Kate, William and the West Coast of Canada

The Royal Visit. William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his lovely wife, Catherine, have landed. They’ve got Prince George and Princess Charlotte in tow, and the whole family is spending most of their time in our lovely province of British Columbia, with a trip for the adults to the Yukon.

In a toast to the Royal Visit, we present our own travel ideas of where the Royals and you, too, should go, play and stay in British Columbia and Yukon.

Click through for our own British Columbia tour guide.

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Victoria: Garden Party

While the first day of spring finds many Canadians still digging out from a brutal winter, it’s not unusual for Victoria to have already logged its annual flower count. Last year’s tally was about a billion blossoms at the beginning of March, thanks to the profusion of cherry trees in full bloom. And even though, like so much of the rest of North America, the city has had its share of winter weather this year, its botanical abundance is just one reason it’s a tempting retreat.

For a true floral immersion, and plenty of photo ops, take the time to wander Butchart Gardens, whose location in a sheltered valley gives it a Mediterranean-like climate. Earlier months see witch hazel blossoms and bright berries, and the time between mid-March and May has 300,000 bulbs blooming “in a carefully orchestrated symphony of colour” sure to drive away any remnant of the winter blahs. This may play to the notion that Victoria is the staid city of flower gardens and traditional high teas, but the area has undergone something of a renaissance in the past decade, cultivating an impressive foodie culture and lifestyle made possible by its fortuitous geography and inviting temperate climate.  www.tourismvictoria.com 

 

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The Okanagan Valley: Wine (and Food) Not?

Osoyoos? Okanagan? Oh, and how do you pronounce that again? If you’re not familiar with this pocket of B.C., about a two-hour drive from Kelowna, you might appreciate a bit of a vetted – okay, curated, let’s say – wine-tasting, foodie-filled, great outdoors experience, all packed into less than a week.

In the case of Osoyoos, in the Okanagan Valley, I discovered a one-stop shop: the Watermark Beach Resort. It’s also built for longer stays – great for snowbirds who may not always want to go south – with light-filled suites that feature apartment-sized square footage, living rooms and kitchens and communal amenities such as a good gym and an even better pool, where you can breathe in the valley air and take in the lakeside views. The resort has smartly partnered with a few of the region’s forward-thinkers – when it comes to wine, food and fun in this, Canada’s only desert.

I’m a bit of a keener on food provenance: I like to know where it comes from. But actually getting into the field and picking it? Why not?

Lucky for foodies, the brains at Watermark have developed a Canadian signature experience with Covert Farms. Spend an hour with farmer Gene Covert. Pick your own organic produce – we plucked juicy red strawberries right off the vine for our dessert – take a ride on the farm’s 1952 Mercury truck, adding to the nostalgic appeal, through the vineyards and to meet some of the farm’s animal citizens and end up back at the ranch, so to speak, with a wine and nibbles pairing.

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Vancouver: Food, Glorious Food

In Vancouver, the Seabus and water taxis can get you out on the water and to the Lonsdale Quay Market on the north shore, as well as the Granville Island Public Market. At both, you can pick up all manner of baked good, produce, deli, and artisanal fare and then head out to the shore for a picnic

That’s the thing about Vancouver. It has the bounty of the land and sea as well as its beauty. I asked Toronto’s Susur Lee, who was among the line-up of celebrity chefs in town for the festival, for his thoughts on what’s driving the city’s culinary scene.

“Vancouver has many unique ingredients such as spot prawns and sablefish, available locally. But here, the chefs actually experiment with and use them. That’s what makes it such an exciting food destination.”

Executive chef, Rob Feenie, who leads the culinary team of the aforementioned Cactus Club chain, and is Canada’s first Iron Chef America champion, agrees but he points out that here, even a simple a loaf of bread and mussels on the beach is magical. To make his point, he adds, “One time I was cooking sablefish for Sting and I remember him coming up to me on the boat, holding a glass of Chardonnay, and after slowly looking around, saying, “Man, this a pretty special place.” “

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Yukon: Northern Lights Show

In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” a wintertime trip to the Yukon should be on the bucket list of every Canadian who loves wilderness and the outdoors.

Yes, it is cold but there’s guaranteed snow to get you out on a dogsled or a pair of snowshoes, as well as a full menu of activities to fill any length of stay. Yukoners know how to embrace their snowy winter and visitors can get double the pleasure by timing a stay to coincide with a festival or special event. The locals’ upbeat, independent energy is contagious.

Many visitors come to the Yukon to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) but it can be a hit-or-miss affair. Some nights they are nowhere to be seen; other nights the swirling smears of colour across the sky put on quite a show.

Whitehorse-based Northern Tales transports guests to viewing sites outfitted with heated canvas tents (for warming up while you wait for the show to begin), snacks and hot beverages. They’ll provide camera advice as well as tripod loaners.

Even if the persnickety Aurora decide to stay hidden, the viewing sites are away from city lights and provide spectacular views of constellations and shooting stars.