Prado, Vancouver

Prado Gastown was my last Vancouver coffee stop and it was a wee bit of fun before heading to the airport. In keeping with Vancouver's general rejection of traveller helpfulness, Prado doesn't offer free wifi to customers (or maybe it does but you have ask, I hate having to ask), so what ensued was an excellent 50 mins of people watching from my very comfortable bench seat. Setting the tone was my lovely latte, cafe owner Sammy Piccolo uses family roast 49th Parallel, and a quirky avo and minted peas on toast for breakfast which my menu tells me is organic and sourced locally. The cafe was halfway to full when I arrived and rapidly reached capacity. I was surrounded on all sides by those elusive people who work from their laptops in a trendy cafe. How does one get to join this band of efficiently working hipsters? It is a strange feeling to be so hemmed in by plugged in people and not be able to access your email. I was most of all impressed by the two women operating this bustling cafe, who demonstrated deep compassion for a local homeless man who took shelter inside the shop giving him coffee and rest at one of the tables. This cafe manages to achieve what so many fail to do - it leaves you with a story.

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Fairmont Hotel, Banff Springs

Fairmont Hotels are the epitome of fancy travelling, offering grandiose grounds and luxurious facilities.  'Christmas at the Castle' is a well-established festival at the Fairmont Banff Springs and it absolutely captures the yule spirit imagination.  The Hotel decorates with ice sculptures in the drive, enormous christmas trees in both the lobby and great hall, a gingerbread house and a room especially for Santa.  I booked myself into their famed Christmas buffet dinner paired with a delovely vanilla raspberry martini in the Bow Grill, and tremendously enjoyed the treat of being surrounded by such splendour at Christmas!

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Brewster Banff Gondola

There is plenty in Banff to keep you busy in winter even if you're not one of the avid skiers catching the regular shuttles to Norquay each day. The Hot Springs and their retro bathing suits for hire I hear are a real experience, as well as the snow shoeing trails and short hiking trails to Tunnel Mountain and the Bow River Falls. But the experience you must have, the one you won't forget, is riding the Gondola up Sulphur Mountain. The view from the Samson Weather Observatory is unsurpassed and your reward for braving the chilling walk to the peak? Feeling like you're on top of the world!

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Park Distillery, Banff

One of the Avenue's newest eateries, the Park Distillery is straight up, much like its flagship spirits. Dinner was a delicious serve of the house burger with a side of poutine (what else?), best burger I've had in a long time. To accompany my hearty meal, I chose a shot of Park's espresso infused vodka, undoctored. At 3.30pm most days you can join a tour of the still and hear how they make their whisky, vodka and gin, fascinating to hear about the distillation process from the Makers!

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Tap & Barrel, Vancouver

Instagram can be an invaluable resource when travelling - particularly when it comes to coffee and poutine... While in Vancouver I saw @vancityhype's post about Tap & Barrel's poutine in my feed and I set out to have a taste! Tap and Barrel have a very welcoming atmosphere, interesting decor (books and beer!) and a fab rendition of the West Coast take on poutine with pulled pork, gravy and cheese curds. Hands down the best poutine of my trip.

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Revolver Espresso, Vancouver

Revolver, if you can't tell by the name, is a cafe with attitude. Wildly popular at any time of day, it has opened up an adjacent communal consumption room next door. Called Archive, the walls are filled with a who's who in beans of the Vancouver coffee scene and from the taste of their espresso you want to try every one. Excellent latte, service and atmosphere, you'll want to come back.

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Timber Train, Vancouver

While on one of my Gastown explorations I ducked out of the rain and into this wonder of a cafe. Timber Train is set up with a series of wooden booths and a long counter dedicated to the coffee experience from espresso to pour over. Made with their own roast, my latte proved a tasty drop on a cold day.

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Cartems Donuterie, Vancouver

It's just not possible to pass up visiting a place called a 'donuterie'. Touted as Vancouver's best donut shop I made it a point to stop by Cartems. I should have been adventurous, I know, but when you only have one shot at tasting you want it to be amazing - so I passed over the festive looking mulled wine for a snackalicious chocolate glaze.

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Hub Yaletown, Vancouver

I had an excellent food (i.e. poutine) and beer evening at Hub in Yaletown, nabbing myself a flight of craft brew samples including a Moon Under Water Tranquillity IPA, Powell Street Old Jalopy Pale Ale and the Stanley Park Brewery Fog Horn IPA. I chose the Tranquility & Old Jalopy and threw it over to the barman for the rest!

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YWCA Hotel, Vancouver

My accommodation in Vancouver was the YWCA Hotel, a social enterprise supporting local community programs and an ethos we can all get behind: "providing affordable accommodations for all travellers". Great traveller advice as well, for brilliant coffee recommendations, I ever so conveniently needed to look no further than my hotel's blog for a wealth of info about local espresso specialists that was right on the mark.I will stay at these very comfortable digs around the world any time I get the chance.

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Parc du Mont-Royal, Montrèal

Just outside the city there is a magical expanse of parkland that is a joy to walk through. Like many reserves in Canada, the Parc du Mont-Royal is almost a woodland with scrub and well-established trees, hikes and stretches of grassy knolls that would be ideal in summer for lolling about in the sun.

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Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens, Quebec City

Aux Anciens Canadiens is a Québécois experience from start to finish. A white stucco building with red trimming, the historical building and dining rooms were built in 1674 and are truly charming. The set menu and service were worth every backpacker's precious penny.

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Parc de la Chute-Montmorency & Isle d'Orleans, Quebec City

Melburnians know that as exciting as a city can be, the fringes too need to be explored. I booked a late season day tour of the Quebec countryside through the Tourist Information Centre and departed on the best of late autumn days - chill but clear and still warm in the sun. Our pleasantly-accented guide took us to a number of spots including the Basilica Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, but by far the highlights were the Chute-Montmorency, a half-frozen waterfall, and the quaint Isle d'Oleans where we winded our way around the island to a chocolaterie and indulged is some divine milk chocolate that never made it back to the land down under.

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Plaines d'Abraham, Quebec City

In what I am sure is a hallmark of Canadian cities, just outside the citadel lay the Plaines d'Abraham, the site of an historic battle between the British and the French cultivated into sprawling parkland. The Battlefields Park is sparse on trees but this only serves to make it into the ideal inner-city snowshoeing destination in winter. I missed out on Quebec snow by only that [ ] much and I would dearly love to head back for a Christmas!

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