Welcome to Canada

Despite a last minute panic that I must have filled out a form incorrectly somewhere and I would be put on the next plane back to the UK, those nice folks at the immigration desk at Vancouver airport let me into the country, and I only had to suffer through one joke about soccer. I am now ‘good for two years’. Specific conditions apply.

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I’d love to recount lots of exciting adventures of my first week here, but having been to Vancouver before and trying to get all the boring life admin things out of the way as soon as possible, there’s not a huge amount to report. That’s not to mean that I haven’t been enjoying myself – quite the opposite – but it’s just been more about adjusting to a new city and settling into things, rather than doing anything ground breaking. There have however, been some highlights of my first week here…

Landscapes

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Landing in Vancouver from the east

 

One of the biggest things that attracted me to Vancouver in the first place is the diverse landscape – the city is right on the waterfront with a quiet, calm harbour and beach coves nestled into a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, and surrounded by some beautiful national parks, all within a short drive from the city itself. My lovely hosts have a beautiful mountain view from their balcony and live just a few blocks from the beach – neither view has got boring just yet.

Food & Drink

I’ve been very restrained on the booze front – no thanks to the excessive consumption before I left the UK, but have made up for it by drinking a lot of coffee instead. Canada used to be all about the drip coffee (filter coffee), but there seems to be a huge number of small batch roasters producing their own beans cropping up in Vancouver, although I think they need an Aussie to come along and get Canada up to speed on flat whites.

To the disappointment of most, I haven’t yet had pancakes with maple syrup, but I have sampled some amazing doughnuts (above picture is of an incredible peanut butter & jelly doughnut from Lucky’s Doughnuts) and the ice cream on the left from Rain or Shine Ice cream was insanely good – peanut butter flavour again, you can sense the theme…

Eating out here is incredibly affordable; I’ve been out for sushi twice, both times paying less than $15 (about £8-9) and left absolutely stuffed. Groceries are insanely expensive though (especially when your hosts live above Whole Foods) and I nearly had a heart attack when a red pepper cost me the best part of £3 the other day. Never buying organic again.

Running

People like to run here. A lot. I’ve already been running here. A lot. This no bad thing – I enjoy it, and I’ve neglected it a bit recently so it’s good to get back into it again, but the 5.15am alarm on my first morning was a bit of a shocker, especially as the proposed route was the best part of 9 miles (I’m being slowly bullied into changing to km). Luckily, I’ve been welcomed into the Vancouver running community with open arms (again, thanks to my fantastic host, Hollie) and have already been to two running clubs and have increased my Strava followers by about 150%. Oh, and they love giving out Kudos, it’s all very encouraging here.

Anywho, for someone used to running laps around Battersea Park or Clapham Common, the options here are bountiful, and much less crowded. The seawall stretched all the way around the city and is an easy, flat run with stunning ocean view, perfect for road running and tourist dodging (although not nearly as bad as the Southbank), but then there are the trails. I’ve already been taken into Pacific Spirit Regional Park a couple of times, and am already embracing the difference in terrain, and the fact that you are expected to run slower to negotiate tree roots, stairs, etc. I can’t see myself getting bored of it any time soon.

Climbing

 

Although my new Canadian runner friends would put this under the above running heading, for me this is something entirely different. On Monday (a Bank Holiday here I might add, so an extra day of rest) we set off at 7am to beat the crowds at the Grouse Grind. I was terrified that they were going to run this, but thankfully it’s definitely too steep for that. It’s now Thursday and my legs are still aching. It took us just under an hour to reach the top – someone had done it in under half an hour the day before. WTF. I saw a pool of vomit to the side of the trail about half way up – that tells you how hard it is. Oh, and then we ran down again, along a mountain access road and a black mountain bike trail. My new ‘friends’ are trying to kill me.

Dogs

Lots of you like dogs, so here are some pictures of Percy the Pug – he’s been keeping me on my toes.

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See you later, England

The count down to leaving the UK began in January, but the farewell tour didn’t really kick off until April. I’m lucky enough to have lots of friends who live in some fantastic places around the UK, so I managed to rack up plenty of train miles as I said my goodbyes.

Each time I saw a set of friends for the last time, I made a point of reiterating that it was really only ‘see you later’ as I’m not planning on popping my clogs in Canada, and the wonders of the internet mean we can all annoy each other 24 hours a day, no matter where  we are in the world.

The only downside of all these ceremonious gatherings over the last couple of months has been the over indulgence by way of copious amounts of food and drinks. No amount of running can work off back to back brunches, lunches and prosecco marathons. However, the extra padding will gladly be taken along with me to Canada, as it’s a small price to pay for spending time with the many, many people who wanted to catch up with me before my departure – it’s been emotional!

Why am I writing this? Really as an acknowledgement that I’m incredibly appreciative of everyone who took the time to see me before I left the UK, and for how supportive everybody has been whilst all the preparation has been happening. Maybe you just want to get rid of me, but I’m going to take it as a sign of affection anyway.

I can’t promise that this blog will be a highly engaging read, but it might give you a bit of an inside into what I get up to in Canada, so I don’t have to write millions of identical emails.

See you later, England!

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