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A luxury break?

London
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A luxury break?

Can anyone advise please? I'm looking at a couple of weeks holiday with my wife in Eastern Canada say end of September, perhaps flying from UK to Halifax, hotel-hopping westwards to say Toronto, then fly back. Budget not restricted. I've never been to Canada before and I don't much enjoy the tedium of flying.

I've seen the Relais & Chateaux suggestion on relaischateaux.com/en/… which would imply staying about 2 nights in each of 7 apparently rather comfortable hotels.

I've not done this "regional tour" sort of holiday before. Could anyone suggest is the Relais approach sensible; is it better to spend longer at fewer hotels; how does one best get around this part of the world - hire car, chauffeur, train, plane? Is it better to get an hotel chain to fix this sort of holiday or DIY on the net or use a travel agent (if so, whom)?

And who is good to fly with, UK to Canada? Even though it's outstandingly expensive compared with economy, is business or first worth the extra? Is it worth considering a transatlantic liner instead?

Thank you if you have any tips or suggestions.

Toronto, Canada
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1. Re: A luxury break?

Hi;

...just time for a quick reply.

The distance between Halifax & Toronto is about the same as that between London & Rome, so although this is "technically" all Eastern Canada, it's still a rather vast area. With only 2 weeks we would personally opt for a maximum of 2 or 3 highlight destinations between Halifax & Toronto.

What would be helpful in providing further advice would be to know more about your interests. The Relais & Chateaux properties are mostly rural. Are you looking for that type of setting, or a mix of country & city?

London
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2. Re: A luxury break?

Thanks B&J - a major helpful comment on area size!

I think my wife's key interest is autumn colours - mine is keeping her off my back. Seriously - I'd think we'd enjoy a mix of rural and city, maybe 2/3 rural. We're not museum goers and I'm not too energetic, so a quiet drive to an interesting "place" through marvellous scenery is likely to keep us happy.

For the city aspects I'd expect her to enjoy shopping as much as sight-seeing.

We're probably happier visiting somewhere - hotel or city - and playing things by ear rather than micro-planning visits.

Thanks again for your (crucial) comment.

Ottawa, Canada
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3. Re: A luxury break?

Hi Incomfort,

Welcome to the CANADA TRAVEL FORUM

As pointed out by my esteemed colleague(s) BRUCE-AND-JOHN, Canada is a lot bigger in reality than it ever will appear on any map !!

Halifax to Toronto is aprox 1800 Kms, and about 20 Hours of Driving Time*

GOOGLE MAPS (Halifax to Toronto) = http://g.co/maps/n8q7c

*NOTE – Driving Time is just that… time spent driving. It doesn’t account for Stops, Breaks or Sightseeing… nor for any Delays such as Border Crossings (if necessary as part of the shortest route**), Traffic Congestion, Road Construction, or Weather Conditions. It is estimated using GOOGLE MAPS for the shortest most direct route, and driving under ideal conditions at the posted speed limits.

**NOTE – This route can also be done in about the same amount of time in a more southerly fashion via the USA… and the States of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont… coming back into Canada via Montreal. The New England States are also known for their Autumn Colours.

The best way to see Canada is certainly by car… although with such a HUGE country, and such a scant population, many times our major cities will be anywhere from 2 to 8 hours apart (something to take into consideration). And our cities are interesting and “regional”… each so different from one another. On the otherhand, the scenic beauty that lies between our cities, is what we are most famous for… I often say that in Canada “the destination here” isn’t the city at the end of the day… but the journey to get there.

If you plan to do a road-trip, then with just two weeks in hand, I would suggest that you either plan on focussing on The Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia - Prince Edward Island - and New Brunswick) OR... look at Southern Quebec & Ontario (the Quebec City thru Niagara Falls corridor)... as we generally tell Travellers that they'll need 2 to 3 weeks vacation to explore any ONE of our major Geographic areas (of which these are two)

Both of these Geographic areas are known for their Autumn Colours... Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail - Northern New Brunswick - Bas St Laurent (Lower St Lawrence Valley around Quebec City) - The Eastern Townships (east of Montreal) - The Laurentians (north of Montreal) - The Quebec Foothills (between Montreal and Ottawa) - The Gatineaus (north of Ottawa) - the Rideau Lakes - Kawarthas - Haliburton Highlands - Algonquin Park (these 4 areas between Ottawa and Toronto) - and then a bit west and south of Toronto (the Tri-City Area & the Niagara Peninsula)

You should begin your research / reading by taking at look at the various Official Tourism Guides for these Provinces to get an idea where in this VAST Country you’d really like to see…

Nova Scotia Tourism = www.novascotia.com

Prince Edward Island Tourism = www.tourismpei.com

New Brunswick Tourism = www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca

Tourism Quebec (English Website) = www.bonjourquebec.com/qc-en/accueil0.html

Ontario Tourism = http://www.ontariotravel.net

This should get you started… there are then Tourism Websites beyond this that you can later explore for more detailed info on areas within these Provinces and their Cities etc.

Mr Wine & I are committed road-trippers it is most definitely one of our favourite forms of vacation, so I understand your wish to “play it by ear”… BUT when it comes to our Autumn Colours Season here in Canada (and Northern USA / New England States) the timeframe is small and “precious”… so many Travellers come from around the world to see this transformation (there are actually Motorcoach Tours that book over a year in advance)… so although you might not want to micro-manage your holiday, it probably would be best to work out a realistic Itinerary ahead of time, and book accommodations in any of the most popular of spots (ie Cabot Trail in NS – Bay of Fundy Region etc)

Beyond road-tripping, you could take the train between The Maritimes and Eastern Central Canada (Via Rail’s “The Ocean”… connects Halifax to Montreal via Quebec) or fly to other cities enroute to Toronto (Montreal or Ottawa) … maybe do some driving between those spots… taking in the scenery once again (Montreal to Ottawa is aprox 2 Hours, Ottawa to Toronto aprox 5 Hours)… but there is much to be seen in the “best bits” inbetween.

As for getting to Canada… you’ll find that transatlantic cruise ships go to the USA... mostly NYCity (or a relocation cruise to the Caribbean or Miami in the Fall). Remember though, that our Leaf Season here is short… best time to visit is end of September EARLY October… the show can all be over by our Thanksgiving (mid-October). Many Cruise Ships reposition later than that.

As to flying into Canada… our major airports are in our biggest cities… Toronto and Montreal… with Halifax coming in a bit farther down the list… but still do-able.

As well, rental cars in Canada will charge you a steep Drop Fee if you intend to rent a car in one city and return it in another (comes down to scant population = low demand)… as some how the vehicle must make its way back to the place of origin, even if that means being towed !!

Easiest one-way car rentals are typically found between our two largest cities, Toronto and Montreal, so finding a one-way rental going in the opposite direction isn’t as difficult for the companies.

You’ll also find that there is decent train and bus service in the Quebec City to Niagara Corridor… compared to other parts of the country (about 30% of Canada’s total population lives in this corridor)… can make for some good connections along the route, but both will be taking the “shortest” route between cities, so not always the most scenic… and in some cases public transit just will not go to the best scenic places (low population base…example, Ontario’s 1000 Islands Region… between Ottawa & Kingston)

When it comes to leaf peeping, leaf change is dependent on 3 things… Latitude, Altitude and Weather… the last one being the most unpredictable. But generally speaking spots that are more northerly, or have higher elevations will change BEFORE those in southerly or lower laying areas… so the Trees around Quebec City will come into Colour long before those around the Niagara Peninsula… which is why you’ll want to plan out your route most likely from EAST to WEST.

Personally, I am the do-it-yourself kind of person, I find planning a vacation almost as exciting as being on one… so at least for me, I enjoy that task… realize though that it isn’t for everyone. Travel Agents (the right one… someone who has Canada experience can be great) but by reading and doing your own research, you can truly chat here on TA with Canadians who know the areas best… and get some insider tips… and hopefully miss-out on the “tourist traps”… I’ve been a TA Member now for several years, and although I had great vacations before I discovered TA, I would have to say that they are much much better since… mind you, I do do a lot of reading… sometimes the key to planning is just that… because if you don’t “ask the right question here on the FORUMS”… then you might not get the info that you truly need.

Hope this info is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Edited: 23 March 2012, 18:12
Kingston, Canada
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4. Re: A luxury break?

Greetings Incomfort,

I would like to add some additional thoughts and comments to the information you have been provided so far.

As far as flights go, I know that Air Canada, BMI and Lufthansa all fly non-stop London to Halifax. I have flown on over 20 different airlines however never BMI so I will have to leave that one to your choice, I know that if it were me I would travel Lufthansa in a heartbeat over Air Canada. I have flown Air Canada many, many times including both business and first class and they would be about the last airline I would ever book with. The only way I will get on an Air Canada Aircraft is 1) If I absolutely have to be somewhere on a given time. 2) There is no other way to get there (including driving) 3) I can't charter a private aircraft. I know it sounds bad, however, I have personally watched and heard them lie to passengers, ruin vacations, strand passengers without any help, in short a second rate airline that has no business flying our countrys flag. (ok climbing off my soapbox now)

As for business or economy class, I don't think if you can afford the difference there is any question. First is great if you are traveling to the far east, want to work part of the way, then be well rested for morning meetings. Otherwise, I usually find I am more than satisfied with Business. I think of the European Airlines my favourite business class is Alitalia (I think the wine might have something to do with it) The fully reclining sleeping pods are wonderful as well, I know there are other issues with Alitalia, however, I have always found they seem to care a little more, and appreciate my business a little more. When I travel there are between 4 and 6 of us, which means my airfares are between $12,000 and $30,000 so yes I do expect good service. I also always travel non-stop if possible, while not a sure thing, it increases the chances that my luggage will arrive with me.

Canada's size can present challenges however to answer your question, I think I might be tempted to try a series of transportation modes (the variation my add to the pleasure of the adventure) Having traveled all of these routes and cities many times I might suggest this:

Fly London to Halifax,

I love Wine-4-2's suggestion of The Ocean and think the Sleeper Plus Class with access to the domed viewing car would be a fabulous way to see the trip from Halifax West, my only negative is that it doesn't stop at Quebec City and personally I would never take Montreal over Quebec City (as much as the former is my hometown) The Auberge Saint Antoine in the old part of Quebec City is an exquisite property and I can't think of a better place to stay. (although I have stayed in a number in the old city and would be pleased to offer some other suggestions if you wish)

So another idea might be to fly from Halifax to Quebec City, then hire a car and driver to take you to Montreal either north or south of the St. Lawrence depending upon where the best colour show is. In Montreal board a train to Ottawa (our nations capital) as hard as it is to have you bypass my part of Ontario, I would now suggest another flight from Ottawa to Toronto, Langdon Hall would provide you with a wonderful point from which you could explore both Toronto and visit Niagara with its wonderful wineries and of course the Falls. I think you would find the staff at Langdon Hall would be more than willing to accommodate you in whatever transportation assistance you might require. I have not been to Langdon Hall in about 10 years however, the last time I was there I was given the rare privilage of a tour of their wine cellar and the 20,000+ bottles were something to behold.

Back to Ottawa I think I would be most tempted to suggest you stay at the Chateau Laurier although Wine-4-2 might have some much better suggestions for where to stay in Ottawa. The finest buffet I have ever seen was at the Intercontinental in Cairo, from Sushi to Prime Rib and rows upon rows of offerings, choosing a hotel in Ottawa is a little like that.

Well that should provide you with a few ideas to think about, I will watch the posting and please don't hestite to contact me directly if I can provide you with any further help.

Sincerely

Highbrae

Toronto, Canada
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5. Re: A luxury break?

The BMI and Lufthansa direct flights from London to Halifax are merely code-shares, operated by Air Canada. However, many people apparently disagree with Highbrae's dire assessment of that airline -- last June Skytrax named Air Canada best international airline in North America, and in December Business Traveler and Global Traveler magazines did the same.

Kingston, Canada
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6. Re: A luxury break?

My apologies for missing the code share, I should have caught that. Since many international airlines are limited or excluded to Canada (as Emirites recently was) I don't know that Air Canada has too much to be proud of.

I notice Skytrax only gives them 3 stars while giving 4 stars to Porter. You will have to excuse me but when I am in a metal tube at 35,000 feet I prefer my airline to be more than 3 out of 5.

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: A luxury break?

Hi incomfort ~

To address your question directly about the type of regional holiday you have outlined:

http://g.co/maps/qj6gx

Above is the map layout of the hotels mentioned in your link for the Relais & Chateaux. I've left off the Ontario option. You will see where the long drives are and you may wish to find an additional hotel for an additional night across New Brunswick, for example.

Driving a car would result in a one way drop fee. You have mentioned cost is not an issue.

I'm not sure I would drive across NB for 7 hours at all. I would post on the New Brunswick Forum about that particular drive. What points of interest are there between Saint John and Cap à l-Aigle in two days? Would the leaves be turning, for example? That would be a sight. That would inform you if the drive was something you wanted to do. Here's what I would suggest you consider.

* # nights in Halifax. It's a city, not R&C, you may not want to stay very long, you may wish to see some attractions that interest you, rent a car

* 3 nights/2 full days at Trout Point Lodge at the west end of NS. This would allow you to sightsee up and back both sides of the peninsula. I spent 12 summer days in Nova Scotia, in the eastern half, and found it full of wonderful activities and attractions. I have no doubt the western side would provide the same.

* Halifax, return the car.

* Take VIA Rail from Halifax to Québec City. 19 hours, departs 12h15 pm, arrives 5h25 am with a further 30 min shuttle bus to QC. I believe this train takes one day off in the week. Much better option than driving across NB. Upgrade your sleeper.

www.viarail.ca

* Now, referring to the map again, you now have the option of visiting the R&C hotels at Balloons D, E, F, and G at your leisure. The distances between are minimal, journeys could be very casual and possibly include back roads rather than highways. Advice about that from locals would be worthwhile. I don't know that area by road. Consider at least 2 nights/one full day in each hotel.

* Fly out of Montréal.

If you considered the generous side of 3 nights at each location + the train night, you would need 19 nights. I would think some locations would suffice with 2 nights or even 1. Except for Québec City which could use 4 nights to do it justice.

You are on the Canada Forum right now, visited by few. I would suggest you post this trip on the Québec province forum (include the same link) and then refer to the Québec area hotels/locations (as I have listed in the map sidebar.) The more information you can give about your travel idea, the better the advice you will get. So please consider letting people know if you want complete relaxation and luxury or if you want to get out and about doing sightseeing and activities. That information would focus the replies you get. You may even find that you could eliminate one of the R&C's completely. I'm thinking of the Auberge La Pinsonnière, in Cap à l-Aigle.

I would think you will want to know how many nights would be sufficient at X. I don't know Balloon D, Cap à l-Aigle, but the Sherbrooke area, F, has its own delights (more leaves turning in September?) and G is in the Laurentians which would be impressive in September. But it's not Montréal, so you might want to consider whether or not you would want to stay right in the city as well.

You would definitely be staying away from the crowds, out of any cities at almost exclusive retreats with high end dining. This would be a nice balance with some touristy activities in the cities and around. Nice idea, different, quieter than the norm, with the lure of indulgent travel.

As far as flying business, I would think comparing the two services on the airline's website would allow you to make that decision. You pay à la carte in economy by credit card only. Also the liner idea would be a personal choice.

Also, I think once you got your itinerary figured out and the timing for it, R&C would book all your hotels for you for the nights you wished. Just contact the first on your list. They will have a reservations clerk or concierge who would be more than pleased to do that, I'm sure.

Hope this helps a bit.

Edited: 24 March 2012, 18:50
London
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8. Re: A luxury break?

Hmmm.

Thank you kind responders - I had not expected so much helpful comment.

It's clear I need to think this through more carefully and decide on priorities; your various suggestions really do help, thank you.

My MkII thoughts had tended towards junking the eastern section and starting in Quebec, working eastward in order to finish at Niagra Falls. I'll now review again in the light of these different comments and try to draft an outline on which I can ask more specific questions.

Peter

West Grey, Ontario
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9. Re: A luxury break?

Hi Peter;

>>"...starting in Quebec, working eastward in order to finish at Niagra Falls."<<

Just to clarify...

Niagara Falls is WEST of Quebec.

Best Regards

London
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10. Re: A luxury break?

West Grey - thanks - on closer examination I've noticed that that's very often the case; my only excuse is to claim that I'm old and infirm of brain. :)