The Elk+Avenue Hotel in Banff – Review

The Elk+Avenue hotel in Banff, Alberta is a mid to upper range hotel providing a comfortable and pleasant experience for those staying in beautiful Banff.

Check-in / Check-Out

The check-in and check-out experience were great. The staff were efficient and pleasant and the front desk was always staffed.

We had a problem with the first room that we were given. The room has an in-room air conditioner mounted on the wall leading to the loft and it was dripping water onto the carpet below.

We reported this to the front desk and they immediately gave us a key to another room of the same class and asked us to confirm the new room was OK. We checked it out and moved our stuff over and had no further issues. Well handled.

The Room

Looking down from the loft
Looking down from the loft

Since we were traveling with two teenagers, we decided to rent the “loft”, which features two double beds and a sofa bed.

The room was comfortable and spacious. The carpeting was a little worn but everything was serviceable. I liked the shower – it had both an overhead spout and a wand.

Two double beds in the Elk+Avenue loft
Two double beds in the Elk+Avenue loft


There is a restaurant in the hotel, the Farm & Fire. It serves breakfast, lunch and supper. Breakfast is not included with the room, unless you are a Pursuit Rewards member.

We ate breakfast there a couple of times. The food is great but the menu selection is a bit limited. I wouldn’t want to eat there more than a few times; fortunately, this is Banff and there are plenty of other options in walking distance.


The hotel features free wifi (at a good speed), air conditioned rooms, and underground parking (for a daily fee).

What’s Around

The Elk+Avenue hotel is located in downtown Banff and everything is in easy walking distance. There is a grocery store across the street, and the hotel is located on Banff Avenue where the vast majority of shops and restaurants in Banff are.


The hotel appeared to be fully accessible.



Visiting Hecla Manitoba

Lighthouses on Hecla Island

Hecla is both a community and an island in beautiful Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada.

Hecla Island was named after Mount Hekla in Iceland. This area of Manitoba has many people of Icelandic descent and many areas still have Icelandic names.

The island is about two hours north of Winnipeg on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. It is part of the Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park.

Welcome to Hecla - with a lighthouse!
Welcome to Hecla – with a lighthouse!

Hecla is an island in Lake Winnipeg, joined to the mainland by a causeway. Originally it hosted a fishing community. Before the causeway was built, there was a ferry to transport people and later vehicles to the island. The provincial park was established in 1969.

Getting There

Driving: Take highway 8 north from Winnipeg past Gimli and Riverton. This will continue onto the causeway and terminate on the east end of the island.

Flying: Fly into Winnipeg and then drive north on highway 8 as mentioned above.

Train: Take VIA Rail into Winnipeg’s Union Station downtown, then rent a car to drive to Hecla as described above.

Sunrise at Hecla Island
Sunrise at Hecla Island

When you drive onto the causeway, you’ll see the lighthouse and the “Welcome to Hecla” sign seen earlier in this post. After that, be patient, because it’s still a fairly long drive before you get to the village.

The Hecla village is off highway 8. There are two entrances. If you just want to see the “downtown” with the church, pier and general store, skip the first entrance you come to and take the next one a few kilometres later… otherwise you will be driving along a slower, sparsely populated road.

Things to See and Do

There are a lot of things to do on Hecla, mostly involving the outdoors. There are:

  • Walking trails
  • Bicycling
  • Boating
  • Beaches
  • Wildlife outlooks

Walking and Biking

Hecla has a number of beautiful walking trails, most of which are quite easy to do and take you through some beautiful forests and lovely coasts.

You can also ride a bicycle on many of the trails, as well as along highway 8. There is a dedicated wide shoulder for bicycles between Gull Harbour and the village. You can rent bicycles from the resort and from the marina, or bring your own.

Bicycle on the pier in Hecla village
Bicycle on the pier in Hecla village


There is a full service marina at Gull Harbour on the island. It includes a public boat slip that can be used for a fee.

Kayaks and jet skis are available for rental from the marina.


One of the beautiful beaches on Hecla
One of the beautiful beaches on Hecla

Hecla has several lovely sandy beaches. The largest stretches from near the resort to the marina and is easily accessible from the campground.

Sunset Beach is another lovely beach.

Some of the shoreline on Hecla is more rocks and stones than sand, so do a little research before going!

The Golf Course on Hecla

There is an 18 hole golf course next to the Hecla resort. There is a professional on site and the course features great views of beautiful Lake Winnipeg. The site also features a driving range, a pro shop, on site food and beverages, and club and cart rentals.

The resort offers several hotel-golf packages so visit the web site for more details.

Where to Stay

There is a large campground on Hecla, as well as a few hotel/inn type locations on Hecla and a number of cabins for rent.

The Hecla Campground

The campground on Hecla is operated by the provincial government. You can reserve a spot through the Manitoba Parks web site. I strongly advise you reserve a location ahead of time to avoid driving all this way and not having a site.

We have stayed at the campground several times and found it to be very pleasant, clean and relatively quiet. It is certainly a great option.

The Hecla Resort

The Hecla Lakeview Resort
The Hecla Lakeview Resort

The resort in Hecla is owned by Lakeview Hotels & Resorts, who own properties in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. This expansive hotel is located on the northern tip of Hecla Island and features a number of great amenities:

  • Beautiful scenery with a beach in easy walking distance
  • Guest rooms and suites
  • The Seagulls Restaurant & Lounge
  • The Salka Spa
  • Several pools, including an adults-only pool, a mineral pool and an outside pool
  • Beautiful grounds!

We stayed at the Hecla resort for three full days (Monday-Thursday) and stayed in a king suite. This had a king sized bed in one room, and a sofa (bed) and chair in the entrance area.

Since we were four people, we asked if they could provide a cot, but were told that they couldn’t put one in because it would block the exit in case of fire.

So, we brought our own air mattress, and moved the chair into the bedroom, which made room for the air mattress to go alongside the sofa bed, and everything worked OK. The only weird thing about the room was that the bathroom had two sliding doors, one to each room, which meant that we had to close both doors to use it and the doors didn’t block much sound coming from the bathroom.

We had one issue with our room during our stay. We couldn’t turn the shower on, so I went to the front desk to ask that it be fixed. Within minutes, a fellow from maintenance arrived at the room and diagnosed the problem. He told me that it would require a new cartridge, which could take 30m-1 hour to install. We were going out anyway, so he did the work while we were out and then called housekeeping to clean up to ensure there was no debris remaining in the shower. He was pleasant and prompt and we were quite satisfied with the hotel’s repair effort.

The Lighthouse Inn

The Lighthouse Inn is located at the marina in Gull Harbour. It has 12 rooms, all featuring a water view, along with a private cabin.

The Fredericton Amsterdam Inn and Suites – Review

Amsterdam Inn and Suites

I recently stayed at the Amsterdam Inn and Suites in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This is a relatively new hotel built on Bishop Drive, just off the Trans-Canada Highway.

The hotel features a hot breakfast, free parking, free wifi and is close to a lot of amenities, many within walking distance.

I stayed on points through the Choice Privileges program. I booked a King Suite, not because I needed the space but because I had enough points – and, well, why not?

The suite was spacious, featuring a king sized bed, couch, work desk, and a jacuzzi!

I never used the couch – except to hold my laptop bag – but the bed was quite comfortable and I did some work at the desk.

I did use the jacuzzi and it was quite pleasant.

The bathroom was clean and well organized. The shower was hot and there was enough water pressure for me. I am never a good gauge of water pressure. Since I am bald, I don’t need a lot of water pressure to get clean!

My room had a door to the outside with a dedicated parking spot, so it was easy to get my suitcase in and out. Access was with the same keycard used to open the door to the rest of the hotel.

The breakfast area is off the main entrance, by the desk, and is spacious and clean. The breakfast was fairly basic but had a good selection of hot and cold food and drinks. It didn’t have as much fresh fruit as I would like but otherwise it was a good breakfast.

The staff was friendly and helpful and the check-in and check-out experiences were both quick and painless.

It was a very pleasant stay and I’d recommend the Fredericton Amsterdam Inn and Suites to anyone looking for a place to stay in New Brunswick’s capital city.

The Comfort Inn Halifax – Review

Christmas season at the Comfort Inn
Christmas season at the Comfort Inn

I recently stayed at the Comfort Inn in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This hotel is located on Bedford Highway. The front deck of the hotel faces Bedford Basin and it is quite pretty at sunrise.

The Bedford Basin at sunrise
The Bedford Basin at sunrise

I booked a room online in advance, using their web site. This was not my first stay but it was my longest, three nights.

Check-In / Check-Out

The check-in and check-out experience was good. The staff is friendly and helpful and I didn’t experience any problems while I was at the hotel.

The Room

Queen bed at the Comfort Inn on Bedford Highway
Queen bed at the Comfort Inn on Bedford Highway

The room was comfortable enough, if a bit cramped. The room had a queen-sized bed, work desk, dresser, standalone fridge, couch and armoire. I think there is a little too much furniture in the room.

The specific issue for me is that the work desk is at the foot of the bed and there isn’t really enough room for the desk + chair + bed. I think it would be better to not have the couch at all and put the work desk there.

Dresser, TV, fridge and microwave
Dresser, TV, fridge and microwave

The bed was comfortable and I had no trouble sleeping.

The shower worked well and the water pressure and temperature were good.


The Comfort Inn had a decent if basic breakfast. There was hot food (eggs and sausages) along with the usual breads and cereal. Hot coffee and tea was provided along with milk and several juices. There wasn’t much for fruit but they did have yogurt.

The breakfast room has nice large windows with a view of Bedford Basin.


There is a large pool at the front of the hotel. It looked nice from the outside. I did notice that it has a lot of windows so people are a bit “on display”.

The hotel has a small gym with a couple of treadmills and some weights. The exercise room is locked with a separate key card that you have to ask for at the front desk. The card is good for your entire stay. I used the exercise room and found it well equipped for its size.

What’s Around

Being on the Bedford Highway, there isn’t anything immediately adjacent to the hotel. A few minutes walk north will bring you to a convenience store and to Let’s Ko, a delicious Korean restaurant.

Yummy food at Let's Ko!
Yummy food at Let’s Ko!


Steps Up

There are a lot of steps in the hotel. The photo above shows the ground floor hallway. Since the hotel is built on a hill, there are steps in the hallway to match the slope of the hill. If you have trouble climbing stairs, this may not be the best hotel for you.


The Comfort Inn on Bedford Highway is a good budget hotel for people who are working in the Bedford area or the west area of the Halifax Regional Municipality. It’s probably not a good choice for people who want to visit Dartmouth or downtown Halifax as it is quite a distance away from those.

It offers good value for the money and is a pleasant stay.

Review: My Webspot – Pocket WiFi

mywebspot - pocket Wifi
mywebspot – pocket Wifi

On our recent family trip to Europe, we considered a few options for having Internet access while on vacation. I know many people buy a European SIM card for their phones with a data plan, but there were four of us so the thought of buying 4 SIM cards was a little daunting. You can use free wifi at various spots as you visit, but we wanted continuous Wifi so we could use it for navigation. In the end, we settled on renting the mywebspot pocket wifi.

Ordering was easy via their web site, and we chose to have it delivered to our first hotel in Amsterdam. We also chose the prepaid envelope option, so we could just drop it in the mail when we left Europe.

What’s In the Package

There’s not much in the package… but it’s everything you need. You get:

  • The mywebspot device itself
  • A USB charger – ours had European plugs
  • A USB cable
  • A foldout instruction guide

The device itself looks very much like a mobile phone. It has four lights on one side, and the other side has a label with a QR code and the wifi name and password.

The only lights we ever saw lit were the battery light and the wifi light. The battery light comes on when charging it, and the wifi light blinks if it is establishing a connection or is solid if the wifi is available.

Using the mywebspot Device

To use it, simply hold the power button for a few seconds until all the lights turn on. After a few minutes of booting up, the wifi is ready and you connect to it with your phone, tablet or computer like any other wifi hotspot. Just carry it with you and you have wifi everywhere.

It claims to have a battery life of 8 hours in constant use. Our experience was that this was optimistic and it tended to last about 6 hours. We carried our own battery pack and connected the device to it to keep it charged up.

It was very reliable and provided Internet access almost anywhere. The only places that we noticed that Internet access dropped out were deep inside buildings or parking garages, places where you would have trouble with cell phone access.

The device gets hot in use… almost uncomfortably hot. I carried it in my pants pocket most of the time, and I was aware of its presence by the heat. When I thought about it, I put it in my camera bag instead so the heat didn’t bother me. Obviously, you should be careful that some pickpocket doesn’t take it.

There is a bandwidth limit on the device, which they call “fair usage”. The limit depends on what area you are in, but in Europe and USA it is 1 GB/day. If you exceed that, the device still works but is considerably slower. There is no way that I am aware of to see your usage.


The mywebspot pocket wifi device was very simple and easy to use, and did exactly what it promised – portable Internet access.

I will definitely use this service again.

Get your pocket wifi here

This post has affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission at no additional cost to you should you use the link to order a device. I have not been otherwise compensated to write this post, and it is based on my personal experience using a device that I paid full price for.

I Was Almost Pickpocketed in Paris

I’ve been in Paris twice, and on the last visit, I almost had my pocket picked on the metro. Here’s what happened, what I could have done differently, and how you can protect yourself from pickpockets.

We were in Paris for a week during our family tour through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. I think it was our second or third day in Paris and we were traveling via the Metro (subway), as we often did.

The Event

We were boarding a subway car. My wife and kids had boarded first, and I got on last. There were three large men clustered around the pole, mostly blocking the way into the car.

As I got on, two of them formed a wall and prevented me from going past them to join my family. I was very confused about why they weren’t letting me pass. I tried to push between them but they weren’t letting me pass.

After about ten seconds of that, I stepped sideways and forced my way past them.

What I didn’t even notice at the time was that the third man was trying to yank my wallet out of a pocket of my cargo shorts.

The target of the pickpockets
The target of the pickpockets

My son later told me they almost clotheslined him while trying to get to the pocket.

Fortunately, it’s not easy to get the wallet out of there. I often take a few seconds to get it out of there.

They could have grabbed my phone a lot easier – it was in the pocket above that – but they probably saw me put my wallet in there after putting my subway ticket in it, so they had a target.

I stood with my family, glaring at the three of them. They got off at the next stop and disappeared.

I was furious.


I made a point of keeping both buttons closed on that pocket to better secure my wallet. This made it really hard to get my wallet out; I had to unbutton it first and then take the wallet out, which was inconvenient but also made it considerably harder for my pocket to be picked.

I also started wearing my money belt. I kept about half my cash and one credit card in the money belt, tucked under my clothes, just in case.

I didn’t see any point in reporting the issue to the police. I couldn’t describe the men very well. They disappeared. And I didn’t lose anything. There was no benefit, in my opinion.

How to Protect Yourself From Pickpockets

Here are a few tips to protect yourself from being pickpocketed, along with some links for more tips.

  1. Don’t keep anything valuable in your back pockets. It’s too easy to slip a wallet out of a back pocket while you’re jammed in a crowd.
  2. Keep everything zipped up / buttoned up so a pickpocket can’t just slip their hand in and grab your valuables. Make them work for it.
  3. Keep the majority of your money in a money belt, and keep your belt out of sight under your clothes.
  4. Don’t carry all of your money and credit cards on you. Keep most of it in a safe in your hotel, so if you do get your money stolen, you haven’t lost everything.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings. When you’re looking at your phone, studying a map, or otherwise concentrating on something, keep your back against a wall, in a corner, out of crowds. Pickpockets want you to be distracted – like I was – so they can snatch your valuables while you aren’t looking.
  6. Keep an eye on your bags. I had a camera bag and I often wore it on my front instead of my back, so I could watch it and keep my arms nearby to limit access to it.

Here’s a few links with more details:

The ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel – Review

The ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel is located next to the Centraal train station in Amsterdam. As such, its location is ideal for exploring the area around the train station, and you can make connections from the station to pretty much anywhere in the Amsterdam area or beyond.

We enjoyed the hotel, except for one thing – the heat.

First Impressions

ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel
ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel

The hotel appears modern and sleek from the outside. When you walk in, the first thing you notice is that there is no front desk. You walk into a lounge type area, with the integrated bar area “Chill #49” down to the left and a snack area to the right.

It took us a few moments to realize that the staff wear ibis shirts and were present in the lounge. They used their portable tablets to sign us into our rooms, and a nearby desktop to prepare room keys.

The Room

A rumpled bed
A rumpled bed

The room featured the Sweet Bed by ibis (a double) as well as bunk beds for our kids. The bed was pretty comfortable and it was certainly large enough for two.

Our kids appreciated the bunk beds; they’re both teenagers and really prefer separate beds.

Bunk beds at the Amsterdam ibis Centre
Bunk beds at the Amsterdam ibis Centre

The family rooms are on the first floor – not the ground floor, as European buildings’ ground floors are floor zero – and are at the same level as the train station platform right next to the hotel. This was the view from our window:

Fortunately, I like trains. You can hear the trains arriving and departing from the adjacent track but none of us found the noise to be disturbing.

The Heat


The main problem we had with the room was the heat. There was no working air conditioning in this area of the hotel, and the windows don’t open in the family rooms. I understand the windows do open in other types of rooms.

There is a ceiling mounted unit but it’s not an air conditioner – I think it’s for heating. The thermostat on the wall makes it look like it can cool the room but it doesn’t.

We complained to the hotel staff and they gave us a portable air cooler device. It works by circulating air over ice packs. I’m not sure it really helped at all. It did blow cooler air – until the ice packs warmed up – but it also humidified the room. The staff were always willing to change ice packs and were generally sympathetic but there wasn’t anything else they could do for us, as the hotel was full.

This was a major issue for us.


The ibis brand is positioned as an economy hotel by parent AccorHotels. Most hotels in Amsterdam are very expensive compared to many other European cities, and this one is no exception. We had a comparable ibis hotel in Paris for half the daily cost of this hotel!

We found the price for the ibis Amsterdam Centre hotel to be competitive with other hotels in the area in its class.

The Verdict

If it wasn’t for the hot room, we would have no problem recommending this hotel. However, the heat was a major issue. I originally wrote that we wouldn’t book there again in a family room… but see below!

Make sure you book a room that has a window that opens.


A few days after our stay, I received an invitation from ibis to fill out a guest satisfaction survey. I did that, relating our appreciation of the hotel except for the problems with the heat.

I received a response from the hotel manager, who let me know that the air conditioning was indeed not working during our visit but was fixed after we left. He offered to rebate one night’s costs to compensate for our discomfort, which was very much appreciated.

I thought that was a very classy letter and offer and I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls - Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba
Rainbow Falls – Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba

Rainbow Falls is a lovely swimming / recreation area in the Whiteshell Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba, Canada.

The site is located at the end of the White Lake subdivision road, off highway 307 in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. The falls themselves discharge into White Lake, one of the many lakes in the Whiteshell.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

The falls themselves are pretty short, as waterfalls go. It’s quite possible to walk across the top of the falls – be careful – and the water just below the falls is shallow enough for adults to stand up. There are a lot of rocks in the water and they are slippery, so exercise caution if you choose to go into the water.


The area is very pretty and it features a little wildlife! On both of our visits, we saw turtles, and on our last visit we saw a number of small frogs.

Cute frog
Cute frog

It’s a popular area for fishing, and there is a wheelchair accessible dock off the parking lot.

Parking Lot
Parking Lot

To reach the falls, take the White Lake Resort exit off highway 307. You can either park at the marked location for the path to walk to the falls, or drive down the subdivision road past the convenience store all the way to the end and park in the lot adjacent to the falls.

Path to the falls
Path to the falls

The path is a nice walk, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the falls.



Hi! My name is Steve Boyko and I am a Canadian who likes to travel.  I’m a geek at a lot of things (especially trains and computers) so I created this site to geek out about travel, from a Canadian perspective.

Join me as I travel for work and for pleasure across this great country, and visit other countries too!