Living in a new country brings a multitude of new experiences. Simple things such as going grocery shopping, navigating unusual streets or discovering a different fast-food chain, can all become terribly exciting when they are brand new to you. In fact, some of my Calgary co-workers laughed at my obsession with burger restaurant A&W (the best fast food chain ever!)
So, I thought I’d do a little round-up of my initial year in Canada by sharing some of the things I’ve done or seen for the first time whilst exploring over here.
- Driven on the right side of the road
I learnt to drive in the UK so have always driven on the left side of the road. When going on holiday I’ve always travelled by plane, bus or train, utilising public transport as much as possible. However, Matt and I knew we’d need a car to be able to see the wonders of Canada. I was anxious to drive on the ‘wrong’ side to start off with, plus the roads are HUGE and the cars are HUGE. But with a bit of practice it has become second nature. Recently whilst watching a British TV show I even thought ‘O dear, he’s on the wrong side of the road’ when I saw a car trundle down a country lane!
Armed in a Dodge Grand Caravan with Stow-and-go seats we have been able to stay at some of Canada’s most beautiful camp grounds. It’s a first that has enabled us to drive the entire width of Canada, from Vancouver to Halifax as well as go through drive through ATM’s.
- Keeping active in new ways
I like to keep active. At home I ride my bike around the local park and walk my parent’s whippet (Billy Bones the Pirate dog) for miles. However, Canada has given me with the chance to try new sports, for example fat tire biking, which I wrote about last week. In the summer we were able to borrow a sea kayak and paddle with sea lions in beautiful Cowichan Bay. It took a while to master, but once we got going it was a wonderful experience. In 2018 I hope to go curling and snowshoeing in true Canadian style.
However, my number one activity of 2017 was hiking. During the summer months bears, cougars and wolves frequent much of the Canadian wilderness. It is their home and we must respect that, so I was overly cautious to say the least. But with bear spray in hand I grew in confidence and eventually was able to hike an entire mountain. Whilst not the highest peak in the world, it was an achievement for me. It’s such a reward being able to see stunning views from a mountain peak. Mount Benson, near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island did not disappoint. Standing at 1023 metres tall we were able to see all the way to America from the summit.
- Walked on a glacier
This was one I never thought I’d achieve. In fact, I achieved two things on this particular experience I never thought I would get to do, walking on a glacier AND flying in a helicopter! My parents came to visit in September and spoiled us rotten with a trip to Alaska. A true bucket-list destination for me. When we arrived in Juneau on one of the warmest days of the year we glided above the Mendenhall Glacier with thanks to Jenny our pilot. The views were beyond belief and photographs do not do it justice. Safely landing on the huge ice mass we were greeted by friendly guides who told us all about the formation of the glacier and showed us all the crevice’s. We were even allowed to drink some of the ice cold, crystal-clear water. Spectacular! Thanks mum and Dad (please don’t cry at my blog again Mum!)
- Seen a bear
While I was cautious about seeing a bear when hiking I was beyond happy when we saw one from the car as we entered British Columbia. At first, I thought it was gigantic dog, but the quickest double take confirmed it was a black bear. Finding a suitable place to turn around, we went back to the car park in which Mr. Bear had decided to take a little rest. Respectful of his area and knowing he is a wild animal we stayed far away and zoomed in to capture a picture. With tears in my eyes we left him enjoying his break and continued onward.
He was not the last bear we saw, from an even further distance we saw a bear from our cruise ship in Alaska and then again from the roadside on returning through Alberta. In one year my bear-sightings have gone from 0 to 3!
- Discovered A&W and Tim Hortons
Sorry UK folks, unless you’ve had an A&W burger you won’t be able to understand how much better than McDonald’s and Burger King this fast food chain is. All named after family members, my favourite is a teen burger, whereas Matt enjoys a Papa burger. The highlight however is the onion rings… indescribable! You might however be able to enjoy my other favourite, Tim Hortons. A far better version of Starbucks at much better prices. Their speciality are Tim Bits (doughnut balls in many different flavours) As they have just opened their first UK store in Glasgow as well as Manchester and Cardiff I’m hoping it’s as good as the original. Find your local here http://www.timhortons.co.uk/find-a-tims.php
This year we’ll be finding something new to do to bring in the new year and continue to do new things, big and small throughout 2018. I wish you all happy travels where ever you may be in the new year.