Tuesday 21 September 2010

A Blockbuster of a holiday!

Last Christmas time, Haagen Dasz and Blockbuster Video ran a prize draw on a leaflet in stores, with a trip to Canada on offer. The entry form was very hard to find but a very kind comping friend got hold of a copy for me, and a few days after Christmas I received a letter telling me that I was the winner.

Although I was delighted to win the trip, a two-centre holiday to Vancouver and Whistler, I was rather alarmed to read that it also included a heli-skiiing experience. I telephoned the promoter and told them that my husband and I are middle aged, not very fit and have never been skiiing, but that was no problem to them - they had a huge list of alternative experiences and we chose a trip to the Capilano suspension bridge and Grouse Mountain, a sea-plane sightseeing tour and a glacier walk - it took all three trips to add up to the value of the heli-skiiing.

The prize also included car hire for the return trip between Vancouver and Whistler, but because I have longed for years to take a trip on the Sea-to-Sky railway the promoters kindly sent us the cash value of the car hire, which I used to book our train tickets to Whistler and a coach transfer back to the airport. I am very glad they were so helpful because the rail journey was absolutely wonderful, exceeding all our expectations, with a luxurious ride among breathtaking scenery.

Our Vancouver hotel was the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel, one of the oldest and grandest in the city. And it was VERY grand - had we been paying for our room, it would have cost $2010 a night - without breakfast. The room service menu included a whole range of special meals for cats and dogs, with names like "Turkey and Spinach Paw-Stickers". The management were obviously pet-mad: two of the hotel employees were dogs, with their own uniforms and seats next to the reception desk. It is the building with the green roof in the photo.

It took every ounce of courage we could muster to cross the Capilano suspension bridge - and once you get to the other side, there is no alternative way back so you have to cross it all over again! But it was well worth it for the fantastic views from the bridge.

The bridge is 450 feet long and the canyon it spans is 270 feet deep - so we didn't hang around on the bridge for very long. And what did we do when we got to the far side? A treetop walk, over seven suspension bridges set high among the trees. We must be mad!

The sea plane tour was sensational, providing amazing views of the city and some of the nearby islands.

It was all wonderfully friendly and informal too, with both ground and air crew being very relaxed and helpful. We felt very envious of the people for whom the sea plane is just a part oftheir everyday journey to and from work - people from the islands around the city seem to hop on and off them like buses.

On arriving in Whistler, we were told that the glacier walk had been cancelled. This didn't worry us too much as we only had one complete day there and wanted to explore the town and mountain, as well as taking advantage of the hotel spa - it seemed rather strange to be enjoying a lovely warm outdoor pool while surrounded by snow-capped mountains! Although purpose built as a tourist village, Whistler has a lot of character but of course the two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, are the star attractions and we went to the top of Whistler mountain on a cable car then crossed over to Blackcomb on the new gondola ride- the longest unsupported cable car of its kind, running 4 miles between the two peaks, more than 1,200 feet above the valley floor and unsupported for almost 2 miles. Some of the gondolas are glass bottomed - we made a point of avoiding those! At one point on the journey we spotted a real wild black bear in the valley below us!

Our final visit was to the Squawmish-Lil'wat cultural centre, showing the history of the two First Nation Bands whose homes are in and around the Whistler area.

Finally we travelled by coach back down to Vancouver airport for the flight home. The trip should have been almost as spectacular as the rail journey had been, but unfortunately it was a wet, hazy day so we didn't see much - we'll have to go back again for that experience!


  1. Oh wow, this has brought back some memories... I remember crossing that bridge 9 years ago! I adore Vancouver, it's got it all - sea, mountains, and a lively city too - infect, I wouldn't mind living there one day! The hotel sounds amazing too, and it's great the promoter was so flexible! Glad you had a supreme time Jane!

  2. I fely like I've just been! Thankyou for the writeup. I love the bit where two dogs are employees at the hotel!

  3. Wow - this brought back memories to me, as well. I chickened out of crossing the bridge, so Jane - give yourself a big pat on the back.
    The hotel looked stunning - just the sort of place to win!


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