This morning, the topic of my blog came up in a conversation with my parents. I immediately googled “marmite to maple” to see when the last time I updated this thing was, and its been over a year since I posted anything. Landing on the home page was a strange experience; I barely recognized it as my own and felt more like an outsider stumbling across some else’s site. The blog was a huge part of my life when I first moved to Canada, and provided me with some much-needed consistency through my early months and years here. Unexpectedly, it also helped me meet a lot of people, and coffee chats or drinks with fellow Brits abroad were quite common for a while. Then as time went on, I realized that the original purpose of my blog was no longer relevant. I started it to keep in touch with friends and family back home, and to share advice for others thinking about moving to Canada. Almost eight years later, I’ve run out of ‘new Canadian things’ to post about and my experiences moving to Vancouver are now very much out of date. So, what now?
I’m not sure at this point which direction this post is going, other than that so far I’m writing about how I don’t know what to write about. Does anyone even read this anymore? I know Karl’s Mum does. Hi Karl’s Mum! Other than that, is anyone alive out there? In the blogosphere, no one can hear you scream. Anyway, moving on…
Let’s start with where the time has gone. 2017 was a big year, and part of my failure to blog is just down to lack of time. I got married, hosted family and friends from across the world in Vancouver, went on an amazing honeymoon, applied for Canadian citizenship, celebrated ten years with the now-husband, turned 30 and spent my first Christmas with my parents in five years. Actually, that all happened in the final four months of the year, but there was a lot of planning leading up to it all. I guess I should share some photos with you (whoever “you” are), so here you go!
And then all of a sudden it was 2018. Another big year and one that I’m really excited about. I’m maximizing my 15 days of vacation to travel to three new places: Copenhagen at the end of May for what is going to be an amazing wedding (with whistle-stop UK tour en-route), Australia in September to visit the bestie who left Vancouver in January for a year of sunshine and surf (sad times…but I get to visit her, yay!) and Calgary, Banff, Canmore and the rest of those damn beautiful Rocky Mountains in October for my brother’s wedding! The latter has been on my Canadian bucket list ever since moving here and we just never quite got round to it, so I’m forever grateful to my brother and his fiancee for choosing such an amazing place to get married. Thank you! We’re also going to squeeze in a long weekend in Cannon Beach in the summer, because that’s what we do and I really missed not being there last summer (damn wedding).
The other big thing happening this year is that I will officially become a Canadian citizen! The husband and I applied pretty much as soon as we were eligible at the end of August 2017, wrote our citizenship test in January 2018 (We both nailed it with 20/20, but that’s a whole other blog post) and just this week got our notification of our ceremony in March. In 27 days, we’ll be standing in a boardroom with a bunch of other newbs swearing an oath to the Queen and singing O Canada in English and French. Ooh la la! Three business days later, we’ll be applying for our shiny blue Canadian passports aka everlasting freedom from US visa waivers. (There’s a sarcastic comment about blue passports floating here somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. The right blue passport? Blue passports seem to be trending? Year of the blue passport?) It will be a huge milestone for us and one that I definitely didn’t see coming when I rocked up to Vancouver for a working holiday in January 2017.
Tying in with the citizenship thing, I’m also in the process of changing my last name to the husband’s so that said shiny new passport will include my shiny new name. For some reason, a lot of people have a lot of opinions about my decision to change my name (mostly negative ones), but its 2018 and I’ll do what I want. So that’ll be something different.
Maybe I’ll leave it there for today. I will write a post at some point about the Canadian citizenship process as a lot of people are going through it now the rules have changed and it’s the one piece of knowledge I have that’s actually timely and relevant. Until then, enjoy your burrito y’all.
One of the first things you learn when moving to Vancouver is that the rest of the country doesn’t consider you quite as “Canadian” as they are. You don’t have to shovel snow, break ice or wrap up in temperatures that include bigger numbers below zero in the winter than we get above zero in the summer. We don’t get snow very often, but when we do the city tends to grind to a halt amid cries of ‘we never get snow!’. As someone who has only lived here for six years, I know that is not technically true. It was snowing as I got off the bus from the airport in January 2011 and it snowed again in November 2014, as proven by my instagram feed.
Saying that, I do agree that this winter’s snow has been particularly awesome/awful (depending on your reliance on public transit). The first snowfall was in early December and it stuck around long enough to make the city look beautiful…until it turned to slush.
A few days later, all anyone could talk about was the ‘snowmageddon’ that was predicted for the weekend. It was nice to have another smattering, but it wasn’t quite the blizzard that was expected. Still, we made the most of it.
The biggest snowfall came in mid-December and this time it did turn much of the city into a winter wonderland. Walking the dog was like something out of a movie as every area of open space was full of children making snowmen, dogs running around off the leash (shocking!) and snowboarders riding down the small slope to the beach. At was just before this snowfall that I ordered a new winter coat. As soon as I put it on I felt a bit stupid as Vancouver winters rarely call for anything more than a standard coat, however this fresh snowfall validated my purchase and kept me warm during all the morning dog walks.
The highlight of December was of course our annual pilgrimage to Mount Baker, WA where we celebrated Christmas with four days in a cabin. We were slightly nervous about the roads as we knew it had been snowing pretty hard down there, but we arrived safe and sound and enjoyed our whitest Christmas yet.
Vancouver was welcomed into 2017 by some more snow, which put a freeze (geddit?) on many people’s New Year’s Eve plans but did make for a pretty first dog walk of the year the morning after.
Unfortunately for me this week, what comes down then turns into a thick layer of ice that has left barely a sidewalk, road or path uncovered. I had an embarrassing (and only mildly painful) fall on the seawall this week, and the worst part was that I lost my apartment key during the process. D’oh! Those Vancouverites who are better at me than balancing on ice have been pictured skating on frozen streets and lakes in scenes that look like a Tim Horton’s commercial. Who’s Canadian now, eh?
There’s no more snow forecast for the next couple of weeks, which is probably a good thing as Vancouver has become somewhat of a joke on the national and international meme circuit. Either way, the weather has already done to justify my wearing of my new big coat for the rest of the winter. Which of course, is the most important thing.
Last summer my brother and his girlfriend very generously gave us a gift certificate for a motor boat rental as an engagement present. The rest of last summer was a blur of engagement celebrations, pre-planned trips and both sets of parents visiting, and the first part of this summer was a blur of clouds and rain, so we finally got around to heading out on the water a couple of weeks ago. Booking through Granville Island Boat Rentals was easy, and the best part is we could take Dave with us too!
When the day came, we headed to Granville Island after work feeling a little apprehensive about being trusted with a boat for an hour after having had zero experience driving one. The safety briefing was both essential and useful and included pointing to hazards on a map and getting in one of the boats for a demo. Suddenly, they were untying our boat from the dock and we were slowly making our way under the Granville Bridge and out to the bay.
We were lucky enough to go out on a boat in Vancouver for the first time earlier this summer for a wedding celebration where we went round Stanley Park, under the Lionsgate Bridge and around Coal Harbour, so our initial plan for this trip was to head west along the coast of Kits and down to UBC. Unfortunately, when we looked at the map the whole of the area we wanted to explore was marked orange for ‘hazard’, meaning the water was too shallow for us to get close to the shore. Instead, we headed out into the bay where it looked pretty crowded with freight ships and other boats from the shore, but was actually fairly quiet when we got out there. I enjoyed scaring the man by zipping round the huge freight ships that looked even more daunting up close.
By this time, the dog had gone from sitting up and watching where we were going to hitting the deck (the man’s lap) and hiding from the wind and the noise of the engine. It got quite bumpy whenever we got caught in a bigger boat’s wake, so we let him lie down in peace.
After weaving in and out of the freight ships, we managed to swap seats so the man could drive, which is no easy feat with a terrified puppy pretending to be starfish. We headed over to West Vancouver and came back down the coast to the Lionsgate Bridge, then turned back out into the bay to follow Stanley Park back round to English Bay. It was at this point that one of the alarms we were warned about went off. It wasn’t the alarm telling us we were going to fast in a slow zone, it was the other slightly more terrifying depth alarm telling us that we were too close to shore and were at risk of hitting the rocks. We quickly turned back out into the bay and made sure to keep our distance for the rest of the journey back.
We managed to time our hour’s rental with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in Vancouver this year. Coming back under the Burrard and Granville Bridges as the lights were coming on in the city was beautiful, as was looking behind me to see the sun setting over the water.
The hour went by pretty quickly but it was a good amount of time for us, especially given the dog. If I was in a dog-free group I would definitely go for longer, as it’s possible to get as far as Bowen Island or up to Indian Arm with a 2 or 3-hour rental.
Thanks Chris and Holly for our awesome engagement present, what an amazing and unique Vancouver experience!
I did it! 30 days of no meat, poultry, fish or dairy. I wasn’t perfect and will openly admit that there were a couple of times I accidentally broke the rules (damn you Noodlebox and your fish sauce). But overall I was successful in completing my challenge and I learned a lot about veganism, food production and myself in the process. Here are a some of my reflections.
Overall, it was easier than I thought it would be. Vancouver is a great place to live if you follow a vegetarians or vegan diet. The Lebanese take-out restaurant with the delicious falafel, hummus and avocado pita on the next block saved the day many, many times.
But it was still inconvenient. It’s amazing how many bars and restaurants don’t offer a single vegan option. If they do, it’ll be fries or nothing.
EVERYTHING has dairy in it. A lot of veggie burgers contain cheese as a binding agent. Many types of bread contain traces of milk. Most dressings and sauces contain cream. It’s not as simple as ‘I’ll just have this without the cheese please’.
Veganism is much more than just not eating meat, poultry, fish or dairy. It’s a lifestyle based on avoiding all animal products and by-products in every area of your life. My 30-day challenge was the diet side only.
Meat-free hot dogs are one of the worst tasting things on the planet. Don’t even bother.
Veganism is a means to an end, but it’s not the end. It’s not about not eating this or that just to follow the rules, it’s about being aware of the outcomes of our decisions and making the best choices we can depending on our personal philosophy.
Panago offer dairy-free cheese as an option on all pizzas and one vegan (and gluten-free) crust. It doesn’t taste the same. Especially without the garlic dip.
There is definitely such a thing as too much (dairy-free) cheese. I’ll also be happy if I don’t see a chickpea for a while.
You can eat vegan without eating fruit or vegetables. I went two days eating nothing but oatmeal and vegan mac and cheese. Not a healthy option.
Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Thai cuisines are generally very vegan-friendly.
Soy milk does NOT taste the same as cow’s milk in coffee, even though everyone says it does. Neither does almond milk or coconut milk. I really missed lattes, but I saved a lot of money giving them up.
I enjoyed my meals much more when I swapped vegan versions of meat/dairy for plant based foods. Then it’s not ‘vegan food’. It’s just food.
I can be really forgetful, especially when it comes to snacks. I got part way through a pack of mini cheddars (my favourite British snack) before I remembered they contain powdered cheese (duh!). I panicked and hid them at the back of the cupboard. They were first thing I ate after the challenge was over.
There are some really great vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Vancouver. We loved The Black Lodge and Meet on Main. Yummmmm.
I don’t feel healthy and cleansed and full of joy and all those things you read about online that happen when you give up major food groups. I feel OK, but nothing magical.
I eat a lot of tuna. I put it in everything from pasta to pitas to sandwiches to jacket potatoes. Not eating it for 30 days made me realize how much I’ve missed it.
Some food that you think would be vegan, aren’t. Beer, sugar, vegetable soups, tortillas, pad thai and refried beans are on the list. It’s amazing how many processed foods contain actual dairy, not just flavourings (that’s good, I guess).
Some food products that you might not think would be vegan, are. Like Oreos, Ritz Crackers and Lindt dark chocolate.
Now I’ve finished the challenge I won’t continue with a strict vegan diet but I have no desire to eat meat or poultry any time soon, but I am craving cheese and fish. From here, I think I’m a mostly pescatarian who chooses vegan options when I can and still eats meat at Christmas.
What can I say? The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. There are so many blog posts that I meant to write but didn’t get round to, and now I’m wondering whether they’re even relevant anymore.
I wanted to write about that time I decided to ‘shake things up’ and get a tattoo. Then I was going to write about my first trip to gorgeous Galliano Island where I sunbathed, hiked and got driven home from the pub in a school bus by a man playing a drum kit above his head while I tapped along with a maraca. Then I was going to write about the wildfires across BC that caused smoky skies all across Vancouver for a week, dashing our plans for a weekend hiking in Whistler. THEN I was going to write about how we went to Golden Ears Park instead and walked through the forest to a waterfall where the man only went and got down on one knee…eeeeek! We’ve been together almost 8 years, including moving to Vancouver together from the UK, so it was extra special that we got engaged in such a ‘Canadian’ location. The last couple of weeks have passed by in a complete blur of excited phone calls, engagement parties (yes multiple, I’m a very lucky girl) and staring at my left ring finger. Talk about shaking things up.
The best part is, things aren’t going to calm down any time soon. We head to Oregon on Wednesday for an extra long weekend and our first time exploring inland Oregon. We’ll be enjoying some much needed R&R while checking off four of the seven wonders of Oregon: Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Smith Rock and Crater Lake. A week after we get back, the fiancé’s (oooh!) parents arrive from the UK for a two week trip which includes five days in San Francisco. A couple of weeks after they leave my parents arrive for three weeks and we start their visit with a weekend in Tofino. And then it’s practically Thanksgiving and we’ll eat a big roast dinner and have a nap. Phewwww.
While I can’t promise I’ll get around to writing all of those blog posts any time soon (except the tattoo one, I really want to write that one!), I can promise that I’ll keeping enjoying life here in Vancouver. For more ‘in the moment’ updates about the craziness that is 2015 you can follow me on instagram. Who said odd numbered years were bad ones?*
*Oh wait, that was me. Shows what I know.
To say it’s been a mild winter on the West Coast is putting it lightly. Temperatures have hovered in double figures, our heating is now off during the day and I ate brunch outside on a patio this weekend. Down in the city it’s been amazing to have spring arrive so early, but it’s not so welcome in the mountains. All three local resorts have suspended their winter operations, and it sounds like Whistler might not be far behind. I have a season pass at Grouse Mountain and managed to make it up three times before they closed. If I’m honest, February has been so busy that I would barely have had time to make it up once a week anyway, but that doesn’t stop me feeling a bit cheated by Mother Nature. Nowhere near as cheated as the resorts must feel I’m sure, especially as there’s nothing they can do about it. Grouse have offered winter pass holders unlimited ziplining and tours of the viewing platform at the top of their wind turbine which I actually think is a pretty cool gesture and one I can’t wait to take advantage of. Unlimited ziplining!
This still leaves me with the issue of a snowboard and no snow, a problem that I had to go further afield to solve. The man and I decided to swap sunny Vancouver for snowy Vernon over the February long weekend, and guess what. We found winter! When we arrived at our Air BnB apartment our host told us that the area is experiencing record snowfall – the highest in 83 years. Unfair, much? Although it was a particularly warm weekend (such is life), there was still lots of snow on the ground. We walked in it, hiked in it and finally snowboarded and skied in it when we took a trip to Silver Star Mountain Resort.
2014 was the year I finally saw some of BC, and then left BC and saw some of Alberta. I also saw a lot of other places too, some familiar and some new. I was a self employed contractor for the whole of 2014 which meant I could take as much time off as would fit around work, and I made the most of that flexibility. I did a LOT of things in 2014 (start a couple of new contracts, pass the Certified Human Resources Professional exam, invest in some personal development courses), but my travels have definitely been the highlight. Below is a snapshot of the 15+ cities I visited over the past 12 months.
My first trip of the year was just a day in Whistler at the end of January, but was still a little bit of a big deal. I hadn’t been on the Whistler slopes since a few hours’ skiing in April 2011, and I hadn’t ever snowboarded before. Even though Whistler is so close to Vancouver that it’s practically considered a ‘local mountain’, snowboarding there was still something to check off the bucket list.
February arrived, as did my parents. They came to visit for 10 days, the last of which I spent with them in Seattle (technically we’re into March now). I’d been to Seattle a couple of times before and never really loved the place, but this time I took a short ferry trip to sunny Bainbridge Island. It reminded me of Bowen Island and Gibsons, very small and laid back with some fun little shops and great ice cream. That trip made me want to give Seattle another shot. Hopefully I’ll get my chance this year.
I should have written this post two weeks ago, when the snow was actually here. Instead, I was mostly running around the seawall being really excited about winter and Christmas. I know it sounds crazy being excited about snow when I live in Canada, but when it comes to the white stuff I might as well be back in Southampton. We hardly EVER get snow, so it’s kind of a big deal when it happens. SO much so that I forgot to write this post. Then the snow went, December happened and life got in the way. Oooops.
It’s been weirdly mild this week (the temperature is back in double figures) and although the warmer temperatures are nice, it’s ruling out any chance of the current torrential rain turning into snow. There’s now less than two weeks until I’m back at the Washington State cabin for Christmas so it better get colder soon, at least south of the border, so we can have our white Christmas. Until then, I’ll remember the blissful two days when we had snow in November.
In less than a week, the Marmite-to-Maple family will be driving down to Oregon for our annual August-long weekend beach getaway. I love love love the Oregon Coast, but I hate hate HATE the drive down. We’ve never waited for less than 3 hours at the border, and always hit traffic at Seattle, no matter what time of day. Just when the gridlock ends and you think you’re making progress, you hit another wall of parked cars and realize you’re only at Tacoma. Last time we drove down (to get Dave!) I swore I would never ever do that drive again. However, we’re not willing to pay to take Dave on a plane, so here I am about to embark on the annual journey from hell. This time, we came up with the brainwave of heading to the US in advance to pay for our $6 visa waivers so that we don’t have to do that part of the wait (usually 2 hours with Dave crying in a kennel) next week. So on Friday night we booked a Zipcar and headed down to Point Roberts, Washington.
Point Roberts is one of those weird geographical anomalies that happens when countries set boundaries without really thinking everything through. According to Wikipedia, the correct term is ‘pene-exclave‘, but most Vancouverites know it as ‘the peninsula that sticks out past Tsawwassen which is in the US’. It’s a very small, 1300 population, 5 square mile area which happens to lie just below the 49th parallel, so was separated from Canada after the Oregon Treaty in 1846. The bizarre thing about it is that it’s only accessible by land from Canada, not from mainland US. If you want to avoid Canada (and why would you?) you have get a boat to the Washington coast. American children in grade 4 or higher have to drive through Canada and cross two borders to get to school in Blaine, WA. Crazy. Point Roberts is very popular with Canadians looking for cheap gas (prices are 20c a litre cheaper than Canada), an American shipping address and summer vacation cabins. And also for immigrants like us who need a quiet, close Canadian border to get a visa-waiver or activate work visas or Permanent Residence. My brother got the bus to Tsawwassen and walked across the border and back so he could get his Permanent Residence a few months ago, and waited in line approximately 2 hours less than we did when we went to Blaine. So off we went to do the same on Friday!