Where I’m from.
- Living Abroad
- Nova Scotia
On my last visit to Western Canada with English boyfriend we planned the road trip of a lifetime from Vancouver to Calgary via the Rocky Mountains. We would see mountains galore, stunning glaciers, huge waterfalls and lots of wildlife. There were 2 animals I especially wanted to see because this was Nathan’s first trip to Canada and I wanted it to be unforgettable and because I have never seen them in the wild myself – bears and moose!
To up our chances of seeing bears we decided to take a river boat trip in the Blue River area of British Columbia. This is also where we would have one of 2 camping experiences (for those who know me, neither involved actual tents). After checking into our hut accommodation we rented a couple of bikes and went off to explore the area and do some blueberry picking. As it was the end of summer, a time when bears gorge on berries getting ready for winter hibernation, we managed to freak ourselves out that bears were in the bushes nearby enough times we decided it best to head back to the safety of our little hut.
The next day we headed to River Safari for our boat tour. The set up at River Safari is great, they have boats which can go into very shallow water for getting close to the shore for better viewing, kit to keep you dry and warm and a friendly dog who loves going along for the ride. The guides radio each other sightings of bears to keep each other informed about the best part of the river to head to, upping chances of your seeing a bear.
The area is stunning and the boat ride is a fun one, all making for a fantastic experience. But we were here to see bears, as was everyone else in the boat. All of us scanning the shore for sign of movement, craning our necks, cameras at the ready waiting anxiously to see the beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
Our guide steered the boat closer to shore, then cut the motor and pointed. Not a word was murmured as we were all memorized by the site of a real live black bear foraging for food among the rocks of the shoreline. Lifting rocks, checking out the water’s edge, all the while seemingly oblivious to a boat full of people watching her. She moved her large body across a log graceful as a tight rope walker and as she moved along the shore line we followed along in the boat until she disappeared back into the forest. Amazing.
It was a great experience, along with the bear sightings we learned about the area, stopped off to see a beautiful waterfall and we even saw a second bear on the way back to base. This bear didn’t stay in sight for long but left everyone in the boat feeling satisfied with their experince.
After our second night in Blue River we continued on our journey. About an hour into that day’s drive we came upon what looked like traffic in the middle of nowhere! It turns out these cars were slowing down and pulling over because there were bears on the side of the road foraging for berries; it was a momma bear and her 2 cubs! I rolled down my window but stayed in the car, these were wild bears with only a ditch between me and a big protective momma bear. Not everyone seemed to think that staying in their car was a good idea, one man even decided that of all the space along the side of the road in front of my car, in front of me was the spot for his photo-op. I may have had second thoughts on opening the door for him if the bear charged!
This “traffic” which we called animal jams happened a few more during our time in Banff and Jasper national parks. Animal Jams are a good heads up that there is either an animal or a photographic opportunity of some sort worth stopping for.
As for our luck with moose sightings, well we thought we saw one driving down a remote road until we got a little closer…..
Me and My Comfort Zone
Everyone has their own comfort zone and tolerance for going beyond that comfort zone. For some it is sky diving, for others it is travelling to a foreign country, and for some it is trying new food like peanut butter (seriously I know someone that this is outside their comfort zone). It’s outside this comfort zone you feel, excitement, challenged, and this is where you also learn and change. Go too far outside your comfort zone, your mind and body will revert to survival mode.
One of the reasons I love to travel is because I get to see and try new things, and thus learn about the world and expand my horizons. On my last trip to Canada (very much in my comfort zone) I was in British Columbia and finally did something I’ve wanted to do for ages, I went zip-lining. Ziplining has always look like such fun a bit like flying. The location I chose to try it for the first time, the top of Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, is stunning, vistas of Vancouver and the surrounding area and as far south as Washington state.
I didn’t expect to actually zip between mountains, but that’s what it felt like we were doing on the last 2 lines, far above the valley and tree tops! I don’t mind heights, but I really don’t like ledges. The last 2 zip lines really pushed me outside my comfort zone big time. The guides were excellent and the lines were ordered in a way to gear you up to the next bigger and scarier line, until the last 2. The very last one required standing on the edge of the platform which was on top of a 3 story staircase, on the side of the mountain, on a box. The adrenalin was pumping but I was determined I wasn’t going to miss out, and I wasn’t sure there was any other way back without a major hike, and it was getting dark, and there are bears in those hills!
Here is a video of that last, highest, and longest of the zip-lines. You will hear a huge sigh of relieve when I make it to the other side. You will also see my boyfriend fly by me, I wasn’t the fastest zip-liner in the world, but I was glad I had done it, it was fun and a great rush to push myself, and it sure makes you feel alive.
A Canadian Institution
After my write-up on tea in England it only seemed logical that I write about Tim Horton’s in Canada. I think everyone across Canada has a Tim Horton’s memory of some sort. For me it’s the gooey chocolate éclairs piled high with whip cream that I had as a kid. It kept me quiet and happy while the adults had conversations over their coffee. There seems to be a Tim Hortons in just about every town across Canada, so when you are far from home Tim Hortons is a comforting sight.
Tim Hortons was started by NHL (hockey) player Tim Horton in 1964, then joined by the perfect partner, a policeman named Ron Joyce a year later. From the first store in Ontario (which only sold coffee and doughnuts), to 3000 outlets (and a much bigger menu), Tim Hortons has come a long way. It has has a bigger share of the food service market in Canada than McDonald’s, and has 76% of the coffee market in Canada, compared with the number 2 position Starbucks with only 7%, that’s pretty impressive.
There’s a language to Tim Hortons, like Starbucks, but a more simple one. You only get one kind coffee (filtered), so pick a size, small, medium, large or Extra large (which I’d say is about 1/2 litre!), then instruct how much cream and sugar you want. So it goes like this; large, double-single or maybe Small, single-single. Easy peasy.
When you go past a Tim Horton’s in the morning there is always a line, some times it’s right out the door. There’s a street in my hometown that has a shop one on each side or the road across from each other, as well as another location in a petrol (gas) station about 250 meters further down the road on the corner, ensuring Tim Hortons gets the traffic from all directions. Urban myths abound about how there is nicotine in Tim Horton’s coffee, which is why it is so addictive. I think they have just made a good straight forward coffee, at prices people don’t have to feel guilty about, which keeps them coming back every morning.
At Tim Horton’s there is a very special time of year…. Rrrol up the Rim to Win!! When, after you finish your coffee you roll up the cup rim to see if you have won something. There’re lots of prizes, coffees, doughnuts, and bigger prizes like bikes, BBQ’s, and cars. It was a very happy day in my house when a BBQ was won, all of those years of coffee buying had finally paid off!
For those in England there are Tim Hortons to be found if you look hard enough. In London in the Spar on Haymarket Street (see photo), if you work for BA there is one in the headquarters at Heathrow, in Ireland I have seen Tim Hortons in Spar petrol (gas) stations, and if you want to make your own at home, the Canada shop in Covent Garden, London sells canisters of their ground coffee.
The one thing I would love to see Tim Horton’s do is improve on their effects on the environment, with all the throwaway cups they produce it is an area that needs work. Encouraging people to use their own cups, stop double cupping, use more environmentally friendly materials, as well using fair trade and organic suppliers.
In the previous post Packing Up Your Life I talked about packing up on a large scale. Hopefully this post will help you when you’re packing and coming across individual items you wonder whether you should or can bring or not. With electronics, will it work or will it blow up? Can you get your favourite products, treats etc.in Canada/England?
Electronics (including computers & laptops)
Start with checking the back of the power supply if it says input 100 to 240V it can handle both countries (Canada is on 110V and the UK is on 220V) and all you will need is an adaptor (not a converter) so that the plug will fit into the wall socket. The good news is most camera battery chargers and laptops these days can handle this.
If you have something electronic you want to bring to England (I brought my wireless earphones) then you can get this handy little converter from Maplin once you arrive in England for those things up to 100watts (it seems to go on sale regularly for about £15). There are more heavy duty ones as well should you need it.
In Canada you can buy similar items from The Source, or ebay is also a good place to check (search for voltage converter).
Personal Grooming (looking good)
Some hair dryers have a switch for travelling that allow you to switch between 110 and 220 volts. For most other things the above applies. Those appliances with the 110/220volt switch don’t always work the same, my hair-dryer went from 3 speeds in Canada to one speed (high) in England, but it did the trick for the interim until I could buy a new one.
For me, as a Canadian I always stock up on deodorant when home, deodorant in England just doesn’t seem to work as well. (As a side note I found this blog post by an American Expat about the use of spray deodorant amusing: Pffffffttttttt.) They don’t have Cover Girl make-up in England, so I make sure to have my favourite blush stocked up, though if I made the effort I probably could find one I liked as much in England, there’s no shortage of beauty products here.
For those moving to Canada it depends where you are moving, but most likely you will have to set aside some funds to buy a decent winter coat once you get to Canada and winter arrives, with the exception of the coastal areas of Southern British Columbia where they have similar weather to most of England.
For those moving to England it is all about layering, some days you can experience 2 or 3 seasons in a day, going from damp and cold, to the sun coming out and it turning warm and sunny. As well houses can be drafty, single panel glass windows are not uncommon.
Dairy can’t be brought into Canada from another country, I sadly found this out when my clotted cream was taken from me by customs on the way into Canada when I was returning from a visit to England (such a waste).
There are some shops (online and storefront) that specialized in selling things to expats, those things that you miss and can’t get at your usual shops. So if you find yourself in a bind with a mad craving for say Fruit Loops (Canadian)or Monster Munch (English) and don’t mind paying for it there are options out there. Then there is the obvious, friends and family, be sure to ask your visitors to bring a few things with them.
For the Canadians in England, make sure to check out the Caribbean section in the large Tesco’s where you will find Kraft Dinner and Kool Aid at “normal” prices. As well keep your eyes open for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (my personal favourite) and Pieces, they can be found in local shops (aka corner stores). If you come across Budgens they sometimes have the odd random American selection of things not found elsewhere.
For the most part if you make an effort to find it, or have a local see or try out the item from home, there will most likely be an alternative or equivalent for you. Before you know it you will have new favourites and can’t live without items in your new country.
That leaves, pets and phones (and for the Canadian’s Tim Horton’s), well those are whole other blog posts, and they are soon to be written so stay tuned!
Here are some links to lists of banned and restricted goods:
Information on importing your personal possession when moving to Canada, or England here are the links for that:
Every year in London there is a Canada Day celebration in Trafalgar square that includes all things “Canadian” and all the Canadian’s in London congregate together and show our national pride.
Things Canadian include Mounties, Tim Hortons, Canadian beer (Sleeman’s and Moosehead), Canadian wine, the Canada shop sells their Canadian goodies (dill pickle chips, and various chocolate bars and candies), and Bison Burgers?! (must be a western Canada thing!).
There is a floor hockey tournament, a stage with various singers from Canada, and of course the grand finale, my favourite part, singing O’Canada.
I never planned to go home to Canada every year, but when an invitation arrived from an old friend for her wedding I knew that I couldn’t miss it, I would be home again in 2009. As a bonus I would be home for Canada Day and it would be summer so I could look forward to a day or two at the beach.