Canadian Contrasts

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I have always thought I wouldn't enjoy a coach tour or 'escorted holiday' as Titan Tours prefer to call them. But having just returned from a seven-day tour of the Canadian Rockies, I have completely changed my mind.

My escorted holiday started here in East Grinstead where I was picked up in one of Titan's MPVs--you've probably seen them travelling up and down the motorway. This is a service offered on all Titan Holidays and is free of charge. On arrival at Heathrow my suitcase was loaded on to a porter's trolley (free of charge) and taken to a special groups check-in desk. With 20 minutes of arriving at Heathrow I had my own boarding card in one hand and my credit card in the other, while I headed off towards the duty free shop.

We flew with Air Canada to Calgary. It was a very comfortable flight and even in economy class I was surprised by the amount of legroom. On arrival we were given a brief tour of Calgary and taken in our Brewsters motorcoach to Banff where we stayed for two nights. Located in the National Park, Banff is a thriving four-season resort which combines alpine beauty with every modern convenience.

There is a good range of shops, plenty of sightseeing, and the surrounding mountains make it a very beautiful place to stay. Two or three nights would give you time to explore the town's museums, take a trip in the Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain or a soak in the Sulphur springs. Banff is also home to the famous Banff Springs Hotel, and the Rocky Mountaineer Railway. Just half an hour away is the beautiful and much photographed Lake Louise and Chateau.

Travelling from Banff along the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper is one of Canada's most spectacular roadways. If the M25 looked like this, I would enjoy the traffic jams! The road runs along a chain of massive icefields which straddle the Continental Divide and the views are just amazing. Along this route you will come across the Columbia Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier. The enormous icesheet which covers 150 square miles carves the landforms that you see throughout the Rocky Mountains today. The melt water from the Athabasca Glacier is unusual in that it flows into three oceans: the Arctic to the north, the Pacific to the west and the Atlantic to the east.

A snowcoach will take you on to the glacier and it is worth paying extra to do this. Further along the Icefields Parkway are the Athabasca Falls the river is funnelled into a narrow canyon. This is a beautiful spot, so have a break, walk around, enjoy the scenery.

On to Jasper which is located in Canada's largest mountain park. Jasper is smaller than Banff and is surrounded by a necklace of lakes and waterfalls. The elk wander freely through the town here. As in all national park towns the land belongs to the wildlife and we, the visitor, have to fit in with them. Maligne Lake is the second largest Glacial Lake in the world and is easily visited from Jasper.

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We left Jasper and travelled along the Yellowhead Pass (where we saw our first bear) towards Kamloops, the gateway to the interior of British Columbia and where the Rocky Mountaineer journey makes its overnight stop. From Kamloops we journeyed through changing scenery, now not so mountainous but green and rolling, to Vancouver where we arrived late afternoon. Between the Ocean and Mountains, Vancouver is able to cater to a variety of interests and activities. I could live here. Just imagine being able to ski, sail and play golf all in the same day! Shops and restaurants, a large colourful Chinatown, historic Gastown and beautiful Stanley Park, Vancouver buzzes with excitement--not least at the harbour, the gateway to Alaska via the sheltered waters of the Inside Passage. There are many places to visit too. The lookout tower for spectacular 360-degree views over the city. The Capilano bridge at 450 feet long is the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge. If you're brave enough to cross it, don't look down--it's a 230-foot drop into the Capilano river below! While you're here, if you're missing a really good cup of tea, I can recommend the high tea (served all day) in the lovely gardens of the Tea Rooms. Also worth a visit is Grouse Mountain. Travel to the top by cable car to visit the Grizzly Bear Sanctuary where you can watch the bears in their natural habitat.

This trip has provided everything, from snow in Calgary to dazzling sunshine in Vancouver, from remote mountains to lively cities. Canada is indeed a place of contrasts. Sad to leave, I departed Vancouver for the 9-hour nonstop flight home. But Titan didn't leave it there. Tired and weary, I was met and delivered to my doorstep. It's all part of the service!

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No, I'm not a Travel Guru, but I have loved travelling since I was five years old, and more than love travel... I love to share my experiences... and show you our Wonderful World through my eyes!

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