Canada 2009 - Facts and Information
Planning and Travel
Background information

CANADA 2009

TO THE BATTLEFORDS

 Around Edmonton
 Ukrainian Village 1
 Ukrainian Village 2
 Fort Edmonton 1
 Fort Edmonton 2

 Fort Edmonton 3
 Fort Edmonton 4
 To Meadow Lake
 The Battlefords
 Nth Battleford WDM
 Fort Battleford


ACROSS THE PRAIRIES
 Wasmuth Homestead
 Luseland
 Saskatoon WDM
 Around Saskatoon
 To Moose Jaw
 Moose Jaw WDM
 South of Moose Jaw
 To Val Marie
 Aqueducts & Dinosaurs
 Drumheller


WATERTON & KOOTENAY
 Waterton Lakes 1
 Waterton Lakes 2
 Waterton Lakes 3
 To Cranbrook
 Fort Steele
 Kootenay
 Silverton
 To Kaslo
 Kaslo
 New Denver & Arrow Lake
 Trout Lake


BACK TO EDMONTON
 Revelstoke
 Rogers Pass
 Yoho
 Kootenay Natnl Park
 Banff Natnl Park
 Icefields Parkway 1
 Icefields Parkway 2
 Jasper 1
 Jasper 2
 To Grande Cache
 Peace River
 Back to Edmonton


FACTS/INFO INDEX

 

First thoughts
We had had Canada on our list of places to go to for some time. There were perhaps three main elements. First was that Eleanor's mother was Canadian and had been born and brought up on the Saskatchewan prairies. We therefore wanted to go to the area she came from and see relatives there. Linked in with this was the fact that Eleanor's grandfather was a Russian immigrant and we were particularly interested to see the cultural implications of that and link these in with our experience of our two earlier trips to Russia. In the event we were somewhat unsuccessful in that direction although we did begin to get an insight into the early days of Ukrainian settlers, and we felt that culturally there would be strong similarities between them and the Russians.

The other two elements were a wish to see some of the Rockies and a wish to see Newfoundland (the latter rapidly abandoned on account of distance and the amount of time we would have needed to do justice to everything - but we are going to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in 2010). We also rapidly abandoned any romantic idea of driving across Canada or along the Alaska Highway to Alaska (or at least the Yukon). We decided we didn't want to go by train as, despite its attractions, we wanted the ability to go where we wanted to go and stop wherever we liked. Coach trips would be purgatory for us.

We would want to rent a car. We wanted to stop in motels and B&Bs and reckoned on getting our own evening meals and being provided with or making ourselves early breakfasts. Our original thought was to find an agent to fix all the trip for us (which was what had happened on our trip to NZ) but we found that was impossible for Canada. Agents basically dealt with larger, upmarket accommodation in the main tourist infested areas and the only flexibility they offered was letting you choose how many nights you spent in each place. This was no use to us as we wanted to see Canada, not tourists. The other issue was that when Saskatchewan was mentioned to the travel firms they said "Where?", if it wasn't between Calgary and Vancouver you could forget it. So we did it ourselves.

Getting there and back
The only direct flights (our preference) from UK to the prairies are those operated by Air Canada from Heathrow to Calgary and Edmonton. Of these Edmonton seemed a better bet as it looked the quieter of the two airports and geographically it fitted our plans better. So Edmonton it was. Our intention was to fly Business Class and we found that we could get a much cheaper fare by not taking a direct flight back. For the return we had various options. Coming back via Vancouver seemed silly, and via Toronto or Montreal would have meant two fairly long legs. However a 50 minute hop down to Calgary (even if the flight we took meant Economy seats for this leg) seemed a very good option in the light of the savings we could make.

The outbound flight was a daytime flight from Heathrow to Edmonton. We had heard bad reports of Air Canada but these were not justified and service was excellent. Food was good and the Canadian red wines very good so by Greenland we were decidedly sleepy. The return flight was overnight and Air Canada's true lie-flat beds (as opposed to some airlines' 150° recline alleged lie-flat seats) again came into their own. Food was good again, although Michael forewent the wine as he would be driving on arrival at LHR. The hop to Calgary was a fairly typical local flight in a Dash 8 with basic refreshments.

Getting around
The general itinerary was to be a six week trip in a rough 'M' shape. We would start from Edmonton and head north-east to Meadow Lake then south and east to Val Marie. From there we would head west to The Rockies then north to Peace River before heading back to Edmonton.

Car hire presented a challenge. We quickly realised that most firms would not let you take their cars onto gravel roads. One allowed this but did not give insurance cover when off sealed surfaces. This was a major problem as we knew we would be wanting to do a fair bit of driving on gravel, especially in Saskatchewan. However in the end we found that Enterprise would allow you to use any public road and gave full insurance cover on gravel. We had a brand new Nissan Altima from them in which we covered over 9,000km. This was an interesting car with keyless entry and ignition, continuously variable transmission and a foot-operated parking brake.

In general we were surprised by Canadian drivers' laid back approach with little speeding and a marked reluctance to overtake. It took a while to remember about turning right on red lights (which means they are reluctant to drive in Lane 1 in towns) and I never got used to the practice in some places of putting the acceleration lane out of a side turning in the middle of the road. 4-Way Stops were a novelty.

As on our trip to NZ we had taken some supermarket trolley bags and these were left in the car with things like waterproofs and sweaters which enabled us to stack our small checked suitcase (with stuff in it) inside the now empty large suitcase.

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