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VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA – It is said that the gracious city of Victoria, located at the southern-most tip of sprawling Vancouver Island (which is about 300 miles from tip to tip), is “more English than England.”  Certainly, it is where residents take pride in their gardens and love to show off the splendid floral displays at Butchart Gardens, one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.  Also high on visitors’ wish lists is the English ritual of afternoon tea (accompanied, of course, by scones, thick cream and preserves).


These are just two of countless memorable experiences you’ll find on a rail-drive package that takes you from the Pacific Ocean to the edge of the prairies. You’ll quickly see why this eight-day/seven night tour is called “The Extraordinary West.” It is offered by The Great Canadian Travel Company, North America’s leading specialists in travel to Canada.


You’ll arrive in Vancouver and transfer to your hotel for a three-night stay.  There’s plenty of time to explore Vancouver, and the package includes comprehensive tours with morning whale watching and an afternoon visit to Victoria. 


Rudyard Kipling raved about the charms of Victoria -- and so do latter-day visitors. Sights include those famous Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle (a mansion, built in 1889 by a coal baron) and one of the oldest Chinatowns in North America. Island visitors can go horseback riding, salmon fishing, windsurfing and whale watching and drive among ancient forests and mountains along the Pacific shore.


In zesty Vancouver, you’ll discover that the water that almost surrounds the city provides a thrust to its economy, especially as a gateway to Asia. Landmarks include the world’s first steam-operated clock (that chimes every quarter hour with a steam whistle), quaint and historic Gastown, with its bounty of shops, restaurants boutiques and art galleries, some housed in 19th-century buildings.  Stanley Park, with 1,000 acres, brings the BC wilderness to downtown ! Vancouver, while the Vancouver Art Gallerylargest gallery in western Canada—is a don’t-miss sight.


The next leg of your trip includes an 18-hour journey aboard a VIA Rail train to the other side of the Rockies. You’ll pick up your rental car at Jasper and explore this quaint town and enjoy the surrounding mountain scenery. You’ll spend a full day driving along the Ice Fields Parkway to the lively resort town of Banff. There, you’ll spend two nights –and find time to explore this dramatic region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.


Tucked into the Alberta slopes of the Rockies are three legendary railway hotels, built by Canadian Pacific more than a century ago as “châteaux in the grand manner.” They’re popular with visitors who are interested in such summertime activities as golf, tennis, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing and whitewater rafting. Plan stops at Château Lake Louise, Banff Springs Hotel and Jasper Park Lodge.


This, too, is your opportunity for serious shopping expeditions and for sampling the nightlife. The latter might include local wine bars, rustic lounges, lively nightclubs and specialty restaurants (Banff alone has more than 40 restaurants).

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