Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Distributing the weight. Hottest day on record. Goodbye Canada. Sorry – no inflight movies. Home to Hong Kong

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

We woke around 8.30am this morning and started into re-packing the suitcases.  The Princess had managed to accumulate quite a lot of “stuff” in her time in Canada and it needed to be reorganised before the flight back to Hong Kong.

Gary was kind enough to give us a couple of boxes and some packing tape so I redistributed some of the weight and made life a little easier for my back.  This took a little bit of time but we were able to sort it all out and get ourselves showered in time for an 11.00am departure from the hotel.

Today’s flight was not scheduled to depart until 3.10pm and this meant that we didn’t need to arrive at the airport until 1.30pm.

We took the opportunity to pay Gary one more visit before we departed for Hong Kong – arriving at his place around 11.30am.
It was another very hot day in Vancouver (I believe the hottest recorded temperature for July and we felt it when we were sitting inside Gary’s condo’.  Needless to say we were looking forward to getting to the airport and sitting inside the air-conditioning!

We left Gary’s place around 12.30pm and drove to Vancouver International Airport - around 30 mins from Gary’s.  The drive was pleasant and we stopped near the airport and filled the truck for the last time.

After handing the truck back we made our way to the terminal and approached the Cathay Pacific check-in.  We were flying standby so we were ready for the “come back at xxxx” – exactly how it panned out.  We were ready for some lunch so we were able to get a nice sandwich before returning to the counter and being told that we may not get on to the flight.

However, a couple of travelers did not show up for the flight and we were able to secure two business class seats for the return to Hong Kong – happy days!!

After checking our baggage we proceeded through immigration and headed for the gate.  We arrived with plenty of time to spare so we relaxed in the knowledge that we were going home.

We did board we were told that the inflight entertainment system was broken in our seats – no video or music.  This didn’t worry us too much because we aimed to sleep, catch up on the blogging and generally relax for the 13 hour flight back to Hong Kong – exactly what we did.

The flight was smooth and time seemed to pass quickly.  Before we knew it we were disembarking in Hong Kong around 8.00pm local time.  We felt rested and relaxed but that didn’t stop us sleeping all night after we got to bed around 11.00pm.

And so another journey comes to an end.  We are happy to be home and we look forward to “stopping” for a while.   We aim to make a trip to Australia in about 5 weeks but until then we are going to honour our minds and bodies and enjoy being back together without any specific agenda.

We hope you are all aiming to do the same – honour your minds and bodies.

Until our next blog adventure, take care and enjoy life.

Roey and The Princess

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Late risers. Beachfront walk. Balmy Vancouver. Flying a desk. King crab feast.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

The good Aussie red wine that we consumed last night ensured that we slept well.  Indeed, we didn’t surface until around 10.00am and we could have stayed in bed longer.

However, with the weather forecast showing another hot, clear summer day in Vancouver we organised ourselves and left the hotel around midday.

White Rock (the area Gary lives in) is a wonderful town located on the Semiahoo Bay and it is very popular with the Vancouverites – particularly in summer and even more so when it is hot.

Today White Rock was rather busy.  Holiday makers, school holiday kids, and “beautiful people” made up the majority of what was a substantial increase in the local population.

After parking the truck we walked along the beachfront before settling on a place for brunch – Tracycakes Bakery Cafe.  We ate outdoors un

der an awning and soaked up the sunshine.  We each had a tasty sandwich and some nice cool drinks and enjoyed the “people watching” opportunities.

After lunch we took a short stroll along the pier before returning to the car and taking a drive around the streets of White Rock.  The town is home to some very nice real estate and it reminded me a little of where my father and sister live in Australia.

Gary was keen to spend some time with us this afternoon so we arrived at his house around 3.00pm and enjoyed some time chatting about his home renovation.  We all agreed that he could do with an air-conditioner given the fact that the temperature was hovering close to 33 degrees C.

On a previous visit to Gary’s he treated me to a feed of King Crab and I had raved about it to The Princess and so she was very keen to try some while we were in Vancouver.

Gary needed to purchase some crab and other assorted goodies for tonight’s meal so we took a drive to the nearby Superstore – super being an understatement! While Gary and The Princess walked around looking for various items I walked around in amazement.  The size of this shop was something to see and I am still amazed at the thought of it.

Gary is a bit of a flight simulator fan and he recently purchased some new toys (flat screen monitors and a new control yoke) to improve his simulation.  He wanted me to help him out with some flying tips and to configure the new equipment.  Gary poured me some very nice red wine and I settled into some flying lessons and computer configuration changes.  We had a lot of fun flying a variety of aircraft types and making the new equipment work correctly.

After a couple of hours of “flying” Gary and Leah prepared the evening meal (King Crab and salad) and we all sat down to an excellent meal.  The Princess’ loved her first King Crab feast and we all agreed that we needed to do it all over again when we were back in Vancouver.

With bags to pack and a long trip to Hong Kong ahead of us tomorrow we  left Gary and Leah around 10.30pm and returned to the hotel.

A hot day by the beach complemented by an excellent seafood meal and some more Aussie red wine.  Fantastic.

We hope you are making the most of your winter or summer in your part of the world.  Life is for living and we hope you are doing just that.

Roey and The Princess

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Goodbye Seattle. Historic aviation metal. Skagit dining. Hello Vancouver. Gary’s Diner.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

We woke early again this morning – not wanting to waste the time in the US!  We slept well after yesterday’s tramping around Seattle and, after opening the blinds and letting in the brilliant sunshine, we felt wide awake.

Pre-breakfast the Princess completed her morning supplement schedule while I showered and packed for the return trip to Canada.

Breakfast was a little quieter this morning because it was a work day and most of the weekend tourist traffic had left or was leaving.

Our return trip north started around 10.00am.  We stopped at the closest gas station an topped up the Ford’s tank before following the reverse route we took on the trip down to Seattle.

The traffic was reasonably light so we made good time to our first stop – The Flying Heritage Collection – an aviation museum founded by Paul G. Allen.  For those who don’t follow the history of computing, Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft.

The FHC (as it is known) is located at Paine Field – an historic airport located near the town of Everett (north of Seattle).  The FHC’s collection of aircraft is incredibly unique and all but a few of the aircraft are flown regularly.

We were lucky enough to be given a personal tour by an elderly gentleman called Norm.  We were told that Norm was the best docent in the museum and, after an incredibly thorough tour we understood why they told us that.  Norm took time to explain each aircraft in detail and it was fascinating.

After Norm’s tour we walked around the hangar by ourselves and took a  lot of photo’s and watched so me of the informative video presentations.  What a great way to spend a morning!  We would highly recommend a visit to the FHC – regardless of your interest in aviation.

After departing the FHC we drove past the nearby Boeing headquarters.  It is located at the other end of Paine Field.  We didn’t stop for a tour of the factory because we had experienced enough aviation for one day and we also wanted to take in a little more of the scenery enroute to Vancouver.

So, with our stomachs in need of a feed and the clock ticking toward mid-afternoon, we set off on the trip back to Vancouver on the i5.

As we past the town of Mount Vernon we both agreed that it looked like a nice place to go in search of a lunch venue.  We turned off the i5 and drove alongside the Skagit River and back to the town.

Mount Vernon is located in the Skagit Valley – a farming area that produces a vast array of produce.  Located in the the pretty township is a co-op that sells a lot of the local produce and it is also the location of a wonderful cafe called the Co-op Advantage.

We dined at the cafe (an excellent organic soup, a noodle salad and a rice dish) and enjoyed watching people come and go in the quiet town.  It would have been nice to explore some of the area around Mount Vernon – maybe on another trip.

With our stomachs satisfied we returned to the i5 and drove to the border crossing at Peace Arch.

Crossing the border back into Canada was straight forward and we arrived at the new Best Western in Surrey shortly after re-entering “The Land Of Eeh”!

We checked in and arrived in our room around 4.30pm and I proceeded to have an LLD (little lie down) for about 30 mins – I enjoy an afternoon nap.

We showered and woke ourselves up then headed around to Gary’s house in the nearby town of White Rock.  Gary (the dear friend that arranged our accommodation for us) invited us around for a home cooked meal and some wine and we happily accepted his invitation.  Gary and The Princess had not seen each other for over 18 months so it was nice to be able to spend time with this wonderful man, his partner (Leah) and his friend Doug.

The wine flowed and the home cooked meal complimented it nicely.  The night passed too quickly with travel stories, renovation stories and general banter and before we knew it our Ford Sport Trac was about to turn into a pumpkin and The Princess’ was about to loose her new glass slippers.  So, with tired eyes, full bellies and a long day behind us we returned to the  hotel and got ourselves ready for bed.

Another wonderful day of touring, learning, exploring and catching up with great friends.  Perfect really.

We hope this finds you rising to a perfect day or recounting the one you just had.

Roey and The Princess

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Border grilling. NW fruit bowl. Cruising the concrete jungle. Viewing Bellevue artists fair.

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Climbing out of the very comfortable bed at the Ramada was rather difficult this morning.  However, we had slept well and our body clocks were up for the challenge of starting the day.

We dined in the room (used up the last of our supplies), showered, packed and departed the hotel around 11.15am.  We would highly recommend the Ramada in Abbotsford if you are ever need accommodation in Abbotsford.

Before attempting to cross the border back in to the US we value added to our share portfolio by purchasing a morning “heart starter” at Starbucks.  In this time of global downturn we figure that we need to support our own shares and the economy so why not buy where we invest!

We crossed the border at the Abbotsford/Sumas crossing – a short drive from the Ramada.

Now, because my departure card had not been taken when I last departed the US we thought the crossing was going to be a bit of a chore.  However, after the standard “grilling” we were processed efficiently and given some advice on future departure card “management” ie. I didn’t need to go through all the hassle of returning my departure card in Calgary – I could have held onto it until I finally left North America or even held onto it until I returned to Hong Kong!!  Ah – the joys of not being told this earlier.

With the crossing behind us we pointed the nose of the truck south and headed off toward Seattle.  After a couple of miles we were wondering why we had to travel so slowly and why other cars were overtaking us.  The reason?  Well, we were still traveling in km/h and they were traveling at mph!!  It didn’t take us too many miles to work it out and soon we were traveling at the correct speed!

After crossing into the US we passed through some beautiful farming country around the town of Sumas.

The Cascade mountain range borders the area to the south east and the snow capped mountains provided a beautiful backdrop to the lush green market garden fields.  Ah – cruising America.

We joined Interstate 5 heading south toward Seattle and opened up the valves on the V8 engine as the speed limit increased to 70 mph.  The i5 passed through some beautiful areas of spruce trees and lakes near Bellingham and Lake Samish then opened up into sparsely vegetated land around Burlington and Everett.

Although the roads were busy (weekend traffic) we enjoyed driving on the 5 lane freeway.

We stopped off in Everett (the home of Boeing commercial aircraft company ) for some lunch before continuing our trip to Seattle (a short 20 minute drive from Everett).

We arrived at the Embassy Suites in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue around 3.00pm and checked into our delightful room for a two night stay.  The Embassy Suites are a part of the Hilton group of hotels and this one was impressive.  Again, we would highly recommend staying here if you are visiting Seattle.

Bellevue is a lovely suburb located about 15 minutes from downtown Seattle and the hotel is located close to the major arterial roads running through Seattle – a nice find.

After a short break in the room we enquired about “things to do” around Bellevue and we were told that the annual Bellevuefest was being held in the nearby Bellevue mall area.  So, with information in hand we drove through the beautiful streets of Bellevue and arrived at the Bellevue Square around 10 minutes later.  We both agreed that Seattle was having a impact on us – it is a beautiful city that is so well presented and esthetically pleasing.  Definitely a place we would return to and recommend.

The artists fair was very impressive – a great collection of arts various.  The quality of the work and the diversity was something to see.  It is a good thing we don’t live in a bigger apartment because we would have come back with some really wonderful pieces.

We complimented our visit to the fair with a look around the rather large mall before we stopped off for an afternoon brew at Starbucks.  Apparently Starbucks supports the local artists. Indeed, if any employees are artists, they are allowed to present their wares in store.  Today, there was a gentleman named Larry that was displaying his photographs in the store.  Larry and his wife (Jill) spend part of the year in and around Tuscany, Italy and they combine their love of all things Italian with their passions – photography, Italian food and wine.  What a great way to live!  We spent quite a lot of time talking to Larry about his photography, Italy and his involvement in the film Madison.  You can check out Larry’s site here.

After leaving the Bellevue mall we returned to the hotel and dined in the hotel restaurant (Cascades Grill).  We shared a lovely meal of soup and salad and enjoyed the excellent service from Lorraine.  A nice way to end the day.

We “retired” to our bed around 11.00pm and fell asleep rather quickly.

Goodnight from NW USA.

Roey and The Princess

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Chasing away the hunger. Prehistoric vistas. Down the Choquihalla. Flatlands near Vancouver

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

When we woke up this morning we cannot say we had a defined plan in place for the next two to three days.  Our original plan from Sicamous was to drive south to Kelowna – located in the Okanagan Valley.

However, Kelowna (or just across the lake from it) has been under siege from bushfires over the past few days and thousands of people have been evacuated from their houses.  With this in mind, we asked Gary to cancel the bookings he had made for us and decided to “take it as it comes”.

What we did know was that we were going to continue driving toward Vancouver and, once there, firm up our plans.

After a light breakfast, a shower and a re-pack of the car we checked out of the hotel and started our drive West again.

The Trans Canada route follows the Shuswap Lakes in the direction of Kamloops – a very pretty drive.  The lake is obviously very deep because the water is a beautiful dark blue colour.  In parts, the spruce trees line the lake and in other areas it is surrounded by steep mountains.  At this time of the year, the “boaties” are making the most of the beautiful weather so the lakes were dotted with all sorts of watercraft.  Maybe we should have hired a houseboat for a couple of days and kicked back on the water!!  Now why didn’t I think of that before typing this.

We fueled up in the small town of Salmon Arm and again, I was pleasantly surprised with the economy of the truck.  I guess modern technology has resulted in V8 engines running somewhat more efficiently than in the past.  Still not the economy of the hybrid we had during our recent trip to the US but it is not breaking that bank either.

The town of Chase is located along the route and we decided to stop there for lunch.  Chase is located on the Western reaches of the Shuswaps and it is another small well kept town.  The Princess’ sister, Diane, owns some property in Chase and we can understand why after our short visit.

We found a wonderful little deli’-cum-restaurant called Simply De Vine.  Our initial plan was to have morning tea but the menu looked very inviting so we decided to eat an early lunch.  A good decision because the food was very tasty!

We took a drive around Chase (it didn’t take too long!) before returning to the main highway in the direction of Kamloops.

The scenery changed quite dramatically as we left the Shuswap Lake region.  Not too far to the West of Chase the highway emerges from the spruce forests and passes through ancient river valleys.  The land became quite arid in places and with the smoky haze and the warm temperatures it felt like we were driving in parts of Australia.  Interesting!

There was nothing inviting in or around the city of Kamloops so we bypassed the town and started the long trip back up to the mountains.  As  you leave Kamloops behind and below the landscape changes quickly back to mountain vistas.

You can travel from Kamloops to Vancouver via several routes but the one we took is the quickest.  The road passes through an area called the Choquihalla Pass  – an area know for its avalanches.  This pass was opened in 1986 and before that time the trip would have been substantially longer and more challenging during the winter months.

The trip down the Choquihalla Pass is quite beautiful – all downhill (heading West that is) and at times through avalanche tunnels.  At different places along the road there are gun emplacements.  During winter, they mount a gun to these emplacements and fire projectiles into know avalanche areas on the surrounding mountains.  They create avalanches periodically to prevent extreme avalanches occurring.  This allows the pass to remain open for most of the time during the winter months.

We passed by the town of Hope at the bottom of the Choquihalla Pass and then arrived in the city of Abbotsford around 4.30pm.

We had researched some hotels in Abbotsford and decided to check out the Ramada when we arrived.  The hotel was located just off the highway and they gave us a good travel industry rate so we decided to stay for the night.  The room we were given was decorated very nicely and it was nice and quiet too.

Given that we had arrived “early” we took some time to rest before taking a shower and getting ready for supper.  There was a great restaurant attached to the hotel so we dined there for supper.  We both had a curry and washed it down with some nice red wine.

Over dinner we decided that we were going to spend the next two days in Seattle.  We had planned to travel to Seattle during our trip to the US in June but we cancelled this part of our trip and decided to focus on Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

Seattle is only 2.5 hours driving time from Abbotsford so we decided to re-enter the US and take in some of Washington State for a couple of days.  Of course this will be totally dependent on the status of my US Departure Card issue.  I guess we will find out tomorrow!

And so, it is time for bed.  Tomorrow will come soon enough but in the meantime we need to make the most of the King Size comfort on offer here in Abbotsford.

Until tomorrow – it is goodnight from him and goodnight from her.

Roey and The Princess

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Goodbye Calgary – Hello Rockies. Tapping the oil reserves. Lunch in a Field. Smokey vistas. Sicamous in the Shuswap.

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Today marked the end of The Princess’ summer vacation in Calgary – an almost 8 week stint back in her “hometown”.

With a 5 hour drive ahead of us we woke at a reasonable hour this morning.  We ate a light breakfast, finalised our packing and checked out around 11.00am then drove around to Jill’s to say goodbye.  Jill has been so good to us over the past year and we were a little sad to say goodbye – particularly for The Princess because she has enjoyed being home with Mom for summer.

However, as one book closes another one is opened and so, after a short visit, we hopped into the gas guzzling Sport Trac and drove to the nearest petrol station – about 1 mile away!  This was the first time we had put gas in the tank and I must say that I was quite surprised – it only cost $30CAN.  Not bad considering the amount of city driving we had done.

It was around noon by the time we “hit the road” so the traffic was reasonable during our drive through Calgary and out to HWY 1 – The Trans Canada Highway.

The truck sat on the road like a family sedan and with the cruise control set, my Princess sitting beside me and the beautiful Rocky Mountains filling the windscreen, I had a smile from ear to ear!  Ahhhhhh…., the modern cowboy.

The first town of any size to the West of Calgary is called Canmore and it was here that we stopped for a caffeine fix.  I had been “off the coffee” for about six weeks however, I decided that today was the day to re-introduce myself to it.  I must say that it was nice to treat my taste buds to a hot cup of the freshly brewed liquid – no turning back now.

We decided to hold off on lunch until we were a little further into the drive so we got back on the road and drove deeper into the Rockies as we headed West toward the province of British Columbia.  We passed the resort towns of Banff and Lake Louise before approaching the tiny town of Field.

The trip was going well until the traffic banked up and eventually stopped – summer roadworks.  In Canada, the only time for doing major roadworks is in the summer months (and there are not too many of those!) and the road teams were out in force!  Just prior to arriving in Field the road teams were intentionally creating a rockslide and the road was blocked for around 30 minutes (at least that is the time that we were affected and it had been going a while before we arrived).  Landslides, avalanches and other road blocking events are commonplace here in winter so it is important to make sure the roads are fixed in the summer months.

As it turned out we stopped right near a beautiful waterfall and close to where the famous Canadian Rail spiral tunnels are located.  It is in this area that you can see the front of trains on one level and the back of the same train on another level.  We didn’t get to see this but you can have a look at this video to get an idea.

Field was only a short drive from the area we stopped and our stomachs and bladders were happy to acquaint themselves with this lovely little town.

Whilst the majority of travelers would drive right past this “blink and you will miss it” town, the turn off the highway was worth it.  The town is nestled at the base of a huge mountain and situated alongside a beautiful river.  The townsfolk are obviously proud gardeners because the gardens were stunning.

After parking the car we dined at the only cafe that was open for lunch – The Siding.  We enjoyed a lovely bowl of soup and a sandwich and made the most of being inside – the afternoon sun was a little too warm for dining.

After lunch we walked around the town and took photo’s of the flowers and the mountain vistas before returning to the truck and continuing our journey westward.

Field is around halfway to Sicamous (the town we are stopping in tonight) and it was around 3.30pm when we left there.  However, we gained an hour after crossing into British Columbia so we were not to concerned about getting to Sicamous with “light to spare”.  Indeed, at this time of the year the sun doesn’t set until after 9.30pm.

The post-lunch drive was wonderful.  I had not been this far West on Hwy 1 so the scenery was new to me.  There was quite a lot of roadworks along the way but we didn’t have to make anymore lengthy stops.

We passed the towns of Golden and Revelstoke on our way and eventually arrived in Sicamous around 6.30pm.  A pleasant 5 hour drive through the Eastern Rocky Mountains.

Our dear friend Gary had booked us into the Best Western in Sicamous.  He used some of his accumulated points and shouted us a free night – what a guy!  We were able to get a ground floor unit – a big bonus given the Princess’ desire to collect all things heavy.  Her suitcase weighs a ton!

After settling in to the room we freshened up and went in search of the restaurant that the reception staff recommended – Moose Mulligans.

I am not sure if the restaurant is named after the creatures that inhabit these parts of the town itself (pronounced sick-a-moose) but it is a funny name for a restaurant.

We were able to dine outside overlooking an inlet.  Sicamous is known as the “Houseboat Capital of Canada” because it is located on the beautiful and vast inland waterway known as the Shuswaps (pronounced “shoe-swaps”). Check out the following website for information on this amazing area.

We watched the sunset over the inlet while we dined – a beautiful sight given the nearby bushfires.  Not a pretty sight for those evacuated by the fires but a pleasant experience for us.

We returned to the hotel (not much happens in Sicamous after 10.30pm!) after supper and managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour (albeit that we had gained an hour).

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