A few weeks ago, I happened upon a great blog by The adventures of Patchegal about her experience of walking on a frozen lake. It inspired me to dig out my old photos and journals from my first trip to Canada, which was way back in 1985, and reminisce about the time I also walked on a frozen lake. I don’t have a photo of myself, but I snapped some shots of my brother Ross and his Canadian girlfriend Karen on Skaha Lake in the Okanagan.
I was only 19 years old and this was my first trip overseas as an adult. I had travelled to Europe for three months, before flying to New York to meet up with Ross. We spent two months travelling by kombi van in eastern Canada – which could be another blog reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine – before he dropped me in Wisconsin to catch up with a friend. I rejoined him for Christmas and New Year in Vancouver.
It is so much fun looking back at old photos and these ones are particularly significant because they mark the beginning of numerous trips to Vancouver, my home away from home. Until now, I haven’t really reflected on this – and just how enriched my life has been because of all my visits to my Canadian family.
Ross and Karen were married in 1987 and they had two boys, Jasper and Cody, who I adore. Since then, whenever I packed my bags to go travelling, I always try to include Vancouver in my itinerary. I’ve been to Canada on seven occasions and have so many wonderful memories of the incredible places and wonderful people I’ve meet – and it’s all because my brother married a Canadian girl.
My favourite memories from Vancouver and surrounds include:
- Learning to ski on Grouse Mountain (in icy conditions) and then going to Whistler for a full day of skiing on a fresh snowfall (which was much easier).
- Successfully hiking the Grouse Grind without having a heart attack. Then enjoying a cold drink and glorious views of Vancouver, before riding the cable car back down.
- Cycling on trails around Stanley Park, English Bay and False Creek.
- Granville Island: shopping for fruit and vegies, sampling delicious food, looking at art galleries and listening to buskers.
- Short hikes in Lynn Canyon Park, including walking across the suspension bridge in winter when there was a light covering of snow on everything.
- Watching the Vancouver Canadians playing baseball at Nat Bailey Stadium.
- Watching the Vancouver Canucks playing ice hockey at Rogers Arena.
- Several trips to the gorgeous town of Victoria on Vancouver Island.
- Visits to Mayne Island, where Karen’s mother lives on a small farm.
- Lots of hiking including Mt Gardner on Bowen Island, the Chief in Squamish and various trails in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island.
- Going to concerts and discovering some great Canadian bands/singers including Blue Rodeo, Spirit of the West and Sarah McLachlan.
- Hanging around Horseshoe Bay (where my family lives) because, even though it’s a suburb of a big city, it has that small-town community feel to it where everyone knows one another. And it’s so picturesque. I could sit in the park all day staring at the boats in the harbour and the surrounding mountains.
- And, only last year, getting to watch the filming of my favourite TV show, Supernatural (see my blog: Supernatural, Twitter and the reluctant groupie.)
I have also travelled further afield to the Okanagan, where I went skiing at Big White and walked on that frozen lake, and the Canadian Rockies, where I did lots of hiking. See my blogs: Hiking gems in the Canadian Rockies and You are in bear country.
It seems incredible to me that some of these experiences were so long ago. Seeing these photographs from my first trip has made me a tad sentimental, but re-reading my 1985 journal has also been an interesting exercise. There is a bit of angst and naivety, typical for a 19-year-old girl, but I was also struck by how thoroughly written it was (long before I figured out that I wanted to be a writer). I described everything from the excitement of seeing new places to mundane days of lazing around the house playing trivial pursuit.
I wrote in great detail about all the meals I ate, including one of the few times I’ve ever eaten at McDonalds (and even then it was under protest). The time between Christmas and New Year was well-documented. I ate roast turkey, turkey pie, turkey with noodles, turkey casserole and turkey with vegetables. There seemed to be plenty of other food on offer, but turkey was discussed with great affection and frequency.
My other favourite word was terrific and I used it to describe everything from buildings and scenery to Karen’s niece Kalynn, who was so cute and obviously awesome (which is the terrific word that I use now in my descriptions).
Incidentally, on my last trip to Vancouver in 2011, I finally got to see Kalynn again. She had no recollection of me, but I’m happy to report she’s still terrific and a very talented artist to boot. On my next visit, in August/September 2013, I think I’ll buy some of her ‘Dark Art‘.
But I’m also going to hang out in Horseshoe Bay, catch a ferry to Mayne Island for a few days, cycle around Stanley Park again, and spend a few hours meandering around Granville Island. I’ve even signed up to go to a three-day ‘Supernatural convention’, where I can hang out with some fellow-geeks!
I’m so looking forward to getting back to my ‘home away from home’.
Do you have a place that you consider a home away from home, or fond memories of travels from many years ago? I love to hear your stories in the comments below.