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.

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!


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?  🙂