Category: Canada

Canadian round-up

Canadian round-up

Canada is only 150 years young and we are struggling to find its identity.

The Queen is still on the banknotes but half the population in the western provinces look Chinese. They have one big land border but the only thing that unites Canadians is “we are not American”.

The cities we stayed in (Vancouver, Calgary) scream global, but some of the rural towns visited (Revelstoke, Jasper and Vernon) were the opposite; here people simply want to watch ice hockey and dig their allotments.

In Europe we constantly discuss the Europe v Islam divide, here in Canada it’s the Europe v America v China debate.

But maybe all this is a bit deep. We came for the big landscapes and got them. Imposing, beautiful, dramatic. It’s a scale that Europe can only imagine.

And it’s this scale that perhaps masks for now the changes taking place here; environmental damage, rapid immigration and global capitalisation. Without a clear identity, which way will Canada turn?

And if you are British and thinking of emigrating here to escape Brexit you may not find it as easy as hoped. We hear that Asians and others now get priority. Also don’t forget the long, cold winters.

Travel Tips 8 – Hostel living

Travel Tips 8 – Hostel living

Thank goodness for hostels! Before travelling we had wondered if we were too old to use these, but nothing of the kind.

After spending time in hotels or motels you become desperate for a home cooked meal and a chat to fellow travellers. And this is what you get in spades at hostels.

Equipped with fantastic kitchens and sometimes lounges, they are usually very clean, and lights are out between 11pm and 7am, so you get good sleep. We would use them all the time but they are often fully booked and some just have dormitories.

Prices have not always been that cheap; we get the impression those of us booking private rooms effectively subsidise those in the dormitories.

Here are some thoughts about how to get the most of hostelling:

  • Website Hostelworld is brilliant for planning ahead and online booking.  Get the app on your smartphone
  • Book city hostels in advance, especially for weekends
  • Don’t be put off by the communal showers and toilets
  • Cook early in the evenings before the kitchen gets full!
  • If you are prepared to accept dormitories you can save lots of money!

This is one of our occasional tips for middle aged gap year travellers. To see the others, click below on the link – Travel Tips

Pictures on this post were taken at the HI Hostel in Vancouver. It was perfectly situated in a quiet part of downtown. And as you see the facilities were excellent.
Cycling the sea front

Cycling the sea front

For us the Mobi Bike network was the best way to see Vancouver.  Over two days we cycled 27km around Stanley Park, False Creek, Gastown and Downtown.

We created an account online, linked it to a credit card and set up a PIN to key into the bikes. It was a joy to cycle on pathways separated from cars. In this respect, Vancouver is as cycle-friendly as Copenhagen and much better than London.

All cities need to develop imaginative game-changing plans to increase bike usage. That means creating safe bike routes, integrating with other forms of public transport and launching bike share schemes like Vancouver’s.

So far this year, there have been some 280,000 bike rides over one of the main Vancouver bridges. That’s 280,000 less car journeys.

If you plan to do this To save costs, the key thing is to cycle in bursts of under 30 minutes between docking stations. That way we paid an upfront fee of 2×7.50 CAD for 24 hours use of two bikes and only paid an extra 5 CAD when Roger’s cycle around Stanley Park exceeded the 30 minutes free limit. A corresponding quote for two half days from a bike hire shop was around 80 CAD.

The Car2Go scheme does a similar job for cars. We were told you just pay 0.30 CAD a minute.
Vancouver – best city

Vancouver – best city

We saw the city at its best. Young couples jogging along the beach. Tourists walking around Granville Island. Six-pack men playing beach volleyball. Following one of their worst winters for many years – it was springtime in Vancouver.

One moment we are in a pine forest in Stanley Park – the next surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers. But whilst global capital has replaced the old warehouses and timber mills, it hasn’t helped the housing situation. Vancouver has the dubious distinction of being third in the world for unaffordable housing.

We stayed here three nights and could easily have stayed longer. Without a doubt the best city we have visited so far on our gap-year.

The Lions Gate Bridge photographed from the seawall walk around Stanley Park
Roger was able to attend the Vancouver Documentary Film Festival
Travel Tips 7 – Staying best friends

Travel Tips 7 – Staying best friends

After six months, we are still happy to stand arm-in-arm watching the sunset. This picture was taken on English Bay Beach in Vancouver.

Hilary writes: “It’s hard being together 24×7 when we’ve been so independent in the past 23 years of our marriage. We’ve had our own separate careers and used to often go many days without seeing each other or were only “passing ships in the night”. So to travel together this long, with no friends and family around us for external dilution has involved effort. Fortunately Roger is a good and eternally positive travelling companion and we are kept busy each day doing the basic things necessary just to survive. There hasn’t been much time or energy for argument, we’ve just had to operate as a team.”

Roger writes: “Hilary and I have been apart for only four or five hours in the last 26 weeks – travelling around the world with a partner means you are together a lot. And being together doesn’t mean one of us in the home office and the other in the garden. It means in the same small hostel room, always going to the same activities, or sitting next to each other on a night bus. But it’s worked as I see Hilary as a best friend and she’s a great travelling companion. We’ve had a few tiffs, but these are mainly to do with Hilary’s need for rest and my wish to max it out”

So here in no particular order are some thoughts on making it work:

  • Give your other half “time alone”. We’ve done this in the evenings by simply not speaking to each other for an hour. Or do separate things for a few hours.
  • Try and have a number of conversations with others each day. Don’t let different languages be an excuse; sign language or Google Translate work fine.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends back home. This gives “input” to talk through later.
  • Have a joint project to work through together (ours has been the Blog), or it could be a shared hobby or interest.
  • Understand what is important to each other (ie rests, food, accommodation quality) and make sure you deliver this on a daily basis as a minimum.
  • Allocate some of the key travelling jobs (ie budgeting, map reading) based on individual strengths. Play your team A as much as possible.
  • Make sure travelling plans are flexible enough to respond to how you feel. If you are tired of hiking say, jointly decide to move on. Intersperse city with country, adapt to weather and mix the terrain.
  • Don’t blame each other when things go wrong as they will.

This is one of our occasional tips for middle aged gap year travellers. To see the others, click below on the link – Travel Tips

Mother of all rock slides

Mother of all rock slides

Driving to Vancouver, we stopped where four people lost their lives in a massive rock slide.

We are just outside Hope, imagining the events of January 9th 1965. Within seconds of an earthquake, 46 million cubic metres of earth, rock and snow engulfs the Nicolum Valley and Lake Outram, violently pushing soft clay from the lake’s bed up the opposite side which then slides back and buries the four people in their three cars.

This reminds us of the terrible Welsh Aberfan distaster which happened a year later. Then 40,000 cubic meters of debris buried and killed 118 children and 28 adults in their primary school. But that wasn’t caused by an earthquake – it was avoidable. The guilty party, the National Coal Board.



Okanagan Valley harvests

Okanagan Valley harvests

Cherry trees are blossoming. Vines sprouting new growth. The further south we head the awakening valley becomes more attractive; a patchwork of orchards and vineyards.

Fruit will be sold at wayside stalls. Bottles picked up by weekend tourists for dinner parties in Vancouver. In fact if you’ve never heard of Okanagan Wine it’s because most of it never gets beyond the British Columbia border.

We enjoy a small taster (and desserts) at Lake Breeze vineyard in the Naramata region. Beautifully situated, last year they were awarded Best Small Winery in Canada
There are some 200 vineyards in the region producing wines from over 70 grape varieties. From top to bottom the valley offers a full range of climates and soils
Dapper Horst and happy Francoise from Vancouver are touring the vineyards and kindly gave us a bottle from Upper Bench. Travel is about meeting fun people as much as seeing the sights
Kelowna blooms

Kelowna blooms

Late evening, atop a part-finished office building in downtown Kelowna the property boom is clear. In the urban space, new luxury apartment blocks and technology incubation hubs. In the hills, gated communities surrounded by vineyards. Along the main highway, a mass of retail signs just like in the States.

We were shown around by a young entrepreneur who’s soon to open a restaurant on the roof-top. He spoke about ambitious plans to bring new industries here. With scenic vistas of Lake Okanagan and a dry, sunny climate, Kelowna is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada.

Kettle Valley rail-to-trail

Kettle Valley rail-to-trail

Amazing rail trestles high up above Kelowna in Myra Canyon tell two compelling stories.

First in 1915, the vision and incredible hard labour needed to create the Kettle Valley Railway linking Central British Columbia with the Pacific Coast.

Then in 2003, just after this stretch had been opened up to hikers, the decision to rebuild the wooden trestles after a devastating forest fire destroyed so many.

We walked the perfect 12km round trip; through two tunnels and crossing 15 trestles – the longest at 220m was converted to steel in 1931.

Spring arrives in Vernon

Spring arrives in Vernon

The UK’s Daily Telegraph calls it ‘over-rated’ but we decided to take the Okanagan route to Vancouver. This is where Canada has Summer fun – but we’re here three weeks before the season really kicks off. So for us there’s no playing lakeside beach volleyball or picking fruit from the many orchards.

First stop Vernon. A sprawling town of motels, soulless retail and new housing that hides its charms well. However, the expensive tourist brochure prompted us to visit Main Street and a lone historic house. And a local setting out to go kayaking pointed us towards the lakeside provincial park. We enjoyed our brief stay.

Christine gave us a personal tour of the 1910 built Mackie Lake House. With Canada not having the equivalent of the UK’s National Trust, it’s great to see this slice of English life on a Canadian lake so well looked after
Every Canadian town we are visiting seems to have a pathological need to promote on its streets the benefits of diversity. This is from the Vernon “Respect Lives Here” public arts project
Hilary at the peaceful Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park – Vernon is in the far distance. After the snow of the Rockies we appreciate the coming of Spring