Italian Day on The Drive

On the 11th June, Commercial Drive became a car free, cultural street festival. I finished work early and so James and I biked there to check it out. I had no idea what to expect from Italian Day. I was hoping for pizza, pasta and all things Italian.

I was first overwhelmed by the amount of people there. It was a huge turnout. I was however disappointed at the lack of Italian vendors. I saw Indian, Thai, Greek and Japanese food. I came across two pizza stalls and no pasta. I was starting to think it wasn’t Italian Day after all.

I did enjoy a pesto cream cheese bagel, pizza from Whistler Wood Fired Pizza Co. and a cannoli. For those of you who don’t know what a cannoli is, it looks a little something like this…

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It is a tube made of fried pastry dough, stuffed with a ricotta filling. It was delicious, despite it looking similar to a poo in a sick bowl (sorry).

I love exploring events like this, not just for the food. I enjoy people watching, taking in the atmosphere and dawdling in the sunshine. James and I stayed about an hour after walking the full length and back. We also entered a raffle to win a trip to Paris via Italy. I haven’t heard anything so I presume we didn’t win.

We biked back, hoping to stop for an ice cream on the way home. Unfortunately James had an accident, he fell of the bike and broke his shoulder again. James has taken it in his stride and on the road to recovery. Fingers crossed for no more accidents.

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Whilst we were in the area, we walked to our Airbnb which we stayed in for our first ten days in Canada. It was weird going back somewhere which once felt so alien to us. It’s nearly one year since we lived in that small bedsit. It was incredibly nostalgic to relive those first moments in Vancouver.

Watch this space for my one year “Canaversary” post.

 

 

Being a Tourist

For weeks, maybe months I have lusted after a Tourism Vancouver pass. People come into Spokes with their pass to claim a free bike ride. I’ve wanted one of these passes for myself, not for the free bike ride but the extensive list of free entries to other tourist loved places.

Although you can do a lot of things in Vancouver and the surrounding area for free, there’s also a fair few things that come with a hefty price tag. Luckily my friend Victoria had one of these tourism passes, or something similar anyways. I was happy to accompany her on two excursions in this massive booklet of free/discounted stuff.

Originally we planned to visit Lulu Island Winery in Richmond, however we soon realised we couldn’t actually get there on public transport. We agreed on a horse-drawn tour around Stanley Park instead and a cultural wander through the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

The Stanley Park horse-drawn tour is a popular attraction amongst the many tourists that visit Vancouver. I’ve never really thought about doing it, however for $10 I was happy to take part. It was surprisingly relaxing and informative. Our guide enjoyed relaying her knowledge about Stanley Park and the horses. The key points I learnt were:

  • There’s just one residential house in the park. The resident has one job, to fire the Nine O Clock gun.
  • Stanley Park is bigger than Central Park in New York.
  • One of the horses doesn’t like gardeners and the other one doesn’t like weddings.
  • The Guinness family invested in the construction of the Lions Gate Bridge.

She said so much more but it was over two weeks ago, my memory isn’t that great. It lasted about an hour and a half and normally costs $42. I’m not sure it’s worth that much but then I would recommend it to someone who wants to see Stanley Park from a horse and carriage. Although biking around the seawall will always be my favourite way to see Stanley Park.

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Next stop was the Chinese gardens, located in Chinatown. What a coincidence. We got free entry with Victoria’s pass, thanks again Victoria. I’m glad we did because half the garden was under construction. They have removed the water from the pond and it just looked a little grey and not pleasant. On a more positive note, it was very calming considering you’re in the heart of Downtown. I can imagine how peaceful it would be with water. I’d escape there with my Kindle for a relaxing afternoon. I was surprised they were still charging people to get in, however I have just learnt it is $2 less at the moment for the inconvenience. It is usually $14 and I’m going to return as a paying guest when the maintenance work has finished. The admission also includes a complimentary guided tour, I will be taking full advantage of that on my next visit.

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Try to imagine water in the empty space

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Complimentary guided tour on the right

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After living in Vancouver for almost a year now, I forget about being a tourist. I’m normally trying to escape the tourists on my days off, not join them. However I think it’s always good to do something different once in a while. It certainly makes me look at Vancouver in a new light and it has made me realise there’s still so much I want to do. I need to get my act together.

Stay tuned for details about the not-very-Italian-Italian Day I visited on Sunday. Also I want to ask you guys to subscribe (on the left hand side) if you visit my page regularly or if you like what you see. I’m definitely a Brit, but yet to see the bears and beavers.

Richmond Night Market

Two Sundays ago I went to Richmond Night Market with the girls from Spokes. I went last summer however it was so rushed as James and I had plans after so I was looking forward to returning and taking my time.

So Richmond Night Market is open weekends from May 12th to October 9th. I would recommend going just for the food. The retail stalls are a bit of let down, unless you want socks. You’ll be spoilt for choice. The food stalls are so busy so prepare yourself for crowds however it is definitely worth the occasional push and shove.

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Do not be put off by the huge queue surrounding the entrance to the night market. Find the promo staff who sells the zoom pass. It costs $25 but it gets you up to 7 visits with fast pass entry. This is so worth it. We bought one as a group and split the cost. Or you can buy one for yourself and enjoy 7 visits up to October. I will definitely be going back, there’s so much food to try.

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We first perused the stalls to see what was on offer, then we made our selections. I started with a Thai spring roll. I wish I made a note of the stall, I’m useless. Then I had a prawn kebab, I was a little worried when I saw them after I had already placed my order. However it was a great choice, any kind of prawn dish is good in my eyes. The main attraction for me was the mac and cheese roti. I am gutted they don’t have a store, just the stall at the market. I wanted to try a few things on their menu, it looked so good. The mac and cheese roti did not disappoint, I also added bacon.

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Fish on a stick anyone?

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Mac & Cheese Roti = party in the mouth

I don’t mean to digress but it will make sense eventually. I recently developed a love for mangoes. I bought one in a supermarket, googled how to cut/eat it and loved it. I did not love the cutting/dissecting of the mango though, it’s too messy. So with that said I had to have something mango. You’ll see a lot of mango stalls, drinks and food. I settled for a mango and coconut drink with real mango chunks. I also love coconut, such a dreamy drink.

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Last but not least I had a taiyaki. I’ve had one before in Downtown and Richmond at Snowy Village Dessert Cafe. So I had one at the market, with a Kit Kat centre. It was good but not as good as the ones I’ve had previously. I’m all about experimentation with food. I must say as well the food is very affordable. It will not blow your budget, unless you buy something from every stall. That would be impressive.

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Overpriced churro ice cream, however it does come in an inflatable mini flamingo

You will also witness some live entertainment on the main stage. I won’t give too much away. It was interesting to say the least but I’ll let you make you’re own decision on that.

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Did I also mention how easy it is to get there? Hop on the Canada Line skytrain and get off at Bridgeport. It takes about 25 minutes from Downtown Vancouver. The entry fee is $3.75 if you wish to queue for what must take hours.

I want to know what you ate if you’ve been or planning on going soon. I’m a big foodie if you haven’t already gathered.

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Photo courtesy of Holly

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Next post will feature a horse-drawn carriage and a traditional chinese garden.

The Best Fish and Chips So Far

Last Tuesday my quest for the best fish and chips in Canada (so far) came to a delicious end. This hidden gem was in Steveston, about 13 miles from Downtown Vancouver. I need to thank Kate LeBlond for this recommendation as it did not disappoint.

My day started with a skytrain journey to Richmond-Brighouse, where I met Vicki and Holly (two Brits also working at Spokes). We had our bikes in tow and set off an unknown bike route to Steveston. We aimed for the West Dyke Trail which was such a pleasant find. It was bright blue skies and sunshine. It was peaceful and scenic. Most importantly it was flat and easy to ride.

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The West Dyke Trail according to the City of Richmond

Located adjacent to Sturgeon Banks, the West Dyke Recreational Trail offers some of the most spectacular views of the North Shore and Coastal Mountains to be found in Richmond. There are panoramic views to the west of the ocean, Gulf Islands and estuary, with views to the north of the Coastal Mountains and Vancouver International Airport.  This is the ideal place for watching a late summer sunset, or early morning sunrise while walking or cycling the trail.

Sturgeon Banks is a 21,525 acre estuary located on the banks of the Fraser River and Strait of Georgia. It is an important part of the Pacific Flyway, with 1.4 million birds migrating through the area annually and provides excellent habitat for nesting birds. The long expanse of marsh that makes up Sturgeon Banks runs from Terra Nova in the north to Garry Point Park in the south, it is adjacent to the West Dyke Trail and extends west out into the Strait of Georgia.

It must have taken us about an hour to get to Steveston village, where we locked our bikes up and walked towards the famous Pajo’s fish and chip shop. Pajo’s is well known for it’s fish and chips and I can see why. It certainly doesn’t compete with Bob Carver’s,which is Hull’s most famous fish and chip shop but it was good for Canadian standards. I must add that they do bottomless chips too, so you can eat as much as your heart desires. That is one thing I didn’t take advantage of (I know you don’t believe me).

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After stuffing our faces and enjoying the well deserved rest, we took a walk around Steveston village. It is a small, quaint fishing town. It has tourist shops and a very laid-back vibe. I think most people visiting were there to eat. We sat on a bench in the sunshine whilst talking about our lives in England and how strange it must be to return home. By the way this is something I do want at the end of my visa, however the prospect scares me. Anyways I’ll save that for another post.

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I need to tell you that Steveston is also home to a very expensive pizza. If you know me well, I am a big pizza lover. I read about this place in Steveston serving a pizza that costs $850. That is nearly £500 and no, that is not a typo. It is called a Seenay which includes a medley of tiger prawns, lobster ratatouille, smoked steelhead, Russian Osetra caviar, topped with Italian white truffles. See for yourself on their website.

After a short walk, we must have been delirious from the good weather and tasty fish and chips as we decided to bike to McArthurGlen Designer Outlet. It wasn’t a particularly long or hard bike ride but it did require going on some sketchy roads. One that looked very much like a highway with high speed cars. However I’m still here and lived to tell the tale.

I’ve been to the outlet a number of times, I bought some shorts for work and indulged in another churro ice cream sandwich, like the one mentioned here. I was pleased to get a skytrain home after the eventful bike ride to the designer outlet.

I don’t think I’ll find a better fish and chips here, so everyone get yourself down to Pajo’s. It will satisfy those cravings for a good British style fish and chips. Also wear sun cream on those hard to reach areas, otherwise you will end up with a red left shoulder like myself.

Come back soon for more food stories from Richmond Night Market.

Sunday Funday – White Water Rafting

You should all go white water rafting at least once in your lifetime. I went on Sunday 7th and I want to do it again and again. If you’re in the BC area, I highly recommend Chilliwack White Water Rafting, it’s even advertised as BC’s best white water resort. It costs $119 for an afternoon of priceless adrenaline fuelled fun, this includes lunch and a snack too (give me food and I’m happy).

Our day began with a free upgrade at Enterprise. As much as I would love to own a car here, it is so easy and affordable to rent a car for those day trips I’m always lusting after. James arranged this one and actually booked it for the day before, typical James. However we were rewarded with this fancy Mercedes and I’d like to add, Enterprise have the best customer service ever.

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We picked up Elliot, a fellow Brit and drove to Chilliwack. It takes about an hour and a half to get there, avoiding tolls (cheapskates). When we pulled up, I was a little surprised how the resort looks. You can see a lot of wooden huts and shacks, I presume the staff live on site due to the location (in the middle of nowhere). The owners were super friendly and welcoming and made the whole day about us. Actually we were the only customers so it had to be all about us.

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Chilliwack River

We started with a lunch of chilli, pasta salad and bread, followed by custard creams. I thought custard creams were just a British delicacy. Shortly after filling our faces, it was time to put the dreaded damp wetsuit on. You just have to not think about who wore it last or how cold it is on your warm skin.

It was time to head upstream on the school bus to get in our raft. We shared the bus with trainee instructors, I swear they were all Australian with long hair. We went our separate ways when we arrived at the start line. We had a short safety debrief, too short in my opinion. I guess what you don’t know doesn’t hurt. I was nervous, I was petrified of falling in and felt like the information he told us wouldn’t help if I fell in. Luckily I didn’t have to worry as I stayed safely inside the raft.

Our instructor was lovely, she shouted commands and we did exactly as she said. We were only 5 people in a raft for 10-12 people so we all had to paddle. I was so achy the next day. We experienced river rapids up to class 4. This is a description of class 4: intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. I wouldn’t say I’m a precise boat handler but I did ok.

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Our instructor on the far right

Along the river we got out of the raft and walked to a waterfall. This was a nice little extra however I did fall on my arse and bruised it pretty badly. I fell under the waterfall with all the water falling onto my chest, I wouldn’t advise this. The weight of the water makes it extremely difficult to get up, I survived though and lived to tell the tale.

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The famous waterfall as mentioned above

The second part of the day was the most difficult. We had to get out of the raft and walk along the river to check it out first. We were told to imagine swimming this length of the river if we fell in. That was enough to put me off, I’ve never seen such fast flowing water over various sized rocks. That would be painful. I really didn’t want to miss out though, so with my no-regrets attitude I agreed to give it a go. I held on for dear life and listened attentively to our instructor. James fell in though, with his GoPro attached. I just watched in shock as he fell overboard and had to be pulled back on by a fellow paddler.

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Going…

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Gone…

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Survived!

FYI – James was ok, he did kick a rock with his foot but was pulled out very quickly.

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Teamwork

Chilliwack River Rafting also have a photographer in a kayak taking pictures for you. So if you don’t have a GoPro, you’ll still get some great action photos.

This was definitely one of the best days I’ve had in Canada so far. I’m ready to do it again, any takers?

Last but not least, thanks to James for driving and his GoPro footage.

 

 

 

 

Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival

I first heard about this tulip festival through a sponsored ad on Facebook. They aren’t so annoying after all. It opened on 10th April and from what I hear it was just a green field for a while. If you read my blog regularly, you will have noticed I complain about the rain a lot. This was delaying the tulips from blooming. They have extended their closing date to May 14th due to the late start. You have 5 days to visit.

After my fellow Spokes friends had been and told me about how colourful the field was looking, I was ready to venture an hour out of Vancouver to visit these tulips. I went on Tuesday 2nd May with Vicki, Daisy and Ray from work. I hired a car from Budget in Vancouver and our journey began. I forgot to take a picture of the car, so here is one I found online. It reminded me so much of my Cheryl the Citroen who is no longer with me.

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Chevrolet Sonic Turbo

It seemed to take forever to get to Abbotsford, I was avoiding the toll bridge but we finally made it and I was surprised to see how busy it was. The website does advise you to buy tickets online beforehand but we were living life on the edge. It costs $8 to get in (during the week anyways), affordable and worth it. FYI you can pay on card.

I have never seen so many tulips in my life. I will add now that tulips aren’t my favourite flower. In fact I don’t have a favourite. I love flowers, buy me a bouquet any day of the week but I’m not clued up on the varieties. I enjoyed the colours and how awesome they look in their uniform rows.

After an hour or so, I had seen enough and had plenty of photo opportunities. At this point, I was enjoying the other visitors attempts at selfies and group photos. They are plenty of signs telling you not to walk in between the tulips. You still saw many people wading into the waist deep tulips to get the perfect photo.

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You could pick your own tulips in a designated area, you could eat burgers, crepes and snacks from a number of food trucks and the younger clientele had a playing area. It is a lovely day out in the sunshine and I always love escaping Vancouver, even if it is for the day.

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Ray, Vicki and Daisy loving the Tulip Festival

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Vicki looking all majestic

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Just me, myself and I with a few tulips and a stranger

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Pick your own tulips – $1 per stem

After the tulip festival we ate at Presto BBQ in Abbotsford, Ray and I thought it was a bbq store, not a restaurant. We also had troubles locking the boot of the car. Thankfully Ray suggested it was one of those keys where it locks when you walk away. I wasn’t used to that kind of technology with my Citroen C1 in the UK. I ordered a chicken skewer with yam fries and corn. I always regret ordering corn when it gets stuck in your teeth for the rest of the day. Yam fries are sweet potato chips for you English folks.

We finished our day trip with Lucky Doughnuts at 49th Parallel cafe on Main Street. They are the best donuts ever and probably the most expensive, however they are totally worth it.

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Photo taken from Lucky Doughnuts website. I promise it was tastier than it looks.

Come back soon to read all about my white water rafting experience, I’m ticking stuff off my list.

I would have…

I am fast approaching my one year anniversary in Canada, I seriously cannot believe how quick time is going right now. Yesterday marked 10 months in Vancouver, say what?! It was about time to reflect and document what I would have told my former self.

Last June I wrote this post, half freaking out and half riddled with excitement. I had done all my research and still didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. Although I have no regrets, I wish I was told a few things that would have helped me prepare.

I would have told myself to chill out at the airport. I was hysterically crying the whole time. I couldn’t control myself. Goodbyes are hard but with the likes of FaceTime, WhatsApp and Facebook you don’t even get chance to miss anyone.

I would have told myself to worry less. I remember the whole process of trying to find somewhere to live. Yes it was stressful but we found somewhere eventually. I wish I took that time to do trips and see more of British Columbia before I got settled.

I would have told myself to save more money. I guess you can never have enough money,  unless you’re a millionaire (however even then I’m sure you can go through it). I got my job within the first two weeks of being in Canada. I kind of needed a job but I wish I spent the first few weeks being a tourist.

I would have planned my final meal in the UK. I didn’t even think about what food I would miss the most. My last meal was a breakfast at Wetherspoons in the airport. I wish I filled my belly with a decent fish and chips and/or a Sunday roast (with my Auntie Sally’s Yorkshire puddings).

I would have told myself to make more of an effort. Some of my weekends last summer were wasted. Right now I don’t mind wasting a day on the sofa, watching back to back episodes on Netflix as it rains all the bloody time. Summer is full of blue skies and sunshine (I hope), so I plan to take full advantage of any time not spent at work.

I would have told myself not to compare currencies. Still to this day I think of the dollar price tag in pounds, this makes everything seem more expensive. However I will tell you, food in Vancouver is pricey. Cheese is a luxury these days.

I would have bought a car, a very cheap car. A car gives you so much freedom and that is certainly one thing I miss having. Vancouver is close to lots of amazing places and although public transport is fairly good here, it only goes so far. On the other hand I have heard from car owners that car insurance is extortionate here.

I would have bought a bike sooner. I bought a bike in October last year, just before it rained non-stop for 6 months (and counting). Vancouver is an extremely bike friendly place and I would recommend anyone to buy a bike as soon as they land. I’m still in awe of what I see on my bike ride to work. I also save nearly $5 a day and I avoid the suffering of riding the peasant wagon (aka bus).

I would have told myself not to expect so much. I’m a big dreamer, I want to do everything and see everything. I thought I would have been able to do more and see more but unfortunately I have bills to pay. I could have found somewhere cheaper or a better paid job but honestly I’m happy where I am. I didn’t want to live in a dump and my bike rental job is fun and I’ve met people from all around the world. I would recommend organizing a trip or doing something out of the ordinary at least once a month. Otherwise you do settle into a routine of eat, work, sleep which I could be doing in the UK.

I would have told myself to eat less pizza. Just kidding, I love pizza.

Last but not least I would tell all of you to enjoy everyday of your working holiday experience. You could be road-tripping across Canada, picking fruit on a farm in Australia or renting bikes to Mexican tourists like me (we don’t just serve Mexicans), just enjoy it. Don’t take it seriously, take risks and don’t regret a thing.

I have more to say on this matter and want to share my tips on accommodation hunting, working holidays, budgeting and much more. Come back soon.