Hello everyone and welcome back to the second from last blog of our year around the world. Sniff sniff, oh, yes it’s nearly over 🙁
I believe Andy left you all in Vancouver, Canada, which at the time was experiencing spring break (easter bank holiday). The place was in bloom with pink and white blossom, birds were singing and busy making nests, and everyone was out enjoying the warmth of the April sun. Well I pick things up from here, covering our trip to the province of Saskatchewan (pretty much in the middle of Canada) where we stayed with two of the nicest and most incredibly inspiring people in the world, in a place called Saskatoon.
Back in April 2012, we’d met a couple from Canada called Shahan and Donna-Lee Fancy in Chengdu, China. We clicked straight away whilst chatting at a dumpling party and continued to meet up in other countries such as Cambodia and Bali, since they were doing a similar route to Andy and I. We always knew we were going to spend three weeks in Canada, our last destination before heading back to the UK, but apart from spending time in Vancouver, we’d only planned to do some skiing in Whistler (about 2hrs from the city) for a few days. So when the Fancy’s sent us an invitation to go and stay with them and explore another province within the second biggest country in the world, we jumped at the chance!
So with plane tickets kindly arranged for us to go and stay with them, we boarded our flight from Vancouver to Calgary, then our second plane onwards to Saskatoon. Green mountains disappeared beneath us leaving flat open land known as the prairies, covered in thick white snow. Yes Saskatoon was going to be a lot colder than Vancouver, with no sign of spring just yet. We landed and walked into the arrivals lounge to be greeted by Shahan and Donna-Lee with big smiles on their faces and an awesome ‘WELCOME LIMN’S’ sign. It was like we’d only just seen them yesterday except they were looking a lot smarter than us two worn out travellers, who were wearing the same clothes we’d worn back in China a year ago! Ha ha! They drove us around town which was white with snow, showing us the main shopping area, a huge university, the local zoo, a wide iced-over river, the buildings where they both work and finally their beautiful apartment where we got to meet their gorgeous cat Peanut. We cracked open some Lao Beer and sat chatting till the early hours of the morning, reminiscing over our travel experiences and looking through photos.
When I woke the next morning my trusty old iPhone told me it was -16 outside, yet I was all warm and snuggled up with Andy in our big double bed (we’d gotten used to twins and bunk beds in most hostels and hotels). Chez Fancy was turning out to be the best place we’d ever stayed! Over the next few days we were shown all the sites of Saskatoon whilst wearing some borrowed ski jackets to help keep us warm. Andy and I loved walking in the snow and throwing snow balls at each other whenever we ventured outside. It had been ages since we’d seen the white stuff and it was turning us into a couple of big kids 🙂 We visited the high street where I could have spent a serious amount of money on cakes, pies, gifts, clothes and olive oil (we all randomly did an olive oil and balsamic tasting one day, it was yummy!). We walked around an art gallery and a beautiful botanical garden where Shahan once got all romantic and asked Donna-Lee to marry him 🙂 We also had our eyes opened to the wonders of a Canadian Costco and a shop called Bulk Barn where I nearly had a heart attack over the size of products and how cheap they were! If you wanted a 20kg slab of butter, you could have it. There were bins in there full of cake sprinkles, liquorice boot laces, loose tea and coffee plus epic quantities of peanut butter. It was unbelievable! Check out my photos, OMG!!!! I doubt heaven would look as good as Bulk Barn!
One day we visited the Western Development Museum, AKA – Boomtown, an indoor museum in the form of an old settler’s village. We wandered in and out of the replica shops, mucking around with the exhibits most of the time, climbing aboard horse-drawn carts and old cars alongside children on a school visit. A few hundred years ago, Canada offered people a promise of a new life, a chance to make something of yourself. So once the Chinese had built the railway to connect the land, hundreds flocked here from all over Europe, living in mud and straw houses called ‘sods’ and farming the land. It must have been pretty tough as the temperatures in the winter plummeted and during the summer months the weather was scorching. Boomtown really brought their stories alive.
With an idea of how the European settlers built and moulded Canada into the country we know today, it was very interesting to then visit an ancient First Nation’s settlement the next day. Wanuskewin was a short drive out of town, through snow covered fields where every now and then I would catch a glimpse of a roaming Coyote. Situated right next to an old buffalo jump (where the animals would be hunted and chased over a cliff top), the visitors centre was a beautiful wooden building full of ancient artifacts, modern art and crafts plus a cinema where we watched a short film about the remains of a medicine circle found in the area along with an old teepee site. We sat in a circle watching a man dance in traditional handmade clothing made up of heavy intricate beaded designs, furs, skins and beautiful eagle feathers he’d either traded or found. We spoke to him after the performance and was told that in the summer months he would travel to giant pow wow’s (a gathering of different tribes) and dance for three days without food or drink, to heal others of their illnesses. He was absolutely incredible! After a bison burger in the cafe (man that was good!), I raided the gift shop for dream catchers and Andy bought a beautiful piece of artwork. Just as the centre was closing for a wedding, we persuaded the staff to let us outside and quickly go down to see the teepee’s. We ran downhill through the snow to the site where three new teepee’s stood around a fireplace. We got to go inside each one and I found them all to be very spacious and quite warm. We’d had such a good day and to top it off we ended up in a very authentic English looking pub called Winstons back in town with a pint of London Porter in hand 🙂 In fact it was better than any London pub I’d ever drunk in!
During our time here in Saskatoon, we’d eaten in a lot of really good places including a Canadian themed pub, a Mexican/rock club and even a Vietnamese called the Saigon 2 (OMG so yummy and cheap). We’d also drunk in many coffee shops and was introduced to a drink called a London Fog (an Earl Grey latte with a shot of vanilla) which we unfortunately do not get back home BUT WE SHOULD because its insanely amazing! And everywhere we’d been, everyone was just so nice and welcoming. I loved the attitude people had, their humour and can-do approach to everything was so inspiring. I loved Toon town! I was going to really miss this place.
I felt I had a permanent smile on my face the whole time we were in Saskatoon, and I know the Fancy’s were mainly to thank for that. We’d had so much fun with them exploring their home town, learning about the wonders of Bulk Barn, London Fogs and the way they pronounce Craig as Creg 🙂 We loved every second of sitting around in their condo till the early hours of each morning sharing our love of YouTube, laughing our asses off to toilet stories we would tell each other and drinking copious amounts of Lao beer. These guys were friends for life and I really can’t wait to see them again and have them stay with us here in the UK. Thanks for everything Shahan, Donna-Lee and Peanut. You guys rock, we love you xxxx