Bowen Island: The Perfect VanCity Escape

Bowen Island: The Perfect VanCity Escape

I’ve made it a personal mission to visit as many of the lovely islands off the coast of Vancouver as humanly possible. So far that list includes Galiano, Keats, Salt Spring, Thetis, Vancouver Island and most recently Bowen. Each island offers something similar and at the same time unique.

And of all the islands I’ve visited so far, the one that is the obvious choice for best day trip from Vancouver is… Bowen Island.

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A couple of months back, I organized my third annual spring getaway with my university girlfriends. Now that we are all settled with careers and busy lives, I know that we all look forward to our quiet weekends away to relax and refresh.

What makes Bowen Island the perfect retreat from city life?

Proximity

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Bowen is conveniently located in the Howe Sound just a short 30-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Many people even make a daily commute to the mainland for work or school. We were all able to put in a full-day of work before heading to the ferry terminal, knowing that departures left nearly every hour. Exactly the type of stress-free travel that I’m looking for after a busy week.

Serenity

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Within seconds of disembarking at Snug Cove, I could feel the calmness settling in. The Sunshine Coast is quiet and tranquil and full of natural beauty. It’s almost hard to believe that a place like this exists merely an hour away (door to door) from my big city life.

Our itinerary for the weekend was pretty simple: Spend time outdoors, enjoy good food, and be together. We chose an adorable cottage in the woods off of Airbnb and opted to make all of our meals at home. Even though the island is quite populated and definitely no hidden gem, it still felt at times like we were on our own. Stillness can be hard to come by in our tech-filled world, so I seek nature to ground me as often as possible.

Activity

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Although I keep touting relaxation and the “lack” of activity, there actually are quite a few things to do on the island. Our group enjoyed visiting the shops in the small town of Snug Cove (so adorable!) and wandering along the seaside boardwalk. The stunning views of Howe Sound always remind me of the fjords in Norway (or at least what I imagine they would like… that one is still on the bucket list for now).

We also did a short hike right from the main ferry dock to Dorman Point where we admired the arbutus-strewn plateau and tried to sneak a peak of the mainland. We wrapped up the day with a leisurely stroll around Killarney Lake, which is another popular area within reasonable walking distance from the main pier.

 

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We ended up spending two nights on Bowen Island but we all agreed that it would be just as easy to do a day trip if you want to save on accommodation expenses. I’m glad we took our time to savour the delicious spring weather and island vibes, but sometimes a day away is all you need to recharge your batteries.

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Keats Island: The most beautiful place you’ve never heard of

Keats Island: The most beautiful place you’ve never heard of

This past weekend I took a much needed break from the rat race and retreated to the deliciously isolated and epically beautiful Keats Island. Where you ask? Well don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it before. Keats is a teeny tiny island sandwiched between Gibsons and Bowen Island in the Howe Sound off Vancouver’s coast. In fact, you can’t even access it by ferry. My group chartered a small water taxi to get there. Now that may sound like a lot of work but like hiking, most things that take effort have a pay off.

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See what I mean?

I could not have asked for better weather for this first weekend of fall. And the panoramic views from our hideaway at Barnabus Landing had me swooning.

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Now if you’re looking for loads of activities or shopping or restaurants then you’ve come to the wrong island. Keats is a residential community and aside from a few cleared fields, it’s mostly forest. But, if you’re looking for solitude and relaxation (like me) then it couldn’t be more perfect. I went for a lovely hike in the woods and even found a sandy beach piled with driftwood but other than that… it was a reading and journaling and lounging in the sun kind of Saturday.

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Whenever I find a place this beautiful, I wonder, could I live here? Part of me never wants to leave. But then I think of the long, wet winters with nothing to do and I remember that I’m a city girl at heart. The few locals who live on the island year round will most definitely own their own boat, and fortunately the town of Gibsons on the mainland is very close, but that’s still quite a stretch for me.

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Fortunately, I can have the best of both worlds. Travel is a way to visit these places and try on a different way of life, even if only for a weekend. I get to explore a new destination and then return home, to a place that always fits me like a glove.

Could you live on a remote island or go off the grid?

Three Vibrant Years in Vancity

Three Vibrant Years in Vancity

“The past is like an anchor holding us back; You have to let go of who you are to become who you will be.”

(Carrie Bradshaw, Sex in the City)

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Three years ago, I moved to Vancouver: new apartment, new job, new life. After 24 years stuck in suburbia, living at my parent’s house to save money and finishing up my baccalaureate in business, I was ready to make a change.

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In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined that my life could look like this. I often take for granted all of the amazing experiences I’ve had in this city that I love: Volunteering at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, watching fireworks over English Bay from a rooftop apartment, sending paper lanterns into the night sky at Diner en Blanc, and most recently meeting Colin Mochorie at a VIP gala with Vancouver Theatre Sports. My routine is unpredictable at best. I have a pub trivia crew and a well-worn transit pass and an apartment right beside the beach, incredible friends with whom to enjoy happy hour and Saturday brunch and enough savings to travel the world. I get to attend amazing events, concerts, festivals, shows and spend Friday nights doing self-guided brewery tours. I’ve fallen hard for a city that often gets a bad rap.

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There are certainly mornings when the bus is sufficatingly crowded or when the rain seems to last for weeks. There are days when I feel disconnected and alone in a city full of strangers. Sometimes the cost of living makes me question if the price is worth it. But, then I take a look at the majestic mountains and the glass skyline and I pinch myself because I GET to live in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. For every day that I am frustrated, I have a dozen more that make up for it with excitement and energy and joy.

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I am a different person here than I was before. I feel like I’m thriving and alive and the best possible version of myself. Vancouver fits me like a favourite pair of jeans that you just want to wear every day. This city life is a dream come true and I don’t expect that I’ll get tired of it any time soon. I can’t wait for another year (or ten) of living in Vancouver. It’s home to me.

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Happy 3 Year Anniversary Vancity! 

Salt Spring Vineyards: A Taste of Island Living

Salt Spring Vineyards: A Taste of Island Living

During the past three years, I have fallen head over flip flops for the Southern Gulf Islands. Most of that time has been spent frequenting my beloved Galiano but last weekend I visited a new island that is sure to become a favourite. This was my first of two scheduled trips to Salt Spring Island this summer and I’m already itching to get back. There is a surprising number of activities to do and places to see on an island with only 10,000 inhabitants.

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Fortunately many of these activities lean towards the delicious. It’s no secret to my friends and family that I’ve become a bit of a wino (yet still totally classy) in recent years, so when I learned that we were heading straight from the ferry to a brewery and then on to a winery I was instantly excited.

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The highlight of the day was our visit to Salt Spring Vineyards. The idyllic location could have been straight out of a movie and the wine was tailor-made for summer nights by the lake. The free tasting featured four local wines: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir Rose, Petite Milo (my personal fave!), and the Blackberry Port. I loved all of them and we walked away with two bottles to share with friends.

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After deliberating long and hard we also purchased a couple of glasses to enjoy immediately with bread and cheese from the Salt Spring Cheese Company. We sat outside under the warm spring sun, sandwiched between a pond and the vineyards. I could think of worse places to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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I didn’t get to visit any of the other wineries this time around but I’m already scheming for my return trip this August. Salt Spring you sure know the way to my heart!

To Hell and Back: Flying over the Fraser Canyon

To Hell and Back: Flying over the Fraser Canyon

I’m continually blown away by where I get to live. Beautiful British Columbia earns its name in spades with all of the natural wonders mere minutes from my door. This really is the perfect home base for an avid traveller with a desk job. I get to take stay-cations and getaways to world-class sites on my weekends without even dipping into my precious stash of vacation days.

After 20 something years of exploring my own backyard it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find new places to explore. That’s why it seemed absolutely crazy that I had not visited Hells Gate yet. I was certainly aware of its existence as basically all of my friends and family had been there on a school field trip or family outing. But, somehow my grade had mysteriously skipped the Hells Gate excursion, leaving me in the dark as to what it was all about.

Well I’m pleased to announce that this past weekend I finally made the day trip to the stunning Fraser Canyon to see what I’d been missing.
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In short, Hells Gate is a narrowing of the Fraser River where the towering canyon walls force thundering rapids through a small 33 metre passage. Just imagine 200 million gallons of water per minute thundering beneath you. Having trouble picturing it? Here’s a visual.

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But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack shall we?

If you’re like me, perhaps you have some questions about a place that calls itself Hell. I know I did. Well if I’m being honest, I didn’t see anything hellish about Hells Gate at all. The day began with an incredibly scenic drive through the Fraser Canyon. We took the Trans Canada Highway east past Hope and through 7 mountain tunnels before reaching our destination. In all my years I don’t think I had ever been on that stretch of highway before as I usually divert down the Coquihalla when heading further east.

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But this road trip was like stepping back in time to the Gold Rush era as we passed through tiny historic towns like Yale and blink-or-you’ll-miss-it Spuzzum. It’s hard to believe that people actually live in such remote communities. And even though I could never give up my life in the big city, I can see the appeal. The air was fresh. The mountains majestic. And the only sounds I heard were the rushing river and the occasional train.

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After a 3 hour drive from Vancouver we reached the Hells Gate Airtram, one of the only descending gondolas in North America. The first thing I had to know was how it got its name. And fortunately the answer was waiting for me on a sign at the entrance. The name Hells Gate came from the journal of famed explorer Simon Fraser way back in 1808. He described it has a place “where no human being should venture for surely we have encountered the gates of hell.”

Honestly the place was more impressive than intimidating. I love both heights and white water rafting so part of me was eager to get in a boat and check it out from water level. But, I can imagine that before all the infrastructure was built (and to someone less brave than I) this place would have been a fearsome sight.

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We barely had to wait for our small 25 person gondola to carry us down to the lower terminal on the opposite side of the river. The birds’ eye view was a great vantage point to snap pictures of the landmark including the pedestrian suspension bridge, observation deck, restaurant, gift shop, and museum.

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My favourite spot was the bridge over the river which got me a bit closer to concerned about the force of the rapids. What really freaked me out were the historical facts about the 1948 flood. Back then a cool spring delayed the snow melt and when several days of hot weather and warm rain hit in May, the river quickly swelled to disastrous proportions. The footbridge I was standing on was actually a reconstruction as the original had been completely destroyed by the flood. It took a month for the water to recede and by that time 16,000 people had been evacuated and damages totaled $20 million. To put the flood volume into perspective, it is estimated that a continuous flow of 537,000 cubic feet per second would fill the dome-covered BC Place Stadium in less than two minutes! The disaster junkie in me would not have been able to tear my eyes away from that sight!

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I also finally got to see what makes this such a popular elementary field trip spot. Not only is it a beautiful location but you can learn about the salmon run and the Gold Rush all in one go. The fisheries exhibit features an award winning video titled Run Sockeye Run and you can even pan for gold for just $5.

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It might be a little (okay, a lot) off the beaten track but there’s a reason that Hells Gate Airtram has been around for over 40 years… there really is no place like Hell.

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*Note: Hells Gate Airtram very kindly offered me complimentary passes, but all opinions are my own.  

Secret Cove: A Blissful Retreat on the Sunshine Coast

Secret Cove: A Blissful Retreat on the Sunshine Coast

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

Let me start by taking a quick moment to rave about my friends. I just spent an over-the-top wonderful weekend away with three of my college girlfriends and I am feeling a tad sentimental. These women are strong, funny, confident, competent, and I am a better person for knowing them. And best of all, they are always up for one of my travel adventures!

This year for our second annual Girls Getaway we snuck away to Secret Cove near Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast. With a name like that you’d think we’d be guaranteed good weather but that is not always the case in the unpredictable Pacific Northwest. Lucky for us, the odds were ever in our favour as we enjoyed flawless spring weather all weekend long. I’m sure I started to sound like a broken record because I could NOT STOP talking about how perfect the temperature is right now and how this is the best and how I’m just so happy right now! I mean… look at this view. What’s not to love?

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The first element that made this weekend so awesome was our accommodation. We stayed in yet another Airbnb rental and this time it was a 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath, Treehouse Log Cabin complete with hot tub and a wrap around deck. From the moment we walked through the French doors we felt at home. The cabin was the perfect mix of rustic yet modern décor complete with cozy touches like robes and slippers to truly put us in a state of much needed relaxation.

IMG_3680 IMG_0751 IMG_0754 IMG_3636 IMG_0756We were perched on top of a cliff with a staircase leading down to a private dock on Secret Cove. I’m embarrassed to say that we only made the trip down once during the weekend. That epic stair master climb back to the top really did me in. But as you can see from the photos, we had a ton of privacy. We did not see or hear any of our neighbours even once. Similarly in the nearby town of Sechelt we barely saw other people on the boardwalk or beach. I didn’t think the Sunshine Coast was a hidden gem but maybe it is after all?

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This might be obvious by now, but our mission for this weekend was relaxation. Plain and simple. We packed a ton of games and a cooler full of food with very little actual plans. But, I always like to factor in a little exploration into my travel so on Saturday morning we went for a walk/hike to nearby Smugglers Cove. We set off after a leisurely brunch and walked about 30 minutes down the road. The gentle trail took us to several gorgeous lookouts where we lay on the rocks lightly baking in the sun. We climbed over drift wood on solitary beaches and admired the purple star fish clinging to the cliffs.

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Later that day we emerged from our hideaway and drove to Sechelt, which is the Sunshine Coast’s version of a city. We ate gelato on the pier and enjoyed dinner at The Lighthouse Pub where we strolled up at 6:30pm and instantly grabbed a table with an amazing view of Porpoise Bay. Seriously, where are all the people?

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Our Sunday was mostly a leisurely trip home by car, then ferry, and car once again (with another mandatory gelato stop of course). This trip was precious quality time with friends that get me at my core and appreciate my quirks as much as my strengths. Of all the elements that made this trip fantastic (weather, location, accommodation) it is Crystal, Mindy, and Rachel that made it truly special. What a gift!

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Have you been to the Sunshine Coast? Where is the most relaxing place you’ve visited?

2014: A Year in Review

2014: A Year in Review

W h a t.  A.  Y e a r !  I can’t believe that it’s actually time to say goodbye to 2014 and what has been my best travel year since 2006. I somehow managed to squeeze 18 trips into the past 12 months and I did it all while holding down a full-time office job. That’s right people… you CAN travel the world without quitting your day job. To celebrate the end of an absolutely incredible year, here’s a review of my 2014 travel adventures.

1. New Orleans (January)

I began 2014 with a bang and a kiss (teehee) while watching fireworks over the Mississippi River in New Orleans! This is definitely one for the record books and redeemed a holiday that I had pretty much given up on. Now it’s my new mission to celebrate NYE in a new city every year! photo-3 2. Victoria (February)

One of many weekend trips to Vancouver Island to visit my best friend (guest blogger Katie Smith) – it was cold. So cold that the fountains in front of parliament froze over. You don’t see that everyday.

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A less cold weekend back in Victoria to visit same friend… yeah, I’m awesome that way ;)

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4. Lake Whatcom (April)

Only the single best girls weekend ever! Okay, that might have been the wine talking but seriously, we had a great time checking out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and relaxing by a very lovely lake.  IMG_0652 5. Winnipeg (May)

At long last, I made my first trip back to Winnipeg in nearly four years. I used to go all the time (to visit family) but with domestic flight prices soaring, it’s a rare occurrence these days. Lucky for me I have connections and when my WestJetter friend hooked me up with 40% off – I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to catch my dear cousin (the actress!) on closing night of her musical. IMG_0932 6. Las Vegas (May)

VEGAS BABY!! Okay, so maybe my long weekend in Sin City wasn’t exactly what movies are made about… but it was fun! I hadn’t been since I was a teenager so the adult version was a whole new experience. IMG_0829 7. Vietnam (June)

My first trip to Asia and I chose Vietnam (by way of China) and decided to go all by myself too. Well, I didn’t end up being alone for long as I made a lot of great friends on the road. Two weeks went by all too fast as I sweat (holy hot batman!) my way up the coast enjoying beautiful beaches, amazing food, and fascinating cities. IMG_1144 8. Lac Le Jeune (July)

My first (real) camping trip was a roaring success! My expert camper friends planned a perfect two days in the Central Interior where we basically just lazed around the lake and ate. Summer in BC = Bliss! Lac Le Jeune 9. Kelowna (August)

Last year’s annual mother/daughter(s) weekend took us to Whistler Village where my sister-in-law and I took the plunge by bungee jumping for our first times. This year we headed to wine country for a perfect weekend of boating, drinking, touring… basically living the good life! IMG_1616 10. Whistler (August)

When my friend Katie casually mentioned that she’d never been to Whistler before, I hung up on her and called a hotel immediately. Whistler is an annual summer retreat for me and I’ve been at least 15 times. So, I was thrilled to show off this little resort town and all of the off-season activities it has to offer. IMG_1801 11. Tofino (August)

This trip! The trip that I never thought was actually going to happen. First we were going to Alaska. Then we were going to Hawaii. Then we ditched the idea completely. Then we were back to Alaska. But, by the end of it all, we settled on Tofino/Ucluelet for our first family vacation since 2007.

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12. Sunshine Coast (September)

When my friend Kendra got a job in the seaside town of Gibsons, I knew that it was finally  time to take a trip to the beautiful Sunshine Coast. We spent a perfect final weekend of summer driving up the coast and feasting our eyes on the impressive Skookumchuck Narrows!

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

13. Prince George (September)

Not the most glamourous destination on the list but it was travel and a new city. This work trip took me the furthest north that I’ve ever been in Canada and I got to squeeze in a quick visit with my friend Mel. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find impressive old growth forests nearby and a lot more activity than I would have initially guessed in such a remote community. This really is Beautiful British Columbia from top to bottom.IMG_2156 14. Boston (November)

One of my favourite benefits of traveling is the great people you meet along the way. Megan and I became fast friends while visiting Vietnam earlier this year and we were already googling flight prices between Vancouver and Boston before we even went our separate ways. I knew right away that I wanted to see New England in the autumn and I lucked out with an absolutely glorious weekend of blue skies and radiant fall colours. The Northeast is definitely a region I am eager to explore in more depth.IMG_2484 15. Seattle (November)

A frequent stomping ground for concerts, shopping trips, cruise departures, and cheap flights over the years, Seattle has become a second home in many ways. And now, with my family’s recent obsession with the Seattle Seahawks, we have more excuses to go and more love than ever for our sister city on the West Coast.  IMG_2506 16. Victoria again (November)

Back to Vancouver Island again… this time for some pre-Christmas festivities in sub-zero temperatures. Note to self… start visiting in summer from now on. Brr…

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17. Portland (December)

When I found out that my cousin Jordan and his wife Emily were moving from the mid-West to the weirdest coolest city in America… I couldn’t start scheming fast enough. One weekend was barely enough time to get a taste of what the city has to offer so expect many more adventures in Oregon in the months and years to come!

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18. Lisbon (December)

When the office shuts down over the holidays, why not celebrate in… P O R T U G A L ! This quick Euro trip reunites me (once again!!) with my Boston Bestie, Megan. We are spending the final four days of 2014 in beautiful Lisbon… and the travels don’t stop there! Follow my adventures into 2015 and see how (and where!) I ring in the new year!

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2014 By the Numbers:

Countries Visited: 3 (2 new ones): USA / VietnamPortugal

States Visited: 5 (2 new ones): Louisiana / Washington / Nevada / Massachusetts / Oregon

Plane Rides Taken: 12 (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has). Of those flights, four were heavily discounted by family/friend discounts, two were paid for by work, two were almost covered entirely by points, and the remaining four inspire me to keep looking for great deals.

Other Modes of Transportation: 10 ferries, 3 overnight trains, 3 buses (long-haul), 1 motorcycle, and more vehicles than I care to count.

Airports Visited: 16 (YVR, MSY, SEA, YWG, YXS, LAX, BOS, AMS, LIS, BCN, BLI, LAS, CAN, SGN, HAN, MCI)

Beds Slept In: 26. Of those, 10 were hotels, 7 were crashing with family or friends, 3 were sleeper trains,  2 were house rentals, one was an Airbnb apartment rental, one was a bed & breakfast, one was a tent, and one was my own bed!

Festive Fun in Freezing Victoria

Festive Fun in Freezing Victoria

I love this time of year. Not as much as I love summer (obviously)… but the lead up to Christmas is a close second. I love the lights, the decorations, the music, the food… pretty much everything except for the weather. I’m one of the very few snow haters in the world. That’s right you heard me… I hate snow. I give it a pass on Christmas day (because that is sort of magical) and when I’m skiing (because it’s kind of essential) but when I’m at home or travelling, snow just makes life more difficult. Sure, it’s pretty but it comes with a price that I have unwillingly paid time and time again. Here are just a few recent examples:

(1) Family vehicle stuck in snow bank and gets hit by a car √

(2) Sprained finger while falling down steep and icy driveway √

(3) Week of school cancelled with increased workload and reduced time to do it √

(4) Flight delays / cancellations √

(5) Falling in extremely wet snow and forced to go to work with soaking wet pants √

Running late? Good luck with that.

Running late? Good luck with that.

I could go on and on but you get the idea. Snow and I just don’t get along very well. So when I woke up on my recent trip to Victoria to hear that the city had just received a blanket of fresh snow… I was less than thrilled.

Fortunately, the snow mostly melted right away (I love the West Coast!) and my friend Katie and I could resume our plans to get our holiday spirit on… worry free!

We started the day by finding me the perfect Ugly Christmas Sweater at The Patch Clothing store downtown. I am so stoked to wear it every chance I get this season. It’s perfectly oversized with a gigantic scene of a bear riding a sleigh and other ridiculous stuff. Shopping Win!

Our next stop was the Fairmont Empress Hotel’s Festival of Trees. IMG_2556 The Edwardian, château-style hotel is one of the most famous sights in the city and quite pricey as well. But, you don’t need to be a paying guest to enjoy the Victorian decor, or in our case, the fantastic display of Christmas trees benefiting the BC Children’s Hospital. There were so many great themes and interesting choices that it was quite the challenge to narrow it down to our favourites. There was even an interactive Operation themed tree that would buzz and light up.

Can you guess which one is my favourite?

Can you guess which one is my favourite?

Just before the sun went down, we briefly braved the cold temperatures to enjoy the blissful golden hour sun, squeezing in a few pictures of the inner harbour before running for hot beverages. IMG_2552 IMG_2547 My inability to stay outside for longer than 20 minute increments during the day should have warned me that I was going to struggle with the Island Farms Parade of Lights that evening… but we foolishly decided to go anyway. I’m sure you can see where this is going. In the pursuit of festive fun I nearly gave myself frostbite just to see some vehicles covered in lights. Okay, I’m exaggerating but I definitely begged to just stand in the 7-eleven at one point. I’m a baby.

Alas, we ended up skipping out on some winter activities in favour of warmth but still managed to enjoy a beautiful weekend in the city. I’m sure I’ll be back soon… preferably in spring ;)IMG_2553

Northern Enlightenment: Exploring the Ancient Forest

Northern Enlightenment: Exploring the Ancient Forest

If I’m being honest, I’ve never had much of a desire to visit Northern BC. To say that I’m not a fan of cold weather is putting it mildly and the north has winters that would even make the characters on Game of Thrones a bit nervous. Not to mention that I am a city girl through and through – small towns just don’t really do it for me. Sorry.

But, I can also admit to being a bit ignorant when it comes to all of the advantages and opportunity that a Northern lifestyle can provide. It clearly has appeal to some and I am always willing to try new things. So, when work called me to Prince George (thankfully in September not January) I was excited to see it for myself.

Luckily for me, my friend Melanie also lives in PG and gave me a royal welcome. We had one day to see the sights, which included a delicious breakfast at Nancy O’s and a tour of the very impressive UNBC campus.

But the highlight of the day was definitely our trip outside the city limits to visit The Ancient Forest. We had to drive over an hour to reach the trail head but it was well worth the effort to see this old growth forest on such a beautiful, sunny, autumn day.

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We had our choice of three well-marked, well-groomed trails. We chose to do the Waterfall loop and end off with the wheel chair friendly boardwalk. I really enjoyed the muddy, uneven trails because it required careful footwork but was still an easy hike. From what I understand, it is quite remarkable to find such large trees this far North and this close to the Rockies. Since I have essentially grown up in a rainforest, I’m used to seeing big trees and felt right at home on the trails. Maybe the North isn’t quite as desolate as I imagined?

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I still don’t think I’m hardy enough to live up North but it definitely has more to offer than I would have guessed.

What about you? Have you ever lived in a remote location or tough climate?

Nature’s Treadmill: Skookumchuck Narrows

Nature’s Treadmill: Skookumchuck Narrows

On the last weekend of summer I continued my amazing streak of perfect weather weekend getaways with a visit (my first ever!) to the Sunshine Coast.

I’ve become rather fond of ferry travel over the past couple of years and this time was no exception. The short 40 minute trip from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale was not nearly long enough for me to savour the scenery during my favourite time of day – Golden Hour.

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So what finally got me to the Sunshine Coast after all these years? Well, my friend Kendra recently moved into an adorable cabin in Gibsons and I just couldn’t resist checking it out for myself. We didn’t spend too much time in the sleepy fishing town because we had another mission in mind – The Skookumchuck!

Gibsons, BC

Gibsons, BC

The shook-em-what you ask? Well, if you haven’t heard of this impressive natural spectacle yet, then let me endeavour to educate. At the entrance of the Sechelt Inlet is a narrowing of the waters before it connects again with the Jervis Inlet. Twice daily, as the tide changes, the flow of saltwater must pass through the rapids creating fantastic white caps sometimes exceeding 9 ft in height.

To see this phenomenon with our own eyes, we drove for 1.5 hours along the windiest road of all time (beware of motion sickness) until we reached the trail entrance. The 4km loop was a very lovely hike featuring beautiful coastal forests, lakes, and cliffside overlooks. Our entire day was planned around arriving at Roland Point at just the right time (which differs depending on the time of year) to catch the Flood Tide.

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At high tide we gathered with other spectators to watch in wonder as extreme kayakers tested out nature’s treadmill. These thrill seekers pushed off from the banks, got sucked into the rapids, and then warred against the waves until they were too tired to continue.

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I’m continually amazed by the beauty and wonder in my own backyard… I can’t wait to see what I discover next!

Photo Essay: Summer in the Pacific Northwest

Photo Essay: Summer in the Pacific Northwest

It’s the last week of summer, and instead of getting sad about the shorter days and the inevitable rain, I am choosing to celebrate my favourite season!

If it wasn’t already obvious from my posts over the past couple of months… I love summer and I especially love summer in the Pacific Northwest! This region, which is loosely a combination of BC, Washington, and Oregon, enjoys warm, long, dry summers that stretch into the late days of September. The temperature typically sits in the mid 20s Celsius near the water and peaks around 30 degrees inland (sometimes a bit hotter). For the most part, the temperature is so deliciously perfect that you can get a tan without dissolving into a puddle of sweat and with the sun setting late into the evening you can really make the most of all the great activities that only happen at this time of year.

I may be known to use a bit of hyperbole from time to time (okay a lot of the time), but I can honestly, without a doubt proclaim that we have the best summers of any region in the world.

Don’t believe me? Well maybe these photos will help change your mind…

Active Pass, Southern Gulf Islands

Active Pass, Southern Gulf Islands

Coal Harbour, Vancouver (this is where I work!)

Coal Harbour, Vancouver (this is where I work!)

Chesterman Beach, Tofino

Chesterman Beach, Tofino

Kettle Valley, Summerland

Kettle Valley, Summerland (see… it even has summer in the name!)

Howe Sound, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

Howe Sound, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

Bridal Falls, Chilliwack

Bridal Falls, Chilliwack

Gastown, Vancouver

Gastown, Vancouver

Mission Hill Winery, Lake Okanagan, West Kelowna

Mission Hill Winery, Lake Okanagan, West Kelowna

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

Lost Lake, Whistler

Lost Lake, Whistler

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Vancouver Skyline

Vancouver Skyline

Farewell summer! Until next year…

Maquinna Provincial Park and Hot Springs Cove!

Maquinna Provincial Park and Hot Springs Cove!

Some like it hot… and those people should definitely be at Hot Springs Cove!

On my recent trip to Tofino, my family and I decided to embark on a little adventure to Maquinna Provincial Park. Our main purpose: to check out the all-natural, geothermal hot pools located just 32 km up the coast.

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To get to the very secluded provincial park, we took a 90 minute boat ride, courtesy of the Whale Centre, in which we enjoyed beautiful scenery and even spotted a couple of bears along the way.

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Once we arrived at Hot Springs Cove, we hiked a 2 km boardwalk through an old growth rainforest. The trail was so lovely and tranquil with interesting carvings in the planks and lookouts to capture the views.

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When we finally reached the hot springs, we were able to soak in small pools of water at a toasty 107°F. We even found a pool at the opening of the rocky penninsula where the cold ocean water was seeping in. We thought we had found the perfect lukewarm pool until we began getting blasted with icy waves. The entertainment for the afternoon quickly became watching my brother squirm as the temperature switched from hot to freezing cold at less than a moments notice.

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It was so great to see that the springs hadn’t been altered or expanded to make us tourists more comfortable. The rocks were slippery. The pools were small. And the location was remote.

The spot is definitely popular with more people than pools at times, but it’s still worth the effort and the crowds to experience such a unique natural phenomenon.

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Vancouver: The Best Place on Earth

Vancouver: The Best Place on Earth

Another Vancouver-centered blog post? That’s right people… just because I love to travel doesn’t mean I don’t love the place I call home.

Today is my 2nd anniversary of living in Vancouver and to celebrate I thought I would share a few of my favourite things about my favourite place on earth!

1. The Skyline

Vancouver was recently ranked 9th in the world for most number of ‘highrises’ – defined as a multi-storey building with at least 12 floors or a height of 35 metres (115 feet). But, it’s not simply the numbers that impress me… it’s the combination of the mountains, ocean, green space, and glass buildings. Just look at that view!

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2. The Beaches

It is no secret that I love beaches (see some of my favourites here). And lucky for me, Vancouver has SO MANY!!!

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3. The Mountains

Living minutes from multiple ski hills (Grouse, Seymour, Cypress) and world-class hiking is a huge draw for many Vancouverites that move here to play in our mountains year round. They aren’t so bad to look at either.

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4. Seawall

When I say that I’m going for a walk or a bike ride, you should just assume that I’m talking about the Seawall. This scenic 22 km path that lines Vancouver’s waterfront could not be more perfect for a walk, cycle, or jog and is by far the most popular recreational spot in the city. Just make sure that you stay in your designated lane (walking/jogging vs. cycling/skating) or you might just get knocked into the sea.

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5. Nightlife

Vancouver sometimes gets a bad rap for being a ‘no fun city.’ Say what?! You will quickly see from this list, that that is definitely not the case. In fact, it could easily be called a ‘more fun city!’ Now I can see how some of the legislation may seem uptight but lucky for us locals it is loosening quite a bit (hello happy hour!). But, the best part of the Vancity nightlife has to be the cool bars in historic Gastown. Several of my favourite spots remind me of the unspeakably cool Speak Easy culture of the 1920s, such as Pourhouse, Guilt & Co, and Revel Room. Cheers!

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6. Food

From Street Food Trucks to Top-chef restaurants and award-winning gelato to sushi on every corner… Vancouver cuisine is diverse, local, probably organic, and always delicious.

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7. Events

Long before I lived in Vancouver, I had been coming here each summer to enjoy many of the spectacular events. If you like theatre then we have Bard on the Beach and Theatre Under the Stars. If you like movies then we have the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Summer Cinema Series featuring outdoor movies in Stanley Park. We have one of the largest Pride Parades in North America and the always popular Pacific National Exhibition(aka really big summer fair). But of all these events, my favourite has to be the Celebration of Light. Not only is it Vancouver’s biggest event, but it’s also the largest offshore fireworks competition in the world and attracts up to 400,000 spectators along English Bay. I’ve been coming for years and now I can even enjoy the show from the comfort of my couch.

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8. Culture

Vancouver is still a relatively young city by the world’s standards having just celebrated it’s 128th birthday. But even still the city is rich in history and culture. Whether it be the legend and deep-rooted history of the First Nations people or the kaleidoscope of diversity brought through immigration, Vancouver is a place where you can experience the new and different. Sometimes I catch myself on the bus and no one around me is even speaking English. I love that! I hope my city always remains a place where people from all over the world feel welcome. Our differences are what make us stronger.

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9. Parks

Not only does Vancouver have the largest and top rated city park in the entire world (Stanley Park), it also has 750 hectares devoted to forest research at Pacific Spirit Regional Park. From small neighbourhood community gardens to large destination parks and feature gardens, the Vancouver Park Board maintains more than 220 parks that make up 11% of Vancouver’s land mass. We are well on our way to becoming the greenest city in the world in more ways than one.

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10. Architecture

It is so hard to choose a favourite building in the city when you have options like Science World and the Vancouver Convention Centre in the running. But, the one that never ceases to amaze and impress is the Vancouver Central Library, which was recently ranked as the 6th most beautiful library in the world. Inspired by the Colosseum, this architectural gem combines the old and new with such perfection. The words certainly don’t fit the picture.

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Wine Tasting in the Okanagan Valley

This past weekend I spent my second annual “Girl’s Weekend” in the Okanagan Valley with my mom and sister-in-law. Basically, this weekend is an excuse for me to have a mini vacation (with my mom picking up the tab) and to show my new American sis all the glorious spots BC has to offer. And of course to bond and spend quality time together too.

Last year we took her to one of our favourite summer stomping grounds – Whistler Village. Although the weather didn’t quite cooperate, we still managed to kick off this tradition with a bang and checked bungee jumping off the bucket list!

Just jumped off a bridge... no big deal

Just jumped off a bridge… no big deal

This year we had to make sure our trip was equally entertaining and decided to return to the Okanagan where my family used to frequent back when I was a kid. However, this time we had more grown up pursuits in mind… cue the wine!

No trip to the Okanagan Valley would be complete without making time for a little wine tour. With over 150 wineries in the region it’s no wonder that USA today named it as the world’s second best wine region to visit. Described as “Drop. Dead. Gorgeous” by expert Kerry Woolard, this wine country has made a name for itself with award winning white wines like the Mission Hill Chardonnay and incredible lake views from nearly every angle.

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We decided to visit the famous Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna for a one hour heritage tour. It was a delightful experience, perfectly crafted to please by our host Elizabeth. We watched a short documentary, toured the bordeaux cellars, and of course sampled some wine (three to be exact). But, it’s really the grounds that make this such a lovely place to visit. The winery is built in a Roman classic style similar to what you would see in Tuscany and boasts a 140 ft bell tower, a 1000 seat outdoor amphitheatre, and truly beautiful lake views. I could have stayed here all day!

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Next up: Soaking up the lake life in Kelowna!

City Girl goes Camping: Lac Le Jeune

One short week after returning from my first trip to Asia, I decided to take on another first – camping!

I know what you’re thinking… FIRST TIME CAMPING? How is that possible? Well, I’m a city girl. That doesn’t mean I don’t know how to rough it (especially where travel is concerned) but it does mean that I prefer sleeping on a real bed and having access to a shower.

When I was a kid my family would go to Lake Kalamalka every summer and I loved it! I thought we were camping but my friends have since informed me that I was actually “glamping.” Essentially we stayed in a trailer park resort beside the lake with all the creature comforts of home.

In an act of defence I also proclaimed that I had tented for 4 days in Peru… but I admitted that the amazing G Adventures crew carried all my gear (sherpas and llamas for the win!), set up the campsite each night, and cooked all my meals. So, I guess this really was my first real camping trip!

My amazing friends showed me the ropes and the six of us had a fantastic two nights at Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park. My time in Vietnam trained me for the heat so the 38°C didn’t bother me and we even lucked out with very few bugs. It was so nice to leave my phone in my bag and spend some quality time playing games, floating on the lake, and roasting marshmallows over a camp fire. I’m still a city girl at heart but I think I’ll try to spend some more time in the great outdoors!

 

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Frozen in Victoria

This past weekend I got the chance to take a quick trip to the island to visit my friend in Victoria.

I have visited BC’s provincial capital several times but never in such cold temperatures. As much as I prefer the beautiful cherry blossoms that line the streets in springtime, the frozen fountain in front of the parliament buildings was quite the sight to behold.

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