Canada has kind of always been on my “To Visit” list, but wasn’t really a super high priority. But then a few things kind of pushed it up the priority list: my sister-in-law’s cousin Levi visited from Vancouver and he was loads of fun to hang out with (however brief my meeting him was) and said I was welcome to come and crash at his place; my friend Liv has been living on Montreal for almost two years now and is preparing to move back home; and a fantastic family friend in Toronto, Nanette, who has always had an open invitation for me to come visit.
So with a few emails tee-ing up accommodation and peoples availability, a trip to the travel agent and a trip to the bookstore to grab myself the latest “Discover Canada” Lonely Planet – I decided to head off to Canada for 4.5 weeks of fun!

The last few weeks at work were frantic, trying to get myself organised and planned for the next teaching year, as well as preparing and packing for a big holiday (since I ALWAYS go to tropical destinations I found it incredibly difficult to pack for a cold destination – my well rehearsed packing style did not apply!), securing a house-sitter and making sure I spent lots of time with my puppy dog before leaving her behind. Soon enough though I was packed and the alarm was buzzing me awake at some stupid hour of the day.

December 11th

After a flight delay, I finally arrived in Shanghai where I was met by a girl holding a sign with my name on it. She delivered me to my airport hotel shuttle bus. In the blink of an eye we took off, swerving across all lanes, tearing along the streets at close to double the speed limit, whizzing through red lights before coming to a rapid stop at my ‘airport hotel’. Shanghai airport is enormous, and it was crazy to think that even after tearing through the streets for 20 minutes we were still in the airport precinct!

Coming back to Shanghai has reminded me of just how polluted China is, but also just how little English people speak. Even the staff at the international airport hotel struggled to answer basic questions!

My original plan had been to get to the hotel, ditch my bags and whizz into the city to look at the pretty lights. After all the delays, the lack of English and learning that it was an hour travel into the city, I decided this was a bit too challenging and that bed was a much better option.

After a sleep in, then more delays with the airport shuttle and checking in, I opted to spend my half day in Shanghai napping on a sunny bench at the airport waiting for my flight, instead of attempting to get Into the city (also I guess I chickened out a bit and just put it into the ‘too hard’ basket)

20131217-191925.jpgDecember 12th

I slept most of the flight to Vancouver and after “twenty questions” from the immigration official I was allowed into the country. Levi was waiting for me with a smile. I climbed into his truck and we zipped over to uncle Gerrit’s place to start the day with coffee, before running a few errands. I got myself sorted with a Canadian SIM card, some new ski boots and did a few other bits and pieces. I was quite dopey from the flight, so we certainly didn’t launch head first into sightseeing, but Levi and I wandered the Kitsilano area and spent some time chatting.

December 13th

20131217-191959.jpgMy second day in Vancouver involved a hunt for an Edmonton Oilers t-shirt to wear to the evenings hockey game. It took a while but we were successful. We also made a trip into downtown, to Canada Place where some Christmas festivities were on…we took a mini train ride around fake snow and Christmas trees and ice skated on some artificial ice. It was LOADS of fun!!! (Artificial ice feels nothing like skating one real ice and was it was rather challenging to stay upright). Before game time we quickly checked out the giant Lego whale sculpture at coal harbour. It was so cool!

Game time! Vancouver Canucks vs. Edmonton Oilers (my sister-in-law’s family, obviously including Levi, are all from Edmonton…which is why we support the oilers). Unfortunately we lost 3-0 and there were no fights, but it was loads of fun. It’s such a crazy fast sport!

20131217-192016.jpgDecember 14th

I slept in by mistake, and started off the day by getting the final tweaks to my custom fit ski boots done. Happy with my new boots, I headed into city.

I started off by heading up the Vancouver Lookout (a skinny building with an big round observation deck at the top) to get a birds eye view of the sprawling city. After a lap of the observation deck I descended to the street of gastown for a bit of a look. I checked out the steam powered clock and the ‘Gassy Jack’ statue, had a quite bite to eat and then headed back to Canada Place to coach the free shuttle bus out to Capilano Canyon.

20131217-192049.jpgCapilano Canyon has the worlds highest (70m) and longest (140m) suspension bridge, which was swaying a great deal with the huge number of people walking across it. I loved it! On one side of the canyon was also a cool cliff walk, with the boardwalk suspended from the side of the cliff with steel cables. On the opposite side of the canyon were some short walks in and around the trees and ponds. One of the highlights was a treetop walk, with short suspension bridges hanging between trees with small platforms. As daylight faded, the twinkle lights were turned on. I got myself a cup of hot cocoa from the cabin in the woods, wrapped my cold hands around the hot mug and sat down to absorb the magical forest of twinkle-lights. The twinkle-light forest was also home to worlds tallest Christmas tree! It was just gorgeous!

After my magical evening, I headed back into the city, where I once again went to the observation deck of the Vancouver tower to see the city at night, which was really pretty. I took myself out to dinner in gastown, to the Steamhouse Brewery, where I enjoyed a super tasty pizza and a glass of the local brew.

I finished up my busy day with “Fly over Canada” an attraction that has you sitting in chairs kind of like a roller coaster, and the chairs move around a little as though you are in a helicopter or something flying over Canada. Lots of stunning scenery!, it was pretty fun! (Very hard to explain what it actually was though)

20131217-192139.jpgDecember 15th

Slept in again (totally not adjusted to Vancouver time) and headed to Granville Island market to have a look around and have some breakfast, before heading downtown to go for a wander and check out the Christmas market. It was an attempt to replicate a German Christmas market…very cute, very festive, I had some gluhwein and kettle corn.

20131217-192155.jpgAfter the Christmas festivities I took a bus out to Stanley park where I enjoyed a walk in the sun (the sun came out for the first was AMAZING!) and a visit to the aquarium – the jellyfish tanks were really cool. It was also pretty cool to see a pair of beluga whales but it was actually quite sad, the tank was much too small for them and they were just swimming the exact same loop over and over and over.

I finished off another awesome day in the city, where I met Levi and a friend of his, Julia, to go ice skating (on actual ice this time) – we skated circles for a couple of hours which was really fun!

December 16th

I spent the morning getting myself organised for my Whistler trip. After lunch I enjoyed a very scenic bus trip along the sea to sky highway, before arriving in Whistler just after sunset. I checked in, then caught the bus to Whistler Village to run a few errands which would enable me to hit the slopes first thing in the morning. I’m looking forward to my week of snowy fun!!


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