While western Canada wows travellers with the bright lights of Vancouver and the snow-capped beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the eastern half of the country is a seductively diverse destination. Part French, part Anglo, and fashioned by cultures from across the globe, its cosmopolitan charms are showcased on Collette's 8-day The Best of Eastern Canada adventure. Award-winning tour managers introduce you to diverse cultural influences, vibrant cities, and vast wilderness, while superior accommodation and tipping are taken care of for you. Touring with Collette ensures not a moment is missed.
A fusion of European and North American flavours, Quebec's biggest city is an absorbing place to begin the tour. You'll enjoy a guided walk with a born and bred local, and a steakhouse dinner, in the cobbled lanes of Old Montreal. This atmospheric quarter by the banks of the St Lawrence River is where French explorers first arrived in the 16th century. Historic monuments dot the area, notably the neo-Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, where Celine Dion was wed, while cafes and galleries occupy converted banks and warehouses that sprung up with the booming fur trade (driven by the trapping of beavers). You'll have free time to shop in the modern, maze-like underground malls that provide air-conditioned refuge to Montrealers from the icy winters and belting-hot summers, and you can experience a leafy slice of the city at Mount Royal, a hilltop green space designed by the architect of New York's Central Park.
Although Montreal is one of the largest French-speaking cities outside Paris, the Gallic vibe is perhaps even more profound in Quebec City. In the labyrinthine streets of the old town, the scent of freshly-baked baguettes and aromatic cheeses waft from boulangeries and fromageries, and animated French chatter comes from shopkeepers and alfresco winers and diners. You'll hear English, too, especially from tourists roaming the fortifications close to the Plains of Abraham, a grassy expanse where British and French forces battled in 1759. You'll also savour the enchanting Quebecois countryside with an evening meal on the rustic Ile d'Orleans, then breakfast at a maple-producing sugar shack. Quebec yields about 70% of the world's annual maple supply, and in shops and eateries across the province, this sweet treat comes in various forms, from syrup and wine to tea and ice cream. Another Quebecois staple to try is poutine. A fast-food favourite, particularly after beers, it's basically fries drenched in cheese curd and gravy.
After spending a night in Ottawa, Canada's laid-back capital, just across the Quebec-Ontario border, you'll be transferred to a boat in Rockport, a little port village and the gateway to the Thousand Islands. Richly photogenic, this archipelago actually comprises about 1800 islands in the St Lawrence River on the Canadian-US border. You'll see some of the most well-known islands on a relaxing sightseeing cruise that ventures into American waters (it's OK, you won't need to pass US immigration). Audio commentary reveals intriguing tales about Deer Island, which hosts the country lodge of Skull and Bones - a secret society at Yale University said to count George W Bush and John Kerry among its alumni. You'll also see Boldt Castle, a flamboyant mansion that resembles a fairy-tale European chateau on Heart Island.
The next day, another cruise will take you within metres of one of the world's true natural wonders. Every second, more than a million bathtubs of water plummet over Niagara's three falls, and seeing, and feeling, this awesome power close up is something you won't forget in a hurry. After taking in a postcard-perfect panorama of the falls from a lofty viewpoint, you'll lunch in nearby Niagara-by-the-Lake, a contender for Canada's quaintest town. Pieced back together after being destroyed in a 1812-1815 war between the USA and British Canada, it's delightfully picturesque, its streets lined with cherry blossom trees, floral displays and handsome heritage buildings that house cute cafes, bakeries, tea rooms, boutiques and gift stores full of pretty paintings and handicrafts.
Canada's largest and most multicultural metropolis is a memorable place to end the tour. While it's well-connected by trams and subways, it's best appreciated on foot. Take a scenic stroll by the revamped waterfront promenade hugging Lake Ontario, and roam the cafe-and-bar-lined alleys of the revamped Distillery District, the old headquarters of the Gooderham and Worts distillery (once the top spirit producer in the British Empire). Inside Toronto's old city hall, St Lawrence Market is a haven for foodies, with vendors selling flavoursome dishes from Canada and beyond. Tantalising fare can also be had in Toronto's assortment of ethnic neighbourhoods, such as Chinatown, Little Italy and Koreatown. The city has a string of excellent museums and art galleries plus the unmissable CN Tower. Once the world's tallest building, it looms 553m, and from the observation deck, two-thirds of the way up, you'll see up to 160km away - even beyond Niagara Falls - on a clear day. If you're feeling brave, you can tread the deck's clear glass floor. Don't worry, it's so thick it can withstand the weight of 35 moose!
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