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

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

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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Places to Go

European Festival (Volume 2)…

In the blink of an eye summer has begun and full-swing festival season is upon us.  The weather has been wonderful and the weekends full of opportunities to be out and about, but we are still a little wistful about last summer and our amazing European vacation. The European Festival was a good opportunity for us to get our fix of all things European, and so we did!  Beginning, of course, with the childrens’ passports. My little list maker was on task and focused so we were sure to collect a complete set of stamps:

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I always love the cultural displays. There is nowhere else in town I could possibly find this much embroidery and pottery all in one place…

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One of the things I miss from Europe – slivovica!

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Gorgeous pysanki – Miss G. tried her hand at the age old art for the first time too!

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Boleslawiec from Poland… If I ever get there I will load my suitcase with these lovely pieces…

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Amazing dancing…

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…which put us in the mood for a little recreation of our own…

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…before running into our favourite traveling minstrels! (Named after my favourite brandy. Coincidence?)

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This year the feature country was Turkey. Their booth was gorgeous too… Hopefully we will get there in person someday soon…

IMG_6288 IMG_6290 IMG_6291 IMG_6292 On our way past the food carts we ran into Uncle Trevor and his yummy looking snack…

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…but we hadn’t finished seeing the cultural displays. Back on task!

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One more pass by the grand stage…

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…and a quick moment to relax before heading out into the sunset…

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…only the beginning of a summer of adventures. So many places in the world to wander…

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Places to Go

Festival du Bois …

Hard to believe, but we have come to the beginning of another “festival season” – kicked off with the great French Canadian traditions showcased at Festival du Bois.  We shared our family visit last year in cold and slushy weather, but this year we were lucky enough to spend a sunny almost spring day hanging out for the music, food and cultural celebration… Ironically,  two of us spent the night before at Sam Roberts’ concert (speaking of French Canadian culture…) so this sunny afternoon was kind of an extension of that experience for the junior set… Let the games begin!

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Of course the frog hats (and the plaid shirts) are the traditional attire of the francophones…

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We didn’t arrive in time to see our friends in Alouest, but we did get a chance to see the Will Stroet Band live – and to rock out on stage with the band.  Woo hoo!  That level of excitement requires a certain level of sustenance – fortunately there was a sugar shack on site…

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Suitably refreshed we wandered through the park to see the historical displays…

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…and then across to Place des Arts …

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…before heading home from Notre Dame de Lourdes…

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…already looking forward to next year!  Today’s bonus: some fantastic photos from Mimi’s camera.  (She has the patience to wait for the perfect moment.  Must come from trying to photograph grandkids and pets so often.)  Enjoy!

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We are so glad to be part of such a fantastic community with so much culture!  We are already looking forward to going next year…

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Places to Go

Victoria…

Another road trip for the family!  We are clearly having a hard time just staying put.  (I blame House Hunters International.  Too many possibilities.)  Victoria has been on our family visit wish list for a few years and we finally had the perfect opportunity to see our provincial capital up close with the kids… a long weekend, gorgeous sunny weather, nothing else on the calendar… we packed our overnight bags (increasingly efficiently…) and headed to the ferry.

I can hardly believe my children haven’t been on this trip before – after commuting back and forth for years as I worked through my first university degree I feel like I know this Tsawassen to Swartz Bay trip so well… but it was a whole new experience to see it through their eyes.  What had become routine to me is suddenly new and amazing again…

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One of my favourite parts of the trip is passing the first lighthouse at Georgina Point on Mayne Island.

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It seems to mark the halfway point, and the beginning of the most scenic part of the ferry ride.  We put this particular trip on hold for so long because of the ferry cost – yikes! – but on this gorgeous day, as we sailed out from under the clouds and into the crisp, bright fall sun with ocean opening up all around us it was absolutely worth every penny.  There is no other place like this in the world…

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We sailed through Active Pass, between Mayne and Galiano Islands…

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…past Prevost, North Pender and Saltspring…

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…and somewhere along the way we almost tipped the ferry running to the starboard side to see a pod of humpback whales…

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The most fun was wandering along the top deck against the incredible wind – if we weren’t holding tight to our four-year-old we would have lost him!  He was overjoyed at the ability to “fly” and would have spent the entire boat ride out in the wind, but the lack of feeling in our ears and fingers convinced the rest of us to head below deck.

We arrived on Vancouver Island to find cold temperatures and bright sun – the lower mainland clouds were long gone.  One of the great features of downtown Victoria is the ability to walk the entire city so easily – our favourite way to travel is always to park the car and walk the town, and that is just what we did.

First stop – right next door to our downtown hotel – the provincial pavilion: (notice all the lions!)

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I haven’t been to all the provinces and territories (they are on our wish list too!) but I am fiercely proud of them all.  Canada is an amazing country because of how huge and diverse we all are…)

Next to the provincial pavilion is this lovely statue:

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…commemorating the men and women of  British Columbia and Canada who fought with the Mackenzie Papineau Battalion to defend the Republic of Spain during the Spanish Civil War in in the 1930s…

… right across the street is the Provincial Legislature with Queen Victoria keeping watch…

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…and the soldier standing guard at the cenotaph…

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…and across the street is the Grand Dame of the Victoria Harbour… the lovely Empress Hotel.  When I was younger I would go in and out of the hotel at my leisure – Mimi used to stay there when she was in town on business and the halls and passageways were so familiar to me.  This time we stayed on the outside (my children are not good in restrictive, formal environments…) but we enjoyed the gorgeous ivy covered architecture just the same.  The Empress dates back to a particular era of our country’s history – when hotels like the Palliser in Calgary and the MacDonald in Edmonton were the dowager ladies of the Railway connecting us all…

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We wandered up Government Street and down through Bastion Square, along Wharf and up Johnson, through Market Square, across Yates and down Fan Tan Alley.  So much has changed in some ways and yet the city is as quirky and wonderful as I remembered it from so many years ago.  The kids loved the architecture and the sneaky passageways; Miss G. who is halfway through the Harry Potter series was sure that the buildings looked just like Diagon Alley and Gringott’s Bank…

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Even at night, since it gets dark so early in November, it is fun to walk the Victoria streets.  There are so many lights, especially around the harbour, to highlight the details in the architecture and brighten up the late fall evenings…

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After a great walk, a good meal and a typical hotel room sleep (sigh) we headed out again to visit the Royal British Columbia Museum… we had timed our visit to coincide with the last weekend of the traveling Viking exhibit.  (Part Viking, we are always up for some cultural history!)  The interactive parts of the exhibit were quite good, and I especially loved seeing the jewelry, but we are old hands at the history as we are yearly visitors to the Burnaby Scandinavian Festival too.  Our favourite part of the museum visit turned out to be the rest of it, and there is a lot…

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There is just the right mix of cultural, social, natural and technological history woven together.  I am always a sucker for the dresses (and shoes…) but a few other things caught my eye.  Check out the brochure for the Union Steamship…

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The part of the museum that has changed the most since my last visit is the First People’s Gallery.  The art is striking, but the text in the galleries really had an impact…  The main hall tells the story of the indigenous languages in our province (more dialects for square kilometres than anywhere else on earth), and the challenges they face in a “modern world” that has valued assimilation over preservation. Some of the quotes were incredibly eloquent:

“Speaking our language brings life into our values.”

“Our languages hold knowledge about how to live on the land and have a good relationship with all things.”

“Our languages are inseparable from spirituality.”

“Our languages are inseparable from a unique world view.”

“Respect all living things on earth.”

“We are guided by our culture and the advice of our elders to share and always try to follow the road that make our hearts feel good.”

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“Txeemsim proved that every single action or decision that human beings make is actually a moral one.  Over and over Txeemsim proves that selfish behaviour is ultimately destructive for self and society.

The deeds and misdeeds of Txeemsim show that every creature in the universe and every person in society has a rightful and meaningful role to play – that we need each other and must learn from our mistakes.”

“Our lives, our  culture and our continued existence as a people are completely tied to the land.  The code also instructs us not to use strong language, not to insult those who oppose us.  We are taught to respect everyone’s way of life.”

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(This picture is for Mimi – it reminded me of your naughty dogs…)

After a long treasure hunt through the entire museum from top to bottom we had worked up a huge appetite so we walked along the side streets to Fisherman’s Wharf in James Bay.  The float home community is amazing…

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…big anchor for the treasure hunt…

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…local wildlife…

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On the other side of our hotel, just past the legislature and the museum, is the huge expanse of Beacon Hill Park, which we hope to get a chance to see on our next visit.  (Also on that list is Craigdarroch Castle – I have never been inside!)  We did take time to stop by Mile 0 and pay our respects to Terry Fox.  He never got the chance to dip his legs in the Pacific Ocean at the end of his cross country trip, but his memory stands at the edge of our country looking out at the great stretch of blue and reminds all of us that some things are always worth standing up for…

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With another long weekend winding down we retraced our steps back to the ferry and sailed home for a rest…

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…but this little glimpse of Mount Baker to the south has me thinking about driving down through Washington some time sooner than later! (Can’t shake the wanderlust…)

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