A GRAND ADVENTURE
Bearing in mind the oft-used quote, ‘There are two classes of travel: first class, and with children’, our writer sets off with her grand-daughter to Canada to prove otherwise.
WORDS Tricia Welsh
Since my parents-in-law had taken our three children on individual trips overseas when young, my husband and I always had it in the back of our minds to try to do the same with our own grand-children.
When the opportunity arose to take our older grand-daughter, Skye, to Canada recently, we had to approach the subject with some delicacy and forethought. At nine-years-old would she survive being away from her parents for several weeks? In fact, would they let us take her away? Did we think we could put up with her demands to do things other than what we might want to do? Since she is used to undertaking several activities a day, could we keep up with her pace? What about missing school? And, indeed, would she want to come away with us?
Always the adventurer, Skye thought it a great idea. She has always been comfortable around us, having had regular sleepovers at our place since she was a little tacker. Her teacher embraced the idea with gusto and insisted he did not want her to do homework, but rather to keep a journal and take as many images as possible so she could give a presentation to her Grade Three class on return. And her parents – well, they immediately started planning their own concurrent holiday to Asia!
We had talked her out of packing her favourite ‘comforter’ since babyhood – a largish, floppy black panther – in case he got lost, opting instead for a koala that up till now had been relatively unloved. This was duly packed into her day-bag along with her camera, journal, coloured pencils for illustrating, novel and a few muesli bars in case she got the munchies.
D-Day arrived and as we lined up with our luggage awaiting the taxi to the airport, I pointed out that we had one suitcase and one day-bag each that we individually had to be responsible for. Just because we would all be travelling together did not mean that we could necessarily rely on each other to check if the others had everything. This lesson proved so important – and was possibly her first taste of real responsibility, and perhaps ownership.
Travelling through the Rockies was a breeze, especially on the Rocky Mountaineer where Skye was the only child. Other couples lamented that they did not bring their grandchildren with them too. At Lake Louise, which was her favourite destination thus far after two canoeing adventures on the lake, we enjoyed a 6.7km hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House for lunch. As we were heading back down I noticed Skye was not wearing her day-bag. After a quick reverse back up the hill, we were all relieved to find the bag still sitting alongside our lunch table intact.
Main image: Aerial view of The Wickaninnish Inn
Above: Canoeing on Lake Louise
From above: Trekking to Lake Agnes
David and Skye prepare for canoeing on Lake Louise
Surfing by The Wickaninnish Inn
The only minor reservation I had with the two-week itinerary was taking a child to the much-lauded hotel, The Wickaninnish Inn at Tofino on Vancouver Island. For years I had wanted to experience this multi-award winning property, which was featured again on this year’s UK Condé Nast Traveller magazine’s list of Best Hotels in the World. Owners, the McDiarmid family, specifically chose its rocky headland location at the end of semi-private Chesterman Beach because of their love of storm-watching; they even have microphones outside The Pointe Restaurant so diners can experience crashing waves and howling winds during a storm even more intimately.
I needn’t have worried, for the first thing I spy on entering our room is a large basket filled with toys and activities for Skye: a bucket and spade, sand moulds, a butterfly net, a Frisbee, scavenger hunt list and a huge wrapped cookie in case she gets hungry on the beach. In the bathroom is a miniature-sized toweling bathrobe, in the cupboard are wind-proof jackets and in the boutique we can’t pass up a fluffy black bear in a Wick Kid jumper whose velcroed back opens so a small heated wheat bag can be placed inside
But the pièce de rèsistance is the Kids’ Night ‘Inn’ offer. Skye could choose her own in-room movie, dinner and popcorn, plus dedicated baby-sitter for just CA$19, and she felt so special sitting up in her own bed dictating the events of the evening.
After arriving back in Australia, Skye had to hightail it to a school camp, but unfortunately the family all slept in. In a trice, she was out of bed packing for her trip.
“You’ve changed,” suggested her mother, and with moist eyes, she realised her little girl was growing up.
Tricia Welsh was a guest of The Canadian Tourism Commission.
Fly: Air Canada www.aircanada.com
Stay: Wickaninnish Inn www.wickinn.com
Info: Canadian Tourism Commission en-corporate.canada.travel
• Rocky Mountaineer www.rockymountaineer.com
TOP LUXE ACTIVITIES WITH KIDS - CANADA
www.westcoastexpeditions.comThis activity gives children the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the Canadian wilderness and perhaps encounter sea otters, sea lions, whales, eagles, black bears and more.
Toronto/Haliburtonwww.winterdance.comwww.pinestone-resort.comThis is the quintessential sledding experience. Your family will be picked up by a limousine service in Toronto and then taken by helicopter to the Haliburton Highlands. Your day will involve around 40km of sledding, lunch in front of a roaring fire and plenty of photo-stops along the way. Finish the day with a helicopter flight to the Pinestone Resort, a gourmet meal, a swim in the salt-water pool and perhaps a massage for mum and dad. The kids will love interacting with the dogs and the exhilaration of a scenic helicopter ride.
Hot Springs Cove Seafari
www.atleoair.comThe hot springs in Tofino are one of Canada’s natural wonders and chartering a seaplane is the most luxurious way for you and your family to experience them. Your kids may even spot some whales along the way!
Whistlerwww.whistler.comThis ride is truly a deluxe horseback riding experience for those who would like to discover Mexico on horseback. It takes place at a small town, located two and a half hours west of Mexico City on the Sierra Madre Occidental. The kids will love the amazing trails, culture, food and various kids’ activities.
Luxury Rail Rockies Experience
Canadian Rockieswww.royalcanadianpacific.comThis Royal Canadian Pacific luxury rail tour travels through the spectacular and otherwise inaccessible terrain of the Rocky Mountains in six days and five nights. Along with off-train activities, guests may now choose to do an optional helicopter tour over the mountains on the final day.
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort
Nimmo Baywww.nimmobay.comAn adventure for both kids and parents, Nimmo Bay offers a huge range of activities such as bear watching, white-water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, paintball, helicopter tours, heli-fishing and more. After watching the humpback whales feeding on herring, families can come back and relax in the hot tub or take a dip in the waterfall plunge pool before retreating to their luxurious cabins.
Niagara Falls Open Jet Boat Tour
Niagra Fallswww.viator.comSo the kids want to see Niagara Falls up close? Well you can’t get any closer than open-air jet boat, and yes, you are guaranteed to get very, very wet. Your fully guided boat tour will take you right into the churning waters of the Niagara Whirlpool and your children are bound to be enthralled. It’s pretty rough though, so only recommended for kids over six and no pregnant mums please!
Horseback Hiking Adventures
Tofinowww.wildretreat.comTo get to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, choose either a 45 minute scenic seaplane flight from Vancouver or a 30 minute boat ride from Tofino. Both kids and parents will appreciate the stunning horse trails through the old-growth forest, watching for bears along the way. Visit the abandoned gold mines and ‘Jurassic Park’, an old-growth forest with ancient cedars and ferns in gigantic proportions.
Luxury Cruise Aboard Pacific Yellowfin
Vancouverwww.charterbrochure.comExperience the best of British Columbia cruising the gulf islands by yacht, stopping for whale watching, hiking, cycling and exploring on the islands. The kids will be kept busy with water-skis, snorkelling gear, wakeboard and a cinema on board while parents can enjoy the scenery while they bask in the