Category Archives: Travel

Berry sweet

Another wonderful aspect of living in Vancouver is the abundance of fresh, local berries here in summer.

Lately I have been taking great pleasure in buying blueberries by the scoop at the local grocers for $1.99lb. I have been buying more than I can eat but I just can’t help being a little greedy as I never get to buy berries in bulk like this back home in Australia.

This week we have discovered all of the blackberry bushes growing along the road, around parkland and the school oval where we go jogging. I have even found blackberries growing down the laneway that runs behind our apartment. Happy days! I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed the bushes before but I suspect that the berries have only just popped up as the weather has started to improve here. A lot of the berries are still green, but they are quickly ripening every day. When we found the first patch of blackberries, I was sure that someone was going to come along and pick them all before we would be back to enjoy some. Now that I’ve realised they are everywhere, I can relax as there are enough to go around for everyone wanting to enjoy a few while out and about.

Blackberries remind me of my childhood; my sister and I would dress in our long sleeve shirts and take buckets down to the paddock to pick the berries when they were in season. Mum would make all sorts of yummy treats with these berries – from jam and pies to ice-cream.

Blackberries were and still are my all time favourite berry so you can imagine the joy I am having at the moment walking down the street and being able to now stop and pick a couple to eat whenever I want!

Discovering something new, particularly something so simple that is right in front of you, is always a pleasure. It reminds me to keep my eyes, heart and mind open to receiving the next surprise from the universe!

So many berries to enjoy for breakfast and as a snack!

Grounds for Coffee…and cake!

Putting one cafe’s claim to fame to the test

This sign enticed me into the café

Strolling down Commercial Drive in East Van recently, I was looking for a cool place to park myself with a coffee and do some writing when I came across this sign on the sidewalk. I felt a pull to go in but ignored it (I think I was trying to be healthy) and continued walking up and down the length of Commercial Drive in search of my café for the day. After nearly an hour of walking, I ended back up at the sign and decided to go in and taste these cinnamon buns.

I’m glad I did. I’m not a cinnamon bun connoisseur by any means, in fact I can’t remember the last time I had one, but the ones at Grounds for Coffee are delicious! Made fresh on the premises, I ordered one with cream cheese icing along with a coffee and devoured the delicious treat in minutes…warm, soft, fresh and naughty – for $4.05, it was the perfect afternoon delight.

Americano and cinnamon bun with cream cheese icing

The coffee was also excellent and my senses appreciated the simple ambience and cinnamon-infused aroma of the café. With free Wi-Fi, I was able to sit down, relax and enjoy an hour to myself writing before heading to pick up my daughter.

I highly recommend this place and can’t stop thinking about that bun; I suspect I will be back here again for another one before too long.

A room with a view

Living the high life in Burnaby, British Columbia

City views from our lounge

Before we moved to Vancouver, we managed to find on Craigslist a fully furnished apartment to sublet for the first 5 months of our stay here. While we had seen pictures and had a virtual tour using skype, they simply didn’t do the apartment justice with its amazing city and mountain views.

We don’t watch TV each evening anymore; now we relax with a wine and watch the clouds roll in over the mountains, the sun set behind the city, and the apartments light up and come to life. After 6 weeks, we still haven’t tired of the view. I’m also still surprised by the number of emergency vehicles that are always screaming down Kingsway and that pink, red and blue lights are quite a popular choice to light up other apartments!

Being used to lots of open space and the outdoors, I wasn’t sure how we were going to go with living 12 storeys up in a concrete high rise, surrounded by other high rises, but this place has a certain magical appeal to it. We are high enough up that we can just see over the top of the tall trees and watch the world go by below us, without getting vertigo. The apartment itself has a really homely feel and best of all, we only had to bring our clothes to move in.

Of course living in a high rise has its downsides such as having to take the elevator to take the rubbish out, having to impatiently wait for the elevator when only one is working, and the amount of dust that seems to quickly cover every surface. You can’t just “go outside”, you have to make a trip of it when you have a toddler (but then isn’t everything a bit of a mission with a toddler?!).

Our building

Soaking up the view the other night, I felt certain that this place had found us as much as we had found it. Sitting on the lounge I almost feel like I’m on an urban vision quest; this room with a view is the perfect place to receive inspiration and direction from the universe for what our overseas adventure might provide us.

Relaxing in the lounge

The Grouse Grind

Hiking up Grouse Mountain

A popular tourist attraction in North Vancouver is the hiking trail known as Grouse Grind, a steep walk up Grouse Mountain featuring a climb of about 850m and covering a distance of 2.9km to the top of trail. It is also a local past time to regularly do the Grouse Grind to keep fit and try to better your time for getting to the top.

So I decided to give it a go one morning along with a lot of other people and was thinking it would be similar to climbing Mt Warning back in Northern NSW, which I had done a couple of times. While I would consider myself reasonably fit, I haven’t done much hill walking of late and soon found myself puffing as I made my way up the steep incline with a million steps. The scenery was spectacular but it was hard to enjoy it while I was dripping sweat and silently cursing my decision to do the climb in the first place!

I made it to the top in an 1 hour 15 minutes, which wasn’t too bad for my first attempt. Once my mind forgets about the pain, I will attempt it again and see if I can get closer to completing the Grind in an hour next time!

I highly recommend taking a change of clothes for when you reach the top as I was covered in sweat and it was cold at the top of the mountain. You also have to catch the gondola back down, which is packed full of people, so best not to be dripping all over everyone else!

Getting back on the bike

Inaugural bike ride to Central Park

After coming to terms with the sad fact that my $20 helmet was NOT going to win me any fashion contests, I decided to venture out on my new second hand bike to check out Central Park.

Given I can’t remember the last time I was on a bike, the main purpose of today’s outing was to work out how to ride this bike and use its gears, hopefully without making too much of a fool out of myself or getting knocked over. After a shaky start, which included discovering clunky gears, slightly flat tyres and squeaky breaks, I’m off and cruising down the bikeway towards the park. Go speed racer!

Less than 1km later my bike chain comes off! Damn, I guess there were a few reasons why this bike was so cheap. Luckily, a bit of MacGyver action on my part somehow managed to get the chain back on again. Mental note – do not use the gears on the left hand side until further notice.

I make it to Central Park and discover another beautiful pocket of forest right in the middle of the city…yay! It’s pretty cool riding through the forest and a pity I can’t take photos on the go to show you what I see (I’m sure there is a way, I just don’t have the technical know how or inclination right now to work that out).

I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing these trees, they are so magestically straight and tall. There are squirrels everywhere, so much so, they are a bit of a traffic hazard and I almost ran over one – he stopped in the middle of the trail in front of me and it was like he just dared me to keep going…so I did. It was a close call but the squirrel is safe and well (they are way too cute to hurt!)

All in all, a good first outing on the bike, despite a few hiccups! It hasn’t put me off riding again and checking out more of the trails in and around Vancouver, however I do think the bike needs a bit of TLC before I venture out again!

A walk in the forest

Beautiful Byrne Creek Urban Trail, Burnaby BC

Canada is known for its beautiful scenery and landscapes, but when you are living in the city it is easy to forget how close you are to nature here.

I’ve been living in Burnaby, Vancouver for just over a month now and to my great delight last week, I have found a little oasis nearby to escape the towering concrete high rises and sounds of the city. It’s called Byrne Creek and is part of Burnaby’s urban trails and bike pathways. Within this little sanctuary, I feel a sense of peace and calm wash over me as I marvel at the towering trees (too tall to fit into a photo!) and listen to the sounds of running water and birds.

One thing we don’t have back home in Australia is warning signs for swooping owls, which caused me to stop and carefully read the sign before proceeding into the forest the first time!

When I start to get a bit down about the lack of summer weather here right now, what with the endless cloudy days and grey, I appreciate being fortunate enough to enjoy a walk through the Byrne Creek landscape twice a week after dropping my daughter off at day care. She also has the benefit of being close to nature with so many parks and little reserves in the area that are perfect for curious minds to discover and play in. I quite like how they have combined high and medium density living in this area with the communal parks. A lot of families live here and I can see why.