Weekend on the Sunshine Coast

My previous knowledge of the Sunshine Coast extended only to its Australian counterpart, but when I discovered that the Canadian one is just a short bus and ferry ride from downtown Vancouver (one of fairly few places that are easily accessible without a car) it sounded like a good option for a weekend away and some sunshine.

This is what I was greeted with:

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Arriving into Langdale, Sunshine Coast

It wasn’t just drizzling, it was throwing it down, and it was cold. Whistler declared a powder day on the 28th of May – unheard of. But anyway, I’m British so I just wore all my clothes, took an umbrella and got on with it.

This was also my first solo Airbnb experience, and seemed to be going well so far – great communication from my hosts (who were British and couldn’t wait to meet me), and the promise of a lift from the ferry. They’d even offered to change the dates of my stay owing to the terrible weather. Anyway, Judith (or ‘Judes’) was waiting under the bus shelter wearing a red scarf as promised, and was simply DELIGHTED to welcome me, but TERRIBLY sorry about the weather. She was incredibly lovely, but all kinds of posh and I ended up doing that strange thing I sometimes do where my accent adapts to the person I’m speaking to…I was practically calling her ‘daaaarling’ by the time we arrived at their house in Gibsons. This is all in jest, as I cannot say enough how lovely her and Paul were – I was even welcomed with coffee, muffins and cinnamon buns before being shown to the part of the house I was staying in. Their listing here.

I cowered from the rain for a bit longer before venturing out for some food, and tried to pass the time by browsing in some of the small and slightly random shops in the town, including sampling approximately 15 different balsamic vinegars in a specialist artisan produce store. That took about 10 minutes.

Then I decided to get even wetter by walking up a very steep hill to the supermarket, water rushing in the opposite direction and soaking pretty much every inch of me. It was safe to say that when I got back to my apartment, I wouldn’t be leaving again until the next day.

Thankfully, when I woke up on Sunday morning the view had improved dramatically…
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I took myself off on a little run along what Judith had described as a ‘rolling’ road (read: the hilliest road in the world) and once it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a great deal of fun I turned around after a couple of miles and concentrated on stopping to take pictures of the views instead.

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Howe Sound over to Bowen Island from Gibsons, Sunshine Coast

I headed down into Gibsons for some breakfast at Molly’s Reach – a cafe/restaurant made famous by appearing in some Canadian TV show called Beachcombers. I’ve never heard of it but the food was tasty, although I won’t ever be able to return as I forgot to tip.

I was for a few minutes at a little bit of a loss at what to do with myself – options are slightly limited if you don’t have a car, however there is a bus service which runs all along the coast from the ferry terminal to Sechelt, about half an hour further north. I popped into the visitor information centre and after a quick chat hopped on the bus (skilfully timed to be passing just 5 minutes later despite the Sunday timetable being somewhat sporadic) along to Robert’s Creek and walked for about half a mile along a fairly busy highway to Cliff Gilger Park. It was very Pacific North West – lots of tall fir trees, waterfalls and wooded trails – but the walks weren’t too challenging and were clearly marked.

Those pink ‘warning’ markers did little more than make me stop, then read that the tree above me was unstable, just what they didn’t want you to do – nice one.

After that I walked back along the highway (North America really does not like pedestrians) to the tiny village of Robert’s Creek, which consisted of a cafe and restaurant owned by the same people, and a small shop. I walked down to the water to look at the views, then went and had a coffee and cake because there was an hour and a half until the next bus and I’d forgotten my book. I need to get better at eating cake slowly, a skill I’m happy to put some work in to.

Back in Gibsons I pottered around by the marina in the sunshine for a couple of hours then retreated to my deck with a local beer and my book and enjoyed some proper holiday time. It was glorious.

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The sunshine continued on my final morning, so I enjoyed breakfast al fresco at one of the local cafes before heading back to the ferry. I will add here that the ferry was incredibly good value – less than $16 (about £8) return for a foot passenger! Although the payment system is slightly unconventional; you essentially only pay for your journey from Vancouver to Langdale, and not the return. When boarding in Langdale you go to a machine, press and button and just take the ticket – no payment required. I guess it sort of makes sense, but some Aussies on the way over there could not work this system out at all, and were convinced they were being conned into buying two single tickets when they wanted a return.

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Ferry back to Vancouver through Howe Sound

All in all, a lovely couple of days away to somewhere new, and I’ve been told that with a car, a tent and a few more days you can find amazing beaches with no one else on them and miles and miles of walking and hiking. Just take a waterproof.

And for those of you who like to complain about the lack of photos of me when I go away, here is a special collection of selfies we shall call Boaty McBoatface.

 

 

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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.

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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