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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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…’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.


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The Hill

One of the main reasons to come on this holiday or at least one of the things that got me working out the route we’d take was ‘The Hill’. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts but basically it’s a long stretch of Highway 20 going through the Tweedsmuir Provincial Park that is unpaved (packed gravel) and was the steepest in Canada (not sure what is now because this baby is STEEP) with sections at 18% gradient. You have two choices, go up or come down, depending on whether you’re going to Bella Coola or leaving Bella Coola. When I organised the trip I decided that I’d rather go up than come down, mainly after seeing some videos on YouTube. I’m going to say here and now that it was a good decision because after the amount of rain we’ve been having I really wouldn’t want to come down it. 

It starts off quite nicely and then things turn nasty quite quickly. Really sharp hairpin bends with a sheer drop on one side, or narrow sections that seem insanely steep and you hope that you don’t meet an 18 wheeler coming down as you’re going up. And yes, big trucks do go up and down, we met a driver at the lodge yesterday morning. He told us it’s much better now they expanded sections to one and a half lanes wide rather than one lane !!!! At this point I’d normally put some nice photos in to illustrate the road in question but as I was driving and Amanda spent most of the time saying “I can’t look” or “OH MY GOD” or ‘Please move away from the edge”, we don’t seem to have many photos. She did manage to point my iPhone vaguely in the direction of the car window so I’ll check those later and perhaps post a couple. I did stop the car at one point when I felt it was safe and as I turned back to the car to get back in I saw the mess that the road had made of what was a shiny new Jeep Cherokee. Then I noticed that the back of my jeans had the same mud caked to it which I’d gotten as I slid down from my seat. Afterwards I also noticed that the inside of the car was filthy too, my shoes were caked in that same brown stuff. I think I’ll have to get this cleaned when we get to Whistler more to protect our clothes than anything else. We were passed several times by what I can only assume were locals as they were driving at crazy speeds (over 10 mph). I was happy to let them on their way. I’m not sure but a might have been overtaken by a snail at one point.

I just viewed Amanda’s attempts at taking photos on my iPhone while I was driving. She took what we thought was a video clip of us going up a particularly steep hairpin bend. I’ll post the resulting 4 second masterpiece later. It consists of the dashboard and her asking how to turn it off.  The photos are almost as bad but I’ll put those up too. I warned her that we’d have to return and do it again so we can get some good photos. She’s still not woken up.

Once over the worst part, we stopped alongside a river where another couple had the same idea. They were German and were going in teh opposite direction ie down the hill. I warned them how steep it was but that Germanic stare soon established that I was merely an inefficient British person and that Teutonic driving skills would prevail. I’m sure they did fine.

After we left the nice German couple we thought we’d done the worst part and it was surely going to be a nice tarmac road from that point on. We were so very wrong. There was still hills, though not so steep, sheer drops and no sight of beautiful flat black tarmac roads for what seemed like a long long time. When we did reach civilised road surfaces it felt like you were driving on cushions, it was lovely. Never say a bad thing about British roads again. We saw a herd of wild(ish) horses on the road and some black tailed deer and some cows and some dogs. These don’t make up for not seeing bears however.

Finally we arrived at Nimpo Lake. The ‘resort’ is really an RV park with six motel rooms and a few cabins. I wish I’d booked a cabin as they look really nice, but the motel room is clean if basic, but it’s real selling point is the location. It sits right on the shore of the lake itself. We’re looking forward to sitting outside later and hopefully seeing a lot of stars as there’s nothing else around us. Of course that means that it’ll be cloudy and we’ll also hear that there was a lot of bears in Bella Coola just after we left.

Tomorrow, we were supposed to drive to Williams Lake and stay overnight. Amanda decided that we would be better off having a marathon driving day and go straight to Whistler and have an extra day there instead. So we made the relevant phonecalls using Skype (no working payphone and no mobile service) and tomorrow we embark on a 10 hour drive to Whistler. On a side note, when Amanda called the Four Seasons in Whistler we were told that the room rate had gone down since we booked and would we like to upgrade and keep the same price or have our room cheaper? As we’re staying an extra night we picked the cheaper option, but it was great to be asked. We’re not convinced that the Celtic Manor (other hotels are available) would even lower their prices let alone let you that they did of you booked in advance.

Right, where are those stars?


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Big secret revealed…there are NO bears

We rumbled the BC tourist boards little scam they’ve been running for years. They show pictures of bears, you see YouTube videos of bears but I’m quite sure that Peter Jackson is behind it all with some mo-cap magic just like he did when he created Gollum in Lord of the Rings. We spent a perfectly lovely morning drifting down the Anartko River looking for bears and saw precisely none. Not one. Zilch. Nada. Dim. Apparently there are lots of black bears that come out at night…yeah of course, when we’re asleep. The grizzlies will be here in numbers very soon, any day now in fact…just not today (or yesterday for a couple that went on the trip yesterday too).

Fraser, our guide, getting our boat readyThe other boat on the Anartko River

To be fair (and I was joking, honest) the bears are wild animals and are naturally wary of people. We saw a lot of (large) paw prints in the sand on the banks of the river and we also took a calculated risk in coming when we did as it’s right at the beginning of the bear season and the associated salmon run, but there you go. We did see bald eagles which I was happy about but that’s about it.

Bald eagle

Afterwards we grabbed a sandwich and headed out with some recommendations on what to do for the afternoon. The salmon spawning season is underway in the lower part of the river and we went to see. Actually you can smell it as you get out of the car. Hundreds of large fish rotting in the water as seagulls pick at them and alongside those, males fighting between themselves over who gets to fertilise the eggs just laid by the female. After that job is done they too change colour and die. All circle of life stuff but sad and interesting at the same time. It really really does stink though.

Next we went to see a waterfall that Amanda was told about and she was quite interested as there was very little walking involved.  It was pretty impressive and just across the road was the main part of the river and the sun came out as we reached it. This is a very beautiful part of the world and any photographs really don’t do it justice.

Clayton Falls Bella Coola river

Lastly before heading back, we went to see some old growth cedar in a place called Walker Island park. These are examples of the trees that covered the entire area before the European settlers arrived at the end of the 19th century. Huge things. Really huge and magnificent. It’s good that they’re protected in many places now but sad that most are gone.

Old growth cedar

Tomorrow we leave Bella Coola and drive to Nimpo Lake. It’s time for THAT drive up THAT hill. Looking forward to it. We have a great excuse to come back one day (later in the season) so we can finally get to see some Grizzly bears.


PS Amanda dropped her iPad on her toe. It was very funny (to me) and painful (for her).

PPS Jungle Formula 10hr protection against insect bites…… yeah right.



That long long long wet drive…….

Well we set off on our mammoth drive at 10:15 and the weather was a bit drizzly but nothing two hardy Welsh wonders couldn’t handle, right? It then went on to absolutely pissistently  chuck it down, so the drive became a bit of a chore rather than being able to enjoy the scenery. We had to really concentrate on the road so there’s not an awful lot to write about other than to say we made it in one piece to the pub where we’re staying tonight. It’s a really homely place that reminds me of the Jolly Sailor in Heybridge, there are a few more boats in Port Hardy though.

Ian’s on his second pint of Rickards Red so I’ve taken over the writing for one night only. I thought I ‘d update you on things Ian missed in previous updates. On the first day in Brentwood Bay I went for an early morning swim to stave off my jet lag. It was raining and that’s my second favourite time to swim outdoors, the first is in a heated pool while it’s snowing. I have to say the Brentwood Bay was as excellent as we remembered from our last stay. The service was exemplary. We read a stupid post on TripAdviser where someone was being a dick and moaned about the view and the service, he was sooooo wrong.  In particular jennifer and Leah who boxed up our uneaten pastries from breakfast so we could enjoy them later, and Nolan who explained everything we were ordering in the restaurant and made the meal really enjoyable.

You may not have heard but I’m having a few technology issues with my beloved iPhone5. The bloody thing will not connect to any wifi, I’m so annoyed as I (well Ian) took some really good photo’s with it on the plane and now I can’t sync and post them. Not a happy bunny!!

I have to commend my husband on bring the sat nav from home, it’s been brilliant, it even showed us driving on the ferry across to Mill Bay from Brentwood bay. It was really strange to see the car in the middle of the water and it saying ‘on ferry to Mill Bay’.


I was a bit disappointed with our room when we arrived but I soon came round when the teenagers stopped screaming and left the pool area at nine, as our room overlooked it.  I did have a surprise with my breakfast on the first morning, I ordered granola, fresh fruit  and yoghurt which sounded delightful. When it came, it looked and tasted lovely but then……… I found an undiscovered species of green tiny crawly caterpillar in my cherry. The waiting staff had never seen anything like it before, lucky me eh? We were well protected though as the sheriff was in having breakfast.  It did however get me the breakfast free but today I had porridge.  We filled on up on supplies in Ucluelet and I must say our food prices are so much cheaper. We spent £63 on coffee, water, sandwich stuff and tomatoes. We only ever spend around £50 when we just pop into Waitrose for a loaf of bread.

On our lovely beach walk Ian forgot to mention he fell over on the rocks despite being told to take care. There were loads of washed up kelp pieces on the beach, they looked like aliens (as in the baby chest bursting things from the film Alien) and Ian thought it was so funny to come up behind me with one trying to bite me until that is he saw how the tail end was moving and I was freaking out because it looked like a snake….. He quickly threw it away before I murdered him with my stick.

Ian negated to mention a species from his list, Olive, a lovely boxer dog from the whale watching tour office. She was so friendly and cute. The mosquito he did mention got into our room last night and had a feast off both of us, I can’t wait until we get to the wilderness where there will be loads of them. I hope the jungle spray works.

Ian’s now on his third pint so I’m signing off to catch up with him. xx


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Not long to go now

Quite a bit has happened since the last time I posted on here.

  • Thankfully my wife had her new driving licence delivered (now I don’t have to do ALL the driving). Not that I was worried you understand, this was my idea after all but I’m a sharing kind of person and it would be unfair to hog all that driving to myself. Yup, that’s how I’m spinning that one.
  • We booked a car to take us to the airport and collect us when we get back. I explained on the order form that we needed a car big enough to put a collapsed wheelchair and our luggage in the boot, so let’s see what turns up.  We’re using a small company that we’ve used before and the driver was very prompt and helpful, so we have our fingers crossed.
  • I ordered some currency and got that delivered to the house. I never know whether to take currency, travellers cheques, credit cards, pre pay cards or a mix. In the past we’ve gone with minimal currency and just credit/debit cards, drawing out cash as we need it but the charges in recent years seem to have gone up quite a bit (or is that my imagination?). Couple that with the fact that we won’t be spending much time in cities or larger towns this time and we thought that it would be best to take more cash than normal and back it up with our credit/debit cards. I have to say I love the Canadian ‘plastic’ money but I’m not sure how well it would go down in the UK. People seem a tad tetchy when anything resembling change to our currency is mentioned.

The final countdown has begun and we’re starting to think about putting aside clothes (and other things) we want to take. Mainly so I don’t wear items and then want them washed last minute really. We have a visitor for a few days and after that we’ll start putting things on the spare bed just to make sure I don’t forget anything.


Next time I post it’ll either be just before we leave or when we arrive on the Pacific coast of Canada.

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A slight change

Yesterday the postman delivered my new Fairmont Presidents Club card and a reminder that as a member you get a few little extras. Tucked away in my (now digital) folder were certificates for a free room upgrade and two 25% off vouchers for either dining or spa treatments. That got me thinking. It was so nice of Fairmont to send me these offers and it would be rude not to use them really ,and as I’m a nice polite person I wouldn’t want to appear rude to anyone (UNLESS YOU PISS ME OFF). I took a look at our holiday plans again to refresh my memory and the only places with Fairmont hotels that we could stay in is at Whistler and Vancouver. I got a good deal at the Four Seasons in Whistler and so we took a look at the three Fairmont hotels in Vancouver (I know they have another near the airport too).

The Pacific Rim is a relatively new Fairmont hotel for us as we usually stay in their historic properties but it looks fab and is in a great location near to Canada Place and Stanley Park. We booked a Harbour View room and we’ll see if we can get an upgrade when we get there using our voucher. If we don’t use it there we have our wedding anniversary in November so perhaps we’ll use it at the Savoy in London, now THAT’S a place to have an upgrade.

I sent an email to the Granville Island Hotel to cancel our reservation, saying that I hoped we’d get to stay there another time and we’re all set again. Not long to go now. Less than three months. We only have to book the car to the airport and the small matter of waiting for my wifes driving license to return from the DVLA. I hope it gets here soon or else I have a lot of driving to do.

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4 months to go

It’s now March and the little counter on my page says that in 4 months time we’ll be off on our trip, so perhaps it’s time to wrap up the preview and update on what’s been happening.

After a one night stopover at Williams Lake we have a nice 5 hour drive to Whistler and I’m happy to say that we get another taste of the easy life for our last two stops. We’re staying at the Four Seasons in Whistler on Blackcomb way and we have two nights to relax. We first went to Whistler/Blackcomb in 1988 and some  of it was still under construction as I remember, so I’m sure it’ll be finished by now right? I have plans for the peak-2-peak cable car but apparently one in every five or so cars has a glass bottom and Amanda would freak if we had one of those so I’ll either be going by myself or we’ll make sure we do not have the special car. Apart from that we have no plans except enjoy the scenery and relax.

Thursday morning we’re off again for the Sea-to-Sky highway down to Vancouver on the last part of our trip. The last stop of any holiday has the possibility of being a bit of a downer so to compensate I booked us into a hotel that we tried to stay at previously but was fully booked a year in advance due to a wedding. It’s the Granville Island Hotel and I’m hoping for a bit of luxury and tlc before we have to drop the car off and fly home. The location is amazing being on Granville Island (obviously), with restaurants and the public market to check out (again) and I’m sure we’ll venture downtown at some point to try and fill any remaining space in our luggage with stuff from Roots.

Saturday morning….the day we’ll be looking forward to the least. We’ll take the car back and jump on the plane back to the UK. I’m not even thinking about it yet, it depresses me that much.

My new passport arrived yesterday so I can now fill in the advance passenger info for the flight. The new passports have a chip in them which holds the same info as the information page inside, or if you prefer and you’re that way inclined, the ‘man’ can now track me wherever I go so long as I carry my passport and I’ll be signalling back to base everytime I walk past an RFID reader. Frankly if anyone was that bored that they wanted to follow me then they’re welcome. I give them a day before they decide I’m not worth bothering with.

We still have to buy a new wheelchair, measure and weigh it and let British Airways know the details. This should now move to the top of the ‘to-do’ list I think as it’s fairly important.

I bought a new lens for my camera ready for the trip. It’s a 50mm f1.8 which equates to about a 75mm lens in old money. I gave it a quick try and it seems really nice and along with the 16mm f2.8 (plus wide adapter), the 18-55mm zoom and the 55-210mm zoom I think I’m covered for the trip. I might get a spare SD card just in case.

That’s it. The trip. If anything else happens or I get more info I’ll update. Other than that, see you in August.