Having known Elizabeth for several years through our mutual passion for horses, I was honoured when she asked me to help with a personal trip to Canada. Every trip is special for many reasons, but this was a particularly emotional journey for Elizabeth to visit her father’s memorial stone as she had been unable to travel for his funeral…
I asked Nikki to meticulously plan an important trip to Canada for us that included a very personal element in visiting my father’s memorial stone and was to include staying with a friend in Toronto before taking the VIA glass train across the country to Vancouver, something my husband and I had always wanted to do.
The day arrived and we excitedly travelled to Gatwick, where thanks to our pre-arranged meet and greet parking, we simply stepped out of the car, handed the keys over and found ourselves in departures.
It was our first-time flying business class and not being a great passenger, a calming breakfast and plenty of magazines in the BA Business Lounge helped considerably with my pre-flight anxiety along with the reassurance from my friend Natalie that should anything go wrong that at least I would die in luxury!
Upon boarding, we discovered that our seats were facing each other and for a few moments were like a couple of exuberant giggling kids, whizzing the screen up and down.
I thankfully had a fearless flight to Toronto. The seats were so comfortable and with a personal entertainment system, there was plenty to keep me occupied.
Arriving was an emotional experience as I realized suddenly that it was the first time without Dad there to meet me. However, the immigration officer was so kind when I explained the purpose of our trip and we were through in seconds.
Friends met us and we were whisked off to downtown Toronto where we spent a few days happily exploring.
The CN Tower was incredible, and I was also able to spend some private moments in the beautiful peaceful Garden of Rest where my Dad was laid, which was a huge source of comfort.
The following evening, we set off eagerly on the VIA train. A lovely stewardess greeted us with champagne at our compartment, our bags were already in our cabin with our other belongings stored in the main luggage compartment. Our bed had been pre-made into a king-size and we were given details of our mealtime preferences. With the train not leaving until late in the evening, we had been provided with sandwiches and snacks in the departure lounge.
The cabin contained a small but easily useable private toilet and shower and during the day, the bed changed to an L-shaped settee facing a huge window.
As the train pulled out of Toronto and the adventure began, we lay in bed and watched the countryside disappear. We had access to the glass viewing compartment whenever we wished and there was always a steward around to make hot drinks and provide snacks on request.
Sitting in the glass cabin afforded expansive views and each afternoon an expert would provide details on the countryside and what to look out for.
Meals were taken in a separate buffet car and with specific times being given to attend, there was no unnecessary waiting.
Evening entertainment was laid on although we were mostly too tired and enjoyed sitting up in the glass coach watching Canada whizz by. The glorious autumnal colours of the trees were incredibly beautiful and dramatically followed by thick snow as the train crossed the mountains.
We stopped for a whole day at Winnipeg and were taken on an enjoyable complimentary tour. It was nice to get off the train and stretch our legs in the fresh air for a while.
After four days, the train arrived in Vancouver and we were met by a friendly chauffeur who drove us around the sites en route to the charming Four Seasons Hotel.
Our room was amazing, with a huge lounge, dining area and two bathrooms, plus floor to ceiling windows looking out over Vancouver, to be able to enjoy watching the world go by. Handily there was a huge shopping mall under the hotel with its own private access to guests.
Being situated in the city centre, we were able to explore downtown by foot along with utilising the hop-on-hop-off bus, which as well as providing a guided tour, enabled us to accumulate ideas of how we wished to spend our time.
When it was sadly time to return home, our brilliant chauffeur delivered us to the airport. There was no business lounge at Vancouver Airport, but we were soon in our comfortable aircraft seats for an easy flight back and our car was available as we left arrivals.
All transfers had been seamless, and thanks to Nikki’s fantastic organisation, we always knew where to go and what to do.
It was the trip of a lifetime and one to tick off the bucket list.