighbourhood.

Across the street Bruce pointed out the former Alexandra Park public housing complex that has been renamed the Atkinson Housing Co-op. Bruce explained that this residential complex was a major urban planning mistake and had become one of Toronto's most crime-ridden areas. In 2003 the former Alexandra Park became Canada's first public housing complex to be converted into a tenant-managed, non-profit housing cooperative, a move which has greatly improved the safety in this area.

At the intersection of Dundas and Queen Streets, right in the heart of Chinatown, Bruce stopped again to show us the Art Deco Victory Theatre, a former vaudeville theatre. He also explained that this theatre had at some point morphed into the Victory Burlesque, home of famous Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous burlesque dancer who became known for putting the "tease into striptease".

The history of the Spadina area is colourful indeed. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in the area from 1832 onwards, but major immigration got into full swing in the 1890s. Many of these poor Jewish immigrants had little language skills and began to work in low-paying jobs in the garment factories that had sprung up near Spadina.

Numerous Jewish delicatessens, tailors, cinemas, Yiddish theatres, synagogues and other political, social and cultural institutions developed in the area. Indeed, as Bruce pointed out, Spadina Avenue became the centre of the Garment District which still survives on a much smaller scale today - even today there are numerous fashion and fur stores that sell their merchandise to the public at wholesale prices. Bruce also elaborated that many of the buildings and warehouses became gradually higher, a direct result of the invention of the Otis safety elevator which made it feasible to carry out industrial manufacturing on higher level floors.

Our group then stopped at the Glen and Paul Magder Fur Store which was a pioneer in reforming Toronto's Sunday shopping laws by staying open on Sundays, despite heavy fines. Right around here we also got to admire the former location of a theatre owned by the parents of Mary Pickford, the famous Toronto born-actress, "America's Sweetheart" who became Hollywood's biggest star of the Silent Era. Together with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford was a cofounder of United Artists film studios.

We then walked east on Queen Street which features a whole stretch of eateries, restaurants and eclectic bars and taverns, including the Rivoli, an extremely popular bar, restaurant and pool hall. At the Horseshoe Tavern Bruce explained that many famous music acts of Toronto, including Blue Rodeo, got their start at this tavern.

Incidentally this was also a favourite hangout for the notorious Boyd Gang, a 1950s gang of bank robbers led by Edwin Alonzo Boyd. The gang garnered a lot of media attention due to its sensational actions, including bank robberies, jail breaks, liaisons with beautiful women, gun fights and daring captures. Two of the gang members were captured and hanged for the murder of a policeman in 1952 while Edwin Boyd, by then a Canadian folk hero, was sentenced to eight life terms plus twenty seven years concurrent. He was paroled in 1966, relocated to British Columbia and died in 2002.

Just steps further east is the "Friendship House", where Russian refugees were taken in, it is also the centre of the Communist League of Toronto and the former location of the 1980s television series "Street Legal".

A few steps east is a series of Victorian townhouses that, as Bruce explained, were owned by two sisters who had had a serious falling out. Although the buildings were symmetrical in appearance the sisters did their best to modify the architecture to ensure that each of their sides would look different from the other sister's property. Bruce pointed out a couple of former vaudeville theatres, explaining that in the era before cinemas and podcasts, almost every city block had one or more of these theatres which were popular entertainment spots for the locals.

At the Corner of Queen and Soho is the Black Bull, a decades old hotel and tavern that features a spacious outdoor patio. Bruce explained that in the 1800s Toronto's city limits extended to Peter Street, and the tavern housed in this building was the last tavern on the way out of town. This was at a time when a horse and carriage ride to Niagara Falls could take two days, so a final watering hole on the outskirts of town was important.

Another significant Toronto landmark rose up impressively in front of our eyes: Toronto's CHUM City Building, the main studio complex of CTV Globemedia. The building houses City TV and its famous Speakers Corner video booth (which allows members of the public to voice their opinions on any topic), Cable Pulse 24, MuchMusic, Star! and the Fashion Television Channel. Its 1914 Neo-Gothic terra cotta façade make it an instantly recognizable landmark in downtown Toronto, and the news truck with the turning wheels that is built into the eastern façade make it a real icon of the downtown core.

Well, our informative and entertaining Chinatown-Kensington Tour had come to an end. Bruce, with his dramatic abilities, was able to educate us and entertain us at the same time, introducing us to historically significant parts of the city that we had never seen or simply walked by without noticing.

Although a relatively young city, Toronto has a fascinating history, and Bruce Bell is just the guy to open our eyes to it.

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions. Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences & interesting life journeys, interviews with travellers and travel experts, cross-cultural issues, and many other features.

Susanne has recently published a series of FREE travel ebooks about destinations such as Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Sicily, New York City, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Nova Scotia and many more. Visit Travel and Transitions - FREE ebooks (http://www.travelandtransitions.com/ebooks.html) "Life is a Journey ? Explore New Horizons".

Toronto, the New York City of Canada

Toronto, my city of birth, is the largest city in Canada with a population of about 3 million (5 million in the greater area) and it keeps growing every year as it seems to be the first city of choice for immigrants from around the world. With over 100 languages spoken here, Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world according to the United Nations. This is actually a good thing since Toronto can be a model for the rest of the world in regards to showing how it is possible for different people of many different cultures and faiths to get along peacefully. Friends of different racial backgrounds and religions can be found here where they would probably be enemies in other parts of the world.

Having lived in Toronto for most of my life so far, I'm always amazed on how the city has grown as a tourist destination. Torontonians seem to take world class attractions like the CN Tower and the Skydome for granted since many see it every day during their commute. Of course, the CN Tower is a very worthwhile visit as a ride to the top is a must for every visitor.

Toronto has one of the best redeveloped harbourfronts anywhere. This area has boutiques at Queen's Quay, restaurants, cafes and galleries. Nearby Ontario Place and the Canadian National Exhibition are annual favorites among locals. This is also where one takes the ferries across to the Toronto Islands. The islands are all connected via bike paths and offer a unique view of the Toronto cityscape as well as a nice break from the busy downtown. Located on the main island, Centreville is a petting zoo and small amusement park for kids.

The action is downtown and probably where most tourists should stay. Although the hotels prices are higher in downtown than the suburbs, Toronto traffic is unfortunately not getting any better so it is best to stay where commuting is kept at a minimum. There is a very efficient transit system for those who want to stay outside of the downtown area though. A walk along Yonge Street near the Eaton Centre mall will reveal the wilder parts of Toronto life. For the latest trends, Queen Street West is where the funky boutiques and bars are. For upscale shopping, go to Bloor Street between Yonge and Avenue Road as well as the Yorkville area.

Toronto is a live theatre town, second to perhaps only New York or London. The theatre district on King Street has a lively after theatre scene including restaurants and clubs. During the day, the world renowned Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario and the Planetarium showcase treasures from around the world (as well as out of the world). Many also come to see the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Toronto has Canada's largest Chinatown. Actually, the growth of the Asian population has resulted in four different Chinatowns in the greater area. The main one is centered around Spadina and Dundas. The dim sum in Toronto is one of the best outside of Hong Kong since most Chinese immigrants here were originally from Hong Kong. Other ethnicities are also represented by such districts as Little Italy, the Greek Danforth area and many others. For outdoor markets, the Kensington and St. Lawrence Markets are great. Since Toronto is so multicultural, it is an excellent place to try out different cuisines.

For animal lovers, the Metro Toronto Zoo northeast of the city is world famous and will take an entire day to see. During the summers, Canada's Wonderland is a family oriented theme park just north of the city. Niagara Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, is just ninety minutes away and worth a day trip or even an overnight stay. There are just too many things to see and do in the Toronto area to mention in one article. Vancouver has the ocean and mountains while Quebec City has that old European touch. But to see world class live theatre and Canadian multiculturalism at its best, Toronto is where it's at.

Clint Leung is owner of Free Spirit Gallery http://www.FreeSpiritGallery.ca, an online gallery specializing in Inuit Eskimo and Northwest Native American art including carvings, sculpture and prints. Free Spirit Gallery has numerous information resource articles with photos of authentic Inuit and Native Indian art as well as free eCards.

Calgary, Alberta - Chinatown

The third largest Chinatown in Canada is located in Calgary. The Calgary is third in size behind Vancouver and Toronto. The size of the Chinatown in Calgary is representative of the high population of Chinese people in the city. There is relatively a high proportion of Calgarians who are of Chinese descent.

Chinatown is situated in the north east part of the Calgary downtown. Symbolically it is the heart of the Calgarian Chinese community. The influence of this community can be seen in North and East Calgary, which has a strong Oriental influence. Located along Centre Street South and from 4th Ave South to the Bow River, Calgary's Chinatown is a dense population and community full of Chinese shops, restaurants, cultural facilities and housing. There is also a second area along Centre Street that stretches twenty or more blocks which also has many Chinese-oriented businesses.

One of the bigger attractions in the Calgary Chinatown, as with many other Chinatowns, is the Chinese Cultural Centre. The Chinese Cultural Centre is the largest one in North America. One of its main features is a domed ceiling which was patterned after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

There is also the Dragon City Mall which is a small Chinese mall which is home to Chinese shops and small Chinese restaurants. There are many different locations across the city where you can have Chinese food, but to get an authentic Chinese meal with the authentic Chinese culture and experience, you have to head down to Calgary Chinatown.

For more information about Calgary Chinatown visit http://www.guidedtourcalgary.com/chinatown.html

For more information about Calgary, Alberta visit http://www.guidedtourcalgary.com