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Oct 12

Richmond Night Market

I’ve been eyeing up the Richmond Night Market ever since I first read about it, but every time I’ve visited Vancouver it was the wrong time of the year and it wasn’t on. Not this time! Finally I got to visit and it was just as good as I’d hoped.

Where to first?

I went with friends (by far the best plan if you want to eat as much as I did. Share and experience more!) we took the speedy Canada Line to Bridgehouse – just before it separates to go to Vancouver airport about 15 minutes from downtown – then followed the crowds across the gravel (wear flats!) to the market entrance.

Once inside we were overwhelmed with around 80 stands to choose from. I was glad I’d asked Sophia for a few pointers before I’d gone, especially about paying everything in cash – no one takes cards. First stop: the  ’Rotato’ Hurricane Fries stand. Mmm!

Next, crisp and salty sweet popcorn chicken which was so good, I couldn’t even wait for it to cool down before eating it!

Popcorn chicken: sweet, spicy and so, so good.

Along with all the great food, there was a really sweet ‘wishing tree’ area – people write down their hopes for the future and tie them to the trees. It was hard to not get a lump in your throat reading everyone’s wishes… most were for a happy, healthy life for friends and family and there were many requests for a swift recovery for relatives who were ill. But one wish made me laugh out loud, “ROBOTS” – the perfect antidote to all that tear-jerking sentimentality.

The Wish Tree area, just write down what you want, tie to the tree and hope for the best…

By now we were on a huge, giggly sugar/salt high and feeling slightly crazed, which is the only explanation I have for what happened next… We spotted some children with the best balloon we’d ever seen, it had feet! And kind of walked along… Amy declared that she had to have one – which is why we ended up wandering the market with ‘Mr Happy the Pig-Balloon’. Oh boy.

Yes, that is Mr Happy being offered a cupcake. As I said, we’d had a *lot* of sugar at this point…

Definitely one of my most fun nights out in Vancouver so far; great food, hilarious company and the evening ended with a train ride home with a pig-ballon… now, how often can you say that?!



Sep 12

Travel tip #1: Learn to love jet lag

Almost ten hours flight from the UK and eight hours behind in time, jet lag is an inevitable part of any trip to Vancouver from Britain. After two days of 4.30am wake-ups, I decided that as an alternative to lying in bed, furious and unable to sleep, I’d try and turn this bitter lemon of an experience into lemonade instead.

Getting up and heading out before the sun has poked its head above the horizon always brings back memories of childhood holidays. We’d set off in the dark, bundled in our pajamas into the back of the car, sleepy and confused. The journey’s motion would inevitably lull us back to sleep again and waking on the back seat, far from home, seemed like one of the most exciting feelings in the world. This time I decided to spare any of my insomniac new neighbours my pajamas. Instead I dressed in layers to stay warm in the chill of the night and headed out into the dark, my excited dog at my heels.


Good morning, Vancouver

I’d Googled late night/early morning cafes and there was a 24-hour bagel place just ten minutes walk away. Siegel’s make Montreal-style bagels, which are boiled and then baked in a wood-burning oven, to make satisfyingly chewy-on-the-inside and crisp-on-the-outside bagels. Coming from the UK, where I’d be lucky to find perhaps 5 different varieties of bagel, to discover a great 24-hour place that had 21 different kinds had me gurgling with delight. I went for the Rosemary and Rock Salt breakfast bagel special: eggs and cheese with coffee – just $4.75 – bargain.

I stowed my freshly-made and wrapped breakfast in my bag. Freddie and I trotted down to the beach, me to feast on my bagel (just as good as I’d hoped), him to sniff out all those exciting new smells. Slowly the sun appeared and I watched it rise, the rays twinkling on the high-rises, turning Vancouver into the golden glittering city of my dreams. There I was, on a sandy beach, sitting on a driftwood log, full of hot coffee and eggy-cheesy herb-y fresh bagels, watching dazzling nature meet stunning architecture to create something new and wonderful.


Because everything's better with a bagel...

This wasn’t suffering from jet lag, this was a precious moment that I’d never have experienced without it. I vowed next time I couldn’t sleep, I’d do the same; not waste time fuming at my lack of shuteye, but seek out something to make me feel lucky to be alive. Preferably with a decent bagel to hand…

Keep exploring Canada 

Sep 12

Flying with your dog: happy landings

I’m here! Freak out over… My greatest concern about leaving the UK and coming to Vancouver was that Freddie, my beloved cocker spaniel, would not have a good flight. Turns out my dog is a better flyer than I am. I flew on Air Transat with Canadian Affair and they were just wonderful; incredibly calm, reassuring and understanding when I was wailing like a banshee at leaving my dog behind at check-in!

Freddie's been getting used to his travel crate for three months, so it felt familiar when he was on board.

When I got to the gate, I asked if Freddie had boarded safely and I was reassured again that yes, he was and was “quite vocal” about it! Once I’d sat down in my seat, one of the stewardesses even came to tell me that the captain knew there was a dog on board and everything was fine, no worries about temperature or air pressure in his part of the plane. Phew!

And off he went! *sob*

It was almost 15 hours later when I got to see him and I was overjoyed when I finally got through immigration and picked him up. I wheeled him outside in his crate and let him out and you have never seen a dog more happy to see a tree!

We’re just getting settled into our new flat by the seashore and there’s even a dog-friendly beach just 15 minutes walk away. More adventures to come very soon…

And here we are! On Freddie's new favourite doggie-only beach in Vancouver. Look at that smile.

Keep exploring Canada!


Sep 12

It’s hard to say goodbye…

There’s something they don’t tell you about when you’re getting ready to pack up and leave for a whole new life in a whole new country. I was expecting to be anxious about leaving; worrying over what to pack, what to ship and what on earth to take to the charity shops along my road in Brighton. I was even expecting to be upset about what the flight and trauma of the journey would mean to my dog, Freddie. But I wasn’t expecting to be weeping almost all the time in my last two weeks in the UK. Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – has set me off!

Imagine your life becoming as easy to cry at as a paralympics montage! That’s how much I’ve been sobbing. I’m so upset at the thought of leaving my friends and my family that it’s overshadowing all the reasons why I want to try my luck in Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

But when life gets tear-stained there’s only one solution. Go somewhere no one can see you cry… and for me that means a spa with a good steam room! So that’s exactly what I did with my best friend Emma a few days before I flew off. I’d meant to check out the new spa opening at Ockenden Manor for a while. I’d stayed there years ago – dazzling Michelin-starred food and wonderful accommodation in the heart of beautiful Sussex countryside and heard good things about the spa. We weren’t disappointed.

The spa boasts wonderful floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a quintessentially English view and – best of all – they have a swim-through indoor/outdoor pool, so Emma and I could happily splash around under the rare September sunshine before heading off to the outdoor Jacuzzi to chill under the sky.

Later, wrapped in robes, we sat on a wall and watched placid chocolate-coloured cows graze before we did the same ourselves on huge quinoa super-food salads accompanied by a glass of champagne. We’d booked in to try the Ila Kundalini back massage and I have to say it was one of the best I’ve had; totally different from the usual long, flowing strokes of a Swedish massage, this used pressure point massage and hot stones and I found myself dropping off to sleep mid-massage – always the sign of a superb treatment!

Confession: this is not at the spa, this is Emma and I in Paris. But! I was all blotchy and pink and looked terrible. You don't want a photo of that ;)

Curled up in the relaxation room later, sipping tea, laughing and chatting I realised it would be a whole year before I got to do this with Emma… and yes, there were the tears again. Time to slip back into that steam room and hide my eyes.

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