Great Local Experience – Granville Island

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These public markets which offer such diversity are a treat for the senses. The Granville Island Public Market features a farmers’ market, day vendors, and artists offering local Vancouver goods. There are 50 permanent retailers and over one-hundred day vendors in stalls throughout the market selling a variety of artisan cottage-industry foods and handmade crafts.

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Granville Island is in a great location in Vancouver, with Stanley Park, many restaurants and of course the markets so close.

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On my first visit, yes, I was fortunate enough to go a few times, we drove to the markets and because we were there early we were able to find a parking spot easily. I have also arrived by bus from downtown Vancover which was super easy and the last visit we took one of the adorable mini-tug boat ferries which criss-crossed False Creek across to the island which was awesome. The view from the ferry to the island is beautiful as is the scenery looking back over the water from the island.

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There are many interesting shops and the atmosphere is very dynamic. There are numerous restaurants and an excellent Market Place. My first visit we had a light breakfast and coffee, then the next visit we had lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was difficult for me to make a choice for lunch in this “food lover’s paradise” as there was such a tremendous selection of fabulous foods, both hot and cold.

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The main public market is primarily food; fresh produce, meats, seafood, cheese, fresh pasta, baked goods and so much more. Around the public market there are many other shops with a great mix of different types of quality merchandise. There are souvenir shops with good quality mass produced art by Canadians and lots of high-quality galleries and workshops where folks are actually making their jewellery, leather goods, wood carvings, etc. Granville Island is one of the best places in the city to purchase souvenirs for back home.

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This is a great place to have a meal, snack, dessert, or pick up something for later. With fresh baked goods, meats, cheeses and fish mongers you will be spoilt for choice. And, all the businesses are local.

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Outside of the market, there are many theatres on the island, art galleries with all types of art from paintings to sculptures and glass blowing, and for the outdoor adventurers there is kayaking and paddle boarding . Surprisingly, there is also a working cement factory that has been there for many years.

The atmosphere at Granville Island was wonderful.

Progressive Dinner in Whistler, Canada

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This was an entertaining and pleasurable way to explore Whistler’s restaurants. It included Wine tasting, champagne sabring, and plenty of scrumptious things to eat, in several different restaurants, all enhanced by Luke, our very experienced guide.

Luke, met us in the lobby where we were staying, Crystal Lodge in the heart of Whistler Village for a rather early start.

Our first stop was Bearfoot Bistro, home to a 15,000-bottle wine cellar. On arrival, we watched as the host at the bistro demonstrated the art of opening a bottle of Champagne with a sabre and then he chose several of the ladies in our group to give it a try. He must have been a great teacher as every one of them removed the cork with the sabre on their first try.

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After champagne and canapés in this stunning wine cellar, we headed over to Hy’s very stylish steakhouse.

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From here we moved on to a very traditional Italian restaurant, Quattro, where we enjoyed delicious meat, seafood and vegetable dishes.

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As we walked from each restaurant to the next, Luke told us many interesting stories and facts about Whistler, pointing out fascinating  places along the way. He explained how this mountain resort earned its fine dining reputation.

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From Quattro we arrived at Roger’s Chocolates for our sweet treats, where we indulged in ice wine truffles. This was my first time for this little bit of luxury and they were divine. Then we headed to Rocky Mountain for ice cream which was equally as good.

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Our final stop was Fireside Lounge where we finished off with cheese and antipasto platters and of course another little drop of the local wine.

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It was a rather early night so we had plenty of time to kick on but after a very big day most of us were happy to return to our lovely lodgings.

This was such a perfect evening, experiencing multiple restaurants show casing their specialties.  The food, the wine, the guide, the restaurants, the company and Whistler all added up to a spectacular night

What a novel way to experience a place. My hunger was satisfied and I saw and learned so much about this stunning village, all in one great night.

Sea to Sky Gathering – Vancouver.

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Many of you know that I am a member of a world wide women’s group.  Each year we have get togethers, or “gatherings” in different parts of the world. This year I was fortunate enough to attend one of these gatherings in Vancouver, Canada.

What a party!!

There were 25 of us from 10 different countries, plus of course the local ladies from Vancouver, travelling from Sea to Sky and seeing and loving it all. The YWCA in downtown Vancouver was a perfect location and hotel for us to stay in as it had such a homely welcoming feel.  We had fantastic welcome and good bye parties where we had the best fun including one evening with a delightful Royal Mounted Canadian Police lady.

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Caplilano Suspension Bridge

We walked across suspension bridges and enjoyed several gondola rides; we visited huge waterfalls and glorious gardens.  And spent time in a mine museum, toured Vancouver city, went on boat rides around the magnificent harbour, and learned about their First National people and their cultures and enjoyed a picnic lunch of their traditional food in Stanley Park.

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Stanley Park

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Mt Habrich

We had a night and day in Whistler Mountain where we had the most fabulous night, walking to 6 different restaurants for a progressive dinner.

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Whistler Mountain

We had dinner in Stanley Park and then enjoyed Theatre of the Stars performance of “Mama Mia”.  We had a fantastic night at Nat Bailey Stadium where we watched a real baseball game and enjoyed traditional ball game bbq for dinner which was followed by fireworks which were far beyond our expectations.

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Theatre Under the Stars- Mama Mia

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Nat Bailey Stadim

Judy Lam, a local historian gave us a great Tour of Chinatown followed by a dim sum lunch. We were invited into little back rooms behind “secret doors” where the locals meet up and play mahjong

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Grouse Mountain

We explored Granville Island Public Markets which hands down was one of my favourite places in Vancouver.

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Granville Island

Our grand finale night was “Celebration of Light” Dinner Cruise which included a buffet dinner, an amazing fireworks show on the harbour and lots of dancing. It was very apparent that the rest of the cruise guests who were sitting and watching the 5W ladies up dancing, laughing and loving life, were wishing that they were a 5W member.

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All of this was thanks to the local ladies who live in Vancouver who worked for at least a year to put on this most fabulous gathering.    

I had the time of my life.

Put Goats on the Roof and They Will Come

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But wait, there is more.

 

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Only about an hour from Nanaimo is the small community of Coombs where you will find the Old Country Markets. Coombs is synonymously known as “Goats on the Roof”.

On my recent trip to Nanaimo, we stopped in to the country markets and I couldn’t believe how cool it was. Not only are the goats pretty neat, this quirky shopping and eating experience, is nothing like anything I had ever seen before. It sure made me smile. But, it is not just quirky; it is seriously good quality with very unusual merchandise, displayed with a buzzing imagination.

The Old Country Market started as a roadside fruit stand in 1973, providing fresh produce to travellers heading to the west coast of Vancouver Island. Over the years it has evolved into a landmark of Coombs, with a mixture of shops and eateries for locals and visitors alike.

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The original market was created by a family who emigrated to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950’s. Inspired by the many Norwegian homes and farm structures that are built directly into the hillside, they decided to design the market with a sod roof. When the grass grew too tall they put goats on the roof to “mow” the grass which then became an attraction.  And so, this market with goats on the roof is now a popular draw card for the area.

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As if having goats on the roof isn’t enough, this incredible market has lots to offer inside.  A butcher, deli, fruit and vegetables, pastries and a coffee shop;  we saw fancy chopsticks and beautiful rice bowls, masks, garden statues, a wide assortment of twinkly lights, home wares, toys, a wonderful offering of gifts, fancy condiments from almost every continent and, of course, souvenir t-shirts, magnets and mugs.  “Off the Wall” neat stuff to browse through all the way to the check out which could take hours if you have the time to spend looking at the incredible range of products available.

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The deli has a huge offering as well as the varieties in the meat and fish sections.  There are cheeses galore with a vast variety and lots of different food items from around the world.

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It has a general store feel to it that is welcoming and cozy with a very hippy vibe about the entire complex and of course….goats on the roof .

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Afterwards, we made our way over to the ice cream shop for a delicious gelato.

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This place is a must stop if you are in the area. There is something for everyone.

 

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Life on the Edge – Ucluelet

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Just 10 minutes up the road from Tofino is the town of Ucluelet.  If you are having trouble pronouncing it, you are not alone. This may help.  Slowly say, You Clue Let, but if it is easier, just say Ukee like the locals.  Ucluelet means “people of the safe harbour”.

Ucluelet is situated on the edge of the Wild Pacific Ocean. The town  offers beaches, restaurants, unique shops and galleries, a mini aquarium and a range of accommodation choices. The motto of Ucluelet is “Living on the Edge” due in part to its location on a peninsula surrounded by water.

Our accommodation was in Ucluelet where we stayed for 4 days overlooking the marina. It was so convenient to everywhere in the area.

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Not far from our accommodation was the Lighthouse Loop, which is one of the top Ucluelet hikes. This loop is part of the nine-kilometre Wild Pacific Trail. The Lighthouse Loop (2.5km) offers dramatic views of Barkley Sound and the Amphitrite Lighthouse.

On a very foggy morning (known as marine fog) we visited the photogenic Amphitrite Point Lighthouse  which is an active lighthouse perched high on the rocks. From here we walked the Lighthouse Loop portion of the Wild Pacific Trail and were enraptured by all the many gorgeous viewpoints, most of which have sturdy benches for resting and studying the ocean, watching for birds and mammals.

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The trail is incredibly well-made, well-maintained, and well-signposted. The whole area is filled with information about the sights and sounds of this magnificent rain forest route. The ocean vistas are second-to-none, providing a perfect glimpse of the awesome power of the Pacific, while demonstrating the stoic survival of coastal tree lines

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We made a point of taking in all the viewpoints which were only a few seconds off the main trail.  These viewpoints provided a rustic theme as they used driftwood / natural materials and there were benches to sit on and reflect.  Although the loop can be completed in 45-60 minutes we allowed plenty of time, giving us the opportunity to take lots of photos and generally enjoy the entire experience.

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The combination of rain forest and rugged coastline kept it really interesting, the stunning scenery and the graveled trail to walk along and follow made it an easy walk. The trail was accessible to all ages and abilities.

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We experienced Mother Nature at her most magnificent on this Wild Pacific Trail.

 

 

 

Life on The Edge – Tofino

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They call it the End of the Road, a final destination for west-bound nature lovers, ocean worshipers and adventure seekers.

The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino took us about 4 hours with multiple stops along the way to explore the rugged beauty, snap photos and simply reflect on this vast  place in this part of the world. This glorious road trip was not going to be rushed.

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Along the Way

We departed with a car packed to the gunnels with everything we could possibly need on our 4 day trip. Linda catered for every kind of weather, food for picnics, bbqs, and snacks to keep us sustained along the way.

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Our first stop on the west coast was Tofino the surf town. Tofino is one of the island’s most popular spots with its dramatic and mystical beaches.  It is a natural paradise in itself, with its ancient rainforests, rivers and a striking mountain.

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Just outside of Tofino is one of Canada’s most incredible beaches – Long Beach. It is breathtaking, unspoiled & unlike anywhere else. Few places can you go where the rain-forest meets the sea and sit on a giant log and be silent except for the sounds of the waves. I live in a country that is known for it’s beaches but Tofino beach is so very dramatic and unique and nothing like any other beach that I have experienced anywhere else in the world.

We walked forever along Long Beach and although it was summer we had plenty of beach to ourselves. This beach stretches for miles and is on the open Pacific Ocean between Tofino and Ucluelet. This very impressive beach lends itself to exotic wildlife walks and bird watching.

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We sat on the logs (driftwood washed up by the ocean)  people-watching and with the marine fog it was quite a mystical setting. There were also several very friendly dogs which were not bothering anyone and just having fun.

We took a break and we ate our picnic lunch which included Nanaimo Bars, at one of the many table and chairs that are situated close to the sand.

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This wild and remarkable beach is accessible through a number of entrances off the highway between Ucluelet and Tofino.

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 Yes it is the End of the Road, but when we arrived and stepped onto the beach, we realize it was just the beginning of a new journey into another ethereal world.

Long Beach is amazing with its beautiful clean sands and perfect surf.

 

 

 

Western Australia Wild Flowers Trail

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We departed from Perth driving north up the Coral Coast through the state’s most spectacular displays of Western Australian wildflowers. Our destination was Monkey Mia.

We visited the towns of New Norcia, Northampton, Geraldton, Kalbarri and Denham with many roadside stops in between, viewing and photographing spectacular wildflower areas boasting carpets of yellow, white and pink everlasting wildflowers.
The wildflower collection in Western Australia is the largest on Earth. With more than 12,000 species, over 60% of which are found nowhere else on Earth, they colour the landscapes from coast to forest and city to outback.
Western Australia’s Coral Coast is wildflower country year round, however, displays are at their best between July and October when inland areas are in full bloom and carpets of brilliant colour blanket the region.

Wherever we went along the Coral Coast wildflower trail we were dazzled by the diverse range of wildflowers that were growing along the side of the road. My friends mentioned that the wild flowers were better last year but I was not disappointed with what we saw this year. Here are some of my photos. I hope you enjoy.

One week later we returned to Perth after a truly memorable time on the Coral Coast of Western Australia.

The golden wattle, Australia’s floral emblem.

Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver Island

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Horseshoe Bay looks like a picture on a postcard with its park, the bay, the beautiful mountains, and the ferry boat waiting to leave. It is a small community at the western end of the North shore of Vancouver, a favourite place to spend time for both locals and visitors and is home to the BC ferries terminal.

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My friend Cristina drove me to Horseshoe Bay, in West Vancouver where we enjoyed a great lunch and a glass of the local wine at one of the restaurants overlooking this picturesque port before I left on the afternoon ferry to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Cristina is a fellow blogger who lives in Vancouver. I have been following Cristina’s blog Un po’ di pepe for a few years and finally we met when she was in Brisbane a couple of years ago.

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When I told her that I would be visiting Vancouver she invited me to visit with her. After a terrific time with Cristina in her city, I was then meeting up with my 5W friend Linda on Vancouver Island.

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What a way to travel. I loved my ferry trip across to Vancouver Island. There were some truly spectacular scenes along the way.

The speed they loaded and unloaded two levels at a time made the ease of getting on and off so fast, the comforts of the ferry and amount of seating was amazing and the service was fabulous.

There is so much on offer to do on the ferry. I started off with a short explore to get my bearings and then I stopped for afternoon tea. They have great food with affordable snacks. There was a kid’s play area and there was a gift shop with pretty good value and I thought a great selection of gifts and clothing.  I purchased a really nice hand bag.

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Less than 2 hours after departing Horseshoe Bay I arrived in Nanaimo where my friend Linda was waiting at the pier for me.

The city of Nanaimo is a classic West Coast community, offering natural beauty at every turn. Nanaimo has one of the longest shorelines in Canada, and a forested mountain backdrop just outside downtown. I was soon to learn that Nanaimo is the place to find natural wonders, festivals, culinary joys, and so much more.

 

 

 

Spectacular Spahats Creek Falls

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It does not get much better than a picnic in this beautiful park and that is exactly what we did. Firstly, we stopped by a local super market and bought some snacks and foods to enjoy for our lunch here. We walked a few minutes from the car park and found some large rocks that we sat on to eat our picnic lunch. It was just so nice enjoying Mother nature and was by far so much better than dining in a restaurant

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Spahats Creek Falls, is a waterfall on Spahats Creek within Wells Gray Provincial Park of British Columbia, Canada and is only 10 km off Yellowhead Highway. Spahats is the First Nations term for bear and the stream was once known as Bear Creek.

Spahats Creek rises from snowmelt and springs at a pass, it flows 15 km west before tumbling over Spahats Falls and entering the Clearwater River. This place is absolutely stunning. If you stop to think about how these formations are made, it really makes you appreciate the view so much more

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It was only a quick walk from the parking lot and there it was in all its glory, a beautiful canyon with a viewing area to see the waterfall. There were extensive views from along the footpath. There are steep cliffs around but the fences and viewing areas are very safe and offer amazing views

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The Water was plunging from a deep groove in the canyon into the very deep canyon valley below. The colourful walls of the canyon were covered with overhanging evergreen trees.

I enjoyed the short walk, with each view giving me a different angle of the falls and the colours of the rock cut.

Some of our group walked up further to see the length of the river and the panoramic view of the valley

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The lighting was perfect for taking photos and the view was breath-taking.

Walking on a Glacier

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Yes, I walked on a Glacier.  A humbling experience that was awe inspiring. This moving river of compacted snow/ice is more than just a pretty picture, it signifies millions of years of our history. Scientists believe the Columbia Icefield predates the existence of man and when you see it, you can’t help but feel a sense of your own smallness. The glacial area extends between the summits of Mount Columbia (3,747 metres]) on the west and Mount Athabasca  (3,491 metres) on the east. The Columbia Icefield is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains. It covers some 230 sq km to a depth of 365 m and is 28 km long.  The glacier receives an average of 7 metres of new snowfall per year. Not all of that snow can melt in the short summers so it accumulates, turning to ice.

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We arrived at the Columbia Icefields glacier discovery centre and had a look around the gift shop which I thought had some great gifts and clothing items. We did not have to wait long before our shuttle was ready to take us to the giant ice explorer.  I found that all the staff  were really helpful.

Our tour guide, from Perth Australia was confident, full of knowledge and lots of fun  and told us so much about the massive Ice Explorer that we were on and also about the glaciers, the local ecosystem, and environmental changes.

With the steepness of one of the roads that we drove down I was a little uneasy but he assured us that we were very safe and in fact I felt comfortable.

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It was much easier to walk on the glacier than I expected  but I was still very careful as to where I put my feet. There were many little “rivulets” of streams. We spent quite some time up on the glacier. There were many international flags that many of us used in our dozen of photos. I drank the crisp, clear, cold water and filled my water bottle with what is known as the purest water on earth.

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This visit to the Columbia glacier was one of the highlights of my trip to the Rockies and despite the high cost I recommend it. It is such a unique experience that I cannot really compare to anything I have ever done.  It was definitely a very moving experience that I cherished every moment of.