Last week I put together a list of five Canadian adventures to take in 2017. Since I haven't been out to Atlantic Canada for nearly a decade, I thought it would be a great trip down memory lane to write about it first. While this tour covers several destinations in Canada's most eastern provinces, it doesn't even scratch the surface of places worth visiting. Please use this guide as a reference, but remember to book your own side trips as well!
A cultural mix of French and English, Atlantic Canada embraces a more modest approach to Canada that replaces roaring highways with roaring oceans and light pollution with lighthouses. Known for its seafood, friendliness and small town vibe, Atlantic Canada is one of our country's most hidden gems.
This tour starts off in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the capital of Canada's only bilingual province. While here, take a stroll through the city's 230-year-old Garrison District and watch a re-enactment of the events that created the Canadian military. You can also take a tour of Government House, one of the original Government Houses' in Canada. For shopping and nightlife, Downtown Fredericton has you covered with scores of shops, restaurants and pubs. If you're into spine-tingling ghost stories, you can even take several lantern-led haunted hikes.
A short two-hour drive away is the immaculate Hopewell Rocks and the Bay of Fundy! Home to the highest tides in the world (over 16 feet!), this is the perfect place for kayaking or canoeing. Low tide offers a dramatically different experience where visitors can walk the ocean floor and witness the most magnificent geological formations in Canada. The park even gives out two-day passes so that guests have an opportunity to see both the high and low tide version of the rocks. Just remember to check out the official website to view the tide timetables before visiting. For anybody travelling to Atlantic Canada, Hopewell Rocks are a must-see!
A two-hour drive from Hopewell Rocks brings you to the 13-kilometre long Confederation Bridge. After crossing the bridge, and with a little more driving, you'll eventually end up in Charlottetown, the Birthplace of Confederation. Take your time to explore this city and its many theatres, restaurants and shopping boutiques. An incredibly walkable city, Charlottetown is a great place to rest and relax.
If you're a lover of literature, Avonlea Village – a life-size recreation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Avonlea – is only a 40 minute drive away from Charlottetown. Explore the village of Anne of Green Gables, meet the real life actors and enjoy a world forever stuck in the early 20th century. While you're here, be sure to sample some raspberry cordial, dress up in period clothing and sing along with Anne and Gilbert at the town hall.
After another two-hour hop, this time with a ferry ride in the middle, and you'll arrive in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Oozing with history, you could easily spend several days in this city. While you're here, be sure to take a tour of Citadel Hill, a fort built to protect Canada from the invading United States. If you managed to get there before noon, you might even get a chance to watch them fire the noon cannon! Fairview Cemetery is another popular destination as it is the gravesite of over 120 victims of the RMS Titanic.
If you want to get out of the city, Peggy's Cove is an hour drive away and offers a view unlike any other. A picturesque getaway, Peggy's Cove is an outdoorsman and photographers delight. With a dynamic and rugged landscape, surrounded by the roaring Atlantic Ocean, Peggy's Cove's lighthouse has become one of Canada's most iconic structures. Just remember to watch your step as the footing can be treacherous if you aren't paying attention.
Another four hour drive brings you to Cabot Trail, the most scenic drive in Canada, the home of Cape Breton Highlands National Park! Here you can hike, camp, beach and golf on the third most beautiful island in the world. If you're planning to stay longer than a day, remember to pack some food as civilisation seemingly disappears upon entering the island. If you risk staying the night, take a moonlit stroll as you might even catch some fireflies!
A quick drive down the east side of Cape Breton will get you to North Sydney. If you're a World War II buff, you'll recognise this former town's name. It is the location where the SS Caribou left port before being torpedoed by a German U-Boat on October 13th, 1942. This attack took the life of 136 passengers.
If you aren't ready to leave Canada's Ocean Playground just yet, an hour south of North Sydney is Louisbourg, an 18th-century French fortress. It was recommended by one of my readers and it sounds really interesting!
From here you can take a ferry off Nova Scotia, across the Gulf of St. Lawrence and into Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador. Here you can witness the dynamic and breathtaking Newfoundland landscape. Explore this quaint seaside town before heading out for a 6 hour drive to Canada's most easterly National Park, Terra Nova. Here you can camp beside the sea, hike in the lush forest, paddle on the edge of the country and one of Canada's greatest untouched regions. You can even visit the local Touch Tank where you can pick up and hold some of the ocean's aquatic beings.
A two hour drive ends our journey in St. John's, the provincial capital. Here you will find some of the most colourful houses in Canada, punctuated by the sharp blue icebergs floating in the harbour. Explore this 500-year-old city by visiting their famous urban and costal walking trails. While you're out hiking the many trails in the region, don't forget to visit the strategically placed Signal Hill, which overlooks the harbour and gives a breathtaking view of the city! To end your journey, take a trip out to Cape Spear and be one of the first people in North America to see the sunrise!
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Long before I started my blog, many, many years ago, I visited Innsbruck, Austria. I was on a Contiki trip through Europe and visited a plethora of locations such as Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Lucerne and Innsbruck, just to name a few. It was an incredible experience and one that I think was a transformative moment in my life.
Off the record (or, on the record now, I guess), of all the places I visited, the only one I didn't like was Innsbruck. I couldn't get into it. We visited it in late March, so the weather wasn't the best. The trees didn't have any leaves on them, the grass was brown, and everything had a post-winter grey look to it. After visiting Munich and spending the night in St. Goar, my mind wasn't thinking about Innsbruck at all. Instead, I was more excited to go to Venice the next day, and the Vatican the day after that. My time in Innsbruck was uneventful, and all I wanted was to get back on the road.
That was in 2011, and now it's 2018. Has my opinion on Innsbruck changed? I would say yes. I'm more mature now and if I went back, I would better appreciate what I was seeing. As I've gotten older, I've been less impressed by the massive buildings and more enthralled by the history that created them.
It took a while, but summer has finally arrived! With any city, these three precious months of summer bring their fair share of activities, and Regina is no different. There is a lot to do in Regina so let me know in the comments if I missed anything!
This should be obvious for anybody living in Regina, but for tourists Wascana Park offers a plethora of activities. From fireworks on Canada Day to festivals to just enjoying a quiet stroll, there are countless things to do in the park. Being three times larger than Central Park in New York, the park is full of pathways, bridges, tunnels and islands for you to explore. Self-guiding walking tours are also available, which showcase the monuments, statues, architecture, history and natural flora and fauna that is in the region. Sections of the park are protected for wildlife so you may see foxes, rabbits, raccoons, weasels, beavers, turtles and, if you're lucky, goats. There's also a swimming pool, bird sanctuary, a habitat conservation area and marina. Speaking of the Marina…
Wascana Park is beautiful from the land, but it is even more gorgeous from the water. Imagine floating in the heart of the city, surrounded by nothing but the silence of water. Motor boats aren't commonly found on the lake, so renting a canoe with a loved one can be a personal and private experience. If you're more of a physical person you can also rent a kayak or try stand-up paddle boarding, which recently opened up thanks to Queen City Sup. The marina is also home to the Willow on Wascana, a beautiful outdoor lakeside restaurant. If you're into brunches or wine tasting, or just enjoying eating outdoors, this is a place you must visit!