Cool Summer Getaways in Canada
by Paris Permenter & John Bigley
Couples in temperate climates know that, while it may be summertime, the living is not always easy once the temperatures start to soar. If you're lookingto beat the heat this summer, Canada offers a cool respite from the summertime blues. Whether your idea of a vacation means salmon fishing in a chilly mountain stream, skiing down a glacier, enjoying a gourmet dinner aboard a luxury train, or watching world-class theater performances, you'll find it in Canada.
With its soaring Rocky Mountains, Western Canada boasts some of the nation's most breathtaking scenery. Learn mountaineering and rockclimbing skills or pick up some additional backcountry experience on a day trip or a longer expedition. Hiking trails also crisscross the mountains during the summer months. Adventurous travelers can even experience helihiking, brought in by helicopter to explore the most remote reaches of the region. Rent a mountain bike to enjoy the backcountry, to experience a daredevil descent of a mountain, or just to sightsee.
Walking or cycling will give you a good idea of the plentiful streams and lakes that dot Canada's Rocky Mountain region, water provided by melting snows. Jet boating on both flat and whitewater rivers, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing are all popular activities, but perhaps none so much as fishing, usually on the catch-and-release system.
Wildlife viewing is a popular activity from coast to coast in Canada. Travelers find plenty of opportunities to search for everything from moose, whales, and bear in the western provinces to Arctic foxes and polar bears in the northern territories to whales and seabirds on the eastern shores.
Canada was settled by immigrants from around the globe who lent the nation many of the traditions of their homeland. Today you'll find that the cuisine, festivals, sports, and atmosphere of many Canadian cities reflects Old World manners.
Eastern Canada offers vacationers a touch of Europe. "Travelers like the cities of Montreal and Quebec City because they are like going to Paris without going so far and spending so much money," says Judy Rondeau, spokesperson for the Canadian Consulate in Dallas.
Montréal, the second largest French-speaking city in the world, invites travelers to slow down at a sidewalk cafe, enjoy a baguette or a glass of wine, and settle into a city that offers a party around just about every corner. Romantics will also enjoy Québec City, founded in 1608. Considered the cradle of French settlement in North America, the walled city of Old Québec was cited as a world heritage treasure by UNESCO, and offers many walking tours down its cobblestone streets.
Continuing west, Winnipeg is an international city set in a sea of prairie. Settled by immigrants from around the globe, Winnipeg is a melange of mankind with a Chinatown that dates back to 1909, a thriving Mediterranean district, and neighborhoods along Ellice and Sargent Avenues rich with 43 nationalities.
On Canada's western coast in the city of Victoria, it's the look and feel of jolly Old England that attracts many tourists. Cricket. Lawn bowling. Fish and chips in dark paneled pubs. High tea with scones and cucumber sandwiches.This may not be England, but it's certainly English, at least with a Pacific Northwest flair. A visit to Victoria, British Columbia, just a two and a half hour ferry ride from either Seattle or Vancouver comes with everything you'd expect from a British holiday but without the long flight and expense.
Victoria lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Georgia. The city of over 70,000 residents enjoys a mild climate year around. With an average of 2,183 hours of sunshine a year, it is known as Canada's sunniest city.
If your visit in Victoria is limited, start with an overview of the city. Board double decker buses or a horse-drawn carriage for a look at Chinatown and its Fan Tan Alley (the narrowest street in North America), Government Street and also residential areas. You can even take a ride on a bicycle-drawn rickshaw pedaled by an energetic student. Or just start off on foot. Victoria is a walker's dream city with rolling hills, wide sidewalks, pleasant weather and plenty to see. Schedule at least a half day for a look at the city's most famous attraction: Butchart Gardens, often cited as one of the finest gardens in the world. These formal gardens began in 1904 as a one-woman effort, the work of Jenny Butchart. Her husband's mining operation left limestone quarries here, and Mrs. Butchart came upon the idea of planting the walls with ivy. With the help of a hoist and a sling, she carefully placed cuttings in the quarry walls. Her work grew, and today Butchart Gardens is still operated by her descendants. The sprawling attraction includes a rose garden, Italian garden, Japanese garden, sunken garden, elaborate fountains, and greenhouse displays.