Off To Canada (Again)

Holidays in Canada


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Bears….finally but not in the wild.

Yesterday we visited Grouse Mountain for the first time, Amanda was not impressed by the SkyRide cable car or the chair lift. The cable car was so full you could hardly move and each time it went over the pylons the whole car swung back and fourth, not good when you don’t like the things in the first place. We reached the top in one piece, just, then we saw a sign for a bear trail. They have two rescued Grizzly’s in a woodland area and we managed to see both of them, Coola rescued from Bella Coola as a cub weighing just 5 Kg’s and Grinder from B.C also weighing just 5 Kg’s. They were hiding in the  trees cwtched up trying to sleep. We were very happy to finally see bears but also a little sad that they weren’t wild, it’s a dilemma with wild animals but at least they are safe.

Whilst up the mountain we also decided to take in the lumber jack tourist show, we don’t usually do that sort of thing but Amanda needed to rest and this gave us the opportunity to do that. I have to say I would recommend it, the show was a bit cheesy in parts but those guys were amazing at climbing the 60ft tree trunk. Then it was time to take the chair lift up to the highest part of the mountain, a task Amanda couldn’t  hide her enthusiasm for. They kindly stopped the chair for us to get on and then the journey began. I wasn’t allowed to move a muscle but did manage to sneak a few pictures in, I’ll post them when we get home as I’ve packed all the camera kit away. To say Amanda didn’t enjoy it would be an under statement but she did it there and back which I am impressed at, she even managed to look out on the way down.

The views from the top were spectacular you can see all over Vancouver, there was one blight on the afternoon though bloody little midges, they were everywhere and we both got bit.

We did make a little miscalculation on our timing coming back from Grouse Mountain and we experienced proper rush hour traffic coming back into the city. It seemed to take ages to cross the Lions Gate Bridge, something I guess Vancouver dwellers have to do all the time

Rather than eat in the hotel again we went across the road on the waters edge to the Cactus Club Cafe. People were queuing outside when we arrived so we knew it was going to be decent food. We had about a 30 min wait before we were seated and had a local beer (for me) and watermelon margarita (for Amanda) while we chose our food. We had szechuan chicken lettuce wraps to start and we were both glad we chose to share as it was pretty big but delicious. Chicken in a sweet and spicy szechuan glaze, peanuts, wontons, korean chili sauce and spicy yogurt all wrapped in crispy iceberg lettuce leaves. For main course I had szechuan salmon, which was steelhead salmon, miso mustard, broccoli, edamame, red peppers, snap peas, daikon and pea shoot salad with sticky rice. Amanda went for thai red curry pacific lingcod – seared pacific lingcod in a thai red curry sauce, coconut almond rice, crispy wontons and micro coriander. All delicious and worth the wait and a perfect way to finish off our stay.

Now we’re heading home. Sad but happy that we had a great time and can’t wait to come back again.

 


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Au revoir Whistler, Bonjour Vancouver

The main route between Vancouver and Whistler is called the Sea to Sky Highway and it’s easy to see why. After a short drive you can see the water while at the same time huge mountains surround you. We made several stops and as Amanda was driving I was quite demanding. “Stop”… “Quick, pullover” and she was quite obliging which I’ll probably pay for at some point.

It seemed really strange to suddenly be in amongst heavy traffic as we came into Vancouver. We’d gotten so used to driving on almost empty roads over the past week, sometimes not seeing another vehicle for almost two hours, the difference  was incredible. We had a delay crossing the Lions Gate Bridge but that just gave us chance to enjoy the view of the city and the crossing into Stanley Park. It was a bit difficult for the tourists navigating through the city traffic but we got there and first impressions of the Fairmont Pacific Rim was very good. Very new, modern and ‘trendy’ without seeming unfriendly. The electronic keys are just touched to the readers to open the doors and inside everything can be controlled by the iPad in the room. Curtains, temperature, lights all touch controlled, not to mention being able to place reservations for dinner, call your car from the valet parking, order a newspaper, just about everything. Tech lovers dream. Oh oh oh…and the tv has a great sound bar giving excellent surround sound to go with the 42″ screen, oh and the bathroom has a magic mirror that has a tv built into it. OMG I could seriously live in this room. Nespresso machine, a desk with multiple chargers built in so charge my MacBook, iPhone, iPad etc, even the lights have mood settings so you can set it for ‘welcome’ when you come back in the evening, or ‘relax’. Brilliant.

Once we’d checked in and Amanda prised me away from all the electronic toys in the room, we went for a stroll along the harbour. I know some people already know this about me, and I’m sorry that the majority of people feel differently but I really hate the hot weather. HATE IT. I want to stay indoors with air conditioning and shade. I don’t want to sweat it out with all the other sweaty people pretending to enjoy it while saying ‘wow it’s hot today’ and taking all the shady spots which SHOULD BE MINE. If you love the summer, sod off and sit in the sun and leave the shady places for pale skinned, ex gingers who detest the scorching cancer causing radiation. There, rant over. I took some nice photos though and the city looks stunning from this viewpoint.

The digital Orca Pano of the harbour front Coal HarbourWe also saw a really cute mother and baby harbour seal swimming. The pup seemed to be just enjoying itself and the mum just keeping a close eye on her baby.

Mum & baby seal

 

I also lost my glasses….. I thought I gave them to Amanda but when we got back to the hotel they weren’t in her bag and all I had were my sunglasses. Thankfully I had a spare pair which I put on and raced back to where we’d been walking, just hoping….

Thankfully, someone had found them, opened the case (hoping to find expensive sunglasses I assume) and realising that they were prescription glasses for some blind man put them on the wall where I retrieved them, happily.

Tonight we’re eating in the hotel (reservation booked on the iPad, yay).

 


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I should say we bought two enormous apples (the size of a baby’s head); two hats – one for me and one for Amanda (to replace her dreadful cowboy hat – she loves it though); a new waterproof jacket for me (I decided to leave mine home and bring my Arsenal rain jacket – not my best idea) although now I have a new one the weather’s gorgeous; and beers for the stay on Williams Lake that are still in the car (hope they haven’t exploded in the heat).


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Last day in Whistler

Today has been a truly lazy, relaxing holiday day. We woke late, had a late breakfast, went for a short stroll, Amanda went for a swim while I watched Arsenal (win 3-0 against Fenerbahce). I had a quick shower then we went out with the wheelchair for a walk/push to the Lost Lake nearby. No idea why it’s the Lost Lake it was packed with people so it’s definitely found now. Actually it’s a gorgeous lake with a beach area and floating platforms and paved trails leading there. My only gripe is that it was too hot for a pale skinned ex-redhead but that really is searching for problems isn’t it?

Now we’re sat in the bar and we’ve had delicious Grapefruit Ale by the Whistler Brewing Company, a huge mountain of nachos with chilli beef, olives, 3 cheeses, jalapeños,  tomato salsa, sour cream and guacamole; breath and currently I’m sipping a JD and coke. Amanda’s now on sparkling water as she’s driving tomorrow, yay lucky me!

Oh, we saw a hummingbird, our first, flitting between the bushes and flower gardens.

We also were approached by someone from Club Intrawest hoping that we’d sign our lives away to get a time share (sort of) in Whistler. I checked into them afterwards and they don’t have a great reputation. You pay a huge amount of money for ‘points’ which you use to pay for your holiday in one of 8 destinations and from what I’ve seen so far it’s not always the best value for money. I’m sure they have a some happy customers but it’s not for us.

Tomorrow we leave for Vancouver for our last stop. We’re already a little sad about leaving but looking forward to seeing Vancouver again. We’ve absolutely loved the Four Seasons in Whistler and will definitely be coming back. We’d absolutely love to stay for longer next time. The rooms, the staff, the food and the location … all excellent.. highly highly recommended.

Pictures to follow as we haven’t moved from the bar to download them.


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Peak-2-Peak…..it’s high (understatement alert)

So we had a our first whole day in Whistler and the one thing I wanted to do while we were here was go on the Peak-2-Peak cable car. We weren’t sure how accessible it was so after asking the concierge we decided to use the hotel car which would take us to the lower village, get the tickets and use the gondola to get up to the top of Whistler Mountain and then get the Peak-2-Peak over to Blackcomb Mountain and then get the chairlifts down the other side. When we saw the massive queues we asked at the information kiosk if there was somewhere Amanda could sit and he told us that if we could pick up the tickets then we could bypass the queue and zip to the front (aka the ‘spazz pass’). I queued for the tickets and Amanda waited inside in the shade (lucky her, it was scorchio). Once I had those (CAD$102 for 2 day passes) we walked past all those hateful stares and went to the front of the queue. We were in a small gondola with another couple and the reason I’m giving this information is simply that Amanda hates heights and was doing this under sufferance. She had the look of someone being taken to the gallows and sat there while everyone else looked around and enjoyed the views. I heard in whispered venomous tones that ‘You’re making it move every time you stand up’ so obviously being the caring person I am I moved around a bit more. Once at the top the views were amazing and we had to put on fleece tops as there was a 10C difference between the bottom of the mountain and where we were now.

View from the top of Whistler MountainAfter we took a look around it was time to jump on the Peak-2-Peak which is an incredible feat of engineering, all pretty much lost on Amanda as she contemplated certain death by travelling on it. I loved it and once on the other side the views again were amazing.

Canada 2013-0036 Canada 2013-0033 Canada 2013-0024 Peak-2-Peak

From the other side

 

Of course, once you’re over the other side you have to go down the mountain. However once Amanda saw the chairlift we had a dilemma. I could see there was no way she was going to get on that and she seemed none too impressed at the prospect of getting back on the Peak-2-Peak either. I reminded her that she had to choose one or the other and after quite a bit of thought ‘we’ decided to go back on the Peak-2-Peak and down the same way we came.  I would have loved to do the chairlifts but I was quite glad to go back over that huge expanse of nothingness again.

Two points to mention….

 

  1. Amanda would only get into gondolas with children so she had to be brave.
  2. A kind gentleman pointed out once we were in the middle that we were currently 1427ft off the ground. I think I heard a small whimper.

Once we eventually got back on solid ground we had a walk around Whistler Village, had a drink and then called the car to take us back to the hotel and we went straight to the bar. Honey lager was the order of then day and before it was too later I booked a table at the steak restaurant in the hotel.

We had just enough time to scoot upstairs get changed, teeth brushed, water splashed on faces and were downstairs again going into the restaurant. The food was extremely good, as was the wine (Made by the Kettle Winery and NOT served in kettles as has been suggested a few times) and we went to bed tired, full and slightly drunk.

 


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A very long drive

So we (Amanda) decided that we should drive straight to Whistler after my disastrous decision to stop at Nimpo Lake instead of driving straight to Williams Lake. Well it wasn’t exactly disastrous it was just a bit too quiet at Nimpo to spend  a sunday afternoon when everything except the shop was shut, even the phone box was shut to cash transactions. I won’t lie it wasn’t the easiest of days but man what a drive it was.

Amanda drove the first 5 and a bit hours, the countryside was spectacular we saw loads of cattle alongside the road which we found a bit strange until we happened upon a real cowboy with chaps and all at which Amanda was a little too excited. We also saw two coyotes, black-tail deer, eagles, wild horses,  loons and really cute dogs. Amanda didn’t slow down soon enough to scoop the one puppy into the car, I even had a name ready for him (Patch). We started listening to country music, it was that country, well Nashville series soundtrack anyway. The terrain then changed pretty quick and Amanda found herself driving on really steep mountain roads with runaway lanes dotted every 500 meters. This was to allow lorries with failed brakes to exit the road hopefully safely.

Nearly at the bottom

 

We hardly passed any other vehicles on this section of the drive, so when we hit Williams Lake it felt like driving in London  when in reality it was more like driving in a small town. That’s where the weather decided to change and provide us with natures car wash to clean our very dirty Jeep.

Car before the rain gave it a washThe rain was really heavy and the sky turned really black; we even had lightning it was pretty spectacular to watch, as a passenger, but I did feel a bit for Amanda (only a little bit though). Once the rain slowed to a spit we pulled over to have a car picnic, well we are british you know. I then took over the driving and I have to say I did a much better job as I’m so awesome at driving (tongue  planted firmly in cheek). Joking aside it was just as well we shared the driving that way around as the roads began to get very hairy, steep and mountainous. It actually felt in some points as high as The Hill but it did provide some truly awesome sights. We really felt quite insignificant, mother nature is a clever woman. Pictures to follow.

The final section before we arrived at Whistler was some of the most awe-inspiring scenery we have seen since arriving in Canada (this time) and we are so glad we (I) decided to drive this route.

We finally arrived at Whistler at 19:30 after leaving at 08:10, a long days drive by any normal person”s standards. I must confess that the Four Seasons was a very welcome bit of luxury after ‘slumming’ it since Ucluelet.  Amanda has decided she’s definitely not cut out for anything less than five-star accommodation, I agree. Amanda spent what seemed like an hour in the shower getting ready for dinner, I think she was scraping 5 days of slumming it out of her hair.