Closing date: 10 Oct 2018
Eastern Canada is a whirlwind of epic landscapes, wonderful wildlife and bundles of coastal charm. But the sheer variety of cities the area offers, from the old-world French allure of Québec City to the cloud-baiting skyscrapers of Toronto, gives travellers plenty of reasons to keep returning – or to just link them all together on one wild road trip. Tour operator Trailfinders is offering the chance to win a self-drive trip across Eastern Canada, pieced together from their five decades of creating authentic tailor-made travel experiences. To add a splash of luxury, they’ve partnered with Fairmont Hotels’, staying in a number of its hotels – combining fine architecture, a convenient location and indulgence – along the way. So get that motor running…
Your first stop could be the melting pot of Toronto – Canada’s largest city. More than 140 languages are murmured on its streets, and it’s home to a Little Italy, Chinatown (more than one), Little Portugal and Greek Town, among others. Walking around the area is like crossing a living map. Combine glass towers with a fine waterfront and friendly locals, and you have a city with a small-town feel.
Staying at the gothic-revival Fairmont Royal York hotel, you’ll never be far from its wedge of sights, either. The city’s focal point, the 553m-high CN Tower, serves up fine panoramas across the city and Lake Ontario, while Toronto’s horde of museums is impressive, too – the Royal Ontario Museum bursts with artefacts and the Bata Shoe Museum is home to an oddly compelling array of footwear. For something different, the gothic Casa Loma is the only ‘castle’ in North America and the rebuilt Fort York reimagines Toronto’s beginnings as a stockade garrisoned by Redcoats.
Having your own car is the best way to explore further around the area. It would be crazy not to take a two-hour crawl around Lake Ontario to one of the planet’s finest wonders, the thundering Niagara Falls. Next – if you have the time – loop up through the wide-ranging leafy maple woods of Algonquin Provincial Park to Canada’s capital, Ottawa. Here, the teal roofs of the gothic government buildings dominate the city as they perch atop Parliament Hill, their Victorian grandeur sitting proudly among newer, shinier architecture.
At the foot of the hill lies the Fairmont Château Laurier, a replica of a French château. It’s also a convenient gateway to Ottawa’s clutch of museums, especially Bytown Museum, Ottawa’s oldest building, and its beautiful, UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal.
Cross the provincial border into Québec, pit-stopping at the Fairmont Tremblant hotel. Grab the cable car up Mont Tremblant for a classic alpine view of the surrounding Laurentian Mountains and Taureau Reservoir, before heading for the waterfront metropolis of Québec City. Overlooking the St Lawrence River, this city is the beating heart of French Canada and one of the oldest communities left on the continent. It was founded by the explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1608, and its buildings – including the relic-ridden Notre-Dame Cathedral – and cobbled streets are a magical throwback to old Europe.
The UNESCO-listed walled Old Town is crowned by the copper-topped Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, rising above the city skyline. The historic gates of Porte St-Louis and Porte St-Jean lie just outside, while the star-shaped La Citadelle on the banks of St Lawrence River is a must-visit, a magnificent fortress jointly built by the French and British to ward off an American attack that never came. Come January and February, Québec City’s Winter Carnival is often hailed as the planet’s greatest snowy festival, but the city is one big year-round party, with costumed acrobats, musicians and actors always a presence on its storied streets.
Elsewhere, Québec’s other major city, Montréal, is a foodie’s paradise. Its streets are laden with markets reminiscent of Paris and steaming with bowls of iconic poutine, Arctic char and Kamouraska lamb, while patisseries and pubs speckle the rest of the city in a delightful Anglo-Franco combo – much like the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel.
Like its Québec counterpart, old Europe is a heavy influence on Montréal’s architecture. Wander a mosaic of 19th-century artisan boutiques and art galleries, the cobblestones of Saint Paul Street and the crumbling fortifications of Pointe-á-Calliére – Montréal’s birthplace. Its climax, though, is the Notre-Dame cathedral, lavishly gilded and decorated inside, while its twin towers loom over the old quarter.
Eastern Canada is packed with wonders, but it needs experts to help you really soak them up.
Trailfinders have been crafting itineraries for nearly 50 years, and its team has travelled extensively across Canada. There’s no better people to help you explore this historic mix of cities. Add in comfortable stays with Fairmont and you’ll be seeing Canada’s eastern side in true style, city hopping past epic landscapes, beguiling history and great wilds.
For more information, visit www.trailfinders.com/destinationcanada or call 0290 272 6607.
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