Wine Travel Adventure

Bay Area & California travel blog

Category: Canada

Adventures in California and Canada—and another on the way

By Kevin Nelson

My editors at reminded me the other day that I had been writing for the site for two years, and during that time I’ve met some wonderful people and gone on some extraordinary adventures. Here are a few of those adventures, all recommended:

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

Rocky Mountaineer train trip across the Canadian Rockies. Starting in the wonderful British Columbia city of Vancouver and ending in the spectacular mountain village of Banff, this was a two-day ride through ridiculously beautiful scenery with tasty food and wine included. Those Canadians are nice people, too. Continue reading

Where to quench your thirst and eat really big burgers in Banff



One of the first things I do before I travel is to find out where to get the best drinks once I am there. My wife and I were going to be stopping in Banff, Alberta on our trip through Canada so the search was on. A short search found a list of many places to go but we were only going to be in Banff for one night and so I had to choose wisely.Grapes Wine Bar

Fast forward to our arrival in Banff, we checked into our hotel and set out to explore what we could. The Fairmont Banff Springs is a beautiful hotel but the best part of it (in my opinion) is The Grapes Wine Bar (pictured). Found by chance, we were exploring the hotel before setting out to the Banff Park Museum and stumbled across this gem on the second mezzanine level. We took in the view from our window table while we sampled their wonderful wines, cheeses, and great charcuterie. Fortunately, we arrived during a lull in the day so our food and drinks came out in a flash and we were able to make it to the museum before it closed.

“Our Canadian neighbors know that beer is part of a normal lifestyle. After water, coffee and milk, beer is Canada’s favorite beverage. Smart folks, aye?” This is a quote from GreatClubs. Truer words never spoken. After the wine bar and museum, we set out to the place my wife and I both agreed on (I know, we agreed on something! No seriously, we did): the Banff Ave Brewing Company.

Continue reading

What to do in Vancouver when you’re not watching the World Cup soccer matches


The Tap & Barrel Cafe in the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The Tap & Barrel Cafe in the Vancouver Convention Centre.

After serving as host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver is putting out the welcome mat this month for another grand international sporting event, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Soccer matches are being held in Vancouver and other Canadian cities throughout June, with the championship final on July 5 at BC Place Stadium in the city. (The U.S. plays Nigeria there on June 16.)

Thirty-two nations are competing in the global tourney, with tens of thousands of visitors—athletes, fans, tourists, media, dignitaries—pouring into the city. Fortunately Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city easily able to handle all the attention. Here are a few suggestions on what to see and do there when you’re not watching the games: Continue reading

Banff Hot Springs, and the lasting appeal of Marilyn Monroe

By Kevin Nelson

Today is the birthday of the world’s greatest movie star. She would have been 89 had she lived.

Now, one could reasonably argue that Marilyn Monroe is not the world’s greatest movie star, given the fact that she has been dead for more than five decades. Nevertheless I feel fairly confident about the truth of this assertion, based on two separate incidents that occurred on a recent trip to Banff Hot Springs, Canada.Marilyn Monroe 1

Banff is a mountain resort town high in the Canadian Rockies, a destination for travelers around the world. In 1954 Marilyn, at the height of her stardom, came to Banff to film “River of No Return” with Robert Mitchum. Everywhere she went people asked for autographs and took pictures of her.

At a souvenir shop in town she posed for a publicity photo with a stuffed grizzly bear. With her beautifully styled blonde hair and in a form-fitting white turtleneck sweater, she tucked herself inside the arms of the bear as if she was about to be embraced or ravaged or both by its claws.

The bear stands to this day in a corner of the Indian Trading Post next to a framed photo of Marilyn with the bear. When I was there a handsome and vivacious Latin American couple in their early thirties were there too, apparently on holiday. The woman mimicked Marilyn’s pose with the bear while her husband or boyfriend snapped pictures of her.

They did not speak English and I speak only a little Spanish but I gladly took the camera and shot both of them with the bear. Marilyn was not identified in the picture but no ID was necessary. We all knew her. We all were fans.

Sixty years from now, will Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johansson be instantly recognizable internationally? I don’t know, maybe. Continue reading

Top 10 moments from a Rocky Mountaineer trip across Canada

Rocky Mountaineer 1By Kevin Nelson

The Rocky Mountaineer is the best train experience in North America. Along with Asia’s fabled Orient Express, it is among the very best in the world. This year marks the Canadian company’s 25th anniversary, and last month I rode the train from Vancouver across the Rocky Mountains to Banff Hot Springs. It was an extraordinary two days. Here are my top 10 moments from the trip:

1. The bagpipe man

The morning we left, the scene at the Rocky Mountaineer station in Vancouver resembled a movie, with hundreds of passengers excitedly clutching their boarding passes, stirred by the promise of things to come. Near the center of things was an unexpected sight: a bagpipe man, in traditional Scottish garb, playing us on as we stepped up into our car.Rocky Mountaineer

2. Children waving

As we left the station, dozens of sharp-dressed Rocky Mountaineer employees lined up to wave goodbye to us—a thoughtful and surprisingly uplifting gesture that they do for all departing trains. But nothing quite stirred me like the children of Kamloops, who greeted us when we entered their town at the end of our first day. The railroad tracks pass along homes and yards in the small British Columbia farming town. Our appearance was a cause for spontaneous joy among the kids, who stopped what they were doing and waved and ran after us. Continue reading

Traveler’s guide: 11 things they do really, really well in Canada


A traveler takes in the view at Banff Hot Springs.

A traveler takes in the view at Banff Hot Springs.

By Kevin Nelson

Due to the strong dollar and the favorable exchange rate, this is a prime time for Americans to travel internationally. But where to go? There are so many possible choices. Here’s a thought: Canada. Having just returned from a weeklong trip to British Columbia and Alberta, I discovered there are lots of things to like about our neighbor to the north, lots of things they do really, really well. Here are 11 of those things: Continue reading

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver: 50 shades of luxury

The stylish Notch 8 bar at the Hotel Vancouver.

The scoop: The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is one of Canada’s oldest and grandest hotels, known as “the Grand Dame” for its combination of stylish luxury and history. Some also call it the “Castle in the City,” a nod to its commanding architecture and central downtown location. The first Hotel Vancouver opened in 1887, and the one that stands today on West Georgia Street took more than a decade to build. When it finally opened, in May 1939, two of its first guests were royalty: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their first tour of Canada. Continue reading