Lake Okanagan wine touring 

For almost three years now I’ve wanted to explore BC’s interior and check out Lake Country. Finally, I decided to book a long weekend trip to Kelowna.

We set off from Vancouver early and the journey took around 4 hours. On arrival in West Kelowna, we were met with an awesome view – very different to Vancouver. The terrain looked Mediterranean due to the lack of rain over the summer.

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West Kelowna vineyards and Lake Okanagan

We booked a 750 square foot basement suite in a West Kelowna home via Air Bnb for the weekend. I have to say that I much preferred West Kelowna to downtown Kelowna as it seemed quieter and more laid back. We even had our own private patio area with a great view!

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Patio area overlooking the lake with a selection of wine from some of the wineries in the area.

We did visit Gyro Beach in Kelowna, I have been informed this place gets very busy in the summer and is similar to English Bay in Vancouver.

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Lake Okanagan from Gyro Beach, Kelowna

The Wineries 

Okanagan wine is big on the West Coast. It is shame that the wine hasn’t made its way to Europe and the UK but I wonder if it would be able to compete price wise with much more affordable US, Australian and South American produce.

We visited the wineries listed below. We attempted to do a tasting at another winery (in Kelowna) along with getting a small bite to eat but due to waiting for someone to acknowledge us and then the hostess seating a party of five behind us in the line we walked out in disgust – this was by far the worst experience for us and luckily it only occurred once.

Everywhere else on the list had friendly and accommodating staff.

WEST KELOWNA – all part of the Westside Wine Trail

Mt. Boucherie Winery – flight of four wines for $3 

This was the first winery we visited, small but very friendly and the most reasonable for tasting price.

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Mt. Boucherie Winery

Volcanic Hills Estate Winery – flight of four wines for $5

Another good place just next door to Mt. Boucherie. Their Lava Red Blend is recommended.

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Quails’ Gate Winery – two complimentary wines (their selection) and then flight of three wines for $5

I had heard good reports about Quails’ Gate but was actually disappointed. It was very busy and less personal. However, the views of their vineyards and the lake were awesome.

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Tasting room at Quails Gate looking out towards the lake and vineyards

Quails’ Gate wine was actually cheaper ($1.50 cheaper) in Superstore in West Bank then in the winery itself. Seeing as you still have to pay tax and deposit on top of listed price. They also added tax into the tasting whereas with the other wineries it was included in the listed price

Grizzli Winery – flight of three wines for $5 (includes ice wines)

You can only buy the wine directly from the winery and they don’t export to other provinces. They do export to China. The wine is a little more pricey per bottle and I loved their ice wine, however at $38 -$115 per bottle it was out of my price range. The tasting room is very large with a lot of light.

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View of Mount Boucherie Regional Park from Grizzli Winery

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Grizzli Winery tasting menu. The Icewines were fantastic

the hatch – flight of five wines for $5 (their selection)
Rustic shed with old tools is the interior of their bar and tasting room. It felt like an ironic and Hipster winery. I wasn’t massively impressed with any of the wines I tasted but loved the fact it was so different to the other wineries.

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the hatch – doesn’t follow grammar rules…

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Inside interior of the hatch – very rustic and more like a craft brewery then a winery

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Their wines have very unique names and wine labels

Mission Hill Family Estate – flight of four wines for $10

Definitely the most expensive tasting of all the wineries we visited, the architecture and grounds are amazing though. There are a lot of sculptures and it reminded me of a Tuscany vineyard. I definitely liked the design and grounds more so then the wines but it is one of the more well-known and larger wineries in BC.

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Inside Mission Hill grounds

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Mission Hill is a large winery. Lots of bronze sculptures throughout the area


KELOWNA – Lakeshore Wine Route


Summerhill Pyramid Winery
– four complimentary wines (for the more expensive wines/ice wines there is a small fee)

This is a major stop for all the wine tours coming through. The tasting bar wasn’t anything special but the fact you get four wines for FREE to taste gives them the thumbs up, as well as the amazing views.

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Summerhill Winery, located along the Lakeshore Wine Route. Views overlook towards West Kelowna

St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery – flight of five wines for $4 (their selection)

This was one of my favourites, small but quiet and I loved the Chasselas and Gewürztraminer whites.

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St. Hubertus tasting menu – it looked liked a much smaller winery but they still had 80 acres

Fees are waived if you purchase a bottle of wine except  with Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate where you have to buy two bottles to get the tasting fee waived.

A great place we found  to eat near Kelowna centre was called West Coast Grill & Oyster Bar. It is located just before the bridge (97), which connects Kelowna with West Kelowna – in fact the only bridge across the lake. They have happy hour between 3pm-6pm daily which includes some wines, beer as well as half price starters, soups and flat breads.

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We ordered a dozen oysters at only $1 each

Ozzy also came along for the vacation and throughly enjoyed the wine that was on offer:

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Ozzy at Quails’ Gate

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Enjoying a cheeky glass of vino on the patio in West Kelowna

If anything, our weekend was way too short, I would have loved to travel towards Penticton as well as up to Lake Country and Vernon. The drive also felt very long for a stay of three days so hopefully next time we can explore the area for longer. I will definitely be coming back again 🙂

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Two hikes in one week.

Summer has finally arrived in Vancouver and I thought it was time to get out into nature and the outdoors and to see some awesome views.

The Grouse Grind 

I decided to complete the gruelling Grouse Grind (aka: The Grind) for a second time almost three years apart. I attempted it first time round within 14 days of arriving in 2014 and I was not prepared (I believe this was mentioned in an earlier post). This time round, I made sure I had eaten breakfast and packed a backpack complete with protein bars and two litres of water for the journey upwards.

I was dropped off at the base of the mountain by Adam on his way to work at 7.45am and started natures never-ending staircase. The Grind is 2.9kms of 2,800 steps and it is not for beginners. I consider myself reasonably fit with good cardio and strength but even I found it challenging as your glutes and quads need to be stong as well for the steep steps.

Local people complete The Grind on a weekly basis trying to beat their time.
The first quarter of the grind is the longest but less steepest, I reached this after 35 minutes. Halfway mark was another 20 minutes later and another 20 minutes to three-quarters.

A selection of photos from The Grind and my walking stats afterwards


It took me an hour and 40 minutes to get to the top and I had quite a few breaks. I was a sweaty mess but felt fantastic. My advise is if you need to stop and rest then do it as it’s not a competition to get to the top.

The views were fantastic:

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View of Mt. Baker in the distance

Once you get to the top of Grouse Mountain, there are a lot of activities and things to see because it is a major tourist attraction; although I did The Grind for fitness reasons it was mainly to see the tourist stuff at the top without paying the $50 gondola fee.

First stop was to see the grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola – these guys were orphan cubs and are now looked after by some conservationists and volunteers. They are a big attraction for tourists to see and I work with someone who volunteers to care for the bears.


Another thing I wanted to see was the lumberjack show, a cheesy and stereotypical Canadian show for the tourists to Vancouver. Unfortunately I only got videos of the show and I am unable to upload onto the blog but its worth seeing if only once lol.

I spent an extra 2 hours up at the top to check out all the stuff and the views and I walked up to the wind turbine at the highest point – it is a shame that the gondola cable blocks the awesome views of Vancouver as I was hoping to get some.

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Best view I could get of the city

The only downside to The Grind is that you have to pay $10 to take the gondola back down to the base as it’s too narrow and dangerous for hikers to travel backdown the same route.

Stawamus Chief

This is a hike that I heard so much about and desperately wanted to do. The Chief is a mountain in Squamish, about an hour north from Vancouver along Sea-to-Sky highway. I was informed by people who after completing the Grouse Grind on Monday, The Chief would seem easier…

As I had a day off work on Friday, I decided to complete my mission. Leaving Vancouver at 6am and driving along a beautiful stretch of highway past Horseshoe Bay and Lions Bay, I arrived at 7am in an empty car park of Shannon Falls.

Shannon Falls 


The waterfall was great but as it turned out I should have parked in the Stawamus Chief car park because it took me half an hour to find the base of the climb through the Sea-To-Sky Gondola car park and Stawamus Chief Provincial camp site.

The first 30 minutes was just climbing steps and rocks to the first intersection – it felt exactly like The Grind…

At the first fork in the path, you veer left to carry on The Chief trails and right to another hike called The Sea-to-Sky summit – this hike takes you to the top of where the Sea-to-Sky gondola is. The annoying thing about the latter is that like The Grind, once you get to the top you are supposed to take the gondola back down – at a cost of $15! I decided to carry on with The Chief as that was what I was there for.


The next fork separates First and Second Peak from Third Peak. Third Peak is the highest but also furthest away, I had also been informed that the views were better at Second Peak so I carried on towards there.

After more climbing upwards, I came across a little clearing to the right of the trail. At first I thought this was First Peak but then realized it wasn’t facing Howe Sound and Squamish. The area had a large boulder on it and some very friendly chipmunks wanting food – a great place stop, take a breather and look at the views.

After leaving the clearing, I arrived at the last fork to split the route from First Peak and Second Peak, I kept on with my route to Second Peak.

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These maps were really useful to see how far I had hiked 

As I traveled nearer to the summit, the route got narrower between the rocks and I came across the chains to assist me with getting up. The Chief is very popular with climbers because of exposed rock but it can very dangerous when wet due to people slipping off.

There were a couple of very steep points, where you needed to use the chains and had to be careful with your footings. I had to ask a couple of hikers, coming back down from the peak what the best way was to get up a very steep stone with a narrow foothold with only chains as a support.

Once I got to the top, the view was amazing and worth all the sweat and hard work. The route from the bottom of The Chief trail to Second Peak took me just over an hour and a half, which I thought was pretty good considering I was stopping a few times for a water break.

View over Squamish River

View of First Peak from Second Peak


I spent about 30 minutes listening to music and admiring the views. I could see a few people over at First Peak but I was the only one at second peak and it felt awesome to have it all to myself.

Unfortunately I was starting to feel anxious about travelling back down the trail with all the chains so I decided to start that process and take my time. Good news was that no one seemed to be making their way to Second Peak from first but this would have been bad for me if I had put a footing wrong and slipped as no one would have been around at the time.

I returned to the fork that split the trail from First Peak to Second Peak, making my way towards First Peak. It was now around 10am and the trail was getting busy. I thought that First Peak being the closest and most popular would be easier but that was not the case. Once you pass the chains to help you up and a narrow ladder, it is scramble on the rock to get to the summit. It took approximately another hour from Second Peak to First Peak.

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The rock up to the summit of First Peak can be steep and dangerous when wet.

 

First Peak was definitely more popular but offered a better view of Squamish compared to Second Peak.

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I made it!!!

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The town of Squamish from First Peak

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View of Second Peak from First Peak

After an hour of listening to more music whilst relaxing and watching the friendly chipmunks looking for food, I was feeling the hot sun on my back and reluctantly started to make my way back. I personally found the journey back to the bottom more difficult than climbing up. A couple of times I slipped and it was getting very busy with more and more hikers coming up.

After using the Sea-To-Sky Gondola washroom, I made my way back to the car and drove back to Vancouver. When I got back I found my right ankle was very painful and swollen from where I had slipped. I found I couldn’t walk properly or put pressure on it. After 20 minutes using a cold compress on my ankle it was less painful so I don’t know what was the problem.

Next time round I would love to travel to Third Peak as the view is a lot different. I would also wear proper hiking shoes next time with good grips from the exposed rock; I wore runners and didn’t think they were suitable or safe enough for the hike. I also saw a lot of people hiking flip-flips, which I would also advise against.

Getting to Stawamus Chief early is important because it can get very busy towards the middle of the day. It was worth getting up at 5am for this opportunity.

Camping in Harrison Lake

I cannot even remember the last time I went camping, I had some bad experiences at music festivals and then a great experience on Fraser Island in Australia about 8 years ago but nothing since then.

Adam’s friend Miranda and her partner Jay invited us to go camping with them at Harrison Lake near Hope. These guys go camping regularly and know the good places to camp at. We set off in their truck from their place in Cloverdale along with their dog, Meeka on Friday evening complete with plenty of beer, food and camping supplies. After arriving at the entrance of the lake we were greeted by the RCMP doing spot checks on vehicles and drunk drivers (I can see why they need to do this after seeing some of the car wrecks on the dusty road – more on that later).

One amazing thing we did see was a black bear a little way in. Not a great photo as I got some better videos but I can’t upload on to here.

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A black bear out for his evening stroll

The further we travelled into the park, the more obvious it was that you need a truck or a Jeep in order to travel on the very bumpy and badly maintained roads. As it was may long weekend, many of the sites were taken but after an hour and half, we came across a site with an amazing view.

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View of Harrison lake the evening we arrived

We set up camp before the darkness came in. Luckily Miranda and Jay had a spare tent as we couldn’t find one and it was an 8 person tent which I could stand up in. After dinner and a fire going strong we all had a few beers before bed. Nearby was a waterfall and a fast running creek that made white noise whilst sleeping very relaxing.

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Our campsite

I slept well especially as Adam had just purchased a new air mattress rather than being on the ground. The view of the lake was amazing as soon as I opened the tent up.

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Panoramic view

After breakfast and cleaning up, we decided to check out a hot springs pool that Jay had heard about, which was meant to be about 20 minutes north along the lake. Miranda drove the truck with me and Adam inside and Jay went out on his dirt bike. Along the way we came across an overturned Jeep, which had been stripped of the wheels and rims and anything of any value inside. It was probably stolen and then taken for a joyride into the park. There were photos, a diary and the owners credit car bill inside so a lot of personal information was still in there.

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This truck had been stripped and smashed up 

The journey to the springs was taking a lot longer then 20 minutes. We stopped at a First Nation’s site called Tipella to ask for directions, we were advised one and half km. 20 kms and another 45 minutes later, we reached our destination.

Sloquet Hot Springs is about 100km south of Whistler (yes we had travelled that far) and is run by Xa’xtsa First Nation members as a recreation site and camp ground. When we arrived at the site, it was obvious that it was a popular location for camping. It cost us $5 each to use the hot spring pools, which were a 10 minute trek along a very steep gradient – when you are wearing flip-flops it doesn’t really go well.

The pools themselves were really nice. The closer you got towards the river, the cooler it was but on a day as hot as this one, it was busy in this pool. The further up you went the hotter it was and I could only stand about 15 minutes before I started to overheat.

It seemed a long way to go just for a dip in the pool but it was time to start heading back. Along the way, we stopped at a logging plant for a bathroom break. The view was amazing. We stopped again nearer to our campsite for Jay to get some wood for the fire – luckily he brought his chain saw so it didn’t take too long.

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View for the Forest road and logging area

Everyone was tired by the evening but still down for some music and beers around the raging campfire before hitting the hay!

The next morning was still gorgeous and sunny but not as warm, we started with a coffee and then accompanied Jay with his rifle to do some target shooting out in clearing. Both Miranda and Adam took a shot, I had the opportunity to try with the gun but because I had no ear protection and the ricochet was pretty loud, I declined.

On return it was time for breakfast and to spend some time chilling. Adam and Jay took their fishing rods out to see if they could catch anything. Adam also showed me how to use a casting fishing reel for the first time, I didnt catch anything but I saw a little black fish in the shallow water check out the bait before swimming off.

One thing I have never done is swim in a cold lake but that was about to change. After two days with no shower, it was time to freshen up. It took a lot of courage (and there was a lot of swearing when I hit the water) but I did it – it was f***ing freezing and my legs went numb within half a minute. Meeka on the other hand, loved the water and was in and out of it collecting rocks and sticks

Another new thing that I got to try was using Jay’s chain saw to carve into the dead logs along the shore. I called this ‘Chainsaw Pictionary’ – Miranda managed to draw a stick figure and a mushroom, Adam just wrote ‘boob’, Jay put his name into the wood and me, well I just did a cross because I had never used a chainsaw before.

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Results of Chainsaw Pictionary – mine is the cross 

Our last campfire was great, we used up the rest of the food and had some steaks and sausages, the beer had also run out but there was a two litre bottle of wine left as well as some Jack Daniels lol.

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Around the campfire 

Packing up the next morning wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but everything was so dusty and dirty from the road. We sent off around 11:30am and didn’t get out of the park till just after 1pm, Adam and myself finally made it back to Vancouver just before 4:30pm. After a cold shower and putting on all the laundry, I felt more human but a little sun burnt.

I definitely enjoyed this camping trip, I learnt a lot more of what you need to make it successful and next time I need to bring some more pillows and wet wipes lol.

Weekend getaway to Whistler

The opportunity to go up to Whistler for the weekend came up as one of Adam’s work colleagues has shares in a condo building in the main village; for a discounted price, we decided to go up and check it out. Driving up to Sea to Sky highway was fantastic as usual although very cold for May. When we arrived in Whistler, I was not surprised that the mountains still had snow on them.

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Whistler in spring but with snow…

The condo suite was amazing and close to the marketplace in the village. Two large bedrooms each with its own bathroom (one with a hot tub), full kitchen with utensils, living room area and electric fire and two balconies. The place was two big for the two of us but unfortunately none of our other friends could make it that weekend.

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Amazing awesome suite!!!

After getting some supplies from IGA and BC Liquor Store, we headed out to the village for a few drinks. I really wanted to check out Garibaldi Lift Company by the edge of Whistler Mountain but it was shut down for the next few weeks (dead season in Whistler despite there still being snow on the mountain) instead we went to Dubh Linn Gate for a few beers – cheers!

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Friday = beer time

The next day started off with deciding where to go for a hike – Pemberton and Joffre Lakes were a bit far and some of the other areas were still not open due to all the snow. We decided to go to Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, approximately 20-30 minutes south of Whistler. The park is famous for the waterfall whereby in the 1800s two people had a wager to see what the height of the falls were, the closest won a bottle of Brandywine.

The waterfall was spectacular but unfortunately you couldn’t get very close to it. We did a 8km round trip hike to the bungee bridge (people were doing bungee jumps from it) and to try to find another suspension bridge, which we failed at doing. Pretty impressive scenery none the less.

On our way back to Whistler, I wanted to stop at The Whistler Brewing Company as the place was a lot of fun three years ago when I stayed at the Hi Hostel at Function Junction. However, we were to be disappointed due to the fact we waited 15 minutes for service (despite it not being busy) and no one came to our table or acknowledged me at the bar when I went up there instead. Bit if shame really as the place used to be awesome and the drinks really reasonable.

Returning to the condo, I took myself down for a swim and a hot tub and enjoyed soaking my body after the hike. By the time dusk came in we were feeling pretty tired and after watching the hockey and cooking dinner I didn’t feel like going out but we did go for a few at a place called Beacon Pub. Whistler on a Saturday night seemed much more busy than Friday night as the bar was lively but still a good spot for a few drinks. We also popped in for a couple at The Warehouse pub (if you want cheap food, all their meals are $5)

I was sad to wake up to our last morning in Whistler. After checking out of the condo (we hope to go back again real soon), Adam knew of good place to get a breakfast pie. ‘Peaked Pies’ is an Aussie cafe which sells meat pies and you have the option to add mash potato, mushy peas and gravy to them. We both decided that a pie each without the trimming would be enough – absolutely delicious!

Travelling back along the Sea to Sky Highway, we stopped off in Squamish as I had never seen the town centre before. There was a great view of ‘The Chief’ from the small boat jetty in the town. Further along our journey, we couldn’t bring ourselves to go back to Vancouver too early and made another stop in Horseshoe Bay, the weather was fantastic and we needed a beer on an outdoor patio with a view.

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Gorgeous afternoon in Horseshoe Bay

Arriving back in Vancouver I was a little sad to see the weekend end but I am sure with the better weather coming up, there will be more weekends like this one 🙂

Trip to Alberta – March 2017 (late entry)

‘Better late then never’ is a phrase that fits for me especially when I don’t update my blog in a while.

A couple of weeks after my return from the homeland at the beginning of March, I went back to Alberta for the third time. I flew into Edmonton Airport to visit my friend, Isabel who is studying for her PhD at The University of Alberta (UoA). Isabel was at arrivals with the upgrade of a big ass truck from the rental company (great because she had her skis and I had my snowboard with me so plenty more room).

As we left the airport, I was amazed at how flat everything was and how much snow was still around. It took around 3 hours to drive from Edmonton airport to the outskirts of Calgary (with a couple of road stops along the way).

For the first night, we would be staying with Isabel’s cousin, Jess and her family in an area by Nose Hill Park (northern suburb of Calgary). Jess and her family (4 children) made me feel really welcome and we had a lot of fun making a ‘green’ dinner as it was St. Patrick’s Day’. I also got to see Nose Hill Park when we took the dog out for a walk.

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Nose Hill Park – largest park in Calgary

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St Patrick’s Day green dinner – brussel sprouts, asparagus, green scrambled egg, spinach soup and apple cider

After a fun-filled night with Isabel, Jess and the children, it was time to get an early night as we would be off to Banff in the morning. The kids really didn’t want to go to bed that night lol.

It took around an hour and 30 minutes to get into Banff National Park – this would be my third time visiting Banff and Isabel’s first time. My friend Nick, who lives in Banff had got me discounted tickets for Sunshine Village Ski Resort again so we were off to there. Isabel had a tricky time with the truck and trying to park it due to all the ice but after about 20 minutes we made it and made our way to guest services and the gondola to get to the chair lifts.

The day was a bit of a white out and very cold plus I was rusty with the snowboard. I also struggled with the bright light and ended up with a very bloodshot eye during the day (probably snow blindness). Isabel and myself did around 10 runs at different areas of the mountain. My favourite chairlift was the one that heats up your bum as you travel up lol.

At around 3pm, we decided to call in a day and head into Banff village and to our hotel – Banff Aspen Lodge. I will be the first to admit that for the entire time we were on the mountain I just kept shouting ‘hot tub party’ because that was what we was waiting for. The hotel had two hot tubs and we decided to go into the smaller of the two – with a couple of cheeky beverages ;).

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This is the life – hot tub and an electric log fire

Dinner was reserved for us at 8pm but I had a hard time getting out of the hot tub and getting ready – we just about made it. Dinner was at Balkan, a Greek restaurant along the main strip in the village. We had some fried feta balls to start with and these were amazing!!!!! Because it has been over two months since I went to Banff, I cant remember what I had for the main course but I still remember the feta balls lol.

My friend, Nick was in Banff with his girlfriend so me and Isabel met up with them after dinner for a few drinks. Unfortunately they had been partying throughout the day and had to head home a bit earlier before they passed out lol.

The next day after we had breakfast and checked out of the hotel, Isabel wanted to see a bit more of the village. We looked in a few of the stores and tourist trap shops before heading back to Edmonton.

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The drive back took about 5 hours and it was long long flat road. Arriving in the city, Isabel gave back the truck to the hire company and was met by her boyfriend Jon, who I had not met before. Isabel knew that I wanted to check out a good area to take a photo of Edmonton skyline and Jon knew just the place.

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View of Edmonton

The area was by a downhill ski slope and was perfect for what I wanted as you can see above.

Jon drove us to Isabel’s place – university accommodation at UofA, I also saw some frat houses nearby and this something I have never seen before.

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The evening was spent at a New Orleans restaurant downtown with Isabel, Jon and Isabel’s friend from Ottawa, Ethan and then to a place called ‘O2’s Taphouse’. Needless to say there were a lot of jager bombs involved along with videos and snapchats that the next day I regretted. Even Ozzy took part in the shenanigans.

The hangover that Isabel experienced the next day was much worse then mine, in fact she asked me several times why I was feeling ok and she wasn’t lol. The sunny but cold morning was spent walking along Whyte Avenue – one of the main streets in a district called ‘Old Strathcona’ in the city.

It was then time for me to get the shuttle back to the airport. UofA actually has a couple of metro stops within the campus, unlike Univerity of British Columbia (UBC). I said goodbye to Isabel and knew I would be seeing her again at the end of the month when she returned to BC during the holidays. The journey took 30 minutes to get to the end of the line to a bus terminal and from there the airport shuttle to YEG (another 45 minutes).

My thoughts on Edmonton was that it was very quiet and not a place I would like to visit during winter however, I would go back again in the summer when the many festivals are on.

The original journal and travel journal for 2017

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Selection from my first artistic journal when I was 16+

After sorting out my things at my mother’s house in Northamptonshire, I came across my first visual journal from when I was 16. It was crazy to think a sketchbook brought for my birthday would become overloaded with angst ridden lyric interpretations and general teenage crap lol.

Travel journal 2017

Skip another 16 years and 6 journals later and this is it…

My most recent travel journal project for the trip to UK and Ireland

 

More pages from Dublin and Belfast

After many weeks and a shit load of double sided tape, my journal is complete. Am I pleased with it? Hell yeah!

Trip back to the homeland

During the middle of February, I took a trip back to the UK and brought my partner back to see Europe for the first time and to meet friends and family.

On arrival at Gatwick airport, it took him 45 minutes to get through passport control, where he was asked similar questions to what the USA asks me every time I enter.

We rented a car and got an upgrade from a Toyota Aygo to a Nissan Qashqai. As I was the one doing all the driving (my partner had never driven standard/manual or on the other side of the road), I was hesitant but with parking sensors, the knowledge of when I was entering variable speed limits on the motorways and a diesel engine I was more than happy with this as the two weeks went on.

Our first morning included a full English breakfast – something I had missed but chances are my body would not thank me.

Complete with black pudding…

The first weekend was spent seeing my mum in Northamptonshire and attending a wedding evening in Gloucestershire for some friends from University. The evening was good fun with a hog roast and me managing to stumble back to the hotel, a little tipsy in 6 inch heels (with some help).

Me and my Uni friends at the wedding

The next day and (with large hangover),  we all met up at a local pub for a carvery. Unfortunately my eyes were bigger then my belly and you could only go up once for all your veggies.

Way too much food for me, only quarter was eaten and I felt bad about the waste as there was no option to take away

After visiting an old school friend at Cribbs Causeway, who now lives in Bristol, we travelled up to Birmingham Airport for a swanky night at the Hilton Metropole Airport.

Dublin, Ireland

The next day was our flight to Dublin. Both of us had never been before and we flew with Ryan Air of which there were no issues with THIS flight.

Flying into Ireland

Arriving in Dublin and a relatively smooth passport control, we took the airport express to downtown (€6 each). Our hotel was on Parnell Street, just North of O’Connell Street and north of the Liffey River. We spent some time exploring O’Connell Street and seeing the General Post Office (GPO) – scene of the 1916 Easter Rising.


There is a lot of building work and construction going on along O’Connell Street due to the tram lines so it was quite hectic.

South of the river construction

Looking North along O’Connell Street

Temple Bar

Of course our first evening would not be complete without a trip to Temple Bar and to ‘The Temple Bar’ pub. Just a shame a Guinness and Irish Larger came to €13 (C$18/£11) *shocking! The bridges across the river were great fun though (see bottom right photo). I really liked The Ha’Penny bridge.

Temple Bar pub in Dublin

The next day we decided to do the Dublin Bus Hop-on Hop-off tour, which took you around all the major attractions in the city. I also discovered that there was only one time slot available for Kilmainham Gaol (to feed my old prison obsession) so that got booked straight away via the Tourist Information Centre. The Gaol gets very booked up so it’s worth booking it beforehand in order to fit it in with holiday plans.

We boarded the bus at 10am that morning and went past Trinity College, St Patrick’s cathedral, Dublin Castle and the house of Oscar Wilde. We wanted to go to The Jameson Distillery but unfortunately that was closed due to refurbishment until St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Guinness Storehouse 

No trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to one of the most famous breweries in the world. I had previously heard mixed reviews about The Storehouse and for the €20 entrance fee, I have to admit I was skeptical but as Adam wanted to go I went along. I was to be pleasantly surprised…

The Storehouse is a glass atrium with seven  floors dedicated to the black stuff: information on the brewery process and the story of Arthur Guinness. There was also a small tasting area with a small shot of Guinness given to everyone. I am not usually a fan of Guinness, I find it very overpowering and filling but for some reason in Dublin, the Guinness tastes much smoother and silkier and I loved it.


My favourite floor was completely dedicated to Guinness advertising. Some of their most famous advertising campaigns were showcased including John Gilroy’s zoo keeper and animals from the early to mid 20th century. There is also a 360 degree cinema with the TV campaigns including ‘The Surfer’ (the one with the waves that turned into horses).

 

The cinema made you feel like you were inside a pint of Guinness.

 

My other favourite part of the advertising section was ‘The Whistling Oyster’ – this was a very old advert from the 1920s and the museum decided the bring the oyster into 3D whistling the William Tell theme tune. So random and bizarre but I loved it!

The next floor was ‘The Guinness Academy’, where you could learn the art of pouring the perfect pint of Guinness. Included in the entrance fee is a pint of Guinness and you can pour your own or wait until the next end bar. We both got a certificate to prove we knew how to pour a Guinness 🙂

Ozzy enjoyed some Guinness in the Academy bar

The last part of the Storehouse was the seventh floor and The Gravity Bar. It had windows all around with 360 degree views of the city.

Top of Gravity Bar in The Guinness Storehouse

Posing with our Guinness in The Gravity Bar

Kilmainham Gaol

The main attraction for me to see in Dublin was Kilmainham Gaol, a decommissioned prison that held the rebel leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising as well as Irish Republicans during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923).

We were lucky to get the last remaining time slot at 3.15pm as every other day was sold out. I enjoyed learning about the history of the jail and seeing the East Wing of the prison, which has been featured in many famous TV series and films (The Italian Job, In The Name of The Father).

The East Wing was amazing architecturally speaking. The amount of light let into the jail as well as the panopticon design and iron staircase was fascinating to see.

We also got to see the courtyard, where the republican leaders of the 1916 uprising were executed by the British soldiers. It was chilly to see some gravestones there to remember the leaders, who became martyrs to Ireland.

Kilmainham Gaol

Northern Ireland

The next day, we took a tour to Belfast in Northern Ireland. We stopped off at the remains of an old monastery called Monasterboice.

The 10th century round tower of Monasterboice ruins

West Belfast

On arrival in Belfast, we were given the opportunity to take a black cab tour around West Belfast and the areas known for ‘The Troubles’ (1969-1998), a conflict between paramilitary groups: Irish Republicans/Catholics (including the Irish Republican Army – IRA), Loyalists/Protestants and the British Army. The tour took us around the famous murals along Falls Road (mainly catholic area) and Shankill (mainly protestant area).

Without going into a history lesson as there is plenty of information on the internet, I studied Northern Ireland in GCSE history around two years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed (1998). I have always wanted to see this area of Belfast.

Our cab driver never really disclosed which ‘side’ he grew up under but I suspected he was from the Loyalist area. He was knowledgable about the murals and showed us some photos from the time of the fighting and when the British Army were patrolling the streets. It was very poignant to see the ‘Peace Line’ – a 25 ft iron fence seperating the catholic and protestant neighbourhoods. There are gates that are kept open during the day but locked up at night to prevent violence.

The tour took around 2 hours and on arrival back to Belfast city centre, there was just time to see the City Hall building and for a bite to eat at Greggs.

Titanic Belfast

The main part of the tour was the relatively new Titanic Belfast. Built in 2012 to show the heritage of the ill-fated ship, which was built in the city.

The building is very impressive and is designed to look a bit like ship. There was a lot of information on why it was decided Titanic should be built in Belfast and the contruction itself as well the maiden voyage and subsequent sinking after hitting the iceberg.

The tour took about 2 hours to get back to Dublin and by this point we were exhausted but we did go out to  enjoy some drinks and live folk music at some of the local bars.

Flight back to the UK

Due to a storm called Doris, we noticed at the airport that many flights to the UK were getting cancelled. Ryan Air did not cancel but coming into Birmingham, the pilot could not land the plabe due to the high winds. Instead, the plane got diverted to Bristol Airport (2.5 hours south). All passengers were informed that shuttle buses would be provided to take us to Birmingham but after waiting at arrivals for 45 minutes and with no representative from Ryan Air keeping us updated; we decided to take the offer of a lift from a passenger sitting next to me on the plane who had just hired a car. It still took another 4 hours to get to Birmingham due to trucks overturning on the motorway. We finally got back to Northampton at 10pm that evening and both decided to pay more money next time and never fly with Ryan Air again.

London

After spending some more time with my family and friends in Northamptonshire, we headed to London for a few days. I found the trip very stressful and many of the London Underground employees quite rude compared to what I am used to the Skytrain in Vancouver. I did show my partner all the major sights and introduced him to Wetherspoons pubs (lol).

We also went to the London Dungeon as we had a 2 for 1 voucher however, I was very unimpressed with new location and structure and prefer the old dungeon from 15-20 years ago.

We also managed to get to see the dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum – something I have never managed to do before and really pleased that I managed to see the exhibit.

The last few days in Northamptonshire involved seeing the last few friends that we could fit in and trying to pack as much stuff as I could in two extra suitcases (god knows how I was under the weight restrictions). 


 

2016 into 2017…

Highlights of 2016 – My Permanent Residency also being one of them


So I see it has been awhile since I posted. The only thing that has prompted this is because I had emails from WordPress this morning saying my blog was getting a lot of traffic; they were not wrong either! 

Some lovely person must have posted a link on the express entry page on Facebook.  I am no longer in this group unfortunately but I am still around to help/answer questions about the process. 

Anyway I’m glad some of the information is still useful for people planning on emigrating to Canada. 

2016

After October, very little has occurred apart from finally purchasing a set of wheels and being raped for car insurance from ICBC. 

Say hello to Mildred


I’ve also only managed to get up to the ski hills twice although one of those times was Grouse Mountain, where I had never been before and probably won’t go back to (I feel Cypress and Seymour are better). However, the view was still pretty awesome.

View from Grouse Mountain


My friend, Nick from Banff (who I had already visited twice) came out to Vancouver for a visit with his brother in November. It was great to host them and to have some long missed British humour. They got to experience Granville Island, Stanley Park and a Canucks game before they went to Vancouver Island. 

Nick even got to say hello to those random laughing men 😂. 

Christmas was a nice time spending it with Adam’s family in Surrey and of course seeing my favourite pup dressed as Santa 😍. 

I don’t think she was too happy with us when we accidently brought her cat treats though. Sorry Ems x.

New year, although I was at the start of my yucky flu/cold thing (see below) was a lot of fun and definitely made up for the last two terrible NYEs. 


2017

From the start of the year, I have struggled with a very bad cold/flu and I am putting it down to the rather unusual cold weather in Vancouver. It’s put pay to a couple of snowboarding days and a trip to Victoria but I won’t let it defeat me. 

I did get out to Merritt, BC to try Ice fishing. It was -16 in the interior but it was nice to be out of the city and to see all the amazing views. Didn’t catch any fish though :(. 

I also finally got myself to The letter Writing Club at The Regional Assembly of Text

Every first Thursday of the month they put out a dozen old typewriters, supply some free paper/materials and you can write letters. They also have a table with stamps and ink pads to add on to your letters. 

The evening was a lot of fun but it is best to get there early otherwise you have to wait for a typewriter to free up. 

My creativeness on the typewriters and stamps


That’s it for now. 🙂 

Travel journals II

After my recent trip to Nova Scotia, the time has come to start another crafting project and therefore another travel journal. 

I completed one last year just for Vancouver and my trips to Banff and Las Vegas. Unfortunately I took it back to the UK (at that point I didn’t know if I would be staying in Canada or not) but I hope to bring it back out in February. 

Luckily I took some photos of it before I took it back. 


This journal along with Pinterest has given inspiration for the new journal. 

I did bring back some postcards, tickets, brouchures, leaflets etc. to fill it with.

Most of the time I use the dollarstores for materials especially a store called ‘Your Dollar Store’ by Cambie and Broadway. 

The other little gem is Urban Source on Main Street. This place has bins of recycled materials and you can fill a bag for $10 or just pay for what you want. They have a great stick of coloured cardboard, wrapping paper and boxes/ takeaway containers you can use to wrap up gifts. 

all of my supplies

My living room has been a mess for the last 3 weeks with strips of paper and car everywhere but finally it is complete (almost – still have to add some written information to the sections).

I’m very pleased with the end result. 🙂

Homemade scrubs and masks 

On Friday, I drove one of my work colleagues in the work van to get some soap and scrub making supplies for the monthly Girls Night on a Monday evening.

Enter The Soap Dispensary, a small store that enables refills of soaps, cleaning products, edible liquids and DIY ingredients – all natural, fair trade, organic and eco friendly.

Looking around the store was memorizing: all the cute aromatherapy bottles, essential oils, sweet smelling soaps and the array of large tubs enabling customers to purchase products by weight and capacity.

I decided to come back another day when I wasn’t working and in the meantime, look up home made scrub and skin mask recipes online. I was shocked at how easy these are to make at a fraction of the price compared to Lush, The Body Shop and other skincare stores. Therefore I decided to give it ago and try and make a body scrub, using natural ingredients and free from any chemicals/toxins.

My favourite body scrub is by Sanctuary Spa from Boots in the UK. It’s a dead sea salt scrub with oils and minerals, which softened your skin. I usually purchase some of these sachets when I visit or my lovely mother has sent some out to me in the mail.

At £1.75 (around $3) for 60g it isn’t bad and I can easily get 2-3 body scrubs out of it, however I wanted to find a more natural alternative.

I also decided to try and make up a clay mask after visiting Sephora and having one of their beauticians show me this amazing pink clay detox treatment mask. However, at $45 for 250ml – it’s not a price I want to pay.

I went back to The Soap Dispensary and spent $25 on some sweet almond oil, lemon essential oil (to add to the scrubs), some rhassoul clay (for the mask) and a small pipette bottle (to add droplets of the essential oil).

I also purchased some glass containers from dollarama, some corse sea salt and brown sugar from superstore. I already have coconut oil that I use for cooking. Previously I used refined oil but this stuff below is unrefined so I am concerned that my fried eggs are going to taste of coconut…

Salt Scrub

I mixed 1 cup of the sea salt with half a cup of coconut oil (melted as coconut oil is usually in solid form) .

I then added some of the almond oil plus a few drops of the lemon infused oil and mixed it altogether.

The paste was chunky but not overly oily. I then spooned the mixture into one of the jar containers.

Next was the fun bit and trying it out. I only used the scrub on my body and feet. I avoided my face as I don’t know how harsh the salt would be. I came out of my shower with much softer and smoother skin!

Face mask

Next step was the face mask using rhassoul clay. Rhassoul is found in Morocco and contains many natural minerals. It is great for sensitive skin and is meant to improve dry patches and skin texture; it also absorb toxins + excess oil and help with elasticity of the skin.

Rhassoul is also good to use as a hair mask So I will have to try that one.

I added 3 tablespoons to a ceramic bowl* and added enough water to create a paste when mixed together with a plastic/wooden spoon*. I then added 2 drops of the almond oil and some lavender essential oil that I already had. The paste was not overly thick but you can added more clay to create a thicker texture.

* Many recepies will tell you not to use metal spoons or bowls as the clay can mix with the metal toxins.

As I applied the paste to clean skin, I realised that I didn’t need a lot of it to cover my face. I was going to leave the mask on for around 10 – 15 minutes, however after 8 minutes the paste was starting to dry and it was time to wash it off.

This part was messy and it did take a while to get all of the paste off but the results were amazing, my skin felt softer and looked clearer.

Sugar scrub 

Sugar scrubs tend to be less abrasive then salt scrubs and are therefore better for sensitive skin. I have previously used sugar scrubs and do not find they exfoliate as well, however I decided to make a home made sugar scrub for my face.

I used one cup of brown sugar and half a cup of coconut oil. I also added lemon essential oil and mixed it altogether. 

After trying out both scrubs,I much preferred to salt one. It was more rough on my skin and therefore made it feel cleaner and smoother. 

I’m definitely happy that I tried to make my own body scrubs and face mask.