Vancouver & Victoria

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December 23rd

After all the busy-ness of Whistler I spent the day taking it fairly slow. I caught up on my washing, I went to a cafe with WiFi and caught up on my blog whilst enjoying a tasty cinnamon scroll and a cup of coffee.

I headed into town and wandered around downtown and gastown. There were so many great sales on…but with limited bag space and weight allowances, I managed to restrain myself.

imageI also went back to Coal Harbour, because I remembered that the Lonely planet indicated that the Olympic Cauldron was there and I could not remember seeing it. When I got there and realized that it was the crazy tripod sculpture I had walked past a bunch of times, I felt kind of silly for not having realized what it was earlier!

After a day of wandering the streets of downtown Vancouver I headed home fairly early and enjoyed some quiet time.

imageDecember 24th

Christmas Eve, or for people back home Christmas Day. I had another fairly chilled day. I started off with a trip to the University if British Columbia to visit the Museum of Anthropology. Firstly I have to say that UBC is ENORMOUS! It’s like an entire suburb, it has it’s own streets, malls and I think, if I interpreted it correctly, it’s own bus system. I wandered about 2km to get to the museum. It’s a fabulously designed building that reflects the building designs of the First Nations people. It houses many interesting and intricately carved wooden house posts, totem poles, memorial posts, kayaks and so on, as well as a variety of other interesting artifacts. I mostly found the carved items interesting, things like the ceramics collection didn’t really grab my attention. I can’t really describe the things I saw, but there were many interesting things to see and learn about. While it’s not new information I do think that westerners back in the day were total ignorant assholes lacking in tolerance. Westerners forced native people (in every country they took over) to forget their heritage and adopt western ways. It makes me sad to think how much tradition and rich culture has been lost over the centuries, but I am appreciative that people these days are more culturally aware.

imageAfter my trip to UBC I headed downtown, grabbed a coffee at a funky cafe in Gastown called Revolver! as grabbed a late lunch at The Hastings Warehouse…good pub food for $5! In fact the beer I had with my lunch was more expensive than my food, how crazy is that?! The warehouse also had free wifi which allowed me to skype call my family for a quick “Merry Christmas” chat! So even though it was quite a brief chat, it was nice to speak to them.

After that I wandered around the city a little longer, but all the shops were closing early… It took me a moment to remember it was Christmas Eve. So I headed back to Levi’s to pack up my gear.

Gerrit collected me late in the evening to visit some cousins for drinks and nibbles which was really lovely. We chatted and enjoyed good company until around 11pm.

December 25th

Christmas Day! I started the day with a long lazy lie-in. Once I was up and about Gerrit made us a super tasty waffle and blueberry breakfast and good coffee. Then we exchanged some gifts before enjoying a stroll around the area. It was so lovely to look in one direction and see the glassy surface of the river and in the other direction snow capped mountains. While it was not a white Christmas, it was a beautiful calm, crisp and clear day.

Around lunchtime the family started to turn up (this is my sister-in-law’s family, if I haven’t already made that clear), we sat down to enjoy some nibbles and wine while the turkey legs were roasting in the oven. We enjoyed some great conversation and shared travel stories, most of the family has been struck with the travel bug!

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A group of nine of us sat down to enjoy a turkey and vegetable Christmas lunch/dinner which was fantastic. We shared tacky Christmas jokes and cooking secrets (Ryan did a great job with the turkey, Gerrit’s cauliflower was a bit hit and Alison’s salad was also pretty awesome). With bellies full we enjoyed a stroll by the river and watched the sun set.

imageWe finished off our fabulous Christmas with Gerrit’s Creme Brûlée (which was amazing!!) and a secret Santa gift exchange. As people dwindled, I played a few games of pool with Ryan and Sally, shared more travel stories and ate lots of sweet treats. It was a super fun day!

December 26th

I had another little sleep in, before packing up a small bag to take to Vancouver Island. Tina and Jim picked me up around 11am and we headed to Tsawassen to catch the ferry. Leaving Tsawassen the water through the Georgia Strait was flat, which made for a smooth crossing. The sky was reasonably clear which allowed a good view down the coast; we even had a good view of snow covered Mt Baker over the border in the US!. We passed between lots of small islands which were all super cute and after drinking some coffee and playing a few rounds of a card game, we arrived at Swartz Bay to enjoy a sunny afternoon drive down to Saanich.

We spent a short while relaxing and unwinding after the busy-ness of Christmas before heading to Felicity and Marc’s place for Boxing Day dinner (Felicity is another cousin). Joining us were cousin Levi and a couple of Felicity and Marc’s friends. They made an amazing meal and we all enjoyed great conversation. It was a fabulous evening!

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December 27th

Jim made a fabulous breakfast for us all to start the day (conveniently for him, Levi stopped by to collect some stuff, so he also got to appreciate the tasty breakfast). After breakfast Jim gave me a driven tour of Victoria explaining some of the history and pointing out things of interest, before dropping me off downtown to explore.

imageI wandered around along the harbour, I checked out Bastion Square and Chinatown, the festival of trees at the Empress Hotel, the Parliament building and also the Royal BC Museum. The museum had an exhibition of the worlds best wildlife photography and it was just amazing!! So many phenomenal photographs.

Victoria is actually quite a small place, so while it is totally adorable and pretty, there isn’t heaps to see and do in the winter time. Jim and Tina picked me up in the late afternoon, and we had an easy dinner and spent the evening watching a movie on TV. It was so nice to relax on the couch after all the busy-ness of Christmas.

December 28th

imageI headed to the harbour to get all kitted up in my super gung-ho flotation suit for some whale watching. There are a few pods of resident Orcas around Victoria, as well as transient Orcas that pass by. I was really hopeful that we would get the chance to see some of these beautiful creatures. The day was perfect for whale spotting, no wind, the water was glassy and flat, but unfortunately travelling up and down the coast, even going almost as far as Seattle in the U.S, was no help to us. We saw some Seals and some Bald Eagles, but not a single whale. So we basically enjoyed a nice half day on the water (well freezing cold, but otherwise pleasant)

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On return to land, Tina, Jim and I went for a walk around the bay, stopping for a late lunch at a cute little seafood shack. The walk was great to get my frozen body functioning again! It also gave us a gorgeous sunset over the city.

imageOnce it got dark Tina and I headed out to the Butchart Gardens to see an amazing light display depicting the Twelve days of Christmas. It was brilliantly done, and walking through the gardens amongst the twinkly lights was just such a magical way to spend the evening! At the end of the loop around the gardens we popped into the cafe to have a Coffee with baileys, a hot drink to wrap our hands around and warm up our fingers, as well as to drink and warm up our insides. Yum!

December 29th

After a quick brekky, Jim and Tina dropped me off at the ferry to head back across to Vancouver, where Gerrit collected me from the ferry terminal. He and I headed downtown to sort out some final bits and pieces with my new ski boots. We had a quick bite to eat out at Granville Island Market and by the time we were done, it was early evening and I needed to figure out how to get all my stuff into my suitcase ready for my morning flight to Montreal.

My time in Vancouver and Victoria has been fabulous. All the extended family has been so friendly and helpful, it has been great to get to know them and I appreciate all the hospitality I have been shown over the last few weeks. It’s a little sad to leave them behind and move on to the next destination, but it is also exciting to go see something new with an old friend.

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