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Separate sides – Canada

Vancouver was a breath of multicultural fresh air after the USA (which IMHO is a bit pants)…

We cycled around Stanley Park seawall, stopped to look at huge totem poles and Thomas went wide-eyed at his first ever sight of a sunbow.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Walking block upon block in Vancouver
Brilliant food

Dosas in the Indian canteen around the corner from our basement Airbnb, super-tasty Japanese ramen in the city and good old fish and chips from a food truck.

We hopped over to Vancouver Island where the boys made friends with the Pigeon Man and had a fishing lesson (they caught some trees), we hung out in the library, went to the Butchart Botanical Gardens (like an outside Ikea) and saw our first black bear on Botanical Beach. Fraser also had a crazy-hot noodle dinner – hotter than anything in Asia.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
British Columbia provide free fishing lessons to kids – this was just around the corner from us at a small lake

Returning to the mainland, which by the way is bloody humongous, we headed for the Rockies and explored British Columbia on the way.

British Columbia

In Kelowna, we had a lovely time staying on a farm where our beds were in the old horses’ box stalls in the barn. We walked the miniature ponies, the boys had a riding lesson each and I nearly got galloped away on a spooked (full size) horse. We cycled the Myra Canyon over 18 trestles and through 2 tunnels, and I went over-60s line dancing with our Airbnb host (turns out it was the advanced group).

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
This photo is totally ripe for a caption competition…
Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Cycling the Myra Canyon

Further along, we struck Airbnb gold with our place in Revelstoke. Within a few minutes our kids were playing with their kids and then they all got whisked away to the local cinema by the hosts! Fist pump! So what do you do with 3.5 hours of kid-free time, the first in 11 months?

  1. go for a walk
  2. have a nice cup of tea
  3. go to the supermarket
  4. have a beer at a local cafe
Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Double rainbow from the garden of our Revelstoke place
Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
This piece of paradise was hidden away, down a short trail behind our Revelstoke place

We found snow on the top of Mount Revelstoke so the boys did some snow heading. We saw two more black bears and had an ace afternoon at the local swimming pool. We also had some fab forest walks – the mystical, magical kind.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Forest walk through temperate rainforest at Revelstoke National Park
Yes to everything

Up we went to Lake Louise, near Banff National Park. It’s a magnet for every single tourist in the area. But you know what? It was fine. I’ve kinda given up researching stuff – Fraser does more of it now – so I just say yes to everything. 

Lake Louise deserved to be busy. It was beautiful. On the second day we escaped the coach loads hanging out by the lake side and walked 10km up the mountain and back again. The boys were on fabulous form and we chatted about everything under the sun. Near the top, overlooking another flour-blue glacial lake, we scoffed Mars Bars and had hot chocolate in the wee wooden tea shop.

Urging them on, we climbed higher. Robert was stropping, but nothing could stop me feeling accomplished and grateful and free as I relished the wind and the mountains and the beauty of life.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Mt Saint Piran with Lake Louise below

After one night in Calgary, we took a flight way over east to Quebec in French-speaking Canada.

Now I understand!

It’s part of Canada where everyone speaks French, like France! And everything looks French, like France! It was a bizarre thing. After months of Spanish speaking countries I was saying ‘si’ instead of ‘oui’ and the boys burst out laughing at my various crap attempts at schoolgirl French.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Quebec penalises businesses if they provide information in English

We spent a few days travelling to Montreal via some unremarkable quiet towns and staying in forgettable and isolated houses.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Half of Heskell Free Library is in the USA, the other half is in Canada

In Montreal we had our first and only bum Airbnb. It was so dirty! We bolted and stayed in a necessity-splurge hotel for a night before moving on to somewhere cheaper.

What can I say about Montreal? Just another city, I’m afraid. We did find excellent dosas though! Aha – and I’ve just remembered the cracking day we had in the park. All day, just hanging out. Everyone happy. Playing Catan and frisbee and I managed a quick run.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
I’m going to miss far-reaching views like this (from our Montreal place) when we get home

We made our way to Toronto over a few days.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
We found a huge Buddhist temple in the middle of nowhere (nr Arundel, QC)
Shack and a freak out

Since the boys always claimed that each new place we rocked up to was a shack (which I hate to hear, ungrateful buggers), I booked us into an actual off-grid shack on the edge of a river, near Perth.

My silk sleeping bag was a godsend (thanks Rupert) seeing as most of the foam bedding had been nibbled away by mice.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
At least Le Shack had a loo – but it took a while for us to find it

After a very bad night’s sleep, I was still determined to get the boys out onto the water and jumped into a canoe with Robert.

Robert – I love you but you a scary wee man in waterborne vessels.

We were in the middle of the not-very-fast-but-wide river when Robert started shouting at me. Recalling Robert’s Vietnamese kayak attack, I paddled quickly to the other side but a kind of manic swept over me. My laughter turned to tears. I felt separated from Fraser, who, on the other side of the river with Thomas, was bemused and confused. ‘I don’t like it!!! GET ME OUT’, I wailed.

Like mother like son. (Later the same day, Robert bravely went solo in a kayak. He freaked. We saved him.)

Trapeze flying

Toronto was ace. I went trapeze flying! Yes! Really! I didn’t quite nail the knee swing enough to do a catch, but just leaning far enough forward to grab the bar before launching yourself into empty air was scary as hell. Tandem skydiving was way easier than this!

It was a test too… I was forcing myself to separate from Fraser and the boys. I was getting myself ready for daily life at home with work/school. I found it tricky hanging with new peeps that evening (get the pun?) and I wish that socialising didn’t muck up my ability to sleep as much as it does.

Of course we went to Niagara Falls! It was cheeseballs, but highly enjoyable. We got drenched on the boat despite our plastic ponchos, but the force of the falls and the churning waters below had us grinning from ear to ear, even though Robert had removed himself to an inside area because his poncho didn’t COMPLETELY cover him. Bless.

Separate sides - Canada - by Ruth McAllister Kemp
Oh Robert! Getting reading for Niagara Falls

We spent 6 weeks in Canada, which in hindsight was a bit too long. We totally loved Vancouver, British Columbia and the Rockies in the west. Quebec City was cute, but our east-side travel was dull in comparison. Hey ho, that’s the way it goes! Thanks Canada – you were cool.

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