Tag Archives: places to stay

Places: Dinosaur Provincial Park, AB

After ten days in Alberta, we may not have been quite ready to hit the road again but it was time to get going and our first day took us through Drumheller, one of the kids’ favourite spots in Alberta. There is nothing quite like this area of Alberta that I have seen anywhere else in the country. The hoodoos and landscape are amazing but it did provide an auspicious start to our drive home.

Although we didn’t do the Royal Tyrell Museum this time I would recommend it to anyone who is visiting Calgary or able to make the drive out. We did however make time to visit ‘The World’s Largest Dinosaur’ and walked up the admittedly wobbly steps to the top to take in the view from his mouth. img_2211We also stopped at the hoodoos east of Drumheller which are really one of the coolest things to see in Canada. It is hard to imagine sometimes that this landscape is less than a three hour drive from the mountains we had stayed in the week before that are so lush.

Out first night on the road, we stayed in Dinosaur Provincial Park. This is a place I had wanted to stay for quite some time – it has the highest concentration of fossils anywhere in the world – and the valley is fascinating.

However, I think it is safe to say that despite the uniqueness of the area, this night of camping was a bit of a disaster. When we arrived, it was scorching, about thirty degrees with no escape from the sun because of minimal tree cover in the campground. The sites in the campground are really close together, especially compared to some of the other excellent sites we had in other areas. We ended up boxed in, with an arguing couple on one side who ran their air conditioner all night. The second thing was the bugs – we had experienced basically no bugs the whole trip but this place made up for it. They were INSANE – the size of small sparrows and everywhere. After doing the self-guided fossil tour which got us out into the valley to explore, we hunkered down in the tent to avoid these mosquitoes.

Me: “I hope those clouds don’t result in anything”

Typically, this area of the country is pretty dry – the landscape is essentially a desert with farmers relying on irrigation for crops. However, at some point in the night it started to rain, and this rain turned into a crazy thunderstorm although there had been no indications that one would start. It sounded like it was right on top of us and we escaped to the car. At that point, we realized that being in the river valley, all of this rain was coming down towards us and the dry creekbed behind us that had been about eight feet deep when we arrived now filling up rapidly. I am no expert on flash floods but I guess this is how they happen!

We drove from our campsite to the washrooms to try and escape the downpour, only to find a river flowing in front of the entrance that prevented us from entering. We were not the only people to abandon our campsite because although it was four in the morning, about a half-dozen of us were sitting in our cars in the main lot. It is hard to describe how much water was coming down but a river had essentially taken over the parking lot and I remember having the thought at a certain point that the road out of the valley was going to get washed out and we’d be stuck. The scene was so chaotic that I would have loved to grab some pictures but it was so dark except for the lightning strikes that there was no way to do so.

Eventually, after about an hour in the car, the rain started to ease and we ventured back to our campsite. The creek had now overrun its banks and it became clear that our campsite was in much better shape than some of the others that were drowning in water. We had the thought to try and grab another hour of sleep but as soon as we got in the tent, another couple of sharp cracks of thunder hit and we abandoned that idea. After throwing all the wet gear in the roofbox, we were out of the campground before sunrise and desperately seeking coffee. That marked the end of our Dinosaur Provincial Park experience.

In summary, what a beautiful and unique area of the country but I am pretty sure we will not seek this place out again after that experience. Regardless, even with the craziness and overall miserable nature of the night, I am sure it is also one that our family won’t forget that we spent together – and that’s one of the things that makes family vacations so great.




The Stay: Les Lofts St-Joseph

Last weekend we were in Quebec City for three nights and stayed at the recently opened Les Lofts St-Joseph. This boutique property consists of 18 two-bedroom lofts that were created as a part of a massive renovation in a building from 1918.
Quiet in Saint-Roch
The property just opened at the beginning of April and we were actually the first guests to stay in our unit. This would also explain why I was unable to find reviews before we stayed but our leap of faith was rewarded with an awesome place.
Relaxing as loft-dwellers do
Les Lofts are another step in the revitilization of the Saint-Roch neighbourhood in Quebec City. This reminds me of a sort of ‘Williamsburg lite’ – right down to the Urban Outfitters that has just opened up. Although not how most people picture Quebec City, we found that it was much more authentic and enjoyable than staying in the Old City where it tends to be dominated by tourist traffic. There are plenty of cool coffee shops, a couple of microbreweries – including La Barberie which makes a pretty tasty IPA. We were still able to hike up the hill into the old city and take in the beautiful sights there as well.
As the pictures on their website show, this new place is beautiful with lots of natural light and they have thought of almost everything in stocking the apartments. We would definitely stay in this same spot when returning to Quebec.

The Stay: Casa San Gabriel, Umbria, Italy

From Orvieto, we continued further north, passing through Perugia to our farmhouse just outside of Pierantonio where we would be staying the next five nights. This was the longest stay that we would have in one location so we were certainly hopeful that our accommodations would live up to our expectations. As soon as we stepped out of our car, took in the view and were greeted by the two dogs and David, our host, we knew they would.

Fog in the valley each morning

Casa San Gabriel was the perfect respite from a long overnight flight and three days in the busyness of Rome. We stayed in Il Fienile, the largest of their three farmhouses that are co-located on the property with their primary residence. Even on the first night, the kids couldn’t resist jumping in the pool – and so as not to sully our reputations as Canadians, we continued to go in every day, although I think most Italians probably think that the season for an outdoor pool ends before the third week of September.

Pool season is every season

David and Chrissie, who own Casa San Gabriel, have a very interesting story of how they came to be there and have included some of that history on their website. Having two children of their own, they certainly knew how to set up accommodations for family travel. Even the simplest things such as having a Brio train set in our apartment provided the kids with hours of entertainment and the small playground that is set up was certainly a hit as well. The kids were able to roam the property and loved the freedom to do so.

The big guy and his new friend

Although there are three farmhouses in relatively close proximity, as well as the family house, they are situated in such a way that our place felt completely private. Our favourite aspect was our stone terrace where we lounged about with coffee in the morning, ate every meal, and then finished the evening with whatever wine we had picked up that day.

Our dining room

Other things we enjoyed about this stay were using the Italian bbq – stoking it with firewood and letting the hot coals do the cooking, taking a hike through the valley and the ability to visit so many interesting places that were all within a very reasonable drive. More details on these excursions coming up in a later post. The kids loved meeting and learning about the alpacas, and we all enjoyed the delicious scents of the lush gardens filled with lavender, grapes, olive trees and herbs.

We enjoyed our accommodations everywhere in Italy, but it would be hard to say that this wasn’t our favourite. It really had everything we were looking for: the tranquility of the Italian countryside, lots of things to keep the kids entertained, and all the comforts of home, but with a better view!

Il Fienile