South India: Land of Temples, Palaces and Plantations

story and photos by Judy and Ted van der Veen Imagine acres upon acres of palm trees, rice paddies, tea plantations (or coffee or spices or rubber), and wildlife reserves, interspersed with towns and small cities dominated by magnificent stone temples and maharajahs’ palaces, and you have the southern tip of India.  While the Golden … Read more

The beautiful rose window in Bordeaux Cathedral

Lovely Languedoc in Southwestern France

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14546″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Marg Lynn A cold Canadian winter afternoon quickly conjures up memories of a beautiful, early spring in the Languedoc area of France where sun-kissed fields snuggle up to the rugged Pyrenees and tall trees sporting light green misty halos line the country roads and the Canal du Midi … Read more

The Cloisters of the Jeronimos Monastery

Anyone for Lisbon?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”15043″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Rod Paterson Have you been to Lisbon yet?   If not, I suggest that you consider including it in your travel plans. On a recent visit to Portugal we were pleased to discover what an attractive city it is. There is so much to see and do there, yet … Read more

Step into History at London’s Fanshawe Pioneer Village

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5739″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Ann Wallace The fine city of London, Ontario, is a thriving, modern and peaceful place.  But every summer, groups of armed men go on the prowl in a quiet corner of town, while boats carrying others, guns at the ready, make their way down the Thames River.  There … Read more

Local stores and charming streets

A Riverside Getaway in England

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”15035″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text] story and photos by Ann Wallace In Britain, and in rowing circles, “Are you going to Henley?” means only one thing.  The Henley Royal Regatta held in Henley-on-Thames every summer is one of England’s social highlights, all pretty dresses and strawberry teas and lots of fit boys and girls doing a … Read more

Pier 21 and Halifax Harbour from the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel

A Winter Saturday in Halifax

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5723″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Ann Wallace     The weather did not look promising!  From my window in Halifax’s Westin Nova Scotian Hotel the harbour looked gloomy and cold.  But after two days spent at a conference in the hotel, attending meetings and workshops on photography, copyright and ‘new technologies’ (not my … Read more

Ambleside laneway

Longing for the Lake District

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5697″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Stan Farrow Sometimes they work!  Impulse decisions, that is.   Walking out of the cinema on a January evening after a screening of Miss Potter, my wife and I decided we had to follow in Beatrix Potter’s footsteps and visit the Lake District in England.  Never mind that we … Read more

Crowds around the Trevi Fountain

A Rome Getaway

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5687″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Ann Wallace My mother is in her nineties and can no longer make the journey alone from her home in England to visit me here in Canada.  But she hasn’t lost the travelling bug! “When I next come to visit you, let’s go on a little trip,” I … Read more

Comares

Portugal’s Algarve and Comares in Spain

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5679″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Fred Nagy   Europe has long been a favourite destination for us, both having been born there, but we had never visited the South-West corner – Portugal and Spain – so last year was the year.  We flew to Lisbon and picked up our rental car since we … Read more

Sailing on Lake Vänern

Travels in Sweden

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5674″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Martha V. Lasichuk   What a coincidence that I returned to Canada in September around the time the Walk21 Conference was being held in Toronto, whose vision is to create a world where people are able to walk as a way to travel, to be healthy and to … Read more

Coastal view Newfoundland Viking Trail

Along Western Newfoundland’s Viking Trail

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5656″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Inga & Heinz Jaeger   The Viking Trail, also known as Highway 430, runs along the western coast of the island, with the Strait of Belle Isle on one side and the Long Range Mountains on the other, from Deer Lake in the south to L’Anse aux Meadows … Read more

Sainte-Marie church on a snowy day

Nova Scotia’s Acadian South Shore

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5646″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Ann Wallace   I hope some of you remember the accounts of my first visit to Nova Scotia, published in these pages early in 2006. I told of my informative journey to Halifax on board VIA Rail’s Ocean train and its Maritime learning experience, I described my tour … Read more

Travelling Via GPS

by Jamie Smith Since 1985 when we were stranded in Caracas Airport for seventeen hours, my wife, Helen and I, along with friends Mary and John Weidner, have explored the world together.  Aristotle said that the world is a book and he who doesn’t travel reads only a page.  Therefore, during this period, the four … Read more

A Capital Getaway

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5630″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Nancy Macdonald     Do you love fine galleries, traditional art, modern art, architecture and/or concert music and dance? Would museums devoted to European and American Art, Air and Space, American Indians or African treasures delight you? Is wandering through a zoo or walking through parks or along … Read more

Big Ben

Westminster: the inside story

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5622″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Juliet Gil The Houses of Parliament in London or, to give the building its official name, the Palace of Westminster, is an enduring symbol of England. Few return from a London trip without a photo of Big Ben or the entire edifice from the south bank of the … Read more

The Cathedral at St. David’s

Through Southwest Wales in Second Gear

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5612″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]story by Scott M. Eddie, photography by Dale Hubert and Scott Eddie In British map books, there are green roads, red roads, yellow roads, sometimes even blue roads, denoting the numbered A and B highways and the motorways. But in the UK our family likes to travel on the unnumbered roads that … Read more

Explorations in England’s West Country

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5591″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]story and photos by Ann Wallace   They’ve got to be kidding! What happens if we meet another car?” exclaimed and enquired my incredulous daughter. “We – or the others – back up to one of those little lay-bys,” was my reply. “Lay-bys! They aren’t lay-bys … they’re just a few more … Read more

Thinking about a Volunteer Vacation?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”5/6″][vc_single_image image=”10115″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]A survey made last year by the Travel Industry Association in the United States revealed that one-quarter of travellers say they are interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation.  I don’t know if a similar survey has been done in Canada, but if you enter <Volunteer Vacations> in your search engine … Read more

Canada’s Own Rocky Mountaineer

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”5568″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]story and photos by Ann Wallace

 

When I was a child growing up in England, my well-travelled grandmother told me about a certain train journey in Canada.  She tried to explain that the train entered two spiral tunnels in the Rocky Mountains and that when the engine emerged from the tunnel, it passed under the rear section of its own train and that if you were sitting near the front you could see the end of your train – going in the opposite direction!  I didn’t believe her!

 

 

But, of course, we all know that it’s true.  This engineering feat is one of the wonders of Canada and its setting – Cathedral Mountain, Mount Ogden and the Kicking Horse River – is one of Canada’s most spectacular.  Little did I know, all those years ago, that I would one day live in Canada and now I’ve been on a Rocky Mountaineer, daylight-only trip from Vancouver to Banff and seen those spiral tunnels for myself, both on the train and from the valley vantage point on a day trip out of Banff.

 

 

Rocky Mountaineer’s slogan is “The Most Spectacular Train Trip(s) in the World” and they certainly help their passengers enjoy these train excursions in style, especially in their Gold Leaf Service.  We’ve mentioned the company many times in these pages, and last summer I had the opportunity to experience it for myself, together with a little exploration time in Vancouver, Banff and Lake Louise.

 

 

The Vancouver departure for my Rocky Mountaineer journey was 7:30 a.m.  Check-in was like air travel used to be … quiet and stress free.  It was explained to us that our luggage would travel on to our overnight stop in Kamloops by road, so access to luggage while aboard the train during the day would not be possible.  Soon everyone was organized and taking their seats on the spotless train and waving to all the terminal staff as they lined up in their smart uniforms to send us off and wish us bon voyage.  The Gold Leaf Service passengers sit upstairs in a domed car for the duration of the journey, descending to the dining car beneath for breakfast and lunch.  (There is an elevator for wheelchair users or those who do not wish to navigate the curved stairs, together with a spacious handicapped-accessible washroom.)  The meals are offered in two sittings which are switched on alternate days, but if the aroma of others enjoying breakfast is almost too much to bear there’s no need to worry, for coffee and a selection of baked goods are offered in your seat to tide you over.  (Red Leaf Service passengers are served meals in their seats, airline style … although the food looks a great deal better.  Both services are clearly described – and illustrated – in RMR’s brochure and on line.)   Also offered in the dome car are drinks throughout the day, served without any sense of censure if you fancy a bloody Caesar or mimosa early in the morning!

 

 

Now a word about the Gold Leaf meals themselves, for there’s no doubt they compete with the scenery to make this trip memorable.  After a stellar career which included competing with Team Canada and with hotel groups such as Fairmont, Mark Jorundson combined his love of food with his love of trains to become RMR’s Executive Chef in 2002, whereupon he was given the mandate of creating exclusive Western Canadian cuisine for the train passengers, many of whom have come from afar to experience this trip.  No surprise, therefore, to find BC smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, or turkey and cranberry sausages on the breakfast menu.  And then, after cocktails, comes lunch!  Alberta beef, wild BC salmon, free-range chicken breasts and more, all paired with award-winning wines from BC’s Okanagan Valley.  The tables-for-four mean unexpected conversations and new friends.  I talked with people from all over Britain, from Australia and New Zealand and from Canada.  Canadians who were with friends or family from overseas were looking as proud as could be, and so they should for everyone was impressed with the trip, with the food and service and, of course, with the scenery.  I especially enjoyed talking with a German travelling with his young son who wished to be a railway architect one day.  What this young fellow knew about trains and their routes around the world was astounding!

 

 

Of course all the passengers learned things on this route, as we journeyed from lush forests into deserts, beside tumbling rivers, through valleys narrow or broad, beneath towering mountains or beside glittering turquoise lakes while we listened to the commentary.  Many of the names were familiar to us, even if we hadn’t travelled this way before: the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon, Hells Gate and the South Thompson River.  Expert wildlife spotters were popular as they shouted “bald eagle” or “osprey” or “deer” or “bear”, whereupon everyone leaped to their feet, cameras in hand.  We learned about spawning salmon; a little of the history of the railroad in Canada; about the ‘owners’ of the lines today and their conductors and engineers and the fascinating fact that all train movement throughout western Canada is watched over by rail-traffic controllers in Edmonton.  We were intrigued that someone sitting before a console so far away could see us waiting in a siding for another train to pass.

 

 

At around 5:30 p.m. the train pulled into Kamloops Station and we transferred to our motorcoach for the short trip to our hotel.  Accommodation here varies from trip to trip, and if RMR passengers choose this route they should be aware that there are no truly luxurious hotels in Kamloops.  However, we were booked into the Plaza Heritage Hotel, located right downtown, and it was just fine: I was assigned a quaint single room decorated in what I can only describe as Grannie-style with floral wallpaper and bedspread, a tiny bathroom and a tray complete with tea pot and all the fixings.  And there was my suitcase waiting for me! The dining room here looked inviting and popular and oh how I wished I had stayed.  But one of the extras offered by RMR is an evening outing to see Kamloops’ Great Canadian Lumberjack Dinner Show.  Don’t go … it is truly dreadful.  The performers are enthusiastic and do their very best to entertain, poor dears, and the buffet is passable with good salads.  But the theatre is enormous, on our evening in July the audience was sparse and the whole thing was a bit embarrassing.  How I wished I’d spent my evening exploring Kamloops.  However, we stuck it out with help from a bottle of wine and applauded politely before returning to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

 

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