Toronto & Kingston
Toronto is a large city on the shores of Lake Ontario. Together with friends we visited some famous and interesting places. We started at the Casa Loma, a castle built in the UK and transported stone by stone to Toronto in the early 1900's. Unfortunately when we were there the weather was terrible and we didn't see it the way it could be seen.
Of course a visit to the Niagara Falls with the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls, where many Maid of the Mist boats constantly go on and off, and the White Water Walk along the cascades should not be missed. Luckily we got some sunshine and nice temperatures.
From Toronto we drove along Lake Ontario to the nice town of Kingston. We were there early in the afternoon and took a touristy Trolley Bus that took us around town e.g. to the oldest prison in Canada which now is a museum.
The next day we made a beautiful tour with the Island Queen boat to the 1000 Islands archipelago. You can really see a lot of islands, all with one or more houses on it. Sometimes the island wasn't big enough for the house, so the owners enlarged the island.
After a long drive, amongst others through the very busy centre of Montreal we arrived in Québec. This is a lovely city with steep streets in the old part of town. We stayed in the nice hotel Château Bellevue, right in the middle of the old walled part of the city. We managed to roll down with the wheelchair to Place d'Armes. The huge hotel Château Frontenac is the main attraction here and during our exquisite lobster dinner we enjoyed the view on it.
The next day we made a 2 1/2 hour tour through town by the Red Line double-decker bus. In the old parts old houses and houses with outside entry stairs can still be found.
When you have got so many impressions it is nice to sit down and relax, so we went down by funicular to the Lower City. Nice narrow streets and a nice restaurant for lunch.
The Blue Line bus brings you a couple of times a day to the high waterfall of Montmorency, higher than Niagara Falls but not as wide. Nevertheless a spectacular view.
In the lower part of the city there also is a nice square, named Place Royale. It is full of cobblestones, a nice fountain and a friendly pizzeria. It isn't easy rolling there, but it was great to have seen it.
After the nice atmosphere in Québec it was unfriendly and cool in Montreal. The hotel had changed its name two months before without noticing us, so we drove hence and forth before we finally found it. Not even the Days Inn Hotel and other hotels right next door knew where the Holiday Inn Express would be. The Holiday Inn Express is nowadays the Faubourg Hotel. After this stressing driving around we had a nice time at Boulevard St Denis on a sunny afternoon.
Here for the first time we found out about the Plastic world at breakfast: plastic knives, forks, spoons, plates and cups. We are from the European continent, but for us a continental breakfast includes more than very thick slices of breath, butter and jam. On our continent apart from these things the breakfast consists of at least a choice of cheese, ham and boiled eggs.
By double-decker bus we drove through town and saw many very huge and tall buildings. But also some older buildings like the cathedral Notre Dame and the carriages you can hire. Montreal is not really our city. Too big and unfriendly.
We arrived in Vancouver by flight from Montreal late in the afternoon. The city gave us a good feeling right away. We had a wonderful suite at Carmana Plaza Hotel at Alberni Street; the most luxury suite we had during this holiday, only a few minutes away from Robson Street, where you can find many restaurants, shops and the hop on-hop off trolley bus. The first bus took us through Stanley Park in the north of downtown Vancouver along huge trees, nice bridges and beaches to Canada Place.
At the backside of Canada Place is the seaplanes airport from where we would take off the next day to Victoria on Victoria Island for a whale watching (killer whales) tour. This afternoon we stopped at Yaletown, where we had lunch, and thereafter at Chinatown with the beautiful Sun Yat Sen gardens.
It was big fun to board the small aircraft and to fly to Victoria on Victoria Island for our whale watching tour. The plane is small and most of the times people have to hang over the pathway. The shuttle bus, however, is equipped for wheelchairs. We saw many fins of killer whales, but we don't know whether these were the same creatures every time again or different ones. The white bellies we didn't see, only in a leaflet :-) We went back to Vancouver by bus and Columbia ferry. It was a long, but very nice day.
On our last day in Vancouver, which was our wedding day, we went to very quiet Gastown with its funny Steam clock that gives steam every fifteen minutes together with a little melody. In the evening we enjoyed a wonderful and delicious shellfish dinner. We loved it.
Kamloops & Clearwater
On our way to Clearwater we spent two nights in Kamloops, a nice town with lovely parks along the Thompson River, like Riverside Park and MacArthur Island Park. Outside town is the large provincial Lac du Bois Grasslands Park. Very dry country, dirt roads and not much traffic driving around.
Clearwater is the place from where it is easy to explore the nice Wells Gray Provincial Park. The road within the park is paved for 36 km and gives access to three waterfalls. The fourth highest falls in Canada is Helmcken Falls, also accessible by wheelchair. To reach Dawson Falls you have to walk over a path with trunks, stones and gravel. Spahats Falls can be partly reached by wheelchair, but to see them from a spectacular point you have to go down steeply and again over trunks and stones. But the walk was certainly worthwhile.
The next day we visited the park again, but this time all the way, also over the 29 km gravel road that ends at Clearwater Lake. On our way we saw some beautiful spots like Red Spring, Shadow Lake, Bailey's Chute and at the end Clearwater Lake.
In Clearwater village itself is a nice small lake, the Dutch Lake, named after the many Dutch people who came to this area in the past. We had lunch at the nice Painted Turtle Restaurant with a beautiful view over the lake, the swimmers and the water flowers.
Jasper National Park
We stayed in a lovely Bed and Breakfast at 711 Miette Avenue in Jasper village. We had our own entrance, a nice seat in the garden and a giant and very tasty breakfast in the morning. At dinner time we went downtown, about 5 minutes rolling, along the Tourist Information and to a nice restaurant at the main street, Connaught Drive.
Jasper NP has many beautiful and interesting lakes. We drove to Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake; azure coloured lakes with snow capped mountains behind. Maybe you think that Canada is a quiet country; it isn't. Not at the touristy spots. It is full of people, especially Asian groups, who take a lot of selfies.
After visiting these fine lakes we drove to Maligne Canyon. Unfortunately too steep, too many stairs and too uncomfortable for a wheelchair, but the views were great.
But there are more nice lakes to the south of Jasper village, e.g. Annette Lake, but also to the north are fine lakes like Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake with a nice resort.
Driving south towards Banff NP there are great views over the Athabasca Falls, glaciers, Sunwapta Falls and the Columbia Ice fields. Really very impressive.
Banff National Park
After the high snowfields and glaciers you get the feeling you drop down into Banff NP, since the road is going down rather steeply, but here too are glaciers and lakes, like Bow Glacier and Bow Lake. Banff NP is a bit greener than Jasper NP.
After two nights in Golden, a town near Glacier National Park, we drove back to Banff NP to Lake Louise village. A village in the middle of nowhere, but in a wonderful natural area. It is almost a "must do" to get married near Lake Louise or at the hotel at the shore of the lake. It is very touristy and you have to arrive early in the morning at the parking lot. Thanks to Jaap's disabled card we found a parking place when we arrived at 10.30 hrs and it was even possible to roll down to the lake. At the lake it was crowded with people. Moraine Lake was even impossible to reach because the road was blocked because there were too many people.
Early in the morning Moraine Lake is quiet and beautiful. We had great views over the lake and the mountains and had lots of time to drive over Bow Valley Parkway in the direction of Banff.
The Bow Valley Parkway is the alternative route to the highway to Banff and is much more scenic. You come along the Bow Valley River with Storm Mountain and Castle Mountain and be aware, it is Bear Country. Luckily we didn't encounter one of them :-)
At 3/4 of the way to Banff is Johnston Canyon. Rolling was impossible, so Jaap was waiting in the car, while I walked almost to the lower falls. The canyon was impressive. It was a pity that the path was unrollable due to trunks, fallen trees and very narrow parts of the path.
From Lake Louise to Banff village is only about 60 km, so we were in Banff already at 09.30 hours. Too early to check in at the hotel, but a good time to visit the wetlands area around Vermilion Lakes. The mountains reflect beautifully in the lakes.
To the north of Banff are some other nice lakes. Only in the summer time you can make a loop around these lakes; in the winter only the direct road leads along Two Jack Lake, where people are still using the typically Canadian kayaks, to Lake Minnewanka. Of course we drove the loop drive starting at Lake Minnewanka.
Dinner time at Banff Avenue at the Grizzly House Fondue House. After the many burgers, salads and fries it really was an eye opener to eat something different again. Meat fondue, tasty pieces of beef fried in hot oil. It was a lovely dinner.
Though the weather wasn't very clear, Banff is beautiful from above so we went up by gondola and had beautiful views over the mountains and the hazy city. By stairs you can even climb higher, but this was high enough for us. Near the ground station of the gondola are the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Outside temperature was 20 degrees, water temperature 40 degrees. It was great to go in, but be careful that you don't stay in too long and may become dizzy.
Canmore is a nice little town where you can easily spend your last days before flying back from Calgary to e.g. Amsterdam. Main Street looks like a quiet street, but all cars are parked at special parking lots behind the buildings. We stayed in a hotel more outside the centre in the vicinity of the highway in Quality Resort Château Canmore. Quite close to the hotel is the fine Sage Bistro where we had nice dinners.
Kakanaskis Country is the Provincial Park to the south and west of Canmore. Over about 60 km dirt road you will pass the Spray Lakes. Then the road is paved again all the way to Kakanaskis Lakes from where you can make your way back to Kakanaskis village and back to Canmore. Again a wonderful holiday.