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Staff stories: Canada's maple leaf trail

Our sales and customer service supervisor Stephanie Blackmun recounts her time in an autumnal wonderland.

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An aerial peek at Niagara Falls during autumn.
An aerial peek at Niagara Falls during autumn.

Stephanie Blackmun, our sales and customer service supervisor at Newmarket Holidays, ventured out on our ‘Canada’s Maple Leaf Trail’ tour and has shared some highlights with us. Though she’s always enjoyed a relaxing beach holiday, her preferred trips strike a balance between relaxation, a spot of sightseeing and opportunities for cultural immersion.

Not realising Canada was more than 40 times the size of the UK, I had no clue of the scale of the country. The vast wildernesses and large gulfs between cities can make for a lot of travelling and a potential logistical nightmare, so I was grateful to be with a knowledgeable tour manager for the entire trip.

The tour was an expansive introduction to Canada and all its east coast has to offer. We had the opportunity to explore some vibrant cities including Toronto, Montreal and Quebec, as well as the capital city, Ottawa.

Steph admires the colossal Niagara Falls in Canada.
Steph admires the colossal Niagara Falls in Canada.

We kick things off with a high point: Niagara Falls. I was mesmerised by the thunder, spray and sheer volume of water. We stood awestruck below the bellowing falls, putting a tick at the top of my bucket list, all while surrounded by the country’s famous fall colours. If you’re able to, sign up for the optional helicopter flight over Niagara Falls. This ride gives you a bird’s eye view of all three of the falls. This was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done.

Since my return, I’ve frequently been asked which side of the falls is better, Canada or the US. I feel that Canada is exceptional because of the panoramic views and photo opportunities.

Things take a more relaxing turn in Toronto, where we check out the famous CN Tower. This is where I faced my fears and braved the 553-metre tower with striking 360-degree views of the cityscape. It even had a revolving restaurant.

A shot of downtown Toronto's famous skyline.
A shot of downtown Toronto's famous skyline.

We follow the maple leaf trail, stopping at the stunningly rugged Thousand Islands, where Lake Ontario meets the St Lawrence River. Here, there happens to be more than 1,800 islands. We travelled during October, meaning it was the ideal time to see an array of fall colours, with the bonus of pumpkin displays for Halloween.

Natural sights aside, you can’t miss Canada’s dynamic cities. After checking out Ottawa, we ventured onto Montreal. This dynamic city is a must as it includes the major sights as well as the peculiar RÉSO, also known as The Underground City.

The striking Château Frontenac hotel in Quebec, during the fall.
The striking Château Frontenac hotel in Quebec, during the fall.

I also recommend the Quebec City walking tour. This came next, taking us around the old town, which has been declared a world heritage site. It’s filled with charming cobbled streets, captivating architecture up to four centuries old, plus a 130-year old funicular to the upper town.

Overall, our tour manager Gloria and driver Byron were full of knowledge and insight, answering everyone’s questions while having a great sense of humour. This made the trip extra special.

If you’re tempted to follow in Steph’s footsteps, find out more about our ‘Canada’s Maple Leaf Trail’ tour here.

Serena is a writer based in London. Born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, she calls the UK home despite only recently acclimatising to the dearth of sunshine. Her writing has appeared in The Independent, Business Insider, South China Morning Post, i-D, Refinery29, Glamour, Vox, Metro, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. She has also published a book of aerial photography: How Women See The World. Throughout her decade-long career, Serena has told the stories of Arctic explorers, human rights activists, award-winning chefs, refugees, and the UK’s last lighthouse keepers.

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