*Bonus video at the end of the post – don’t miss it!*
Saying goodbye to our good friends Shahan and Donna-Lee, we flew back over nearly half of Canada to Vancouver once again. It’s a nice feeling arriving somewhere you know so well, so as we emerged at ground level at Yaletown metro station it felt a bit like home.
We enjoyed a day in the city sampling all the consumer delights that Vancouver had to offer, starting with a bargain Tim Horton’s breakfast. Ham, cheese and zingy savoury sauce piled up in a hot wrap that had been made to order (I realise now how food seems to sit around for hours in the UK), a blueberry fritter on the side (basically a huge dirty doughnut) and of course, the obligatory double-double coffee. The double-double seems to be a Canadian invention from what I can tell, a cup of freshly brewed percolator coffee with two sugars and two shots of cream, wallop! A great start to the day, if you’re an unhealthy traveller 🙂
We walked around some gift shops doing the usual tourist thing and stopped by our favourite downtown pub, Doolins, and were sad to see that Granville Island’s Irish Red was no longer on the pumps so I made do with an Alexander Keith’s Cascade Hop Ale.
The next day was a very early start. Up and out before the sun had risen, we made our way, fully-loaded with our lives hanging on our backs, fronts and in each hand, over to a bus stop on the other side of town. Vancouver’s weather was back to usual, hammering it down with rain. We should have been miserable but we were heading to Whistler for 3 nights so were in high spirits. The coach ride there followed some dramatic coastline, the cloud and rain tried its best to hide it, but we we’re treated to occasional glimpses of cliffs, towering mountains and beautiful rivers. By 8:30am we had arrived at our hostel and were grateful to be allowed to check in early. We dropped off our worldly possessions and headed into town to see what was going on.
Whistler was pretty quiet despite the World Ski and Snowboard Festival starting the next day. The slopes were still covered in plenty of snow, so we would be fine when we headed up to the top of the mountain the next day, everything was looking perfect for a few days of skiing and some restrained après ski. In Whistler village I found my favourite Irish bar in the world, the Dubh Linh. Every afternoon an Irish band called The Splinters went onstage performing covers of anything you asked them to play. A male and female double act with guitar and fiddle and both singing, you couldn’t help but join in.
The next day was our first of two on the slopes. We’d hired skis, boots and all the clothing we needed and so headed up the mountain. We were both pretty nervous not having skied for several years since our memorable time at Borovets in Bulgaria (memorable because there was more snow back home in England at the time). As we clipped into our skis and headed to the lip of the first hill, we were desperately trying to remember everything we’d been taught in our lessons, not much of it was coming back. Anyhow, we both pushed off and sailed down a pretty steep run somehow managing to stay upright whilst performing some fairly erratic turns. We soon found that out of the two mountains here we’d made our way up the one with the slopes for the more experienced. Good one Limns! We caught the peak to peak gondola for an incredible ride from Blackcombe mountain over to Whistler where the easier runs were.
From there we didn’t look back, with our confidence returning, despite me landing on my arse every 5 minutes, we spent the next two days tearing down green runs which still felt pretty steep compared to other destinations I’ve visited. Generally by 3pm each day we were cream crackered (knackered) and would stomp in our ski boots over to the Dubh Linh for a pint of insanely hoppy Fat Tug IPA, an awesome beer by the way, it has so much flavour that you can nurse a pint of it for over an hour, making it very traveller friendly.
On our last two afternoons at Whistler the festival was in full swing, so we’d catch up-and-coming Canadian bands like One Bad Son and Dirty Radio performing on a big stage to a handful of people. Despite the cold and snow we danced around munching on free beef jerky and drinking taster cups of Nabob coffee, good times.
Our time at Whistler had come to an end so we caught the coach back to Vancouver. This time the sky was clear so the views were much better, it’s a pretty special drive back, I was reminded of New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound . Both of us were now realising that we had one whole day left in Vancouver before we’d catch our last flight, the one back home to the UK. I felt very happy that I would be seeing my family and friends again, but couldn’t understand how a year had passed by that quickly. I won’t lie, I was also very miserable and worrying about the reality of going back to the real world. Conflicted emotions.
We decided to do something memorable on our last day and so walked through Stanley Park to the Vancouver Aquarium. This is a pretty special place, we saw two creatures in particular that we’d never seen before, Sea Otters, the dudes that float on their backs, smashing open oyster shells with rocks using their bellies as tables, and Beluga whales, yes the bright white little guys you’ve probably seen on numerous BBC documentaries. It was a brilliant last day and we managed to dispel the reality of going home for a few hours. On our walk back, Emma spotted another tiny hummingbird perched above us in a tree, we took it as Canada saying goodbye to us.
Many hours later we were getting an incredible view of central London from our airplane’s window, minutes later we were stepping out onto our strangely familiar home turf sending a shiver of excitement down our spines. With our bags collected we walked out into arrivals, quickly spotting my dad, however both our Mum’s and Em’s sister were all waiting for us at another entrance, so we crept up on them from behind catching them by surprise. It was lovely to see them all, they’d brought welcome home banners and their beaming smiles made us very happy. There was plenty to catch up on as you can imagine. We were back home 🙂
As always, thanks for reading and following our incredible journey. In our year away we’ve seen some amazing things, made some great friends and eaten some pretty weird stuff too. We’ll try to keep this blog updated with what happens next in this new chapter of our lives, one thing’s for sure though, we’ll be living with the parents for the time being 🙂