Tag Archives: Canada

West Coast to Wellington, 2012

After Fox Glacier, my parents and I went for a walk around Lake Matheson which is meant to show a reflection of Mt Cook in the right conditions, which we did not have. Even so, we enjoyed the rainforest walk to the lake while my husband stayed in the café with our sleeping daughter.

Next stop was a viewpoint of Franz Josef Glacier which offered fantastic views of the blue ice and ended up being more scenic than the walk up close to Fox Glacier. I was glad that we had taken the time to at least stop and see a second glacier.

I actually felt like we were becoming desensitised to the amazing scenery as I found myself being blasé about the next stop at Okarito lookout which had a view out to the Tasman Sea.

But then I was reamazed with the drive up the incredibly scenic West Coast. I found the coastline similar to the west coast of Vancouver Island and could see what my Canadian friend Celina was talking about when she had spoken about her trip to New Zealand. Both New Zealand and Canada are countries where natural beauty takes pride of place in their mountains, lakes and forests and I could see the similarities between the two.

We stopped at the windy Pancake Rocks with its strange rock formations. Unbeknownst to me, my husband sneakily bought me a Christmas present of a beautiful wooden jewellery box and a brightly painted plate by local artisans here.

Our lunch stop was for fish and chips at Hokitika. That night we stayed in the windiest holiday park in the west- Westport Holiday Park- and watched How I Met Your Mother on the van DVD player while our daughter slept and the wind howled outside.

The next day’s drive through the mountains was a hard one, but also one of the most beautiful. High windy roads meant a new scenic mountain was around each corner dropping down to the rivers below.

We stopped briefly in Nelson at low tide and came out the other side at the beautiful sparkling Marlborough Sounds complete with bobbing white sailboats. I could just imagine myself on one of those boats enjoying the sun.

We stayed in Picton overnight and caught the ferry to the North Island the next day from Picton Harbour. The ferry trip has good views in good weather, which we did not have. However, we did have a private room with a cot, which was luxury.

We soon arrived at my aunt and uncle’s place in Wellington that overlooked a valley of ferns from their backyard. Christmas Day was the usual lazy affair with the ever-welcoming Sri Lankan extended family that I discovered extended as far as New Zealand.

After a Boxing Day filled with cricket watching, we caught the Wellington Cable Car past the cricket ground to the justifiably iconic lookout point. My cousins took us on a tour of downtown Wellington from the majestic old parliament buildings and the new ones, like the beehive, too.

Related posts: Queenstown to Fox Glacier, 2012, New Zealand, 2004, New Year’s Eve on the Island, Canada, 1997 

Canada, 2011

In the Canadian summer of 2011, I travelled to White Rock, Canada to attend my cousin Kate’s wedding. It was important to me to be there as despite the distance of where we both lived, we were the only girls on the side of the family, so were close.

The wedding was held at my aunt and uncles place with a view of the water. Many friends and family had come from all over the world to attend. I had arrived a few days before the wedding, so had time to catch up with Kate- we even fitted in dancing and a movie.

I also met my cousin Glen’s girlfriend at the time, Tara. We got along well and had pre wedding manicures together. My cousin Jay and his family had flown in from Australia too, so it was a full house buzzing with preparations including marquee and stage building.

I caught up with Celina on my first night there over too many red wines at the local pub. She had a toddler now, so it was lovely to meet him and go for ice cream on the seafront on another day.

One night, Jeanette picked me up and we went over to Celina’s place for dinner. I was impressed to learn that Jeanette had started a successful business of her own.

The garden wedding itself was held on a bright sunny day. It started in a beautiful Apex shaped church and ended in dancing, party crashers and a bit too much wine.

It was great to see Geoff and Genevieve there, who now had two boys, and catch up with the groom, Ben, and meet his family. My personal favourite touch were the table centres that were formerly grandmother’s teacups.

I left the day after the wedding to catch the bus to Seattle and an internal flight to visit my bestie in her hometown of Nebraska for 4th July. I had never been to an Independence Day celebration and was very much looking forward to the experience.

Related posts: New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007Christmas in Canada, 2007, Canada, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada, 1997-1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990, It’s a Canadian Thing

It’s a Canadian Thing

O’ Canada, land of the First Nations people, the Looney and the red maple leaves.

Home of good friends, good bands and good parties. Where I learned what a dyke was, got my belly button pierced and went drinking at The Keg after dinner at White Spot. Where my cousins introduced me to real maple syrup, maple walnut ice cream and bagels with real salmon.

Land of Arby’s, the Dairy Queen Skor Blizzard, Tim Horton’s and as many flavours of ice tea that you can think of. Home of Totem Poles, Le Chateau, ice wine and the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations I have ever seen.

Downtown Vancouver where you can see steam coming out of a clock in Gastown, pick up some lovely First Nations jewellery on Granville Island and dream of owning a house in West Van on the other side of Lions Gate Bridge.

A city so beautiful that it is blessed with both waterways and a surrounding trio of snow capped mountains. Where you can go tubing on Mt Seymour followed by a dip at Kits beach. Where you can walk the wires in Lynn Canyon by day and see the twinkling city lights from Grouse Nest restaurant by night.

The city which has one of the best aquariums in the world in one of the best parks in the world. Where I fell in love with otters, white Beluga whales and Canada Geese. Where I discovered UBC, the Pitt Pub and the mosh pit at Arts County Fair.

Vancouver Island, home of the capital of Victoria, the Empress Hotel and China Beach. Where a trip through the Gulf Islands becomes an adventure in killer whale spotting and you never want to leave.

Seeing snow banks bigger than houses, making snow angels and going tobogganing. Discovering the real beauty of snow covered fir trees, the taste of hot toddies and learning how to snow plough.

Taking a trip on the Sea to Sky highway to go skiing at Blackcomb, only to find out that Big White’s better. Staying in a real log cabin, drinking with folks from the Yukon and meeting American snowboarders at Mt Baker.

Land of moose, black bears and a white rock a stones throw away from Seattle.

And that’s just the west coast.

The enchanting Casa Loma in Toronto, the icy blue Niagara Falls and the unexpected beauty of Niagara on the Lake.

Where you can dance with a cowboy in Calgary, find out what a cold nose really is in Saskatoon and go ice-skating inside West Edmonton Mall.

And I know there is so much more to explore.

Montreal, Quebec City and Lake Louise. New Foundland, Christina Lake and the Rockies.

One day…

Related posts: New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007, Christmas in Canada, 2007, Canada, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada 1997-1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990

Christmas in Canada, 2007

It was the first time my husband-to-be (HTB) had been to Vancouver, so our first stop was Prospect Point with it’s view of Lions Gate Bridge, the local mountains and west van. We saw an eagle at Capilano salmon hatchery and went over Lyn Canyon suspension bridge (sober this time for me).

My cousin Glen took us to Stanley Park to see the totem poles and Gastown to see the steam clock and the railway station. We also went to the Granville Island Brewery for a paddleboard tasting and a cheap sushi restaurant where we had 50 pieces of fish for next to nothing.

It was a Canadian family tradition to see a British Pantomime, but my uncle insisted that my HTB needed to see an ice hockey game. So while the two of them headed to the ice rink, I went to see Jack and The Beanstalk at the Metro Theatre with my aunt and cousins Kate and Glen.

The next day, my uncle took us to Mount Seymour where we had lots of fun tubing in all the snow. He also took us skiing at Grouse Mountain on another day. I wore my terrible aqua eighties snow suit again and found that I was still just as bad at the sport, so went to watch a documentary that was showing about two bear cubs growing up in a wildlife refuge on the mountain instead.

Even though my aunt and uncle now lived in White Rock, on Christmas Eve they headed back to their old neighbourhood in Richmond to catch up with all their friends at a sort of open house party. It was nice seeing familiar faces from the past.

Christmas Day dawned cold, but we still all took a family stroll along the pier to spot the white rock on the beach. Yes- we were crazy to go out in the silly temperatures of a chilly Canadian winter. Rover the cat didn’t join us- he was older and wiser and didn’t even bring in dead animals anymore.

Related posts: Canada, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada 1997- 1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990, Seattle, 2007, People vs Place, The Seven Year Itch, Friendship: Great Expectations?

Canada, 2005

From New York, I flew to Toronto to continue my obsession with water falls with a trip to Niagara Falls.

But first it was off to the CN Tower with its disconcerting glass floor and birds eye view over Skydome and the rest of Toronto.

I saw Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto sculpture garden and the historic houses of Campbell House and Osgood Hall.

My favourite place was Casa Loma in the Dupont district. Inside the castle had marble walls and Victorian style furniture. I loved the church windowed conservatory and the intriguing secret passageways like the one in the study and the tunnel to stables. The view of the beautiful gardens and Toronto from the top was great.

I headed to the fashion district to seek out Le Chateau. Together with the Big Moose in downtown Toronto, it made me nostalgic for Vancouver.

The next day I headed out from the hostel on my pre booked tour to Niagara Falls. We stopped at a view point to see the enormous Niagara River that feeds the falls and in the lovely little town of Niagara on the Lake. One cute little blue house in particular caught my eye and I further fed my Vancouver nostalgia with a maple walnut ice cream.

Niagara Falls was blue and tall. The American side does not have the famous horseshoe falls, so I was glad to be on the Canadian side. At the lookout point for the rapids at top of horseshoe falls I shuddered to think of going over in a barrel. I went through a tunnel behind the falls to hear the roaring noise and get a few splashes, but thought better of taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist as I was still recovering from my Iguazu Falls cold.

I couldn’t help but compare the two sets of falls- one earthy coloured and natural, the other ice blue and commercial, but both beautiful in their own right.

A shot of ice wine on the obligatory stop at a local wine shop on the way back, helped to clear my head as well as my sinuses.

On my flight to Los Angeles on route back home, I got a clear view of Grand Canyon. Yes, I would have to return to this side of the world one day soon to see that.

Related posts: New York, 2005, Part 2: Sex and the City style!, New York, 2005, Part 1: Taking a bite, Argentina, 2005, Buenos Aires, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada, 1997-1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990

Canada, 2002

For my post university trip I decided to go to Canada for a bit of fun, England to visit my ailing grandfather and Thailand to meet up with my boyfriend for a holiday on the way back.

My aunt and uncle in Richmond were kind enough to take me in again and I revisited the usual haunts with my cousin Kate- Steveston, White Rock and Gastown.

I saw the otters, belugas and sea lions at Vancouver Aquarium; but the killer whales were no longer there- the last one having been re housed in 2001. So I went to see the killer whale totems on the totem poles at Brockton Point in Stanley Park instead.

Celina and Geoff’s girlfriend Genevieve took me to the lookout tower in downtown Vancouver where we had a great view of the University of British Columbia (UBC) where they were both going to school.

We all visited the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and I saw some more totem poles and learnt about the First Nations people. By night we went to the Pit Pub and to see Geoff’s new band The Malchicks play.

I went to Whistler with Genevieve and a bunch of her nursing friends from university for a night. Not to ski- but to drink. We started drinking on the bus trip up and arrived in Whistler village just before nightfall. There were ice sculptures, it was snowing and we made snow angels. Those nurses sure could drink!

The next day, after a queasy bus ride back to Vancouver, I met my aunt and uncle to visit Lynn Canyon Park. All I could manage to keep down for breakfast was a raspberry iced tea- which promptly came back up. I barely appreciated the beautiful waterfalls and clear blue pools under the suspension bridge.

I went to Vancouver Island to catch a top view of Victoria from Mt Tomlie and high tea at the Empress Hotel; catching sight of Mayne and Galliano Islands from the ferry on the way back.

My cousin Glen now lived in Calgary so I went to visit him. It was the middle of winter and the coldest weather I have ever experienced of 40 degrees Celsius below zero. It was so cold that Glen’s house had ice cycles on it and he had to plug his car into electricity to keep the engine from freezing.

We went to the Calgary tower to get a view of the city and to the half frozen Bow River in Princes Island Park. We played snooker at the Heritage Park Historical Village and went to a bar that had real cowboys line dancing.

Glen’s job was as a pilot for freight planes. So he took me to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to see the Delta Bessborough Hotel and experience what it was like for my nose to freeze. We also flew to Edmonton to see Parliament House and visit the famous indoor water park at West Edmonton Mall.

Related posts: Canada, 1997-1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990, Travel rememberings

Canada, 1997-1998

After my European adventures and spending Christmas in England, I decided to go back to Canada for New Year’s Eve.

I went to a big New Year’s Eve party in Vancouver with cousin Jay, his girlfriend Sarah, Geoff from the band and his girlfriend Celina. It was a lonely feeling having no one to kiss as midnight when everyone else was coupled up. I shook hands with a stranger instead- she must have been the only other single girl at the party!

It was snowing in Richmond, so we built a snowman in the backyard and went tobogganing at the school next door that had a big empty sports field- all very novel activities for an Aussie that didn’t grow up with snow. We visited the pretty local Buddhist temple and went back to Steveston.

Jay was training to be a hairdresser at the time, so I let him put in the only streak that has ever been in my hair. It was red and you could barely see it- just the way I like it.

In Vancouver, it was so cold that the dock at Stanley Park froze over. I went back to Vancouver Aquarium with Jay and Sarah and saw the killer whales. I also went to see the steam clock in Gastown again and saw the Chinese New Year show at the Plaza of Nations.

I wanted to get a tattoo, but didn’t know what to get that wasn’t cliché. So I went into downtown Vancouver to get my belly button pierced with my friend Jeanette who already had a tongue piercing. We went to a tattoo parlour which is meant to be better than a hairdresser. They didn’t use anaesthetic, just smelling salts, but it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would, so that was ok.

My uncle took the whole family up the Grouse Mountain Sky Ride for a fancy dinner at the Grouse Nest restaurant. The view of the city as night was awesome. They had lots of wood carvings at the top of the mountain of goats, bears and wolves and we went on a real sleigh ride in the snow.

I went to Mt Baker, just over the border in Washington State, on a skiing trip with cousin Kate. We stayed in a real log cabin (apparently very hard to maintain) and I found out what mono boarding was. On another family skiing trip, we took the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler, seeing Chieftain Rock on the way. We sat in the warm outdoor spa in the cold air and skied Blackcomb.

The last big party before I was due to leave was Arts County Fair at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Bands played all day and I got a souvenir plastic mug for beer refills. There were not enough toilets so we took turns peeing behind a rug and it was the first time I had ever been in a mosh pit- scary stuff!

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Canada, 1997

When my parents gave me a round the world ticket instead of a uni application after school- my first stop was Canada to visit my uncle, aunt and cousins. My cousin Jay had just spent the summer in Australia surfing around the country with his best friend Geoff. We were the same age so it was very easy to mix into each other’s social groups.

I flew in from 35 degree weather in Australia and was driven straight to Big White, Kelowna for a family skiing trip. Why not Whistler? Because Big White’s better, I was told. Having never seen snow before, I was overwhelmed by huge snow banks taller than cars on the side of the road and snow on the fir trees just like I had seen in the movies. I learnt about snow angels and drinking hot toddies.

As I had never skied before it was my cousin Jay’s task to teach me. I was dressed in my aunt’s old and unfashionable full body aqua ski suit, clutching onto Jay’s ski poles as he dragged me down the green run whilst I snow ploughed. It must have been a very amusing site for the toddlers whizzing by who could all ski before they could walk, as most Canadians can.

Back in Richmond, I was sleeping under the pool table this time. Holly the Dalmatian had been replaced by Rover the vicious tabby cat who brought me birds and mice for breakfast. The pool room also doubled as the band practice room for “Public House”. Jay played drums, Geoff played violin, Wayne was on vocals and Chris on guitar.

I became friends with some of the girls, Jeanette, Kim and Dana. We went drinking at “The Keg” and had a bonfire party at the dyke. One day, we went to the beach and a field full of sunflowers.

Revisiting the killer whales at Vancouver Aquarium and the totem poles in Stanley Park was a hi light. I went to Prospect Point with its iconic view over the green Lions Gate Bridge to West Vancouver.

I went driving around town with my cousin Kate who had just gotten her driver’s license. We cruised to Dairy Queen or Tim Horton’s with pop music blaring and a couple of her friends in the back seat. We drove to the family’s holiday land at White Rock and visited the pier.

My cousin Glen introduced me to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I didn’t like; and Maple Walnut ice cream, which I loved. We flew kites in Stevenson and went to Granville Island.

Glen was training to be a pilot and was getting his flying hours up with small plane trips from Boundary Bay Airport. He took me on a flight to the Gulf Islands. We flew over Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island and saw the point where the Fraser River meets the Strait of Georgia. We had a bird’s eye view of Madeira Park Peninsula at Pender Harbour, Capilano River and the house in Richmond.

Related posts: Canada, 1990, Travel rememberings, The Seven Year Itch, TV replays and Movie marathons, Friendship: Great Expectations?

The seven year itch

I have been to 50 weddings in my life, 40 of those in the last seven years. This is not an exaggeration- I have counted. I know it seems a little excessive, but the only explanation that I can give is that of a Catholic family and country school mates. Or maybe it’s just that I am really sociable and a fun wedding guest?!

My husband has been dragged to many of these wedding with me and vice versa. He has been in many bridal parties, has been the MC and an usher- while I have sat at the singles table. The only wedding that I have been in the bridal party for was my best friend’s wedding earlier this year.

What I know about weddings could fill a book. I have been to big weddings, small weddings, full catholic ceremonies, quickie celebrant ceremonies, church weddings, house weddings, reception hall weddings, hotel weddings, RSL weddings, fancy restaurant weddings, cocktail party weddings, sit down weddings, stand up weddings, garden weddings, beach weddings, winery weddings, weekend away weddings, destination weddings, a wedding in a courthouse, one in a library and a wedding on a tugboat.

I have been to weddings in Terrigal, the Hunter Valley, Berrima, Mount Wilson, Wollongong, Kangaroo Valley, Berry and Sydney. I have travelled to attend weddings in Melbourne, Hobart, Cairns and Darwin. I used to have a no overseas wedding rule, but after getting married in Thailand myself, I couldn’t really use that as a reason not to go anymore. So I have now also been to weddings in Fiji, Hawaii and Canada. The money I have spent on travel, accommodation, kitchen teas, hen’s nights/weekends away and wedding presents is a sum I don’t even want to think about- but it was all in good fun and each wedding has been special in its own way.

With my events background I would probably make a great wedding planner and I have considered this. I have a friend who does hair and make up, one trained in floristry and a friend that does photography. But the bottom line is that I could not deal with bridezillas.

Even the most sane and sensible people who swore they would never get caught up in the commercial hoop-la end up worrying about things like what is on the place cards. For my own wedding I did not give a toss about the details- I just got the hotel to do it all and make all the decisions. The cake was hideous- but who cares- I didn’t even want a cake and I didn’t choose it.

It dismays me when I see people getting caught up in all the little things, succumbing to family pressure and losing sight of themselves and what’s really important- two people making a commitment to each other and an excuse for a really good party. No one else is going to notice if the vase on table 1 is different to the vase on table 2, so just relax and enjoy the day.

The cost is also ridiculous- just mention the word wedding and the price triples. That’s why I was “shopping for my thirtieth” when I found my red wedding dress. Why would I wear white when red is my best colour? The average Australian wedding costs 50 thousand, which is enough for a long honeymoon and a good start on a flat deposit. Who wants to start their married life in debt?

And then there is the question of the second weddings. I have not been to one yet, but with a few friends divorced, it could happen. Do you automatically get an invite to the second wedding if you have been to the first or are you automatically excluded? Wether you go or not, do you have to buy another wedding present?

At the end of the day, each bride (and groom) needs to make the choice about what they want and be happy about it. If a big wedding with all the trimmings and a white dress is what you want, then go for it, but just be honest and say that is what you want from the beginning.

Related posts: I first started writing, Home is where you make it, Travel rememberings, Friendship: Great Expectations?, All Creatures Great and Small, Canada, 1990, TV replays and Movie Marathons, USA, 1990, By special request

Canada, 1990

In 1990, we visited my dad’s brother in Canada and my obsession with Vancouver Aquarium began. l fell in love with the sea otters, marvelled at the white beluga whales and was impressed with the killer whale tank that was there at the time.

My uncle and aunt lived in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, BC with their three children and beloved pet- Holly the Dalmatian. My parents and I slept in the brown pop top campervan parked out the front of their house.

I ate lucky charms for the first time for breakfast and my aunt made us bagels with salmon and cream cheese for lunches on our day trips in the family car- a wood panelled station wagon named “The Woody.”

My cousin Jay had a paper route and I remember riding around on a bike following him as he completed his drop.

The first time I realised that people drive on the other side of the road on the other side of the world was when my cousin Kate got on the back of motorbike with my dad who tried to pull out on the main road on the wrong side of the road. They were chased by my yelling uncle, concerned for his daughter’s safety.

Our grandparents visited from England and we all went to Steveston wharf- a cute little fishing village not far from Richmond. On the way back we went to the European village at Fantasy Gardens where my aunt had been an extra in a movie.

One of my favourite parts of Vancouver was Stanley Parkwith its totem poles of different animals carved by First Nations people. We also went to the bizarre steam clock in Gastown. Another favourite to visit was Lynn Canyon suspension bridge.

I first discovered that Canada is famous for its natural wonders when we travelled to Manning Park which is famous for its wildlife and wildflowers. I remember seeing a lot of Canada Geese.

We then went to Whistler out of the ski season where grandpa saw a black bear going through a bin behind a hotel and a ranger had to come and shoot a flare gun to scare him back up the mountain. We caught a cable car to the top of the mountain and saw Shannon Falls on way back to Vancouver on the sea to sky highway.

The ferry trip to Vancouver Island became an adventure in dolphin and killer whale spotting as we made our way through the labyrinth of islands. We landed at the provincial legislative buildings of Victoria and saw a parade with dragons in Chinatown for Chinese New Year.

Lastly, we drove through the Okanagan to Oysoyoos Lake on the US border where my cousins holidayed every summer in their campervan and went on a boat trip on the lake.

Related posts: Travel rememberings, Friendship: Great Expectations?