Carrier's Lucy has recently returned from an adventurous trip to Eastern Canada, where she experienced a thrilling helicopter ride over Niagara Falls, discovered the delights of Toronto; and enjoyed the breath-taking views over St Alexis-des-Monts. Read on to find out more about Lucy's trip.
Our first stop was Niagara on the Lake, this delightful town with boutique-style shops and restaurants is a quiet alternative to busy Niagara Falls. From here, we took a trip down Niagara Lake and the rapids. We stayed at the Pillar and Post Hotel which is located just two minutes' walk from the centre. The hotel itself is quaintl and cosy and features an indoor and outdoor pool and outdoor hot springs which are open all year round. We treated ourselves to a treatment from the spa and dined in the Cannery Restaurant which served fresh cuisine with a good choice of local wines. Our room in the hotel was spacious and comfortable.
From here, we visited Niagara Falls and although a tourist trap, they are definitely a must-do experience. Maid of the Mist operates between May and October and is a 30-minute cruise which takes you to the American Falls before sailing past massive rock formations to the magnificent sight of the thundering Horseshoe Falls. Yes, we got a bit wet, but it's all part of the experience!
We also did a helicopter tour of Niagara Falls, which is a great way to see the falls and surrounding area - the flight operates all year (weather permitting). Highlights include the Niagara River, Whirlpool Rapids, Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, the American Falls and the unrivalled Horseshoe Falls.
We had lunch at a lovely place called the Queenston Heights restaurant which is 15 minutes north of the Falls at the foot of Brock's Monument. Niagara produces some amazing wines, and their speciality is ice wine. We visited the Iniskillen winery which is the area's main producer of ice wine, and Chateau des Charmes is another renowned winery worth visiting.
The drive from Niagara Falls to Toronto was just under two hours. The name Toronto was derived from a Native Indian word meaning 'meeting place'. Toronto is made up of 15 islands and has several public beaches, one of which is 'clothing optional'! There is a lot of construction going on in the city, but it is a requirement of the Government that the developer must donate 1% of the cost of any build to public art, which means that around the city there are some unusual and interesting sculptures. The main attraction is the CN Tower. It is the second tallest freestanding tower in the world at 553 metres. They have just opened a 'Skywalk' which involves walking outside at the top of the tower! We pre-booked our tickets to avoid long queues and we also booked dinner in the rotating fine dining restaurant at the top of the tower.
We stayed at The Ritz-Carlton Toronto, a relatively new hotel which opened in February 2011. It is Toronto's only 5-Diamond hotel and overlooks the Toronto Skyline and Lake Ontario, near to the entertainment district. The 267 rooms feature either city or lake views and are spacious and comfortable. The Toca restaurant at the hotel boasts the only 'cheese cave' in North America and if you are interested, restaurant staff will take you on a tour. The hotel also has Spa My Blend by Clarins, only the second in the world; aswell as an indoor pool and jacuzzi with views of the CN Tower.
From Toronto, we flew to Montréal with Air Canada. Billy Bishop Airport is Toronto's city airport, and is about 10 minutes' drive from the Ritz-Carlton Toronto - really handy for internal flights as it saves travelling back to the international airport which can be over an hour away.
Montréal has become one of my favourite cities. There are no high-rise buildings (the highest is 52 storeys), and there is lots of different architecture in the city. There is a 'weatherproof city' so in the really cold winter months you needn't even step outside! There are shops, restaurants and spas, all under cover and connected by the underground rail service. Montréal is a very artistic city, in the summer there are concerts, events and shows in the streets. It is known as Canada's Cultural Capital and recently was named a UNESCO City of Design.
Here, we stayed at The Ritz-Carlton Montréal, re-opened in July 2012 after a four year renovation programme. This is the hotel where the name Ritz-Carlton was born in 1912. The hotel has changed from 229 rooms to 129 rooms to increase the size of the rooms, making them even more impressive. There are 98 rooms and 31 suites. All rooms are electronically controlled, from the blinds and curtains to the temperature. All rooms have Nespresso coffee makers, minibars, and a safe. All have Bvlgari amenities as standard but clients can change to Kiehls, Fresh or Acqua di Parma depending on their preference and there is a choice of 7 different pillows. There is a Royal Suite (its first guests after re-opening was Neil Diamond) - with separate living and dining rooms. There is no spa or pool at the moment, but they are planning a small spa and saltwater rooftop pool due to be complete at the end of 2013.
From Montréal, we took a float plane to Mont Tremblant which was about 45 minutes away.We landed on Lake Tremblant at the Hotel Quintessence dock. Tremblant is a small ski resort, but there are lots of outdoor activities during the summer months aswell so I would definately recommend staying a night or two. It is a 'chocolate box' village with lots of shops and restaurants. The gondola operates all year so even in the summer you can go the the top of the mountain where the views of the surrounding area are stunning.
We stayed at the Quintessence Hotel, about five minutes' walk from Tremblant centre and just under ten minutes to the slopes. This is a beautiful hotel, designed and decorated in a cosy lodge style with lots of fires and snug sofas and stunning views of the lake. Suites are huge and feature a fireplace, seating area, vast balcony, freestanding Jacuzzi bath and separate shower and bathroom with heated floors.
Our final stop was St Alexis-des-Monts, where we stayed at Hotel Sacacomie, a two hour drive from Tremblant. In summer this journey can be made by float plane in approximately 40 minutes. Rooms are huge and cosy and feature spectacular views of the lake. There is a new spa which has various steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools (in and outdoor), plunge pools - a lovely way to wind down after a day outdoors. The main focus here is the outdoor experiences, there are various guides on-site and there is a full daily programme of events in both summer and winter including hiking, watercraft, private beach, tubing, skiing, skating; some are payable including fishing, motorboats, bear and beaver observation, snowmobiling, dog sledding. A unique experience and definitely worth a couple of nights to encounter the great outdoors.