We left Gatwick for Vancouver with Air Transat on a direct flight, which took around 10 hours, and then transferred to The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Fairmont has three hotels in Vancouver all very different in style. The Waterfront overlooks the convention centre and cruise terminal making it a great location to stay for those going on an Alaska cruises. Vancouver is a very modern city. Robson Street is the main shopping area where all the designer shops can be found. Gas Town is great for history and is where most of the bars and restaurants are to be found as well as the iconic steam clock. A must-see when the clock strikes the hour. Vancouver has a very fresh feel, mainly due to the number of trees and bushes that are planted, and for a city with such a high population it feels very spacious. Stanley Park, covering 4.05 square kilometres, is a major attraction for both residents and visitors. Other attractions include: Capilano Bridge & Grouse Mountain, home to two grizzly bears. You could easily spend several days exploring Vancouver.
We then transferred to the station to board the Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver to Whistler, a journey lasting around 3hrs on which we were served a cold breakfast (airline style). We were seated in Red Leaf class which was fine for this short trip, however if I was doing a longer journey I would certainly book the gold leaf service which allows far better visibility, hot meals served restaurant style, and with such stunning views to look at!
We arrived into Whistler on the day they had their first snow of the season (so great excitement) however Whistler is not just a ski destination - there is so much choice of summer activities as well, of which I guess mountain biking is the most popular. There is also the peak-to-peak gondola to ride, hiking, and my favourite, zip lining. For the less active there are some beautiful lakeside paths where you can walk or cycle and places where you can just sit and admire the wonderful views. Whistler really does have something for everyone at any time of year.
Taking off from Green Lake Whistler aboard the Float Plane was a huge highlight for me! The 90-minute flight to Victoria was a memorable experience with some stunning views. On arriving into Victoria we were picked up and taken to put on our floatation suits for our whale-watching trip on a zodiac boat, which was very bracing and exhilarating! We were very lucky to have a great guide who found us both Orca & humpback whales. They are so graceful. I would advise everyone to have this experience on his or her itinerary.
A must for anyone visiting Victoria is afternoon tea at ‘The Empress’ - A grand hotel on Government Street overlooking the inner harbour and the oldest hotel in Victoria. They have their own special blend of tea, which is served in teacups made by Royal Doulton and are exact replicas of the ones taken to the hotel by Edward Prince of Wales in 1919. The wonderful selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones, jam and cream are a real treat. Another visit in Victoria that is not to be missed, and a national historic site of Canada, is The Butchart Gardens – now over 100 years old. Robert and Jennie Butchart created these beautiful gardens from a limestone quarry that had previously been used for its limestone and clay in manufacturing at Robert Butchart’s nearby cement plant. The gardens include the Italian Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Gardens and a sunken garden – a very peaceful & relaxing visit.
The Fairmont Waterfront is a great location with easy walking access to Gas Town and Robson Street, the hotel is also close to the cruise terminal making it excellent for those who wish to visit Vancouver before or after his or her Alaska cruise. We stayed in a Harbour View Deluxe Twin room with two queen beds this was also offered with one king bed, the room was spacious and had a good sized bathroom.
Aava Hotel at Whistler is a modern Hotel just a five-minute stroll from the centre of Whistler village. Comfortable rooms with either twin or double beds are standard. However they also have one and two bedroom suites for larger groups. There is an outside heated pool and hot tub and also cycle hire. There is no restaurant at this hotel but breakfast can be booked and is served in a restaurant opposite the hotel. It was a very large breakfast!
The Inn at Laurel Point, Victoria is a great location with fantastic views. All rooms have harbour views and balconies. The rooms are very large and spacious, as are the bathrooms with twin sinks, separate bath tub and shower. Breakfast can be booked as there is a small restaurant and friendly bar however most guests prefer to walk into town and dine with the locals.