Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Whittington Visit - Canada

Tim (an old friend from work) & his Family came to Vancouver to visit friends and holiday for the first time in Canada recently. We arranged to meet up with them for a day out at Grouse Mountain. I was really keen to see a familiar face in this sometimes stressful time of change and we had not been up Grouse yet ourselves so proved a great day all round.

For those that are not familiar with the geography of Vancouver; to the north of the city are the Coast Mountains. The three closest and easily accessed are (from West to East) Cypress, Grouse & Seymour. Whilst on the mountain you are often reminded of it's importance; you will often hear the catchphrase "Welcome to Grouse - The Peak of Vancouver".

In the winter it boast a busy ski resort, but in the summer a family friendly excursion with nature trails, shows & great views.

Pictured above is the mildly amusing Grouse Mountain Lumberjack Show - possibly sponsored by Disney !

Although a little hazy, it was a glorous hot sunny day. The image above shows views of Downtown and below are views to the south as far as Mount Baker in the US State of Washington.

Once we move into Princess Avenue we will only be about 5 or 10 minutes from the base of Grouse Mountain. We have therefore bought ourselves 'membership' tickets. This enables us to travel up and down as many times as we want over the next year - this is great as we want to go when it's wintry and snowy, in the evening to see the lights of the city and other times of the year. Plus when guests visit we can get them up for half price.

D & A

Errr, What's Up Doc?

For those of you that didn't know, whilst we are renting this house we are baby sitting the owners rabbit. To his owners he is known as 'Pepper' but we have simply refered to him as 'Bugs'.
He eats and poos alot which requires that we clean him out very regularly. We let him out for a run on a lead staked to the ground as often as we can too. Charlie is ever curious about what is behind the door of the room he lives in and sits and watches keenly when he is outside for exercise.

Here is Bugs checking out the lettuce and rhubarb patch in the garden.

D & A

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Upper Sunshine Coast

Totem Pole created by the Coast Salish First Nations in Powell River.

Reached by ferry from the Lower Sunshine Coast or Vancouver Island, this is an even more remote and laidback part of the BC coast.

The area nestled between the ocean and forested mountains had been populated by up to 20,000 Coast Salish First Nations until the early 1900's when a Paper & Pulp Mill was built. When fully operational the mill was the largest of its kind in the world, although now only the Paper Mill is still running. When the mill was built a huge 'planned community' was built nearby to house the workers - kind of an early 1900's version of Milton Keynes ! Many of the original buildings are still intact and the townsite has been designated a National Historic District.
View of Powell River Marina with Powell Lake beyond.

Nowadays there is a large tourism industry with many people having holiday homes on the Upper Sunshine Coast. Often the properties are cabins or cottages located on lakes and rivers - frequently with no road access. On a Friday night the local marinas are busy with people pulling up in their 4x4's with their boat on the back, loading the boat with food & supplies for the weekend and then speeding off up the lake.
Coastline in the Saltery Bay Marine Park.

We didn't get to do a lot of hiking on the Upper Coast because there were several 'bear warnings' which although that doesn't mean you shouldn't hike, it does mean to you should be prepared and we didn't have any bear spray, bells or so on with us and felt it best to do the hikes another time.

Views from Powell River. The green land in the foreground is Texada Island and the snow-capped mountains in the distance are on Vancouver Island.

A & D

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An Unwelcome Visitor

We have recently started seeing a North American Striped Skunk in our garden. Apparently is it not unusual to see them in this part of the world, and the black-and-white striped seen here is the most common.

The skunk tends to come out early evening, around 7pm ish and digs in the garden before wandering off onto a neighbouring yard.

Holes dug in the ground by the skunk, presumably looking for worms or other insects.

Reading up I have discovered that they often live under peoples decks, or holes in the foundations and while they are most famous for their ability to spray noxious chemicals from their backsides, they are otherwise generally considered useful to have around catching mice, rats and flies and eating spilt rubbish.

Thankfully on the couple of occasions he has visited so far, Charlie has been indoors and luckily not seen the skunk in the garden, or the dangerously close proximity he was getting to his tennis balls !

A & D

Tree Hugging Hippie Crap

David hugging an Arbutus tree

The Arbutus tree is found in only a few locations around the world, including the Pacific Northwest.

The Salish First Nations honour the tree as the 'Tree of Knowledge' because it knows how to find the sun. The trees often have unusual shapes and angles, growing horizontally at times to catch as much sunlight as possible, in the rocky mountainous terrain that they grow in.

It is a distinctive tree because of some unusual characteristics. Firstly, it is the only decidous tree to grow in this area that remains evergreen. Although its leaves turn yellow and brown and fall off in the autumn, they are immediately replaced by new young leaves that are fully grown by winter, and thus the trees are never 'bare'.

Another unusual feature of these trees is the bark. It is incredibly smooth to touch, and almost looks like moulded plastic. Each year in the summer the tree sheds its bark to reveal a new yellow-green bark, which turns red-brown again the following winter.

A & D

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Smugglers Cove



The origin of the name Smugglers Cove is subject to much speculation. One theory holds that the bay was used by one Larry "Pig Iron" Kelly to pick up Chinese labourers to be smuggled into the United States after the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Many Chinese labourers had been brought into the country to build the railway, then when it was completed they were abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Another story is that the concealed cove was used as a location for the smuggling of bootleg alchohol, produced on neighbouring Texada Island, into the US during the prohibition era.

Now however, Smugglers Cove is a 182 hectare marine park that is a great place for hiking, swimming, fishing and seeing wildlife - there were many bald eagles circling high above the tree tops.

A & D

The Canadian 'Pub'


OK, so the sign outside read The Lighthouse Pub. There was a carpark full of cars, and a few motorbikes and pick-ups. We step inside the rustic wooden building perched over the waters edge. The floor is strewn with peanut shells and there's rock music playing. There are a number of flat screen TV's showing the current ball-game and there's a great atmosphere as the place is packed - full of locals eating and drinking after a long days work. Definately looked like a pub to us.

So we walk up to the bar to order a drink...............and wait...............and wait................still waiting (there are plenty of bartenders buzzing around but nobody seems to want to serve)...........and wait some more........then eventually...

"Is there something I can help with ?" asks a confused looking bartender

"Yes, we'd like two beers please"

"Er.....from here ?" came the reply

OK, so it called itself a pub, looked like a pub, smelt like a pub, even largely had the atmosphere of a pub..........but with table service. No-one orders from the bar. It's a Canadian Pub.

So we sat by the window with our jug of cold beer and had a great meal of home made meat patty hamburger, cooked to specifed preference (medium rare), with all the trimmings, Side salad & fries for $6.95 (about 3.50 GBP).

It was so good that we went back for the Fish & Chips (fresh local Halibut) another night.

A & D

ps. We wonder how many Canadian tourists are still sat, dehydrated in the corner of an English pub........waiting for some service.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lower Sunshine Coast 2

Sea-planes at Porpoise Bay Marina, in Sechelt
Sea-planes are a popular way to travel to the Sunshine Coast. Many people with holiday homes on the coast have apartments in downtown Vancouver which they live in during the week. They can jump on a plane at the sea-plane terminal in Vancouver and land only a few miles from where they need to be on the coast after work on Friday, before flying straight back to the office on Monday morning.

Lower Sunshine Coast 1

Approaching the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is a summer playground, in particular for Southwestern Canadian residents. Despite being North of Vancouver the region enjoys an unusually mild climate, thanks to the proximity of Vancouver Island off the coast sheltering the region from the weather fronts that come in off of the Pacific.

Access is via ferry from Vancouver or Vancouver Island, by plane to Powell River (North Coast) , or sea-plane to Sechelt (South Coast) or Powell River.

The last 50 years have seen a boom in tourism in the region, in particular due to Vancouver and other lower mainland residents buying second-homes there.

The Sunshine Coast is renowned for its laidback lifestyle and slow pace - attracting artists, hippies and anybody else wanting to get out of the rat race.

The coast at Sechelt

Porpoise Bay, near Sechelt

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Happy Canadian Birthday to me!

Shortly after our arrival in Canada I had my birthday. As if being here in general was not a great enough present, Adrian took me away to Harrison Hot Springs for a couple of days.
As the name suggests this small resort, about one & a half hours drive south east of Vancouver, has a Hot Spring that was first capitalised upon by a chap called Harrison. Infact the history of the hot spring was that First Nation peoples used the pure hot waters that flowed from the mountain base into the lake for curative purposes long before a couple of western trappers stumbled into a 'warm patch' whilst bathing in the usually freezing cold lake.
Today there is a thriving tourism based community that attracts visitors from far & wide to bathe in the medicinal waters.

In particular the resort seems to attract alot of Germans & Swiss patrons. This has resulted in a dispraportionate number of traditional Alpine style eaterees. When In Harrison do as the natives & all that....So I had my birthday dinner in the one pictured here. It was very nice and made even better by the free serving of Black Forrest Gateaux served as it was my birthday.

Another pastime (besides bathing in very hot pools together) is magnificent Sand Sculpting. Pictured above.

I thouroughly enjoyed this trip & really relaxed for the first time in weeks. I did not realize how much I needed to 'Stop' until I lay back in the hot waters. We ate, Swam, slept & just hung-out together. Great!

I should also mention that I did indeed have the usual birthday morning wake up with tea & biscuits in bed and opened my cards & presents that friends and family had made sure were packed in my case before we left. Thanks & love to all. I had a great first Birthday in Canada.



Sunday, July 02, 2006


Ferries are very much a way of life in British Columbia.

With the exception of the Greater Vancouver area, much of Canadas most Western Provinces' coastline is rural and rugged terrain, crossing which is either difficult and/or expensive. Therefore, many communities are accessibile only by air or water.

BC Ferries run scheduled services from the lower coast (near Vancouver) mainland to Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast (on mainland but further up coast and not accessibile by road) together with numerous islands dotted throughout the West Coast. The map above shows just some of the ferry routes connecting the lower mainland with the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island.

Travelling by ferry often allows views and vistas that would be impossible to see by road.

Also, in Canada there is a very social element to ferry travel - the ferry line-up (see photograph above). Canadians are social people and so the ferry line-up (waiting for your ferry) is a great opportunity to get out of the car, stretch your legs and chat to other people in the queue - discuss where you're going, where you've been and exchanging tips on what to do & see.

A & D

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Charlie Comes to Canada

As we have said, posts on this blog follow no particular chronology. Indeed much has happened before yesterdays events but the arrival of our pooch is too important to leave until we get around to posting other stuff.

Yes our family is together again!

For those that are not dog people or soppy like us about their pet, this may seem a little over the top, but we are delighted to be reunited with our Charlie. Strangely his arrival has made this all feel very real and somewhat permanent (at least long term?). I guess starting work next week may also bring an end to the 'holiday feeling'. Whatever, we are just really happy to have him back in our lives after what was the longest time we had been without him since he became our baby 5 years ago.

Of all the changes and stresses having Charlie fly over from the UK was perhaps the most stressful. We were so worried about him. We know he is not fond of kennels and certainly never been put in a box and flown across the planet for 9 hours.

We were prompt to collect him at the airport only to be told it would be at least an hour after the plane landed before he would be processed. This in fact turned out to be a bit of an underestimate and we took possession of him after a convoluted process of getting handling forms completed, food and animal inspection and customs clearance.

Yet again this process has highlighted how Canadians love to tell you how not to do something but are not so helpful as to provide direction as to how to get things done (more on this later I am sure!) We could see Charlie lying in his crate in the cargo warehouse but could not get him yet. Most frustrating!

When we did get to him (or rather he was fork lifted over to us) he seemed a bit dazed/confused but very pleased to see us. We had to get him out as fast as we could and gave him much fuss. He was clearly anxious but quiet at the same time; keen for neither of us to go too far from him.

He was very thirsty and we gave him water & treats that we had come prepared with. Then brought him home.

After an afternoon of relaxing and snoozing (See pics) he seems to be settling. His time clock still needs to adjust however as he was up and wanted to play by 4 a.m. Today he has had his first Vancouver walk and seems to approve of the high standard of stick to fetch.

D. (on behalf of C.)