Tag Archives: Vancouver Island

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 

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

New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007

The day after Boxing Day, my husband-to-be (HTB) and I caught the ferry to Vancouver Island. We were met in Victoria by Geoff and his brown Labrador Ruby. After a walk on the beach, we met up with Genevieve, who was now Geoff’s wife, at a local bar to catch up. They were kindly letting us stay in their house for New Year’s Eve and we were very excited.

Celina and her friend Balki took us up Bear Mountain the next day for a view of Victoria and to see the outdoor skating rink at The Westin. The boys then dropped us in town to meet up with Genevieve for a girl’s shopping trip while they played golf. They saw wild deer on the course!

My HTB and I did the usual sight-seeing round of Victoria- the Parliament Buildings, Empress Hotel, Hemlcken House, St Anne’s Pioneer school house, a totem pole and a squirrel. There were lots of statues of killer whales, bears and moose around town that we liked posing in front of.

Celina and Balki drove us to Jordan River and to see the iconic China Beach one day. It was cold on the beach, but beautiful.

We met Kim and Jeanette for dinner and ice tea one night and met Geoff and Genevieve’s friends Lisa, Rochelle, Kayla and Sean one night at their house.

And then, before we knew it, it was the night before New Year’s Eve and a mini Heineken practice keg was purchased. Not deemed big enough, a 40-litre keg was bought in preparation for New Year’s Eve, which was consumed in entirety by 8 guys on the night.

Also at the New Year’s party at Geoff and Genevieve’s house were Celina, Balki, Kim, Nina, Kayla and Sean, Lisa, Rochelle, Rob and his girlfriend and a random New Zealander called Steve. It was Lisa’s birthday on the night so we had cake to go with our drinking games.

We played a funny game of Twister, had lots of dancing and the countdown to New Year’s Eve on the oven clock. People kept passing out on the bed and then getting up to drink more- that 40-litre keg had to be finished!

All in all, my HTB and I agreed it was one of the best New Year’s Eve’s we had ever had (ok- it was THE best, just don’t tell anyone else we have ever spent New Year’s Eve with alright?).

Related posts: Christmas in Canada, 2007Canada, 2005Canada, 2002Canada 1997- 1998Canada, 1997Canada, 1990Seattle, 2007, People vs PlaceThe Seven Year ItchFriendship: Great Expectations?

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?

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?