On the ferry to Vancouver Island

Our first 24 hours in Canada were a real mixed bag of “thank goodness we’re here” and “WHAT DO WE DO?!”. We emerged from a 9-hour flight having had no sleep thanks to two kids annoying each other and screaming the entire time to find out Hertz had given us a clown car.

Clown car avoided, we relaxed as we got on the 1 headed for Canmore to pick up our camping equipment. This was the moment we had been reminding ourselves of for months whenever we were stressed, “just think about being in the car on the way to Canmore,” we would say to each other. Everything was good in Canmore and we began the drive to our bed and breakfast in Golden.

The view over Golden from Le Beausoleil Bed and BreakfastCue the worst rain either of us had ever seen, much less driven in. You could barely see five metres in front of you. It eased off as we arrived at Golden, to the most welcoming and homely feeling B&B we’d ever been to. (If you are ever in Golden, stay there.) Our hosts at Le Beausoleil B&B were lovely and recommended local restaurant for dinner Eleven22 and boy, was that a good recommendation. It was exactly what we needed after way too long without sleep. To be honest, I’m still thinking about their lemon basil pesto pasta and could go for it right now.

After a truly restful nights sleep and delicious breakfast of homemade bagels and waffles, we hopped into the car refreshed and ready for eight hours of driving to Whistler. Let me tell you that that joy lasted about five minutes until we got to the junction for highway 1 in Golden. We saw a queue of traffic, cars turning around and no one seemed to be going over the junction to the 1. When we got to the front of the line, we were told a huge mudslide overnight had shut the road between Golden and Revelstoke and there was no real way around.

As we had a ferry booked from Vancouver at lunch time the day after, we really needed to get there and waiting to see if the road reopened later on (which we were told was very unlikely) was not an option. The stress was real.

We were given the suggestions of driving up to Jasper and down to Whistler, or going via Cranbrook and staying somewhere south of Vancouver, missing out on Whistler. Cranbrook seemed a couple of hours shorter so we decided on that route and managed to find a last minute motel in Hope.

It took us about an hour to calm down from that dilemma to realise there was a bright side here; we were going on a ‘proper adventure’ because we had no idea where we were going or what we would see. That excited us and it was all going smoothly until the traffic came to a halt at 2pm on a mountain road.

Traffic randomly coming to a stop because someone saw a bear, a goat, some elk, or something else is not that uncommon in Canada so we told ourselves we’d be moving in no time. Sure enough, we began moving again a few minutes later. And then we stopped.

Stuck in traffic

This was our view for two hours -.-‘

When people begin getting out of their cars, you know it’s not a good sign. We sat there for an hour and a half before seeing a lady in hi-vis, looking pretty pee’d off, who said, “you should get moving in the next half hour. They’ve blasted a hole in the road; don’t ask me why they’re blasting on a Friday afternoon.”

True to her word, we did get moving in the next half hour and we were curious to find out what this hole was. We were thinking it would be a large pothole but no; the entire right handside of the carriageway was missing for a good 3 – 4 metres. I am still kicking myself for not taking a photo of it but forgive me because I was too busy gawping saying “THE ENTIRE ROAD HAS GONE!”

The remainder of our drive took us through some parts of Canada we never expected to see; the Okanagan Valley, which looks so Mediterranean and is full of vineyards. Osoyoos was particularly breathtaking; we just weren’t expecting to see anything like that on our trip. The mountain roads began to feel a little dicey as darkness fell and we were coming up on well over 12 hours of driving (I say we, I mean Daz). We eventually found Hope (literally and figuratively) at about 11pm and fell into our beds after a really half-assed meal of rubbish noodles and Kraft mac n’cheese.

As not to tempt fate, we got up very early the next day and allowed for 4 or 5 hours to do a 1 and a half hour trip, “just in case”. Happily, we made our ferry to Vancouver Island and the rest of the trip was a lot more relaxing.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s this: if you are planning to do a long stretch of driving, check for other routes in case roads are shut and you have to go the long way around. Ah, the stressful side of traveling that Instagram never shows you.

Now it’s your turn, I want to hear about your travel stress.

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Why you shouldn't go camping in Canada

That's right, I am (sadly) back from Canada and geared up to start fangirling about it again; it never ends for you does it, my poor readers? Thanks to jetlag, my brain thought this post up at 3am in the morning and thought it would be hilarious to tell you why you shouldn't go camping in Canada. 

I like to indulge the weird sleep-deprived ideas I have sometimes, plus this post involves a reasonable amount of sarcasm, so here are 11 reasons why camping in Canada might not be for you.

 

...you hate awesome views while cooking

Perhaps you are blessed enough to have beautiful views from your kitchen, but the best views I've ever had while at the stove is while camping next to a lake. Who doesn't want to be cooking up some tasty nom, with a fire warming your back, while you look at a lake that looks photoshopped, thick forest, and jagged mountains?

Canada is pretty darn versatile, so you could also camp in the middle of a forest or even on a beach.

 

Panorama of Two Jack Lake, Banff

...you hate awesome views, period

Sure, you might get beautiful views from your hotel but when you're camping, you can open up your tent and be in that view in a matter of seconds. I will never forget waking up and unzipping the tent to see the sun coming up over Two Jack Lake. Daz was smart enough to bag site 44, which is apparently the "crown jewel of pitches in the Banff area", so prepare to feel smug because you've got the best view in Banff from your tent.

You don't need me to tell you that Canada is a beautiful country and the places you can camp are unreal. You can even do backcountry camping, which is like proper wilderness camping. We haven't done it yet but it's definitely on our list of things we want to experience.

 

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...you don't want to know what noise squirrels make

This might sound really dumb, depending on what part of the world you come from. In the UK, we have squirrels everywhere but I have never, ever heard them make a noise. While we were camping in Jasper last year, we were trying to figure out what this loud, squeaking noise was and eventually realised it was the squirrels. They are noisy little critters.

...you don't want to see loads of wildlife

While you really don't have to try that hard to see wildlife in Canada, camping is probably one of the best ways to see it. Two Jack Lakeside is a great place if you want to see elk; we saw a couple wandering around right on the edge of the site and a couple having a drink from the lake one morning.

Standing in Two Jack Lake

...you don't like fighting for festival tickets

I'm going to preface this by saying that not all campsites in Canada have as much demand as a Glastonbury ticket, but some do. We booked our spot for Two Jack Lakeside in Banff the day pitches were available, and we heard that it had completely sold out for the season in a matter of days. (Again, pitch 44 is what you really want!)

As a general rule, the better the view from the campsite, the more demand it is going to create. If you have your heart set on a site, try to book your spot as soon as pitches are available. You honestly will not find that every campsite sells out within days of going on sale, there will still be plenty of choice. Last year, we visited in September and only booked our pitches in August and we visited some great sites. We even got a pitch at Two Jack Lakeside, I think the demand this year is due Canada's 150th anniversary and free park passes.

Similarly, if you are interested in visiting Lake O'Hara, good luck trying to get tickets. They only allow a small amount of people in or to camp there each day, to protect the environment. We tried to get two bus tickets and they were sold out within a minute. I'm not sure how fast the entire season sold out, but I imagine it was within less than half an hour. Take that, Beyonce. 

Cooking on a campfire

...you think fires are lame

The unwritten laws of camping state that you must have at least one fire a day. Everyone seems to love fire and I'm sure that watching wood produce glorious orange and red warmth is the closest us muggles will ever get to magic. There are few better joys in life than toasting yourself too close to the fire and relaxing after a long day of adventuring.

Plus, you feel pretty Bear Grylls when you cast aside fire lighters and make a badass fire which cannot be doused by rain or pouring 2 litres of water on it. Just don't go too Bear Grylls and start stealing parachute cord and doing pressups wearing nothing but a coat. That's too far.

...you don't like saving money

I don't know about you, but I am all for saving money. I have only visited a relatively small part of Canada, so I will not speak for all of it, but hotels are not cheap in the parts I've been to. Air BnB is for sure cheaper than hotels, unless you can get a really cheap motel, but why would you want to when you can camp at the edge of a lake for $36 per pitch (that's £21 at the time of writing)?

Prices do vary between campsites (even Parks Canada owned ones) and some of the more luxurious, independently owned sites, such as Bella Pacifica in Tofino, are going to be more expensive than your basic unmanned sites. That said, it will still be cheaper than a hotel. While we were researching, we saw prices range from $12 - 60 CAD per pitch, per night. The most we paid was $36 per night, so above that is going to be some (definitely not all) of the privately owned sites with more amenities.

...you don't like forest toilets

On a campsite, you're either going to get toilets that resemble your standard public toilets or a shed with a pit toilet (I prefer to call them forest toilets). I have actually grown pretty fond of a forest loo. The first time I experienced one was in Yosemite and I was not prepared for it.

They really aren't as grim as you think (just don't look in) and my common sense says they're probably as clean as a normal toilet. In fact, they could even be cleaner because they don't produce an aerosol as a normal loo does when it flushes. Obviously I do not have the science to prove it, but give me some agar gel and I will.

All the campsites I went to had clean forest toilets and there's something kinda nice about hearing the birds and squirrels in the bathroom.

...you don't want to reset your sleeping pattern

Studies have shown that by camping for just one weekend, the natural light can help reset your circadian rhythm and your sleep pattern. The same study also found that people were going to sleep earlier and then waking up earlier than they would if they were at home.

We definitely experienced this. As anyone who has ever worked in hospitality will know, it is near impossible to have a good sleep pattern but we noticed a difference after just a couple of days of camping. We were going to sleep at about 22:30 (unheard of for us) and waking up between 7 - 8 in the morning. I wish we could keep it up now we're back, but we're already way out of step with the routine we had while camping. 

Pitch 44 at Two Jack Lakeside campground, Banff

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Marmot Limestone 4p tent

...you don't want someone else to deal with sorting your stuff for you

If you're flying to Canada, or even driving a very long way, it would be very expensive and a pain to take your own equipment with you. We don't own any camping equipment at all, so we wondered how we were going to do it. Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be a huge number of camping equipment rental companies, but we found Rent-A-Tent in Canmore. (They also have an office in Vancouver and I believe you can pick up from one office and drop off at another.)

We have used them twice now and they're great. You walk into their offices and they give you everything you need, and at the end of the trip you take it back to them and they sort out cleaning all the mud and pollen off it (oops). As well as giving you equipment, they're campers themselves and can tell you about places to stop, things to do, and have some great links with local tour operators as well. On top of that, they are really friendly guys; Canadian hospitality must surely rival Southern hospitality.

...you can't be bothered to clean up after yourself

This is actually a serious one. On every single campsite (and on most trails and day-use areas) in Canada you will be told and see signs regarding food, food waste and wildlife. All campsites operate the Bare campsite scheme which means you cannot leave anything out which has a food smell; this includes food, food waste, packaging, or even clean dishes or towels. It seems pretty overwhelming to begin with, but you just keep everything in your car or a food locker.

The problem with food smells is that they attract local wildlife, which can be dangerous for them and us because they might end up associating humans with food; they will stop hunting for their own food and will begin to enter campsites looking for food. This is not some kind of scare story either, it happens because of people's ignorance and stupidity.

Last year, we tried to book in at Two Jack Lakeside in Banff but couldn't because the campsite was shut due to a "wolf problem" and they weren't sure when it would reopen. We researched it and discovered that a wolf had been showing "bold behaviour" and entering the campsite frequently, attracted by food left out by campers. Unfortunately, that wolf had to be destroyed because you just can't risk a wolf attacking someone for food. The sad part is that it could have been entirely avoided and it was ignorant humans that cost that wolf it's life.

What's worse is we still saw people ignoring everything they've been told and leaving half-full cups out overnight or rubbish. If you can't be bothered to keep on top of the washing up or keep your campsite bare, don't go camping in Canada.

 

What do you think, think you would like camping in Canada?

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Why you shouldn't go camping in Canada

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Mwnt Beach, Cardigan

Mwnt beach has featured very close to the top of my ‘favourite places’ in the world list for years.

Last week, I was talking to an American couple who had been traveling around the UK for a few weeks and were headed to Wales next. They hadn’t got any solid plans yet and made the mistake of asking me for recommendations. I barely need an invitation to wax lyrical about Mwnt at the best of times, so I think they were a bit taken aback and soon regretted asking. I hope they went and saw it for themselves because it is such a wonderful place. I hope they went and tell all their friends about this beautiful little beach some crazy lady in their hotel told them about.

I first went there over ten years ago when my Nan took me, my sister, and my cousin on holiday. We stayed in a little cottage just up the road from the beach, and we would spend the day in the sea, building sand fortresses with moats and my cousin had an odd habit of collecting jellyfish in a bucket…There’s a hill on one side of the beach, which we used to climb up every night to call our parents. (If they thought they were escaping us by sending us on holiday, they were wrong. Not even rubbish O2 signal on a Welsh beach is going to stop me annoying my Mum.)

The second year my Nan took us away, I think she was expecting to go somewhere else but we loved the place so much we badgered her to go back. I’ve been back a handful of times since then, the last time being with Daz last summer. I would love to pop back before we head up to Edinburgh but it’s looking very unlikely at the moment.

For me, visiting Mwnt beach is almost like a pilgrimage. A lot has happened since my first trip there over a decade ago; I’ve passed exams, I’ve made friends, I’ve lost friends, I’ve had arguments, I’ve mustered the courage to stand up to people, I’ve quit uni, I’ve finished uni, I’ve worried a lot, but I’m still here.

Do you have anywhere like that in your life?

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All Over The Place by Geraldine Deruiter

When I first read that one of my favourite bloggers was releasing a book, I instantly began impatiently refreshing Amazon’s UK Kindle site until they let me pre-order All Over The Place.

I’ve followed The Everywhereist for years after following a link to it from an article her husband wrote on the Moz blog, right back when I’d just dropped out of university and started working in marketing. (I find it a little soothing that I’ve just finished her book and my undergrad. degree.) Geraldine’s blog was a bit of a beacon in the blogosphere for me because she was unashamedly traveling her way, getting lost, experiencing things her way, and telling hilarious stories about all of it. Her book is no different.

You are not going to read this book and gain an understanding of how best to fold your underwear, how to get the cheapest flights, how to avoid food-poisoning, or spend no money while exploring an expensive Scandinavian capital city. Instead, you are going to laugh so hard you might cry while she tells the story of the time her mother tried to take a pickax through security. Geraldine writes that All Over The Place should perhaps serve as a reminder of how not to travel; but with some of the stories she’s got out of her way of traveling, it’s hard not to want to do the same. (I am simultaneously thankful but a little disappointed that I do not have a relative who feels it perfectly normal to take weapons in their hand luggage on family trips.)

This is a book that oozes comfort. The writing is so natural and effortlessly funny that you sink into the book and feel like you’re sat in a cafe (eating cake, of course) with Geraldine. If, like me, you find yourself constantly living in fear of everything, you will also find another kind of comfort in this book. I found myself laughing out loud and pondering my own experiences as I read about Geraldine navigating her life, the relationships with her partner and family, her health, and her thoughts on life and the “path” we’re on.

One reviewer on Goodreads summarised this book really well for me, “All Over the Place is a travel book, except that the travel is at least as much internal as it is external. It’s not just about the places she, her husband, or friends explored; it was about what she learned about herself, life, her family, her husband, and her friends.

As you reach the end of the book, Geraldine takes her husband to the Italian towns her grandparents came from. She tells a story of meeting relatives and Italian dinners and it honestly feels like you’re sitting right there at the table. You can almost smell the pasta (and that is an excellent quality for any book to have).

I reached the end of the book feeling thoroughly satisfied. All Over The Place was everything I thought it was going to be. If you’re looking for something hilarious, but with some poignant life lessons, to read this summer this is the book you need in your life. In fact, I think it would be the perfect book to read while traveling because it is so easy to read.

What have you read recently?

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Lake Minnewanka and Mount Inglismaldie at night

There are some things you can't imagine ever needing to say and "we're not going to be eaten by wolves" is a phrase I certainly never imagined myself saying. That said, I did have to tell my sister and various people we work with that we weren't going to be eaten by bears while camping.

Daz and I are both flappers. We don't seem to get stressed about the same things at the same time, which is great because while I'm convinced we're gonna die in a kayaking accident 10 feet from the shore, he's says "no we're not, I got this." Which is great because I believe him over the voices in my head that try to tell me everything is dangerous.

Last August, we were booking campsites for our trip and we really wanted to stay at Two Jack Lakeside. We'd looked at all the other Parks Canada sites in the Banff area and Two Jack was easily the most beautiful and quietest looking. We tried to book and were halted by a message saying that due to a "wolf problem" the site wasn't accepting bookings at that time.

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Cloud over Lake Minnewanka

We soon discovered that some idiots had left food out at the site, which had attracted wolves. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you provide a wild animal with a really easy source of food, they'll come back to find it again. Not only does that cause them problems by making them dependent on humans, but I think you'll agree a tent is probably next to useless in protecting you against a hungry wolf. You may as well wear Lady Gaga's meat dress and offer yourself to them. On a more serious note, a wolf had to be destroyed because of someone's thoughtless actions. The campsite re-opened and that was where we ended up staying for the last couple of nights of our trip. It totally surpassed our expectations and we're going back there again this summer, so it is definitely worth a visit if you're planning to stay in the Banff area.

It had been cloudy our entire trip and on the last night we finally had some clear sky, so I wanted to try a bit of nighttime photography. We drove to a little jetty (if that's what you call it) at Lake Minnewanka and I started faffing about with my camera.

This time, it was Daz's turn to stress. It was pretty much pitch black and we were the only people about. We'd been told to be vigilant for wolves (we didn't see any), had seen signs up about wolf sightings on trails in the area, and for some reason I'd seen fit to park at almost the furthest point away on the car park, which was surrounded by forest. This is how horror movies start.

It's one of those situations you look back on and wonder what on earth you were thinking. Especially given childhood nightmares about being eaten by a black demon dog / wolf. If I ever see a horror film again, I won't ask "what were they thinking?!" because I now understand that they were probably just trying to take some awesome nighttime shots.

Clearly, we did not get eaten by wolves, which I guess is pretty anti-climatic if you were expecting my title to be famous last words. I can't look at these photos of Lake Minnewanka without laughing to myself about the wolf incident.

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Snow clouds at Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is easily one of the most photographed lakes in Canada and it's easy to see why; it's shaped a little like a wolf, is a beautiful milky blue colour, and is right off the Icefields Parkway.

Because of all the reasons above, it was high on our list of places to visit and was one of the first (if not the first) stop we made on the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper.

It probably takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk from the car to the first lookout over Peyto Lake, depending on how fit you are because boy it is a steep hill. I was incredibly unfit and Daz would not give me a piggyback. The panting, groaning and pain is worth it to see Peyto Lake with your own eyes and try to fathom that colour, and get a few photos that will probably be an instant Instagram hit (unless you got hit by the sucky new algorithm, yes, I'm bitter) because who doesn't love a lake the colour of the Night King's eyes?

While we were stood here it started to snow and a blanket of cloud descended on us. We had planned to keep walking up the trail to Bow Summit Lookout but wussed out because of the snow. If you decide to do that trail it's a 6km return hike, so it's easily doable in a morning or afternoon.

Peyto Lake and Bow Summit are high up our list for our return trip this summer and we're hoping not to experience snow in June, but who knows?

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

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View over Edinburgh from Edinburgh castle

Last week, we got the news we’d be waiting on since the start of February; the University of Edinburgh made me an offer on the best masters course I’d found.

I cannot tell you how many times I have refreshed my emails over the past two months, or how many times I’ve logged into their applicant hub hoping to see an update. The stress and hassle of my current university who don’t seem to understand what an interim transcript is and my tutor and I having to make one because they’re so useless. The anxiety Daz and I have had, stressing about how close it was getting and all the things we need to do and we still don’t have a decision. It was all lifted. I could have cried; but I didn’t because I am not human.

Well, I say the stress was lifted. It was and it was quickly replaced with a load more stress and things that need sorting.

Daz and I spent a few days in Edinburgh towards the end of last year when they had a postgraduate open day and we both fell in love with the place. I love Scotland, I love Edinburgh and the university was everything I thought it would be and more. Some of the buildings look like they’re straight out of Hogwarts; which I guess they kinda are since J. K. Rowling was living in Edinburgh when she started writing the books.

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

The course is my dream course. Friends and family kept asking me if I’d applied anywhere else and I kept saying “no, because no where else does a course that is anywhere like this one. I have to get in because everything else seems pointless in comparison.” It was, of course, the most expensive course I could have applied for but the way I see it is that it would have been a waste of money doing a cheaper course because it wouldn’t get me where I want to be. The optional modules are all so exciting and I CAN DO A MODULE ON FORESTS! I cannot tell you how excited I am for that. I love forests.

Having lived in my hometown all my life, I’ve visited places and yearned to experience what it would be like to live somewhere else. Especially somewhere so fancy-looking, I mean Edinburgh has a huge castle on a hill (Ed Sheeran?) that is always in the corner of your eyes. What I also like about Edinburgh is that it isn’t so busy that it overwhelms me and stresses me out; though I’m told it will be completely different when the Fringe Festival is on.

I’m looking forward to living somewhere new but I am very comfortable where I am, as is Daz. The thing I am most nervous about is leaving my current job and finding a new one. I love the people I work with, it’s like a family. I am worried that wherever I end up working in Scotland (Hard Rock Cafe, I’m coming for you…goals) won’t feel quite the same.

Of course I will also miss my family and friends. There are plenty of ways for us to keep in touch though, and none of them appear remotely unhappy about the prospect of visiting us in Edinburgh.

It’s a really exciting next chapter that seems full of a lot of unknowns at the moment but I’m sure things will become clearer over the next few months. We’re also both seriously excited about getting to explore Scotland on our days off because it is all kinds of beautiful.

It sure is a weight off.

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