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 ….

wine

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

The heady delights of Jasper

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After Edmonton, we traveled to Jasper for a few days. ¬†It’s a much longer journey than it looks on the map, and was our first sample of the size and scale of living in Canada. ¬†In fact, the first 2 hours of the trip was dual carriageway, with very little traffic whatsoever and vertically straight highways. ¬†It’s not often I’ve seen a sat nav saying turn left in 306km – and as you can see from the photo below, I’ve saved one of the more exciting shots to show you as we were just passing some ‘green space’!

Sat nav

The evergreen trees are broken up by golf courses – in fact, for any budding golfer and golfing fanatic, Canada is the place to come. ¬†I’ve never seen so many golf courses and it made me wonder how on earth they are commercially viable given the sparse numbers of the population and the vast numbers of courses available to ‘make a putt’.

That said, I’m not missing the bumper to bumper traffic of the UK at all. ¬†There are no tailbacks, no queues and even in the ‘busier’ areas, this is the equivalent of early Sunday morning traffic. ¬†In fact, one driver in Jasper was complaining about the difficulties of pulling out onto the local highway, and I’ve got to say, he’s never experienced ‘real’ traffic and congestion if that was anything to go by. ¬†I send all my sympathies to any Canadian brave enough to drive in the UK as it must be a huge culture shock and something that sends them dashing back to their homeland with relief afterwards.

The mountains and Rockies finally came into view and the vastness was extremely pronounced. ¬†We entered Jasper National Park – all vehicles have to display¬†a pass which is issued to them at the various entry points to the parks. ¬†There are bear signs and ‘watch out for moose’ signs – none of which we’ve had the delights of witnessing as yet.

Miette Hot SpringsBig Horned Sheep

We stopped off at Miette Hot Springs which are natural springs where the water (full of minerals) comes straight out of the ground at a blistering temperature of 52 degrees. ¬†This is then artificially cooled to 40 degrees and you can swim in the pool – or rather, bask in the pool as swimming is far too energetic in that kind of temperature. ¬†There are 3 other pools, all with varying temperatures – one at 35 degrees, then another 24 degrees until the final one is more of a ice water pool which is absolutely freezing! ¬†Good for the soul!!! ¬†That said, you’re sitting in mineral pools on the top of a mountain overlooking the Jasper National Park amid stunning scenery and enjoying the delights of the minerals on your skin. ¬†You can see why it’s popular! ¬†A lovely stopping off point – just don’t forget your costume and towel!!!

Jasper

The lakes around Jasper are absolutely amazing – I’ve never seen water that is so vibrant turquoise. ¬†They are clear and extremely inviting – especially on a warm summer’s day. ¬†The picture above is taken from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on the shores of Lac Beauvert which is beautiful at anytime of the day. ¬†Deer walk into the grounds in the evening and ground squirrels play in the woodland surrounding the shores of the lake. ¬†Simply stunning.

Pyramid Lake

 

Pyramid Lake was particularly delightful¬†and well worth a visit. ¬†We had a paddle and dip in the lake and as you can see, there’s almost no one else in sight. ¬†Hard to believe you’re in a prime tourist location – it was almost like having your own private lake!!

The Jasper Skytram is also worth a trip. ¬†Just outside Jasper, you take a cable car to the top of Whistler Mountain and for those feeling energetic, you can walk a further 45 minutes to the summit. ¬†It’s a walk well worth it as your efforts will be rewarded in abundance along the route from the views and panoramic vistas which surround you. ¬†We made it to the top (with 3 kids in tow), on a day which had blue skies, not a cloud in the sky, and complete visibility of Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. ¬†We were informed that this is only clearly seen on approx 24 days each year – one of the very rare occasions when we’ve got our timing completely right!

Mount RobsonUnukchukWhistler Mountain

Take a trip – you won’t be disappointed.

Our next stop takes us from Jasper to Lake Louise … see you in a few days ūüôā