Off To Canada (Again)

Holidays in Canada


Leave a comment

Lost Lake Found

We had breakfast delivered today so I could watch another dismal display by the (not so) Mighty (these days) Arsenal on my laptop. 8 hour time difference gives you morning football which is great if you’re on holiday but not so much if you’re working. Our server from yesterday (Matthew) was telling us earlier of the travails of being a Boro fan in Canada and how much he has to pay each month just to be disappointed on a regular basis. Why do we do it to ourselves?

Anyhoo, once that was out of the way we got ready and decided to go for a nice walk. Close to the hotel is a trail called the Lost Lake Loop which …gasps… goes around a lake called Lost Lake. No idea why. It’s really easy to find. There are bloody signposts everywhere. Walked around it (approx 7000 steps if you’re interested), took some nice photos and got some lovely fresh mountain air.

The plan was that we were going to do another walk but then we decided to get lunch which ended up meaning two beers and a huge Montreal smoked brisket sandwich for me. You’d have to roll me round the trail instead of walking it. I edited some photos, we played Zombie Fluxx, chatted to Matthew and then went to the room. Amanda repacked a bag and I watched some pre game show before the basketball started (Raptors v Kings).

Tomorrow we’re driving to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to catch the ferry to the Island where we’ll stay for the next 4 nights. The weather is still being really nice to us. We expected rain and so far nothing. Not complaining, just saying. If it comes down stair rods while we’re in Brentwood Bay I may drink more and maybe make some more stuff up…. I mean impart useful knowledge to you.

Useful Fact #2*

Bald eagles, the symbol of the USA are held hostage each year and can be found in huge numbers in Brackendale BC over the winter. The US must pay vast amounts of money to get the eagles back. Ha. Go Canada, Did you know they used to be called bored eagles because basically they just hang around on the top of trees. Someone obviously though this didn’t sound regal enough so they pretended that they looked bald instead because that’s better. Let me tell IT’S NOT. You have to wear a toque when it’s cold when you’re bald because you’re head gets freezing, Anyway…where was I?

*May or not be partly true

Butterfinger. Best thing EVER

These are trees

Canadian fish are busy bees….. or fish

Lost Lake. Not well hidden is it?

Lots of trails. Watch out for bears though k?


Leave a comment

Squamish….or not

Today was the day that Canadians were advised to vacate the roads as I was about to drive. The plan was to go to Squamish, take some photos, grab some lunch and visit a brew pub. Obviously I wasn’t intending to drive back to Whistler. The first bit worked well. I am pleased to say that no vehicles, pedestrians or animals were harmed by my driving. We went to Newport Beach (apt I thought) in Squamish and watched a small tug moving some massive logs in the water and took some photos. Then we TRIED to visit a cider bar….couldn’t find it…. wasn’t easily accessible….I don’t know it just didn’t work out ok? Let’s go to the brew pub instead. Roadworks/bad directions/had enough….we decided to give up and go somewhere else.

Amanda had mentioned previously that she thought she might have the start of a UTI (yay). Today it was worse and she was feeling bad. We spotted a strip mall with a London Drug and decided to pop in. I bought M&Ms and Amanda spoke to the pharmacist, I got Nutella filled M&Ms and Peanut butter M&Ms and Amanda got nothing except advice to visit a walk in surgery not far away,

We managed to get an appointment straight away which was pretty good considering I witnessed people coming in after us being sent away with appointment hours later. The doctor came out to chat to me while Amanda was trying to provide a urine sample. We agreed she probably shouldn’t have used the facilities in London Drug minutes before but there you go. The doctor was a character. Newly retired but hanging on for a while until he moves to Calgary to take up full time grandfather duties. He asked where we were from and I said Wales. He said he loved the Welsh accent and I politely reminded him that I didn’t have an accent but he did. We passed the time while he tried to remember all of the British accents that he’d heard over the years, complained about Whistler thinking it was the centre of the universe and Squamish not being the same place that he moved to 40 years ago. Eventually Amanda provided and the doctor agreed it was a UTI and gave us two prescriptions, the first to try now and the second to get filled if the first didn’t work. Ka-ching C$125 please. Actually I’m not complaining. We can claim it back if we want to and we were dealt with quickly and with no drama. Then we go back to London Drug to fill the prescription. C$17 for a week of antibiotics and blow me if they didn’t have Butterfingers which happens to be one of our favourites. Two of those happen to find their way into our sweaty paws and we decide that by now it was too late to go anywhere else and we’d go back to the hotel, have a late lunch/early dinner and watch the hockey on tv.

Late lunch/early dinner consisted of cocktails and a MASSIVE plate of nachos with chilli on top and a side of guacamole. Oh and a couple of delicious cocktails. Then a couple more cocktails. Our server came from Middlesbrough and we chatted for a while and I explained why we were there, wedding anniversary and all that. He blew smoke up my ass about not looking old enough (obviously true) and then he went to serve someone else. He appeared a little later with a little personailsed dessert for us. Classy touch Four Seasons.

Now Amanda is asleep and I’m watch the hockey and writing this. That Butterfinger may not last the evening.

She doesn’t look impressed but she was

Cocktail delivered in a smoke filled chrome case

Oh you wanted a photo BEFORE we ate the nachos

Cute anniversary dessert

Our barman’s signature cocktail. That man knows his shit I tell you


Leave a comment

Arrival

Wow that was a long long day. Our flight was unfortunately delayed  so we had to stay in the lounge longer than originally planned (yeah I know, boo hoo all that free food and drink). It was about an hour and twenty mins before the gate finally appeared so we trundled as fast as we could and then had to wait until someone could escort us the 30 yds to the aircraft door. This is always the stressful bit where Amanda goes to the seat and leaves me to sort out the wheelchair. I folded it up and put it in the bag and put in the hands of the airport staff (gulp) and hoped that we’d see at the other end.

The flight was pretty good and we made up some time so we ended up landing only about 30 mins after we were meant to. As this is a special occasion we bought Club World tickets. This entitles you to Fast Track security clearance, priority boarding and priority tags on the wheelchair so in theory it should be there post haste when we disembark, Actually in this case it meant….oops the Fast Track security was shut so queue up with everyone else. Ooops the flight was delayed so everyone went together to the gate and boarded at the same time. This is great when you’re trying to fold up a wheelchair and package it up with a line of people behind you. You can feel their stares in the back of  your head as you hold them up. Then of course we have to be last off the plane as we have to wait for them to return the wheelchair to the air craft door. Thirty minutes. That’s how long we had to wait before it appeared. So we make our way through an empty airport to get to immigration. Here, someone spotted us and we actually jump a massive queue and get to the front, making up the time we spent waiting for the wheelchair. We get called to the immigration officer and she sends us back because we hadn’t used the fancy electronic terminal to scan our passports first. Back we go. The terminal is too tall to take Amanda’s photo and and for some reason I had to squat down for it to take mine, not brilliantly designed, unless I missed something blindingly obvious (not beyond the realms of possibility to be fair). We returned to the front of the line and get called again by the same officer. I swear if looks could kill we’d be dead but you know what? Screw ’em. If they want to swap, I’m sure Amanda would do it in a heartbeat. Suck it up buttercup and be grateful you’re able to stand in a line for a while.

Finally, we’re officially in Canada 🇨🇦  yay. Let’s go get our car. We find Budget quite easily and we complicate matters by asking about winter tyres. So, we’re driving to Whistler, we tell the young man, and I saw that we’re required to have winter tyres from 1st October onwards to drive that road. “Oh you want winter tyres?” he says. The he proceeds to tell us that locals drive on regular tyres and if they get stopped by police and turned around, they go and get a coffee somewhere wait about 30 mins or and hour then try again, hopefully the police will have moved on. Ummmmm. No. We’d like winter tyres. He locates an SUV with winter trees yay. C$20 per day extra…boooo. Then the entire system goes down because of some updates done back east so he has to WRITE IT OUT. ON A FORM. LIKE WRITE, USING A PEN. I was worried he might ask me to write it for him but we got there in the end.

The drive to the motel was interesting. The sat nav wasn’t updating fast enough so we missed at least two turnings and ended up going behind the motel through a really sketchy area with abandoned cars and boarded up buildings but we survived. The room was clean and really comfortable. We finally got to bed at 10:45pm. At this point we’d been up about 22 hours I think. Body clocks being the pain in the arse that they are we both woke up after sleeping for about 2 hours or so. I managed to get back to sleep for a few more hours but Amanda didn’t. Breakfast was a nice surprise as I didn’t realise it was included.  We ate and we left.

When in another country it’s always wise to stick to speed limits. We noticed this is a good rule of thumb today as we had a long line of traffic behind us most of the way but then passed at least one of them after they passed us at speed but now getting a ticket from the police. The cops over here hide in bushes with their speed guns or just behind road signs, the sneaky things. People in the U.K. moan about speed cameras when they’re signposted. They’d riot if they had to put up with this.

This is a really long way to say we didn’t do much today other than drive to Whistler, check in, drink a beer, eat some food, go for a short walk and now crashing in front of the tv considering ordering room service later before we hopefully catch up on some zzzz’s.

Tomorrow we plan on exploring a little so I’ll update then.

Special fun fact*

Canadian beavers shed their tails each winter and grow a new one in the spring. These tails are collected, dried and finally deep fried, topped with delicious things like cinnamon, Nutella or just sugar and sold as a sweet treat. You’ll see Beaver Tails for sale all over Canada.

*May or not be true


Leave a comment

Almost there

According to my countdown it’s 12 days to go. It seems like a long long time ago that we booked the flights, decided on the route and the hotels. Actually it was a long long time ago so that sort of fits.

I found out by accident that the hotel we booked in for the first night was having a refurb and the dining facilities would be out of operation so we decided to change that and go for somewhere slightly cheaper and get breakfast on the fly before heading to Whistler. Somehow…ok it was me… we’re now booked in a motel, slightly closer to the airport and also about £3 more expensive for the night. I guess £3 isn’t much and in my defence C$186 sounds a lot more that £111…. spoiler…it isn’t.

Apparently there is snow on the mountains in Whistler so hopefully we get some pretty photos but frankly my entire photo reel in Whistler may be images of us in a bar, or eating, or eating in a bar. Maybe a restaurant thrown in for good measure. Perhaps I should pack trousers with an elasticated waist? Can you get charged excess baggage if your arse has grown while there?

I got tickets for two hockey games while we’re in Vancouver. Thankfully we’re staying close enough to walk to the Rogers Arena so we don’t have to suffer the wait for a taxi back to the hotel like the last time we did this. This will be the second and third time we’ve gone to see the Canucks play, one more than the Leafs, Sens and Habs. Does that make them ‘our team’? Not sure. I still love the Leafs, sorry. Must try and get to Edmonton one day to watch the Oilers play and then Calgary to watch the Flames. Maybe next time.

 


Leave a comment

Hotels

Back in 1988 our hosts took us on a brilliant road trip through the Rockies in their Westfalia van. We stopped in Kamloops on the way to visit their friends and then stayed at a few cheap motels in both Jasper and Banff. While we were there they also took us to see Lake Louise and into Chateau Lake Louise and it’s there that my (our) love of those historic Fairmont hotels started. We’ve since stayed in quite a few of them (7) but have a few to go to get the full set. Chateau Frontenac is high on that list for me.

For this trip, as it’s a special occasion we’re returning to two of our favourite hotels and staying in one for the first time. I’m not including the first night as we’re just grabbing some sleep in an airport hotel and I picked basically the closest one to the airport. So on our first full day we’re driving up the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler and staying at the Four Seasons. We stayed there once before towards the end of our epic road trip  in 2013. We loved it so much that we said that if we ever got the chance we’d love to go back. As it’s our 30th wedding anniversary we thought this would be as good a time as any to make that happen.

The last time we arrived at the hotel, we did so after a very long muddy drive from Nimpo Lake and I have to say, we both felt embarrassed at the lumps of mud clinging to the side of the car when the valet parking guys took the keys. We loved the room, the staff, the cocktail bar and the amazing steak restaurant in the hotel and we’re really looking forward to returning.

After four nights in Whistler we’re taking the two hour drive (that timing will be checked before we depart) to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to catch a boat over to Vancouver Island to spend four nights at the Brentwood Bay  Resort, about 30 minutes outside Victoria. We’ve actually stayed here twice before, once back in 2008 on our West Coast Adventure and again in 2013 at the start of our road trip. We love the location, the rooms, the food, the spa (ok Amanda loved the spa) and the pub (ok that was my favourite) and we can’t wait to visit again. This time we have longer so we intend to explore Victoria much more than we got the chance to do 31 years ago, not to mention it’s probably changed a lot since then. Back in 1988, I’m now ashamed to say, we went to the Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria to watch the orca show. The trainers told us (now it seemed ‘lied’ is the correct term) that the orcas could at any point easily jump over the barrier holding them in and they could return to the wild and they stay because they get fed and enjoy the activities. One of the beautiful creatures there was named Tilikum and if you have watched the documentary Blackfish you know all about Tilikum. I guess those were different times and looking back I’m horrified and saddened that we went there and paid money that perpetuated the captivity of these animals. I’m sorry. I truly am. Sealand closed in 1992 which is the only good bit of that sad tale.

Our last stop on this trip is in Vancouver itself and we have five nights in the centre of the city, staying at the Four Seasons. Although we’ve visited Vancouver a number of times, it’s usually only for a night or two, either at the start of at the end of a trip. The exception of course is 31 years ago when we travelled into the centre from Surrey quite a few times but the city has changed quite a bit since then. I’m hoping to get some tickets for the hockey while we’re there and as we have a car we can explore the parts that have been more difficult previously. We’re opposite the Vancouver Art Gallery and there happens to be an exhibition there that I really want to see. Other things on the list…Japadog, craft beers, poutine, Capilano and probably a whole lot more that we’ll try and squeeze in.

Should be fun.

 

 


Leave a comment

Some Canadian memories

I am often asked why we have been to Canada so many times and why we continue to visit. So here’s the short (ish) reason.

In September 1988 Amanda and I boarded a Wardair flight to Vancouver. This was only the third time I’d flown at this point and certainly the furthest. The flights were an early wedding present from Amanda’s mum. We were getting married the following year but had the chance to have an ‘early honeymoon’ in Canada and it turned out to be a very wise decision but that’s another story. We were going to spend the next 5 weeks staying with Amanda’s cousin and her husband in Vancouver and were really looking forward to this incredible opportunity and adventure.

Personally I was incredibly excited about flying with Wardair. This mythical company offered higher quality service at pretty much economy prices, one of the reasons it went out of operation the following year maybe? Fillet steak served on proper china with metal cutlery and wine in real glasses. After only flying on a package holiday charter to Tunisia perviously this felt like we were flying first class believe me.

On arriving at Vancouver airport, after a brief stop in Edmonton, we disembarked feeling like we hadn’t slept in 2 days….. it was more like 26 hours at this point. Honestly I don’t remember much about the journey to Surrey from the airport but I do remember arriving at the house and I remember our hosts. A more welcoming and lovely couple I don’t think I’ve ever met. They opened up their home to us, shared their friends with us and introduced us to the most amazing country. This is something we’ve never forgotten and why we have returned 9 times. We’ve visited Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Toronto. We’ve taken a 13 hour ferry journey north up the BC coast and caught a train right across the country. I’ve been in a helicopter over Niagara Falls and driven roads so quiet that we didn’t see another car for over 3 hours. We’ve seen bald eagles, coyote, a BIG Grizzly bear, black bears, mountain sheep and elk, we’ve seen humpback whales and dolphins and orca and grey whales and sea otters. We’ve watched hockey in Vancouver, Toronto (Go Leafs Go), Montreal and Ottawa, Basketball and baseball in Toronto. We’ve stayed in lakeside lodges and five star hotels and historic chateau – like hotels and cheap motels. We’ve sweated in spring in Toronto and summer in Vancouver and frozen in Alberta in November. We’ve driven on highways and unpaved roads and frozen roads and through rain so hard you could barely SEE the road.

We are enchanted by Canada and hope that we will be able to continue to visit for many years to come. I still have ideas of trips I want to do and places I want to see. I want to visit the Northwest Territories and Yukon, I want to drive across country, coast to coast, I want to see more of Nova Scotia and visit, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, as well as explore Quebec and Ontario more, and we would still love to see polar bears in Churchill.

Canada and us still have unfinished business.


Leave a comment

Hey. We’re off to Canada again

This year (2019) marks the 31st anniversary of our first trip to Canada. We spent 5 amazing weeks in BC staying with Amanda’s cousin in Surrey. While we were there we travelled around in a Volkswagen Westfalia and visited friends in Kamloops, went to Banff and Jasper, stayed in Whistler and popped over to Victoria. This was the start of a long standing love affair with Canada.

This year is also our 30th wedding anniversay and so where else would we go to celebrate it?

At the beginning of November, we fly to Vancouver for 2 weeks. We’ll spend our actual anniversary in Whistler before driving down to Tsawassen to get the ferry to Victoria and chill out at a spa resort in Brentwood Bay. Finally we’ll get the ferry back and have 5 whole days to spend in Vancouver itself before flying back home.

It’s been 6 years since we last visited Vancouver and even then it was a short visit at the end of a long road trip so we’re looking forward to exploring. In fact, although we’ve visited all three places before, we plan on exploring a lot more in general …. ok apart from Whistler….that’s just going to completely chill out luxury. As it’s a special occasion we’ve pushed the boat out a little for this trip and that starts with the flights.

Originally I booked with British Airways (we always fly BA because of the amazing service we’ve always had flying with a wheelchair) back in December 2018, choosing Premium Economy. We find the extra space, having only two seats instead of the usual three, makes a huge difference for Amanda. Then…well….I got an email from BA with a special offer to upgrade to business class and I took it. So our flights went from being not cheap to definitely not cheap. On the flip side we get to use the lounge at Heathrow so I’ll be filling my pockets with food while I’m there and getting drunk on champagne….. they do have champagne right?

Last time we were in Canada, flying back from Calgary, we were given a free upgrade to business class. Airlines know what they’re doing when they give you a free upgrade. It’s like drug dealers giving you a free hit. Once you’ve tasted the good life and a reclining bed on a long flight it’s hard to go back, so when the email came through with the offer (suggestion?) that I should upgrade, of course I did. Damn them.

Next time I’ll go through the hotels we’re staying in.