Is the West Coast the best Coast? | Miles Morgan Travel
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Is the West Coast the best Coast?

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Is the West Coast the best Coast? My review of Canada (take two)

As travel agents we are always asked where is your favourite place you have travelled to, this time last year I would have quite easily said Toronto and the East Coast of Canada which I had seen in my earlier years of working on cruise ships and then visiting Toronto and Niagara last year. However, when I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity of visiting the West Coast of Canada and the Rockies; I had a feeling that my answer may change.

You see amazing and beautiful pictures of the Rockies but having seen and experienced it first hand, I can honestly tell you these pictures do not do the scenery justice.

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Upon arrival into Vancouver, we were greeted with a beautiful mild sunny spring-like day; which was completely different to what we had been experiencing back in the UK. We stayed in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver which like every Fairmount in Canada is positioned in the perfect location for visiting the tourist hot spots and getting around the city easily. The rooms and the beds at the Fairmont are the best I have ever stayed at; with all amenities you could think of plus a spacious room and bathroom.

That evening we dined in the Notch 8 Restaurant which is on site, the design of the restaurant is very art deco and gives you the feel of being in a Gatsby movie; with the piano playing in the background we dined on a three course menu; all with ingredients locally sourced. One thing I should mention about Canada and food; firstly the portion sizes are very generous, secondly if you have any dietary requirements or allergies they truly cater to you. Being dairy free most places whilst eating out will give me vegan options; however everywhere we ate in Canada just allowed me to pick what I wanted from the menu and they would then tailor make it to make sure that there was no dairy. I was lucky enough to enjoy some beautiful fish and steak dishes whilst here.

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Our first full day in Canada started off with a hearty breakfast at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel, now if you like a view with breakfast this is definitely the hotel for you. You are right across the road from the port terminal and on another beautiful sunny day it was so calm. Canada always impresses me with how clean the cities are and how they do not feel so busy. Plus, a benefit is I have never met people who are so friendly, even walking down the street strangers will smile. We then jumped on a Landsea Tours bus which took us for a tour around the sites of Vancouver, stopping off at the beautiful Stanley Park, Yaletown and Gastown. We then arrived at Capilano Suspension Bridge and checked in for a private tour; learning all about this stunning attraction. The suspension bridge is certainly an exhilarating experience walking along this 450 foot historic moving bridge which takes you from gardens adorning First Nations totem poles to the natural tranquility of the rainforest.

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Whilst at Capilano you can also experience the treetop walk and the Cliff Walk as well giving you three different perspectives of appreciating nature and the scenery around you. We then headed off to Granville Island Market where we joined a foodie tour. Now I have visited the indoor/outdoor markets like this one before selling an amazing selection of local produce; however, experiencing a foodie tour where we tasted 12 different local items (a mixture of food and drinks); plus learning about the history of each local store just made it that more memorable. If you are ever in Vancouver, I would highly recommend this tour.

After a bus tour again around the city of Vancouver we were then dropped off back at Canada Place (the Harbour area of Vancouver) for us to experience the popular tourist attraction Flyover. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this experience, but it was thrilling. This would be something I would recommend and there is a reason why you cannot find much about it because they don’t want to spoil the experience. That evening we relaxed back at the hotel and went for something light to eat and drink at a nearby restaurant.

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The next morning I woke up full of excitement as I would be joining the Rocky Mountaineer; having grown up with a dad and brother who are train fanatics I was exciting to get to experience this train journey. Seeing the train up close before being welcomed aboard was certainly a wow moment. We were lucky enough to be spending the two days in Gold Leaf. When we had found our seats we were greeted with a drinks menu that was all inclusive and full of local wines, beer as well as sprits, soft and hot drinks as well. Then we were all testing out the controls on the seats, have individual heated seats which you could then recline and also put up the foot rest made sure that your journey onboard was truly comfortable.

Once the train departed, we were served a hot drink and a lemon cake to start us off before being invited downstairs to the dining area for breakfast. I don't want to spoil the experience for anyone but the food onboard was incredible and how these extremely talented chefs prepare it fresh onboard a small moving kitchen is beyond me. You certainly will not go hungry or thirsty onboard the Rocky Mountaineer. The scenery was beautiful and we were lucky enough to see multiple Canadian wildlife from bald eagles, Ospreys, horned sheep, Elk and deers.

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The hosts onboard kept you informed of points of interest and the history behind them whilst on this journey. However, we all knew that Day 2 going from Kamloops to Banff was going to be even better. That evening we were provided a smooth service to board a coach and taken to our hotel in Kamloops for the evening the Delta by Marriott. Something that I did not expect was after a long day when you get to your hotel room as your keys are provided to you before departing the train your luggage is already in the room waiting for you. We were slightly delayed getting into Kamloops however we did go for something light to eat and a few drinks at this local restaurant called the Underbelly; again, I would recommend this restaurant; the chef was so passionate and his menu changes depending on what local ingredients he can get from the surrounding area.

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Day three arrived and after an early start to get on the transfer back to the train; we were setting off from Kamloops and starting to head into the Rockies. Throughout this journey the scenery changed dramatically; there was still thick snow on the grounds in some parts; with the beautiful blue waters, some lakes still frozen and the snow covered mountains towering above us. Again, the service, food and drink were impeccable and for lunch I had the local Lois Lake Steelhead and it was by far the best meal I had throughout this trip. We saw plenty of wildlife throughout this journey and waved to many locals that we passed as we went through small towns. Later that day we arrived at our final destination in Banff and once again our luggage was waiting for us in our hotel room. In Banff we stayed at the newly opened Hotel Canoe & Suites. The rooms were immaculate and we had a balcony which overlooked the mountains at the front of the hotel. This hotel was approximately a 20 minute walk into downtown Banff where you can find a vast number of restaurants, bars and shops.

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On our full day in Banff we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before using the local bus to take us to Banff Gondola. This short ride on the Gondola took us to the top of Sulphur Mountain where the views of the Valley below and the six stunning mountain ranges you could see were just breathtaking. To top off this experience it started snowing as well; which made it seem even more magical. We then had brunch at the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen at the top which just provided more stunning views whilst sipping on a mimosa.

We then headed back down the mountain before joining up with a tour guide from Discover Banff Tours who took us down the scenic Bow Valley parkway with several sightseeing stops along the way; until we reached our end destination of the UNESCO world heritage site of Lake Louise. We had about two hours in Lake Louise where we viewed the still frozen lake; now this is very normal. If you are wanting to travel to Lake Louise to see the stunning blue/green waters you would need to visit in Summer as the lake does not start to thaw out until June. Nevertheless, the view is still stunning and you can walk on the lake as well. Whilst we were here, we did go and have a look inside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and grab a coffee to warm up. We then were taken back to Banff where we made our way to the Three Bears Brewery for dinner and some local ale. My overall impression of Banff was that it was such a relaxed town and probably one of my favourite places.

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On our last day in Canada we had a beautiful breakfast and a tour around the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Now this hotel is about a 20 minute bus journey or a 40 minute walk from downtown. However, the mountain setting means this hotel boasts stunning views from all areas of the hotel. The facilities are impressive and it is like a small town just within the hotel. We then collected our bags and headed via a local transfer to Calgary. We then left our luggage at the Fairmont Calgary and had a walking tour of Calgary including a visit up the Calgary Tower.

There is a range of history in Calgary and there is a very heavy focus that happens within the city of the famous Calgary Stampede every July. For me personally this is not an area that I would stay too long unless I was there specially for the Stampede. For me places such as Banff and Vancouver just had more to see and do. We used a local taxi from the centre of Calgary to take us out to the airport before flying back home with Air Canada.

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This overall experience of the East Coast even though it was done within a total of 6 nights, I thoroughly enjoyed having these experiences and seeing the beautiful scenery. I can completely understand why many people say the West Coast is the Best Coast; I can talk for hours about Canada and this trip. I can now safely say that my favourite place to have visited is Canada and Vancouver and Banff are places I will be planning on going back too.

If you are thinking about a trip to Canada whether it be the East or West Coast please do feel free to contact me by sending me an email to [email protected] or popping into the Chippenham shop where I can tell you more about my experiences, show you pictures and help you plan your next journey to Canada.

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