Q. My wife and I are planning to take a trip to visit Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria, BC for eight to 10 days this summer. We have not traveled in this region before so we would appreciate help with some of the basics, e.g. hotels that are conveniently located and the level of public transport.
If practical, we are planning to fly into Seattle and stay a couple of days, then rent a car and drive to Vancouver, then take an auto ferry to Victoria. How long is the trip from Vancouver to Victoria? If feasible, we would like to travel back to Seattle using an auto ferry and driving rather than backtracking through Vancouver.
A. For Seattle, you can check with one of two B&B agencies: A Pacific Reservation Service (800/684-2932) or Seattle Bed and Breakfast Association (800/348-5630). You can have your pick of neighborhoods, be it downtown, Capitol Hill, Pike Place Market or the Waterfront. The Metro bus is very convenient for getting around, and depending on where you go, there's a free ride service between 6AM and 7PM in downtown Seattle. More information about Seattle is available through Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau (206-461-5888).
For Vancouver, the downtown area is very centralized and you'll be walking distance to shops and restaurants. A bit further off is the West End (mostly) residential neighborhood that borders Stanley Park, but is just a 10-minute walk from downtown, is also a good option for lodging. B&Bs are mostly located in the northern suburb of the city. Getting around the city is convenient with the network of buses and the SeaBus and SkyTrain. More information about Vancouver is available through the Greater Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau (604-683-2000).
To get from Vancouver to Victoria, you'll be using BC Ferries. The trip will take about one hour and 35 minutes with numerous departures a day. You can get a schedule from www.bcferries.com (look for the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route), and even make reservations there. You can also make reservations through the Vancouver Touristinfo Centre at 200 Burrard Street.
A majority of Victoria's best shops and restaurants are located in the Inner Harbour and downtown, and it's small enough to explore those areas by foot. A lot of information about Victoria (including accommodation reservations) is available through Tourism Victoria (800/663-3883 or 250-953-2033).
To get from Victoria back to Seattle, you have two options: Washington State Ferries (206-464-6400) or Black Ball Transport's M.V.Coho (360-457-4491). The difference is in the embarkation and disembarkation points. Washington State Ferries takes two to three hours and leaves from Sidney; you get off at Anacortes, 90 miles north of Seattle. Black Ball Transport goes between Victoria's Inner Harbour and Port Angeles (a popular entry point to Olympic National Park) and takes about 90 minutes. Reservations for both ferries can be made online or by calling the numbers listed.
Q. My family and I are planning a trip to Prince Edward Island, Quebec City and Montreal. Can you please tell us what sites would be worth seeing?
A. If you've ever read L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island would be the place to visit, since Anne of Green Gables was set in early-1900's PEI. You can do a tour of spots referred to in the famous novel, such as the Lucy Maud Montgomery's Cavendish Homestead in Cavendish, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Heritage Museum in Park Corner, the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush and much more. Other sites and areas to put on your list are Charlottetown (the best place to stay while exploring the island), Orwell Corner Historic Village (a re-creation of an island village in the 1890s); Prince Edward Island National Park (the island's biggest attraction with miles of beaches), and the Bottle Houses (three fantasy-like buildings made out of 25,000 bottles of various shapes, sizes and colors).
In Quebec City, you can visit Château Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace, said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, with views of the St. Lawrence River and the surrounding area; Old Québec, the only urban area in North America to be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the 2.8 mile-long Québec City Fortifications, a large stone wall that surrounds Old Québec; the Citadelle, the easternmost flank of Québec City's fortifications; the historical Île d'Orléans, connected to the North Shore by a bridge built in 1935; the restored narrow streets of Quartier Petit-Champlain with artisans' shops and street performers; and Jacques-Cartier National Park, where activities include canoeing, camping, fishing, snow-shoeing, nature walks and bird watching.
Montreal is Canada's second largest city and the second largest French-speaking metropolis after Paris. Among the highlights here: Biosphere, the only museum of water in North America; the Old Port of Montréal, a recreational and tourist park with a variety of outdoor and indoor activities including the Montréal Science Centre; the Insectarium; the Montréal Biodôme, an environmental museum with four natural ecosystems; the Olympic Park, built for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, one of Canada's oldest art museums; the Musée d'art Contemporain de Montréal, the only museum in Canada devoted exclusively to contemporary art; the Montréal Botanical Garden, with 10 exhibition greenhouses and over 30 gardens and more than 22,000 species and varieties of plants; and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, an international research center and museum dedicated to the cause of architecture.
Q. I am going to Montreal the first part of May, staying at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately, Sunday will be my only full day to leave the city and do some real sightseeing. I want to see the outdoors, observe wildlife, see the mountains, the St. Lawrence River, etc. I neither speak nor read French, so I hesitate to rent a car and venture off alone. However, I will if need be. Do you have any suggestions for me? Are there organized tours I can connect with in Montreal? I really can't waste this opportunity.
A. Montreal is extremely bilingual (including road signs). No worries if you don't speak French. A great resource for you to check out is the Provincial Tourisme Board (877-266-5687); they also have a tourist information center (Centre Info Touristes) in downtown Montreal at 1255 Peel, a short walk from the hotel where you'll be staying. You can book tours there, and I recommend a full day tour to the Laurentians.
Other tour options include Gray Line Montréal (800/461-1223) and Montreal Visites Touristiques Double Deckers (514-871-4733). Both companies have a counter at the Centre Info Touristes. You can also make a reservation for a car through the Provincial Tourisme Board Web site.