Adventures in Whistler

After waving farewell to Vancouver Island we head off to Horseshoe Bay by car ferry and onto our New Years adventures up at Whistler.  The drive was abysmal… snowing approximately 1cm per hour and plenty of traffic.  Thankfully, Mr K learned to drive over here, many years ago, in these road conditions and was happy to get us safely where we were going.  The visibility was dreadful, but no worse than a thunderstorm back home, and the guys on the snow ploughs were obviously working overtime so all up it wasn’t too bad.  Also thankfully, there was only a refreshingly small number of local yokels driving like the roads were ‘normal’ – nearly everyone seemed happy to potter along doing 20kmph under the speed limit and that suited us just fine!

We arrived at Whistler around 4pm in the afternoon – which of course is when it starts to get dark here in the middle of winter, and quickly found our accommodation which was not as easy as it sounds when all the road signs, road markers and hotel signage is covered in snow! We found the Aspens on Blackcomb eventually and were pleasantly surprised to find our two bedroom suite which was to be our base for the week, was much larger than it appeared in the photographs online – I know, when does that ever happen?  We have a kitchen, two bathrooms and a decent sized living room. And the view out the windows was very exciting – around the pools and out the back gate is the Blackcomb piste!  Apparently, I chose well – the ‘ski-in/ski-out’ locations are considered very desirable.  Who knew?  Well, actual skiing type people probably knew.The following morning, alarms were set, and excitement was high as we were getting the kids off to skiing and snowboarding school.  We walked straight out down to Whistler Village to the Skier Plaza where the multitudes of people getting ready to hit the slopes when it was barely daylight, made my head spin!


It was not yet 8am (sunrise wasn’t officially until 8:19am) and the crowds were everywhere, people stalking/stomping around in ski boots with ski equipment casually slung over their shoulders, a DJ playing loud music from a balcony above the plaza, young people scoffing huge hamburgers for breakfast, and kids walking around looking like puffed up starfish in their huge insulated ski pants and anoraks. It was loud, energetic and chaotic.  🙂  This little dude was the only chill guy in the place, and seemed in no hurry to get up the mountain. After we got the Teenager squared away in his first ever snowboarding lesson, we went for a walk down into the Village – everything was covered in snow, which again has the effect of making everything look the same.  We were hunting for the Starbucks to meet up with some friends. Cool chairs outside Starbucks – a little too ‘cool’ for me, I was glad we found some seating indoors. We spend a wonderful couple of hours catching up with Barry and Sandra, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know on my huge 84 night South American adventure earlier this year.  It’s crazy to think that we met travelling around South America and visited heaps of beautiful places all over countries like Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru, together – I mean, we went paragliding off a cliff in Rio de Janeiro together, and hiked up Machu Picchu together! – and now here we are meeting up at New Years in Canada!  This is one of the best things about travelling, meeting wonderful new people whose company you enjoy so much, they turn into lifelong friends.  <3  Fingers crossed that our plans come together and we get to do the TransAtlantic with these guys and the other beautiful people I met cruising around South America, too. It’s hard work trying to keep up with your friends who are already retired… But I can’t wait!  🙂

After our coffee date, Mr K and I were heading into Vancouver for the afternoon to see Kurios and to go to a Canucks game.  The skies were much clearer than the drive up, though the roads… still, not so much.   Being from Australia, everywhere we look is a stunning new vista – just looking down the street with the layer of snow covering the trees and the footpaths is beautiful.   I have taken hundreds of snow photographs.Now it had stopped snowing we could actually see the place we were looking for the night before!  🙂
The drive to Vancouver was beautiful – blue skies, a layer of fresh snow everywhere as there had been about 15cm overnight.  The snow plough guys were out in force working on the roads and they were definitely improved over last night’s conditions. More speed landscape photography – the 99 Sea to Sky Highway doesn’t really have a great many lookout points where you can stop safely to take pictures, and those areas that are intended for lookouts are currently poorly signed due to signage being, well buried in snow!
We made good time down to the city and went to see Kurios, easily one of the best Cirque du Soleil shows I have seen in years.  I am so glad we made the effort to get tickets and go see it.  The only downside is we had left the Teenager up on the mountain having a snowboard lesson and he didn’t get to see the show. I’d take him to see it next week – but the run was wrapping up on the 31st.

After the show we literally walked directly across the road from the 6:45 pm exit of the Big Top, to the 7:00 pm kick-off (I dunno… what does one call the start of a hockey game?!) at the Roger’s Arena for the Vancouver Canucks vs LA Kings game. The Teenager and the rest of the relatives had come down after their Big Day O’Skiing and we met up with them there.  We arrived just in time for the national anthems, very fancy, and in spite of the Canucks not skating their way to victory – it was a great fun game to watch, and the food was as horrid as you expect and our expensive seats were right up in the bleachers where they should be.  All up, a very satisfactory first NHL hockey experience for the kids.  😛

Then it was time to hit the 99, Sea to Sky highway back to Whistler. We were a little worried about what the road conditions would be like driving back in the middle of the night – mostly because the Canadians around us seemed worried about it – but the snow plough guys had been working their butts off and the roads were clear and predominantly dry on the drive back.  Much better than expected.  We were back in Whistler by about midnight and gave a grateful salute to the snow plough drivers as we passed them just outside of Squamish.  What a huge day… and tomorrow – more snow fun for the people!

 

Victoria and the Royals Game

Today was designated Cousins Day – which meant we were off over the Malahat to Victoria to meet up with all Mr K’s cousins.  We arrived around midday and decided to got to a nice seafood restaurant for a bite of lunch before Mr K and his sister had to take care of some business in town.  We both hit and missed on the ‘nice seafood restaurant’ bit.  We went to a place called Nautical Nellies right on Wharf Street, with you guessed it, views over Victoria’s waterfront and wharf areas, and were shown to a lovely table by the waterfront.  Nautical Nellies has an extensive menu with lots of appealing options, so we all decided to try some appetisers as well as main meals so we could taste a bit of everything – crab cakes, oysters, salt and pepper calamari, seafood pad thai, seared Atlantic salmon, and the ‘most popular dish in the restaurant’, the seafood stockpot pie.  Yup.  We had completely forgotten about North American portion sizes and had way too much food! Anyway, long story short – my lunch (salmon) was delightful, but I have it on good authority that the ‘most popular dish in the restaurant’ is foul and the contents of said stockpot pie tasted like they come out of a can!  :/  So yeah… if you are in the area, avoid the place, our waiter Cal gave us a bum-steer on that one.

After lunch we went for a wander around the waterfront to see what we could see.  Naturally, boats in the harbour, a couple of old buildings, like the Empress Hotel, and we made our way around to the Parliament Buildings.
The Knowledge Totem at the Victoria Parliament buildings. I like the frog.British Columbia Parliament Buildings – very traditional English style of architecture which is not surprising at all given the Neo-Baroque style of the late 1890s design and the statue of Queen Victoria out front. The Empress Hotel and a statue of a lady with a book that I couldn’t find any information on… she has a monkey on her back too, weird. Scratch that – “The monument features a seated Emily Carr with her sketchpad. Emily’s Javanese monkey ‘Woo’ perches on her shoulder and her dog ‘Billie’ stands nearby. The statue was erected along Victoria’s Harbourfront on the grounds of the Fairmount Empress Hotel. It is fitting that the ‘Our Emily’ statue was unveiled during Women’s History Month in Canada, on October 13th, 2010.”  Yeah, read that whole ‘monkey on her back’ thing as a bit more meaningful.  😛

After wandering around the waterfront for a bit, we went off to meet the cousins for beer and pizza and … a hockey game!  Woo!   Victorian Royals vs the other team.  Dunno, think they were from Calgary.  The Royals are a junior league – which apparently means the players are all under 20 or so and are basically on watch for the NFL.

The team mascot is Marty the Marmot, which is a small fuzzy rodent loosely related to squirrels – though this guy looked more otter-like than squirrel-like. Beer in convenient sippy cups…  Ice-hockeying… I do like the Royal’s goalkeeper.  His name is Outhouse.

And at the end of the first period, out came the entertainment in the form of these little league guys taking the ice.  They were so cute!  And every single one of them at probably 5-6 years old, can skate way better than I can!

We ended cousin night with cocktails, buffalo wings and the biggest platter of nachos you’ve ever seen at a place called 1550 (because it was open!).  A great night was had by all.  Invitations have been extended for all the cousins to come visit us Down Under, and hopefully one day they will… Julie, I promise there are no spiders in Australia.  Also, we promise to force an Aussie Rules football game on you all – I’ll even deign to go too.

Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities

Last night I went to one of *the best* Cirque du Soleil shows I have ever been to.  Over the last few years, it has felt a bit like Cirque has changed their format with the highly narrative Amaluna and then that bloody awful Toruk crap, but with Kurios, it feels like they have come back to their creative roots with a show that is a synthesis of various circus styles with a very cool late 19thC steampunk theme.

The show is based on a character called The Seeker who is trying to invent a time-machine that can travel between dimensions to a place where the impossible and the possible can meet.  The other main characters are Nico the Accordion Man, Mr Microcosmos who embodies technological advancements, and Klara the Telegraph of the Invisible who can pick up alpha waves with her hoop skirt (pictured below).

The characters are as engaging as the music is beguiling – the main vocal performance by Sophie Guay is a funky jazz, blended with some sort of electro-swing (?) sort of thing that runs through the whole show.  She literally sings for the entire show and gives an amazing performance.

The various acts are what we have come to expect (read: love and enjoy), from Cirque.  A series of vignettes in the steampunk theme that follow the explorations of the Seeker expressed in creative aerial performances and acrobatics, all with immaculately timed and choreographed dances, visually stunning costumes, wild makeup and an amazing array of props.

The incredibly talented contortionists are often a highlight, and these four girls were unbelievable on a huge mechanical hand that must have been about 16′ across.  They are just mesmerising to watch as they pose in all sorts of weird and wonderful positions.I won’t give away too much other than to say there is an amazing Russian cradle duo, some very strong and talented, ‘Siamese Twins’ on aerial straps, a couple of absolutely gravity-defying balancing acts, and a beautiful and cleverly presented hand puppetry scene.  I loved all of it!

The Seeker surrounded by the cast as the show heads into the finale.  

I can’t recommend this show highly enough.  It has probably shifted into being my second favourite Cirque show of all time (behind ‘O’ – ‘O’ is likely to remain the ‘most unique’ theatrical experiences of my life, I think… I’ve never seen anything even remotely like it).  Dralion is still right up there too, though.  🙂

Unfortunately for everyone back home, Kurios is unlikely to be in Australia any time soon – it is currently scheduled to be in Japan for most of 2018 and 2019, but I for one will definitely be looking forward to seeing it again when it does finally come Down Under.

 

Boxing Day at Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens in Victoria on Vancouver Island are world famous gardens that attract visitors from all over the world.  Most people get to see them in the middle of summer with the Sunken Garden looking somewhat like this:

But being here in the middle of winter, our experience was going to be somewhat different.  The Gardens were started in 1904 by Jennie and Robert Pim Butchart.  They had made their living from a concrete factory and had moved to this part of Vancouver Island for its rich limestone deposits.  Once the quarry was mined out – this area formed the basis of a pleasure garden which was designed and built on by various landscape architects over the following century, pretty much. At the moment there is an unsurprising Christmas theme running through the temporary displays that have been dotted throughout the gardens.  Based on the 12 Days of Christmas, I managed to snap some pics of some of them – but probably not all!
Three French Hens: The Rose Carousel at the centre of the gardens: Totem poles that were given to the gardens to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the gardens. Complete with otters! One very cold Teenager: A dragon fountain near the entrance to the Japanese Gardens. The famous Rose Garden, with all the rose bushes hidden under the snow! Lords A Leaping: At this point, we decided we needed to head indoors to warm up a bit – so we visited the gift shop and found ourselves a crazy variety of salted caramel hot chocolates and weird eggnog lattes.  After warming up we braved the gardens again for another quick whip around in the dark with the park all lit up for Christmas.

The Sunken Gardens all covered in Christmas lights. Maids a Milking:We had a wonderful, if freezing cold, visit to the Gardens, and stopped on the way back for another typical Canadian experience – A&W burgers and frosty mugs of root beer for dinner! Seriously?  Slushy root beer in this weather?  🙂

The Aussies White Christmas

Woke up to see a few inches of fresh snow had fallen overnight.  Our SnowWoman (she inadvertently ended up with an hourglass figure) was getting more and more lopsided with every passing flurry.  The kids, weirdly, were sitting quietly with Grandma-Sue at 8am waiting for everyone to rise – they actually had to be reminded that they had received permission to wake the parents anytime after 6am!   We had a lovely Christmas morning with the family, all warm and toasty inside with the snow outside the window – we did spare a few thoughts for everyone back home struggling through Christmas in the mid-30Cs heat, but only a few.

After a bunch of presents were given (I’ve obviously been in Canada too long, my collective nouns have all reverted to ‘bunches’), we went to Uncle Gary’s to meet up with the extended family and spend the afternoon together. Turns out street hockey is a ‘must-do’ Canadian experience which everyone got into with vigour.  We had the full experience with at least one scuffle breaking out, regular breaks upon calls of: ‘CAR!’, and one poor young player copping the ‘puck’ to the gonads.  🙂  Our intrepid street hockey players. Lunch was a lavish affair of roast turkey, baked ham, and all the trimmings.  Absolutely delicious.  For the first time ever, the kids enjoyed a roast Christmas dinner without having to be dragged out of the swimming pool to eat.  A goodly portion of food and wine was consumed until everyone had their fill – and still, they’ll be eating turkey leftovers for a month, I’d say.  🙂    We watched some football and the kids played some games and entertained Zoe, the puppy until it was time to go.  Luckily, one of the cousins remembered to set up a group photo before we all dispersed…
Merry Christmas everyone… we had an amazing time and created a memorable Christmas that I am sure none of us will forget for a lifetime.  <3