My home province. My whole life I’ve heard everyone brag about how beautiful BC is and how it’s the best province. I always felt a little guilty mimicking what I heard to others, especially since I hadn’t actually seen all of the other provinces. I could only claim a child’s memory of Manitoba and Ontario, and that’s it. After seeing all 10 provinces, I have to say that the verdict is in: BC is indeed beautiful and its residents can boast all they like. However, each other province is beautiful too. Instead of a rivalry about which is the best, us Canadians should just be proud of the country we’re from. I still don’t feel like I could offer an impartial judgement anyway. While I’ve been in and around BC a bit, I’ve really only had a cursory glance at the others. BC has ocean, forests, lakes, rivers, desert, mountains, etc. but I only know that because I’ve been to places in BC with all of those things. Perhaps if I spent 25 years in each province I’d find beauty and things to brag about in each one.
We rolled into BC in August and spent a couple of nights in the wine region of BC—and, apparently, the country! (right). The place, you ask? A town called Oliver. We stayed at a winery and B&B called Kismet Estate Winery and it was so lovely. It’s a winery run by an Indian family who learned the business from the ground up, starting 20 years ago planting grapes. We met the daughter and part-owner of the business and she was lovely. She is passionate about wine and is obviously proud of her family’s business. She told us about how her parents immigrated to the Okanagan in the 1990’s and didn’t know anything about wine but are now the producers of several varieties of grapes 90% of which is outsourced to other wineries in the area. We had the pleasure of being some of the first visitors to the newly acquired and renovated house which they turned into a B&B. It was charming and such a treat for us after travelling and sleeping in our van or imposing on my friends and family. The thing I have to mention the most, though, is how AMAZING their restaurant is and how tasty their food. If you go up to Osooyos and Oliver area, you should plan to eat lunch or dinner at their Masala Bistro restaurant. You’re welcome for the suggestion. I will now show you a picture of myself which is NOT flattering at all, but, does illustrate just how delicious it was.
We spent an entire day visiting various other wineries, trying things out and learning that wine kind of all tastes the same after a couple of hours. One winery of note was Silver Sage which had the most unique wines and something special: each of the dozen or so we tried tasted different from each other! It was amazing. The Okanagan region of BC is beautiful and is a great place to go for a getaway from city life. I have also been enjoying eating all the local fruits—especially the cherries and strawberries.
On the day we were driving to my home town, we had some time to kill so stopped in at another old haunt of mine: Manning Park Resort. I worked at this park for a year when I was 18, right out of high school. You could say it was my first “real” job. I worked in the gift shop as a clerk and a kind of informal information guru. The park itself is where my family went a few times in my growing up years as a day trip from Abbotsford (only 1.5 hours away) mostly to enjoy Lightning Lake and the alpine meadows. There are countless hiking trails there during the year and it’s also a ski resort in the winter months. Every time I visit it now, I feel extremely nostalgic and also a bit sorrowful. The trees there are being attacked by the pine beetle devastation and many of the trees I remember from my childhood are either grey with death or chopped down entirely. Manning is still a beautiful park regardless. Many families go there to camp and to get away from it all. Cal and I walked the Lightning Lake loop which took us over an hour and I told stories of my time there as an 18 year old out on her own for the first time. Good memories.
Then we drove to Abbotsford! It was very strange to drive home rather than fly in to Vancouver and have to get picked up from the airport. I had originally wanted to just show up at my parents’ door but my parents are not really surprise people. They are planners. They need to know the day the hour the moment of arrival so they can prepare. Fair enough. We stayed with them for nearly 2 weeks for free, eating their food and drinking all of their orange juice.
Abbotsford is not particularly special. It’s moniker is “City in the Country”. It is 70 kms from Vancouver and is also considered the “Raspberry Capital of Canada”. There you go. The other jewel of Abbotsford is Mill Lake which everyone goes to for a stroll. It is a special place to me personally because that’s where my mom, dad, sister, and most of my extended family is from and of course many of my friends. We spent time with as many people we could, going to everyone where they live in and around the Fraser valley. It was really nice to see people. The ones we didn’t see this time will probably get a visit from us in October, as we’ll be going up to A-Town again after our USA adventures. For my birthday, Cal and I went to Vancouver with my family to view the Monet exhibit that is on display, and to do the “Fly Over Canada” experience at Canada Place. It was pretty cool to “fly” over the landscapes that we’ve just driven through.
One brief BC adventure I’ll write about here before finishing this post is our trip to Vancouver Island. This trip officially marked the end of our coast to coast road trip of Canada. We dipped our toes in the Atlantic two months ago, and got our feet wet on the Pacific west coast.
We took the ferry in Tsawwassen to Duke Point on the island. We drove to Tofino which is a fairly famous location for tourists and locals alike. It’s known as a surfing town but it is also a beautiful part of the island to visit. I’d been there before on family vacations, and memories of sun, summer, sand, swimming and long days reading books fill my mind when I think of Tofino. Unfortunately, almost the entire time we were there, the weather was more…shall we say, indicative of the west coast of BC—very rainy and foggy. It was still neat. We did a kayaking tour and got to visit a smaller island called Meares where we learned about the different kinds of trees. It was interesting to learn that this part of the island was never logged due to a lot of protests in the early 90’s.
We also signed up for a boat tour to see bears. Yes, bears. We perhaps should have hunted down some whales, which is what most people do in Tofino. But we are more interested in bears. We saw three huge male black bears foraging for food in three different bays. It was fascinating to watch them turn over the rocks looking for crabs or anything else edible. Callum and I and everyone else got soaked because we were in an open top boat and it poured rain. We were thankful for our strange orange moon-suits as they kept us mostly dry and very warm. We had to hide our cameras and binoculars inside though, to keep them safe from the rain.
Victoria, the capital of BC and another main draw of the island was a lot sunnier and warmer. We spent two days in an Airbnb on Pandora street and only had a 30 minute walk to the downtown area. Victoria is beautiful and is welcoming with its flowering pots, attractive store fronts and magical looking parliament buildings. We strolled around, visited the miniature museum, and had coffee in a hipster café with a vertical indoor garden. We visited Canada’s most famous gardens as well: Butchart Gardens where I had been before with my family but hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s expensive to go, but worth it if you like flowers and plants.
You’d need a lot longer to properly see the island as it is HUGE. It is also where BC as a province kind of started. Victoria was colonised first and then with the gold rush on the mainland starting in the 1850’s, a bunch of Americans came to Victoria as a jumping off place to get to the gold. Canada freaked out a bit by all the Americans trying to convince BC to join the US of A once they gained possession of Alaska in 1867. BC decided to go the Canaidan route and joined confederation as the 6th province in 1871, with the promise of a railway linking coast to coast as a big draw. Sorry America, BC is OURS!
One day Callum and I would like to drive NORTH and see more of BC, including Haida Gwaii and then going up to the Yukon and perhaps one day even the final two territories of Canada. We wished we could do it all this time, but Canada is just so darn huge. And we always need more time.
Over 10,000 kms driven, ten provinces visited, seven homes we stayed in and groups of people we got to meet up with, eleven provincial or national parks visited, countless animals seen and a priceless amount of memories made.