Category Archives: Canada

A Short Guide to Vancouver in a Weekend

It’s springtime in the Pacific Northwest, and that means it’s time to hit the outdoors!

Easter’s coming up! Even if you don’t have a trip planned out, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a boring weekend at home! How about driving up to the beautiful port city of Vancouver, B.C.? Here’s a short guide to a spectacular weekend in British Columbia:

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Stanley Park

Get your adventure on at Stanley Park, an enormous 1,000 acres of outdoor recreation. A whopping 500,000 cedar and fir trees call this area home! Here you’ll easily while away a few enjoyable hours at the zoo, train, swimming pools, beaches and historical landmarks. Grab lunch at the Fish House or Waterfall Cafe, or go for a quiet tea hour at the Teahouse. The star of the show is the Vancouver Aquarium, which opened in 1956 and regularly hosts education events, exhibitions and kid-friendly activities. Look for the sea otters, beluga whales, anacondas, sloths, eels and dolphins.

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Food Trucks

Like our hometown of Portland, Vancouver is popular with the food truck crowd. Grab a snack, meal or dessert at incredible prices. There are literally dozens of varieties to choose from—whipping up everything from tacos, handheld pies, and bento boxes, to waffles, fresh-squeezed smoothies, and Jamaican jerk chicken.

Check it out on the app: http://streetfoodapp.com/vancouver/map

Brewery Hopping

Vancouver’s microbreweries are the talk of the town—don’t leave without touring a few! The best bars are found in East Vancouver, where you’ll find most of the top breweries all bundled within walking distance of each other. Granville Island Brewing, Canada’s first microbrewery, opened as early as 1984. Sample a flight of popular brews at 33 Acres, who craft a range of delicious floral IPAs, schwarzbiers, and lemony Belgians.

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Granville Island Public Market

Granville’s gorgeous Public Market is home to a fun assortment of fresh produce and handmade products. Support local art and pick up some homemade fine jewelry and photography. This is a great place to pick up a souvenir or gift with handmade soaps or silk scarves.

Bella Gelateria

Get a pre-dinner scoop of old-world handcrafted gelato at the Bella. This upscale gelateria is immensely popular with visitors and locals alike, and it’s no wonder—with original flavors like Amarena Cherry, banana bread, earl gray, lavender, matcha green tea, and fior de latte. They also serve sorbets (can you say strawberry lime?) and excellent coffee.

photo credit flickr cc fujitariuji, ruth hartnup and dave o

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How far can you travel for under $700 in Summer 2014?

We asked our team of travel agents for international destinations with airfare under $700 from Portland, Oregon.

Check out our results for roundtrip fares, per person, staying for one week:

–          Montreal, Canada ($467)

–          Toronto, Canada ($475)

–          Cancun, Mexico ($529)

–          St. David’s Island, Bermuda ($594)

–          Managua, Nicaragua ($640)

–          Nassau, Bahamas ($655)

–          Guatemala City, Guatemala ($675)

–          San Juan, Puerto Rico ($687)

–          San Jose, Costa Rica ($696)

–          Panama City, Panama ($703)

–          Kingston, Jamaica ($703)

Book Now! These fares are based on dates in June 2014, and subject to change until ticketed.

Want to stay domestic? Roundtrip to Honolulu in mid-June is $657 per person.

Note that fares to all destinations tend to sell out after schools are out on June 15, and that hurricane season in the Caribbean does not start until July 1. Book the first two weeks of June for the best fares!

Consult our agents at Willamette Intl Travel at 1-800-821-0401 to book your summer vacation today! We can help you find the best deals for your family or honeymoon.

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Filed under Airlines, Canada, Caribbean, News, South America, Travel Tips, USA, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?, Where in the World is the WIT Client?

Mosaïculture in Montreal

 

preparing for the summer sculpture festival

By Wailana

On my recent trip to Montreal in May, I stumbled on the budding treasures of the Mosaiculture exhibition in the Parc Olympique. The exhibit, set to debut in July, was still in its growth patterns. The sprouting ivies and perannuals had barely begun to coil over the black metal frames.

Since 2000, Montreal has hosted the Mosaicultures Internationales every 3 years, and this year 20 countries are competing under a theme of “Land of Hope.” The garden expands over 185 acres and displays nearly 50 sculptures. The Grand Honorary Award and People’s Choice Award will be announced in September.

“Mosaïculture,” writes the competition’s website, “is a refined horticultural art that involves creating and mounting living artworks made primarily from plants with colourful foliage (generally annuals, and occasionally perennials).” The sculptures showcase our planet’s biodiversity in flocks of storks, frogs and toads, rams, dogs, deer and old shepherds.

A 2-day adult admission costs about $28. Visitors can also purchase tickets to the nearby Insectarium or the Botanical Garden.

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Crash Course in Montreal

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Montreal makes a great destination for North Americans looking for a taste of Europe for a long weekend. With a wealth of crepe cafes, sidestreets and cosmopolitan atmosphere, Montreal is a major attraction for those looking for some old world culture not far from home.

WIT Agent Wailana took the morning flight out of Portland via Dallas on American, arriving at 7.30pm in Montreal. The 747 bus takes you straight downtown, where most major hotels and the metro are located.

The best evenings are spent strolling around romantic Old Montreal, with its collection of historical buildings and 17th-19th century architecture. At night the city streets are mostly quiet, and the cobblestones are lit up with the soft glow from streetlights. You can even ride in a pink and white horse carriage!

The old quarter is lovely enough to splurge for dinner—look for the lively Modavie Jazz Bar—but for breakfast and lunch, I recommend heading up to the Plateau and Mile End for some tasty local treats. Snack to your heart’s delight on flaky Lebanese baklava and freshly-cut merguez sausages at the Jean-Talon Marche, the largest outdoor market in North America. Afterwards, beat the heat and sample the tasty microbrews at Dieu du Ciel. For some of the best international food, try one of the delicious menus on the historically immigrant Rue de Saint-Laurent. There’s a plethora of Hungarian meats, Spanish spices, Chinese desserts, and Jewish sandwiches to enjoy here.

Take your goodies up to Parc Mont Royal for a beautiful vista and a picnic. You can usually spy some soccer games, live drum music or circus acts here. Did you know that Montreal is one of the world’s top circus arts destinations? Book a bike tour to explore Montreal’s neighborhoods and history like a local. For a different perspective, head to the Underground City. This 20 mile-network of subterranean tunnels are a labyrinthe of shopping malls, subways, hotels and banks. You can also check out the Grevin Museum downtown for realistic wax images of Michael Jackson, Albert Einstein, Obama and more.

The next major attraction worth a stop is Olympic Park, which houses the Stadium, Insectarium, Jardin Botanique and the Biodome, once the home to the 1976 Olympic summer games and now an environmental museum. Check out the spectacular view in a funicular elevator up to the top of Olympic Tower. Bring your swimsuit to plunge in one of the seven swimming pools at the tower’s sports center.

If you’re lucky enough to be in town during one of the festivals, don’t miss the world-renowned Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs Festival that celebrates comedy, and the International Festival of Beer that attracts breweries from all over the world.

We recommend spending at least 3 nights in Montreal, especially if you’re going to add a daytrip into Quebec City. The capital of Quebec has been lauded as Montreal’s smaller, quainter sister. If you have some extra time you could even go for a day trip to Niagara Falls, Ottawa or New York City. For a special delight during winter, try a unique tour to discover one of the region’s most world-renowned, unique products—ice wine.

If you’re in Montreal this summer, don’t miss the botanical garden for the exhibition of 50 remarkable garden sculptures. For a sneak peak, click here.

Several WIT Agents have traveled to Montreal and beyond. Popular itineraries among our clients include multi-day rail trips from Vancouver to Halifax via Montreal, and New England cruises through the St. Lawrence River. Call us to book your Canada trip today or to find out more about available packages: 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com.

an old man and his dog

an old man and his dog

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May in Montreal

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May may be past, but our memories of it aren’t!

Last week WIT Agent Wailana took a trip to Montreal — she did her sleuthing and checked out the gorgeous parks, funky neighborhoods, and unique cuisine of this laid-back and loveable city. Long dubbed the “Europe of North America,” Montreal has a plethora of foods, sights and activities fit for every type of tourist. Whether you are traveling to Quebec or adding the city to a cruise or rail itinerary, Montreal is a perfect multiday stop of culture and excitement!

Check out her photos in the Gallery.

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Top Montreal Activities Wailana recommends:

– checking out the gorgeous Parc Mont Royal and enjoying the Tam Tam drums on Sundays

– window shopping around the picturesque boutiques in Vieux-Montreal

– catching dinner at O’Noir, where the waiters are blind and you are served a “mystery menu” in pitch darkness

– taking part in one of Montreal’s incredible summer festivals, especially the world-famous Jazz Festival

– taking a walking or biking tour, a terrific introduction into the daily life and hidden gems of the city

– vintage clothes shopping on the Plateau

drinking sangria and munching on crepes

– enjoying the Botanical Gardens on a lazy Saturday

– taking a snack-tour on Saint Laurent and sampling Hungarian sausage, smoked meat sandwiches, and poutine

– gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian? Montreal is a pioneer in innovative food menus, available in their many alternative groceries and eco-friendly restaurants

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While there, Wailana had an opportunity to check out firsthand Fitz & Follwell, an incredible tour operator based in a bike shop just off of Saint Urbain on the Plateau. Since it’s establishment four years ago by bike enthusiast Shea Mayer, F&F has grown rapidly and sets itself above the norm in tour quality and passion. They have a range of affordable tours, from family-friendly bike tours around the highlights of the city, to walking tours that explore Montreal’s history through food. Their tour guides are highly skilled and attentive, and you’ll be in safe hands cruising through the streets with a local historian or professional food blogger. Winter tours are also available. Call Wailana at Wittravel to find more info on this terrific company and to discover which tours are available during your stay in Montreal!

bike tour in Parc Mont Royal

For more about Montreal or traveling to Canada, call us at 800.821.0401 or email info@wittravel.com. Seeking a long trip on the amazing Via Rail? We’ve booked several of our clients on trips from Vancouver to Nova Scotia. As a certified expert on Canadian rail, Wailana can answer all your questions and book a fantastic rail getaway for you and yours!

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Reading List: Montreal

Today WIT Agent is heading out to Montreal, “The Europe of the North.” Stay tuned until next week for some of her insights and tips, and photos from the trip! For now, let’s take a look at some of the great and gritty literature for which Montreal is renowned:

Gabrielle Roy. The Tin Flute. A Montreal classic chronicles the life of a young woman and her  family in the neighborhood of St. Henri.

Kristian and John David Gravenor. Montreal: The Unknown City. A fascinating resource of some of the more saucy and scintillating gems of Montreal’s culture and past.

Melissa Graham. Trans-Canada Rail Guide. A guide to traveling with Canada’s national train network VIA Rail from coast to coast. From Halifax to Vancouver, the guide is complete with routes, maps, transport tips and city guides. (WIT Agent Wailana is a certified expert in Canadian rail. Ask her about the best way and times to travel!)

William Weintraub. City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and 1950s. A vivid depiction of the vibrant city of Montreal.

 We at Wittravel have booked countless clients on their personalized trips throughout Canada. Rail travel is a beautiful and unforgettable way to traverse the country, admire stunning lakes and mountains, and visit some of the great cultural stops along the way, from Vancouver to Quebec City. Call us or email for more information. 

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South, Sunsets, Seattle!

This week WIT agent Wailana is concluding her days aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity up to Alaska. Today, we take a look at Victoria and the ship herself.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012 – At Sea

Another day “at sea” is a terrific opportunity to explore the ship’ services. Besides the onboard spa, fitness center and pools, there are ample activities all around the ship, including:

–       bingo night

–       basketball h.o.r.s.e. tournament

–       watercolor art class

–       presentations by a qualified cultural historian and naturalist

–       music trivia

–       wine tasting

–       and much more

As one of the last days onboard, there was a festive air throughout the ship. The gift shop held sales and the lounges specials and events. Photographers shot scenes of impeccably dressed guests against the backdrop of a fiery sunset.

I took advantage of this day to explore Michael’s Club, the shipboard equivalent to a pub. You can sip on a beer from their worldwide selection, enjoying the lounge with its muted lighting, tasty edibles and live music. I was once again impressed with the general unpretentiousness and high standard of food and service. It was also English-themed trivia night, a hilarious event as the etymology of the word soccer came into question.

Thursday, 6 September 2012 – Victoria, BC

The morning began with a crew talent show and cooking contest. This was a great chance to see all 900+ crew members on stage at once, some of them displaying incredible feats of magic, dance, song, comedy and theatre. It was also a terrific opportunity for the passengers to show our appreciation of the hard work behind the scenes.

After, it was on to late lunch. My number one recommendation on any Celebrity ship is to try one of the specialty restaurants onboard. It’s not that the regular restaurants are inadequate–on the contrary, the main dining area Trellis is a culinary delight each seating—but the attention to detail, quality of ingredients, and presentation are up a whole new level. After the entertainment of the A.M., we headed down to the SS United States, the specialty restaurant focusing on French cuisine. The setting had a very clean and 1950’s ship interior, complete with Jazz lounge music, white polished décor, and porthole windows with wooden panels. You can order courses paired with wine or à la carte and just sample from an array of delicious and masterfully prepared appetizers. The peak of the dinner was the jaw-dropping desserts—but those, readers, I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

Specialty Restaurants: Blu (Aquaclass only), SS United States, Qsine

Disembarkation Time: 6.30 pm

Arrival into Victoria was perfectly timed for the afternoon. The sun sinks down over the harbor and bathes the waters in blue and gold. It’s a lovely 30-minute walk or brief shuttle ride into the heart of downtown. In the summer, street performers line the docks just below the capitol building—jugglers, musicians, traders. I would advise cruise passengers to spend their charming, lamp lit evening in Victoria eating out at one of the yummy restaurants in Old Town.

Embarkation Time: 11.30pm

Conclusion

In the end, cruises are luxury resorts set against beautiful backgrounds. They are opportunities to enjoy some fine entertainment, cuisine, and accommodations. Your activities are designed with a demographic in mind, which changes depending on the route. It is important to remember that, with less than 12 hours in any port of call, less focus is given to the destination and more to onboard experience.

With this in mind, Celebrity Cruises stands out as a luxury cruise line. The service is what makes this ship exceptional. The staff was friendly, amusing, approachable, relatable and accommodating. I am not surprised that the Infinity has the highest rated crew in the entire fleet.

Willamette Intl Travel regularly books clients on Celebrity and other cruises. Call WIT at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com to book a cruise today!

P.S. Wailana’s photographs from the cruise will be appearing on the blog next week, so stay tuned!

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