My Summer Holiday

Holidays are wonderful. They do wonders to our mental and physical health.

In the previous column, we talked about the advantages of taking a holiday. Holidays take us away from our daily chores and problems to a life of fun, freedom, happiness and family bonding. Holidays recharge our batteries and give us a different perspective to our daily life.

But sometimes we forget that even the best-laid plans can go wrong. Not because we did not do our homework, but the parties who promised to make our holiday a success fail to keep up to their end of the bargain. And if we are not careful then the experience can be very demoralizing. Allow me to share with you my recent experience.

Our recent holiday was planned to cover five cities (Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls) in two weeks, staying at four different hotels.

My wife had diligently planned the holiday with help from our travel agent. She booked our airlines tickets about three months ahead of time. At the same time the hotels were booked, confirmed and rooms guaranteed with credit cards. Special requests were made on the type of rooms we wanted. A rental van was also booked, and confirmation guaranteed with a credit card.

Since we like to have a trouble free holiday, a week before our departure, my wife phoned all the hotels we had booked with to reconfirm our bookings and requests for the types of rooms we wanted. July and August are busy months for the hotels.

On Canada Day, we (my family) drove from Medicine Hat to Calgary and then took a flight to Ottawa. After about twelve hours, we arrived in Ottawa at midnight. We went to the car rental agency to pick the van we had booked.

“Sorry Sir, we don’t have the van which you had booked. But we can give you an upgrade at no extra charge!” said the desk clerk. At midnight, after 12 hours of journey, with two tired children, was I supposed to be overjoyed that I was getting a free upgrade? I was not pleased. There was a special reason why we booked a van and not any other vehicle. I was too tired to do argue and settled for the free upgrade.

We drove to our hotel and got there at about one in the morning. The lady at the check in counter says to my wife, “Sorry, we don’t have any rooms for you for tonight. We will put you up at another hotel for one night at our cost!” So what was the purpose of our booking three months ahead of time and guaranteeing with a credit card? This is a four star hotel!

We checked in at the other hotel. It was two in the morning. Next day we got the rooms we had asked for at our original hotel but not before we made a big fuss with the Manager. We lost one day of our holiday by moving back and forth and talking to the front desk several times.

The rest of the holiday at the hotel and Ottawa was wonderful. Ottawa is full of Canadian history. A must for all Canadians to visit, specially school children. At the Canadian Museum of Civilization there is a display of Medalta Potteries and old photographs of the Medalta buildings.

Our next stop was Quebec City. We checked in at our four star hotel. Again they did not have the rooms we had asked for. Next day we talked to the desk Manager and he found the rooms we wanted. Why wouldn’t they give it to us when we checked in?

Quebec City is one of my favourite cities. Very beautiful and clean. They wash their streets everyday in the morning. They plant thousands of trees every year. Every new building has to have a piece of art or sculpture in front. We found the people very friendly. And every body we talked could communicate in English. It was a very enjoyable stay.

Our next stop was Montreal. Crowded and dirty. What a contrast from Quebec City! Culturally, Montreal is a very exciting place. They have hundreds of festivals each year. When we were there, they had just finished the Jazz Festival and were getting ready for Just for Laughs festival. We kept our stay brief and went to the next stop – Toronto.

Toronto is another busy and dirty city. There is lot to see, including the CN Tower. We had an interesting visit including a day of shopping! We spent a day at Niagara Falls. About an hour and half drive from Toronto. Niagara Falls is one of my favourite places.

The exciting Maid of the Mist boat tour takes visitors to the base of the American Falls and then on to the basin of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. “It’s a half hour thrill of a lifetime,” says a tourist brochure. And I agree. It is also a photographer’s paradise. So many views and angles!

Finally, it was time to go home. Ready to work and pay the bills and plan for the next holiday! Inspite of the few glitches, we kept a positive attitude and paced ourselves. And returned home satisfied that we did everything we wanted to do.

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