Category: Canada


Unlike the previous two books, this book was the quickest read. It was written in list and details format, which is always easy for me to read. A how-to book, tips on how to “be” Canadian. Can’t remember details, though I sure they mentioned to “be nice” about 12 times. I do remember it was a very quick read and I easily finished it in one day. And so can you!

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Why did making fun of Canucks become so popular? Maybe this book? It was written back in 1995 and I feel like in the last 5 years making fun of Canada is super cool. This book was a little making fun and from an American point of view, a lot of history. Actually more like a history of why we make fun of Canada, like the stuff they do that makes them just so easy to make fun of! And for some reason, being nice seems to be the number one reason! And so easy to make fun of them because they are too nice. My favorite parts of the book were the parts of Canada I was unfamiliar with, such as some young persons volunteer program that the country had but cancelled because the Mounties needed new hats or something. So unCanadian-like!

A must read for anyone that loves Canada in any way.

Used: 1993, 1995

Side story time! It’s hilarious where I have been and where I haven’t. I have pretty much live in Los Angeles my entire life (my parents are still in the same house I grew up in and I never bothered to change my address on most things) and I have technically never been to Mexico. Apparently we drove to Tijuana when we were in San Diego one time, when I was like 6 (I still have this cool wax cat candle that I got there! I never lit it and it never melted!) but other then that, never been to Mexico. I have been to Italy twice before I graduated high school and even Canada 3 times before I turned 20. And the Canada thing is the funniest, because I have only ever driven there, even though I am from Southern California.

The first time I went to Canada, in 1993, was on a family vacation when we were to Seattle. My parents thought it would be fun to drive to Vancouver for the day! I have no idea what they were thinking. It took us nearly 4 hours to get into Canada. This was before you needed passports if you were driving over and only admitted to staying a short time, or something like that. My sister and I never had passports before and my parents last ones had expired years ago and we were only going for the day. I have no idea why it took so long. It’s normally about a 2, 2.5 hour drive. The backup at the border was horrible and the whole thing just took forever. And the worst part was, the way back was just the same! I remember we picked a line that didn’t split. So what took the line next to us half the time, it took us about 4 hours, AGAIN. When I asked various people years later if “going to Vancouver for the day” from Seattle was common, I got a lot of yes’s, apparently it was and we just got unlucky with the super long waits on both sides that day.

A few years later, my family and I drove across the country. We hired a car for the trip, in California, so it had California tags on it. We ended up in Detroit to see some of my dad’s family and went into Canada from Detroit into Windsor. I’ll admit we did look kind of shady. A family of 4 with no passports (still didn’t need them in 1995), with two teenage girls under 16 (apparently there had been a lot of child kidnappings that summer) trying to enter another country through a common route, but not with a California tagged car. Besides the fact that my sister and I both look like our parents, I love telling that story, because it does sound shady! How many California tagged cars must they get via that border crossing a day? Maybe one? Peace Arch via Seattle/Vancouver is way more common for California cars. Oddly, I have nothing to say or anything to remember when we came back into the country in like Vermont or New Hampshire or something. I don’t think there was any issue.

Moral: I have since driven into Canada two more times (via Buffelo/Toronto in my friends New Jersey tagged car and last summer) but I had passports both times and never had another issue again. Passports (and travel cards) are a pain in the butt to get, but if these expirences tell you anything, it’s that it has sped up the system quiet a bit which I think is a good thing.

Canada – Victoria, BC

Used: 2010

While I am all for spending a lot of time in one place, to experience it, instead of always moving on to somewhere new, the trip I took in Australia from Melbourne to Adelaide had some girls that were from Victoria on it and they couldn’t shut up about their island. So I when I was in Vancouver and I knew I wanted to come back into the US via the ferry, it had me take a side trip over to Vancouver Island. And while I know there is loads to do on the island, I didn’t have all the time in the world, so I ended up just being there for the day. And for the town, that was just the right amount of time. There really isn’t a lot of to do there. It was a very British city with all the gardens and really reminded me of Christchurch in New Zealand because of it.

Victoria Harbourfront

More Victoria Harbour

They have a cute little harbour front and some beautiful British buildings and a pretty good selection of tourist shopping for a smaller city, but the downtown area can be walked in an afternoon. I walked out to the end of Highway 1 (Mile 0 as they call it) and it was an excellent walk. I came across this super cute burger stand in the middle of this whole residential area, which was great as I was starving for dinner.

End of the line!

I stayed at the Ocean Island backpackers and the place was classic hostel, reminded me of me time in Australia. They have dorm rooms, but I stayed in one of their double rooms and the room was so freakin’ tiny! I mean, at least they warn you, so I was prepared, but anything more then one night, it would have sucked. The bed wasn’t very comfortable, the walls were paper thin and it was pretty warm out, so I had my window open and even though I was in a quieter room facing the ally, it was still pretty loud. But then, I am a really really light sleeper. Super friendly staff and all the usual hostel fixins’.

Moral: While in hindsight, I wish I stayed in Vancouver an extra day and just backtracked my route, I have no regrets on the route I took, as I got to spend some time on the water and see a new place! I rarely regret going somewhere new, no matter how blah it is.

Art in Victoria

Used: 2010

To mix up my traveling a little bit, I decided to make a giant loop and go over to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island before returning to Washington State directly from the island and fly home instead of backtracking through Vancouver via Peace Arch. Going on harbo(u)r cruises are a huge touristy thing to do in both Seattle and Vancouver and while I love a good boat ride, I decided to combine it with actually going somewhere instead of just the cruise and back. After 2 days in Vancouver, I’m up super early to get to the ferry on time. I have made a reservation because I wanted to get on a certain boat to maximize my time in Victoria and everything was wickedly easy. I actually got lost on the way to the terminal but like a girl, I stopped at a gas station and asked for directions. The attendant couldn’t have been more helpful and it was a good thing I asked because even though I was going in the correct direction, there were no signs to the highway. Something I wouldn’t have experienced if I had any gadgets with me!

I took BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and the ride was great! So beautiful, especially nice because it was so early in the morning.

City to Island

Early Morning

Summer Mountains

The following day, the ferry left a little later but I still got up early for fear of traffic and after a quick breakfast at my favorurite Canadian coffee chain, Blenz I drove up to Sidney to get the ferry back to the US. Another reason I wanted to go this way, besides mixing it up is because my flight was leaving that day and after my experience at the border all those years ago, I didn’t want to worry about anything and my reasoning is that they only have to process so many people on a boat, they’ll be prepared for this. Leaving the country was a little interesting. I got questioned a lot, a lot more then the BC plated cars in front of me. They asked me the same questions over and over again and since I had nothing to hide it was fine, but I hate being made to feel like a criminal. I think it was because I was a single girl traveling alone, knowing no one in Canada, reentering the country via Vancouver Island after only being there a day and driving the Titanic. I don’t know. They even checked my bag and trunk briefly. Since the Sidney to Anacortes in Washington is owned by the Washington State DOT they only accepted USD’s on the boat, which I thought was kind of funny. I mean, it’s a valid question because the boat is going between two countries, but there were huge signs EVERYWHERE telling us all that USD’s only! I was the first in my lane in the car, which was awesome. The ferry ride was again great. We saw dolphins and the ferry was so empty! A great way and excuse to get on the water without paying tourist prices.

Islands

Warm ferry ride

US Volcanos

Once back in the US, they process you again and they put me in a short line and I got through quickly. The agent this time was very nice and said Los Angeles the “real” way, which is a nice treat in Wash State. I was waved through quickly. And then dropping the car off and back to the airport where check-in was a breeze. Since I flew Southwest I checked in everything and just got on the plane with my purse, my favorite way to travel!! It felt a little weird and naked, but I quickly got over it and didn’t miss a thing. Middle seat between two good people from SEA to SAC and then window from SAC to LAX. I don’t mind Southwest. My opinion is Southwest is like riding the bus and Virgin is like taking the train. They’ll both get you there, just in different degrees of comfort.

Moral: To me, transportation when I travel is very important. I will spend a little more on something if it’s different or mixes up the trip a little bit to make it a little more exciting then normal. I hate backtracking on the same road twice if I can help it.

Canada – Vancouver

Used: 2010

My new quote, Vancouver=Love! I had the best time in my new favorite North American city! After finding a good garage not too far from my hotel and questioning when they will be open Monday so I could get my car out, I check into my hotel, Grandville Grand and the place was great! European style like the place I stayed in Seattle but more amenities. I was again on the top floor (3rd only this time) at the end of the hallway in the back facing the ally, so the view wasn’t as good. But I am sure it was more quiet then the rooms facing the street. Single bed, sink, safe, mini fridge(!), alarm clock, tv (with massive amounts of cable!), soaps and towels. This place also had a huge kitchen, dining area, laundry and pay computers. And it was so nice! Everything was super clean all the time. The bathroom situation was the same, down the hall, toilet room and then a room with toilet, sink and shower. The only downside is the pressure was horrible. And I wish there was a chair in the room so I didn’t have to sit on the floor or bed, but the room was tiny and jammed a lot of stuff in. For location and amenities, the price was great.

I was in Vancouver for like 4 hours 20 years ago and all we did was go to Stanley Park, so I don’t remember too much. The first thing you notice when you drive in is the amount of brand new high rise apartments. It was kind of a shock on the sky line! Since I didn’t know the lay out of the city at all, the first thing I did on my first day (after stopping by Tim Horton’s and getting a donut and coffee) was go up to the Vancouver Lookout and had a great time! Sign me up for any observation tower in any town. I found a coupon in a flier at the information centre and $12 later I was spending close to an hour reading all the plaques and situating myself in the city. The best part of the ticket for me was that you can make as many return visits through the day! After a long day of walking, I returned at sunset and got totally different views. I loved it!

The Park 'N' Gas

Vancity!

I then walked around Gas Town and over to False Creek. Then not really knowing what to do next, I took a loooooong walk over to Granville Island. Not really an island but a great place to go shopping for local arts and food. I wish I hadn’t had lunch already and it was too early for dinner, so I just got a snack, but save your meals for this place! It’s nuts, but in a good way. After a long wonder (and tired feet) I took the Aqua Bus back to Vancouver and went back to the Convention Centre area to watch the sea planes take off and land and see the now extinguished Olympic Cauldron. The backdrop of this was straight out of NBC Olympic coverage (minus snow capped mountains) and it was just perfect to sit there and read. At this point I went back up to the Vancouver Lookout for a sunset view before heading back to my hotel.

View of North Vancouver at sunset

Vancouver City at Sunset

Hanging out, Olympic-style

Sea Planes in Vancouver

North Vancouver

Grandville Island and Vancouver

The following day, I did Stanley Park. A popular thing to do is hire a bike and bike around the edge of it as you can do it in half a day. Since I put a whole day aside for the park and didn’t have proper riding shoes, I walked the whole thing, stopping every km to do some reading and just enjoy the scenery. It was 8 km and a beautiful way to spend the day. There is lots to see in the park including Canada’s biggest aquarium and totem poles. I was so tired by the end of the day but really glad I did it.

Halfway around Stanley Park

I just loved the city. While Sydney has my most favorite harbour in the world, Vancouver does a pretty good job too incorporating the city and sea and park really well. The weather was perfect for summer and doesn’t seem to get super cold in the winter as it’s right on the water. It’s quite American (the money annoyed the hell out of me as did the taxes!) but it seemed more French then I remembered. I know it gets way more French the father east you go, but I don’t know if it was all the French tourists I over heard talking that made the city seem way more French then I remembered.

On the subject of money, gone are the days of cheap Canada. I exchanged some money at a counter and for US$100, they give me back C$100! How disappointing! Plus, all the money was green. What a waste! Also, a couple of things I am used to when I travel overseas, the first being all prices are all inclusive. I thought it was a lame US thing that they don’t tack on tax until the check out. I am used to that here. In Canada, they do that too! And tax was so expensive! Everything went up about $1 once I got to the check out. The other thing is the coin size. Australia has the most messed up system (their smallest coin is worth the most) but I am so used to 5cent, 10cent, 20cent, 50cent, 1dollar, 2dollar coins. The money in Canada is in the same denomination and size as ours! This threw me off so much because i just wasn’t used to it. Plus, everything is so expensive. To give you a good idea, their Redbox movie rentals cost C$1.80, while ours are US$1.00 (and with the exchange rate of pretty much C$1=US$1, don’t forget). Thought I just got my credit card statement back and I got a pretty good exchange rate on that, way better then cash. I miss cheap Canada!

Moral: While I am super glad I went, I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon. It’s not cheap to fly from LAX to YVR and with the exchange rate the way it is, it’s not a cheap trip anymore! On second thought, I am kind of getting over SF as my go-to getaway place. Maybe I should add it to my list? Or just save my money for something big.

Maple!

Used: 2010

What is so special about the route from Seattle to Vancouver? Besides some of the worst travel memories for me, not really much. For some reason, I guess I like torturing myself because for some reason I really wanted to recapture the hellish trip the family and I took nearly 20 years ago. My parents decided to take a day trip from Seattle to Vancouver and we ended up in the worst line ever both ways at border and each trip took about 4-5 hours. Googlemap it. This is a route that should take 3 hours. Tops.

So I take the Link Light Rail back to the airport to pick up my rental car. In doing research before hand, all rental car companies seemed to be outrageous! Over $500 for less then (but technically) a 5 day rental? What the hell?? After getting that punch in the face, I check to see what kind of discount programs I belong to will get me. I am a member of AAA (yay maps!) and AAMiles. I search around the AAMiles website and find that I can hire a car from Avis for about $230 for the same time period. I swear this is a typo because the price change is so much. But I book it, thinking I can cancel it, if something is wrong. But I try to log into the Avis website to check my reservation and there is it! Hmm..Everything looks okay, whatever! I go to the Avis counter and check in. All the people in front of me the agent tried to upgrade, etc, etc but when I get up there, she is like (to paraphrase), DAMN! You got a good deal. I realize she doesn’t try to upgrade me and I question it and she said because of the price I paid, I can’t upgrade but I can’t downgrade either. I get a little scared at this point. What are they going to give me? I go directly to the car from the counter in the terminal and I see this BOAT sticking out of the parking space. I know immediately this is mine. I throw my stuff in the backseat and play with everything and get the seat set up (I had to ask someone how to fix it), take a walk around the car and everything seems fine before I leave.

The Boat

I get on the road, making a pit stop to meet up with a friend in Bellingham for lunch. The town is super cute and we had lunch at this great pizza cafe before I get back on the road for a trip across the border. They now have signs that tell you how long the wait time is and with Peace Arch (the main road) being a 15 minute wait and the alt route being 10, I suck it up and take Peace Arch. Ahh memories! The border is a snap. The agent slightly questions all my stamps and stickers, but I am allowed in with no issue.

Peace Arch, Canada/US

My phone immediately changes to the Rogers network and I am now out of reach for a few days.

Don't call me, I'll call you (at 79cents a minute!)

I spin around the radio dial, laugh and sequel at the accent and am just super excited to be in another country! And then the traffic. They are doing some bridge an tunnel construction south of the city and traffic comes to a standstill. And we sit. And sit. And sit. And sit. I turn off my motor a few times. We are not moving. Flashbacks from waiting at the border 20 years ago are coming back. I am enjoying the music on CBC Radio 2 a lot. No commercials! It’s beautiful outside so I roll down all my windows and really, like when I was unemployed and lounging in front of the Sydney Opera house, I think, it could be a lot worse. If anything, the situation was just really annoying. I finally move forward a little and see that there are 3 lanes coming out of the city and only 1 going in. To the American me, this is just unacceptable. Yes, it’s rush hour and more people are going out then coming in, but we were just SITTING there. This would never happen in America. But then I remember that I am not in America anymore.

I nervously drive into the city as it seems the lines on the road have gotten narrow (and it doesn’t help that I am driving the Titanic). I find a covered garage to park the car for the weekend and check into my hotel. Day 1 down!

Moral: There are other ways to get to Vancouver. In doing other research, people also highly recommended taking the train, which would have been nice. But I am a car person and I like having the freedom (plus I wanted to stop in Bellingham) as well as the space to stretch out. I wanted (and went) to Victoria and wanted a car for that. But if I was going just from Seattle to Vancouver and back, I would definitely look into the train. Apparently if you take the bus, they make you get out at the border, get processed and then get back on, while the train goes straight through.

Bonjour y'all!