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Canada – well a bit of it anyway!

written by Sarah Bartholomew, a Travel Concept client

Canada has always been a life-long dream destination so after 25 years of waiting, we decided to make this a holiday to remember!

My husband has family in Ottawa and we wanted to include them in our visit which meant that we couldn’t just book a standard package-deal holiday.

Canada is vast, in fact it’s the second-largest country in the World, so trying to decide what to do first would have been mind-boggling! 

We’d used the services of The Travel Concept on previous occasions, so we knew that a phone call to Bianca outlining our plans would simplify everything for us. As per usual, the girls were right on-point. After me changing my mind a few times and Bianca’s patience – added to the excursions that Tracy researched for us before we left meant we had a tailor-made holiday of a life time awaiting us!

Our 1,500km road trip across just a small part of this beautiful country did not disappoint. We flew into Toronto and spent three days discovering everything the city had to offer – including, of course, the CN Tower. The tower dominates the skyline across the city and even when you can’t see it it’s reflected in the many glass-fronted skyscrapers that make up ‘Down Town Toronto’. The city itself is bustling and cosmopolitan, where the second spoken language is Chinese (French being down as far as 12th on the list) and the diversity of restaurants, bars and eateries reflects this. One thing we did struggle with but got used to eventually is the fact that what you see on a price tag is not what you pay at the till, so we had to do lots of quick sums in our heads before buying anything!

After picking up our hire car, our next stop: Niagara Falls! The iconic Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the river to be precise. To stand that close to so much water cascading over a 50m drop is one of those life-defining moments that is hard to put into words. As Lake Erie pours into Lake Ontario the noise is deafening and the spray that fills the atmosphere covers everything leaving on-lookers soaking wet in a matter of seconds. Thanks to Tracy’s careful planning on our behalf within 24hrs we’d seen the Falls from a helicopter, been right up as close as you can get from the decks of the ‘Hornblower’ and explored the tunnels behind the cascading water. After so much excitement and the ‘kiss-me-quick meets Vegas’ atmosphere which surrounds the Falls themselves we were definitely ready for the more genteel sophistication of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Just a half hour drive from the Falls and steeped in heritage, its 19th Century architecture and surrounding vineyards meant we were able to spend a couple of days exploring butterfly sanctuaries and enjoy picturesque walks along the banks of Lake Ontario.

Next we headed north to Collingwood in the Blue Mountains. We stayed at a purpose-built ski resort which in Summer focuses on water sports, mountain biking and other sporting activities. We however enjoyed exploring the local town, laying by the pool soaking up a few rays and eating out in the village which is built around the lake. The quaint wooden buildings reminiscent of a Western film set give a rustic feel to the place – but I imagine that its Winter when this resort is at its best, when the lake freezes over and is used for skating and the snow-covered lodges look like something from a fairytale.

The remainder of our holiday was spent between family, exploring Kingston and Ottawa and resting up at a cottage just a couple of hours drive from the city.

The countryside around the area is untouched and peaceful and our canoe trips across the lake at sunrise were only interrupted by the sound of our oars in the water and the Loons calling out to each other.

We fell in love with Canada but feel like we have only just scratched the surface of what this beautiful, hospitable country has to offer – we still have Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver and British Columbia and Banff to discover – definitely a destination to revisit!