Ever since I moved to British Columbia I’ve become quite the ‘nature cryer’. Movies about scattered families or lost love tend to leave me dry-eyed. Those Christmas ads that have everyone else reaching for the Kleenex all tear-stained and heart-warmed do nothing for me. But show me an eagle wheeling overhead or a deserted lake ringed by towering trees and I’m bawling like a baby.
In the purest sense of the word, I am in awe of the beauty of B.C.
While I was researching the B.C. chapters of the 2016 Rough Guide to Canada I was fortunate enough to spend several long weeks out on the road, driving long distances each day along solitary roads, with my dog Freddie snoozing at my side. It was exhausting. It was hard. I was in heaven! The chapters are now finally done. The maps adjusted to reflect new recommendations. The copy edited down and on its way to the printer. I looked through the photos of my trips and picked out ten of my favourite moments which had me reaching for my camera whilst wailing with pure joy.
The half frozen lake on the road to Pemberton
Coming from a place where I’ve never seen a lake freeze at all, to see one un-freeze was a first. I didn’t realize at all how a lake defrosted, and to see one half icy and half solid seemed like some kind of miracle.
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My heart sank when I saw it on the tour itinerary; a themed costume dinner, where you have to dress up too. My basic nightmare, in fact. But what I hadn’t counted on was the sheer joie de vivre of the Beggars Banquet experience which had me whooping for more by the end of the night, completely won over.
I’ll admit it: I kind of hate costume parties but I think I’ve found my new go-to for any dress-up in the future. Turns out I can rock the hell out of an 18th century wench outfit. It was a packed house at the Point of View Suites‘s dining room, and by the time we’d all been outfitted –and realized we all looked pretty cool in the gear– we went from the changing area into the dining hall and got ready to party like its the 1700s. Continue reading →
I’m ashamed to admit it but this is the first time I’ve been up to Grouse Mountain in the winter; I don’t ski and charming though a trip on Santa’s sleigh sounds, I just hadn’t made it up there. But whereas I’m a take it or leave it girl when it comes to sleigh rides, when it comes to a light show you can count on me to be there. Continue reading →
I never used to get into the festive spirit: the sound of sleigh bells and carols on the radio left me cold, those supposedly-heart tugging Christmas adverts made me feel even more Grinch-like than usual and really, it just seemed so… ugh. Not for me. No thanks.
But all that changed when I arrived in Canada.
It felt less commercial here and really just more about being joyful and enjoying the season. There are special foods and flavours, and fun events which ring in the holidays, and I’ve grown to love them all. For me the festivities begin the moment that Avalon’s eggnog goes on sale. Avalon is a local organic family-run dairy who’ve been in business since 1906. They use ethical animal husbandry, no GMOs, no pesticides and they make the best damn chocolate milk ever! Once their creamy ‘nog arrives, it’s time to crack open the Kraken run, break out the Moose Mug and get merry… Continue reading →
It’s one of my favourite events in Vancouver’s culinary calendar, the Vancouver International Wine festival; a blizzard of fun wine-based events, tastings, and special winery dinners which takes place each February, just in time to give us all a boozy lift in those grey winter days. Each year the festival’s focus shifts to a different country –last year celebrated Australia – this year it’s all about Italy with 60 wineries from nine regions representing the country and offering visitors to the festival a chance to sample some 50 varieties in the tasting room.
I love this event for so many reasons; I’m just starting to learn more about wine and each year I come away with a little more knowledge and a whole lot more favourites, thanks to the fascinating seminars and winemaker dinners. Last year I was lucky enough to attend an incredible event showcasing rare wines from California winery legend Robert Mondavi. A gloriously Vancouver-ish event, it took place at the Observatory restaurant, a the tope of Grouse Mountain. I got to watch the bright winter sun set over the city and then learn more about Mondavi’s divine wines in the company of their winemaker Nova Cadamatre, all paired with Observatory’s Chef Dennis Peckham’s inspired cooking.
If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver now’s a great time to snap up discounted tickets on tasting room events until December 31 (or until quantities last). Or, for an excellent bargain, you can score a free ticket to the tasting room, which, this year along with Italy, will showcase 156 wineries from 14 countries by booking a hotel via beVancouver.com. Best paired with a ski holiday to Whistler or maybe a city trip to Victoria, start planning your wine break to Vancouver now…
Further booking info:
Phone: 604-873-3311, toll free 1-877-321-3121 (Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
In person: 305–456 West Broadway, Vancouver (Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
I guess it makes sense that the prairies are so utterly cycle-friendly: flat, wide open spaces and oh, those endless skies. I got to spend some time in Alberta recently on trips to Calgary and Edmonton, both cities that I’d always associated with gleaming high rises and traffic-packed downtown cores. Turns out I was wrong: there’s plenty of green space and winding rivers in both cities and good cycling to be found in both.
I took a tour around Calgary, freewheeling across bridges and pedalling through the recently opened St Patrick’s Island Park, a gorgeous newly renovated leafy space in the middle of the Bow River, with hiking and biking trails and killer views across the city’s skyline.
in Edmonton I cycled the River Valley Trails and had to stop a dozen or more times to take photographs of the lush parkland all around me. It was the start of fall; the seasons were sliding from one to the next and the trees blazed with their autumn finest. I love it when I’m genuinely surprised by a city –and to have two such similar experiences in a matter of days delighted me. It always reminds me: forget what you think you know – go find out for sure what things are really like.
I travelled with support from Destination Canada and Travel Alberta. For further information check out Tourism Calgary and Tourism Edmonton.
Ever since I discovered that hummingbirds can exist on sugar-water it confirmed all my suspicions that these tiny vivid flying miracles were Disney-ish creatures, who, in all likelihood exist in cartoonish technicolour and probably help Cinderella get dressed each morning. I was pondering their adorable feeding habits as I sat in Atelier, chef Marc Lepine’s restaurant, after my own gloriously improbable meal. I’d been introduced to Marc by Frankie Solarik, of Barchef fame. Frankie is one of the world’s most dazzlingly creative bartenders. The first time I had one of his deconstructed cocktails– an Aviation magicked together with a multilayered jelly, pearls of maraschino and edible flowers– I remember clapping my hands together with pure childlike joy, quite intoxicated– first with glee and then gin. ‘No wonder the two are friends.’ I thought, as I beamed at the hoop of crispy carrot that circled my plate, evidence of that same mischievous mad-scientist brilliance, yet this time with food, not cocktails. Continue reading →
It’s been an amazing few months travelling around British Columbia researching for the 2016 edition of the Rough Guide to Canada. It’s been exhausting, frustrating, hard work made a privilege thanks to exploring the jaw-clanging beauty of this huge province. Researching for a guide book means a life on the gallop, you never really have time to explore or to take a breath, always going on to the next place, and the next. Spending your days in a blur of checking attraction and museum opening times, room inspections and switching hotels every night, endlessly checking in and out. But although I was bone tired, I always had moments of heart-soaring happiness thanks to the dazzling wild nature of the province. Early in my trip, I had to pull over to see if I wasn’t hallucinating at this green-blue lake on the Sea to Sky Highway to Lilooet, that looked for all the world as thought has been photoshopped, all ready for a spread in a guide book. Continue reading →
Even the relentless drizzle of west coast rain couldn’t spoil the thrill of spotting bears on the beach just 20 minutes away from the surfers and ice cream shops of Tofino. Their coats shaggy in the downpour, twice a day as the tide rolls out, they come to feast on the seafood that’s trapped beneath the rocks. Continue reading →
On the Balcony at Spirit Ridge
I was already a little sunburned when I left Osoyoos, I’d sat out on the balcony of my hotel writing and revelling in that soft morning sunshine –not realising until I went back inside that it hadn’t been so soft after all and I’d turned a rosy shade of pink. Before I checked out I sprayed myself with Factor 60, vowing I’d not get caught again on the drive to Rossland.
So it was that the car smelled of sun cream and summer holidays as I drove up, up, up the winding highway away from the town, high into logging country along the Crowsnest Trail. The road runs from Vancouver to Calgary following the old gold rush trail over the mountains and through the desert, going from the wild West coast and Pacific Ocean at one end to the ranches and oilfields of Calgary at the other. Continue reading →