Hockey Night in Canada

Okay, not really Hockey Night in Canada… more Hockey Afternoon in Langley – which for the record IS in Canada, but only barely! 😛  Once upon a time, a long long long time ago, Mr K lived on Vancouver Island and worked at a Wendy’s.  Now at that Wendy’s Mr K used to work with Peter and Scott.  Scott still lives in Victoria and he manages a veterinary clinic, but Peter is living here in Vancouver and works as a firefighter in Langley.  As it turns out, Peter has a young son who he regularly takes out on a Friday afternoon ‘stick ‘n’ puck’; which is a casual open ice hockey session for friends to get together and just slap the puck around for an hour or two… and Mr K and the Teenager signed up to have a go!Getting ready to hit the ice…And they’re off and running… err, skating.  Bit wobbly at first, but they both gained in confidence really quickly.Peter’s son – looking quite the pro in his Canuck’s jersey.  He told us all about his favourite players and the number of points, goals and assists they had made so far this season.  This kid is awesome, cute as a button, intelligent and polite, and really into his hockey.  🙂  I was taking photos (obviously) and trying really hard to crop other people’s kids out of these pics, but there were about 24 people on the ice at any point in time and another five in rotation skating in whenever anyone came off.  It was pretty hectic, and I swear there were four-year-olds out there who could skate rings around Mr K. The team from Down Under… making that shit look good fellas!  😛  Turns out playing ice hockey is not like riding a bike… Intense! Look at that grin – I think he likes ice hockey even more than snowboarding.  Dad and the Teenager all hot and sweaty but totally exhilarated.  Grandpa would be proud!  🙂 After ice hockey, seeing we were in the area, we took the opportunity to go and have a sticky beak around Pete’s work.  Peter has been working as a firefighter for eight years now, but was volunteering and working part-time long before that.  He strikes me as one of those fortunate people who have always known what they wanted to do in life, and he went out, worked hard, and got it done. The fire station was really interesting – as you can imagine, these guys respond to way more situations than just fires and their trucks seem well equipped for most situations.

Showing the boys the ropes. Thanks Pete, what a great day – coffees, hockey trivia with your Small Child, some stick ‘n’ puck ice hockey for Mr K and the Teenager, followed by a tour of the fire station.  I hope you make it to Australia one day so we can show you and the family around Brisbane.

Vancouver Aquarium and the Capilano Bridge

Back down the mountain and into the city and it feels a little bit, ‘back to reality’ really… traffic, shops, malls, office buildings, sirens, buses. NOISE!  I’m missing the Aspens on the mountainside already.

Nevermind, we have beautiful Vancouver to explore before the forecast rain sets in for the week and then we will be driven to indoor pursuits.  So the first cab off the rank is Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium (you know, mostly for the otters).

The Vancouver Aquarium is divided into several zones – the Tropics, the Amazon, the Pacific Coastal (and they don’t mean the South Pacific), the Frog exhibitions, the outdoor Marine animals and of course the obligatory and unusually extensive gift shop zone… We started off in the Tropics and had a feeling we would move through this area pretty quickly. I could not count the number of people who seemed to be here just to see the Nemo Fish.  Poor little things will never be known as Clown Fish ever again…  “Look at the Nemo Fish, Jackson. Isn’t he cute?”  Thanks, Disney. Last time I was here there was a surprising display of a wobbegong shark.. he doens’t seem to live here anymore. After whipping through all the familiar Tropical displays we went for a wander through the Amazon rainforest area.  Which is a huge greenhouse of trees, flowers, birds, boa constrictors, alligators, frogs, and even a resident, (though somewhat camera shy), sloth.

Piranhas… look pretty harmless, maybe they just have a bad reputation.  These ones also look pretty meaty – I wonder if piranha is tasty?Tiny poisonous frog… highly advise against eating these. From there we meandered into the Pacific Coast area – which is nothing like the Pacific Coast area we are used to.  Anemones in a multitude of colours (thank fuck for Grammarly – I’m still half asleep and can’t spell right now, which probably means I should put off writing until later, but I’m not gonna so bad spelling and typos ahoy!).  I particularly love the bright green and strawberry coloured northern Pacific anemones.They have some seriously impressive jellyfish display – this aquarium has some of the best jellyfish displays I’ve ever seen, they’re so serene, I could watch them for hours.  In fact, I’d love to have a huge wall of jellyfish at home.  Today the Teenager learned that the collective noun for jellyfish is a ‘smack’.  He told me this very proudly, to which I responded off-handedly, ‘Yes, I know.’ Which caused a slightly disappointed expression… sorry kiddo, it’s hard to teach your mum new words*, you can take it home and dazzle your English teacher though.
(*Qualifier: unless they’re made up, bullshit words from the Internet.) Strawberry anemones… my favourite – this photo does not do them justice at all.Laid-back and cruisey looking starfish that I swear would speak like Alison Janney if it could, you know, talk. Outside to the Marine animals area – dirty big seal. Lesser dirty big seal – Northern Fur Seal if anyone is actually interested. (Complete with annoying lens aberration that I am going to have to investigate when I return home. Grrr.).   Sea otters.  I won’t bore you with the multitude of bad otter photos and videos I took in the poor lighting conditions today… but this guy picking his nose was a highlight.
I must have watched them for half an hour while the guys took advantage of the free wi-fi. I hate it when my phone is taking better photos than the camera… sometimes it’s just way more forgiving of crappy lighting conditions. Then around the corner to see some endangered South African Penguins. These little guys weren’t very animated and I felt sorry for them living in this enclosure – the penguins we saw in the Falklands seemed much happier, huddling, and nesting and hatching and waddling across the sand.  

Anyhow, onwards and outwards via the gift shop – someone in their t-shirt ordering department has a cute sense of humour… We seriously don’t need it, but I was really close to buying this fishy cribbage board for Mr K, made by a local artist named Andrew Riddle.

After the Aquarium, we drove around to the Stanley Pub to meet up with Jay-Cuz ( 😉 yeah, that’s your new nickname) who lives in Vancouver.  We were off to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge gets all lit up for the holidays.  I came here in mid-summer about five years ago, so I was keen to explore the place again, only this time at night.  I was surprised, being local, that Jay-Cuz would want to come with – but apparently, she’s never been to the Capilano Suspension Bridge before, so it would be a new adventure for most of us.
The suspension bridge has a huge long history that I probably wrote about last time I was here, but in case I didn’t and in case you’re interested, here’s the Wiki-link.  The most interesting thing to note about it is that it is 140m long and 70m above the canyon floor and 800,000 people walk across it every year!  Mr K was not so keen, being wary of heights, but we made it across.  🙂  On the other side is the tree top walks in among the enormous fir trees. Half arsed selfies seemed to be the order of the day.  Among the tree tops. As it got darker, my photography got wonkier! A little cabin near a pond… where’s my tripod.  :'(  Further into the Adventure Walk was a lovely area that was filled with these large lighted globes of varying sizes that had been artfully arranged throughout the trees.  It created a wonderful fantastical space that was heightened by it all being reflected in a still pond. We had timed our visit so that it would be fully dark by the time we were walking back (all of 4:30-5:00pm) and the bridge all lit up looked very cool. The canyon floor – shot handheld, at night from a rocking suspension bridge!  😛  I love these fuzzy night photos.  🙂

The Capilano Bridge complex has a pretty nifty gift shop too – full of outdoor wear, local crafts, jewellery, toys and souvenirs. And the whole places smells like maple fudge, and maple cookies, and maple butter, and maple flavoured goodness in general.  Naturally, we acquired some fudge, a souvenir pin, and a small gift for Gran (no, we didn’t buy her the bristly fox). AND – very excited – I finally found myself a fantastic Woolrich lumberjack flannelette shirt.  Last time we were here, I searched high and low for one, but maybe they just don’t sell well in the summer season?!  Very happy with my wash.

Once we left the bridge, we decided to take Jay-Cuz home to Richmond, which she warned us was quite the long drive from North Vancouver, but we got to have fun conversation in the car, and she had promised to take us to dinner somewhere that was NOT more burgers or pizza! (So sick of bad food – after a week of fatnastic sushi in Tokyo!)  So, we ended up in her local village, a really cute seaside area called Stevenson at a restaurant called the Kove Kitchen.  We had a delicious meal (they have fantastic seafood chowder!), which was a wonderful end to a huge day.

Love and Other Outdoor Sportz

We all had an amazing day today!  Everyone head out fairly early to hit the slopes and go skiing and snowboarding early – the bro and sis-inlaw went off to ski some and check out the Peak 2 Peak after our adventure; Mr K and the Teenager made a beeline for some of the Blackcomb green slopes and by all accounts everyone had a great day!

At lunchtime, Mr K and the Teenager came back here, picked me up and we went up to the Whistler Coca-Cola Tubing Park for a bit of snow tubing fun… mostly because well, I’ve been green with bitter envy watching everyone go out skiing and having fun in the snow while I’ve been making the sensible decision to not go out skiing in order to, well, be able to walk and/or function for the rest of the holiday.  It seriously sucks.  This isn’t some bullshit FOMO I’m talking about here – this is actually missing out shit and it has become such a feature of my whole bloody life. I am constantly fighting my traitorous body over the things it won’t let me do, but more often than not, when it comes to the ‘unnecessary’ fun stuff like bungee jumping, jet boating, zip lining or other crazy fun stuff – logic, sanity and/or self-preservation tend to prevail.  Ho-Hum.

But today, I was not exactly hedonistically throwing caution to the wind, but rather had decided to gently wave caution in the general direction of the prevailing breeze?! and head to the tube park for a bit of fun.

Saw this ATV, and was like, stuff tubing, can I drive it?  Unfortunately, the staff wouldn’t let me. Party poopers! The park has a Magic Carpet – which in essence, is a flat conveyor belt that tubers/skiers can hop on and get a ride up a slope to save time and energy.  Seeing you pay by the hour to enter this park, a quicker ride up the slippery slope was a damn good plan.  Up the top getting ready to go down.

Our first run down we jumped straight into the deep and went on the steepest, fastest slope – the black diamond tube run (lol).  We went down individually first and thought we’d pair up for the next runs.Mr K and I ended up racing down the slope, and this being a gravity-driven thing – I thought I’d be outclassed real quick, but as luck would have it, the attendant who kicked my tube to send me down the hill, put a significant bit of spin on it and I went barrelling downhill in a relatively straight spiralling line overtook Mr K who seemed to be having a bit of a bumper car ride, slamming a few times into the edge of his tube run.  So yeah, rifling effect for the win, I beat him down the hill.
Waiting for our next run… And each time come to ever such an elegant stop at the bottom.  😛 

After we’d had enough fo the tubing park, I returned back to the Aspens and Mr K and the Teenager hit the slopes once more this time over on the Whistler peaks to do some runs over there.  They didn’t come back until after dark and I swear I have never seen such happy grinning faces. I think… no, I *know* that they want to go to the snow again soon.  They both had so much fun. Photo op of the day goes to this happy snap Mr K took on his iPhone… he just looks on top of the world.  🙂

We finished off the day with a lively dinner out at La Boca restaurant down in the Village and were spoiled with delicious fresh mussels, braised bison cheek and a lovely local sparkling wine.   Tomorrow, we have to pack to leave the Aspens… and no one wants to leave!

2018, Day One

After exhausting themselves on the slopes yesterday, the Teenager decided he would have a Sea Day, Mr K and I decided we would go and explore Whistler-Blackcomb and the rest of the family hit the slopes again!

Leaving our resort for the day, this is the little walkway that goes out to the slopes. I love the trees all loaded up with snow – I have taken so many photos just of trees covered in snow.  I shall try and refrain from posting too many (she lies!). Whistler-Blackcomb is actually two mountains that make up one enormous ski-resort.  It is located only 120km north of Vancouver and is apparently by far the largest ski resort in North America. It also has the world’s highest and longest unsupported cable car span in the Peak 2 Peak gondola.  Given all this appeal, Whistler Blackcomb is also the most-visited ski resort, seeing approximately two million visitors each year.

We took a regular gondola to the top of Whistler Mountain… The mountainside facilities are quite impressive – restaurants, restrooms, shops for last minute ski type requirements, child friendly spaces with computer games.  Everything you need to have a break if you are day tripping and you can’t just pop back to your apartment for lunch or a break. There are plenty of characters around here – and I can’t confirm this, but I’d put odds on that this guy is Australian. From here we took the Peak 2 Peak cable car across the valley to the Blackcomb peak.
The countryside is just stunning…  It’s a bloody long way down from the gondola.  :/  At the otherside, we had a walk around in the snow, tried hard not to be run over by skiers or snowboarders, and then decided to have some lunch. The view from our lunch table out across the valley – feels like you are on top of the world. After lunch, we took the Peak 2 Peak back to Whistler peak (we didn’t have skis so we couldn’t just take the chairlift back down Blackcomb) so we could return to the Village.

The views today were just incredible – we went up at about midday and came back on the last Peak 2 Peak gondola which was a 3pm.  By 4:30pm, it is getting dark and we were back at the resort with wine and cheese in hand.  Another beautiful day.

New Years Eve in Whistler

What a glorious day!  Today everyone was on the slopes – except me… because bad back, chronic pain, must make sensible decisions *mutter mutter*.  So I decided to go for a walk into the Village and check out the Village Stroll, and I could not have picked a better day for it.  The sun was out, the skies are so blue, and the snow looks pristine and fresh.   The covered bridge across the creek to the Lost Lake. Everywhere you look is another beautiful vista.  I can understand why people flee the cold for the winter – I get it, there is probably only so many times you can look at these landscapes and feel a sense of wonder that overrides the fact that your toes feel like they are going to fall off!  But for us, being from Australia and having only been to the snow a few times in our lives, if at all – this place feels truly magical.
Down in the Village Stroll, at the Olympic Plaza, you can find a sculpture of the Olympic rings from the 2010 Winter Olympic games. Icicles!  Actual Icicles.  Love them… though of course if they ever become a common occurrence where we are from, we will know that hell hath frozen over.I walked around the village for a while, spoke to all the Aussies working in the stores – seriously, I’d have to say 80% of the people who are working here in a seasonal capacity, are from Australia.  There must be something about this place that attracts them, but I met only one Kiwi, and dozens of Australians everywhere!  And it was the same in the restaurants and retail facilities up the mountains, in the ski school, and everywhere else we have been to.  Shopping done, groceries for dinner squared away, I braved the free Number 5 bus and went back to the Aspens.  Didn’t get lost – win!

Later in the afternoon when everyone had done with their skiing, we all went for another walk down into town to show the kids the Village all lit up with Christmas lights. I don’t know where the kids get their energy from, but they were running and jumping and climbing and playing on every little mound of snow they find!  They are absolutely enthralled with this wintery paradise.

Eventually, with our toes freezing (it was -10C and feeling like -15C according to the weather app on my phone), and it still a LONG way from midnight, we decided to find somewhere to thaw out for a while and landed ourselves in the Gnarly Roots pizza cafe for some hot chocolates, hot ciders and a late night ‘snack’.  Whereupon the energy I just mentioned deserted the kids and they damn near fell asleep at the table waiting for food.  That ‘snack’ by the way, turned out to be the biggest pizza I have ever seen!
We warmed up and enjoyed our second dinner *rolls eyes* and then went wandering through the rest of the Village Stroll, from there it was back to the bus to head back to the Aspens, where most of us were sensible and went to bed!  Those of us who were determined to see in midnight got rugged up and head out onto the Blackcomb piste at about 11:30pm to see if we could see the fireworks being set off in the village. The moon was nearly full and there were other small groups of revellers out on the piste as we all waited for midnight.
Seconds after this photo was taken, we were nearly run over by a man on a toboggan blowing a horn of some sort, yahoo-ing his way down the mountain and then stopping, very inelegantly in a snow bank!  😛  Drinking Mr K’s novelty barrel sake that I had given him for Christmas as we waited for the fireworks… It was bloody cold stand around like that and I was grateful for the sake.  Eventually fireworks* and well wishes and cries of ‘Happy New Year’ rang out across the mountain – and shortly after we hightailed it back inside to warm up!   *Completely photoshopped – they put up only one firework at a time and spaced out rather weirdly so I smooshed together four dodgy handheld fireworks photos into one.