Although they’re our friendly neighbors to the North, I’ve only been to Canada a handful of times. I’ve been to a few cities across the country: Victoria & Vancouver, British Columbia on the West Coast and Montreal, Quebec on the East Coast. Much like the United States, the country varies so much in landscape, architecture and culture throughout the country.
Victoria, British Columbia 2017
Brian competed in a sailboat race on called The Oregon Offshore on our beloved Stay Gold. This race was a three day event from Astoria, OR up to Victoria, BC. To show our support, Izzy, Hudson and I drove down to Astoria, OR to see the boat off and then took the ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC. My mother had flown in from San Diego for the event as well so as soon as the ferry docked in BC, we hopped in our car and drove the 1/2 mile (not sure how many Kilometers that is, sorry Canada!) to the Empress Palace Hotel where we had reservations for the weekend. Anyone who was been to Victoria is familiar with this hotel, it sits very prominently on a waterfront lot and looks like an old beautiful palace. Its surrounded with immaculate grounds and boasts different parlors, tea rooms and upscale shops in it’s lobby for the many patrons who visit her daily. We spent our short time in Victoria celebrating Stay Gold finishing the race despite less than perfect conditions, and doing some sightseeing around town. My mom is a HUGE horse & buggy fan so we did a tour of the “old town and waterfront” via horse and buggy with the kids. We also walked up and down the main street in front of the Empress Hotel and did some shopping, drinking and eating. (A great place for it!) We finished our trip with a visit to an ice cream shop with 6 different flavors of hot fudge and had a great laugh as we watched as Izzy and my mom devour theirs while sitting in giant red Adirondack chairs outside on the busy street.
Vancouver, British Columbia 2006, 2011
This city to me is very similar to San Francisco, CA mixed with Seattle, WA. It’s rainy, green and gorgeous like Seattle, mixed with hip, trendy and populated like San Francisco. One of my favorite things about people from the mighty Pacific Northwest is that they’ve got this innate love of the outdoors. It rains, it’s windy, it’s cold, it’s grey – but instead of staying inside, you put on your rain jacket and boots and your carry on about your day. Amongst the city skyscrapers and populated downtown area of Vancouver, is a large populous walking around in rain jackets 9 months out of the year. This city (much like San Francisco & Seattle) is cozied up right against the Pacific Ocean so that means nearly every view from the streets and many hills in this city, is of the water. This alone is reason enough to love this city.
Besides it’s proximity to the water, other things which attract people to this city are the year round wildlife and whale watching tours, a diverse cultural population, amazing restaurants & food, outdoor sports; kayaking, bicycling, hiking, scuba diving, etc. This is basically an adventurers dream city – you could spend a month here and not ever run out of interesting things to experience. My time spent in Vancouver has been doing most all of these things and there is still much of the city I’d like to explore.
Montreal, Quebec 2012
For those North Americans who want to experience the french lifestyle without having to travel across the great pond, Montreal is the place for you. Settled by the French, it hasn’t given up it’s roots when it comes to its culture, language and food preferences. This city is surprisingly clean for a large city, has a great metro system which is easy to navigate and is built from a number of diverse neighborhoods (think New York City where the neighborhoods and their inhabitants change every few blocks). I had been briefed to expect a city of wealth & luxury: men & women walking around in fur coats, stunning hotels with red carpets awaiting troves of tourists, etc. Perhaps it’s because I was there in October or perhaps the city has changed over time, but what I was expecting and what I was greeted with were quite different.
The city is still quite beautiful and has a really fascinating mix of old and new life. We spent our days walking around the old cobblestone roads down by the water, taking horse & buggy rides weaving through the old neighborhoods and restaurants, marveling at the way life used to be here. In the evenings, true to it’s European roots, dinner & nightlife begin around 9PM. This is a bit late for my American sleep/wake cycle which calls for dinner around 5PM, so I enjoyed a more quiet dining experience but enjoyed it nonetheless. I did get to practice the few words of French I’d picked up while visiting Paris a few years prior, however my American accent and horrible pronunciation in no way let me pass as a local.