This is the diary that we wrote while we were in Canada. It covers our
whole month-long Canada trip, from start to finish, in chronological
To skip to a particular place in our diary, select
from this list
Vancouver - First time
- Second time - Third time
Saltspring Island (Lakeside gardens)
Victoria (Vancouver Island)
Squilax (on Shuswap Lake)
Revelstoke - First time - Second
Jasper & Maligne Canyon
Icefields Parkway & Athabasca Glacier
Lake Louise & Kicking Horse
And they're off...
Well - suddenly it's stopped being a surreal future, and instead it
hits home as "here and now". As I'm writing this we've just got through
our first day on the road - which hasn't been as difficult as we'd imagined,
but it's been a lot, lot longer.
Emily woke at 2am, and beyond 2:30 there was no
way that she was going back to sleep. So we've been up since then with
her, trying to keep her quiet in the hostel, then Charlotte woke, and
at 4am we had our first breakfast (Honey Nut Loops, since you ask!),
then at 6am we hit the street and had coffee and cinnabuns in the shop
round the corner (can't recommend both of them highly enough to give
you a caffeine and sugar rush when you've got jet lag!). Then on to
the shoreline, to see the sun rising, the floatplanes taking off, and
Vancouver buzzing with joggers and wino's.
We've had a pretty good day - the most amazing thing we saw today was
a tree growing on the top of a skyscraper.
But the key is - we're here, we're well, we're enjoying it, and so far
the only thing the girls are missing is space in their bedroom. Can't
2 days in...and loving it.
Well, we've been in Canada since Wednesday evening,
and we're sitting in a coffee shop now, updating our diary.
Our first impressions? Canadians seems incredibly friendly, and Vancouver
seems like a wonderful city - relaxed, with lots of greenery - and amazingly
considerate drivers. Every time we wonder whether we're safe to cross
the road or not, we find drivers stopping to let us cross. I heard somebody
yesterday complaining about how bad drivers are in Vancouver - they've
obviously not been to London.
The hostel is everything we'd expected it to be - a small room with
bunk beds, and a shared bathroom and kitchen. Everything is spotlessly
clean, so sharing isn't really a problem in those circumstances (although
I was given a lesson in 'proper' washing up last night by a japanese
lady who didn't speak english - from the sign language I think I'd been
committing the cardinal sin of 'not rinsing suds off dishes properly'.
We've used the kitchen quite a bit, as the girls have enjoyed 3 or 4
breakfasts every day, followed by a couple of lunches, and a small tea.
If appetite is a way of telling whether your children are off colour,
then ours are definitely enjoying travel.
We've taken a few photo's already, and found the digital camera great,
because you can see immediately if the photo is a good one or not, and
delete it/retake it to make sure you've got the right shot. And then
to be able to load it onto the web, and share it with everybody immediately
- well compared to last time we were travelling, when we came home with
2,000 prints all together, it's a world of difference.
The Internet is the other amazing thing, with the ability to keep in
touch. We've had quite a few emails in the last 2 days, from people
wishing us good luck, and we've been able to reply, and update information
for them. Again, the comparison to last time we travelled is amazing
- when we'd write home, giving 3 weeks advance notice of the next Post
Restante address for people to write to, and we'd get the letters a
month later. I'm sure there will be a time when we regret being so easily
reachable (hmmm, taxman, bills etc) but so far it seems magical.
In Vancouver, for our two days, we've managed to fill the time easily
- yesterday (Friday) we went to Stanley Park, which is huge and green.
We didn't really 'do' anything there, apart from wander around, play
on the swings (kids too!), and have a barbecue lunch in a parkside cafe
(hmmm, not cheap but a little treat every day will help the first few
weeks). We've also been popping into a coffee shop each morning for
a coffee, and to use their wireless connection to update our diary (as
I'm doing now). It costs us about £5 for coffees, buns and a half hour
Vancouver has been a great city to start with - the weather has been
gorgeous, with hot sunny days and bright blue skies reflecting off the
sea, which seems to surround us - everywhere you look, at the end of
the street there's water. And, for a city, the people seem so friendly
and have time for you, compared to a city in the South East, where saying
"hello" randomly on the street marks you out as a nutter! Travelling
with the girls is certainly an ice breaker with people - lots of people
admire their clothes - and it makes it easier to chat with people.
Today we're leaving Vancouver for a wooden cabin on the shores of a
lake on Salt Spring Island - a chance to slow the pace down and to take
it easy for a bit - so we'll update the diary when we come back to civilisation.
Until then, we'll be sunning, swimming and sleeping.
Well, we've had a bit longer to get used to it
now, and to recover from the jet lag. And it really is fantastic to
be doing this. The children are having a great time - enjoying exploring
all of the places that they can, and becoming more relaxed within strange
a few days in Vancouver we took a combination of city buses out to Tsawwassen
(yup, I don't know how to pronounce it either), and then hopped onto
what seemed like the world's oldest ferry to Salt Spring Island. We
chose it because it's a great place to relax, with a combination of
60's hippies and 'moving out of the city types'.
The trip was pretty uneventful, as the ferryweaved it's way through
the Gulf Islands. The harbour when we arrived was pretty impressive
- just a long natural harbour, with rocky shore and wooden houses clinging
to the steep shoreline - all with their little jetties for their boats.
Apart from that, there was nothing - no town, no hustle and bustle,
and no bus (whoops). Anway, a shuttle and a taxi later we'd arrived
at Lakeside gardens, which was pretty amazing.
We had found our accommodation on the Internet
and it turned out to be everything we wanted.
We're staying in something the size of a Wendy house, with a double
bed suspended from the ceiling, and a gas hob outside the front door
for cooking on. And through the window we have the most amazing view
of a lake, the hills and nature, nature, nature. We've got some nice
photo's that show what it looks like, which we'll update this page with
at the weekend when we get back to civilisation (at the minute I'm sitting
in the village public library typing this), and we've also created a
little video to show you the outside and inside of the hut (just because
some people won't believe that Sarah can sleep in a wendy house AND
So far everybody's well, enjoying it and eating like horses. We've discovered
that Canadian bacon tastes nicer than English bacon (especially when
cooked on the camp fire), and that we can buy pancake mix that makes
breakfast quick and really nice. In fact, at this rate I'm not sure
if we'll ever want to come home! (Only joking).
Lakeside Gardens - Living in the garden shed
We're staying in a little lakeside cabana (if
ever there was a good example of marketing, this must be it - in England
we'd call this a "shed", but by calling it a "cabana" you create all
kinds of cutsey images). It's got a bench downstairs, which the children
sleep on, and then a suspended deck above which makes a double bed for
view from the window is amazing - we look over a peaceful freshwater
lake, and a tree filled landscape. Somewhere amongst the view are a
few other wooden houses, but they are pretty unobtrusive, so waking
up in the morning is an amazing experience! The cabana has a small cooking
stand outside, with a gas stove, and round the corner a small washing
with the tap fed with water directly from the lake. It creates a pretty
idyllic living environment, very similar to camping but without the
confinment you get in a tent (and none of the sounds of childhood like
"ZZZZzzzziiiippp" as somebody went to the toilet in the night). We'd
have been pretty pleased with this place if we'd chosen it as a holiday
destination, let alone as one of our backpacking stops.
children have loved the grounds - with boats to paddle the lake in,
swings and a beach to swim from. It's very "Swallows and Amazons" stuff.
It has been very relaxing for us, because we're in a park area, where
we don't need to worry too much about the children - they can wander
off to play without us having to watch them every second. We have made
sure that Emily understands not to go near the water, and despite her
willingness to break every rule we've ever created, she does seem to
be following this one (phew!)
The other people staying here (there are 7 more cabanas sleeping 4,
two cabins sleeping 6 and 10 camping spots) are Canadians, plus a couple
of American families. This is great, as it means we can find out more
about Canada, and we've had some good advice about the rest of our trip
(DON'T ASK about the evening that one couple gave us good advice about
making sure the children are safe from cougars and bears in the Rockies).
Most of the people we've spoken to are here again, and some have been
coming here for 10 years or more. That says omething about how magically
relaxed it is, and how nice it is to be alongside a lake. I guess we'd
hope to find other places like this as we travel around the world, but
I don't hold out much hope of finding anything as idyllic.
We've made a video to show what it looks like - pop across to our Video
Album to see it.
The only difficulty has been transport - we're on foot, and as there's
no transport on the island, and no shops nearby, I've been hitching
to town (about 6km) to get provisions. That has allowed me to meet people
living on the island (tourists don't pickup, but locals do) and so far
I've met a Californian who moved here last week, a lady who runs a holiday
home rental agency, somebody who makes rammed earth houses, a South
African couple who moved to Canada 16 years ago (but still sound like
they stepped straight from the Bush Veld), a washing machine repair
guy, an artist and a carpenter. One lady even went past her turn to
drop me here at the campsite, before heading back into town. It's certainly
been a good experience, and when we leave tomorrow we may well hitch
down to the ferry terminal at the other end of the island (possibly
a bit more tricky with four of us, but we'll see).
Overall, Salt Spring is a great experience, and one that the whole family
has loved, and we'll be sad to leave tomorrow to head off to the hustle
and bustle of Victoria on Vancouver Island. But we've got things to
do, places to see, and the Orca's await.
Leaving Salt Spring Island...and on to pastures
Today we had to leave Salt Spring Island, as
it was time to go to Victoria, on Vancouver Island (a very quick geography
lesson was needed when we first got here: Vancouver is a city, on the
mainland; Vancouver Island is an offshore island, a 1 1/2 hour ferry
ride away, which is nothing to do with Vancouver. The city there is
to prove that we're not really doing this by limo, here's a picture
of us by the ferry dock of Fulford on Salt Spring. And yes, that really
is all of our luggage! The black bag behind us contains the carrying
rucksack for Emily when we're sightseeing, and her car seat.
Somebody who was staying at Lakeside Gardens
gave us a lift down to the ferry terminal, about half an hour away,
and from there it was a 2 1/2 hour ferry & bus trip to get to downtown
Victoria. As we drove into town it seemed pretty grim - shopping malls
& Wal Marts seemingly on every corner, but once we'd arrived in the
centre of town we realised why it's referred to as a small corner of
England in Canada. There are English-style buildings all over the place
- beamed buildings, grand colonial style hotels, and English pubs and
fish and chip shops. (No, it didn't make us homesick - can you imagine
anything worse in 30-degree heat than the smell of fish and chips!)
Our hostel is an independent one, rather than a HI (like YHA) one. This
means its a bit more anarchic, with a bar and music downstairs in the
common room, rather than being like a cross between a monastery and
a library. The walls look like Changing Rooms moved in - bright colours
and all kinds of posters stuck all over them.
was first to claim her locker - she likes to find new places to hide
in every hostel we arrive at - mainly to cause us a few moments of panic
We then went round the corner to "John's Place", which was a 'diner'
- Wurlitzer jukebox, booths to sit in, bottomless coffee cups and HUGE
portions! We all had a blow out lunch - we've realised that when we've
been travelling, it's good to have a treat afterwards to boost the energy
levels back up again. Then it was time to relax about town, and to book
a whale watching trip for tomorrow.
been offered three choices for whale watching - a rigid inflatable (zodiac),
where you sit in the full immersion/survival suit for 3 hours, a big
catamaran, or a small silver, odd-looking boat. We chose the silver
one because it had an inside deck, whereas all the others were open
all round. As it turned out, it was a good choice, because once you're
moving out at sea (and these things really do move!) it gets pretty
cold in the wind, and for about 40 minutes we were in fog, which was
pretty freezing outside. Judging by the expressions on the passengers
on one of the Zodiacs we passed in the fog, we'd made the right choice.
trip was 3 1/2 hours long, and we saw killer whales (Orcas) - the picture
is of a whopper called Ruffles - Minke whales and seals - seals, sea
lions and bull Elephant seals. The trip was great, although sadly the
Orcas stayed about 400 yards away, and didn't do any of their acrobatics.
It was also pretty expensive (in backpacking budget terms), because
it cost just over £100 for all of us - but we won't see Orca's anywhere
else, so it was a once-only chance.
Today was the closest we've been to normality. A family we'd met on
Salt Spring Island invited us over to their house for lunch. Alix and
Brian had three children - Anna (6), Will (3) and Reid (1) - who had
lots of toys.
and Emily had a fantastic time playing with all of the toys in their
garden, and seemed to ignore the food so that they could continue playing.
One of the best toys was their climbing wall - Charlotte and Emily loved
climbing all over it - it seems that in Emily we've got a bit of a natural.
It was really relaxing, and when the waterslide came out, the giggle-factor
went through the roof. All in all, we had a great afternoon, and the
children really enjoyed playing with other children, and more toys than
would fit in any number of rucksacks.
On Saturday night, in Victoria's Beacon Park, we went to the Lumina
Festival. This is quite unlike anything we've ever seen before. For
a start, it was a family oriented festival starting at 9 o'clock in
the evening - but the reason for this is that it's a lantern festival.
The park is given over to static displays of lanterns, and art performances
such as bands and dance groups (it certainly brought out the hippies
of Victoria, who happily wandered the park with their babies wrapped
to their bodies in the African style sarongs).
Thousands of people fill the park, and many carry their own home-made
lanterns. Before we arrived, I thought a lantern was either those red
'Chinese ball' style ones, or those Z-spring paper ones you buy from
Ikea. But the people of Victoria have other idea's. In the weeks before
the festival they seemed to have spent their time thinking up the most
amazing lantern shapes. There were birds, fish, kayaks, whales, globes,
horses, buses - basically you name a shape, and somebody had made a
lamp in that shape. And it wasn't just "a fish", but specifics such
as "a trigger fish" or "a killer whale".
Anyway, pictures tell a thousand words, so I'll let the pictures describe
themselves. As you can imagine the children both loved it, and didn't
have a problem staying awake until 10:30, and even managed to walk back
to the hostel through the whole of downtown at the end.
An unforgetable experience.
Sealing a great trip to Victoria
I know, it's an awful pun, but it is late at night as I write this,
and my good jokes don't work late (aha, says Uncle Euan, your good jokes
don't work early either). Anyway, Sunday was a rush day, with loads
packed in. (If you are one of those people who wonder what backpackers
do all day (Janet), then today was a typical day). We rushed
our breakfast down and walked across town to the harbour, and caught
the small ferry across to the Fisherman's wharf. While there are still
fishermen on it (for example, a chap selling Dungerness Crabs for CAN$5
a pound - about £5 for a two-pound crab), there's more houseboats. It's
like a small bit of Seattle imported into Canada. Remember "Sleepless
in Seattle"? - well it's a bit like a mini-version of that.
reason to head there is that a seal hangs around the wharf, waiting
to be fed by tourists, and the girls really, really wanted to feed it.
We'd imagined that when we got there, they'd suddenly go a bit hesitant,
but oh no - off marched Charlotte and Emily to the fish shop to buy
some left over salmon. And then they go on with feeding the seal. Emily
wasn't so keen at the last minute, but Charlotte had a great time -
leaning over the edge of the dock and handing pieces to the seal to
Charlotte tells the story much better in her diary - if you've not
found it yet then follow the link at the top of the page.
Then we had to get back to the hostel in time for our checkout at 11am.
We left our rucksack in the luggage store while we walked down the street
to John's Place. It's a locally famous diner, where HUGE breakfasts
are served up at the weekends, and we needed fortifying for the rest
of the day. Somehow Canadians aren't as big as they should be - the
food portions are huge, and leave me full for the whole day. Its amazing
that often we see the Canadians order a meal, with a few side orders
like extra fries, sausages etc. They obviously lead a more active life
than typical Americans, otherwise they would all be 25 stone!
Then at 1 o'clock we caught a bus to the ferry terminal, just over an
hour away, then caught the 3 o'clock ferry towards Vancouver. It took
one and a half hours, which went pretty quickly, especially as the scenery
was amazing as we passed between the Gulf Islands, through narrow straits.
At the other end we caught a bus straight to the city centre (another
40 minutes) and finally staggered in through the door of the hostel
at 5:30. We were hot, tired and felt very dirty, so we went straight
down to the beach, about 300 yards from the hostel), via the Dunkin'
Donut shop, and blissed out on the beach for an hour, munching doughnuts
and sipping Coke. (Life can't really get better than this, could it?)
And that was Sunday done, all ready for a Monday morning...
Vancouver - Back to the City
We were back to the same downtown hostel we originally
stayed at. That was quite nice for us all - somewhere familiar and a
kitchen where we know where everything is!
This morning the girls and I went to Science World while Sarah caught
up with the mail. Charlotte enjoyed herself playing with all the "push
me" buttons, while Emily crawled through the beaver lodge and enjoyed
the balloon lecture (well, she enjoyed the balloons popping!). Science
World is a bit like the Science Museum in London, but with lots more
hands-on things (you know those pin-boards where you can make an image
of your hands by pushing against it - well, there was a full-size version.
Guess who got to press his whole body against it - nice image!)
We also went to the pool in the afternoon - but this time I went prepared
and sun-creamed myself up. So no "red as a beetroot" moment, this time.
What a relief!
Hire Cars, and Higher Costs
We've learnt a lesson today - that booking a
car in advance on the Internet is MUCH cheaper than waiting until the
last minute and trying to get a deal. We've rented a car from Discount
Rent-A-Car, and in advance I'd checked out a price on the Internet -
$159 Canadian dollars a week (about £80) - but thought I'd get a better
deal if I waited. Not true - we're now paying $229 dollars (about £105),
so it's cost us £25 a week by waiting. Oh well, its a lesson.
we did discover that the downloaded "free rental upgrade" voucher worked
a treat - instead of the Suzuki Swift we'd paid for, we got an Impala,
which is a typical North American big car
(Handy hint: If you want to get a good deal, book in advance, and use
something like Breezenet or Orbitz)
Squamish - Heart of the
Winter Olympics - 2010
Wow, we're in a celebrity town. Or at least,
a town which thinks its a celebrity. All over the place are flags saying
"Squamish - Heart of the Winter Olympics 2010", because the Olympics
are coming to the region in 7 years time. However, "Heart of" is the
kind of phrase I'd invent in my best marketing moments (not that there
were many of those). Basically the Olympics will be in Vancouver and
Whistler...and guess which town sits halfway between them - yes, Squamish.
So, in a way, the 3 grocery stores, 4 petrol stations and 5 fast-food
restaurants that make up Squamish are at the centre of the Olympics,
in the same way that the hole is at the centre of the doughnut.
Anyway, I'm putting Squamish down a bit too much. We're staying at a
great hostel, the Squamish
International Hostel, which is a brand new hostel beside the Sea
to Sky Highway 99. It's really nice - we've got a motel style room (ie
bathroom in the room) and a brand new kitchen and dining area. (Don't
believe the web site, it is actually finished).
a huge waterfall nearby (Shannon Falls), a lake for the children (Alice
Lake), with self-guided trails through the kind of woodland scenery
you see here, and a McDonalds for a treat.
Roasting to the Rockies
We've left the coast, and are heading towards the Rockies. Today we
completed the first part of the journey, from Squamish (right on the
coast) to the village of Squilax, on Shuswap Lake.
started off on Route 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, which winds up from
Vancouver, through Squamish and Whistler following the river valley,
surrounded by snow capped mountains. It's an amazing drive, with beautiful
vista's on every turn.
From Pemberton, we turned true East, heading directly inland, and up
across the first of the passes. As we climbed, the temperature, which
had been rising from the coast, started to fall, and by the top of the
drive we had clear air, and a pleasant temperature. We stopped to look
at lakes, and saw a classic log jam at one.
we drove down, and the landscape turned from grass and trees, to dirt
and desert. At Lilloet we met our match, as the heat soared to 36 degrees
plus. By this time we'd confirmed that the air conditioning was definitely
not working AT ALL! :-(
After lunch in what seemed like the world's most god-forsaken town (the
greatest thing that I can say is that the A&W restaurant had air conditioning
that chilled you to the bone), we went up higher again, and had a swim
in a lake, before hitting the hottest part of Canada (39.5 degrees yesterday)
at Cache Creek. Somehow I hadn't imagined Canada would be like this
- the pictures you see of snow covered peaks give you the impression
that its temperate, but even in Jasper & Banff (near glaciers) its 32
So, we're hot and travelling, but we've now got 3 days on lake side,
with swimming a top priority!
More interesting news on the hostel tomorrow (before then, I'll let
you do your homework on what a caboose is).
Squilax, Shuswap Lake
current hostel (HI Shuswap Lake at Squilax) is exciting because most
of the accommodation is in "cabooses" - these are the carriages that
you see on the end of the long trains in the old westerns, where the
guard sits, and the baddies always meet their untimely end. And, if
my memory is right, always the one they detach from the train just as
the rest goes plunging into the ravine. Well, anyway, it looks like
the picture! In the early 90's Canadian railways decided they didn't
need them anymore (they were principally for braking and observation),
despite the size of their trains. (We counted a train yesterday that
had 110 wagons behind 2 engines. And when you're at a level crossing,
that's a very long, very slow moving train.) But I digress...
hostel bought three cabooses, laid them on some railway track in the
gardens, and turned them into six-bed dormitories. They have a small
dining area and kitchen, as well as a desk (originally where the guard
watched the track disappear - or the indians charge, if he was in a
movie), and the 'window box' on top, which is where I'm sitting now,
typing this diary.
It's got two seats, one each side of the carriage, and windows looking
forward, sideways and back. You're reminded that it was a railway carriage
everywhere you look, as well as by the engine-grease smells. As you
can imagine, the girls are very, very excited about this all.
The rest of the hostel consists of an old storefront (just like the
Westerns too!), a campfire and a native sauna. This is basically a 4-foot
high circular mud building - it looks like one of those cheaper 'stand
on the lawn' rigid swimming pools, with a roof. Inside is a small pit,
where red hot rocks from the fire are placed, and then water is splashed
onto it. The temperature goes skyward, and five minutes later everybody
cramped inside is sweating tons! The first time I tried this it was
very hot - in fact, so hot that I went straight to the lake and jumped
in at midnight. I don't like swimming in cold water, but this was easy
after such a roasting, to get my body to a normal temperature. Anyway,
if you get the chance, try it - but make sure you listen well, and don't
mishear 'native sauna' for 'naked sauna' (another story, another time)!
On the lake shore, sitting on the swimming jetty today, we saw bald
eagles, beavers, deer and a small brown bear on the opposite shore.
Its a sure sign that we're starting to get closer to the Rockies, and
the National Parks.
it all sounds idyllic, we couldn't recommend the hostel to others, because
its nowhere near the same standards of cleanliness and order as the
other HI hostels in Canada - if you come here, be prepared for a shock.
One of the oddest things is that the hostel keeps two llama's in a pen,
and the eating area is pungent with the smell of hot llama pooh!
Now they are grazing on the lakeside - and the lake nearby is now full
of llama poo - Charlotte has stopped swimming, and instead both Charlotte
and Emily are using life-saving rings in a game of "Hoop the Poo". Of
course, we caught that on video to show what it looks like - pop across
to our Video Album to see it.
Fire, Smoke and Evacuation
Well, we've had our first bit of real tense-excitement
now on our trip. The area that we are in has been declared a "National
Emergency Area", because of raging forest fires. It started with a single
trail of smoke on the northern horizon, which grew and grew into an
ugly streak across the sky. Then another one started - a plume of smoke,
and a huge plume of cloud growing above it as the air was heated and
forced upwards. On the radio we learned that there were 243 forest fires
in the area, and 2 big ones had gone out of control. Suddenly, towns
were being evacuated, and roads closed.
On Saturday morning we looked out and the skyline had disappeared. A
dense smoke had descended over the whole area, for hundreds of miles,
which caused the sun to become very hazy, and the air had a pungent
smoke smell. The fires were now covering up to 4,000 hectares, and 8,500
people were evacuated.
then another one started, south of us (the other two were north), and
in 24 hours this covered 4,000 hectares. 800 firemen were working on
the three fires, and the army were called. In total 10,000 people were
evacuated, and our hostel was triangulated between all three! Fortunately
the closest one was 20km away, but it certainly ruined the air, and
made us a bit nervous.
Three major roads were closed, and instead of heading west from Squilax
to Kamloops, we had to head east to Revelstoke. This was because the
Kamloops - Jasper highway was closed by the fires, and so a 200km detour
is in hand!
"Phew, what a scorcher" turns into "Phew, what a burner"
Revelstoke - Oasis of calm
We're now in Revelstoke, a calm and peaceful
town between the smoke and fire around Kamloops, and the tourist-filled
roads of the Rockies. The air here is much clearer, and we can see the
high peaks of the Rockies to our East.
The town is absolutely beautiful - full of wooden houses which have
been preserved from day's gone by, and very picturesque. Our hostel
is an amazing building, with oak floors everywhere, and cool rooms (that's
cool heat-wise). It's nice not to be boiling every single minute of
the day and night.
Later today we meet up with our BBC TV Holiday programme crew and head
into the Rockies proper, up to Jasper (where a new forest fire has started!),
and into mountain territory.
Our plans are being affected by the fires, and our views, but we're
perfectly safe - the public advice and information is brilliant on radio,
TV and via the Internet. And from later today we'll have a guide with
us, plus minders from the tourist offices, so it'll be even safer.
BBC Day 1 - Revelstoke
First the BBC director Mat phoned. As a result
of the forest fires we were in a different town to the original plan
- some 150 miles to the east of where the crew were standing! But we'd
warned them already, so while we were able to have a relaxing morning,
they had a drive through the smoke area to meet us.
We arranged to meet them at 12:00, and at 11:30 popped around the corner
to the local 'drugstore' to get nail varnish for the girls (special
treat: alternately coloured toes!). Anyway, those of you without two
daughters would have thought that would take less than half-an-hour,
but of course it had to be strung out until the veins in my forehead
were ready to explode (red/silver/green/purple/metallic /non-metallic/dark/light/gloss
etc etc etc. And where do they get all those different names for shades
of red from, let alone convincing girls that "cherry red" and "maple
red" are actually different colours). Anyway, when we finally wandered
back around the corner to the hostel at 12:20, we found the BBC crew,
and Mat had his veins popping out of his forehead too! Apparently, the
hostel had no idea who the "Fleming family" were, because we were booked
in by the researcher, Amanda Egbujo. So the hostel think we're the Egbujo
family, and despite us being the only family in the hostel, the Japanese
chap behind the desk insists that there's no Fleming family in the hostel.
So Mat was just about to explode having a mysterious disappearing family
on his hands. It was a good start - nobody has ever been so relieved
to see us walking up the street!
Anyway, because they are going to be a feature of our lives for three
days, let me introduce you to: Mat (Director and cameraman, who holds
the camera about 12 inches from our faces), Steve (Soundman, who holds
a huge fluffy microphone on a boom about 24 inches from our faces),
and Patsy (Tourist Board guide, who also holds onto Emily when she does
a runner mid-shoot!).
had lunch and a "get to know you", and then jumped into the cars for
the five hour drive to Jasper. Sadly, we'd chosen exactly the wrong
day to do that - the forest fires had caused lots of traffic to be diverted
onto the Trans-Canadian Highway 1 we were on, it was a public holiday
("Heritage weekend"), and it was very, very hot. We finally arrived
at the half-way point at 8 o'clock at night, after 6 hours driving.
It was an amazing drive, but when we'd driven for 3 hours at 3 kilometres
an hour, we'd stopped being wowed by the scenery. The picture on the
left is a fire cloud - it grows rapidly above a forest fire, and because
of the speed it grows, its quite distinctive. This fire was about 80
kilometres south of us, and had caused one of the road closures. Its
really amazing to watch, as well as depressing.
After a dinner stop at the services at Lake Louise town (not to be recommended)
we then drove up the 230km of the Icefield Parkway, the world's third
most beautiful highway, AT NIGHT! In total darkness, no moon, no glittery
starlight. Just total pitch black. DOH! Anyway, we finally arrived at
our B&B at 1am. (We had to stay in a B&B because the hostel was full.
It's the first time on the trip where the girls are in a separate room,
and it's really nice, especially after such a horrible day).
Life with the BBC
Well, we're now travelling in a different way
to normal backpackers - not just because we're doing it with two small
children, but also because we've got a camera team with us, working
for the BBC Holiday programme. The idea is that they'll follow us for
ten days, and at the end of that have enough to make a 8-minute section
for the new series of the Holiday programme starting in October.
When we first thought about doing this, it seemed like a bit of fun,
which the girls would enjoy, and it wouldn't harm our chances of finding
a job when we got home.
But the closer to filming it got, the more nervous we became. What happens
if we bicker all the time? What happens if some disaster happens while
they're around? Will it really be as much fun as we think? And what
will we look like on TV?
We've blown the backpacker credibility already by hiring a car, but
when there's four of us, its actually the cheapest way to get around.
But the upgraded model makes us totally unlike backpackers (mind you,
without air conditioning, we look as sweaty and hot as every other backpacker,
except for those on air conditioned buses).
The plans have also been upset by the forest fires - we have had to
change some routes and some other plans, and the sky isn't the clear
blue that it was before the fires started. However, visibility is starting
to return, with the peaks of mountains now becoming clearer. Fingers
crossed that'll continue to improve, so that we see the Rockies in their
May the force be with you (in Jasper)
Today was our first full day with the BBC crew,
and because of last night's late finish, we had a lie-in until 9.00,
then met them at 10:30 at the Parks Visitor Centre in the middle of
town. They'd already been busy, and had completed an interview with
a park ranger on the state of the fires, and had mused around town.
They'd also arranged support from the Jasper Town Tourist Office, and
we had Casey the Intern with us for the day as well - a veritable caravan
working our way around town. The first bit was the worst - sitting in
front of the Visitor Centre, being interviewed. It was made worse by
people standing behind the camera, to stare at what was going on. There
are times when being the centre of attention is definitely a very bad
thing. Then we had to walk across the green to the centre, with our
packs on, being filmed from in front. Then again from the side. Then
from behind. And then close up, with the lens inches from our face.
And then we had to go and check out the latest fire situation - on camera.
The poor girl behind the information desk got no warning ("Its better
that way..."), and had the camera shoved inches from her face too.
All of this took a measly two hours, and by the end of it we were all
mental wrecks. Emily got tired about half way through, and just walked
off and sat on the grass (which is where Patron Saint Patsy came in,
wandering off with her and bird spotting on the grass).
Then we saw Jasper the Bear over the green - he was heading to the railway
station for the launch of a new train service to the coast. And off
we went, gatecrashing the train launch, and the girls taking every opportunity
to cuddle Jasper (not, of course, a real bear, but a guy in a suit -
apparently well known in this area!).
We also found chocolate cake and coffee, so all the children and grown
ups were very happy. And we met the train manager, and the General Manager
of the five star resort in town, who invited us up for a swim later!
But everywhere we were, so was Mat with his camera, Steve with Doodles,
and somewhere in the background, Patsy "fixing".
suddenly we were late for item 2 - a trip up the Jasper Tramway (actually
a cable car) to the top of the mountain. We had a mad dash across town
to the cable car, which had been specifically reserved for us at 1:20,
and rushed straight inside (phew, only had to do that once because they'd
already held it up for us!). Then up the mountain. As we climbed the
temperature dropped, and the views became more magnificent. Within 7
minutes we were over 2,500M above the town, looking down on the roads,
railways and lakes. It was weird, standing in a cable car, looking out
at the view, knowing that Mat was behind us, beside us, (and in front
of us if we weren't pressed against the glass), trying to film what
we were seeing, our expressions, and anything we might say. And above
our heads, or below our chins, sat Doodles (our name for the furry boom
mic), capturing everything. We now know what a claustrophobic experience
it is (and at this point we've started wondering why we agreed to this!).
at the top of the mountain, we hopped around the rocks, enjoying the
air (Jasper in the valley was a bit hazy from the smoke of 2 nearby
fires), and trying to forget that everything was being filmed. Mat occasionally
asked questions, or got us to rock-hop in a particular place/direction,
which made it a bit strange. But we were at the top of a mountain, and
we'd got there for free. So I suppose we couldn't complain!
And then it got better - the PR lady for the tramway had reserved us
tables in their restaurant (burgers etc but with the most amazing view
for any restaurant!). We sat at the front of the restaurant, surrounded
by glass, with a huge drop below our feet and relaxed (Mat was eating
his lunch, so no camera moments!). And then an ordeal - out onto the
observation deck to be quizzed about what we were doing and why, and
what all our friends thought etc etc. It was a nightmare, because you
have to answer instantly, even though everybody else will have lots
of time to analyse what you say. Its at times like this you can't help
thinking about the fact that 8 million people may see this, and if you
say something dumb, your friends - at least - will spot it.
we were doing this (Sarah and I) we had to amuse the girls somehow.
Which is where the three PR ladies scored top marks - we got the nail
varnish out of the packs, that we'd bought yesterday, and the girls
got their toe nails varnised in the restaurant (still looking over the
amazing view). They were chuffed to bits, and I bet it's the first time
that the PR team have done that in order to promote the Rockies! A brilliant
moment for everybody.
Then we had to rush down the mountain for item 3 - to whizz across town
in a minibus with a tour guide and see Maligne Canyon. The original
plan was to see the canyon, and then head out to Maligne Lake, but unfortunately
a fire had broken out the day before, and the lake was off limits. The
canyon was okay, but the girls were quickly bored, so we walked, filmed
and headed back to town (Murray, if you're reading this, it was not
to do with your guiding - it was just the end of a long day).
we left the crew behind, with an arrangement to see them later for dinner,
and jumped in the car with our swimming gear to head to the Fermont
Jasper Lodge Hotel (5* happiness). When we got there, the General Manager
Jan had already briefed his assistant Manager, Ralph, who greeted us,
gave us a quick tour and took us down to the pool. All of the staff
had also been warned that we were coming too, so they settled us in,
gave us towels, and offered us complimentary sandwiches and drinks for
us and the girls. This has got to be the upside of having a camera shoved
in your face at every opportunity! It was fantastic hospitality, and
after a while the girls were offered ice creams and more drinks. We
were treated like royalty, and everybody was very chatty and seemed
to know us. It was a contrast to ten years ago, when we'd sneak into
an hotel in India/Thailand/Malaysia to use the pool, often for a few
dollars a day, but we'd have to take our own drinks, because we couldn't
afford the hotel prices. This might seem like a small thing to you,
but its these kinds of things that make us all human again after a days
Down the Icefields Parkway
Before I write any more, I have to say "WOW". Today we drove down the
most amazing road, the length of the Rockies from Jasper to Banff. It
was around 150 miles, and it took us 10 hours, because we had a couple
of long stops, but also because we didn't want to rush past all of the
scenery (This is going to be tricky, I've just realised that I'm going
to write something too superlative-laden, so excuse me if I repeat "amazing"
and "beautiful" too many times!).
stop was the Columbia Icefields, which is huge, and invisible over the
horizon. But the bit you can see is one of the six glaciers that descend
from it. There's a centre beside the road where you can take a SnoCoach
to the glacier. Basically, we all piled into a coach which took us up
to the side of glacier, where we all transferred into a special bus
with HUGE tyres. This drove onto the ice, and to a parking area in the
middle of the glacier. It was tacky and touristy and absolutely brilliant.
The driver gave an awful pun-laden commentary, but as soon as Charlotte
and Emily touched the ice, they came alive as though they'd been hit
were running around, dipping their toes into slush pools, throwing ice-balls,
and basically laughing until they ran out of air. Of course, Mat and
Steve were around too, filming from a distance, and then they had to
try and get the girls to stand still long enough to find our why they
liked it. But Emily wasn't having any of that - she just took off to
play on the ice again whenever she wanted (that's my girl - no respect
the way back down Emily fell asleep (lots of running + thin air (3,000m)
= whacked child), and when we were waiting for the transfer to the other
coach, I sat down with Emily on my lap, taking in the glacier view.
What I didn't see was the scene on the left - Charlotte being interviewed
by Mat, our budding Jeremy Paxman, about her thoughts. Charlotte can
be quite shy with new people, but after three days with Mat and Steve,
and a few meals with them, she's become completely relaxed around them,
and she obviously loves the camera!
we carried on driving down the parkway, which turned into miles and
miles of long straight road, with huge mountain views either side. Without
anything man-made in the view, we found it difficult to comprehend the
scale of it all - in the picture on the left, there's a car on the road
in the distance, but its barely visible because of the scale of the
landscape around it.
And then after a picnic lunch, time for another stop, at Peyto Lake.
(I'm sorry if this web page loads very slowly, but I just couldn't
bear not to include some of the amazing photo's we've taken so far.
I can't describe this in words properly.)
Anyway, Peyto Lake is labelled "The bluest lake in the Rockies". (Fred
Dinage moment: The minerals in the mountain on the left of the photo,
get picked up by the glacier meltwater, and it turns the lake the weirdest
blue. It's because the other colours get absorbed by the water/minerals,
and the blue gets reflected back up at us). Anyway, whatever, it's a
we left the lake the weather closed it, and it began to rain. Even in
this kind of weather, the view was beautiful - the blue sky had gone,
to be replaced by dark clouds, with tempting glimpses of sunlight in
the distance. This picture is the view of the right hand end of Peyto
Lake as we were leaving. As you can see, 10 minutes had changed the
view completely, but it was still amazing.
And then onwards, towards Banff. As we drove from Lake Louise down to
Banff, we suddenly turned a corner and saw another huge smoke plume.
We were downwind of the fire we saw 2 days ago, and although we were
perfectly safe, and the highway was open, we were obviously much closer,
because we had small pieces of ash and burnt tree landing on the windscreen.
I've tried to capture it in the photograph, to show the blue sky in
the distance, and the brown smoke drifting over the road. It was dramatic,
and yet another reminder that we're here at a bad time for the Rockies.
This fire is believed to have been started by lightning - there have
been 5 or 6 different lightning strikes this week that have started
fires, but most get put out quickly. They have one of the world's largest
helicopters here, flying water bombing missions over the fires, and
every now and again dashing up the valley to put out a new, smaller
fire, before it can take hold. It's the number one subject on the news
and in the papers, and there's no sign of rain for most of the park,
so the risk is getting higher all the time.
Banff - Expensive, tacky and beautiful
When we arrived in Banff last night, we found
out that the hostel is about 50% more than on the coast (around £40
for a family room, compared to £20 in Vancouver). On a budget of $120
(Canadian Dollars) a day, spending $95 on accommodation would blow away
the daytime options. But fortunately, although we're paying for our
own accommodation and most of our food, the BBC, working with the local
tourist boards, are organising all of the daytime activities. It means
that yesterday we saved $100 on the Icefield trip. (If we'd been doing
it ourselves, we may have done the coach trip, but its more likely that
we would have walked onto the glacier from the car park at the foot
of it. But we'd have missed the commentary, which did tell us a lot
about what we were seeing).
This morning we went to Minniwanka Lake, and took a boat trip between
the mountains. Again, another tourist moment, with a commentary from
the onboard guide. Although it was obvious that Dillon the Guide had
done it 20 times a day for the whole season, it was still informative
and told us things we wouldn't have known without the trip. This is
a lesson we'd learnt in India a long time ago, that the guides tell
you things that help to bring what you are seeing alive in your mind.
Unfortunately we haven't yet found a guide who really excites Charlotte
and Emily, but we'll keep looking!
bit that did get the girls laughing and giggling was when Mat blew them
kisses from his boat. We had the opportunity to sit and relax, and admire
the view, while Mat whizzed all around us in his speedboat, taking film
of the boat, the views, and the girls pulling funny faces at him. I
think he was disappointed that the BBC budget wouldn't run to a helicopter
for him, but he had fun in the speedboat!
In the afternoon we filmed inside the hostel, which takes ages (a couple
of hours, for probably a minute's worth of film), with Sarah explaining
about our accommodation, and Charlotte showing Mat how she does her
Maths lessons on the Tablet PC. And then we all went of to Banff Upper
Springs, which was like a swimming pool, but at bath temperature (40
degrees). This was probably the moment we'll have plenty of time to
regret! They hired 1920's swimming costumes, and when in Rome....
So there I am in a 1920's swimming costume, walking out of the changing
room, to find that nobody else was wearing them. And then the lifeguard
makes an announcement "Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a BBC film crew
at the pool today, who are going to be filming. If you don't want to
be filmed please move to the other end of the pool..." And there I am,
standing there in a stoopid costume, with 150 pairs of eyes all watching
me, as Mat made me walk out of the door half a dozen times. God, I've
got no chance of ever getting another serious job if my prospective
employer sees that! By the time the girls had changed, the excitement
had died down a bit, so Sarah was able to walk out semi-inconspicuously.
And then we had the typical 'hot tub interview' bit, but then Mat finished
and went back to his hotel, and we could relax and pretend to be normal
(except that we were still the only people in the pool wearing 1920's
swimming costumes). You will have noticed that this paragraph doesn't
have a photograph alongside it. Well, now you've read it, you know why!
Living with the BBC (well not literally)
Sometimes I wonder whether it feels odd to the
crew, because they are just around us for 10 days, and then going onto
their next project, and I guess they'll never see us again. Whereas
for us, as backpackers, being with people for 10 days is a long time
and a pretty intensive experience. As backpackers you tend to make friends
very quickly when travelling, because you'll only meet people for a
day or two, before you then all move on, and rarely see people twice.
So spending so long with the crew is great for us, because it gives
us a chance to develop beyond an initial 'get to know you'. But it will
seem very odd next week, when we head off to California and they head
on to their next job. That's what I'm getting at - for us this is all
part of a big adventure, whereas for them I would guess it's something
that pays the bills, and is one of 20 projects they'll do this year.
Somehow though, we've felt that we've got to know them better, and that
we're not really being treated as just a 'subject' of the camera.
On the road with Auntie Beeb - Day 5
Today was a day of moving, and not moving. The
plan was to leave Banff and end up in Revelstoke. Along the way we were
stopping to see Kicking Horse resort. As soon as we met the crew we
changed the plan - we definitely wanted to see Lake Louise, and so we
said that as we were driving within 4km of it, we'd stop for a "Kodak
moment" (oops, have I just broken somebody's copyright. And actually,
as we've got a digital camera, it's really a "Compact Flash moment".)
we went to Lake Louise, and it is A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It's everything it
looks like in any photograph you've ever seen of it...and then some.
The colour, which is a turquoisey-blue-green, was stunning against a
backdrop of mountains, some still with glacial ice and snow sticking
to them. And around the bowl of the lake, the slopes are covered in
dark green fir trees. The view takes your breath away as you walk around
the corner from the car park. Even the canoes on the lake, full of smiley
Japanese tourists didn't spoil it, because their scale was minute compared
to the lake and mountains. (Closer inspection of Japanese paddling a
canoe yields many comedy moments - it certainly looks like they don't
have canoes in Japan, because the way that they hold their paddles looks
more like a Kendo stick fight than a graceful glide across a lake!)
Anyway, did I mention it was A-W-E-S-O-M-E? Some things you see in real
life are nowhere as good as the photo you saw somewhere else (eg National
Geographic), but Lake Louise is a million times better in real life
than any photograph you've seen of it.
Mat and his crew agreed, so we spent half an hour at the Lake being
filmed going "wow". Mat even filmed us taking photographs of ourselves,
and other tourists started taking photo's of Mat filming us taking photo's
of ourselves (Confused? Well that kind of sums up our experiences with
the filming this week!)
for an unplanned 3 mile detour, it was A-W-E-S-O-M-E. (Did I already
mention that? Charlotte thought everything was "awesome" last week,
but then decided it was so 'yesterday' and that now everything is "wow").
As you can see from the photograph, Charlotte has also adjusted well
to the omni-present crew, even when the lens is pushed right up to her.
It may ruin the view, but we've got our fingers crossed that it will
make good TV for you all!
We did feel a little bit cheated, because our time there was so short
- reflecting afterwards we'd have liked to do the corny tourist thing
and go out in a canoe, and also walk around the lake for a while. But
at least we got there, saw it, and got a great photo for our memories.
Then we headed off to Kicking Horse Resort, near Golden. This involved
a 2 1/2 hour dash through the Rockies, stopping once for a photo (we
were already an hour late for our pre-booked 'PR opportunity'). But
still, when we arrived we found that we were being filmed taking a gondola
to the top of the mountain, and then being hosted by the resort staff
for a free lunch at the highest restaurant in British Columbia. It was
really nice food (and well worth the $25 - £10 - that everybody
else had paid for the ride & lunch!). If I was putting together a schedule
for somebody, I'd put it on the list - it's a good day trip, with great
views and hiking from the peak, and it's a good break in the middle
of a long drive.
Then we went down the mountain and caught the BearBus (is it me, or
have the Canadian marketers gone marketing word crazy, what with the
BearBus - an 8 seater Hertz minibus- the SnoCoach - a bus with big wheels-
and the Jasper TramWay - a cable car). I think I'm going to rebrand
our trip around the world, but I've got to find the right combination
of words to stick together!
Anyway, I digress (again).
The BearBus took us up to a 22 acre enclosed area where two rescued
grizzly bears live. Charlotte and Emily were enraptured by the sight
of them (although they'd had to sit on the minibus a little too long,
waiting for Mat to line up the first shot, so when you see them on TV
they'll look less excited than they were when the first saw them from
the bus). But it was a great moment, standing four feet away from a
baby grizzly bear. There's no photo for this because it is one of
those memories that we'll prefer to cherish in our minds-eye. And also
because I got three great shots of a fuzzy bear and razo-sharp-focussed
bushes. I think I need more camera training.
By the time we left, it was almost 5 o'clock, so another day had gone
- and we still had a 1 1/2 hour drive to Revelstoke, our next destination.
So we put the car on the road again, and drove through our last bit
of Rockies to arrive hot & bothered. But a wonderful icecream soon solved
that for all of us, and later a nice meal with the crew capped off the
Revelstoke - a spiffing city
Today we woke up in Revelstoke in the SameSun
Hostel (it's good - a wooden building with solid oak floors, nice staff
and friendly guests). The original plan had been to drive across to
Kelowna today, without doing any filming. But Revelstoke cries out to
be filmed, as it's full of old wooden buildings, and it's got a fantastically
rustic atmosphere. So over dinner last night we hatched a cunning plan
with Director Mat.
off, Sarah was filmed with the girls in the Farmers Market - everything
from trying on hand-made jewellery and trinkets, to buying and eating
sweetcorn and hotdogs. All in all it'll probably make up 30 seconds
of the whole programme, but it took 2 hours to film, with lots of 'walking
towards the camera'and 'walking away from the camera' shots. But the
girls enjoyed it, and their reward was a trip on the horse drawn buggy
even got to man the hot dog stall for a while, which chuffed her to
bits, but she was praying that nobody would actually buy a hot dog from
Then Sarah went to a children's pool with the girls, while I went to
the Railway Museum to do my bit of filming alone (well, without Sarah
and the girls, but of course I still had Mat, Steve and Patsy with me
- but I was alone in front of the camera). I know nothing about steam
trains, so trying to ask the right questions, in the right way, with
a camera a few inches from my face was a testing experience. And then
it was into the back yard of the railway museum to summarise the last
week to camera, and explain what its like travelling with the children
(Sarah and I compared notes later - we'd both been asked similar questions,
so we hope that we'd given the same answers - very Mr & Mrs). Probably
the most difficult thing was the walkies - walking around a train on
a path, being filmed. It's nerve wracking, because you think that at
any moment you're going to trip on the stairs or something equally dumb.
And you also become incredibly self-aware - what happens if I walk like
an idiot, and 8 million people laugh? And what do I do with my hands?
And does my bum look big in this? etc etc
Anyway, all of that meant that we didn't leave Revelstoke until 2pm,
but as the girls had been swimming it meant they fell asleep in the
car, which helped to get the 3 hour drive over without too much trouble
(we did, of course, reward them with a McD's meal when they woke up).
And now we're in Kelowna, in the International
Hostel, two blocks from the beach. Emily and Charlotte have settled
into trhe travelling lark easily, and quickly suss out what's the best
thing to see and do in a new hostel. It took them 5 minutes to find
the TV and VCR, and find the stock of Disney videos. The hostel is a
bit more of a 'party place' than others we've stayed in, which means
that the grown-ups are a bit surprised to find that MTV is off, and
Disney is on, but their all relaxed about it!
Anyway, another day done, and counting down our last four days in Canada.
We can't believe its gone so quickly, and we've enjoyed it so much,
but we've got a back breaking schedule ahead of us for the last 2 days,
so tomorrow will be great - a visit to a vineyard for filming, and that's
it. And the girls have spotted that there's a water park down the road,
with huge slides, so that might feature in their afternoon too!
In Flame Infamy
We're famous! The Banbury Guardian saw our website
last week, and picked up on the Canadian forest fires that we'd written
about. And lo and behold, on their website (and presumably in the paper),
they've written a story on it - they'd emailed asked for our thoughts,
and there they are in the article. It certainly sounds a bit more dramatic
that way (even I'm starting to believe I may have been dodging death
by inches last week!). Thank goodness this isn't just a holiday, and
we don't come back for a year. I'm not sure if I would want to be recognised
by Banbury Guardian readers ;-)
Anyway, just to prove how sensational the Banbury Guardian can be, look
at the article.
Late news - we've just heard that we're on the newspaper advertising
billboards as the lead story around Banbury. What a giggle!
Kelowna - nice but wasted time
Today we woke up in Kelowna. The hostel, which
is much more friendly and informal than the others we've stayed at,
had a keg party last night (think of the old Party 7 cans and make it
bigger). Anyway, although it was on the deck outside our bedroom window,
everybody had kept really quiet because of the two small children (seemingly
an unusual occurence hereabouts!). So we weren't disturbed, and this
morning we were up with the larks. Unlike everybody who'd been at the
keg party. (I'll share the secret we found out later in the day -
to make sure that they didn't wake the girls, they all went to the beach
and played in the park, until they were chased out by the police at
midnight (the park closes at 11pm. Then they found a hottub in the back
garden of a retirement home, and bubbled away in that until 4am.)
Mat, Steve and Patsy turned up at 10.00, intending to go straight off
with us for some filming, but they thought the hostel was too good to
believe. So out came the camera and sound boom, and they filmed us cooking
pancakes for breakfast, and then us buttering sandwiches for lunch,
all the time asking questions about different hostel experiences etc.
And then they got some footage of the other hostel guests in their various
states of composure. One of the staff members, Rodney from Bath, woke
up pretty late, and walked into it unawares - but played the role of
a hungover backpacker brilliantly for us (imagine the conversation "Mum,
I'm going to be on TV" ; "Wow" ; "Yes, on BBC Holiday" ; "Wow - what
are you doing, running the hostel? Tour guiding?" ; "Aah, well actually
Mum, they kind of caught me on a bad morning" etc)
Then after an hour of chaos in the hostel (it's pretty small and compact
inside), we went down to the city park, which had a fantastic water
park, with pipes spraying water all over the place. The girls loved
it (Mat didn't like it quite so much, because of the limits on filming
he can do around children and swimming pools). Then we hit the beach
for a picnic, but not just any beach. Patsy 'the fixer' had friends
at a resort beach in town, so we gatecrashed that beach, had a paddle
in their kayaks and generally relaxed. Unfortunately Charlotte got some
sand in her eye, and it put her on a downer for a while.
it was off to the winery, to film a tour. It's not really a typical
backpacker thing, until you remember that a winery tour ends in a free
tasting, so maybe it is! (The hostel runs a 5-winery minibus tour, which
is pretty popular!). By sadly, it was too dark in the winery to film
(because this is supposed to be 'reality TV' it's just a camera and
sound, no lighting), so we ended up just having a glass of wine and
admiring the view from the deck (although it started to rain, so we
had to move indoors). Anyway, from the picture on the left you can admire
the view too - it's kind of mid-west America meets France!
Then it was back to the hostel for a quiet night - Charlotte went to
sleep at 7, although Emily managed to hold out until 9. The girls are
really whacked after 7 days hard work with the crew, and we're amazed
they are holding out so well. Tomorrow is a quiet day too, just driving
5 hours, which is good as it encourages them to sleep. Then we've got
a jam-packed full day in Vancouver as our last Canada day!
Driving, driving, driving me mad...
Today we moved from Kelowna to Vancouver - it's
a distance of around 400 kilometres - 250 miles. (Here's an odd thing
- although Canada is in North America, it seems to be trying to be in
Europe too - they measure distance in kilometres and metres, not miles
and feet like the Americans, and they measure petrol (gas) in litres
and food in kilo's. It's not at all what I expected. I think it is just
a ploy to confuse Americans when they come over the border. "Gee, it's
400 to Vancouver, let's invade Costa Rica instead")
Anyway, we've driven over 2,500 MILES this trip, from Vancouver, up
the coast to Squamish, across to Kamloops, Squilax, Revelstoke, then
through the Rockies to Jasper, then back to Banff, then down to Kelowna,
and finally today down to Vancouver again. The hire car has certainly
earned it's money. I'd not realised that there were such big drives
from Vancouver to the Rockies, although I had realised that I shouldn't
drive coast-to-coast in a month!
Anyway, today was our final drive, and as ever the girls were great
- happy to sit and talk/play/sing while we ripped our way across the
great Canadian motorways (for those of you who've driven them, you'll
know that 'motorway' thing is satirical). We arrived in Vancouver around
2pm, and after we'd put our bags in the hostel I took the car back to
the rental agency.
I managed to get a pitifull rebate because the air-conditioning didn't
work (14 days with 39 degree heat), but Curtis behind the desk pointed
out I could have stayed at home, and baked there!
Still we're here, and life goes on.
Vancouver at warp speed
Today was "the Vancouver day" for the BBC. We
had to pack in a complete filming section for the whole of Vancouver,
and boy, did we pack it in.
We started at 8.00 outside our favourite coffee shop, being filmed walking
down the street, and then buying/drinking coffee and updating our website
via the wireless internet. We also picked up our emails ("thanks" to
everybody who keeps in regular contact!). You can see the kind of antics
that Matt and Steve got up to - sadly I missed the picture of them being
threatened by a trolley bus!
Then it was down to the hostel for a shoot of us walking out, which
we did three times, and then filmed inside (the kitchens, the lobby,
the 'speaking to camera' bit, the bedrooms etc etc). Then we all walked
down to the beach, to catch the False Creek Ferries across to Granville
We had to do the ferry trip twice (of course), and then we went to the
Children's Market in the island, where the girls got to paint pottery,
play in a fun zone and spend some money on small toys.
Then, after a magical lunch looking over the marina and under the arches
of one of the city bridges, we then took another ferry to Science World.
As the girls had already been there, we just filmed, then shot off on
the Sky Train to the harbour.
was the big high of the day - the floatplane, taking off in the harbour
and flying around North Vancouver. What a buzz!
Then back to the beach for some final thoughts (to camera of course)
and then a quick bite to eat and drink, before packing.
Phew, what a day!
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