There’s a reptile in flight ….

img_9324I think I was a reptile in a past-life.  Usually in a constant state of seeking to nudge up the house thermostat in a bid for a warmer temperature and a place to defrost my hands and feet, I can normally be found nestled under several layers of clothing, with thermal socks and gloves that only a heat-seeking missile would be attracted to.  Ironic then, that I find myself living in a Winter City where temperatures are sub-zero for at least 3 to 4 months of the year.

There’s only two ways to go in such a climate – either embrace the frozen north, or hibernate; only to reappear when the snow has subsided and we start to climb into the positive temperature range around April/May time.  You may be reading this assuming I’m the latter ….. but no.  Despite my cold-blooded tendencies, I do enjoy the winter activities and especially, a spot of skiing – either downhill or cross-country.  Both are readily available in Edmonton, and working in my favour for the cross-country is the fact that Alberta is a prairie-state and literally, as flat as a pancake.  It certainly makes for a less arduous (and by definition, much more fun) way to experience the sport with the avoidance of any hills or steep terrain which would have me hyperventilating with effort and collapsing with sheer exhaustion.  img_0046But I do miss my mountain fix.  It’s one of the scenic aspects I miss most about living in the UK.  That said, Jasper, and the Canadian Rockies are a mere 3.5 hrs drive to the West and are mountainously majestic on a monumental scale.  We’re lucky that we can take a quick trip there for a weekend, get my mountain fix, and attempt the downhill skiing of the Marmot Basin.  With 86 runs, the longest high speed quad-chair in the Canadian Rockies, and views to die for, it’s a spectacular place to ski.  And this past weekend, we did just that.marmot-basinAll the family have their own equipment, and during the past two Winters we’ve lived in Canada, everyone has gradually picked up the skills and technique to get them from the top of a slope, down to the bottom – hopefully, without any mishaps en route.  Even my youngest kid who is now 7, will happily throw herself down the more gradual terrains – which means the whole family can ski together.  My middle kid is the risk-taker, and will seek out every treacherous route in a bid to experience moments of sheer terror with shrieks of hysteria.  Living on the edge is definitely one of her life philosophies ….

Beset with a few challenges including my husband having the navigational prowess of a lemon, my middle kid demonstrating a strong magnetic draw to any dare-devil activity, and my youngest kid being solely focused on remaining upright; I adopt the role of chief navigator and assume responsibility for making sure that whatever chair lift we go up, there’s a route back down that doesn’t require the mastery level of a black diamond.  With the trail-blazing abilities of a bloodhound, I’m relied upon to traverse the various routes down the mountain, identifying a variant path each time from the one before, until we all safely arrive with aching limbs and tired muscles to the awaiting chairlifts at the bottom  – only to be whisked into the heavens such that the cycle can repeat itself yet again.img_9355After a few hours, confidence was high and I decided to inject some novelty, proposing we take a chairlift towards the top of the mountain rather than focusing on the middle and lower terrains.  As we ascended, the views were spectacular and the scenery stunning.  With my attention somewhat distracted, I had failed to notice the need for a rapid exit at the top of the lift as the chairs quickly gained height before flipping around a spindle and returning back to the bottom.  Graciously hesitating at the top to let my kids off first, was my undoing.  I missed the optimum point of departure – and only when the chair started to pick up speed and the ground quickly fell away did I realise a hastier exit was required.  The prosaic lines of the immortal song, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go Now’, reverberated through my head – and a nanosecond split decision saw me adopting an ‘Eddie the Eagle’ approach to descent as I ‘launched’ myself off the chair.goat in flightA ‘Clash’ it certainly was.  Imagining it to be more graciously executed than the reality, I felt I had it perfectly controlled until the landing.  Maybe it was the knees, or even my posture that let me down, but my husband later recounted the moment when he witnessed the ‘splat’ as I hit the ground and arrived unceremoniously in a heap at his skis.  Even the best of us, have our odd moments of misadventure and I’m still chuckling about the incident a week later – whilst nursing a rather large bruise that has managed to feature all the colours of the rainbow.  The bruise has managed to generate enough heat to keep my reptile-like tendencies at bay, retaining warmth in my hands and feet.  I can’t help but think it’s far easier just to notch up the thermostat …. ūüôā

 

Google images supplied the cartoon in today’s blog, the rest have been photogenically captured by ‘goat and kids’

For research purposes only, you understand ….

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There are few better pleasures to look forward to each day than collapsing onto a comfy sofa in an evening with a glass of vino. ¬†Not a day goes by without hearing on the radio yet another ‘research article’ on whether 1 glass, 2 glasses, no glasses, red glass, white glass, whatever …. are good for your health, prolongs your life, or reduces it considerably. ¬†I’m prepared to take the chance. ¬†I don’t care whether it’s the latest fad or whether there’s proven evidence that drinking a glass a night is bad for you. ¬†I wonder whether there’s been detailed research on the best or worst times of day to succumb ….. maybe I’ll have to volunteer ……

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Anyhow, one of the delights of being in Western Canada is that the Okanagan Valley, located in the south of British Columbia, is home to one of the most prolific wine-growing regions throughout Canada. It’s also a massive fruit-growing region with farmers stands at the sides of roads where you can purchase their mouth-watering produce, or even go in and pick some yourself from their overflowing fruit orchards. ¬†Nestled¬†between the temperate rainforests of coastal British Columbia, and the world’s only inland temperate forest on the western slopes of the Columbia mountains, it receives relatively low rainfall and enjoys hot temperatures – so attracts over 200 different commercial vineyards where nearly every style of wine is produced, with¬†over 60 different grape varieties. ¬†I’m on a mission to sample each one ….

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Since arriving in Canada, we’ve taken a keen interest in Canadian produce so given that one of the items from our bucket list was to visit a vineyard (or two), we thought we’d take a road trip to the next province and see what all the fuss is about. ¬†For research purposes only, you understand …

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Now, having come from the UK, one of the things about living in Canada that we continuously struggle to appreciate, is the sheer vastness and scale of the country. ¬† What looks like small distances on a map, are actually huge monster drives. ¬†The Okanagan, for example, is fairly ‘close’ to Edmonton at just over 540 miles (870 km) away, taking at least 9 hours constant driving, during which you cross over the time-line, scale the Canadian Rockies, go through at least 3 national parks, traverse 2 mountain passes –¬†witnessing¬†the climate and dramatic scenery changes as you go. ¬†It’s stunning. ¬†Once you hit the Canadian Rockies, it’s virtually just one road too – the Trans-Canada highway – beside which for the most part, you travel alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway line and the huge red CPR freight trains that epitomise Canada.

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Once you reach the Okanagan, there are vineyards and fruit orchards galore. ¬† The terrain reminded us of being in Tuscany in Italy, with huge lakes and rolling vineyards – it’s a beautiful place to visit. ¬†There are local maps detailing where all the vineyards are, and you can drive in and sample their produce – oh, and purchase a few bottles too (it’d be rude not to). ¬†For kids and adults alike, the lakes are superb to swim and play in – crystal clear waters and at various locations, activity platforms¬†harness¬†small zip-lines on which you can¬†throw yourself in the lake. ¬†You need to in those temperatures too ……

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But it’s the road trip through the Rockies and the national parks that is the most spectacular. ¬†If you’re prepared to do some research, you can hunt out various stop-off points along the way which are just hidden off the main Trans-Canada highway – literally, within a few meters¬†too. ¬†Boardwalk trails which not only give you 20 mins to stretch your legs, are¬†within steps of the parking lot, and can see you deep within the forest – walking amidst Giant Cedar trees, many of which are over 500 years old. ¬†Just watch your tank of petrol during the road trip as the distances are so large and the availability of gas stations few and far between – it’s an extremely long walk if you run out!!

So, I’d definitely recommend it. ¬†The road trip, the scenery, the lakes and the wine. ¬†I may have to take a repeat trip …. for research purposes only, you understand …. ūüôā

A brief change of scenery

New Westminster

One of the novelties of living in a country the size and scale of Canada, is that new experiences and opportunities to do things crop up which you would never previously have thought.  My oldest kid is a keen swimmer (see previous mentions and blogs), and aswell as competing at the provincial level – which sees her travel mostly between Edmonton and Calgary, there are a few opportunities to venture across Western Canada which appear in the swimming calendar during the year.  Back in December, she flew to Victoria on Vancouver Island with her swimming team just to compete – something at the age of 12 in the UK, I don’t think would ever have featured in the itinerary.

These last few days, I’ve flown with her to Vancouver for yet another competition.  It feels quite close to Edmonton being on the left hand side of the country, and yet is still 90 minutes on a plane and for those wishing to drive, a mere 12 hours in a car away.  Distances are deceptively large over here.

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Being a swimming competition, they are not always held in the traditional tourist locations, and this week is no different.  30 minutes outside Vancouver, we’re staying in New Westminster – just south-west of the main area of Vancouver and on the banks of the Fraser River.  Apparently, it was named by Queen Victoria after Westminster in London, and as a result gained its official nickname, ‘The Royal City’.  It’s a working river, and there are tugs and boats transporting huge logs all connected together up the river, plus huge mounds of sand and gravel, piled high and being heaved along on boat platforms.  It reminds you of the sheer scale of transportation which is used in Canada, alongside the huge Canadian Pacific Railway trains which seem to also predominantly focus on freight.

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It never ceases to amaze me the total difference in climate and geography compared to Edmonton.  Edmonton is extremely dry and flat – as is a large proportion of the whole Alberta province.  The recent devastating forest fires in Fort McMurray which are still being fought alongside many other fires across the region, lay testament to the challenges this poses when rainfall is so slight.  Everything is tinderbox dry and the province-wide fire ban has had to be enacted to try to minimise risks further.  It’s a dangerous situation – ironic when we generally spend 5 months a year under snow, but with colossal forests, mostly wooden building structures and very warm weather once the snow has gone, it’s a potent cocktail.

Now in Vancouver, it’s akin to arriving in Manchester, UK.  It’s green, wet, cloudy and humid.  Rain doesn’t seem to be far away, and I stifled a smile when the hotel informed me that an ‘extra amenity’ included in all rooms was the use of an umbrella.  I don’t think I’ve used one of those since I was last in the UK ….. I’ve enjoyed being re-acquainted.

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That said, you can never tire of the wonderful mountain views – it’s so nice to be in a place which isn’t flat.  You forget how much you miss having a hilly terrain when you’ve spent the vast portion of your life surrounded by them.  And the abundance of water, estuaries, bridges, rivers and sea is lovely – something you can only appreciate when you’ve not seen the coast in a very long time.

We’ve had to navigate ourselves on public transport – and get ourselves to the pool locations at daft times in a morning – all of which we’ve managed without major incident.  Thank goodness for modern technology and google maps……

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And food.  We could’ve resorted and played safe with the usual food chains that can be found dotted up and down the streets and avenues, but I’m a bit of a fanatic for sourcing out and discovering more authentic eateries and trying things that are different.  One of the swimming mum’s took us to a new ‘Trattoria’ that had recently been voted best new restaurant, and the food was delicious.  Portions were generous, the quality of the food was exceptional, with my oldest kid appreciating the supply of carbohydrates to provide the energy required for her races the following day.  I also discovered an asian eatery on the New Westminster Quayside, which provided good quality produce cooked healthily and was truly scrumptious.  Next door was a small bakery making all their own pastries and breads, alongside other artisans housed in a small building complex clearly trying to reinvigorate visitors to the Quay.  I may have to restrict my food intake for the next week to compensate for the last few days …

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We’re now down to our last day of competition and whilst my oldest is doing all the hard work, I’m enjoying the change of scenery and chance to explore along the boardwalk, parks and quayside.  Given another chance to visit Vancouver, for those that haven’t been I’d recommend the downtown area and waterfront every time, but for those looking to venture further afield, take a trip to New Westminster and you may be in for a pleasant surprise ……  ūüôā

 

Most of the pics are author’s own, but a few have been kindly obtained via google images 

Spring has sprung??

Canada Geese

Do you know what the collective noun for geese is? ¬†I always thought it was a ‘gaggle’, but listening to Canadian radio earlier this week I find out that there are several different collective terms for geese – all dependent on what the geese are doing at the time. ¬†For example, if geese are on the ground, then quite rightly, they’re often described as a ‘gaggle’, ‘herd’ or ‘flock’. ¬†But if they’re in flight, then it’s either a ‘wedge’ or ‘skein’. ¬†I never knew that till this week. ¬†It got me wondering how geese have managed to get to the high echelons of¬†having so many descriptive terms? ¬†I did an internet search to see how many collective terms are used to describe the joys of having kids – and found a complete dearth. ¬†There’s many terms I’d use to describe my 3 kids – many of which wouldn’t always be complimentary …..

Anyhow. ¬†This all came about as Canada Geese are arriving back in Edmonton (maybe it was a slow news day as it was the key topic of conversation on the radio) with¬†‘wedges’ being¬†spotted in full formation flying in from goodness knows where. ¬†Comes to something when even the Canadian Geese migrate away from here over the winter …. maybe there’s a message in there somewhere? ¬†Being upbeat, it’s obviously a sign that the worst of the weather is over and a lot of our snow is finally melting away after months of being surrounded in a blanket of ‘whiteness’. ¬†I love the snow and have really enjoyed getting active with the skiing this season, but it’s hard to describe the feeling of finally seeing grass in your front and back lawn slowly re-appearing. ¬†Optimism, I think. ¬†That said, most of the lakes are still completely frozen so we’ve a little while to go as yet. ¬†I’ll have to temper my excitement. ¬†And it’s March already …..

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Not surprisingly, the grass isn’t looking that great. ¬†Mind you, if I’d been covered with over a foot of snow for the best part of 4 months, I’d be looking rather worse for wear too. ¬†Even the Arctic Hare that visits our back garden and ‘stops over’ occasionally under the decking, is rather at a loss. ¬†His fur is still pure white so he’s standing out like a belisha beacon until his coat changes to the summer brown colour.

One of the things I miss most about being in the UK, is the bulbs that start appearing and the daffodils bringing bright colours ready for St David’s Day in early March. ¬†Easter is always a good time to get out in the garden and see some colour and new growth. ¬†Not in Edmonton. ¬†The rule of thumb seems to be to hang on in there till May as the ground is still solid and heavy frosts appear during the night, plus not to forget the occasional snowstorm that can bring a full covering back again instantly. ¬†Talking of which, I think that’s the forecast for this evening. ¬†Oh well ……

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We took a jaunt across to Jasper last weekend. ¬†We haven’t been there at this time of year, and whilst the mountain valleys are free of snow, as you start to climb the mountains you suddenly hit the snow-line and the snow depth that still remains is huge. ¬†So much so, that it makes you wonder how long it will¬†take to fully thaw. ¬†The views across the mountains and lakes are spectacular though. ¬†You alternate from being in early Spring down in the valley, to a ‘Narnia-like’ winter experience where the snow even on the conifer branches is 5 inches thick – it’s quite surreal.

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And quiet. ¬†I’ve never experienced ‘quietness’ quite like it when you’re in the mountains. ¬†Complete nothingness. ¬†Absolute silence. ¬†And still. ¬†The only sounds are from our feet tramping through the thick snow. ¬†I was almost expecting Mr Timnus (namely, James McAvoy from the Chronicles of Narnia films), to appear from behind a snow-covered tree. ¬†Failing that, I had hoped we may spot some wild animals in the forests and near the lakes, but these I suspect, were wisely remaining hidden due to our 3 kids who were grudgingly trudging along with us. ¬†I was sorely tempted at several points to feed one of them to any animals brave enough to put in an appearance but in the end we had to compromise on bringing them back home with us (the kids that is – not the wild animals), after we plunged the oldest kid into 3 feet of snow when she ‘helpfully’ doused her youngest sister with a vast amount of snow down the inside of her coat. ¬†We saw the funny side, but it took several hours before comedy and even the smallest hint of humour was felt¬†by the kids themselves…..

The joys of having kids so helpfully brought to mind. ¬†It got me back to thinking of collective nouns again ….. ¬†ūüôā

Give it a shot … ?

Photography

When I was little, my Dad used to spend many hours upstairs in the attic which he’d converted to a small office. ¬†There were two items which used to draw my attention – one was a Hornby train track which he’d set up and the miniature trains would¬†run around the track, stopping at the mini stations. ¬†It was great fun and probably inspired more by Ivor the Engine rather than Thomas the Tank Engine ……

Anyhow, the second attraction was that he would convert the attic to a dark room, for processing the negatives from his camera. ¬†I remember there¬†being¬†an abundance of different chemicals and a highly complex process which had to be undertaken in aspiring to produce the perfect print. ¬†I used to help out and would be in charge of switching on and off the red ‘safelight’ – and watched in awe as the pictures slowly emerged onto the photographic paper. ¬†I remember having to ‘hang’ the damp photos up on a small washing line so they could dry. ¬†You’ve got to admit, technology has certainly speeded the entire process up these days, but there’s something more authentic and unique when the technique to produce them was so variable and long-winded.

I’ve always enjoyed taking pics but never really put more thought into it. ¬†My back-catalogue of pics pre-Canada has largely been dominated by the kids in all manner of British places and undertaking an array of past-times. ¬†Interesting for me to look back on and remember the events, but less so for others!

Since arriving in Canada, I’ve found a new sense of inspiration in the natural landscape. ¬†I have no photographic technical knowledge whatsoever but can appreciate inspirational shots. ¬†I also have a personality trait which lacks patience – so taking pics immediately and ‘in the moment’ is more my style along with devoting¬†total¬†reliance on the sheer brilliance of the automatic camera built into my iPhone.

A friend recently challenged me to post a photograph of nature – online, every day, for 7 days. ¬†I wasn’t sure whether I was cut out for the task, but gave it and go, and thought I’d share these with you – along with details of where they were taken……… enjoy ūüôā

Day 1: There’s an abundance of red berries as you walk through the River Valley in Edmonton which are striking against the predominantly white snowscape and bare-branched trees. ¬†I love the colour contrast and this was taken in the grounds of the Muttart Conservatory – rather like a small ‘Eden’ project here in Edmonton, and definitely worth a visit.

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Day 2: There’s a walking trail called the ‘River Loop’ which takes you around Fort Edmonton park. ¬†Probably just under 3 miles in length, it’s a popular walking route of mine – fairly flat and easy too, for kids to tramp along. ¬†I’ve spotted the occasional coyote along it in the past plus you get to see parts of Fort Edmonton as you walk along. I thought I’d test out a black & white shot …

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Day 3: Also taken along the River Valley but looking towards the Fort Edmonton footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River. ¬†I’m constantly fascinated that it can freeze completely over …

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Day 4: Autumn (or ‘Fall’ as it’s referred to over here), is my favourite season by far for the abundance of colours which are simply stunning. ¬†This next shot I took back in September walking along the Whitemud Park North trail. ¬†We visited ‘New England’ in the Fall several years ago and I think this is equally as spectacular in colour with the ranges of yellows, oranges and reds set against the crystal clear blue sky. ¬†Life can’t get much better than this surely?

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Day 5: There are plenty of bridges cutting across the North Saskatchewan River, all of which are subtly different in style. ¬†I’ve taken lots of pics of many of these, but this next one was a footbridge across a river estuary leading into the North Saskatchewan. ¬†I love the angles and shadows – and whilst this was taken mid-day in Winter, it has something compelling about it.

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Day 6: One of our favourite places we’ve visited whilst being in Canada is Canmore, just south of Banff in the Canadian Rockies. ¬†Along with being home to the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company (highly recommended for any beer-lovers out there), it also has stunning scenery. ¬†This pic I took on a weekend trip when my parents visited last Summer, on a walk up to Spray Lakes just past the Canmore Nordic Centre. ¬†It was particularly notable, as we were obliged to carry bear spray with us and the kids were constantly wondering whether they would out-run grandma should one appear.

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Day 7: My final submission. Taken last Spring, this is Lac Beauvert just outside the Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper. ¬†I can’t begin to describe how peaceful and serene the place is, and the mirror-image reflections in the water, with the turquoise colours and typically blue skies, are staggeringly beautiful.

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Nature at it’s best. ¬†It just goes to show, that as with most things in life, it’s worth taking a shot …. ūüôā

Do you want to build a snowman?

Ice Castle

Earlier this week, I took the kids to visit the Ice Castle which is currently residing in Hawrelak Park – down in the River Valley in Edmonton. ¬†I mentioned in an earlier blog about the Ice Castle being under construction when we wandered past to investigate just before Christmas (click here for my earlier blog). ¬†It’s been billed¬†as the largest ice structure in North America, and true to their word, it includes slides, waterfalls, tunnels and caves through which you can explore.

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Now for those picturing an Elsa Castle nestled on the top of a forest mountain you would be slightly disappointed. ¬†Edmonton isn’t renowned for mountains – or hills of any kind in fact, but it does have plenty of River Valley and scenic parks, and an abundance of snow with sub-zero temperatures to make you feel at home. ¬†Just make sure you’ve got plenty of layers on, snow pants, ultra-tog-rated gloves and some hand warmers – and you’re good to go!

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We’re often blessed with crystal clear blue skies and sunshine, albeit surrounded by snow, ice and chilly temperatures – and it makes for ever so effective photos which I thought I’d share with you …

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And rather like the Tardis, the castle¬†was much bigger on the inside than it was outside – just single-tiered, with spectacular icicles and ice formations. ¬†You’d think that it would be prone to melting, especially since we’ve been basking in the delights of temperatures that have been just above freezing point for most of the last week …… but no. ¬†I guess one of the advantages for selecting Edmonton as the city of choice for hosting such things and with the degrees of cold we tend to experience, it guarantees ice structures remain intact certainly during the core Winter months. ¬†It’s even too cold to build a snowman ….

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In fact, just to prove the point, I should have¬†captured a photo of the large fire pit that is lit and providing a small degree of warmth, constructed from ice and burning chunks of wood in a section of the castle itself. ¬†The irony wasn’t lost on me!

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There are 2 ice slides which get plenty of use from the kids, and the occasional adult who is petite enough to get themselves through the narrow passage and up to the top of the slides themselves. ¬†I concentrated on making sure the kids didn’t plummet too far off the end of the slides and wiping out a couple of picture-taking adults as¬†they hurtled themselves down at speed. ¬†In fact, I’ve just thought of a new game segment for the TV show, ‘Wipeout’……

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You can’t have a castle without thrones (obviously ….), and there were 2 on which to take a royal pose. ¬†Mind you, getting yourselves on these thrones and sat still long enough for an obligatory pic to be taken without slipping immediately off, is hilarious. ¬†There were some brilliant moments with adults of all ages attempting the feat which had me chuckling away and could just imagine appearing in a ‘You’ve Been Framed’ compilation of comedy outtakes.

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So, a great afternoon activity and definitely worth a visit – it’s here till March. ¬†There are certainly advantages to living in a winter city¬†and¬†with the prospect of snow not disappearing for at least another few months yet – I’m off out to¬†make the most of it. ¬†Although, building a snowman will have to wait a while until it’s a bit warmer … ūüôā

Winter sports …

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We seem to spend forever planning and preparing for the imminent arrival of Christmas and all the festivities that go along with it, and yet no sooner has it arrived, then it’s over and we’re now already heading midway into January. ¬†It’s frightening how fast time goes. ¬†But in terms of Christmas, we’ve just had the fortune to celebrate our second Christmas over in Canada – and we made a concerted effort to try to make the most of the break by doing new things and trying different activities.

My last blog mentioned the various shows and attractions we went to see with the kids just prior to Christmas (click here for a reminder). ¬†As soon as we’d recovered from the Christmas Day excesses, we hit the road, and travelled the 4hrs over to the Rocky Mountains and Banff. ¬†Edmonton isn’t renowned for its hills, so you can never take away the delight of seeing the Rockies slowly appearing on the horizon after 2 hours travelling, and the size and scale of the mountains covered in snow. ¬†Ironically, we left Edmonton in -20, and arrived in Banff at -5. ¬†The heady temperatures didn’t last for long and the cold flipped on its head and plummeted us back to the ever so familiar ‘minus double digits’ for the remainder of our stay. ¬†That’ll teach us for thinking it may be warmer further south!

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It’s always nice to have people visit, and extra special this year was my best friend from home who flew over from the UK along with all her family to spend New Year’s week together. ¬†We’re both of a similar mould, and making the most of a week together with family members whose ages ranged from 6 to 76 required a detailed plan and meticulous planning which we’d been developing for the last 2 months. ¬†One of the first activities all bar the seniors of our party were first to attempt, was skiing. ¬†We opted for a family lesson, and ended up with a tutor from Cardiff in good old Wales. ¬† I lived in Cardiff for a while years ago, and we happily compared notes and places as we traversed the mountains. ¬†It’s the first time I’ve been skiing in the mountains since doing it in Europe many moons ago, and you forget the staggering views and scenery at the top of the mountains, just after you disembark from the chair lifts. ¬†Trying to¬†concentrate on the terrain is hard work when your eyes are constantly drawn to such wonderful views – and the skiing itself is crisp, dry, and beautiful powder snow to ski on. ¬†We had a brilliant day.

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Another highlight and ‘must do’ in the Rockies is a trip to the hot springs. ¬†There are several different locations and last year, we visited the one just outside Jasper. ¬†Banff equally have hot springs, and the view across the mountains is amazing when you get there. ¬†There’s nothing quite like the experience of sitting in a blistering hot pool of 40C, whilst your shoulders and head are exposed to the outside elements of -25! ¬†It’s much more pleasant doing this in winter than it is in the summer I’ve found, and there’s also a comical element as your hair, eyebrows and eyelashes start to form ice crystals and freeze. ¬†It’s hilarious! ¬†The worse part, is the decision to come out of the pool and move indoors to get changed …… brrrrrrrr…………

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Next on the itinerary was ‘dogsledding’. ¬†It’s been on our bucket list of things to do in Canada and it didn’t disappoint. ¬†We opted for a firm just based outside Canmore – probably one of my most favourite places in the Rockies – who take you via minibus about 17km towards Spray Lake. ¬†There, you’re greeted by tour guides and 185 huskies who are all excited about being hooked up to sleds and going for a 10km run. ¬†The dogs howl and jump with excitement until the sleds are off and then within an instant, there’s complete silence as you move along the trail except for the patter of paws on the snow and the occasional encouraging command shouted by the guide.

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The sleds are surprisingly comfortable and the winter views of the lake and forest scenery, spectacular. ¬†We even had the rare pleasure of spotting a moose with her youngster moving through the trees – brilliant! ¬†Nature at it’s very best – and certainly puts life into context when you can be out and about just witnessing such majesty. ¬†Amazing.

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Spending time together, doing stuff together, sharing experiences together is what makes such things memorable. ¬†And it truly was. ¬†It was a great week spent with friends and family – and all the more important to us as they’d flown from the UK to spend it with us. ¬†We certainly had a few comic moments too – and we’ll be dining off and recounting these¬†for years to come! ¬†What a way to start 2016 ….

Happy New Year one and all ūüôā