Category: areas

The island life for me

The ferry to Salt Spring Island from Crofton to VesuviusWe recently spent a few days on Salt Spring Island. If you’ve ever considered living on an island then you’ll already have considered the question of how to get there. Salt Spring is one of the Gulf Islands and is served by BC Ferries. It is better served than most since there are three different ferry connections: two to Vancouver Island and one to the mainland.

The fare to the island is payable only when going to Salt Spring – you can leave for nothing! This is the way BC Ferries works on a number of its routes, particularly to other islands and even to the Sunshine Coast. Nevertheless the cost of the ferry ride is something to consider if you’re thinking of settling on an island.

Once you’re on Salt Spring Island, you’re on island time. The west coast has a laid back attitude compared to the rest of Canada, and the islands even more so. Just chill!

The charm of this island is its artistic community. You can see signs for artists studios all over the island. Pick up the Studio Tour brochure and visit artists that appeal. On our trip we seemed to zero in on the culinary experiences. We visited the Salt Spring Island cheese company. You can see them making the cheese and try samples of their cheeses, relishes and olives too.

Bread from the bread ladyThe next stop was the Salt Spring Island Bread Co where we picked up some delicious bread and focaccia. Their sunny garden, surrounded by lavender plants is the perfect place to eat your lunch. It seemed like we were in Tuscany somehow.

Our trip to the island would not have been complete without visiting the wineries. We went to all three and particularly enjoyed having a glass of wine on the patio at Mistaken Identity.  Their patio overlooks the vineyard and once you’ve tasted some of their wines you will want to have a glass and enjoy the view. They have a nice cheese tasting plate too.

If the culture, and eating, is too much then you can mooch around in the shops in Ganges, Fulford Harbour or Vesuvius Bay. And of course there are a lot of beaches and lakes where you can cool off and relax even more.
Salt Spring Island cafe

Island life is not for everyone. You may need to take a ferry or seaplane ride to get something or other that you need. But that same distance ensures that life is slower and as the bumper sticker says: “Relax! This ain’t the mainland”.

Three tips on getting to know your new neighbourhood

Community notice boardWhen you’ve just moved into the neighbourhood you can feel a bit isolated at first. Here are three tips on getting to know the neighbourhood.

1. Check the local papers

You may get a free paper delivered, and in some areas there may even be more than one. Most of them have their own web sites too. Have a look at the local issues, news and upcoming events. Often it gives a sense of the community feel.

2. Check the bulletin boards

Find the local community centre, recreation centre or pool. There you will find bulletin boards on classes and events in the area.

Another place to look is on the notice boards at the local coffee shops. Here you will see what’s going on locally.

3. Check in with social media

There are a host of social media sites like Yelp, Urban Spoon and FourSquare and there you can find tips and reviews on local eateries and services. You can connect via these media to others in the area too.

The pleasures of seasons

Daffodils in VancouverLast week we met up with Andy, a friend from Ontario when he was over in Vancouver for a business trip. It was raining lightly that day, as it does from time to time here, so we ended up comparing the weather.

Andy started off being quite smug, since it was raining outside. (Not heavily enough for most Vancouverites to wear rain gear, or even notice). He got somewhat less smug when Sue said how much she loved spring in B.C. It is a beautiful time of year, with the spring flowers, buds on trees and of course our cherry blossoms at their best. (We celebrate this with our annual Cherry Blossom Festival in April).

Cherry blossom trees in Kits Tulips at the ObservatoryAndy, not the keenest of gardeners, hadn’t really noticed the cherry trees until we pointed them out. It was then that he admitted nothing much was growing in Ontario as yet. (This has it’s benefits, since I am already cutting the grass every week).

The difference that we most appreciate about B.C. is not only the milder weather but particularly the fact that there are seasons. We have spring as I’ve said. Much of the rest of Canada leaps from winter to summer since the sub-soil is too frozen to allow for spring flowers to appear.

Admittedly our winters are not real Canadian winters. That’s OK because the snow is still there on the hills ready for us to go play whenever we want. And not having to shovel snow off the drive does leave you with more time for golf, fishing or hiking.

My mother lived in Calgary for many years. She told me that she missed the spring, but she did love the cold winters, with sunny days and snow on the ground. She was a real Canadian! I remember one time when I visited her in the winter the temperature was -28°C. Not for me, but my mother liked it, so maybe you would.

Summer in Vancouver is not super hot and humid, as it can be in Ontario for example. We certainly make the most of the summer as you’ll see if you go to the beaches in English Bay or Kitsilano.

Autumn (or Fall as I still struggle to say) is often a very good time in B.C. The summer weather seems to stretch well into October, so visiting in September or October isn’t a bad idea for a research trip. But eventually the autumn weather comes, with rain being the main feature!

If you’re still deciding on where to live in Canada, then the seasons may be something to consider. We like gardening (Sue especially) and having a real spring is important as it brings in so many beautiful blooms and it is always a cheery sign of good weather to see the spring bulbs appearing. Just saying!

Vancouver’s housing price index for September 2012

Apartment Listings versus Sold in Burnaby as of Sept 2012 The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver maintains a Housing Price Index on the benchmark price of typical homes in the metro Vancouver region. These are useful when looking at how the market is doing overall.Below you will find the prices for three types of property

  • Detached – i.e. single family homes
  • Attached – i.e. townhouses
  • Apartments

The figures in brackets against each area show the percentage change over the last year. [Square brackets show the change over 5 years.] I have highlighted the biggest increases in bold and the greatest decreases in red for each category of property.

DETACHED BENCHMARK PRICES

  • Greater Vancouver $935,600 (-0.5%), [5yr: 23.4%]
  • Bowen Island $592,200 (-1.9%), [5yr: -6.8%]
  • Burnaby East $751,300 (4.5%), [5yr: 21%]
  • Burnaby North $910,900 (0.2%), [5yr: 26.2%]
  • Burnaby South $1,003,700 (4.2%), [5yr: 37.8%]
  • Coquitlam $713,600 (3.6%), [5yr: 15.2%]
  • Ladner $622,500 (-0.9%), [5yr: 12.1%]
  • Maple Ridge $468,700 (1.1%), [5yr: -0.5%]
  • New Westminster $672,000 (1.8%), [5yr: 20.4%]
  • North Vancouver $961,200 (5.2%), [5yr: 12.9%]
  • Pitt Meadows $501,700 (1.6%), [5yr: 3.2%]
  • Port Coquitlam $556,000 (1.4%), [5yr: 8.7%]
  • Port Moody $851,100 (5.3%), [5yr: 13.7%]
  • Richmond $962,900 (-4.2%), [5yr: 36.7%]
  • Squamish $508,300 (4.1%), [5yr: 5.7%]
  • Sunshine Coast $365,400 (-3.8%), [5yr: -6.6%]
  • Tsawwassen $724,000 (1.6%), [5yr: 13%]
  • Vancouver East $850,000 (3.2%), [5yr: 33.6%]
  • Vancouver West $2,088,700 (-6.5%), [5yr: 39.7%]
  • West Vancouver $1,847,400 (4%), [5yr: 21.9%]
  • Whistler $848,200 (-5.3%), [5yr: -3.1%]

ATTACHED BENCHMARK PRICES

  • Greater Vancouver $458,600 (-2.7%), [5yr: 7.7%]
  • Burnaby East $419,900 (1.8%), [5yr: 9%]
  • Burnaby North $393,700 (-8%), [5yr: 3.8%]
  • Burnaby South $417,800 (-2.3%), [5yr: 9.3%]
  • Coquitlam $383,300 (-1.6%), [5yr: 2.5%]
  • Ladner $449,400 (-2.2%), [5yr: 8.6%]
  • Maple Ridge $272,400 (-4.4%), [5yr: -7.2%]
  • New Westminster $394,800 (0.1%), [5yr: 8.6%]
  • North Vancouver $576,200 (-0.1%), [5yr: 4.5%]
  • Pitt Meadows $327,700 (-1.3%), [5yr: 0.3%]
  • Port Coquitlam $367,000 (-1.5%), [5yr: -1.1%]
  • Port Moody $411,900 (-0.9%), [5yr: -0.8%]
  • Richmond $496,500 (-4%), [5yr: 18.2%]
  • Squamish $353,800 (2.1%), [5yr: 3.1%]
  • Tsawwassen $457,000 (-9.2%), [5yr: 3.1%]
  • Vancouver East $505,000 (-1.5%), [5yr: 11.4%]
  • Vancouver West $672,400 (-1.3%), [5yr: 11.1%]
  • Whistler $462,400 (2.5%), [5yr: 13.5%]

APARTMENT BENCHMARK PRICES

  • Greater Vancouver $368,600 (-0.7%), [5yr: 2.5%]
  • Burnaby East $353,000 (-3%), [5yr: -10.8%]
  • Burnaby North $328,900 (-2%), [5yr: -1.6%]
  • Burnaby South $371,800 (-4.5%), [5yr: 4.3%]
  • Coquitlam $257,200 (1.9%), [5yr: -1.9%]
  • Ladner $312,700 (-2.9%), [5yr: 5.2%]
  • Maple Ridge $179,100 (-2.1%), [5yr: -12.9%]
  • New Westminster $271,000 (-2.1%), [5yr: 3.3%]
  • North Vancouver $358,800 (4.7%), [5yr: 3.5%]
  • Pitt Meadows $219,500 (-1%), [5yr: -13.5%]
  • Port Coquitlam $225,000 (-4.4%), [5yr: -10.5%]
  • Port Moody $314,600 (4.5%), [5yr: -4.4%]
  • Richmond $334,700 (-2.5%), [5yr: 0%]
  • Squamish $259,200 (15.2%), [5yr: -5.8%]
  • Tsawwassen $333,000 (-3.8%), [5yr: -0.6%]
  • Vancouver East $305,600 (1.4%), [5yr: 8.8%]
  • Vancouver West $465,600 (-1.2%), [5yr: 3.9%]
  • West Vancouver $624,800 (-2%), [5yr: -6.2%]
  • Whistler $241,400 (-4.7%), [5yr: 67.3%]

Island life

Salt Spring Island
Is there a welcome waiting for you on an island in BC?

When we came to British Columbia we chose to live in Vancouver because we wanted to be in a relatively big city, having lived in London. We had thought about living in Victoria but thought that living on an island, however big, might seem a bit strange. (My daughter pointed out that Britain is an island too!)

We now have a bit more experience of living in B.C. and we can see that island life is something we’d now consider. Here are a few things for you to think about if you’re considering island life.

Vancouver Island is the largest island in B.C. and at about 32,000 sq kms it is pretty large (2/3 the size of England). You might not even feel that you’re on an island.However when it comes to travelling you’d need to get a ferry or plane to the mainland. Depending on how you think about it that can be constricting or part of the adventure. From my point of view, from the mainland, I’ve always enjoyed the ferry ride, which is like taking a mini cruise and is pretty relaxing.

You are dependent on the ferries and that’s something that British Columbians love to gripe about. That’s understandable given there’s no real alternative, especially if you’re taking your vehicle. You have to pay the fare. You may have to pay extra to reserve a place if it’s peak time. And any problems with the ferries can really disrupt your journey.

If you’re living on the Island (as Vancouver Island is most often called) then you’re going to pay less for your home than in most places in the Lower Mainland, especially Vancouver’s expensive neighbourhoods. The pace of life is likely to be slower too. (And we found Vancouver pretty slow compared to London, so Island time might well be very slow!

Of course Vancouver Island is only one of the dozens of islands off the coast of British Columbia. The other islands are much smaller, so if you want to get away from crowds these might suit you.

The smaller islands do tend to leave you even more dependent on BC Ferries, and in some cases you’ll be taking more than one ferry in order to get to the Mainland.

If you want to live and work on an island then Vancouver Island offers you the most opportunity to find work. The smaller islands seem to thrive on tourism and often have a lot of artists. I don’t know if they make a living, but if you’re at all artistic then it is a very attractive lifestyle. Even if you don’t make your fortune, you’ll find yourself part of a community that supports artists.

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