Category: lifestyle

Beach as therapy

One of the pleasures of living in Vancouver is having the beaches to visit. When you think of a city, you probably don’t imagine a beach since there are not many cities where beaches are so handy. I know that when we first came to Vancouver we had not pictured ourselves taking the kids down to the beach.

Now that they are older the kids take themselves off to the beach of their choice. Locally there are a few hidden gems where you can get to a quiet beach for a few hours. When we walk down to our nearest beach at this time of the year we always see groups of young kids playing happily in the sand by the water. The beach is definitely a local meeting place for Moms and their youngsters. It looks like they spend the whole day there, with their cool boxes and picnics.

We tend to get down there later in the day. We are not alone as we often see fathers coming along after work to meet the rest of their family. Our beach also has a few kayaks and canoes stored there. And it is not unusual to see one or two people setting out in their kayaks for an evening paddle in the warm summer evenings.

 Even if we only spend a short time on the beach in the late afternoon, it picks us up and reminds us of one of the reasons we wanted to come here in the first place.

Our Canada Day

In past years we have gone to one or more of the celebrations held around Vancouver. In fact last year, Sue and I were handing out cake on the Macdonald Realty stand at Ambleside. That was enjoyable, especially seeing the long line of kids (and adults) waiting for their cake.

This year we spent the day with friends and family. We all met up at my cousin’s cottage for a game of baseball on the neighbouring field. There were people of all ages, ranging from 5 years up to 80 something.

The weather was hot and sunny. It was funny to see the kids, and enthusiastic dads playing baseball. Some of the younger kids, ran around a lot but with little direction. Some even sat down on the grass, more intent on playing with their toys than fielding. For a change, the parents watching from the sidelines were chatting rather than shouting encouragement – though there was some of that too.

In the garden behind the cottage, we’d set up a BBQ. Bruce was the grill master, earning kudos for his mastery of the grill and more so for controlling the hungry line up of kids who clustered around the grill. Sitting in lawn chairs watching the kids running around, with a cold beer and a hot dog proved to be a very pleasant way to spend Canada Day.

One of the young boys, had a pack of temporary tattoos. He was determined that everyone would have a Canadian flag tattoo. He was very serious, carrying his pack of tattoos, his bowl of water and cloth from one adult to the next. His persuasive powers were evident all around us, especially so on the bald head of one of the older guests. Knowing how hard I had to scrub to get my tattoo off my arm, I wonder if Bob will have to wear a hat for the rest of the week – or will he be proudly Canadian!

Canada Day

Today is Canada Day. July 1 is Canada’s birthday. All across Canada you will see families dressed in red and white to match the Canadian maple leaf flag. Their enthusiasm for Canada will probably also show up in the form of temporary tattoos of the Canadian flag.

The other thing you will see is birthday cakes. Corny as it may seem for those from other, older countries, Canada is young enough to remember when it was born and to still be counting the years. There is a definite sense of pride to be seen on the streets, in the parks and at the fireworks ceremonies that mark the end of this public holiday.

One other thing that will be happening across the nation is citizenship ceremonies. This is the official end of the road for anyone who has moved to Canada. Now you have been here for long enough (a total of 3 years, not necessarily consecutively) and are ready to swear allegiance to the Queen.

The whole experience of becoming a Canadian experience must be quite moving. I am going to say a lot more about this when we go for Sue’s citizenship ceremony – we are waiting for her application to be processed. I expect it will be a very moving moment, with the family there, the Canadian flags, “O Canada” and seeing all the other immigrants, from all over the world, proudly becoming Canadians.

Ok wines

Some years ago I recall asking my Canadian mother about Canadian wines. She had lived outside of Canada for many years but on returning to Canada had become a born again Canadian – everything about Canada was wonderful. No criticisms were tolerated.

However, my question about Canadian wines prompted my mother to pucker her mouth and wince. These turned out to be characteristic expressions that you could almost guarantee seeing on the faces of anyone drinking Canadian wines.

Thankfully things have changed a lot. I don’t know about wines in other parts of Canada, but in BC our wines have been winning awards and drawing attention internationally. So it seemed that it was our duty, as intrepid reporters, to investigate the state of BC wines.

And what better place to do it than the Okanagan valley. Sue and I went over to Kelowna for a few days and managed to squeeze a few winery visits into our time there. In fact,  as Linda, our partner there, told us most people end up going on winery tours.

We started out around Kelowna where there are at least 16 wineries. These include Mission Hill (nice tour) and Quails Gate. Both of these have fine dining restaurants open both for lunch and dinner. Tip: if you are planning to eat at these places, make a reservation.

Kelowna is not the only place with vineyards. Driving south through Peachland and Summerland you see signs for a few wineries (helpfully signposted from the highway). We went to Penticton at the south end of Okanagan Lake and then up the eastern edges of the lake towards Naramata. The road up to Naramata was a wine mecca it seemed. Everywhere you looked, whether down toward the lake or up the hill sides, there were vines. The occasional fruit trees broke up the scene.

We had lunch at Lake Breeze winery. The patio was a lovely place to sit and enjoy the food. The menu included suggested wine pairings – which is the whole point of this exercise right? – and these worked well. I enjoyed their Pinot Blanc very much and Sue had the Ehrenfelser. Not a wine variety we’d tried before – but this is the whole point right?

We can recommend the Okanagan. But you probably knew that. It is a destination for many people looking for the lifestyle. Recreational real estate has been one of the most buoyant of markets and the Okanagan has been on a building boom. Wherever we drove, it seemed there were new resorts or condo developments on offer. I thought that this might indicate an over-supply, but from what I gather demand is still high and though sales are no longer at their red hot level, they are still strong. From our visit I can certainly see why.


Road tests

One thing that many people stress about when coming to BC is the thought of taking their driving test here. In fact one of the most common questions is about dodgy ways of beating the system by going first to a Province that allows you to exchange your (British) licence for their Provincial one. Then hopping over to BC and swapping again. Job done.

Well I have heard this scheme to work, if the gods of bureaucracy are on your side. The rules suggest that you should have had your out of Province licence for two years first.

I mention this only because our second daughter, Gwen, has now passed her road test and has a full licence. She has graduated from the graduated licensing program and can drive like an adult. Her examiner actually wrote “beautiful drive” on her results.

Gwen was not really worried about the test. Most of her peers have taken them without failing and so has her older sister. She was probably more worried about the photo for her licence. And she wasn’t all that pleased with that. Beautiful drive shame about the cheesy smile.

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