Moving to Canada? A Divided Country.

pexels-photo-756790.jpeg Canada Area      9985 million square kilometers

UK Area              241,590 square kilometers

Canada, the second biggest country in the world after Russia. This place is bloody huge . I come from a  tiny country where you can drive from one end to another in a day , well as long as the M5 motorway is clear , so night driving would be required , but you get the picture, its small .

When I first moved to Canada, I arrived under an immigration programme called a PNP. This basically meant you stayed working for the same company , doing the same job for approx 3 years and in that time you hopefully get your permanent resident card, which then allowed you to work anywhere for anyone . ( that is a whole different story , which was not a happy time I”m still not over it !!)  Canada is divided into Provinces , 10 in total , with 3 more Territories in the North of the country , very confusing I know, no-one has ever explained the difference to me.

In 2006 the province of Alberta was crying out for class 1  Truck Drivers and as I had held a license and even owned my own truck in the UK, it was an easy step for me to make and enabled my family to move relatively quickly .So this gave me an opportunity to travel through the country and get a good feel for this vast land ( earning a pathetic wage at the same time ) It quickly came apparent to me how huge this country is but also how divided a nation this is .

Most people outside of Canada would know that the Province of Quebec is the French-speaking part of the country and a lot will remember the movement for independence from the rest of the country , In fact it had referendums on its sovereignty in 1980 and 1995, both of these were a defeat for the independence campaign , the latter by a very narrow margin. As far as I can see these referendums were a waste of ballot paper and TV coverage full of politicians wearing bad suits and even worse haircuts ( wow barbers have really improved lately ) as Quebec people still regard themselves as independent  to the rest of the nation and I can confirm that the people who live in the Western Province of Alberta have few good things to say about the province of Quebec . Similar to the rivalry between the UK and the French-speaking nation in Europe. ( France , for those who can’t figure it out )

After  six months of truck driving around Canada , I realised that I hadn”t moved to Canada , but moved to a single province of Alberta . Each Province has its owns laws ,        even down to the age at which teenagers can get loaded at the bar! . Each Province , thinks it contributes the most to the economy, whilst the others contribute nothing . This is particularly bad in Alberta as its people here think the revenue from the vast oil sands situated in the northern part of the province, pays for everything nationwide whist everyone else in the country spends their time fishing or speaking French or collecting government handouts whilst smoking pot !.

I know people who live here that regard themselves as almost American rather than Canadian .Most of this countries population lives within 100 miles of the USA border to the south . Most of the people here , travel regularly to the more famous southern neighbour , especially in the Winter months when the “Snowbirds” ( Old people with money ) head to the warmer temperatures of Phoenix , Vegas or Florida the see out the bitter  weather, the rest of us are left to cope with .( Yes , if that sounds like I”m jealous) In fact , until recently Canadians didn”t even need a passport to travel south , a quick flash of their provincial driving licence would see them across the border .  International terrorism has caused a rapid increase in Canadian passport holders.

Most people here ,prefer to purchase “Domestic ” vehicles, as they feel it’s better for the economy . A loose term of the word Domestic, as in fact the Fords, GM”s and Chrysler made vehicles are  American owned and in the case of Chrysler have large Italian influence in the shape of Fiat , yet Canadians regard them as made in their country. Strange, but true .

I know each country has regional divisions , ” north south divides” and even local rivalries are common , but bottom line those divisions are put to one side when it comes to national pride or interests . Not here . In fact , in my time here I see these divisions have become wider and deeper . Only this week the news is dominated by the story of the Alberta premier banning the sale of Wine from British Columbia, in retaliation to that Province not wanting a pipeline across “their land” in order to reach world markets of India and Japan .As far as I can see that just means one province can”t have good wine and the country as a whole cannot benefit from exports of Oil. This has been exaggerated by the down turn in world oil prices ,causing a downturn in the once prolific western Canadian economy and the presence of a Prime Minister who seems to be following a policy of making himself   a proclaimed leader of human rights , rather than a leader of a nation . I don’t know anyone here in the west who would admit to voting  for him, but due to the fact that the majority of people live in the Eastern Provinces of Ontario and Quebec , making voting in the Western Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia almost pointless .

So if your thinking of moving for a new life in Canada, make sure you research the Province , not the country as a whole . Living in Toronto has no relevance or connection to living in Vancouver . Apart from the fact you will be dealing with one Canadian Immigration  department you will be wasting your time and energy . Focus on what sort of person you are ? What you like? what you want from life ?

Look upon moving to Canada in the same way you would moving to Europe .Living in Germany would be vastly different to moving to Italy . Apart from a common language    ( Although Canada is officially bi lingual , no-one outside of Quebec speaks French on a daily basis) each Province is very different. In the words of a good friend of mine ” I”m Albertan first then Canadian! “. Strange ,but true .oil-monahans-texas-sunset-70362.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Blues ( Grow Some !)

pexels-photo-844343.jpegMost people’s images of Canada must include snow. We have wonderful summers , spring last for around two weeks and fall (autumn to my English readers ) is truly beautiful time in the mountains of Western Canada, but winter dominates your life, like no other season when you live here .

Not having grown up here , I don”t ski, can”t skate and fail to see the enjoyment of spending hours on a frozen lake , dangling a fishing line through a drilled hole , hoping a passing fish will take your bait, before you completely lose all feeling in your lower limbs, otherwise known as ice fishing !

The recommended temperature for your household freezer is -18 degrees C . This winter in Calgary is proving to be one of the coldest, in fact the New Year started with a bone chilling -30 degrees C on News Years Day .

Now I hated the Winter when I lived in the UK , damp, dreary days that seem to go on for ever. I still hate Winter ,but surprisingly less so here . I know what your thinking , but here even when it’s very cold the sky is a clear blue ,with bright sunshine . It”s just you need to wrap in multi layers of specialist clothing and put on footwear that look like moon boots, to go out side to enjoy it!

I have learnt to approach Winter with a positive attitude . It comes every year and it”s  always a shock to the system when it does . Unless your prepared both physically and mentally, you are in for a tough five months .

Physical preparation always comes too late . Like I said , fall here is beautiful, the colours are amazing and with daytime temperatures still in the comfort zone its easy to forget whats around the corner . Then one morning you look out and wham, there it is , six inches of snow has fallen overnight and the morning commute is a nightmare . Now this shouldn”t happen , but it does , for some reason every year the weather forecast ( which is very accurate here ) informs people of the upcoming snow storm , but it gets ignored .

So whats a the physical preparation? Firstly , winter tyres fitted to your car . In some provinces this is mandatory ,from October ,that you put on a special set of tires for the winter months . Here in Alberta it’s not compulsory, it’s just recommended . Well there lies the problem . You are now likely to be driving on snow , ice or at worst freezing rain for a period of 4 to 5 months and the winter tires are still in the garage! So , every year on the first snow fall day we have hundreds of accidents and the roads are a complete war zone . ( a little like my home country when they have one little snow storm every five years of about 2 inches ).

There after follows a period of time when the busiest people in the city are those who work in tire stores . From dawn to dusk , lineups of cars wait to have their winter boots put on .After a few days of this , people then regain their winter driving skills thanks to the latest in rubber technology, apart from the newly arrived immigrants , me being one in 2006 , who are experiencing Winter driving for the first time . It’s then you ask yourself Why did I move here ?

Preparation number two . Snow shovels . Make sure you have several and they are easily available , because you are definitely going to need them . For the wealthier residents, this means making arrangements with the same guy that mowed their neat little lawns in the summer , to come out every time its snows and shovel their paths and driveways clear of the latest level of white stuff .( One big mystery to me is why people spend a fortune on getting their lawns in perfect golf course condition , only to see them disappear in a layer of snow and ice for 5 months , then  re-appear in the spring all brown and dead looking, just in time to start the whole process over again? )

For us poorer people , Winter snow shovelling becomes part of your daily routine . A chance to get out of the house , meet the neighbours and spend twenty minutes shovelling snow into ever-increasing piles . Hopefully you achieve this without having a heart attack , pulling your back out or falling on your arse . I’m not sure of the numbers involved, but all of these things happen to many people whilst participating in this unique , non olympic winter pastime .

Further physical preparations include , getting your heating system serviced , putting all garden furniture away , drain your lawn irrigation system ( why have one in the first place , but we”ve already covered that one ) , change the oil in your car to a thinner one , much better for your engine on cold morning starts . Bring out your heavy-duty power cords to plug your vehicle in overnight ( all vehicles have block  heaters that actually heats the coolant and keeps the engine block from getting too cold ) this way the poor thing has half a chance of starting , but only if you”ve checked your battery is still good , most only last a few winters .

Summer clothes packed away , to be replaced by over priced winter wear ,transforming the residents of Calgary into want to be “Scott of the Antarctic”s “, apart from all teenage school kids , who would sooner look cool and feel freezing . Head to the doctors to have your flu jab , seems like all Canadians do this , not the immigrants , don”t know why this is . Finally , all summer toys , fishing gear, motorcycles , camping equipment and RV”s , winterized and stored away , not to be seen for the next rew months .

Now your ready . Well Physically anyway . The secret to getting through the Canadian winter is all in your head . Cabin fever is a very real thing . A claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person ends up stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period . In other words, you go slowly mad , looking out the window at tomorrows shovelling task . If you are not Scott of the Antartic, or into winter sports , this is a very real problem . Endless trips to the nicely heated shopping malls, eating crap food ,( A very big part of North American Life ) lack of fresh air and endless series on Netflix all combine to turn your once active brain and body into a useless rotting cabbage.

Now here”s the answer to this problem . Stop feeling sorry for yourself , get off your arse and do something !! It really is that simple . So if you are a  negative , wining product of modern society , who is not prepared to face up to mother  nature and take her on , forget moving to Canada .Stay where you are, softy !

The first Winter you face will be tough , be prepared , but don’t let it beat you . Grasp it , feel it and enjoy it , because sooner or later she let’s go and the two-week spring time arrives , followed by the glorious summer months . Winter defines Canada and your mental attitude to Winter, will define you .

Happy Shovelling !!

Calgary .Wednesday 7th February 2018. Todays temperature  a low of – 17 C currently under a Winter Storm Warning with up to 35cm of snow forcast over the next 36 hours . Get in !

 

 

How to be a successful Immigrant. (To Canada ) 5 Golden Rules

Moving your family across the world to a new country is to put it bluntly ,scary . For what ever reason you decide to undertake such an adventure, you need to follow some  basic rules to make your move a success .

I moved to Canada over 10 years ago and  in that time I have learnt a thing or two about moving and more importantly ,settling in to a new nation .  Remember you are and always be an immigrant, where ever you move to , so get used to a description that does not sit well with some people. So if your going to do it? Do it right .

1/ Get out and Make some friends

I moved to a country that speaks English ( Don’t ask someone from Quebec , you might get a different answer) so it was  a lot easier to get out there, meet people and build friendships . In the early days it is down to you to make the effort .This is a must .You will always have the “nosey” people who approach you , but in my experience don’t waste your efforts with them  .If you have children , a great way to meet people is through their schools and any clubs they join . Try to avoid joining clubs that are full of people who come from your homeland , as this will not help the process ( Not unless you want to sit around and reminisce about how good the homeland was , so  good, you all left)

2/ Adjust

Most people become an immigrant through their desire to improve their standard of living , both for themselves  and that of their families . For some reason they then try to make there lives the same as they were back in their own country .You have to realise that basic ways of life vary in different countries . Simple every day tasks, like parking your car , driving in general , shopping, going to work, watching TV , going out for a meal , will all be different to what your’re used to .Yes, some of these tasks will be harder and not so pleasurable . As they say here “suck it up princess” So, the quicker you accept this, adjust to your new world and stop comparing , the easier life will become .

3/ Be Open Minded

This one was the hardest  for me to achieve . I have always been used to doing things one way. My way . You have to open you mind up to accepting new ways of doing things , as people are not going to change their ways just to make you feel comfortable .If I can do it anyone can .Open up your mind to the new experiences with alternative cultures and a different way of living .

4/ Patience 

A close second for me  . Never been the most patient person, however if you don’t want to end your days by hitting your head against a brick wall, you will require patience by the bucket load . When moving countries you will have to deal with those strange individuals called ” civil servants” or as I like to call them, “idiots”. Despite the best efforts of modern technology , paperwork is still king . Your whole life will be recorded , scrutinized, checked , double checked , sent back because you ticked the wrong box in section 123 subsection 567, then finally just when you are about to give in , a government immigration worker will actually put in a full weeks work and put his little stamp on your documentation and your life is back in order …………………eventually . Be prepared these people are not normal , trust me .Hang in there, tough it out , it will be ok ….maybe.

5/ Be yourself

You will always be different in your new country  , you may look different , definitely sound different , dress differently , eat differently and generally will never blend in . So don’t bother trying to be someone you’re not . I still wet myself laughing when I see people dressed and acting in a way that they think they should to blend in , when in actual fact they stand out even more.

 

When I arrived in Canada, my flight landed at 3 in the morning , in a city called Saskatoon . Where ?I hear you say. Exactly . Its was snowing hard and at -30 degrees ( yes Minus!)it was bloody horrible, my immediate reaction was  turn around and wait for the next flight out. Thankfully,I didn’t. I made my way to the hotel, stayed there for 3 weeks, completed my training with the company I was to work for ( lying to my wife on a daily basis on how great it was ) then moved to my next location of Calgary .

So to summarize. In these days of the internet, if you  think you  can research your country of choice and  have everything figured before you arrive,then think its going to be plain sailing ahead , you are sadly mistaken and my advice is to stay at home, and live in your comfort zone .

At some point you have to jump in feet first and just go for it .Be Brave and be lucky. cropped-p10303401.jpg

Travel Log .Did you see the Bear ?

Day 6 . Boat Trip  Ucluelet/Broken Islands British Columbia .

Now I am a huge fan of the internal combustion engine and a driving enthusiast . I love all things motorized ( apart from mini vans……see previous posts ) and love to drive , whether for a living or for pleasure . But today is a day for leaving the keys behind and take shank”is pony ( My late fathers saying for walking … I never understood it either ) down to the harbor , grab a coffee and see about a boat trip around the Broken Islands .

These islands are part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and are located off the Barkley Sound coastal area . This area has wild life in abundance and a whole industry has grown in Ucluelet taking tourists on a variety of different types of boat trips

For the more adventurous type, hire a sea Kayak , pack a tent and paddle yourself around the area over a few days , camping on the islands where you are permitted to do so .

For the speed junkie , hop on to a highly powered zodiac , whizz out to the ares where whale sightings are common place, and watch the splendor of the show . Now given the fact, as I’ve already explained, I love all things motorized, you would think this would be the one for me . Especially when you consider I have the attention span of a gold-fish , and get very bored very easily ( I am sure if I was at school today , they would have attached some disorder label to me )

Not on this occasion . I wanted to slow things right down and take it easy . Don’t panic my friends I’m still staying faithful to the engine and decided to take a trip on a converted life boat , which takes a 4 hour trip on a leisure cruise around the islands . I wanted to take in the views of the coastline and see all the wildlife available . Speeding across the water, wrapped up in a survival suit, bouncing my teeth out on one of those speed boat things just didn’t attract me today . Plus the fact this one had a toilet and I”ve never heard of a life boat sinking, so that’s the one for me .

So after a leisurely couple of hours doing nothing but drinking good coffee and watching the morning activities of a charming little harbor, we wait for a journey to begin .

Now one thing Canadians love to do, is to drink coffee and since moving here I have become a huge coffee fan , or as the rest of my family believe , a huge coffee addict             ( Same thing as far as I’m concerned ). Food in Canada tends to  copy the American style  menu of  Burgers , Ribs, Hot Dogs , Burgers, Burgers , Fries ( chips to you Brits ) Burgers ( you get the picture ) But definitely not Coffee . For those of you that have visited the famous neighbours to the south, will know that in general coffee served in the States is to be honest ………shit !

Here in Canada we have quality coffee for all tastes and pocket .

Fact Time : Canada is ranked 3rd  in the Top 10 coffee consuming countries of the world , behind Netherlands ( crazy dutch people ) and Finland ( suspicious) . It is believed to be linked to the cold weather in winter, but in main I think its down to the sheer number of outlets and people like me haven”t got the will power to pass them by .

Tim Hortons is by far the most popular chain with 1 store for every 9000 people living in Canada . Compare this with the Golden “M” from down south ,which has 1 store for every 25000 people living in the country .

Hardly surprising really, as this chain gets its name from a Canadian Hockey player and if it’s the second thing Canadians are obsessed with is hockey ( Ice Hockey as known by all you  non Canucks). So put the two together and instant success story .

My home city of Calgary , has hundreds of coffee outlets and I frequent them all the time . While the standard of coffee is high , there are some annoying features of these stores .

People actually use these stores as a mini Library, Office or Study Room . Mainly students and realtors ( Estate Agents ) are to blame for this , but also its increased with the down turn in the economy ( World oil prices taking a kicking ) and the cold winters experienced in Calgary . Mini Rant .

The problem is lack of seating space and combination toilets ( bathrooms as they call them here , not quite sure why as I have yet to see one with a bloody bath in it ).Now there is plenty of seating in these buildings , it’s the fact there is never enough available for when I want to sit my Fat arse down and enjoy a cup of south America”s finest beans .

All the seats are occupied by these people , all sat with a cup of water ( to cheap to purchase coffee) working on their lap tops or reading some 1000 page obscure novel . Now Canadians are nice people . Very nice people . Sometimes too nice and this is one of those occasions .You see the staff working in these establishments never say a word to these seat huggers and even fill their water up on demand . So I feel its rime to help them out , as I’m not Canadian and not that nice .

To all those people sat reading this in a coffee shop , without a cup of coffee in front of you and you have been sat there for more than half an hour , with no more seats available for paying customers ( except for the one next to the multi sex bathrooms, that no one ever uses )Bugger Off!!!!. Stay at home , go to a Library or just go somewhere else and let people sit down in comfort and drink their hot beverage that they actually paid for !!!To all you staff that work in the establishments, grow some balls , kick these people out and increase your companies profits, who knows , you might even get a bonus!

As far as the joint sex toilets , I feel sorry for women . Men have generally disgusting bathroom habits and that’s that . Sorry ladies, I am trying to improve my aim , can’t speak for other men . End of Rant .Turned out to be quite a big one .

With all the coffee shops I have been to ,I have never sat in one where you can get a great hot brew as well as the latest deep-sea fishing gear , but you can at the Cap”N’Hook in the harbour area of Ucluelet . In doing so, it offers everything for the fishing tourist that flock to this area all year round. The staff here are very knowledgable and can answer any questions you have about fishing tackle ,licenses,or even the best guides in the area to take out on daily fishing trips! Well worth a visit even to a non fisherman like me , just to drink coffee , listen and meet the local characters , of which there are many.

One of the local well-known captains owns the converted life boat that we”ve decided to take our leisurely coastal tour on .He has been doing this for over 30 years and previously worked for Parks Canada as a wildlife officer , so he should know his stuff . So when the time came for our departure we met him at the dock where Brian from Subtidal Adventures introduced us to his 1953 former rescue craft . Considering she was even older than myself it was in great condition ,clearly benefitting from all the care and attention from her captain. ( Looked seaworthy, that’s all I care about)

After a brief safety orientation and instructions on how to use the life jackets, we gently left the harbour , in search of the areas finest wildlife .

The other  passengers were in fact fellow Europeans , a Dutch couple ( they were in the coffee shop, no surprise there !)and a German couple ( Don’t mention the war or the world cup, I instantly thought to myself……..focus )made up the complete party .With such a small party ,it meant our host could answer all our questions and really give a personal touch when pointing out different wildlife . P1030231

Fact Time :The symbol of United States , the Bald eagle , is a common sight in these areas and in fact can be seen all over Western Canada and as far up the west coast as Alaska .

An opportunist feeder it subsists mainly on fish , which it picks right out of the water with the use of its impressive set of talons. A spectacle I am pleased to say I have witnessed on previous occasions , however , today this guy was happy to sit on a warning buoy , not fifteen minutes into our cruise.

The bald eagle is not actually bald , but gets its name form the old name meaning “white Headed” and it only gets this white head once it reaches adult maturity . This magnificent bird was once on the brink of extinction, however through cross border environmental efforts it was removed from the endangered list in 2007.P1030229 The next animal guaranteed to bring out the camera and the funny noises ( listen to the ooooo”s and aaahhhhh”s next time . For you Brits this is probably best witnessed at the zoo as you have no interesting wildlife left , apart from football fans and Saturday night kick out time of the bars and clubs)is the bear . This junior black bear was probably around 3 years old, so was facing its first year away from its mother and by the look of it , was doing a pretty good job of it searching for food along the shoreline.

I still look on in amazement every time I see a bear and I have seen many since my move here .Living so close to the Rocky mountains they are a common sight , especially the Black Bears with over 390,000 in Canada.The Grizzly Bear is far more rare, in fact in ten years I have only ever seen one and of course the Polar bear far up north is probably the most symbolic animal of Canada, especially when it comes to environmental issues and Global Warming topics .

Unfortunately, Bears also seem to bring out the “stupid gene” in tourists when they come across one . Our local news in the summer months reports incidents of people walking up to a bear to try to get a “selfie” with it . If they happen to come across a mother with her cub , they have even been seen trying to touch the baby . Never stops amazing me how dumb people are . Of course the reaction of these bears usually leads to an attack on the dumb tourists and some are seriously hurt even killed. The result is then the animal is usually put down , as apparently it develops a taste for dumb tourist meat.

Tourist Guide Fact time :If by chance you come across a bear , keep your distance and try not to surprise them, you are better off making lots of noise, than trying to creep up on them . They do not want to hurt you and will only attack if they feel  threatened.( You Brits should treat it the same way as approaching a football fan of the opposing club ). Take your pictures from a distance and then use the latest photo app to make it look like a “selfie”.Job done , you get a great picture for your friends to see on Facebook, the bear’ goes about its day and lives to see another one , and you get to keep your facial features .

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Loved these guys. Harbor Seals lazing around in the morning gloom. Reminded me of politicians

As we left the protection of the bay and headed out to the Broken Islands, the morning mist had yet to clear and the sea began to swell, along with my stomach. Suddenly that last cup of coffee, didn’t seem to be a wise choice . In fact everyone on board ( except for the Germans obviously) began to turn a shade of green .For those of you that have never felt sea-sick , its similar to when you have drunk to excess, without the early benefit of being drunk . All the pain with no gain .

Despite his crew dropping like land loving flies, Brian continued to cruise merrily away pointing out interesting wildlife in the increasing fog .( At this point I couldn”t care less to be honest , but faked my interest similar to math class at school ). After what seemed an eternity, was in fact 4 hours, we finally saw harbour the of Ucluelet, and the sky cleared to welcome home the intrepid voyagers.

Even though we all felt pretty rough at this time , these cruises are a fantastic experience.If ,like me, you come from a country where the wildlife is pretty tame and boring , these trips will really impress . Back on dry land , time for a coffee .

Start : Ucluelet Harbor

Finish : Ucluelet Harbor .

Distance Travelled : No idea , but it seemed along way .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip

Day 3 Victoria

Having had a good night sleep ( Anything was better than the Chevy Pick-up hotel from the previous night ) , we ventured downtown , via the split windshield Hotel Zed VW camper van .

One huge disadvantage of living in Calgary ( which now apparently is in the top ten cities in the world to live in , not sure who decided that , no coast , no work ,high house prices ,in the middle of a slump in oil prices ………………………?) is that we are a 12 hour drive to the coast and therefore the opportunity to eat fresh seafood, is at best somewhat limited , in truth bloody poor .In fact in my opinion , eating out in Calgary is generally over priced and over rated , except for asian food  , the majority of restaurants tend to offer all the same choices, including one of the biggest disappointments to me when I arrived here , that being Alberta Beef ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,aaaahhhhh .

So coming from an island and being bought up on a fish diet we set off on our Fish and Chips finding mission .

A short boat taxi ride from the main downtown area, takes across the bay to a place they refer to as fisherman’s wharf . There , a small number of floating houses and restaurants provide the visiter with a relaxed waterside watering hole . With a busy harbour entrance providing constant entertainment , ships, trawlers , pleasure boats and best of all float planes provide an ever-changing horizon,

With one of the hottest summers of record , a strong American dollar and fires raging in northern regions of the western provinces , the west coast seems to be having a record year for numbers of visitors and on this particular day , many of them seem to be desperate to eat  fish and chips at the same time as us. So much so we had an hours wait for fresh batches to be cooked having arrived ten minutes after they ran out of supplies .

With a little patience, our wait was rewarded with a large plate of fresh haddock and chips ( fries to you north american folk ……………..funny how the restaurants are not called fish and fries here.)Fantastic , Calgary restaurants could learn a thing or two from Victoria regarding food presentation and portion sizes . It’s also great to be served by a server who knows what there doing, not covered in cheap make up and perfume , and actually cares about customer service rather than looking for a large tip for basically doing very little .( My Rant Over for the day ?) Victoria boasts more restaurants per head than any place in Canada and for them to all stay in business, they must know a thing or two .

Having finished our lunch we headed back to downtown Victoria , via a cool little tug taxi, which run continuously from several pick up and drop off areas throughout the harbour area . Any visitor should try these at least once as they give a great service , if a little expensive , but that the price you pay for anything unique.( Had to wait for our taxi , as the first one to collect us had the family on board that was kitted out like they were on a cross continental hike and allergic to the twentieth century and as we had our dog with us they clearly wouldn’t survive such a long crossing in an open aired boat  !!!!!) .Another Rant for those who are counting .

Back into the city we wondered around the stores . As anyone knows with teenage kids , shopping for cloths seems to be high on most of their ” want to do lists “, and my sons are no different . In the age of over indulging our children for fear of them growing up with some mental condition or the latest ridiculous abbreviated condition , I follow along like the modern lap dog Dad, aimlessly wandering the streets , reminding myself of my teenage years when one pair of runners ( trainers as I know them by ) seem to be enough ! ( I lied about the daily rant clearly ).

Victoria has all the usual stores, plus a few that offer more of the west coast hippy style that seems to be coming back in fashion .But what it does make great use of , is maintaining the old buildings that once housed mainly ship related industries and workshops and now offer a wide range boutiques, used clothing stores , endless cafe and small specialist food outlets. Even a reluctant shopper like myself can find something of interest .

To end the day we grabbed a take out from the well-known chinese district , popped a squat in the old district and watched the world pass by , enjoying top quality asian cuisine .To follow, a half and walk to burn off supper back to the hotel . The trendy VW camper only runs to 5.30 pm pick up , so walk back it was . ( I never once a fan of taxi or worst still busses )

With full stomachs ( well mine at least , the stomach of a teenage boy seems to be an ever revolving door ) and tired ache feet , a good nights rest was had by all . Tomorrow we leave Victoria and head still further west .

Start point _ Victoria BC

Finish – Victoria BC

Distance Travelled _ 0 klms . (Not driving , felt like bloody lots walking)

 

 

 

Road Trip . August 2017

After a busy 2016 and early 2017, finally family commitments have all finished and we get to spend some time together as a family .

As with most families in Calgary, kids seem to have their summer breaks organized by their parents in order to spend as much time out of the house as possible , attending day camps or clubs both in and out of the city .

The fact is both parents have to work to pay for these activities, surely the solution would be to stay at home, enjoy free activities , then both parents wouldn’t have to work to pay the fees, therefore enjoying more valuable time with their children .

So after six weeks of endless early mornings for one sons swimming ( why swimmers have to train so early in the morning is beyond me ), late afternoon soccer practices ( football to you non North American folk ), for the other son , my wife having to endlessly change the Calender setting to fit it all in, as well as work during the day ( Wonderful Women) , we have the chance to leave the city and take a trip out west . Vancouver Island

The day before departure, involves , packing, repacking, ( twice in some cases ) deciding what modern appliances we cannot possibly live without ( phones,pads and lap tops , one child even wanted to take a game console !!!!!), cleaning the truck , gas the truck ( Petrol to you Europeans ) rotate the tires ,empty the tool box to allow my wife to take up pretty much the remaining available space. Despite her best efforts to convince the rest of the family she was packing light, we are not convinced, rightly so it turns out .

As cities go, Calgary is a good one . But it’s still a city , and for all its great features I always get a fun feeling when leaving for pastures new . So over the next couple of weeks were out of here, lets hope its a good one.

Day 1   Cancel the Hotel .

When ever I leave heading west from Calgary, the first view of the Rockies along highway 1 never disappoints . The trans Canada highway spans over 8000 klms and is one of the longest roads of its type in the world .

Despite not been a twinned lane road all the way to the west coast, driving it this time of year is relatively relaxing and predictable .The same stretch of highway in the winter months is a totally different challenge .In August, I mainly have to deal with poor drivers towing large RVs ( caravans to you Brits ) with small SUVs , that clearly don’t know how to go round corners without slamming their brakes on , so becoming a total source of frustrating to the ever-increasing line of traffic in their wake .

There are two seasons in Canada . Winter and construction season . This presents hazard number two . No sooner had I managed to get past the rolling road blocks of the city RV driver on his once a year expedition, I enter yet another reduced speed zone , only to pass by a lonely pick up truck parked at the side of the road , amber light flashing , with little of no actual construction work been carried out . I think these are set up for the sole purpose of allowing cops to set up speed traps to allow further taxation of the motorist.

Hazard number three, wild Fires,well smoke from the wild fires burning out of control, at the time of writing over 160 wild fires were currently burning , with vary degrees of control from firefighters . 2017 has literraly provided the perfect storm as far as wild fires are concerned, the worst year since 1958 with over 8500 square kilometers of forest and several towns been destroyed .This all combined to make the drive uncomfortable , but my complaining about not using the air conditioning for a few miles , pretty pathetic really compared to what heartache some people face, due to the effects of the fires .

Despite all this we made great time and arrived at our planned over night stop by 3 pm , way earlier than thought possible , mainly due to the fact the way I approach a road trip . Being an ex truck driver , leave early , don’t drink, no need to pee, stop only for fuel and punch it chewy !!!!!!. My kids know the drill by now .

So the decision was made ( not by me I might add ) cancel the hotel , head for the ferry terminal, catch a late afternoon crossing and risk not finding a place to stay , resulting in a possible night in the truck .

Confidently ringing hotels as we sail from the mainland to Vancouver island , turned into the realization of spending the night in the truck .

Now on an island with hundreds of secluded , quiet spots, with beautiful views of the ocean , I managed to park adjacent to a 24 hour wood yard , with noisy shift change at midnight and 6 am , with a steady flow of trucks through out the night . Perfect .A night sleep was achieved in part by my youngest son, however the remaining members of the party (even the dog) struggled to get any prolonged periods of shut-eye .

So ending our first day .

Started : Calgary Alberta

Finished : Chermainus , Vancouver Island BC.

Distance Travelled : 1050 klms 13 hours driving .

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Day 2  Rough Start :

After what can only be described as a terrible nights sleep , a walk around Chemainus at 6 am on a Saturday morning, gave me the chance to take a good look as to what this unique little town has to offer . The first thing you notice is its covered in cool looking Murals , 39 in total .This town had a successful start, thanks to the arrival of the railway in 1880 combined with a successful spell in the logging business.

Following the recession experienced by the BC logging industry in the 1980″s , Chemainus went through some tough times .Although logging still plays a large roll in the towns economy ( my lack of sleep can confirm this ) , the number of people employed is drastically reduced due to modern equipment and processes . The painting of the murals was part of a planned programme to re generate and diversify the town Economy . Today the town has a charm all of its own , combining active traditional industries of logging with tourism and an active harbour area which even provide a BC ferry terminal .

One claim to fame, on January 13th 2006 a Boeing 747 was sunk of the coast of Chermainus in order to create an artificial reef, to encourage divers to visit the area . This success story still faces an uncertain future as many of the projects used to regenerate the area was financed by government funds , funds that are no longer available . I for one think it will survive.

Following an early breakfast at a local dinner, we were back on the road heading south on the trans-canada ( yes it carries continues on the island ) towards Victoria .

Passing through several road construction zones, with relatively light traffic thanks to our early start , it wasnt long before we were in the BC capital of Victoria .

Being located at the southern point of Vancouver Island , it is a booming metropolitan city, with a population in excess of 85,000, which increases dramatically during the summer months .

Being one of the oldest cities in the region , named after queen Victoria, this place has everything for the modern tourist.

Known as the “Garden City”, it also possess a thriving technology sector , attracting labour from all over the world .

The relatively mild Winters ( relative to the rest of the Canada) , this city is a popular destination for retirees .

For the next couple of nights we were going to stay at Hotel Zed . Located ten minutes from downtown Victoria , this hotels is a great example of a great idea .Take an older type Motel building , decorate with bright colours, fill the rooms with art decor items, groovy telephones and lights , combine with an indoor pool for the kids and a great VW camper van all decked out in the Hotels colours for the adults to be shuttled to and from downtown and you have a great, groovy, memorable place to stay .

Dont expect luxury finishes , everything here is basic and in some areas it lacks the finish I like in my hotels rooms , in main the bathrooms are too 1970″s for my liking .IMG_1795

 

 

 

 

Typically Canadian

A light hearted observation from a fresh off the boat English immigrant . (10 years living in Calgary)

Obviously the amount of water being used in the Albertan oil fields is having a worrying effect on joggers on inner city Calgary . How else can you explain the vast number of water bottles wore around the waist in a Rambo style belt while running through an inner city park no more than 500m from a strip mall .

Combine this with the constant ting ting of passing cyclist , wearing enough gear to navigate the whole continent, does not make for a peaceful Sunday afternoon walk