This week’s travel dream: Oh, Canada!
The Grand Isolation of Gaspé Peninsula; Toronto’s changing face; B.C. after the Olympics; Vancouver Island
The Grand Isolation of Gaspé PeninsulaLocated on the eastern tip of Quebec and surrounded by the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Gaspé Peninsula is as “geographically isolated” as you can get, said Kevin Parent in National Geographic Traveler. As drivers enter Ste.-Flavie, the gateway to the peninsula, they’ll see Marcel Gagnon’s sculptures—human-like figures that seem to “move with the tides”—emerging from the water. Along Highway 132, where at times nothing comes between you and the gulf, fishing villages and lighthouses speckle the rugged coastline. To the west, the forested Chic-Choc Mountains evoke a snow-dusted winter wonderland. Stop off at Percé to admire the red cliffs, eat some lobster, and then hike up Percé Rock, a “limestone butte rising from the sea.” Scavenge for fish fossils in the beds at Miguasha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you get the chance, sail across the Bay of Chaleur, “considered by some one of the most alluring bays in the world,” to the remote Heron Island. When you finally feel the need for some company, head back to the mainland, because the “soul of the Gaspé is its people.”Contact: Bonjourquebec.com
Toronto’s changing faceJust when you thought you knew Toronto, Canada’s largest city has remade itself again, said Mark Stevens in The Washington Post. In the past few years, the Queen City has undergone an architectural renaissance. While some gems, like Forest Hill’s Casa Loma and the Distillery District’s Victorian industrial edifices, have remained unchanged, others have gotten face-lifts. A staple of Bloor Street, the Royal Ontario Museum received an addition from Daniel Libeskind, and the “contrast between old and new hits you like a punch in the stomach.” The museum’s Italianate neo-Romanesque architecture has been modernized with black geometric slabs and interlocking prisms of aluminum and glass that jut “over the sidewalk like a mountain about to fall.” The structure, known as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, has edges that “stab the sky like stilettos.” Condé Nast Traveler called it one of the “seven wonders of the modern world.” The nearby Art Gallery of Ontario was reimagined by Frank Gehry. Its south facade is now a “sky-blue box” faced in titanium, while a 600-foot-long “glass-and-Douglas fir structure” sits in front, looking like a “breaking wave” rolling in from Lake Ontario.Contact: Seetorontonow.com
B.C. after the OlympicsThe Winter Olympics are hardly the only reason to come to British Columbia, said Hugo Martin in the Los Angeles Times. From the streets to the slopes, the “tag team” of Vancouver and the nearby mountains of Whistler pack in enough delights to please post-Olympics visitors. Start your trip at the Granville Island Public Market in the city, along the small body of water known as False Creek. The market pops with color: “the copper of the freshly baked breads,” the “reds and silvers of the seafood,” and the “dark browns of the coffee beans.” Fill up on goodies and head to Stanley Park, a “1,000-acre playground” that’s adorned with flower gardens and totem poles. You can spend the afternoon shopping on Robson Street and end the evening eating dinner in Yaletown, a onetime warehouse district that’s now a row of restaurants. Then it’s off to Whistler to take advantage of one of the longest ski seasons in North America, lasting from early November through late May. Slice down some of its more than 100 trails blanketed in “snow-frosted Douglas fir, western hemlock, red cedar, and spruce.”Contact: Whistlerblackcomb.com
Vancouver IslandVancouver Island is a welcome escape from the city, said Bonnie Tsui in The New York Times. In fact, this enormous island off Canada’s western coast offers some of the “most rewarding outdoor exploration” in the country. Hop on the B.C. Ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo to spend a few days exploring this natural sanctuary. From Nanaimo, drive three hours to the “wild, dramatic west coast” until you reach Ucluelet. “Dotted with seaside inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and beach cabins,” this is the starting point for the Wild Pacific Trail, a new network of paths that explores the island. The three completed trails skirt the “rugged shoreline, overlooking sandy coves with driftwood and tidepools.” Each one is “hand-cut,” and takes you through “dense old-growth forests of cedar and spruce” and up to vistas that overlook “turn-of-the-20th-century lighthouses,” kayakers paddling to nearby islands, and B.C.’s annual migration of gray whales. From February through May, you can catch sight of up to 20,000 of the 30-ton giants.Contact: Wildpacifictrail.com