Off To Canada (Again)

Holidays in Canada


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Packed and ready to go…almost

Dropped the kids off at the babysitter’s last night…..ok we took the cats to the cattery but you get the point. The house felt really weird later with no cats in and I didn’t like it. Not normal. How do people with no cats live like that? Crazy people.

Finally got round to packing around 7:30pm (Amanda did hers earlier in the day) and I swear I get later every time. Next time I’ll be packing the morning we depart. A few more things to sort and then, in a couple of hours, we can hit the road to the airport.

  • My camera bag weighs almost as much as my actual luggage
  • I have more USB/charging cables than socks
  • The weather is getting even colder at our destinations so had to rethink on-the-fly my choices of footwear/jumpers. The plus point is there is snow on the mountains so hopefully some pretty pictures 🙂

Next post will probably be in Canada

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Beer in Jasper

I received an email about our forthcoming visit to Jasper from the hotel. It read….

Thank you for making a reservation for our River Valley Package at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This Jasper Beer & Barley Summit is a 3 day retreat bringing together legends of the brewing & distilling industry, today’s breweries & distillers, home brewers and passionate beer enthusiasts

This all sounds rather super except I didn’t book the River Valley Package, although I do quite like beer and stuff that’s been distilled. I was in two minds whether to contact them to correct the obvious error. I mean if I leave it, do I get free beer and whisky and stuff? Will I have to grow my beard a bit and wear a scruffy jumper and sandals, or is that just British CAMRA people? To be perfectly clear, I usually do wear these items even when not drinking beer. In the end, I emailed them and reminded them that we’re booked on a ‘Midweek Vacation Package‘ instead but might slip my sandals in just in case.

The weather is looking interesting for our visit too. Might have to add some thermals to the suitcase

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-15C after dark might stop me from trying to take some night time shots.

Unpacked and repacked my camera gear again. Just sayin’.


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4 days to go

It’s a bit of a long-standing joke that I like to get to the airport early when we go on holiday. I don’t relax until I’ve checked bags, got the requisite orange tag on the wheelchair and got through security. A good friend has already asked if I’m at the airport already….twice, and one of those was several weeks ago. I’m not that bad. For me, the holiday starts at the airport and I don’t mean a pint of Guinness at 7am (I think you should wait until at least 8am).

In the last few days, I’ve

  • checked the time of the valet parking drop-off
  • checked the time of the flight
  • checked the weather forecast for our destination
  • checked the hotel reservations
  • contacted the concierge of each hotel informing them that although Amanda will be rolling up to the hotel in a wheelchair, it isn’t a complete miracle when she stands up and informs them that we do not need a specially adapted room.
  • checked the weather forecast for each destination
  • checked the time of the flight
  • looked a room upgrade at Lake Louise, choked when I saw how much it is, then thought screw it, and booked it.
  • checked out webcams showing the weather of our destination
  • checked the dates of the hotel reservations to make sure we don;t have one day where we have no hotel
  • checked the time of the flights in case they changed
  • checked the weather forecast of Calgary when we land
  • checked the car rental to make sure I didn’t add any extras we don;t need or forget stuff that we do need.
  • checked we still know where the Parks Pass is
  • checked the time of the flight…you never know
  • packed, unpacked and repacked my camera gear twice (so far)

We’re almost ready. FYI it’s expected to be anywhere from 19C to 4C in Calgary when we land so we’re packing shorts and thermals.


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Guess where we’re going later this year?

As we moved house earlier this year and that ended up taking a bunch of my holiday allowance, we didn’t expect to be taking any trips this year. However as it’s been far too long since we visited Canada (March 2016) we decided that a small trip could be squeezed in. It’s also been far too long since we visited the Rockies (Jasper in 2010 and 1988 before that) so we might as well kill two birds with one stone and make it a trip to the Rockies. There is also the matter of ticking off a couple more Fairmont hotels while we’re at it. Let’s not forget that Canada has it’s big Birthday this year and this means that our National Park ticket was free too. It was meant to be.

In October we will be ….

  • Flying to Calgary
  • Collecting a car
  • Driving to Lake Louise and staying at Chateau Lake Louise for 3 nights
  • Driving to Jasper and staying at the Jasper Park Lodge for 3 nights
  • Driving back down to Banff and staying at the Banff Springs Hotel for 3 nights
  • Flying back from Calgary

We could have just had a weekend away in the UK, or gone mad and gone to mainland Europe but this is us. It’s quite a long way to go for 9 nights but we’ve travelled further for less time. We could have stayed in cheaper hotels, but there are no pockets in a shroud.

What we are doing…..

  • Driving one of the great road trips in the world
  • Seeing incredible scenery
  • Staying in lovely locations and in lovely hotels
  • Eating and drinking amazing food and drink
  • Writing a blog and taking photographs

What we won’t be doing….

  • Working
  • Thinking about work
  • Driving to work

It’s going to be epic.


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A night out in London

We can’t seem to stay away from Canada can we? Looking at the NBA game being played at the O2 made us wonder how much it would be to fly to Toronto to watch the Raptors play. That’s when we hit ‘mission creep’. One basketball game turns into ‘wonder if we could get hockey tickets too?’……. Some internet play ends up with flights being booked, hotel being booked, tickets bought for Toronto Raptors AND Toronto Maple Leafs on consecutive nights and suddenly going to watch a single basketball game has turned into a week in Toronto next March.

It was never going to just stop there really. The hotel seemed a tad expensive so I decided that we should look at AirBnB and we found a lovely new waterfront apartment a couple of blocks from the Air Canada Centre for less that half the price of the hotel we’d booked. Hotel booking gets cancelled and apartment is ours for the week.

The week that we’re in Toronto is a good week for hockey and basketball so we decided that we should make hay while the sun shines and bought tickets for two more games. So what started as one game in London (England) has ended up with a week in Toronto and tickets for two hockey games and two basketball games. Now THAT’S how you organise a night out in London.

Brentwood Bay


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Yep, we’re off to Canada again…..not just yet though

Insomnia doesn’t strike me very often (thankfully) but at least when it does I do something useful….sort of….like write a blog post about something that’s almost 2 years away.

2017 is a big year for one member of this family…. and it’s not me or Elmo. Amanda will hit the big 50 and to celebrate I said we could go anywhere in the world for a big holiday. It’s no surprise that we’re going back to our favourite place and we’re hopeful that we can go for 3 weeks rather than 2. Things are bit up in the air at the moment as ideally we’d love our best friends to come with us. We’ve yet to discuss the practicalities of such a trip, such as the amount of time, the amount of money, whether they could stand being with us for 3 whole weeks anyway, but we’ll sort something out. It’d just be nice to share the places we love with the people we love.

So, in the interest of this not being just me writing, I wish, I wish, here is what I propose…..

  • We fly to Vancouver and collect the hire cars
  • Catch the ferry to Vancouver Island and stay in Brentwood Bay for 2 nights
  • Drive over to the West Coast and stay in the Tofino area for a few nights
  • Drive to Port Hardy in the North
  • Catch the ferry to Bella Coola
  • Go Grizzly watching
  • Drive to Williams Lake…..

I know, I know….this sounds a lot like our last trip doesn’t it? Well clever clogs, it’s so not…read on…..

  • Drive to Jasper and stay for a couple of nights
  • Drive to Lake Louise and stay for a couple of nights
  • Drive to Kamloops and stay for a night
  • Drive to Whistler and stay for a few nights
  • Finally onto to Vancouver for a few nights before flying home

How does that sound? Pretty nifty eh? Now this will probably change (a lot or slightly, who knows?) before the main event. After all it’s quite some distance away yet but things have to be planned so we can save up the money to go.

If (and we hope this is the case) they are coming with us and can only do 2 weeks then we can do a cut down version, but otherwise this is my ideal trip. I’ll do all the arranging and booking, all they have to do is agree and pay me some money along the way as things like flights, ferries and the like get paid in advance.

We’ve had some amazing holidays and this one could be the best of the lot.


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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.