Go where the road takes you in the land of the maple leaf
IN each issue of QT Mag we ask for your advice about a recent holiday. This season Anna Saxby shares her experiences in Canada.
Who went on your holiday?
I travelled by myself to Canada, but met my older brother Joe there. He lives in Vancouver.
How did you plan ahead?
Joe and I have always been great friends, so I had been planning this trip since he decided to move. We share a lot of the same interests, like music and art, coffee and beer, so we worked together on compiling a list of places we wanted to explore and activities we simply had to do. I chose to visit him in the June-July university break, to see Canada in the spring time. Vancouver wouldn't be pulsing with tourists at this time, and the weather would be warm enough to go to the beach, or hike, without too much frostbite.
Joe had a couch in the living room, so accommodation was sorted. For students wanting to travel for extended stays in foreign countries, cling to your rellies like there's no tomorrow. Make up for the space you and your suitcase take up by paying for groceries, beers, and tidying up after yourself.
Joe was the resident (North) American, so he booked out week-long trip to Seattle and Portland. He found cheap intercity bus fares, centrally located Airbnbs and must-see art museums. When you go travelling for a long time, you've got to go with your dream team, otherwise you'll drive each other crazy. But if you're related, your dream team has to love you anyway.
Where did you go?
I spent four weeks in Vancouver, a week in Seattle and Portland and three days in Toronto and Niagara Falls.
How did you get there?
I flew return with Air Canada. I didn't have any layovers, and it was a relatively comfortable ride both ways. Joe and I used buses to get to Seattle and Portland. I remember thinking how much cheaper public transport was in these cities compared with Brisbane. It cost us about $48 round trip. I flew to Toronto and bussed it to Niagara Falls. I really enjoy commuting, if you can believe it. I loop my arms through my backpack straps and log off. Pine trees fade into coastline and then into mountains in Canada, and in Washington and Oregon, I counted a hundred hay bales as the bus whizzed past.
I'm not a real person yet, so I can't drive. I walked everywhere if I couldn't get a bus. It meant I had to ask for directions, and I stumbled upon kooky vintage stores, thrift stores and cafes. One of my favourite walks was from downtown Vancouver, across Burrard Bridge and into Kitsilano Bay. The landscape changes so dramatically from new money to old, from skyscrapers to boats bobbing at the shore.
What were your first impressions of Canada?
"You call this spring? It's cold!"
Was it what you expected?
I expected to see my big brother and drink beers and chase after squirrels. I did all these things within two hours of landing. I was treated to sunny, chilly mornings and stellar coffee almost every morning after. Canada exceeded my expectations with its beautiful parks, wildlife, old buildings and party potential. Vancouver had me smiling ear-to-ear with the amount of activities to get behind, and places to relax in. It's a city for every holiday maker.
What was your favourite experience in Canada?
On Canada Day, we climbed Squamish Mountain. It took us five hours, but we did it! You can see the entire Squamish Valley and the steepest face of Blackcomb Peak from the top. We ate the picnic we lugged up the mountain and laughed every time we saw a chipmunk. They're so small and nervous!
What tips would you give Ipswich residents thinking of going there?
Pacing yourself is important. Plan your time in Canada so that you are equal parts on-the-go and kicking back. There is so much to do that it becomes impossible to do it all, or to see it all. Choose five things you must see, and make sure you do. But remember that spontaneous activities can often be the most memorable. Like the time my phone died, I got horribly lost, and I found a Jimi Hendrix shrine. Go where the road takes you!
What would you do differently if you went back?
I would have loved to have seen more of Toronto. That city never ends, it never stops growing. I'd love to spend a few more days in the Art Gallery of Ontario and maybe get the hang of the streetcar. You have to step out into the middle of the road to catch it. You have to have zero fear. I'll get there one day... maybe.
Where do you plan to go next and why?
I want to go to Edinburgh next. It's the festival city! Castles, comedy gigs and cold weather, it sounds good to me. Maybe I'll ask Joe if he wants to organise it.