* Prices may differ from that shown
Going for a holiday almost half-way around the earth need'nt cost the same. In Feburary of 2004 my wife and I flew Air Canada to British Columbia on the west coast of Canada for a packed ten-day holiday with a view towards seeing if we liked the area well enough to consider emigrating there. Believe it or not, it was our first trip to Canada. This sounds quite a statement for such a potentially momentous decision, but all the research I have done before hand suggested that BC had all the things we were looking for. Reasonable house prices, less pollution, less stress, beautiful setting and a people that suprisingly enough are a lot closer in attitude to us Brits than the inhabitants of the US are. (Never call a Canadian "American" as it is generally taken as an insult!!)
We made the decision to visit Canada at the start of Spring. Why? Because you can find some real bargains in terms of the cost of flights and hotel accommodation, saving literally hundreds of pounds. You're hardly going to be going to Canada in order to get a tan anyway! The flight from Heathrow was as pleasant as a long, sustained flight in economy could be. From London to Vancouver is an approximate nine hours, little more than the equivalent into Toronto or New York. We did'nt take the kids with us on this occasion, but if you are planning on doing so, I would recommend investing in a large number of sketch books, comics and even an MP3 or portable DVD player. It would be the best money you have ever spent! Regardless, moving about the cabin and stretching your legs is advisable. The service aboard was courteous and professional, though the plane was'nt new enough to have personal movie screens for example. The food we had was reasonable for airline chow and when you book your flight, you can choose between a bewildering variety of meals.
Sleepless in Calgary
Unfortunately, there was'nt a direct flight into Vancouver available when we booked, so we had a short stop in Calgary where for some reason officials were walking about grinning happily under unfeasably large cowboy hats. The transfer was supposed to be half an hour, but there was no way in hell we could get our luggage in that sort of timeframe. As a result, we spent almost four hours in the airport waiting for a connecting flight into Vancouver. I would very much recommend making sure that you get a direct flight if you are planning to go as we were both tired and irritable by this point.
Vancouver at last
Once over the rockies, we landed in the evening at local time, passing through a friendly border control and reclaimed our luggage before taking a cab into downtown Vancouver. The streets are very Americ erm North American, wide and with potholes. Crossing the Burrard bridge, the potholes vanished as if by magic while our first view of downtown Vancouver, lights a'blazin' was magnificent. After tipping the driver probably far too much, we walked into the lobby of where we would begin our hols for the first few days relying on public transport before heading back up to the airport to pick up a rental car. Vancouver as we were to discover has a well-planned city core that is startlingly clean. The hotel we were based at was the Ramada Inn and Suites Downtown Vancouver, the idea being we could walk all the way down to the port in about 30 minutes or so. The hotel looked nice on the internet with an art deco style. Unfortunately it was run down with dirty sheets that had cigarette burns in them and seemed a popular place for kids to go and par-tay. It had an attached bar come restaurant that offered a cheap way to fill up in the mornings and the staff kindly loaned me a broken umbrella that when opened did its best to poke both my eyes out. The immediate area was more than a little seedy and as you can tell, we have no plans to stay there again. On top of all of this, it rained hard and regularly. Overall, not the best start - but it was going to get a lot better.
Rain, rain, rain, rain
The inclement weather meant that we had to abandon several trips in the city, including to the Suz-Tze chinese gardens in Chinatown when the sky began to empty. Rest assured, there are many things you can do in Vancouver when it's raining and the wife discovered that shopping was one of them! On the bright side, apart from walking past a store that proudly proclaimed itself "London Drugs", we did get to go to The Cat's Meow as planned, a trendy restauraunt on Granville Island underneath the bridge near our hotel, another reason for choosing the location. The "Island" has a marina and many activities for all the family during the day, at night offering plenty of places to eat. The Cat's Meow lived up to its reputation for good quality surf 'n turf style food with a great friendly atmosphere and a nice view. For Canadians, it is expensive - but no more than most Brits are used to paying at even a halfway edible Indian or Chinese restaurant back in blighty. We took a cab back to the hotel. Public transport in Vancouver is very good, including the "Skytrain" as well as buses, but cabs are not expensive and often a more handy option. You do have to be quick on your feet to get one sometimes, though.
The one "Must" while in Vancouver
Our best excursion in Vancouver was our trip to the top of Grouse mountain in North Vancouver. To get there, you take a bus or walk to the port near Canada Place, a large building in the commercial district jutting out into the bay that resembles a cruise liner (those crazy Canucks, eh?). From there you take a ferry across to the North shore. They run them many and often as quite apart from the tourists, it is one of the main thoroughfares for commuting Canadians. The North Shore is where you get your first real experience of the Canada most people think of, green forested rolling hills with mountains in the background. The bus took us from the strip malls of the shoreline up into said hills to the bottom of grouse mountain. This is one of Vancouver's most well known attractions. In the winter and spring it is a haven for Skiers, snowboarders and ice skaters and as we were about to discover to our cost, very, very cold. In the summer, it offers long walks, helicopter rides and lumberjack shows and there is quite a nice IMAX show and ubiquitous pricy giftshops.
Nornally it costs about £12 PP to get entry up to grouse, but if you have dinner reservations for "The Observatory" on the top of the mountain as we did, then it's free. The swiss-built cable car took us from a rainy mountain base to a snowswept wonderland in the space of two minutes and a beauty that was stunning as the mountains rolled away to either side. If you've never been on a cable car before, the ride can be most alarming. There were a pair of kids from the city in the car with us bearing snowboards, who lent my wife and I their spare pairs of gloves, a very kind and a very Canadian thing to do for the most part. Under grey skies and increasing snowfall, we went on a sleigh ride through the snow, cuddling, shivering and accidentally taking a minute of footage of the sleigh skis into the bargain. The sleigh left us deep in artic country where we trudged through foot-deep drifts of snow in order to see Grinder and Coola - two orphaned Grizzly cubs being raised (behind mildly electrified mesh) there. Even just as cubs, each one would have weighed as much as I do, but Coola was happy enough, chasing his toys around the enclosure and oblivious to us. Rescued from hypothermia, we took the sleigh back to the main building and all but melted in front of a roaring log fire while a cabal?, a gaggle? of Japanese tourists laughed and took pictures of anything and everything.
With the time for our dinner fast approaching, we made our way into The Observatory, a semi-circular room with wide, strengthened windows that looks all the way down across the bay towards Vancouver. There we had what was undoubtedly the best meal of our lives courtesy of renowned Chef Sylvain Cuerrier. It beat anything I've had in Knightsbridge or Kensington for less money (about £22 PP and that's with a nice bottle of wine) and I've yet to have its equal. Examples of the food they offer are Grilled Squid Stuffed with Lobster and Mergez Sausage, Broiled Californian Striped Bass or seared Scallops with a chorizo risotto and basil froth. If you ever, EVER go to Vancouver, this is a must. We ate an unforgettable meal in the warmth as a blizzard raged outside the windows, gusts obscuring the evergreens. We came back happy.
A nice estate agent? Surely not!
We said our goodbyes to Vancouver in the morning as we took another cab ride to the airport and came away with a free upgrade from Avis to a Chrysler PT Cruiser which is a "small" car over there. (You will find a lot of sedans the size of Mercedes E classes and many 4x4's and pickup trucks) We headed south towards the county of Surrey (they also have New Westminister and Richmond) in order to look for potential houses. We stayed in a Best Western that had decided for some bizzare reason to setup shop close to an known area of prostitutes. My wife by this time was wondering whether the next hotel I had booked us into was going to be part abbatoir or perhaps have an indian graveyard onsuite. The hotel at least was very clean and well run. In the morning, our estate agent (or Realtor) picked us up. Her name was Penny Bastien and she worked for Royal LePage (maybe still does). I remember her name because she is a credit to her profession. She was not pushy and must have known that the odds of us buying anything would have been miniscule, yet she showed us around the area with a mixture of openness and pride that I found refreshing. I've never had occasion to praise an estate agent, most of whom are clearly in league with the devil, but Penny was marvellous. For the record, you could get a detached 4-5 bed house on a big lot (garden) for around £175,000.
Tsawassen (Bless you)
After staying in Surrey, we had booked ferry passage to Vancouver departing from the marvellously named Tsawassen. Before we left, we headed south near the border with Seattle to spend the day at Crescent beach and White Rock. Crescent beach was a beautiful upscale community with miles of parkland and stretches of pebbled beach overlooked by well kept wooden houses. It seemed to be a nice, understated if expensive place to live. White Rock by comparison was distinctly touristy where we had an expensive, disapointing meal in one of the many large restaurants facing the sea inlet and walked past many of the little shops selling all kinds of horrid tourist tat. Occasionally a BMW bought by daddy for the spoilt teenager sitting inside would cruise by with the music set too high in an attempt to persuade people that he/was was cool and hip, and not a complete twat. Like I say, Crescent beach was very nice.
We set off early to Tsawassen, past little towns with large, inexpensive houses and out across a miles long spur to the ferry port. It was massive, as it needed to be to house several of the gigantic ferries at once. We were to go on one of the smaller vessels, which only weighed about 9,000 tons even before the 294 cars were driven on and parked. BC's largest ferries handle up to 494 cars just to keep things in perspective. The trip from Tsawassen on the mainland to Duke point just outside Nanaimo on Vancouver Island takes about 2 hours and 40 nautical miles. When sailing, you are reminded by the rich blue of the ocean that this is the pacific, and if you are lucky you will see whales as you thread your way past picturesque minor islands. There are plenty of places to eat or shop or pickup tourist info on your destination while onboard, though the surroundings are workmanlike at best, this is just a ferry after all.
Vancouver Island - Nanaimo and beyond
Coming into the heavily wooded and downright massive Vancouver Island, we exited the terminal and drove into Nanaimo, one of the larger towns on the Island and one that could perhaps get away with calling itself a city (as it does) without too much sniggering on my part (It has a population of 80,000). It is on the whole a nice, neat town with a university but the outlying parts nearest the ferry terminal are rather untidy and look as though they are home to people that might hint that you have a "purdy mouth." Our hotel had a small car park of its own and was facing the wonderful harbour, as was our double room within it. What's more, there was'nt an abbatoir or indian burial ground in sight. It was the Best Western Dorchester and comes highly recommended as much for the view over the water where the seaplanes take off in the morning for the mainland as the excellent food served in the onsite restaurant called "Casablanca". They did'nt play "that" song, thank God. During our entire time on Vancouver Island it rained a grand total of once, for five minutes while we drove through the mountains.
Downtown Nanaimo is very nice, though the owner of Hill's Native arts on Bastion street had appalling manners for a Canadian. (Not that I hope he contracts genital herpes or anything....) The library is a good inexpensive place to rent a high speed internet connection to communicate with those back home and reassure them that you've yet to be mauled by an angry bear and there are many small, family-run places that offer high quality food for reasonable prices. The following day was spent checking out house prices with a minature chinese immigrant in a huge 4x4 whose enthusiasm rapidly waned when it became clear we were not intending to hand him a deposit on the day. My lack of faith in estate agents was quickly renewed and we ended our investigations early. After a good meal and a sustained nap, we set off into the interior.
Vancouver Island is massive. Almost 300 miles by 50 with almost half the population living solely in the capital of Victoria itself. As a result, there are large tracts of land that are virtually inhabited with national parks, mountains and glaciers. Because land is so freely available, even the majority of commercial buildings are single story ones which looks rather weird to European eyes. We drove using cheap, cheap petrol up through miles and miles of pretty wilderness punctuated with the occasional rig hauling timber. We drove past lakes so vast that we had to stop and take pictures and onto cathedral grove, the world's oldest living forest. The trees here are immense, many covered to heights of thirty feet or more in lichen. The air is pure and freezing while the wind moans through the treetops. It is so still at ground level, and has such an ancient primordial feeling to it that we had to leave after twenty minutes and head back to the car. We stopped on our way back to check out little Qualicum falls where thousands tons of melt water from the mountains thunder through a rocky gorge with a ferocity you can't capture on camera. It was a fantastic and very cheap day out. Given time, we would have liked to have travelled further into Tofino which is supposed to be beautiful. Next time. We stopped at Qualicum beach to eat seafood at an restaurant happy to see the custom before returning to the hotel.
Down to Victoria
The following day we headed south, down the coastal road towards Victoria. It was a long drive of several hours, past many towns still waiting for their heyday to arrive. We climbed steep mountain roads before heading down into the capital. By Vancouver Island standards, Victoria is a metropolis. It is also home to many culinary colleges which makes it difficult to find any restaurant that serves bad food. Make no mistake, Victoria knows very well where the majority of its income flows from, and as a result, tourist shops and chinz are everywhere to best cater for what it in the majority are day-trippers from their cousins in the south. The city has many fantastic buildings, such as the magnificently festooned Empress Hotel facing the Inner Harbour, the parliament buildings or the Royal British Columbian Museum among many, many others. There is a tour of the city that begins outside the Empress that is well worth taking. The grand city tour (on a London double decker, yawn) from greylinewest continues up through the city's own chinatown past the open spaces of Beacon Hill Park and into the affluent surroundings of Uplands and Oak bay with a short stop included before returning back down to the inner harbour. It's reasonable value for money and worth doing unless you fancy driving around Victoria's busy streets yourself.
Again, there are many places to visit in Victoria that we did'nt have time for. We did manage however to visit the Crystal Gardens, a victorian style building with tropical settings, parrots, monkeys and bats. It was a really well done facility that has since closed down, been remodelled and has reopened as the BC "Experience" - some sort of technological showcase with mini galleries - a museum with no real life to speak of in other words. Pity. We ate at Hunter's steakhouse on Yate's street, a fantastic restaurant that took a while to walk to but was well worth it. Next time we are in Victoria, we will definitely eat there again. We returned to the harbour to pick up the car and pointed it northwards.
With our holiday rapidly coming to its conclusion, we checked out and drove back to (if memory serves) a second smaller ferry terminal in Departure bay. This time, we sailed to a point on the mainland much further north, in West Vancouver which is not to be confused with Vancouver West (?). A large part of the journey was spent staring open-mouthed at the most picturesque series of mountains I had ever seen. These were'nt the Rockies as I first thought, but were mere foothills in comparison - and what foothills they were .
Farewell to Canada
We drove back towards Vancover, entering it via the Lion's gate bridge and through Stanley Park. Worried about arriving at the airport in time, I did'nt stop as planned in the Park which is supposed to be magnificent. My telling off abated many miles later when we entered the airport and handed the car back. In the airport, you can use the receipts of what you have bought in order to fill out a form and claim the Canadian tax back. We never saw dime one unfortunately. Next time, we will use the service that offers instant cash instead, but at a charge. Our flight back was thankfully direct, and apart from the obese, sweaty woman bending the seat out of shape that sat in front of us, it was an uneventful flight back.
Several years later, we are still in the UK. Why? At the time we went there was something of a recession in British Columbia exacerbated by an almost frenetic panic about SARS (Many Canadian immigrants are Chinese). As a result, qualified Canadian professionals were washing dishes to get by. Canada seems to have entered a steady period of late and who knows? With the right job and dragging alone the two elder of our three boys in handcuffs, we may still end up living there, but regardless of whether we do or not, we will certainly return to BC if only on holiday. This remains one of the best vacations we have ever had and cost us a grand total of about £1350 which considering what we did and where we went was good value indeed.
We went up to Whistler after a stay in Vancouver, and we were intrigued what the place would be like. Its reputation for Winter sports is well known, but we wanted to see what it had to offer during the summer. The drive from Vancouver is great, with quite a few photo opportunities on the way. When you arrive at the village, it strikes you as a very typical alpine-style skiing resort. The centre of town is very compact and picture postcard, lined with small shops and restaurants. I imagine this is where all the evening action is in Winter, and during summer is was full of people dining out. The village itself has all the amenities you would need, and a fair few restaurants, but if you want something really special I would definitely recommend taking a taxi the short distance to the Rimrock Cafe, a charming restaurant in a Canadian chalet type building, and the food is excellent. All the usual Canadian stores have a presence in the Village (Roots etc) and there are a vast proportion of snow boarding shops. For summer activities there are plenty of hiking trails around lakes, including Lost Lake very close to the village and frequented by swimmers, and a little way out of the village are Nita Lake and Alta Lakes offering a lovely hike, with convenient buses back. In summer you can also go up on one of the gondolas to Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains, and go for a hike, or simply take in the view and marvel at snow under your feet, when it was 30 degrees on the ground! In Whistler a lot of the usual hotel chains have a presence, but our particular choice was the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The review for the hotel is below. I think the atmosphere in Whistler is quite different to other Canadian destinations, even those in the mountains in the Rockies. It is a very young place, and is busier at night that even a lot of Canadian cities are. I was really pleased I experienced the place, as it is beautiful, and I can only imagine wh
at it must be like in Winter - it must be fantastic. **************** When we arrived at Chateau Whistler last July, I was struck that it did not look as impressive as I thought it might from the outside, in my opinion trying to have all the hallmarks of the older chateau hotels, but not quite managing it. However inside was a different story. Full marks to the designers who managed to combine a relatively new building with furnishings and decor that did not stand out as being too brash and modern - lots of wooden beams, cream stencilled walls and bare stone columns set the scene with comfy couches and floor to ceiling windows at each end of the large lobby. We were kept waiting for rather a long time at check in. I had e-mailed the hotel beforehand to confirm that British Airways had requested a mountain view room for us and the very helpful gentleman that responded promised to make sure we had a lovely room. First the check in clerk could not find our booking at all, and didn't even seem to know of the existence of the person I had e-mailed. Then when the reservation was found, the note on our booking must have confused the new check in clerk, who asked her manager who also seemed rather baffled. After the Manager had made a few curious telephone calls, we were given our key and went up to our room. We certainly felt that the wait was worth it. The room was large and airy and was furnished in lovely bright and rich colours - pale lemon walls, rich burgundy carpets, sage green armchairs, burgundy checked bedspreads, floral curtains and dark wood furniture. We had a large window and door opening on to a small balcony which offered a great view of the mountain, also overlooking the pitch and putt, which didn't quite seem to fit in, but never mind! The Village was quite a walk away, considering most of what you will want to do is based around there, but I guess you don't come to Whistler to sit around and be
lazy!! That evening, before we went into the Village for dinner we had a cocktail in The Mallard Bar. The wood panelled bar is full of armchairs with a circular bar in the centre, and a light coloured vaulted ceiling. The Martini and Black Russian cocktails were great, in true Canadian Pacific style, and the choice was extensive. The only problem was sat for a long time waiting to be noticed by the bar staff, before we moved seats, hoping this would attract some attention. Eventually we moved nearer the bar, and at last, we were served. Exactly the same thing happened the following evening. We were also rather disappointed that there was a lack of outside areas to have a cocktail or even a light meal. The following day we had booked to eat at the Rimrock Cafe (very highly recommended) and were unsure how far out the restaurant was, whether there was a public transit option or shuttle bus etc, so we asked the Concierge. I guess it was a stupid question, and the Concierge certainly looked at us as if it was, which I don't think should ever be the case. We had a slight problem with the housekeeping service, as although we were early out from our room, we would come back at 4-5pm to find it still not serviced, and then having to hang around the lobby while it was done. Generally I find the Chateau Hotels (Frontenac, Lake Louise, etc) the more disappointing, service wise, of the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, which is probably due to them relying more on the draw of their superb locations.
Mention any of the following things - skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, mountain biking, climbing, visiting national parks- to someone, and they would possibly think of Canada. However, mention the word ‘Revelstoke’ to a person, and you will likely be confronted with a blank stare. It is unsurprising that few people outside of British Columbia have heard of this village, it is populated by only nine thousand people, and is at least an hour’s drive from any other town. However, it is also one of the most exciting areas of North America, with never a dull moment. Revelstoke is located in the middle of the Southern Canadian Rockies, four hundred miles to the East of Vancouver. As such, to reach the city (although it is the size of a village, it is self-supporting so is technically a city), a drive of up to nine hours is required from Vancouver. Rest assured though, this is not like nine hours on the M1; this is a drive through the Canadian Rockies, some of the most beautiful and spectacular mountains on the planet. They are awe-inspiring to the point that you feel like stopping your car and just gazing at them. Once you reach the village, you are astounded to find that it is surrounded by mountains in every direction. Revelstoke is truly in a valley. Before planning any trip to Revelstoke, you must first decide what you want to do there. If you fancy mountain biking, canoeing, climbing or visiting national parks, visit in the summer. However, if the thought of skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling or tobogganing sets your pulse racing, go in the winter. If you are not sure when to go, put on a blindfold and stick a pin in a calendar. It is that exciting a place that anytime you go will be a thrill. The summer months are perfect for mountain biking. Discover where the sport really got its name, as you tear along dirt paths, jump across chasms and cliffs, and swerve not to avoid rabbits, but to avoid bears. The mountains su
rrounding Revelstoke will provide you with endless routes to explore and enjoy. Revelstoke is well-suited to canoeing; the many streams and rivers in the area are perfect for the beginner or the pro. Beware of the water temperatures outside of summer, though. That water does not freeze over for nothing! Climbing and hiking can be experienced on the mountains. Trail maps are available for free in tourist information centres, and provide safe routes for the enthusiast. It is quite simple: without a compass or map, you will get lost! The jagged peaks of the Rockies provide a challenge for the adrenaline-junkie climber (pronounced ‘maniac’). Revelstoke National Park may not be the most famous of all those in North America, but it certainly has wildlife and scenery to match any on the continent. Watch in amazement as a moose runs from a cougar across the path of a black bear! The animals are fascinating to watch, and bear in mind they are in their natural environment rather than in a zoo. The plants are beautiful, similar to those found in Scandinavia. However, the trees around the city and mountains have not been destroyed by logging; in fact, Revelstoke provides a good example to the rest of Canada and Scandinavia (the two chief wood pulp producers in the world) of how to protect and manage resources safely and sensibly. For the downhill enthusiast, Revelstoke has a large skihill which is as enjoyable for the beginner as it is for the seasoned skier or snowboarder. Equipment rental at the lodge is cheap and of a high standard. For the truly crazed, Revelstoke is home to THE WORLD’S LARGEST HALFPIPE, so snowboarders would be wise to visit here. There is a great village atmosphere on the slopes, and rather than having the commercialised, faceless feel that goes with nearby slopes such as Banff, you soon find yourself learning people’s names and faces. The city has become a stopping off place for s
nowmobilers. Offering some of the best trails in North America, people come from miles around to experience the feeling of being two inches from the ground and travelling at eighty miles per hour. You can experience the rush of motorbiking, safe in the knowledge that you have a nice layer of soft snow to cushion the blow should you fall off. Local companies offer a day’s snowmobiling tours at a reasonable price, and anyone in the city during the winter should try this thrilling sport. It is estimated that a large proportion of Revelstoke’s economy depends on snowmobilers, and you can see why. There really are a lot of mountains! There is something wonderfully amateur about doing tobogganing. You do not want to look professional, you want to experience that ‘small boys in the park’ way of doing things. The way to go about tobogganing in Revelstoke is to go to the local shop; buy a large plastic dish; go up to Mount Revelstoke; build a metre-high jump out of snow; climb to the steepest point you can find; and let yourself fly. Literally, in fact. However, the landings do not bruise as they would in say, England. The snow there is not a white colouring one molecule thick, that covers the frozen grass; it is a thick, powdery layer that breaks your fall, rather than your back. Landing upside down is always invigorating when you can walk away from it. Revelstoke is required to have an airport due to its location in a valley, so this gives the option of paying a pilot a small fee to take you up high, high above the clouds. In an aeroplane or helicopter, of course. The sight of the clouds below you and the peaks of the Rockies ahead of you is incredible. I experienced reaching this height while snowmobiling, so you can imagine the breathtaking feeling of seeing this while flying. The weather in Revelstoke is never truly extreme. The position of the city means ‘overcast’ is the key word. The clouds ensure
a steady fall of snow for a good part of the winter, without ever getting too cold to go outside and enjoy yourself. They also mean that sunny days are rare, even in July and August, though a few scorching hours a day at the peak of summer are not uncommon. The cloud layer allows the temperature to stay a few degrees higher than it would be otherwise, meaning the area is warmer than, for example, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Accomodation in Revelstoke is cheaper and of a higher quality than you will find in most of Northern Europe. The local hostel is run by an international, non-profit making hostelling company, meaning you really do get what you pay for. Couple the clean, friendly, secure environment with the fact that you are surrounded by other travellers, and the benefits of staying in a hostel are clear. Fellow travellers, many from other countries and cultures, will be living in the same building as you, meaning friendships quickly develop and you soon gain an understanding of different people and lifestyles. Few things broaden the mind and soul like travel. Revelstoke is, of course, not perfect. The nightlife leaves a little to be desired, with only two average nightclubs (although you would be happy if your small village had that many!), meaning any true party animals may do better to organise gatherings with fellow travellers. Also, Revelstoke is at least an hour’s drive from any other towns. However, both these proverbial clouds seem to have a lining of silver. You will find yourself so busy doing things during the day, that you are likely to appreciate having a few drinks and relaxing in a relatively quiet bar. Remember too, that few clubs means busier clubs, so meeting people is easier. With respect to the aforementioned hour’s drive, you can easily find yourself at Halcyon hot springs. Relax in a hot pool of water that has come straight from the ground. This is cleaner than it sounds, the water is full of sulp
hates and calcium, both of which are said to relieve the pains of rheumatism and arthritis (though you need not have either of these ailments to enjoy the springs!) These are only a selection of the activities available in Revelstoke. I have not mentioned Revelstoke Dam, which provides one quarter of the power to the province of British Columbia and is open to visitors. Nor have I discussed the people of Revelstoke, who are among the most friendly, interesting and welcoming of any in the country. Despite requiring a few hours’ driving, there are some fine locations to visit or move onto from Revelstoke. Vancouver, Calgary, Banff and Whistler are all accessible in a relatively short time, as are the national parks of Banff, Yoho and Jasper. Revelstoke is a fine stopping off point if you are travelling across Canada, since it is located on th Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). If, for example, you are travelling from Vancouver to Calgay, you would do well to travel by Greyhound Bus and see this wonderful part of the world, rather than pay ten times as much and fly there. How much does Revelstoke cost? To fly from London Heathrow to Vancouver or Calgary, then take a Greyhound bus there, might set you back three hundred pounds with a good deal. Staying in the hostel will cost about twelve pounds a night (very cheap for the quality and location). Food is not included at the hostel, but most restaurants charge the same for a three course meal as a fast food restaurant in England does for a burger and fries. Ski or snowboard rental for a full day, plus chairlift pass, will cost less than twenty pounds. Bear in mind this is good quality equipment in all sizes, and fitted by people who know what they are doing. Even a taxi home at night will cost about half what you would pay in the U.K. It would be hard to exaggerate how much Revelstoke epitomises all that is great about Canada. Whether you are tobogganing off a mountain; chasing
a grizzly bear from a garage; or gazing in awe across the snow-tipped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, there is rarely a dull moment. Do not be put off the apparent obscurity of Revelstoke, it is well and truly established for travellers of all ages and tastes to have a great time. I would love to be able to go into depth about the problems of Revelstoke, but I can’t. This is not a bias or favouritism, it is just the fact that there aren’t any. However you look at it, Revelstoke is a truly wonderful place. You really should go there.
This is a perfect case of getting somewhere being more enjoyable than being there. I'd been on the move for 50 hrs, generally in planes and buses thinking the cheap option of getting to Canada would be worth it, it had been but I was in pieces. The final leg of getting to Victoria was a 2 hour ferry trip that was beautiful enough to turn Bill Gates into a conservationist. The cleanest air, a vast expanse of water (ofton visited by Killer Whales) and a wierd array of small islands housing the occasional holiday shack. Victoria was a nice city, a good mixture of small town environment, culture and people. The only smoking bar is worth a visit, overflowing with character, dropping spiders and bras, it's cheap and fun. But don't spend too long in Victoria, there's too much surf to be had up north and too much beauty to be witnessed all over.
I have been to many resorts in Europe and America to snowboard and this resort wins hands down. Both Whistler and Blackcomb mountain have amazing conditions, even when very little snow has fallen for a while. They both have huge and well designed and maintained snow parks and half pipes - if you feel daring enough, and there are more than enough tree runs for the more experienced. Inlcude the gentler slopes and huge bowls, not to mention cheap and huge meals - the chinese and thai restaurants are very good, and the excellent night life - including a punk night which you will love if you like that sort of thing, and you have a top, top resort. Oh and its only a 2 hour drive from Vancouver, which is itself an amazing city.