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Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert

In a couple of earlier posts I talked about our scenic trip Smithers-Prince Rupert on Via Rail and our incredible Bear Watching Trip in Prince Rupert. Apart from these obvious highlights how was our stay in Northern BC?

Our flights Vancouver to Smithers and then Prince Rupert to Vancouver were on Hawkair. We really enjoyed the flights and the customer service was excellent, particularly in Prince Rupert where the staff were very friendly.

Fun fact: Prince Rupert airport is located on Digby Island which is only accessible by ferry. Hawkair provided a shuttle bus from their Prince Rupert office which included the ferry so we had no problem getting there but we highly recommend you factor travel time into your itinerary.

Travel hack: like many small airlines Hawkair charges you for every checked bag, small or large. Susannah and I each packed a small suitcase but as we were charged by the bag it would have been more economical to pack together in one larger suitcase. Overall, Hawkair was awesome and I’d totally fly with them again.

Hawkair Office
Susie waiting for the shuttle

While in Prince Rupert we stayed for two nights at the Eagle Bluff B&B which is a great looking, very popular, quirky little B&B, centrally located and right on the water. We did have the top floor Lighthouse room booked but there was a booking mix-up and we were put in a much lower value room with two single beds for the first night. The room itself was a bit cramped. For a solo business traveler or two close friends it’s ok but it is a bit pricey for what you get. Susannah’s sister Liz, who joined us from Smithers, stayed at the Crest Hotel which was within walking distance. We went there in the evening and shared a bottle of wine and some delicious appies at Charley’s Lounge, the in-house bar.

Eagle Bluff B&B
Taken on iphone

The next morning we were up early and had a delicious home cooked breakfast before heading off on our incredible bear watching trip. When we returned we were able to move into the Lighthouse room for our second night. Was it worth it? Yes. Here’s a timelapse of the sunset view which we enjoyed over a glass of wine.


The next morning’s breakfast was again abundant and fresh.  From conversations at the breakfast table it seems that this B&B gets a lot of regular customers.  The host seemed to know our two breakfast companions quite well.

Overall I’d say that The Eagle Bluff B&B has a great location and the views are awesome. Be sure to get the Lighthouse room though as it is the bee’s knees of B&B rooms and, in my opinion, worthy of the price tag.

Other things that were cool about Prince Rupert:

Smile’s Cafe had really really good fish and chips. I’d  recommend it but be patient, the service is a little slow. The food was absolutely worth the wait.

Smile's Seafood Cafe

Cowpuccino’s Coffee House serves really good coffee. We didn’t eat there but the food looked pretty good also and the service was friendly.

Outside Cowpuccino's Cafe, Prince Rupert
Susannah cow and Liz cow

Prince Rupert seemed to have a cow theme going on.

The girls
Liz, Susannah and me on a ‘cowch’

I have to say, I really enjoyed our time up North. If you are looking for an escape from the city and a little adventure, Prince Rupert should be on your list.  I know would definitely visit again.

Thanks to Hawkair, Prince Rupert Adventure Tours, and Liz and Bill for making this trip possible.

YVR Food Fest

YVR Food Fest

On Saturday we went to the YVR Food Fest at Olympic Village. Known for the past 4 years as the Vancouver Food Cart Fest, the event has rebranded and expanded to include more food vendors, parties, and food talks. Wandering around the venue and seeing what’s on offer in street food in Vancouver was an awesome way to spend the day.

The trucks were laid out in a large circle chuck wagon style which made it easy to wander around and check things out.

Hunger Management

The event was very family friendly with some good things to do.

Ping Pong at YVRFoodfest
Have a little ping pong play time
Water Spray fun
Mini spray parks for the kids
Who doesn't love ice cream?
Who doesn’t love ice cream?

There was also a pop-up marketplace selling everything from sunglasses and T-shirts to handmade crafts.

Sunglasses at pop up market

Pop up market

And there were DJs.

DJ playing at YVRFoodfest

Some of the vendors had small tasting plates available. Here is a mini taco salad (without the taco) that we tried from Vegan vendor Gypsy Trunk.

Sampler of vegan food

We sampled some dauphin potatoes from C’est Si Bon which were lovely, light and fluffy. Then we tried a tofu taco from Korean vendor Disco Cheetah. So good!

Tofu Taco at Disco Cheetah

At this point we decided to check out the liquid refreshments on offer. There were yummy juices…

Juice Vendor at YVRFoodfest

Oh look, a bar!

Pop up bar at YVRFoodfest

We sampled two different styles of Rosé, each with a distinctly different colour, flavour and body.

Rose
Church 13 on the left and Okanagan Crush Pad on the right

Then, more food. After much thought and debate we chose the spicy tempura prawn sandwich from Hunger Management. It was spicy, it was rich, it was HUGE.

Shrimp sandwich

After sharing that we decided we were pretty much done. We were going to try some Hurricane Potatoes but we were just too full for more food. They did look good though and we probably would have gone with a garlic parmesan flavour.

Hurricane Potato

On our final circuit of the Festival (walking off the food) we stopped to watch Slavic Rolls being made. Slavic Rolls are a traditional Eastern European dessert made from sweet yeasty dough. Here’s a short video of the charismatic vendor making them.

After being given a teaser taste of the home-made Bavarian cream we just had to try a roll. We chose the Bavarian cream with raspberry jam. Yum!

Eastern European Slavic Rolls

Done, done and done. We couldn’t fit in a single morsel more.

Stressed-Desserts

The food festival was really enjoyable. Many of our favourite food trucks were there including Tacofino, Nuba, and Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck, but for us the YVRFoodFest was a great opportunity to try new foods and find new favourites. We had a great day out and left feeling filled and chilled.

Closet Monster – mini movie review

Closet Monster – mini movie review

I love to watch films that aren’t made by big budget film studios. It’s not that I don’t watch mainstream movies because I do, I really really love going to the movies. It’s more that I find independent or alternative films are designed to appeal to a less broad target market so they will often deliver something that mainstream movies do not.

This is true of Closet Monster, Canadian director Stephen Dunn‘s debut feature film, a coming of age story set in a small repressed town in Newfoundland and Labrador. The film stars Connor Jessup as Oscar Madly, a creative and imaginative high school Senior struggling to accept his sexuality and Isabella Rossellini as, oddly, the voice of Oscar’s talking pet hamster, Buffy.

As Oscar struggles to deal with the fall-out of his parent’s break-up and the trauma of witnessing a violent anti-gay attack, he becomes increasingly isolated. His struggle is communicated in conversations with his hamster Buffy, who offers support and advice.

Mixing reality with fantasy, Closet Monster does a great job in telling Oscar’s story. I don’t usually enjoy boy-becomes-man movies but I did enjoy this one. Oscar’s character trying to come out while wrestling with his inner homophobe and fear of rejection is a familiar story to many people in the LGBTQ world.

Closet Monster premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Canadian Feature. I really enjoyed it and while I know this movie won’t appeal to everyone, I hope many of you will like it too.

Take a look at the trailer.

Happy Pride!

Happy Pride!

The last time I went to the Vancouver Pride parade was at least 7 or 8 years ago. I remember that it was a super hot day, just like this year. I remember Jack Layton camping it up in the NDP float – that was cool because he had been a longtime LGBTQ supporter.

I loved celebrating Pride but what I did not enjoy was that there were many other political entities, financial institutions and corporate groups in that Parade that didn’t have much of a history with the LGBTQ community. I remember thinking that the gay vote and the gay dollar must have become important to attract so many of them.

Fast forward to this year.

With both Susannah and I having the day off (this is rare on a long weekend) we decided to head down to English Bay to check out this year’s Parade. Wow! It had grown. Not only in the number of spectators but the number of participants as well. And diverse! It was extremely cool to see such a huge variety of people involved in support groups and organisations to gather and unite members of the community. There were LGBTQ sports groups, school support groups, cultural groups, even a church group (I’m not religious but way to go, Anglicans!).

Yes there were political parties and banks, but they had ‘out’ people marching with them and their message of acceptance and support just seemed so much more genuine. Justin Trudeau marching with his family received huge cheers from the crowd and by being there sent an enormous statement to the world.

#BetterTogether rang true.

I’ll admit I had tears in my eyes at times as I found some of the groups marching to be evidence of real social change in the last 10 years. It was also extremely moving to see the #WeAreOrlando tag and to see photos of the Orlando victims attached to pride flags carried throughout the Parade.

Kudos to the organisers and Grand Marshalls Morgane Oger, Danny Ramadan and Alex Sangha for bringing the Vancouver Pride Parade back to it’s roots of celebration and support.

Here are some of my personal highlights. A full photo gallery can be found here.

Dykes on Bikes! A great way to start the Parade.

Dykes on Bikes is aways a fav to start the Parade

Musqueam Indian Band were the the first of many First Nations groups marching.

Musqueam First Nations leading the marchers

Even for the participants it can be an emotional experience. There was tremendous support for Two Spirited people at Pride.

PFLAG is one of my favourite organisations as they help kids and parents.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue services were there with water guns.

As were some very friendly members of the Vancouver Police Department.

LGBTQ Seniors Have More Fun!

There were some um, great displays….

…fabulous costumes

and some interesting groups.

Click here to view the full gallery of Pride Photos.

For me, LGBTQ rights and equality is about being seen without fear. It’s about being yourself. Pride is a positive day where we celebrate and support one another. It brings people together and helps people find other people that are just like them. To know that you are not alone is extremely important and can be a lifesaver. On Sunday I was very proud to live in Canada and to feel supported by so many people in Vancouver.

Have you ever been to a Pride Parade? How was your experience?

Bear Watching in Prince Rupert

Bear Watching in Prince Rupert

Ok I won’t lie. When we decided to go up North I knew that  for me this bear watching excursion was going to be the highlight of my trip. Being from New Zealand where there are NO BEARS (actually there are no predatory animals PERIOD), even the thought of encountering a bear scares the bejeezes out of me. Yet as a photographer I am fascinated by them and definitely wanted to see them in their natural environment.

On our trip to Prince Rupert we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Prince Rupert Adventure Tours for our June bear watching tour. We were staying very near the dock at an awesome B&B so after breakfast were able to walk down to check in and board. The vessel is able to accommodate 100 passengers and although the tour was fully booked I have to say that it did not seem too crowded and everyone was able to get a good viewing spot. On our tour passengers were very accommodating and looked out for each other despite language and age barriers so that was pretty cool.

The Grizzly Bear Tour motors through the Chatham Sound for about 1.5 hours in order to reach the Khutzeymateen Valley, which is not reachable by land. On the way there is some fantastic scenery and plenty of wild life to look for. We saw lots of seabirds and a cluster of seals sunning themselves on some rocks.

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Once in the Khutzeymateen area the Captain and crew use binoculars to look out for bears. Patience and complete silence is the key to good viewing as the Captain will pilot the vessel up as close as he/she can without disturbing the animals. I have to say I was a little concerned when we first arrived at the dock and saw that the majority of the passengers were a school group. On boarding the kids were very noisy and I thought their volume would be a problem. It wasn’t and everyone was very respectful. There were about 3-4 kids who stayed out on deck the entire time, pointing out wildlife and speaking in whispers. Can anyone say “Future Marine Scientists”?

I loved that this was an ecotour and that the impact on the bears was minimal. There was one occasion on our trip where we saw a young bear and approached but the Captain chose to pull away and move on as the bear seemed agitated, perhaps sensing our presence. As much as I wanted some bear shots, I am happy that the correct ethical decision was made for the animal. We remained a reasonable distance from the shore at all times – all of the shots here are taken with a telephoto lens.

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We saw several bears were able to observe them for some time. They were much skinnier than I had imagined they would be. As it was June they would have only recently woken from hibernation. Once awake they move down to the coastline to feast on the lush green grasses that grow near the water’s edge, giving them the vitamins and nutrients they need to kick-start their metabolisms.

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Check out the claws on this one! Very glad I was on a boat and well off shore.

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Bears don’t actually see very well so perhaps he could smell us….

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To be able to view an animal in nature without negatively impacting on it’s environment is simply awesome! This was, as expected, an amazing highlight of our trip and an adventure that I would totally recommend. It was also a very long day (6 hours) and many of us were dozing inside on the way back to Prince Rupert, myself included. Once we neared the port the Captain and crew had another treat for us. They threw animal fat high into the air at each side of the boat and within minutes we were surrounded by about 30 eagles diving and grabbing the food with their talons. They were fantastic to watch and an exciting end to a great day.

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Many thanks to Prince Rupert Adventure Tours for such a wonderful trip. It was awesome. We’ll be back 🙂

So that my bear story, tell me yours!

Travelling Smithers to Prince Rupert by Train

Travelling Smithers to Prince Rupert by Train

In June we were lucky enough to spend a few days touring part of Northern BC. Our plan was to fly into Smithers, spend a few days catching up with Susie’s awesome sister Liz and her husband Bill, then take a train to Prince Rupert, enjoy some activities there and fly back to Vancouver.  In this post I’ll talk about the middle part of our trip –  from Smithers to Prince Rupert on the ‘Skeena’ train.

The Skeena Train
The Skeena

The train runs from Jasper to Prince Rupert and back 3 times a week, stopping overnight in Prince George. From Smithers it’s a scenic 6 hour ride to Prince Rupert. The route runs alongside the Skeena river through glacier capped Coast Mountains and it is very picturesque. We opted for a “touring class” tickets which enabled us to sit in the Panorama car where we had sweeping views on both sides. We could also sit in the Park Car which is raised up higher and has a glass domed roof for even more expansive views.

Panorama windows in our car
Panorama windows the Park Car
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View over top of the train from the Park Car with it’s Panorama Dome

As part of the touring class ticket we were served a complimentary meal. We chose the salmon and the halibut. The salmon was a bit dry so the halibut was the winner with the tomato sauce to keep it moist. Neither meal would be considered high end, but compared to most airplane meals I’ve had they were ok.

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Salmon Dinner
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Halibut Dinner

Dinner also came with a glass of wine which made everything ok 😉 Cheers.

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Our two very funny and knowledgeable guides/servers kept most of the passengers well-informed and entertained. They showed us points of local interest which we may otherwise have missed like this miniature town at the side of the tracks.

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And this petroglyph on the cliff face.

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We sat on the left side of the train to get access to the riverside views but the train was not very full so we were easily able to move around and check out both sides. There are windows between the cars that can be opened right up. We leaned out for a few unique shots but I’d recommend being very careful doing it. It got pretty windy as well.

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There were some long tunnels along the way.

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Trains are fun and a bit of a different perspective than you’ll get from a car. You can see from the next photo how much higher up than the road we were. This was great for taking photos along the way to capture some of the views.

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As we were moving through the Coastal Mountains towards the Ocean the weather was quite changeable, making the skies and light quite varied and interesting.

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As we finally drew into Prince Rupert we were welcomed by an amazing sunset to end our long day of travel. So pretty!

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Overall I’d say the price of the touring class ticket is a bit steep for many people, but if you were only going to do the trip once, it’s a very comfortable way to travel and the bonus is most definitely the panoramic windows and the spectacular BC scenery which is not to be missed.

Save the Vaquita!

Save the Vaquita!

What is a Vaquita and why do we need to save it?

The Vaquita is the world’s most endangered marine mammal. Found exclusively in the Gulf of California, Mexico, these small porpoises are on the brink of extinction with only about 60 remaining. That’s 60 animals in total and the number is declining fast.

Depiction of 60 remaining Vaquita
Depiction of 60 remaining Vaquita

July 9, 2016 was International Save the Vaquita Day. Approximately 30 venues across the globe held events to help raise awareness of the plight of the Vaquita.  At the Vancouver Aquarium,  renowned porpoise expert,  Dr Anna Hall gave some short talks about the Vaquita. Dr Hall is also President of the Porpoise Conservation Society which is based right here in Vancouver. The society’s mission is to bring awareness to all 7 species of porpoise.

Dr Anna Hall presenting at the Vancouver Aquarium
Dr Anna Hall presenting at the Vancouver Aquarium

We filmed the talks for the Porpoise Conservation Society and I’ll pop in a link here as soon as it’s online. Dr Hall spoke about gill net fishing and how these nets are the main cause of the Vaquita population decline as the small porpoises become entangled in the nets and drown.  Mexico has introduced a 2 year ban on gill net fishing in an effort to save the Vaquita but it is difficult to enforce.

It is not yet too late. You can use your buying power to help. Choose sustainable seafood that has been caught in a way that does not produce by-catch. This will help not only the Vaquita, but other porpoises, dolphins, turtles and marine life. The Oceanwise website is a great place to start.

Explaining the Oceanwise sustainable seafood program
Explaining the Oceanwise sustainable seafood program

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Learn more about the “panda of the sea” at VivaVaquita and help save the Vaquita!

Newsies – presented by Broadway across Canada

Newsies – presented by Broadway across Canada

On Tuesday we were lucky enough to go to the opening night of Newsies at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The Disney produced Newsies centres around the fictional character of Jack Kelly, the charismatic leader of a group of New York newsboys (newsies) fighting for a better life. The storyline is inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Newsies is a dynamic show with non-stop dancing and action. The show earned eight Tony Award nominations in 2012, including Best Musical, winning Best Choreography and Best Original Score.

Generally speaking I’d say Broadway isn’t typically my thing but both Susannah and I loved it! It was just over 2 hours in length (plus intermission) and was an easy watch. The cast was tightly knit and the newsies really had the audience on their side, fighting “for what’s right”. Joey Barreiroas was wonderful as Jack Kelly and the dancing in the group numbers  was awesome.

I was also really impressed by the stage design and set which consisted of 3 large multi level metal towers which could be transformed quickly into different sets. In it’s stark simplicity it was effective and functional, allowing the action to flow while each scene was being transformed.

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iphone shot of set design taken during intermission

Newsies is playing in Vancouver until July 10 at QE Theatre as part of Broadway across Canada’s 2016-2017 season.

Totally recommended family viewing. Well worth a watch.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – mini movie review

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – mini movie review

I might be a wee bit biased. I am a Kiwi and love to support Kiwi films and filmmakers. I saw Wilderpeople when it debuted in New Zealand earlier this year when I was visiting home so the humour totally made sense. Back in Canada I also went to the Vancouver advance screening and I have to say that the second time round was just as good as the first. Pardon my “kiwi” in this review but this one really felt like home.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is so much more than your average coming-of-age story. Directed by Taika Waititi (Boy, What we do in the Shadows), Wilderpeople has a solid storyline, a great cast and is set in the spectacular New Zealand bush (yes, it really does look like that!). With plenty of witty dialogue and some nicely played nods to classic NZ film and TV commercials (I loved the hat off to “Crumpy” and the old truck ), there’s plenty going on. Sam Neill is a box office drawcard and is great as grumpy old Hec, but it is Rima Te Wiata who sets the movie off on the right foot. Her portrayal of Bella perfectly sets the tone of storytelling with light-hearted delivery.  Julian Dennison as Ricky Baker is wonderful. Along with a few good chuckles Wilderpeople will definitely give you the warm fuzzies.

Here is the trailer. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is only playing locally until July 13 at Cineplex Odeon International Village so you’d better get moving. Don’t miss it – it’s “majestical”.

Loving clouds

Loving clouds

Susannah and I both love clouds.

Anyone who knows us well should know this. You know that saying “stop and smell the roses”? Well we would say “look up and watch the clouds”. From contemplating life to just checking out the weather patterns, cloud watching is a great activity.

From our patio we often see nice movement as the ocean breeze pushes the clouds towards us. Last night was looking good so we set up a GoPro and did a timelapse.

Take a look. Then go outside and look up 😉