Category: Canada

Did someone say food trucks?

There’s a thing you should know about us and travel.

That thing is sometimes called sashimi and sometimes called buffalo wings; sometimes pretzel dog or pizza and sometimes mac and cheese or clam chowder. This thing has a side-kick as well, which is sometimes a glass of wine, sometimes a bloody mary, sometimes a locally brewed beer and almost always a (Beanhunter-recommended) coffee.

For us, a journey is a lot about food and culture and not so much about monuments and history. Food is the fuel that keeps us going when we travel, it’s the opportunity to sit somewhere and watch the locals go by and it’s the translation of a country’s traditions and pride into something you can become a part of through taste.

As it turned out, our last stop in North America, Portland, had some pretty big bragging rights when it came to food, including a massive variety of food trucks, world-renowned donuts and beautifully-melt-in-your-mouth-buttery-based pies.

Oh my, oh my.

Before I get lost in a daydream about Portland’s food (and lose all of you who’d rather read about other things) let me rewind back to our departure from the chilled-out Vancouver Island. We were up bright (actually, it was dark) and early on our day of departure and had pre-booked a ferry (lesson learned!) to avoid the predictable multi-hour delay at the ferry terminal going back to Vancouver.

Having arrived back on the mainland nice and early, our first stop (of course) had to be food – so Maren took us to a Korean-inspired, student-filled café somewhere in Vancouver’s “Asian suburbs.” After a good meal here of fried potatoes, meat and thick slices of black bread, we drove on to Golden Ears Provincial Park, about an hour outside of Vancouver, to walk off lunch –and enjoy one last taste of BC’s natural delights.

After walking through – but not discovering the story behind the name of – Golden Ears, we made our way back to Vancouver. As the sun set over the mountains, some of them still covered in a light coating of snow, we ate sashimi in Queen Elizabeth Park and looked out over this lovely city, innerley thankful for the chance to explore it these past 10 days.

That evening we made a fire in the fireplace with no cover, drank more red wine (surprise, surprise), did ridiculous amounts of washing that took ridiculous amounts of time to dry and enjoyed our last night in Canada in Maren’s cosy basement apartment.

The next morning, we were up in the dark again (so relaxing, this holiday!?) to catch the first train to Portland. We had a table setting for four to ourselves and spent the next 8 hours catching up on sleep, looking out the window and listening the conductor over the speaker telling us that every stop we pulled into was “a jewel of the Pacific North West… don’t miss it!… Please.”

On arrival in Portland, we were greeted by hipsters and good coffee, a street full of bars and antique shops within walking distance to our Air BnB and a quaint neighbourhood that looked like Spring in a Babysitters Club teenage novel.

Our friend Sheldon (aka Sheridan) joined us shortly after we arrived, and as an awesome foursome we spent the next 2 days hiking from one hipster café to another, from craft market to mega-bookshop and from donut shop to food truck. We well and truly ate our way through this “City of Roses”, even scoring ourselves some free donuts for complimenting the server on his groovy dance moves.

We (kind of) figured out the city’s public transport system (even though that included one bus trip in the wrong direction), checked out a local church for Easter Sunday and spent our last, rainy evening drinking local beers and playing “What do you meme” until our eyes were wet from laughter.

Then, before we knew what was happening, it was time to say goodbyes and we were all sitting in our separate Ubers making our way to our next destination – Maren back to Vancouver, Sheldon to Seattle and us to the airport for our flight to LA, then home.

It has been a short holiday but a wonderful one, filled with laughter and eating and red wine and fires. I loved the ferries and the gloomy beaches, the green pine trees and the way people said “ah-huh” instead of “you’re welcome” when I thanked them.

Most of all though, I loved seeing my sister and spending time with special people. It is truly a joy and a blessing to love and be loved, and I am eternally grateful to our wonderful Father in heaven who brings us together in this life and continues to bless us, protect us and shower us with love so far beyond our comprehension and deserving.

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1)

 

Driftwood and Black Bears

If a bear shows intense interest, follows or advances toward you, you should keep the bear in view but avoid eye contact, make yourself as large as possible, talk softly at it (?!) and back away slowly. Under no circumstances should you turn around and run – you cannot outrun a bear. Oh, and if you’re attacked, just fight back.

Right. Glad that’s settled.

These signs, posted by British Columbia (BC) Parks at most national and provincial park carparks, was enough to give me temporary wildlife-spotting paranoia and put me slightly on edge every time we went for a walk.

Lucky the scenery was beautiful.

For the last four days, we have been on Vancouver Island, the much larger home of many driftwood-strewn beaches, small towns with cute coffee shops and multi-day hikes.

Our home was a tiny cabin in a place called Jordan River, surrounded by trees strung with yellow glowing lightbulbs and with the constant sound of the ocean splashing against the shore below.

It was another rustic Canadian experience – the toilet was in an outhouse, 100m from the house (with no running water and only 3 walls, so that you faced directly into open nature when doing your business) and the only shower was an outdoor one, hidden at the back of a shed at the other side of the property. Tell you what, a single digit breeze coming at you when you’re under a hot stream of water is a new and unusual experience!

It was just the three of us this time – Maren, Tyson and I, as Agust had to go back to Boston to keep fighting fires (that’s his job, not his hobby). We made sure Maren was distracted from missing her long-distance lover by providing plenty of red wine, dancing and camp fires (leading to the famous Tyson-holding-axe-photo) and Maren proudly showed us this place that she had visited a couple of times before.

The people were nicer in Jordan River – less creeper-ish than on the northern islands – and we loved enjoying local coffee (or “London Fog”) and breakfast, hiking down to beaches and through moss-covered forests and even taking a day trip to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital, for a spot (read: a few hours) of thrift shopping, some delicious seafood and even more coffee (we’re on a constant hunt to find superior tasting drip coffee substitutes).

It’s been a wonderful middle stint of the trip – thanks Vancouver Island, you’ve been a gem! Now back to Vancouver, then Portland, we go.

 

Cancelled

They were big, red letters on an electronic sign – impossible to misinterpret, but yet, none of us dared accept them as truth.

Ferry cancelled.

But why? The weather wasn’t even that crazy. And we had woken up so early to make it in time, after almost a full day of exploring Vancouver and a night dining at one of the city’s coolest restaurants. We had a long, leisurely drive ahead of us to get to our cabin on Cortes Island (8 hours, as described by our Air BnB host, though it took us until much later to realise the 8 hours may have included an allowance for getting stuck with a cancelled ferry). This long, leisurely drive was to become far less leisurely if this ferry was cancelled: we still had two other ferries to catch, four days’ worth of groceries to buy and petrol – or “gas” – to fill up.

Oh dear.

As it turned out, our ferry was cancelled, and it seemed that the two leaving before ours had been too. We never did definitively find out why. What we did find out was that we should have pre-booked our tickets, as those cars who had got to drive straight past us onto the next available ferry, even though we had been there quite a bit longer than many of them.

And so it happened that we spent almost 6 hours sitting at Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, passing time by drinking bad Starbucks coffee, eating fast-food pizza and strolling through the local $2 store.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t how I’d pictured my second day in Canada.

Luckily, the main reason for our visit was to see my sister Maren; and spending time with her (and her American boyfriend, Agust) was precious time regardless – even if the view was of 700 other cars, instead of the green pine forests of the Vancouver Islands.

Alas – we finally made it to our end destination via two other islands (though we did have to include a vehicular sprint across the second island, Quadra) and arrived at our two-storey wooden cabin on Cortes Island in the dark, as sleet fell on the snow-covered road.

Did someone say this was Spring?!

For the next 4 nights, we soaked up the peacefulness of the forest behind us and the quiet Gorge Harbour in front. In the mornings, we had long, extended breakfasts (we couldn’t believe the cabin had a waffle maker!) as the birds chirped their wake-up song and oyster farmers worked methodically along pontoons spread out across the calm waters in front of our cabin windows.

The days were alternatingly wet and windy, but we made the most of the time outdoors by exploring the strange corners of this very alternative island, wandering along almost deserted beaches and checking out the local sea life beyond the long, red-painted jetties with views of the mountains.

When the last day promised rain that seemed to have no start, nor a foreseeable end, we made the call to go back to Quadra Island, the one we had sprinted through on our way to Cortes. On Quadra, we discovered a heightened level of civilization (read: not as many creepy people or junkyard-like houses) and enjoyed a wet, but beautiful, hike through ferny, mossy, pine tree forests.

As evening falls on evening five, we sit and enjoy the sound of rain on the roof, the crackling of the fire and the taste of (yet another) bottle of local red wine. I’m pleased to say, the wine’s been surprisingly good! It has also – quite possibly – contributed to our evenings being full of laughter, silly dancing, good food and (heated) board games.

Four – almost five – nights of our short Canada stint are over; seven more are to come. Tomorrow we head to Jordan River – back on the larger Vancouver Island and from there we’re back in Vancouver. A page full of memories already… I wonder what other joys are to come.