Tag Archives: Vancouver

Small town vs Big city

Small towns are cute, quirky and green. They are safe, comforting and friendly.

Everyone seems to know of one another and celebrate the same things in the same environment.

But this means that small towns can also be gossipy, stifling and routine.

Big cities are different, fun and challenging. They are tall, concrete and filled with endless possibilities.

They take you out of your comfort zone into a sometimes overwhelming place where you can make new friends and have new experiences every day.

But this means that big cities can also be fickle, lonely and expensive.

I grew up in a small town, and whilst I appreciate it was a nice little place to grow up, I think I was always a big city girl at heart.

Being an avid traveller doesn’t always mean you are necessarily a big city person, although it probably helps. Sometimes it’s the small towns that really show you what a place is like and who the people really are.

But I am a big city person and just the thought of going to a global city like London or New York gets me excited. Big cities are also big enough that they contain many smaller places to explore.

Being in a big city that you are familiar with gives you a sense of achievement and conquest, especially when you can navigate to your favourite places without a map.

But big cities are so big, that even in my home city of Sydney I often need to whip out Google maps to find out where that new restaurant is.

Small towns have their place and perhaps I wouldn’t be who I am today, or get that big city buzz as much, if I hadn’t grown up in a small town.

I still enjoy visiting my hometown of Berry, all the memories I have there and I am looking forward to taking my daughter to my birth town of Weymouth hoping that she can see what I see.

But I also can’t wait to take her to Central Park or a show at the West End; to see what she makes of the big hills of San Francisco or the mountains of Vancouver.

I wonder if she will be a big city girl with small town values like me, or just be a sophisticated city chick with no time for small town matters. I guess only time will tell…

Related posts: Sydney vs Melbourne, It’s an English Thing, Cocktail hour in Sydneytown, Home is where you make it, Travel Rememberings

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.

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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, 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?