Life in Canada


16
Sep 13

Rocky Mountaineer Coastal Passage: the first Seattle to Vancouver trip

Oh! Sunsets...

Oh! Sunsets…

Travel used to be such an elegant affair; a tempting world of steamer trunks and porters, slow boats to China and postcards that arrived travel-worn and a little wrinkled at the edges bringing a whiff of far-flung adventure to your breakfast table. There’s no room for bus replacement services or low-cost airlines in that world and it’s a world that seems to have almost melted away. Almost.. but not quite. Not as long as there is a Rocky Mountaineer that is.

It was the inaugural run across the border from Seattle to Vancouver – a short journey of just a few hours – but a first for the company and a trip that I felt lucky to be part of. I’d watched in Seattle as the station staff lined on up the platform waving their flags to greet the first Vancouver train, “It’s here! It’s really here!” one exclaimed. This meant a lot to the railway – a new train – a new route – a chance to show off the great and grand things that train travel can be. The bags seemed to come first – whisked away by hustling porters, then the  passengers piled off the train, each of them fluttering little flags, chattering happily as they were greeted by smartly uniformed staff. Within minutes the excitement and happy fuss had gone and I was left alone admiring the blue and gold train that I’d take back home.

First time the Rocky Mountaineer arrives in Seattle

First time the Rocky Mountaineer arrives in Seattle

When I got onboard a day later I was happy in that very particular way that comes from scratching the surface of a big, beautiful playground of a city that you’ve never been to before that’s just a few hours away from home. Seattle looks like being all kinds of good times and I will be back again soon. Stepping onboard this beautiful shiny train was the cherry on top of an already perfect weekend.

I’d ridden the Rocky Mountaineer from Jasper to Vancouver a few years before – a wonderful trip that made me lose my heart forever to the mountains that give the service its name. This time instead of snow-topped mountains it was the shining sea that delighted me: the new Coastal Passage route takes you along the shimmering coastline of the Pacific Northwest. We rocked gently past wooden docks stretching out into placid water, hugged by lazily curving mountains. As we thundered past, we were met along the way by small groups waving; fishermen saluted us from their boats, picnickers returning home after a long day on the beach smiled, and kayakers raised their oars in greeting from the stillness of the clear water.

Dinner with a view

Elegant salad

I drifted downstairs to eat dinner – a crisp salad, a juicy slab of beef with a generous swirl of buttery garlic mash and fresh berries with ice cream – as the world passed by the windows. Even in the restaurant car, with its heavy white linen tablecloths, silvery cutlery and glassware, the views are great – and above, back in the lounge car with its wrap-around glass roof for panoramic viewing they cannot be beaten.

We crossed from America into Canada as the sun began to set. Sunsets this far west are – and I say this as a wildly-biased sunset lover – absolutely stunning and this was a corker. It began as a golden glow and then ran through every shade from peachy-orange to guava pink the light bouncing from the water reflecting into the carriages. It felt magical. It had been just a short trip but one which had crossed a border and taken us into a world where train travel was a joy again and the journey easily as pleasurable as the destination.

Calm coastal waters all the way

Calm coastal waters all the way

I travelled as a guest of the Fairmont (more of which in another post)

& the Rocky Mountaineer but my words and opinions are – as ever – 100% all my own.

 Find out more:

Rocky Mountaineer the Coastal Passage route here
Tourism Vancouver 
Visit Seattle
The Fairmont


16
Aug 13

Squamish Fest 2013: sunshine, queues and a visit from the fun police…

Gorgeous location

Gorgeous location

They do music festivals differently here in beautiful British Columbia; surrounded by breathtaking mountains with blazing blue skies overhead. Half-way between Vancouver and Whistler, I’ve only ever driven through Squamish but now I’ve seen how beautiful it is, I think I may be making it a destination rather than a drive-through.

Ah. Off putting queues

Ah. Off putting queues

It was a line-up that batted well above its boutique festival status with big names like Macklemore & Lewis, Vampire Weekend and QOTSA headlining. One major difference between European festivals and BC ones seems to be the drinks licensing, unusually, if you wanted an alcoholic drink you had to have it in a fenced-off area. So – a queue to get into the beer area, then a queue to load up the smart-chip wristband as it was a cashless bar system and then – yup – another queue to buy the drink. I may be British but no one likes to queue that much! And I have to say that charging $2.50 each time you charge your wristband is not a ‘nominal amount’. It felt unfair and I’d really encourage the organisers to re-think this next year.

Enjoying Macklemore & Lewis from behind the beer garden fence

Enjoying Macklemore & Lewis from behind the beer garden fence

Price concerns aside, this was a magical festival: as the sun set over the mountains, watching Jurassic 5 go through their paces through a haze of smoke I loved the goofy good-natured atmosphere. There was a stylish Topshop area where you could stop by and get your hair and make-up made festival-fabulous, a definite Glastonbury-esque dress-up vibe with costumed stilt walkers and a glitzy gaggle of burlesque lawnmowers.

Burlesque lawn mowers

Burlesque lawn mowers

Plenty of kids had come dressed in Macklemore-esque thrift shop-style fake fur coats: I met a trio of good time-busting ‘Fun Police’ and best of all, had a huge hug from a guy dressed as a bear. You don’t get that in England! The festival next year is set to be the biggest in the Pacific North West with a 35,000 per day capacity. Keep an eye on their site for line-up announcements.

They want to take down your particulars

They want to take down your particulars


26
Jul 13

Blueberry season hits BC

Image

Image courtesy of Sunday Morning Ice Cream

One of the (many, many) things that I adore about Vancouver is the way that people live and eat seasonally. I was wondering what summer would bring after a spot prawn and halibut late spring: it seems that it’s all about the berries and stone fruits and king of all is the blueberry. Last weekend’s UBC Blueberry Fest on the Triple O’s patio, with its pancake breakfast and chef demos kicked off this year’s season. But beyond what I’m told is the ‘traditional’ White Spot blueberry pie, bakers, ice cream makers and chefs across the city are showcasing their best blueberry-inspired creations. I plan to dig in while they’re fresh and in store…

Newbie to the Van food cart scene, Johnny’s Pops has blueberry cardamom and blueberry mojito ‘artisan popsicles’ from his ‘can’t miss’  red bike with the cooler on the front. You can usually find him along the seawall by the Olympic Village, but check to avoid playing ‘Where’s Johnny?’.

Bella Gelateria have a BC blueberry sorbetto and my favourite ice cream people, the Sunday Morning Ice Cream have a creamy blueberry and sweet basil which you can catch at the Chinatown Night Market. Earnest (whose salt caramel flavour is one of the best in the world) are keeping a lid on what they’ll be doing so far but co-owner Erica Bernardi mailed me to say that “Last year we made a blueberry cheesecake flavour. We’ll definitely make another blueberry flavour this year.” Can’t wait!  Cocolico has both a chocolate bar and a chocolate spread using local blueberries on sale in all their usual outlets, including Edible Canada.

Blue Breeze Jay Jones cocktailI got a sneak preview of Jay Jones‘s Blue Breeze blueberry cocktail yesterday. Made with Absolut Grapevine Vodka, Fresh BC Blueberry Syrup, Lime juice, Fentimans Ginger Beer and garnished with blueberries & mint it’s incredibly refreshing and dangerously more-ish. It reminded me of a deliciously drinkly melted ice pop. Perfect for patio season, it’s going to be the The Three Brits pub’s Absolut Community Vancouver Pride Society cocktail – so drink up! It’s for a good cause.

Langley’s organic A Bread Affair bakery have a blueberry and hazelnut whole wheat and sprouted wheat loaf, ‘Love At First Bite’ from Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz; the hazelnuts are from Abbotsford and blueberries from BC. It’s sweet and matches well with charcuterie.
Lucky’s Doughnuts have a limited edition blueberry Berliner and Cartems have two: a blueberry strawberry compote stuffed donut and a blueberry lavender glazed.Love At First Bite

Chefs getting in on the blueberry trend include Ned Bell at Yew who appeared on Global TV last week with a BC salmon and blueberries recipe and both Tableau and Forage are offering pickled blueberry dishes.
Save the date for the culmination of All Things Blueberry in BC with the Cloverdale Blueberry festival on Saturday August 19th with its legendary pie eating contest.


11
Jul 13

Calgary: Open for business

 

From @ballen29 "Calgary in a nutshell. #Proud"

From @ballen29 “Calgary in a nutshell. #Proud”

I don’t know how much people in the UK have heard about the recent flooding in Alberta, but it’s been a tragedy for the city of Calgary with freak flooding claiming the lives of four and tens of thousands of residents evacuated from their homes as a state of emergency was declared across the city.  Shocking pictures of the famous Saddledome stadium showed the water had risen ten rows deep and the Stampede ground was flooded. Yet within these scenes of devastation, Calgarians have shown themselves to be bold and determined, because unbelievably the Calgary Stampede, the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth’ has gone ahead and Calgary has declared itself open for business.

Dazzling rodeo skills

Dazzling rodeo skills

Only a few of the planned events have been cancelled – the Saddledome isn’t in any shape to hold concerts right now – but all the traditional fun of the Stampede is still going ahead – and Calgarians need you to visit to show your support. Watch cowboys and livestock being put through their paces in the Stampede Rodeo at the Grandstand, from penning to barrel racing – this show has it all.

Fancy something more sedate? Then check out the ‘dancing’ shire horse shows, where beautiful Clydesdale, Percheron and Shire horses move to the music of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.The food on the Midway is legendary – if it’s deep-fried and on a stick – it’ll be there… and yes, that means deep-fried butter, double-bacon deep-fried corndogs and even chocolate-covered bacon.

If you can’t make it to the event which runs till the 14th July, then show your love and buy a ‘Hell or High Water‘ T-shirt. That’s what I did. Impressively, the t-shirts have raised more than $500,000 so far, which will all go directly to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund.

"My annual: I'm on a horse. Tweeting."

“My annual: I’m on a horse. Tweeting.”

One last reason to visit the Stampede – as well as those gorgeous cowboys, you may get chance to see Canada’s new heartthrob, Mayor Naheed Nenshi who has won effusive praise from every corner of Canada for the compassionate and take-charge way that he’s handled the crisis. This, from the Globe and Mail explains why: “He worked for 43 straight hours: tweeting, imploring, directing, assisting, cheering on and cheering up residents who saw homes ruined and possessions literally float away. He was cheerleader, director, benevolent scolder. ‘Help your neighbours, he exhorted, be it with a shovel or a ride. Hug your emergency providers.’ His new “home” became the back seat of helicopters or in front of news cameras. He provided updates several times a day – one in the middle of the night. He used Twitter to get the word out. Well-wishers finally started a social media movement to get him to go home and take a nap.

For full Calgary Stampede listings see the official website (http://calgarystampede.com/) and for the latest on travel across Alberta and the latest news on the recovery efforts across the province, visit the travel update page http://update.travelalberta.com/


1
Jul 13

On my first in-Canada Canada Day…

This is why I can't stop staring out of my window at home.

This is why I can’t stop staring out of my window at home.

People ask me all the time why I moved to Vancouver and I have just one answer: “You’ve seen here, right?” and I mean it. I’d read about Vancouver for years before I ever made it out here. I wanted to move, sight unseen, but my ex-partner refused and so I bided my time until three years ago I finally made it out here for a three-night stay. It was, of course, raining and I didn’t feel that feeling that I thought I’d have; I didn’t feel excited, didn’t feel a rush of emotion, nothing. It was cold and a little misty and just not what I’d thought it would be at all.

On my second night I had a meal at the Salt Tasting Room, I asked for the BC platter and had wine from BC too. I had no idea that BC even had a wine industry, so to get glass after glass of exciting wines was like being hit by an awfully alcoholic thunderbolt. Same for the charcuterie and cheeses; all local, all delicious and not one of them known to me before I sat down. I ate peaches from the exotic-sounding Similkameen paired with artisan Kulen sausage and wondered what other wonders lay in store in this strange new place.

How can you not fall in love with a city carpeted with flowers in the spring?

How can you not fall in love with a city carpeted with flowers in the spring?

The next day it rained again, I wandered around Chinatown, excited by the exotic produce in the groceries and the thrill of feeling I was truly in a very different country, I remember I went into a shop and when I came out, the city had done the very neat trick that it sometimes pulls off, the rain had stopped and as fast as the sun appeared the clouds vanished. I stood on the busy pavement and gaped at what I saw down the road; huge snow-capped mountains, rising above me. I hadn’t even known they were there! There was something about the chaos of Chinatown, the noise of the city combined with the breathtaking beauty of those mountains and the promise of the ocean at the end of the street. I felt a rush of emotion and burst into tears. It wasn’t love at first sight no – but oh, I have fallen so hard that I think this may be forever.

I moved here nine months ago and I haven’t regretted it for a second. I find Canadians, on the whole, to be warm, friendly people; I love how chatty my neighbours all are and the real sense of caring within the community that I’ve found here in the West End. I’m lucky enough to have met genuine, kind, funny, brilliant people who have become friends. I’m enchanted with the daily thrill of fresh discoveries – a cheese I’ve never tried, a new-to-me fish like the spot prawn – and I cannot take my eyes off those mountains. I sleep with my curtains open every night and their mesmerising beauty makes me feel lucky to be here every single day when I wake up and see them.

Even Freddie agrees...

Even Freddie agrees…

So, I’ve made a decision; I want this to be my home. I’m applying for residency. It won’t be easy and it could take years but I want this more than anything. I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Canada and I want to stay – and share that by writing about it! I got talking with a fellow Brit (and fellow-writer), Lola Augustine  who recommended Wildy Immigration – she recently had a great experience with them and now her and her husband are settled here and having their own adventures in Nova Scotia. So I’ve been in touch and we’re going to start the paperwork (wow, it feels serious to have a lawyer!) I already took a look at the process and frankly, I’m glad to have *someone* who knows what they are doing as complicated forms and I are not the best of friends! Hopefully, here’s to a new beginning for Freddie and I.

Flying the flag...

Flying the flag…

I’m excited about being here on my first ‘Canadian’ Canada Day. I’ll watch the parade later and see that joy that people have of simply being Canadian and hope that one day soon I can join in too, as a legal resident, not just a visitor.


8
May 13

Celebrating a BC Spot Prawn spring

Spot prawn season begins...

Spot Prawn season begins…

I’ve never lived anywhere so ‘seasonal’ before; and I don’t just mean the weather, Vacouverites seem to live and breathe seasonality in their food. I noticed it first just before christmas, it was ‘pumpkin season’ and everywhere there was pumpkin pie, pumpkin latte, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin ales… you get the picture. Then it was ‘egg nog season’ and  again – ‘nog was to be found in absolutely everything. Then the arrival of the exotic King Crab… most recently there was halibut hysteria when, remarkably, even the big name supermarkets were proudly shouting about their fresh, seasonal, sustainable fish.

Spring morning on English Bay

Spring morning on English Bay

I spoke to a friend Sophia about this and her theory is that because the weather is so fiercely seasonal, people are more in tune to eating what’s fresh. She may be right, you are in no doubt what time of year it is in Vancouver; in autumn, you crunch ankle-deep through a patchwork of colourful leaves, in winter you wilt under relentless torrential rain and grey, grey skies with snow-covered mountains appearing once in a while through the gloom, and now spring is here flowers are bursting from ever corner. I cannot wait to see what summer has up its sleeve. There’s also the matter that chefs here in Vancouver are rock stars, followed and adored by their foodie fans. And of course, these rock stars want the very best produce to create their masterpieces – which means sticking to the seasons.

I took a photo. You never want to forget your first time...

I took a photo. You never want to forget your first time…

The Spot Prawn season began yesterday at precisely 12pm, I was lucky enough to get my first taste at Yew and I’m off to the Spot Prawn festival (seriously) at the weekend. It’s a four-to-eight week season and I intend to dive in head first and try them as many ways as possible. If living seasonally is the way to live in this town, count me in. I love the excitement and anticipation of enjoying something for a brief period of time. Now I know that when the last of the cherry blossom has fallen, it’s Spot Prawn season… I wonder what happens next.

 


30
Apr 13

I admit it: I have become a total nature-worshipper since I got to Vancouver…

Yup. I'm swooning over flowers.

Yup. I’m swooning over flowers.

And so it would seem that I have become the kind of nature-worshiping hippy who drools with glee at the sight of FLOWERS and TREES. The rot set in during autumn when I found myself beaming broadly whenever I walked outside to see the leaves doing their annual colour-burst parade. But the start of spring, with the cherry blossoms in full bloom like so many pink and white pom poms on the trees, has done for me. Oh Canada, I blame you entirely for being way too pretty. You have completely turned my head. 

Everything seems about to burst into flower

Everything seems about to burst into flower

It’s good, I suppose, to see that all that torrential rain for months and months and MONTHS had some purpose: to create the riot of jaw-clanging natural beauty that I see everywhere in Vancouver right now. I took these photos on a ten minute walk around my neighbourhood. Everywhere buds on plants and trees are aching to pop; I know that I’ll see new flowers from day to day and I’ve found myself eyeing green shoots and thinking, ‘Ooh – what colour will that be tomorrow?”.

Flowers all the way down to the sea

Flowers all the way down to the sea

Most wonderful of all is the feeling of walking in a confetti-swirling storm of cherry blossom shaken from the trees whenever it’s windy. I come home and shake flowers from my hair. I walk down the streets, strolling on a carpet of crushed blooms. It’s intoxicating. And in the exact opposite to sweet-smelling blossom, I saw my first skunk as I came home late last night. How odd that skunks by night and blossoms by day should be my clues that we’re closer to summer than winter.

In every corner of the city there are flowers

In every corner of the city there are flowers


4
Apr 13

In which I’m mostly flat…

Most of the time living here in Vancouver I feel like I’m on a great adventure. Every day brings a fresh discovery; I eat something I’ve never tried before, see birds I’ve never seen, meet new people – I love it. However, the problem with being so very far from home is that when things go wrong, you feel every single millimeter of the distance. I’m not OK at the moment. I’ve been flat on my back for the past week, can’t walk properly and it looks like I’ll be that way for a while more.

This has been my view for the past few days. I am BORED.

This has been my view for the past few days. I am BORED.

Being unwell when you’re by yourself is never much fun. Turns out being unwell when you’re by yourself AND thousands of miles from everyone you love really sucks. If I were just by myself, I could probably stick it out thanks to grocery delivery companies, Netflix and Skype, but I’m not alone; I have my dog and he needs to be walked. Right now, I feel like Blanche duBois in Streetcar, having to ‘depend on the kindness of strangers’. I know I’d be fine in Brighton, I’ve known my friends there so long that we’re family to each other, but I’ve only been here seven months and when it’s ‘new’ friends, you have to wonder just how far you can push asking for favours. I feel lucky that my neighbour Wendy is a sweetheart and so I don’t feel bad calling to ask for help and I’m even luckier in my friend Van who’s popped by after long days at work to take him out too.

The other thing with not being well is that your circle of health-support that you’ve spent years building isn’t there any more; Tom my acupuncture guy at the Anahata, the amazing William at the Treatment Rooms, even my doctor who’s known me for years… all at least 10 hours flight away in Brighton! I feel pretty blessed that months ago when I was creaking with pain, I checked local paper The Georgia Straight to find a massage therapist and discovered aces Nicole Van Damme who pointed me in the direction of top chiropractor Dr Jamie Hennessy. He’s been absolutely amazing – if you follow me on Twitter you’d know I’ve been banging on about how great he is for ages. You can spend months, years trying to find a great practitioner so the relief when I limped into his office with agonising sciatica – and then walked out half an hour later, was overwhelming.

Seriously. He wears this hat, like, all the time.

Seriously. He wears this hat, like, all the time.

This new bit of grimness stems from falling in Quebec all those weeks ago. I’ve damaged a muscle and need to lie around, my leg elevated over my head, icing it every couple of hours for the next few days. I need to get the swelling and inflammation down or I could be in trouble. Jamie’s been brilliant, emailing me back – out of hours – offering advice and reassurance. When I go and see him at Back To Health (here’s the number – I totally recommend him T: 604-742-0011), I appreciate that he takes the time to explain exactly what the issue is, why it’s a problem and what the plan to fix it is. He’s straight with me and although I might occasionally yelp at some of the adjustments that he does, (and wonder why he seems to heh-heh-heh cackle as he does the most evil of them) I always feel better afterwards.

Actually, I feel a bit better just writing this down too. OK, so I don’t have the circle that I had before, but if I think about it, I’m making a new one. And if moving here was a leap of faith then I suppose I need to apply that to living here too – trusting that things will work out and that strangers – and new friends – are kind. I guess that’s part of the expat experience, making that transition where you stop depending quite so much on ‘home’ and and start depending on those strangers who’ve become friends.


12
Mar 13

Carnaval in Québec City

In my head, the Caribou candy canes were not so big. Oh, I’d heard about them; a cute Carnaval attraction, filled to the brim with ‘Caribou’, a kind of souped-up mulled wine, spiked with brandy or vodka or both. Perfect for keeping out the icy chill and keeping up the party spirits, I thought a small stripy pipe o’ booze would be just the ticket, but when I was handed what looked like a walking stick, rather than the compact little twig I’d anticipated, I realised I was out of my depth. I was swimming in French-Canadian waters now but it wasn’t like I hadn’t been warned… “They know how to party in Québec” everyone had said and oh boy, do they ever…

I was mesmerised by the skill of the ice and snow statue carvers

Just… wow.

I’d been so excited about attending the Carnaval. For years I’d heard about the bikini-clad snow bathing, the ice sculptures and I’d dreamed of seeing people genuinely enjoying the cold weather rather than cowering away from it as we do in Britain. And it was everything I’d hoped that it would be; parents towed their red-cheeked, snowsuit-ed infants around in lightweight plastic sleds, couples held hands and ice-skated around the park, children shrieked with laughter as they played on the slides and begged to queue up to meet the star of the show, Bonhomme.

Ah, Bonhomme, the spokes-snowman of the Carnaval, who is idolised and adored in a positively Bieber-like fashion. Unlike most mascots, Bonhomme speaks (here he is meeting the Canadian PM), throughout Carnaval he has a hectic schedule gracing parties and doing his trademark high-kick dance at endless photos calls. I walked past a queue of some 100 people, waiting to get a photograph with him.

Queuing to see Bonhomme

Queuing to see Bonhomme

Even entry to the Carnival is with a cute little Bonhomme ‘effigy’, I tied it to my trusty Canada Goose and walked through the lyrically-named Plains of Abraham, straight into a winter wonderland. I’d been given a ceinture fléchée to wear, a sash with an arrowhead design, part of the traditional outfit of the French-Canadians in the 19th century.  I tied it around my waist, its ends peeking out under my parka. This was my first clue that this wasn’t just a party, the Carnaval had its roots in a more interesting place. Over the speakers, traditional French folk songs played, everywhere, the heavily-accented Québecois French was spoken, make no mistake – when you are in Québec City, you are in the heart of French-speaking French-Canada. You really need to try to speak French. It’s their language and it’s who they are. Québec baffles and fascinates me in equal measure. It feels like another country and its winter celebrations, the wearing of the ceinture fléchée, the pride in its long historical culture and traditions are all part of cherishing that uniquely French side.

Bonhomme's cheeky snow bath party

Bonhomme’s cheeky snow bath party

It was the last weekend of Carnival when I attended, I’d missed the ice canoe racing and snowboarding, but the ice sculptures from around the world still held their shape and Bonhomme’s Ice Palace continued to shine in the sun under the impossibly blue sky. They’ve built an ice palace each winter since the late 1800s, I stroked the glossy walls  of the latest incarnation and thought about how lucky I was to have a warm centrally-heated hotel to go to later and gratefully wriggled my toes in my  thermal socks.

It's official: Bonhomme's beach is open...

It’s official: Bonhomme’s ‘beach’ is open…

The big event of the weekend was the bain de neige, one of our group, a Lonely Planet reporter, Regis, decided to take the plunge – it looked like so much fun! I cursed my sprained ankle… next time. Although my consolation prize was a sleigh ride, something I’d never have done if I wasn’t limping. The bells jingled, the ponies stamped and we were off;  I burrowed under the fur throw as we trotted through the snow, up and around the park. I felt like I was in the most romantic of fairy tales, and yes – it was schmaltzy and cheesy and I absolutely loved it.

Cheesy, yes. Fun, definitely

Cheesy, yes. Fun, definitely

Later that night we watched the Carnaval parade, a whirl of lights and colour, dancing and music. The cold bit brutally at our fingers whenever we de-gloved to take photos. I was amazed to hear French versions of Mary Poppins songs as a float with a flying Poppins wheeled past, accompanied by a dozen dancing sweeps.

Parade time: it got a trifle weird

Parade time: it got a trifle weird

The final treat of the night was dancing at Bonhomme’s ice palace. Of course, dancing with a badly-sprained ankle is a terrible idea… but an irresistible one after a few Caribous. I’m still limping three weeks later. I can’t help thinking dancing in the snow, zipped up in my coat, having a blast in the minus-whatever-it-was temperature, the lights bouncing off the ice, the music so good and loud and the company so much fun probably has something to do with it… Oh, and that damn candy cane. The size of a hockey stick and full to the brim of hot, sweet, deceptively-strong Caribou… We shared it between us, waved the stick in the air to the music and by the time the hot drink was cold I somehow didn’t care so much about the sprain and the pain.

I think this just about sums things up...

I think this just about sums things up…

But I got it; when winter is so cold and harsh, when the weather beats you down every day with its intensity, you have to go out and embrace it. Celebrate being alive and enjoy all the good things that living in that climate can bring, connect with your inner snow-bathing, high-kick dancing Bonhomme.

Bonhomme's Ice Palace

Bonhomme’s Ice Palace

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Quebec, however – as always – my views are 100% my own.

Find out more:

Carnaval de Québec

Quebéc Tourism

I travelled as a guest of Québec Tourism and stayed at the Hilton.


25
Feb 13

Canada Goose: staying warm in freezing cold Canada

Minus 26 degrees. So cold that when you breath your throat hurts. So cold that you suddenly realise that funny feeling in your nose is all the little hairs freezing. So very painfully cold that although the morning light as you crunch through the densely packed snow is breathtaking, and you want to take photo after photo, you can’t because your glove-less hand begin to hurt after about 20 seconds and after a minute it burns and aches until you have to admit defeat.

Stunning light but oh! Too painful to take many photos.

Stunning light but oh! Too painful to take many photos.

I’m from the UK and I’m completely unused to such frozen temperatures. Living in Brighton  doesn’t prepare you for the harsh conditions of the great white north, so when I knew I was going to be travelling to the Yukon and Quebec, I had a small panic – what on earth would I wear?! I had snowpants and thermals but I knew my jacket simply wasn’t up to the job. So I asked a few Vancouverites and they all said the same thing: “Canada Goose”.

I did a bit of research and they do sound like the perfect fit for me on my quest to keep everything I do as Canadian as possible. I especially liked this quote from their web site about keeping their production in Canada: “Cold weather is part of our national identity… We’re proud to have Canadians rely on us for protection in unspeakably cold conditions. We stay in Canada because that’s who we are.” I just love the idea that yes, to be Canadian is to live, work and play in really cold weather… I’ve come around to the idea living in basically sub-aqua conditions in ultra-rainy Vancouver, that if I stay at home and wait for good weather I’ll never leave the house! So I put waterproofs on and go and have fun.

It's a SERIOUS coat

It’s a SERIOUS coat

I contacted Canada Goose and explained that I wanted to do a spot of road-testing and they very kindly sent me a parka. When it arrived I realised that this was a SERIOUS coat. Canada Goose have a 5-point ‘Thermal Experience Index’ so you can work out if you need a light jacket or something for more hardcore arctic activities. My ‘Dawson‘ parka is in the ‘extreme’ category, good to -30 “field-tested for the coldest places on earth.” There is something awfully scary and exciting at the same time reading that. I slipped it on in my toasty-warm apartment, struggled with the zip (it took a few weeks to loosen up) and then looked at myself in the mirror. I liked it. I looked ready for all kinds of arctic action!

As it’s a SERIOUS coat, it’s packed with gizmos, I adore the genius addition of shoulder straps in the lining, so I can carry the coat on my back like a rucksack when I’m indoors so I don’t overheat and easily slip it on before I go outside. I got asked twice about this in the airport by curious women – it’s a really cool idea. As is the fleece in the chin guard, which if you snuggle, goes right up to your nose. I suspect I may still be finding pockets in this next year…

This guy is about to drive 1000 miles with huskies across the arctic. He's wearing Canada Goose. Case closed.

This guy is about to drive 1000 miles with huskies across the arctic. He’s wearing Canada Goose. Case closed.

So – how did it cope? Well, when I arrived in the Yukon for the 1000-mile Yukon Quest race, I wasn’t the only one Goosed-up and I think that tells you everything you need to know. All the locals had Canada Goose jackets and the tour companies hire out scarlet jackets to visitors. My eyelashes may have iced up and my fingers felt like they’d snap, but the rest of me was cosy. I could play out in the snow all day long – even lying in it for two hours taking photos – and not feel cold. I’ve learned that it’s not about bad weather, it’s about having the right clothes – and for winter in Canada that means one thing: Canada Goose.

Loving the Goose...

Loving the Goose…

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