Monday, February 14, 2011

Road Trip on the Viking Trail

If you want your road trip to be something of a trip back in time then you should consider this route along Newfoundland’s Viking Trail. Visit L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site—a Viking settlement that dates back more than a thousand years!—and drive through gorgeous vistas complete with mountains, valleys and stunning coastlines. A tour of this area can take from 2 to 10 days, although our recommended route is for six days full of falls and fjords, vistas and Vikings. Truly a road trip you’ll never forget.

Day 1
If you’re flying in you will arrive at Deer Lake Airport, alternately you can take the Marine Atlantic ferry from North Sydney to Port aux Basques. The beginning of the Viking Trail can be found where Route 1 and Route 430 meet close to Deer Lake. Get a good night’s rest in Deer Lake or, if you choose, Gros Morne National Park.

Day 2
If you haven’t yet visited Gros Morne do so this morning, beginning your journey along the Viking Trail to Tablelands in this beautiful national park, also home to gorgeous ocean scenes, fjords and mountains. When you reach the Tablelands you may have to look twice. Look more like a desert than Newfoundland? That’s thanks to the peridotite, an ultramafic rock that this area is made up of.

Activities in this area include a tour of the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including a boat tour of the Western Brook Pond and Trout River fjords. When the day starts to wane you should be at the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse to watch the sun set over the ocean. You have your choice as to where to spend the night with towns like St. Paul’s, Cow Head (the story is that explorer Jacques Cartier first lay anchor in Cow Cove) or our choice, Rocky Harbour, nearby. Close to Rocky Harbour you’ll also find an indoor swimming pool where you can kick back and relax for awhile.

Day 3
When you’re ready to hit the road again drive north towards Broom Point and its Fisherman Museum, and The Arches Provincial Park, either of which is worth a stop. A great idea is to head to the St. Barbe Ferry Terminal where you can board the MV Apollo to sail Iceberg Alley, where you can view the icebergs that have made their way down from Greenland.

Once you arrive in Labrador you will head north again, this time to Red Bay National Historic Site, which houses a 16th century Basque whaling station, circa 1550-1600 AD. Mary’s Harbour is just down Route 510 and there you can reach the picturesque Battle Harbour National Historic Site and its fishing community with only a short boat ride. Like lighthouses? Point Amour Provincial Historic Site boasts the tallest in Atlantic Canada.

You can spend the night in L’Anse au Clair or in West St. Modeste if you prefer.

Day 4
Today is all about L’Anse aux Meadows. After taking the ferry out of the Labrador Straits visit this World Heritage Site, where you can view the onsite museum and the archaeological site where Vikings landed 500 years before Christopher Columbus ever discovered America. Only two kilometres from L’Anse aux Meadows is Norstead and its Viking Age port, which has been named one of Canada’s hidden travel gems. The not-for-profit Norstead site will help you imagine what life was like in this area centuries ago. You can also walk to Tea House Hill and visit the Grenfell Historic Properties museum. Nostead often hosts entertaining dinner theatre in the summer, check for availabilities for your trip.

If you so choose a boat tour down Iceberg Alley can also be arranged from this point. Overnight in Plum Point, St. Anthony or Roddickton.

Day 5
While taking Routes 432 and 433 South, along Grenfell Drive Highway, keep your eyes open for roaming moose. This drive will also take you past many small communities, made up mostly of loggers, as well as historically French shorelines. Visit the Port au Choix National Historic Site, site of a fascinating archaeological dig uncovering artifacts from three different civilizations, which occupied this site over a thousand years ago. At night stay in Port au Choix or venture over to Hawke’s Bay, located on the Torrent River, for a change of scenery.

Day 6
Make your way back to Deer Lake where you can visit the Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, which showcases everything from spiders to scorpions. At this point you will divert from Viking Trail to find your way back to the airport or ferry.

If you’re looking for a unique road trip that mixes history with natural beauty then you’ll definitely want to consider the Viking Trail for your vacation. Of course, the above suggestions and sights are just some that you can touch on during your drive through this fascinating part of Canada.

Written by Connie Limoncelli

Courtesy of

Bergen to Oslo Road Trip

Norway is often a forgotten country as European vacations go, but with its excess of greenery and stunning natural beauty, not to mention its history, Norway is definitely a great place to take a road trip. The road stretching between Bergen and Oslo is a gasp-a-minute where gorgeous vistas are concerned, and you’ll also get to enjoy bustling city life upon arrival. On your way back to Bergen you can enjoy the picturesque waterfront in Kristiansand and the history in Stavanger, Rogaland.

Day 1 to 2 – Bergen to Eidfjord
Arrive via plane or ferry in Bergen, Norway’s second largest city and a world heritage site. When you’re ready to begin your road trip we suggest taking the scenic route, literally, which is a smaller but much more stimulating road via the tiny town of Alvik (which is about a 2 hour drive from Bergen). Eventually your route will lead you to Eidfjord and the Oslo road.

If you’re the athletic and adventurous sort you’ll be happy to learn that Eidfjord is one of the best places in the world for ice climbing. The amount of time you spend here is completely up to you and the activities you schedule.

Day 3 – Eidfjord to Oslo
The fastest route from Oslo to Oslo is the RV7 or the Hardangervidda (also the name of the national park that the road runs through). On Day 4 stop in Gol on your way to Oslo to admire the medieval stave church and the open air Gol Bygdetun museum. Your choice of dinner can be had in big city Oslo.

Eidfjord - Photo by Kenny Louie (wikimedia commons)

Day 4 – Oslo
Oslo is one of those great cities where both urbanites and natural lovers can indulge their passions. If you’re the former shopping, good restaurants and a great theatre scene thrive in Oslo, while if you’re the latter make sure to stop at Oslomarka and the Oslo fjord. Other must-see sights include the Viking and Munch Museums, Slottsparken (the grounds around the Royal Palace), tony Bygdøy and Vigeland Sculpture Park. If you’d like a glimpse into Oslo’s history head for the intersection of Damstredet and Telthusbakken, around the area of Gamle Aker Kike medieval church. This picturesque area includes wooden structures and houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Day 5 – Oslo to Kristiansand
In Kristiansand the points of interest include Nupen Park, Visitors' Harbour, Fish Quay and the beach at Bystranda. If you like you can also take a boat ride through Blindleia to the pictuersque village of Lillesand or tour the island of Odderøya, which boasts a rich military history, on foot (about 3 kilometres). In Kristiansand, a town full of great little boutiques and restaurants, another great walking spot is the Old Town or Posebyen.

Day 6 – Kristiansand to Stavanger, Rogaland
Continue on your scenic road trip journey until you reach Rogaland, the capital of Norway’s petroleum industry. Must-sees include Prekestolen, Kjerag and Gloppedalsura. History abounds in Stavanger with a farm in Ullandhaug, which dates back to the Iron Age, and an archeological museum displaying many artifacts that detail Rogaland’s early history. At Karmøy you can also visit a very interesting Viking Farm and don’t miss the Domkirke of Stavanger, which is Norway’s oldest cathedral.

Day 7 – Stavanger, Rogaland to Bergen
Back to Bergen and the end of your road trip. This World Heritage City’s historic waterfront, thrilling funiculars and gorgeous wooden structures means that you’ll have lots to see and do for however long you decide to stay at your final destination.
Written by Connie Limoncelli

Courtesy of

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Canada Castles Road Trip Part 1: Ontario

There’s something about touring a castle that takes you back in time and forces you to reflect on history. As you move within the thick walls it gives you a chance to imagine what went into building such a structure and who it was the constructed it in the first place. Because the grandiose fantasy of castles appeals to a wide demographic, for many different reasons, castles are perfect destinations on your family road trip, offering something for everyone. When you think of Canada you may not initially think of castles, but there are several worth looking at including Ontario’s Dundurn Castle, Casa Loma and Rideau Hall. A three day road trip will allow you to see all three in comfort, but you can also extend your vacation as required, adding as few or as many other sightseeing stops as you wish. Want more castles? Stay tuned for our second Canada Castles post, which will detail a great castle road trip route in Quebec that you can easily add on to your Ontario trip to maximum your trip’s castle exposure.


  • Dundurn Castle

  • View the Natural Wonder of Niagara Falls

  • Wine Taste at Niagara-on-the-Lake

  • Casa Loma

  • Enjoy big city life in Toronto

  • Rideau Hall

  • Tour Ottawa, Canada’s Capital City

    Dundurn Castle Photo by Rick Cordeiro (Wikimedia Commons)

Day 1: Dundurn Castle - Hamilton and Niagara Falls

If you’re starting your road trip in Toronto a short drive (about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, depending on traffic) will have you in Hamilton and, a bit farther on, Niagara Falls. Both cities are also within easy access of the Buffalo, NY-Canada border making it easy for Americans in that area to venture off on this road trip as well.

Dundurn Castle is located in Hamilton, Ontario and is part of the Dundurn National Historic Site. This elegant country home once belonged to Sir Allan Napier MacNab, the Prime Minister of the United Provinces of Canada between 1854 and 1856, and was built during the 1830s. A little bit of history: This site was used as a military outpost during the War of 1812; later, when building his country castle, architect Robert Wetherell used some of the remnants of the post and incorporated it into his Classical and Italianate design. The 18,000-square-foot castle, made of stucco-covered brick, is named after MacNab’s ancestral seat in Scotland.

The tour of the home includes over 40 rooms and three floors and will give a glimpse into the “upstairs/downstairs” (master/servant) lifestyle of the day. The home was also quite technologically advanced for its time, featuring both gas lighting and running water. For the ghost hunters among us it’s said that the ghost of MacNab’s second wife, Mary Stuart, still haunts the rooms where she died of tuberculosis. If you visit the site you can also view Dundurn Park and its Hamilton Military Museum and Kitchen Garden, as well as purchase handmade keepsakes in the Museum Gift Shop.

After touring Dundurn make the short drive to Niagara Falls, which offers a ton of activities any time of the year. Of course, the big draw is the Falls themselves, but there is everything from casinos and mini golf to spas and restaurants to keep you and your family entertained here.

RV Parks in Niagara Falls:

Jellystone Park - 8676 Oakwood Drive, Niagara Falls, Ontario - (905) 354-1432

Niagara Glenview Park – 3950 Victoria Avenue, Niagara Falls, Ontario – (800) 263-2570

Casa Loma – Photo by Simon P. (Wikimedia Commons)

Day 2: Casa Loma - Toronto

If you’re a wine lover or are into antiques stop at Niagara-on-the-Lake on your way back to Toronto. Winery tours and quaint cafes abound here—not to mention some of the best spas in the country. If you’d like to extend your vacation you will find more than enough to keep you occupied here for an entire day.

When you get back within the city limits head to Casa Loma, once the largest private residence in Canada (it belonged to Sir Henry Pellatt) today Casa Loma is a landmark that is open to the public for tours and private events like weddings. Construction on the castle, designed by architect E.J. Lennox, began in 1911. The home cost about $3.5 million to build and included features like an elevator, secret passageways and unfinished bowling alleys. Fun Fact: Ever wonder where the name Casa Loma came from? It’s Spanish for “Hill House.”

After you’ve finished your tour of the impressive Casa Loma all of Toronto is open to you and the choices are really endless (and the amount of time you spend in the city depends only depends on your schedule and preferences). Visit the CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum or the Art Gallery of Ontario. In the winter you can go skating at Nathan Phillips Square. Attend a sporting event, theatre production or grab a meal at one Toronto’s world class restaurants.

RV Parks in Toronto:

Glen Rouge Park - 7450 Kingston Road, Toronto - (416) 338-2267

Rideau Hall – Photo by Peregrine981 (Wikimedia Commons)

Day 3: Rideau Hall – Ottawa

Rise and shine, grab some breakfast and head to Canada’s capital city: Ottawa. If you like, stop in the Thousand Islands/Kingston area on your way, where on an island on the American side you’ll find another great castle to visit (Boldt Castle). Ottawa is another city where you’ll find tons to see and do. Just a few: tour Parliament Hill or Gatineau Park or visit the Rideau Canal, a World Heritage Site.

Rideau Hall is the official residence of the Governor General of Canada and has been since 1867. The current Rideau Hall is quite changed from the original Regency structure that Thomas McKay designed in 1838. Nearly 40 years later, when the Earl of Dufferin was the British monarch's viceroy in Canada, a new addition was added in the Norman style also seen in the Governor General's home in Quebec. Another great change to the struct.ure came in 1913 when the Mappin Block was built. Beautiful art and furnishings can be seen on a tour of Rideau Hall and its beautiful grounds.

RV Parks in Ottawa:

Camp Hither Hills – 5227 Bank Street, Ottawa - (613) 822-0509

Written by Connie Limoncelli

Courtesy of

Canada Castles Road Trip: Quebec

Quebec, and especially the city of Montreal, not only has a charming, Old World European feel, but also several castles worth visiting on any road trip. When touring these castles you’ll not only be wowed by the gorgeous architecture and interiors, but also the past of this historic province. A bonus? Once you’re done with the castles you’ll also be able to see the sights of vibrant Montreal and Quebec City, if you so choose. Want a longer road trip? Think about adding our Ontario Castles route to your vacation schedule.


  • Château Dufresne

  • Enjoy the vibrant city of Montreal

  • Château Frontenac

  • Tour the Old World charms of Quebec City

  • Château St. Louis

Day 1: Château Dufresne - Montreal

Château Dufresne - Photo by Jean Gagnon (Wikimedia Commons)

If Château Dufresne is the stately former home of the Dufresne brothers, Marius and Oscar, two wealthy entrepreneurs with strong ties to Montreal's past, and the founders of the city of Maisonneuve (now part of Montreal). When visiting this castle, which was once two separate residences, one for each brother, you'll be met by stately columns and Beaux-Arts architecture designed by Jules Renard and influenced by the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Built between 1915 and 1918 the home contains gorgeous work by the artist Guido Nincheri and a museum dedicated to Montreal’s East End.

Montreal is a city of an endless supply of attractions from Notre Dame Cathedral to Mont Royal, St. Catherine's Street and the charming Old Quarter.

RV Parks in Montreal:
Camping Alouette - 3449 L'Industrie - (514) 464-1661

Château Frontenac – Photo by Bernard Gagnon (Wikimedia Commons)

Day 2: Châteaus Frontenac and Saint-Louis – Quebec City

Once you arrive in Quebec City head to Château Frontenac, which is now a luxury hotel. Château Frontenac was first built as chateau-inspired hotels for Canadian Pacific Railway and designed by Bruce Price. The structure was named after the Count de Frontenac, Louis de Buade, who was once the governor of New France. Built near the historic Plains of Abraham, the doors of the Château first opened in 1893.

After viewing Château Frontenac head to the site of Château St. Louis, the original home to the governor of New France in what is now Quebec. Built by Governor Charles Huault de Montmagny, today you can see what is left of the château and forts. The complex also includes gardens to tour.

Quebec City offers a host of activities from amusement parks and shopping to historical sites like the Plains of Abraham.

Image:Château Frontenac – Bernard Gagnon by Wikimedia Commons

Written by Connie Limoncelli

Courtesy of