Places to Go

In Search of Snow…


I have lived my whole life in the land of frequent rain, and while I love the blue/green/grey landscape with my whole heart there are times when even I get sentimental for other weather…


A few years ago, when she was quite small, Miss G. cried inconsolably when we put away the Christmas decorations before she had seen actual snow.  It seems that snow, in particular, is emotionally tied to our winter celebrations.  There are pictures of snow on Christmas cards, sparkly snow in globes, and snow filled landscapes in almost every holiday film we watched.  Here in Vancouver, though, no snow.  This year, to avoid the blues that can follow a green Christmas we promised to whiten up with a trip to the mountains in search of some real snow…

We were spellbound on the switchbacks up the mountain by the blanketed city lit up below us…

  … then outfitted with snowshoes, poles, snacks and many (many!) layers of woolens we found ourselves a little winter wonderland along the Cypress Snowshoe Trail on Hollyburn Mountain.
I have wanted to do this for so long, and am so glad we finally got around… Beautiful, bright and so much fun for all of us (even dragging G. Jr. up the tiny inclines by pole…)

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Snow Fort

It all starts
with the quality,
the density, the size
of the snow bank.
True now, true forty years ago;
it is the critical ingredient.
We piled it high, over successive storms,
waiting not so patiently
for the right time. The right mix
of wet and cold
Snowman snow.
Digging, with shovels, with hands
creating a dome, an inner sanctum
interconnected tunnels, in and out
meeting in the middle
all within the pile of snow.

(Raymond A. Foss)

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Places to Go

Ambleside Beach (and the end of Summer…)

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Our favourite place to go this summer – the place we returned to over and over – was a quiet stretch of beach on the north shore of Vancouver.  The sea and sand and sun were just the things to soothe our city dwelling souls.  Half an hour from home we could dip our toes in the salty Pacific or squish them into the seaweed and sand.  We watched float planes, cruise ships, sail boats and shipping tankers coming and going about their business.  We built castles and sculptures, swam and fished (for smelts!) and whiled our time away…

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“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” (John F. Kennedy)

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Miss G. is always up for art – she has a knack for creating “found art” sculptures with an amazing sense of place…

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I’m not sure what is more inviting – the statue, or the seagull sharing the view…

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“Always keep your mind as bright and clear as the vast sky, the great ocean, and the highest peak, empty of all thoughts. Always keep your body filled with light and heat. Fill yourself with the power of wisdom and enlightenment.” (Morihei Ueshiba)

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The sound of the waves, the feeling of the wind, the smell of the salt and the sea… these are the things that I keep close as the season changes and the burdens of real life resume, layer by layer.

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“It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean.” (John Locke)

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Summer, the season of recuperation and rejuvenation, is disappearing minute by minute each day.  The days are cooler, shorter, and increasingly more demanding as the business of daily life piles up… but the summer in our soul cannot easily be replaced.  The light and loftiness of those beachside afternoons are stored away in that summer self, to be called upon when we find ourselves in need of a lift…

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““Au milieu de l’hiver, j’apprenais enfin qu’il y avait en moi un été invincible.”   (Albert Camus)

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Places to Go

Burnaby Village (Volume 3)…

There are some places that our family “field trips” return to over and over.  Burnaby Village is one of those amazing venues, and although I have shared about our previous visits both in summer and winter I can’t stop taking photos every time we go!  If you live nearby and haven’t visited, please go!  It really is incredible that this slice of history is just minutes away from our daily life.

On our most recent visit we had the chance to see the village with fresh eyes – we were there with family friends who had travelled half way around the world.  This made us even more aware of the culture that we are lucky to inherit…

The farmhouse and the heritage dahlias in the garden…

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The schoolhouse…

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The heritage garden…

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…barber shop…

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…drugstore…

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The vintage kitchen…

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…the general store…

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…the music studio…

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…and of course my favourite drygoods store (where all of the hats would look amazing on me, I’m sure, but the grey one is just so lovely…)

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This is the house I thought I would live in when I grew up. (Still might happen.)  This is the house I imagined with every Nancy Drew mystery I read…

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On this visit the embroidered linens were hanging to dry in the kitchen…

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The “lady of the house” was amassing her trousseau…

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Every time we visit I leave wishing I could stay.  Just past the village is Deer Lake, which offers a contemplative space …

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…and a musical interlude to bridge the gap back to our here and now…

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“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” (Virginia Woolf)

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Places to Go

Burrard Inlet by Boat…

We are a month into fall and, while some days have been beautiful, there have been enough rainy days for me to miss the summer sunshine that already seems so far away…

Although we are fortunate enough to live close to the water, we don’t get out on it much.  Lucky for us, one of our great friends has both a boat and the patience (madness!) to take it out on the water with our crazy family in tow…

Just a few weeks ago we spent an amazing late summer day enjoying the view of sun, ocean and blue sky from the best vantage point possible – the middle of it all.

At first the seals weren’t particularly interested in us…

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…but then one raised an eyebrow…

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…and another woke up enough from basking in the sun to notice as we boated by…

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There were endless interesting boats to photograph…

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…and G. Jr. had to hold on to his hat.

(Literally.  We turned around three times to fish it out of the water after he let go and it blew off in the breeze.)

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The trip to Deep Cove (by car) usually takes us at least half an hour.  By boat it is a quick fifteen minutes of some of the most amazing watery views…

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Our reward for taking this leisurely trip was (naturally!) gelato

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…and then we headed back out on the water and north up Indian Arm.

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On our way back to the dock we could just see G. Jr’s favourite bridge – the ironworkers’ memorial – in the distance.

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He didn’t stay awake much longer – all that fresh sea air knocked him right out!  Good thing Miss G. was in full form – we needed her to help us tie up the boat.

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A day of sun and sea air can do a lot to bring some balance to a busy life.  Facing another week of blustery fall weather and the doldrums of the day-to-day, I am grateful to look back on the sea change and see things from another angle…

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“They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea…” (Horace)

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Places to Go

Burnaby Mountain…

Vancouver is a city surrounded by nature – rivers, mountains, oceans, inlets… It’s hard for us to visualize the shape of the landscape even as we live in it every day. A great place to get perspective is to go vertical; part way up Burnaby Mountain, just west of Simon Fraser University, there is a gorgeous park with an amazing view.

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The lower part of the park contains this sculptural installation: “the playground of the gods…” or in our case the playground of two wildly rambunctious youngsters…

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…which is even more incredible with the north shore lights and setting sun behind it:IMG_7019

The north side of the park looks up toward Indian Arm…

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One of my favourite sights:

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…and then this gorgeous view west out towards the ocean – it always tempts my adventurous spirit to get on a boat and go… Where are those boats headed when they leave our port?IMG_7029

All the view and fresh air builds up an appetite… IMG_7003
… a scoop (or two) of ice cream will finish it off perfectly.  (The hardest part is narrowing it down from the 200 plus choices…)

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Places to Go

Riverboat Cruise…

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” (Marcus Aurelius)

Not far from our home in the “suburbs” of Vancouver is a city with a rich history of its’ own and a personal connection too; New Westminster, the “royal city” and (sadly) the deposed provincial capital of British Columbia has the distinction of being the birthplace of two consecutive generations of our family on both sides.  This is remarkable in a country of immigrants and in a family that, on both sides, has had wanderers for many generations.  Although the family has all moved on (wanderers…) the history of the city still makes a great impression on us and we feel a great connection to it (even G.Jr. who “loves the pointy houses” for their unique character, and is always up for a visit to the park…)

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This summer we had the chance to see the city from a different angle – the river front.  On a gorgeous sunny Saturday we headed out on the Fraser River via vintage paddlewheel boat and had an amazing time…

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We took some amazing photos of the many bridges that make up daily life here…

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“I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests. ” (Pablo Neruda)

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“What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt – it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.” (Hal Boyle)

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…and were reminded of many of the things that made New Westminster an important city in the first place: the Fraser River is a working river – the log booms and rail yards that take up real estate along the banks were the beginning of industry that brought the (eventually) 3 million people to use its’ bridges daily…

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“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.” (Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha)

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This tiny little red building was new to me – I have seen it from the other side but never realized its purpose.  This building housed the fuel for the New Westminster penitentiary, and served as a transit point for prisoners moving in and out.

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This is the last remnant of the original prison structure… the rest of the property (the legendary haunted house of my childhood) has been overrun in true Vancouver style with townhouses and condominiums…

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Purple loosestrife – wildly invasive – grows happily along the riverbanks in front of log booms waiting for a lift…

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A day out on a river boat is just the thing to inspire… What farfetched stories is Miss G. dreaming up this time?

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The river is as timeless and romantic today as it was to my childhood imagination all those years ago.  I love that we were born just steps away from it – its’ ribbon of industry connects us in space and imagination.

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“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

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Places to Go

Granville Island (Volume 3)…

Another gorgeous day, another chance to get out into our city… (so grateful for the people and places that make it wonderful for us…)

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We try to get to Granville Island as often as possible.  It is one of my favourite parts of my hometown, probably because I have so many happy childhood memories of wandering around the market and taking in all of the sights and sounds.  I want my children to have the same happy memories and connections to the places that keep Vancouver alive for me…

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I have shared pictures from visits before (twice actually) but every time we go I love it and (of course) take endless photos.

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Boats, sunshine, saltwater, sandy beaches…

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I have the best memories of declaring as a small child that I would live my grown up life right here, in False Creek…  I haven’t had a chance to follow through on that promise yet, but there might still be time…

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I hope your day, wherever it takes you, has a tiny bit of sunshine and flowers to carry you through.

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