After the initial euphoria of making it across the country and arriving in BC, the inevitable reality of re-emigrating back to Canada kicks in very quickly. There is so much to do in order to re-establish yourself as a resident. I always knew the day was coming, but tried to forget about all the forthcoming tasks while we were on our trip and just enjoy the travel.
First thing on our list was to find a place to live. This was the task that I was the most stressed about. As I mentioned before, Vancouver, like most desirable world cities, has become insanely expensive in the last 10 years for many reasons. Lack of supply is a big factor and with the rental vacancy rate hovering at about 0.6%, it’s dog eat dog world out there to get a roof over your head. Since we are technically unemployed with no real Canadian references, we are not ideal tenants – on paper at least.
Amazingly, we found an apartment in North Vancouver after only 3 days of searching, and were able to convince the manager that we are good people and will not trash the place or party all night. It wasn’t available until the following month, but it was a huge relief having somewhere secure to move into. First job done.
We then worked through the rest of the list – we bought a car, sorted out social insurance numbers, applied for health care (a three month wait when arriving back in Canada) bought private emergency health care (to cover us in the three month wait), bought a few pieces of furniture, and liaised with our shipping company about getting the rest of our furniture from England transported over.
However, with a month to wait until our place was ready, we hit the road again and decided to explore some of the areas of the Pacific Northwest; first stop: Whistler, a world renowned skiing resort.
September is a bit of a strange time to visit Whistler, but it suited us just fine. School had just gone back into session, so the summer holidays were over, and it’s still a few months away from the busy winter skiing season when prices go sky high for accommodation. Whistler village is located about 2 hours North of Vancouver, travelling up the infamous Sea to Sky highway, a beautiful, and in winter, often treacherous road that winds its way along the base of the coast mountains with gorgeous views out into the Pacific ocean. Lucky for us, it was a nice sunny day when we took the drive.
Whistler village is modelled a bit on European ski resorts, with pedestrianized streets lined with cafes, restaurants, bars and retail outlets. It can get a bit crazy in the town centre in the high season when busloads of tourists arrive for some of the best skiing in the world. The village is actually overlooked by Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and you can ride a gondola up to the summit of each one, and you can even brave the Peak2Peak, an 11 minute journey between the top of Blackcomb and Whistler. For some strange reason I went on it the last time I was in Whistler and instantly regretted it as soon I stepped in the gondola. 11 minutes of sheer terror. It is really, really high.
If you don’t fancy going up the mountain, there are many other things to do. We visited an excellent and newly opened art gallery called the Audain Gallery. The building is typical west coast style of wood and glass, surrounded by evergreen trees, and the exhibitions inside were excellent. We were lucky enough to see a temporary exhibition of classic paintings from the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton, but there is also a lot of work from BC artists, some of it very modern.
There is also the great outdoors to explore – a lot of it. Mountain bikers and walkers flock to this area for pristine trails deep within mature forests. We went on a walk to Lost Lake near Whistler and felt most relaxed wandering through the trees until we saw the warnings to watch for bears. Suddenly, it was imperative to get back on the trails where there were other walkers who may be carrying bear spray!
Coming back South from Whistler there is a growing area called Squamish, which used to be a small stopping point, but has evolved into a large town, mostly likely due to the proximity of and the spiralling house prices in Vancouver. Kite surfing is most popular in this area, but a new Sea to Sky gondola (yes another one) has just opened up, so we decided to give it a try. I was so scared I had to shut my eyes the whole way up, but once we reached the top we were rewarded with the most stunning views and walking trails. And yes, rather amazingly, it was another sunny day in the West Coast rainforest.
Since we will be living in North Vancouver, the natural beauty of the mountains and beaches north of the city are so close that when we fancy a bit of serenity, it’s now on our doorstep. After battling the crowds in London for so many years , this feels very luxurious.