Tag: summer

The Best Weekend Of The Year

Canada Day

I have decided that this is the best weekend of the year.  Better than Halloween, better than Christmas, better than my birthday.  This is the weekend of:

  • School Is Out!
  • The Sun Is Coming!
  • Unexpected Holiday!
  • Endless possibilities abound….!

The first year we lived in Canada, we were horrified at the thought of nearly 10 weeks of summer holiday.  How is anyone expected to manage a full time job and afford childcare for that length of time?  The following year we booked every child into every camp possible, and they went back to school in September more tired than they had been in June.  Now we are seasoned, experienced, and almost Canadian.  It helps that our children are old enough to babysit each other, and had been studying karate long enough to inflict discipline on each other without too much real injury.  The prospect of watching them spend the hot months chilling, cycling, swimming and doing what kids are supposed to do (“Stop that, put it down, you don’t know where it’s been, NOW look what you did to your new sandals…”), is just bliss.

Recently we shared a picture on Facebook.  This is what the start of our summer has been like, but it is still better than Juneuary last year, when we were still wrapped in our polar outfits and snow boots, and at least we are not underwater like parts of Alberta.  Summer

This year the rain has meant that everything I planted in the garden, and many things I did not plant (we have an Accidental Pumpkin patch in the area where I spread my home made compost.  I forgot I had put all 7 Halloween pumpkins with their seeds in the compost last November), are growing, and the time of sitting and appreciating the growth, with a little light harvesting, weeding and reseeding, has arrived.  July and August are generally scorching, and the amount of ground water means I may not have to water the lawn or beds for some time.

The Unexpected Holiday is Canada Day.  You don’t realize until you move from the UK how your body has become attuned to the seasons with their high days and Bank Holidays.  I feel a little wrench at the beginning of May when I realize that it’s Spring Bank Holiday, but I am at work.  But that is completely overwhelmed, when you have been dragging yourself and your children to the end of the school year (“Just 3 more days… just one more teacher gift… just one more awards ceremony… I really don’t care where your planner or lunch box have gone, you only have 2 more days at school…”), when you realize that it’s Canada Day Weekend!  Break out the wine and the barbeque!

And now the endless possibilities… tomorrow I am going to load my grumbling husband and happy dog into the car and drive away.  I will leave a note for the children, which will say “Your parents have run away.  You must solve the clues and find them or your college funds are in jeopardy.”  There will be clues to lead them to the Skytrain, along the waterfront, into Stanley Park and round the seawall.  A real adventure to start the holiday, with a picnic and ice cream at the end.   Later in the holiday we will go berry picking, camping, climb the Stawamish Chief, explore Simon Fraser University campus, shop for new school supplies and clothes and backpacks, paint the shed, create a mural of salmon on the wall of the house that faces the salmon creek – or do none of the above.  The kids will play in the street with other kids, and we’ll dish out freezies, After Bite and bandaids in equal quantities.  Before we know it, we will be back in school and greeting our old friends, and loving the run up to Halloween and Christmas!

freezies

You gotta love a Freezie on a hot day!


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 birthday party in the park

Vancouver celebrating its 125th birthday
The main stage at Vancouver's birthday celebration

Last weekend Vancouver had a birthday celebration in Stanley Park. Well a major milestone like your city reaching the ripe old age of 125 needs to be marked.

Vancouver put on three days of family oriented events, featuring a lot of local musicians. This is one of those events that Vancouver does so well.

Stanley Park is a perfect location too. You can look across the water at the glass towers of Vancouver’s skyline and the sails of Canada Place, while sitting on the grass and listening to the music.

Some elements were typical of Vancouver. We were encouraged to use public transit, or bikes. There was a free shuttle bus from Canada Place to and from Stanley Park. The wait for this was quite long, so many people ended up walking or getting a cab. Those who did drive were rewarded by spending a lot of time in the resulting traffic jams.

Another Vancouver element was the recycling bins set up all around the stages. These were there to encourage, and educate you, into sorting your recycling appropriately. There were volunteers on hand to help you dispose of your trash in the right bin. They were needed as it was pretty confusing!

The food concessions and giveaways were there to make sure that there was a lot of material available for later disposal in the recycling centres. We ate at the mexican concession, drawn to it by its popularity as much as anything.

There were beer gardens set up. These are fenced off and patrolled by security guards. You needed two pieces of ID to get in and were only permitted two drinks each. Vancouver obviously wanted to ensure drinking was done responsibly.

The overall feel of the event, from our visit on the Friday evening, was of a summer festival. People were chatting, listening to the music, checking out the concession stands and scoring as much free stuff as they could.

Walking back to the Seabus along the seawall, we were reminded of how easy life is in this beautiful city.

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.

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.

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