Summer in Langley, White Rock and Surrey

Last week we featured Nanaimo (and beyond) and looked at the top things to do in the summer according to our partner Gary and Toni.

Now Juliet, our partner in the Langley area (and beyond) offers her top 3 things to do in the summer. You may have guessed that I am making the most of our partners to take a break from the newsletter writing!

GREATER VANCOUVER ZOO, ALDERGROVE, LANGLEY

When I took some English visitors to this zoo last year, they were amused by its simplicity and primitiveness. Seeing it through their eyes, it did strike me how slightly run-down it appears compared to the more slick zoos and animal parks in the UK.

But it does have a kind of old-fashioned charm; a refreshing lack of corporate commercialism. Despite its brush with controversy over the years, and if you can cope with the whole idea of paying to see caged animals, which as an animal lover I counter with the education it has given my kids, it is a great day out. When I was there last, I spent a whole day with the kids walking leisurely around the zoo’s never-crowded trails, taking a trip on the train, watching the kids play in the playground, walking around the indoor creepy-crawly section with both eyes shut, watching the falconry display, and finishing with a look around the small but surprisingly impressive gift store. If you go, don’t miss the grizzly and wolf enclosure; it seems a little more like a natural habitat, and passing through the sets of locked gates on the tour bus, complete with knowledgeable guide, it almost feels like a short-lived but real safari.

WHITE ROCK BEACH, WHITE ROCK

Ahh…White Rock. One of my favourite places in the world. Even if I can’t afford to live there, I find myself driving the 20 minutes from Cloverdale at least three times a week. There is something about the expanse of sandy beaches, with distant islands and mountains looming on the horizon of the shimmering Pacific, that makes me feel absolutely connected to Canada. Just walking on those East beaches when the tide is out, or swimming in the ocean when the tide is in, is a perfect example of what this country has to offer: clean seas, beautiful scenery; un-crowded, unspoiled and simply stunning. A little further along to the west and you will find a European influence in the bars and restaurants with their cold beer, busy patios and inviting ambience; and the beachy shops with their bikinis and beach balls.

BRUNCH AT NORTHVIEW GOLF COURSE, SURREY

Sitting on the patio at Northview Golf Course on a sunny Sunday morning, it is hard to believe that you are in Surrey. Not known for its natural beauty, but more for its continual development and much-maligned reputation as a crime-haven, Surrey is in fact quite stunning. A great way to see this beauty is sitting overlooking a perfectly manicured golf course (of which there are many in Surrey) with a backdrop of distant snow-capped mountains, a plate of delicious food in front of you. Northview will take your breath away, even if you skip the golf and head straight for the buffet.

Kitsilano – not for mall rats

Being a person who is not satisfied with the standard fare of the mall world I have found that somehow I’ve managed to accumulate a great deal of knowledge on the smaller areas of Vancouver. So I believe that it would be best to start by talking about my most visited area: Kitsilano. Kitsilano (or Kits) is located just across the Burrard Street bridge minutes from the downtown core.

During the summer months I find that my friends and I are inevitably drawn to Kitsilano’s sandy beach. The beach offers refreshments, public washrooms, and a stunning view of the ocean. While this is standard for most beaches Kits beach does not have the same touristy feel of English Bay. One of my best memories from the summer is seeing the Volleyball championships at Kits beach.

Another reason that Kits is one of my all time favourite areas is the street West 4th Avenue. This long street is located just four blocks from the beach and offers a wide range of shops, restaurants and cafes. Predominantly the shops are geared towards young fashionable mothers (4th is the home of the first Lulu lemon store). But apart from the yoga wear there is a good range of independent and not so independent stores. Gravity Pope in particular is a must visit for any shoe lover. Also interesting designers can always be found at Spank and Moulé.

If you happen to find your stomach growling whilst on West 4th you are in luck. As you move further towards Burrard Street you will notice an increasing number of restaurants. One of the most buzzed about restaurants is Trattoria Italian Kitchen, which has already been hailed as placing Vancouver on the map in terms of culinary excellence. Kitsilano also offers a wide range of restaurants, which is guaranteed to satisfy any palate and budget

One aspect of Kits I find keeps me coming back – 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters located on West 4th between Yew and Arbutus. If you enjoy descent coffee (which I do) this café is a must visit. A lot about the café can be surmised from their description of their coffee “Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love”. Vancouverites appreciate a well-crafted espresso and so 49th parallel is consistently alive with the eclectic mix of the Kitsilano community.

A Canadian in Oz

Last week our daughter, Gwen, returned from two months in Australia. She was there for a theatre course and then spent the rest of her time backpacking around the east coast of Australia. She had an awesome time, as you can imagine. She snorkelled on the great barrier reef, went to Bondi beach, cuddled a Koala and generally enjoyed herself.

We thought it was interesting as we listened to her stories about her travels that she always told people she was Canadian. After all she was born in England and lived her first 15 years there, so for her to identify herself as Canadian after only 5 years in Canada may seem amazing.

We are often asked how are children have settled into life in Canada, and I think that Gwen’s story answers that question perfectly. She told anyone she met that she was Canadian and only confessed to being British if her Vancouver friends made her.

Gwen enjoyed Australia and wants to go back for a working holiday some time in the future. In fact she’d prefer to go there than go back to the UK. What’s nice for us is that she definitely thinks of Vancouver as home.  

Summer in Nanaimo

This reflection comes from our partners in Nanaimo, Gary and Toni. I asked them for their top three things to do in and around Nanaimo during the summer. As I hope you’ll agree they came up with a wonderful picture of the appeal of this part of Vancouver Island.

Summer in Nanaimo, with its warm sunny days and crystal-clear star studded nights, brings infinite choices for outdoor activities. The city hosts some sort of festival most weekends, the most well-known of which features our famous bathtub races. One thing still on our to-do list that we are looking forward to is hiking to the top of Mount Benson, the giant presence dominating the southern horizon of the city. An experienced hiker can do the trek up and down with a rest at the top to enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the Strait of Georgia in about 2 ½ hours. (We’re thinking slightly longer . . . )

We love to visit the “extreme” west coast with Tofino and Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park any time of year, but last summer, we were there with our daughter and a friend just in time for the Pleiades Meteor Showers in August. We lay on Wickaninnish Beach for the light display. As the surfers cleared out for the day, only a few other people remained on the beach. Imagine a virtually 360 degree view of the sky with shooting stars zooming across the space and only the sounds of waves lapping on the beach in the background.

Another unique-to-Nanaimo summer activity we have enjoyed is dancing at Newcastle Island. The 750-acre Island is a Provincial Marine Park accessible only by boat or foot ferry. A resort in a previous era, the Island retains a dance pavilion with fir-sprung floors that hosts a weekend dance camp sponsored by the Nanaimo Ballroom Dance Society and numerous tea dances and other dance opportunities on summer weekends. A dance floor open to ocean views and breezes is hard to beat!

Kitsilano

Sue and I were in Kits yesterday. Getting out of my car, we saw one of those sights that confirms you are in Kits. A young woman, crossing the street carrying her cycle helmet and her back pack, with her yoga mat sticking out. Very Kits.

This area has the hippy, bohemian thing going on still. We were on Broadway, close to MacDonald. This area has high end restaurants (Lumiere) but also the small cafe’s and coffee bars that give Kits it’s particular character. We ate a Greens and Gourmet which had a vegetarian buffet. Load your plate, get it weighed and tuck in. We got some friendly advice from the server: don’t load your plate with potatoes! They’re heavy and your meal will be expensive. It was good and included a variety of curries as well as greens, veggies and tofu.

And of course, to be totally Kits, the restaurant has a yoga studio attached.

 

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