A Day Exploring Capilano and Grouse Mountain

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I thought I’d posted everything from my little trip to Canada back in July, but turns out I had one post left – and here it is.  Officially, Sunny and I spent two whole days in Vancouver before heading off on our road trip towards Jasper and Banff – but because we stomped the city in one day and saw pretty much everything we wanted to see, we decided to spend the second day out of the city in North Vancouver exploring Capilano  Suspension Bridge Park and Grouse Mountain. 🙂

Capilano is only around 20 minutes north from downtown Vancouver – and basically reminded me of the evergreen forest from that old 80s cartoon, The Raccoons (Did anyone else watch that!?  I kept singing the theme song to Sunny when we were there and he was clueless!).  It’s a beautiful forest stretched across the Capilano River, which you can cross by walking over a 70 metre high suspesion bridge (which definitely has a wobble to it!).  There’s actually a free shuttle from downtown Vancouver (it leaves from just outside the cruise ship terminal) that runs all the way to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and onwards to the Grouse Mountain Cable Car, and then back again – so getting there was really easy (and free!).





Once we’d explored Capilano, we headed further up the mountain and caught the cable car up to Grouse Mountain – which is winter sports central during the winter, but during the summer is the place to go for amazing views of Vancouver and to get up close and personal with a couple of grizzly bears (safely!).  On the summit there’s a cafe and during the summer there’s a programme of activites – like talks on birds of prey spotted around the summit, and watching loggers do their thing.  You can actually get on the chair lift and go even higher if you’re not scared of heights!






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Vancouver’s Street Art

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Let’s head back to Canada – specifically, Vancouver – for a second, shall we?  I was going through my photographs a couple of weeks ago because I want to put a few of my favourite up on the wall and I came across all these colourful snaps of the murals I spotted whilst strolling around Vancouver.  I’ve already written a whole post about what I got up to during my 48 hours or so spent in the city, but I thought the murals were so incredible that they deserved a whole post of their own.  🙂

When Sunny and I booked our hotel we just went for one of the cheapest we could find (hotels in Vancouver are so expensive!) that wasn’t too far from downtown.  We ended up booking one in Mount Pleasant, which apparently used to be the rough end of town until it went through some regeneration a few years back.  Nowadays it’s full of coffee shops and poke restaurants and some really beautiful street art.  In fact, every year in August Vancouver holds a Mural Festival to celebrate diverse local cultures and their histories as well as issues facing the city through vibrant murals.  If you’re heading to Vancouver and fancy checking out all the murals, there’s a handy map pointing them all out and explaining the meaning behind them here.










Have a lovely weekend everyone! 🙂

The Canadian Lakes

Back when we were planning our Canadian Road Trip – searching up itineraries and must-see/do lists – I couldn’t help but raise a skeptical eyebrow at all the beautiful pictures of the glacial lakes puddled along the road through the Canadian Rockies between Jasper and Banff.  I mean, are they really that blue?  REALLY?  That kind of colour just doesn’t exist when it comes to lakes in ol’ Blighty.  No offence to my local lake, but on the Pantone colour scale Roath Park’s stuck somewhere between Bone Brown and Duffel Bag Grey (sorry Roath Park, you know I love you really).  So you can see why I was so determined that there had to be some sneaky editing going on when it came to the lakes in Canada.

Well, I can confirm that they really are that blue and the only nifty bit of editing going on is to do with the sun.  If you want to get nerdy about it, the brilliant colour comes from silt-rock flour flowing into lake straight off the glacier which refracts blue and green light – especially when the sun’s out. And lucky for us, we managed to hit up most of the lakes on the road between Jasper and Banff while the weather was holding up. 🙂

Lake Patricia, Jasper

Lake Patricia – tucked away off a narrow road just outside Jasper town centre was my absolute favourite and was so beautiful it looked completely fake!  We arrived there really early in the morning before a long day of driving; the water was nice and still and we had the whole place to ourselves for a good hour.


Peyto Lake, Banff

Bluest of the blue, the best way to see Peyto Lake is climb Bow Summit (or cheat and drive to the top…).  You get a beautiful bird’s eye view of the lake and surrounding mountains… but, good luck getting a clear shot because the tiny viewing platform gets really busy!  I was so proud I managed to get this picture without anyone bombing it, but whaddya know, there’s a floating head in the corner.  Pfft!

Bow Lake, Banff

Sunny and I loved Bow Lake and the oh so picturesque Num-Ti-Jah Lodge so much that we ended up bringing a print of it back home to hang above our bed.  We walked right down to the lake and dipped our feet in the absolutely freezing glacier water (not the best idea at the time considering I was struggling with an air con cold I’d managed to catch somewhere between Vancouver and Jasper…).  I’m not sure how many people swim in these lakes – I mean, we were there in the summer and they were still absolutely freezing even when the weather was boiling hot.  That’s why they call it the polar dip!





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Moraine Lake, Banff

It was starting to grey over when we reached Moraine Lake (just down the road from the much more touristy, Lake Louise) and we really noticed how much the sun changes the colour of the water.  We followed the path around the side of the lake away from the crowds to take some pictures and watch people kayaking before the rain arrived.


Lake Louise, Banff

The big kahuna.  Everyone says you’re missing out if you go to Banff and don’t visit Lake Louise.  Honestly?  It was the busiest of the lot and wasn’t much to write home about compared to the others we’d seen.  I mean, yeah, we’d seen a lot of lakes by that point and the rain dulled the views a little, but the best part by far was blagging our way into the Fairmont Hotel for an early dinner (it’s so busy there that the hotel usually only allows guests to dine).  My parents happened to be road tripping the opposite way and we managed to meet up for dinner which was really lovely 🙂


Have you ever visited the Canadian Rockies?  Which lake was your favourite? 🙂

Road Tripping From Vancouver to Banff

There are three things you need to be aware of if you’re ever planning on road tripping through Canada.  Number one; Sirius XFM plays A LOT of Eminem (Seriously, after 800km I can confidently say that I’m well-rehearsed enough to stand up and be the real Slim Shady).  Number two; Maple Cream Biscuits make for the best road tripping snacks.  And Number three; snoozing is impossible and that five hour stretch will quickly turn into a seven hour stretch because the views just keep getting better and better.  You’re not going to want to shut your eyes and you’re going want to keep stopping to snap away. 🙂


Our road trip began in Vancouver where we picked up this baby.  Our booking was originally going to give us a Volkswagen Golf, but when Sunny saw that there was a Dodge Charger available we decided on a sneaky upgrade (I mean, come on, it’s The General Lee!).  It was a lot of fun – especially when it came to whizzing past all those ambling camper vans on the road between Jasper and Banff.

We split our road trip into three days; on day one, we drove the scenic route through Frazer Canyon from Vancouver to Kamloops, on day two we drove up through Jasper to Hinton, and then on day three we drove Icefields Parkway all the way through Banff to Golden.  We only had a few days but managed to cram a hell of a lot in along the way including stopping to see bears at the side of the road (don’t look for the bears, look out for all the other parked cars!), mountains, rivers, four kilometer long freight trains and dip our feet in all of the gorgeous (but freezing!) lakes.  It was absolutely nackering, but so worth it!

Moose Lake, BC.

The Road to Kamloops




The Grizzly we caught scratching his butt 😉


If there’s anything you want to know about driving in Canada, feel free to fire away!  Have a great week! 🙂

Vancouver in a Day

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Okay, let’s be clear; we actually had a grand total of three days in Vancouver (two and a half, really, when you count the fact that we were stuck in immigration for most of the afternoon after we landed).  But, we pretty much explored the whole city in one day and then used our second day to explore North Vancouver – including Capilano and Grouse Mountain (stay tuned for that one…).  Of course, Vancouver isn’t a small city and we were absolutely cream-crackered by the end of the day (maple cream-crackered), but we saw pretty much everything we wanted to see. 🙂

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Back when we booked our trip we were stunned by how expensive hotels in Vancouver are and really struggled to find something that wasn’t either horrendously expensive or waaaaay out of the city.  We settled on the Best Western Plus Uptown Hotel, which was just off Main Street in an area called Mount Pleasant.  I’m told by an ex-Vancouverite that it used to be a bit of a run down neighborhood, but recently it’s undergone a bit of gentrification with its mural art, poke restaurants and taco bars.  The hotel was great; especially the crew on reception who were full of insider info and put out fresh drinks at the end of the day for weary, overheated guests to take back to the room.  We weren’t far from downtown but not close enough to walk (especially as there was heatwave on while we were there) and so we ended up using the bus to get around quickly.




GRANVILLE ISLAND

We started off the day on Granville Island, heading over there nice and early for breakfast waffles before all the crowds of other tourists swooped in.  It’s not technically and island but a peninsula wedged between downtown and South Granville and while it used to be full of factories and warehouses, nowadays its home to Vancouver’s Public Market and foodie heaven.  From fruit and veg to doughnuts and bagels, and pies and oysters to clothing and artwork, it’s my number one recommended place to hit up if you’re ever in Vancouver.  We wandered around the stalls, stuffed our faces and shopped for some unique bits and bobs to bring home.



STANLEY PARK

From Granville Island, we caught one of the cute and colourful little Aquabuses that ferry people around False Creek, and got off at Yaletown.  From there we had the crazy idea to walk the seawall to Stanley Park, hitting up Sunset Beach and English Bay along the way.  By that point it was late morning, it was getting hot and it was much longer walk than we realised.  BUT!  It was a lovely walk and well worth it to see the beaches.

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s not-so-little oasis right on the edge of downtown.  It’s more than just a public park, it’s actually 400 hectare rainforest and home to plenty of wildlife (including racoons and beavers).  It’s also where you’ll find the famous Vancouver Aquarium.  We didn’t have much time to explore the whole park, but we did walk the scenic sea wall route which took us right past the famous first nation Totem Poles.



JAPADOG

By the time we did a loop of the park it was time for a pitstop and we just happened to stumble across a Japadog Stand.  I’d heard about Japadog before heading out to Canada and then passed one of the stands on the afternoon we arrived.  They’re basically Japanese-themed Hotdogs, which sounds really weird, I know.  But, as a self-proclaimed hot dog connoisseur I felt it my duty to give one a go.  I know, how I suffer, right?  We went for the Terimayo, which is a hot dog topped with teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise and seaweed, and d’you know what?  It was… really weird.  But good weird.  Like, really good weird. The salty seaweed totally made it.



VANCOUVER LOOKOUT

Next we took a tip from our hotel receptionist and headed back downtown to visit the Harbour Centre’s Vancouver Lookout.  We like to climb to the highest point whenever we visit a new city, so the Vancouver Lookout was definitely on our list.  However, it costs $17.50 each to zoom up in the glass lift to the viewing platform.  Thanks to a sweet little tip from our hotel receptionist, we got in the lift (for free!) and whizzed up to the revolving restaurant instead.  It was mid-afternoon, they were only serving small appetizers and drinks and it was pretty much empty.  We bought a hot drink for around $6 each and just sat and watched the view go by. Of course this trick would never work during peak restaurant hours, but during the middle of the afternoon it worked like a charm 😉


GASTOWN

Gastown is the oldest part of downtown and is named after “Gassy” Jack, a steamboat captain from “oop norf” who made it to Vancouver in 1867 and decided he’d had enough of the high seas and opened up the city’s first saloon.  It’s full of old brick buildings that reminded me a little bit of New York and is the best place to head to if you’re looking for a bite to eat.  We ended up at Gringo on Blood Alley which is basically where I want to retire to someday.  80s Music?  Check.  Stadium Nachos and Street Tacos?  Check.  Cocktails with Gummy Worms?  Check.  Neon Lighting?  Check.






COAL HARBOUR

We ended the day in Coal Harbour, which doesn’t really have that much to see or do – it’s basically a big harbour and bagged the name “blue blood alley” thanks to all the swanky apartment blocks and mansions there.  But, it was a nice place to round off our first day.  We walked down to the water and watched all the sea planes coming and going – flying off across the water towards the mountains – and then ended up soaking up the sunset on the terrace of the oh so trendy (and very reasonable) Cactus Club with a burger each. Perfecto.  🙂

Phew, that was a long one!  Have a great weekend everyone 🙂