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Two months ago, I tragically lost my beloved Mum. She was 91 years of age, lived independently in her own unit and although her health was rapidly declining, it was still a shock to lose her. Words cannot describe the great loss and sadness that I have felt over the past few months. I wake up every morning thinking of her and often during the night as well.
I sometimes wonder where I got my great love of travel from, because my Mum was a homebody. She was content to stay home most of the time. When she relinquished her driver’s licence about 20 years ago, she seldom went out. She relied very heavily on her family and friends to ferry her around for shopping and attending appointments.
In the Spring of 2004, I took Mum on a trip to Canada to visit my sister who then lived in Montreal in Quebec. Mum was only 73 years of age at this time, and it was her first overseas trip ever. It was incredibly exciting for her, not just because it was her first overseas trip, but she was going to see her daughter who she hadn’t seen in ages. So began my Canadian adventure with my Mum.
After spending a week with my sister and her French Canadian husband, we caught a plane to Calgary on the other side of the country. Here we picked up a rental car and drove from Calgary in Alberta through the Rockies, and then into British Columbia to spend another amazing week.
We flew to Montreal via Vancouver and spent a few days exploring this French Canadian city – the second largest in Canada. We managed to communicate, even though Montreal is mainly French speaking. Although, there were some hilarious episodes trying to communicate with my sister’s husband, being Quebecois with limited English. We had him baffled with some of our Aussie slang at times.
A day was spent exploring Old Montreal on the Saint Lawrence River. The quaint old streets and buildings are reminiscent of Paris, with plenty of little shops and restaurants. As was the Notre-Dame Basilica, dating back to 1656.
Rising 233 metres above the city is Mont Royal, where there is a lookout offering breathtaking views over the city and surrounding area. We spent some time here exploring the surrounding parklands, Lac-aux-Castors (Beaver Lake) and glass-fronted Beaver Lake Pavilion.
Naturally, we also partook in some retail therapy whist in Montreal, shopping underground in a network of tunnels that link shops with subways and hotels. It is known as La Ville Souterraine, and is a great way to keep out of the freezing cold temperatures in winter time.
When in Quebec, it is a prerequisite that you try the local delicacy called poutine. This dish is essentially French fries with loads of cheese sauce, topped with a light brown gravy.
Hiring a car, we drove to Quebec City that sits upon the Saint Lawrence River, seeing the sights of this very French-inspired city. We saw the amazing Château Frontenac Hotel and imposing Citadelle of Québec, that lights up of a nighttime and is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.
Wandering the narrow cobblestone streets with old stone buildings, Petit-Champlain with art galleries and fine bistros, and the historical Place Royale, was a magical experience. We dined at quaint, little authentic French restaurants and enjoyed some French wines.
The following day we did a day trip to Montmorency Falls, that are 83 metres high and were partially frozen with ice. Here you can cross the suspension bridge at the top of the incredible falls or catch the cable car to the top of the cliff to admire the falls from a unique vantage point.
On our way back to the city we visited a maple syrup farm (also known as a sugar shack), where we were treated to a maple taffy on snow. This is achieved by boiling the maple syrup, then pouring it in lines on clean snow. As it cools, popsicle sticks are used to roll the maple taffy into a chewy lollipop. Very tasty!
Although it was late spring in Quebec, I couldn’t not visit a ski resort and spend a day snow skiing. Mont Tremblant Ski Resort is located within the Laurentian Mountains, 130 kilometres northwest of Montréal. So my sister and I decided that we would hire some ski gear and give it a go!
The picturesque pedestrian village with its colourful chalet-style buildings at the foot of Mont Tremblant, provided my Mum with plenty to do whilst we skied the slopes. It was as though we were in a ski resort in the heart of the French Alps. Although the snow was a little patchy in parts we still enjoyed a day skiing the slopes.
After catching up with my sister in Montreal we flew across the country to Calgary in Alberta, picking up our rental car, and driving and hour and a half away to Banff. We spent a few days here exploring the magnificent Banff National Park – the oldest in Canada, including a visit to the stunning Lake Louise.
Banff National Park consists of 6,641 square kilometres of exceptional mountain scenery nestled in the heart of the breathtaking Canadian Rockies. The resort town of Banff is at the foothills of Cascade Mountain and Mt Rundle, and is the centre for all types of adventurous activities.
For a birds-eye view of six incredible mountain ranges, we caught the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The mountains were still snow-capped at this time of year and there were jaw dropping vistas in every direction from the summit of Sulphur Mountain.
The Bow River flows along the west and south borders of the village of Banff, where we were able to stroll along the adjoining pathway. The river is ideal for canoeing, kayaking and rafting and is also great for sightseeing and birdwatching in the Banff area.
A picture-postcard lake that is possibly one of the most photographed places in all of Canada, is Lake Louise. A short drive of 61 kilometres from Banff, Lake Louise is an emerald jewel surrounded by towering jagged peaks within Banff National Park.
We spent the morning here photographing the ice and snow covered lake and the elegant Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel that sits on the shores of the lake. This stately resort hotel is huge, with 539 luxurious rooms, 3 restaurants, a bar and a day spa. We partook in a mug of steaming hot chocolate in the Fairview Restaurant, whilst enjoying the scenery over the lake.
Stretching 230 kilometres from Lake Louise all the way to Jasper, the Icefields Parkway is an iconic highway that weaves its way through spectacular mountain scenery. After leaving Banff, we drove along this parkway “oohing and aahing” at the scenery that was seemingly at every turn.
Our first stop was to view the vibrant blue glacial-fed Peyto Lake, that was located 40 kilometres from Lake Louise, just off the Icefields Parkway.
Further along we stopped at the Athabasca Glacier that is a part of the majestic Columbia Icefield, the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies that is within Jasper National Park. Here we took a quick stroll around before continuing our road trip.
Driving further north, we visited the impressive Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls. Eventually we arrived into the township of Jasper and found our lodge-style accommodation that was located on Pyramid Lake just outside of town.
A 45 minute drive outside of Jasper we discovered the remarkably beautiful, azure blue Maligne Lake – a large glacier fed lake. Afterwards we took a short hike in Maligne Canyon, known as the deepest canyon in the Rockies. We headed over the first and second bridges. The Second Bridge being the highest point of the canyon, standing more than 50 metres above the water.
The other thing that Jasper National Park is famous for, is the prolific wildlife spotting opportunities. It has one of the highest concentrated black and brown bear populations in Canada. We were fortunate to see a mother with two cubs along the roadside. Jasper is also home to even more wildlife, such as: elk, mountain sheep and goats, moose, wolves, coyotes and caribou.
After departing Jasper we passed the prominent and imposing Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Rockies. For the rest of the 441 kilometre journey to Kamloops the route follows the North Thompson River. It actually runs parallel to the road in sections which makes for stunning scenery along the way.
Kamloops is a city in British Columbia where the North and South Thompson rivers meet. Nearby is Sun Peaks Ski Resort, where my son spent a season working years ago. We arrived late in the afternoon and we only stayed overnight, so we never really got to explore the city or surrounds.
Our intended destination the next day was Whistler/Blackcomb, where I was meeting my best friend and her family who happened to be holidaying here. We had another long day of driving to reach Whistler, but it was just as scenic and enjoyable as the previous day.
The vibrant base village of Whistler/Blackcomb boasts epic skiing and snowboarding in winter, four championship golf courses, world-class shopping, restaurants and bars, hiking trails, spas and the world famous Whistler Mountain Bike Park.
Whistler/Blackcomb is Canada’s largest mountain resort with 8,171 acres of terrain to explore and offers 200 marked runs. So there is more than enough skiing or snowboarding to keep you entertained for at least a week. I stuck mainly to the easier runs with my friends, whilst Mum caught the gondola up the mountain and based herself in one of the cafes where she could watch.
After two days of leg-burning skiing, I was spent, and although I was sad to leave my friends it was time for Mum and I to move on to our last stop before departing for home.
Our drive from Whistler to Vancouver did not go without some drama. We got completely and utterly lost in the city and at one point went the wrong way up a one-way street. After stopping at a service station on the outskirts of Vancouver we finally got some directions from the attendant and eventually navigated out way to our hotel in downtown Vancouver.
We only had a day in Vancouver before our flight home that night. So we set off on foot to explore the city, the harbour area, Stanley Park and the Aquarium. It was a beautiful spring day, perfect for walking, and we were treated to pretty plantings of flowers, including tulips, in Stanley Park.
My Canadian adventure with my Mum was one of the most memorable holidays in my life. It was wonderful travelling with her and exploring the wonders of Canada. I will treasure this memory of her forever.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.