Bristol, a short trip to see my oldest English pal.

Megabus is great, it cost me all of £12.50 for a return ticket from London to Bristol, a journey of approximately 2 hours 45 minutes. Pretty good value in my opinion. The coach, which was full due to it being school holidays, followed the Thames down to the luxury riverside flats of Chelsea before heading through Hammersmith and over the flyover to the M4, a motorway I used to regularly travel on when I lived in Newbury, just West of Reading. Once out of London it’s a pretty boring drive. Windsor Castle can be seen from the M4, today there was no flag flying meaning the Queen was not in residence.I have so say, England’s roads, well the M4 at least is so nice and smooth compared to most of the 9000 kilometres we travelled in Canada. The lack of substantial snowfall and extreme weather in England means the  motorways last a lot longer than the poor Canadian motorways that get months and months of snow and ice covering them each year.  This meant it was a very smooth journey and I had plenty of naps.I did however have my trashy magazine for the journey, I used to buy them all the time, who’s wearing what, who had broken up and who has put on weight, who really cares to be honest but there was no wifi so why not? 

It was slow going getting into Bristol, why I chose to arrive in rush hour traffic I don’t know but we were only 10 minutes late and Jasmine was already there to collect me.

Went to her lovely ground floor flat on Ashley Down road and had a tour before walking up to The Wellington on Cheltenham Road for a couple of lager tops (they don’t do these in Canada and I’d forgotten how good they are!) and a catch up. It’s strange, when someone isn’t overly active on Facebook, (unlike me) it can be just like the old days when you meet up with them. You find out how much their lives have changed and vice versa. It was so nice to hear she is happy and has lots going on, it was also lovely to have someone so interested in our Banff life, partly because she hadn’t seen the thousands of photos I’ve posted online. Afterwards we enjoyed a lovely meal of Sausage and Mash prepared by Jasmine’s boyfriend Andy. Had a few beers,  looked though a few of my photos and played with their 2 very cute cats.

The following morning after a lovely breakfast of fried eggs, we said our goodbyes and I headed off for a wander around town. I walked down a very pleasant Cheltenham Road which was filled with quirky shops, bars, galleries and cafes.  It’s nice to see an area of independent shops, minus the odd chain store, thriving. It’s such a lovely area and I could have spent hours there browsing through record stores and charity shops and having coffee and cake at one of the many shabby-sheek cafes.  I headed into the town centre via The Bearpit, an area in the centre of a huge roundabout where there was lots of funky grafitti and pop up cafes to Cabot Circus, for a look around. It’s your typical inner city huge mall so headed for Castle ParkThe park is suituated next to part of the harbour and has the ruins of St Peter’s Church in the centre. The church is surrounded by pretty gardens and a fountain and has views over the harbour and park.I had time for a quick manicure (it’s been so long since I’ve had my nails done so I thought I’d treat myself) before jumping back on the megabus to London.It was really great to see Jasmine. I met her on 24/02/2006, I remember that date as it was when I first moved to England, I met her the night I arrived and despite living in different parts of England and the world at times, we have remained good friends. 

London…it’s good to be back but it’s raised a few questions.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about being back in the city.  I am often asked “how is it being back” but I’m not sure how to answer.  Yes, it’s great to see all our friends and family, sometimes it feels like we saw them only yesterday which is a good thing I think….There have been many changes here, new boyfriends, jobs, houses and babies, lots of babies.  

I’ve realised it’s probably about time we decide what we want out of life after travel. 

  • Do we want a house and mortgage? Do we want to stay in London? 
  • Do we want a child? 
  • Do we want a houseboat? 
  • Do we want to keep travelling? 

Who knows?  What I do know is I’m going to make the most of our last year in Banff just in case this time next year I’m pregnant, living in a tiny rented flat in an area of the city I hate and have no money to even get a coffee with a friend!

Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration but that’s what I’m terrified of, having no freedom and being ‘stuck’. I’ve always valued my freedom. I think Fergus and I are alike in that sense, he is always keen to get out and enjoy life, I think the houseboat idea is a good one as property in London is insanely expensive. Do I want to pay a mortgage on a tiny, dingy flat with no yard or sunlight for the next 60 years? Nope.Having a baby is another expense, how some people manage it I have no idea. Little ones seem like a lot of work but everyone says they are worth it in the end. I don’t doubt that one bit and I don’t want to miss out on all that. 

Lots of people have said they think I’ll be a great Mum, I don’t really see why, I have never changed a nappy and am afraid of holding a baby in case I am thrown up on!It’s so hard being an adult, that’s why I’ve been putting it off so long, it seems a bit stressful to be honest but it’s something we need to think about, we can’t put it off forever.

We have another year of playing backpacker so I plan to cram in as much fun and travel as I can, you only live once and from where I’m sitting, life will probably be a lot different on our return to the UK, wherever we choose to live.

Roll on 40……

PANORAMA 

In March, the house packed up and went to Panorama ski resort in BC for a couple of nights. Before I start, let me tell you about our travel buddies/flatmates.

  • Carris – English, beautiful girlfriend of Sean and travel guru.
  • Sean – English, boyfriend of Carris and a mean cook/baker.
  • Kurt – Australian, older brother of Zeke and the maker of the amazing video below.
  • Zeke – Australian, Kurt’s not so little brother and the loudest in the house.
  • Tate – Canadian, amazing at almost every Winter sport and longtime Banff resident.

Through being Banff locals we got lift tickets for $69 a day and accommodation on the mountain for $9 a room! Awesome!

Day 1
Fergus, Tate, Kurt, Zeke and I left early in the day on the Wednesday but found out early on our trip would be longer due to the  93 being closed for avalanche control. We stopped in Lake Louise for a sausage roll before continuing up the Trans Canada through Yoho National Park to Golden. 

 On the way we stopped at The Natural Bridge, a rock formation that spans the Kicking Horse river just past Field. The boys meandered down the path in deep snow and along the side of the icy river to go into the cave under the bridge, it looked wonderful in there but I didn’t want to fall into the feeezing river so Fergus and I stayed on the bridge above.We continued on, beers in hand, music blaring, through the gorge to Golden and on to the 95 to Invermere. Stopped for some Timbits before climbing up the hill to PanoramaAfter checking into the Pine Inn we unpacked and headed down to the store on the old town gondola to get supplies (beer and Yagermister). 

Suituated in BC’s Purcell mountains, Panorama has nearly 3000 acres of terrain, 6 chairlifts and Canada’s largest slopeside hot pools as well as shops, cafes and bars.After a few drinks in our rooms we headed for the T-bar, a bar within crawling distance to our lodge! Had a few beers and played some pool (I kicked everyone’s arse!) and chatted. After a while Carris and Sean turned up (Carris had to work in the morning) and we enjoyed a hilarious game of musical bingo which I was rubbish at and by the end I didn’t know if the game was still on every time a song came on! After that we hit up the dance floor and showed off our dance moves, it was so fun. 

Later on it turned a bit fuzzy, I know I had 3 shoeys (drinking beer out of someone’s shoe) and it was a pretty late and messy night…….

Day 2

After a lovely breakfast of bacon and egg sandwiches cooked in our room on a camping stove by Carris and Sean we warily made our way up to the chairlift a mere 10 metres from the lodge.

Headed right up the very top via 2 chairlifts and started our day.  Started on a mogully black run where there was a lot of stopping, falling over, laughing and general hungover shenanegins. Lost Kurt and Zeke after the second run and found out later they had retired back to the room. It was very icy over the whole mountain which made it hard work but it was sunny so we were rewarded with amazing views of the valley and surrounding mountain ranges. 

Relaxed on the deck chairs up the top at the Summit hut and had coffee. It was a lazy day but most of us skied right up until near closing time. Later in the afternoon we hit the hot pools. The one large and two smaller pools ranging from 35-40 degrees were so relaxing after a day on the slopes despite loud children splashing about and the boys throwing balls and squirting water at each other, it was rather nice. Boys will be boys!There is a free shuttle bus that takes people to and from Invermere nearby so jumped on that and headed down the mountain to town to get dinner. It was a long journey on a windy road, we were tired and some were a bit green round the gills. The bus driver kindly recommended a place called The New Station Pub to us which ended up being very nice. It is right on Lake Invermere and we saw a lovely sunset over the lake and mountains.Had a big dinner as many of us hadn’t eaten lunch. I had the Chicken Souvlaki which was yum! Had a few drinks and walked up to town to look around while waiting for the bus. Not much to see in Invermere. We were even stopped by local security asking why we were loitering around at 10:30 pm in town! We all look like friendly folk, I think….

Day 3

Headed back up the mountain again in the morning, another lovely day but the mountain was still icy up the top. Did a few runs up the top before sticking lower down where the snow was slightly softer. Had lunch and beers (it was St Patrick’s day so Guinness all round) down at the main building and chilled out for a bit in the sun.Did a few more runs up the top and through the park before calling it a day. The terrain was great and the mountain has long, wide tree runs and wasn’t busy at all, it was just a pity the snow wasn’t great but for $69 who can complain really.

Packed up the cars and headed on our way home. Stopped at Radium Hot Springs for a dip before carrying on through the gorge on the 93 to Castle Junction. The road had been closed for avalanche control as I mentioned earlier and we could see why as we travelled through there. There were reminants of avalanches all along the road. Up on the mountains you could see where the snow had fallen and on the road where it had been cleared. It was an amazing piece of roadway and driving over the passes and through the valleys really makes you appreciate the scale and beauty of the Canadian Rockies. I really hope to do the drive again in the Summer as there were so many viewpoints and things to do along the way we didn’t stop at. A weekend I will always remember, thanks guys!

Here is a GoPro video Kurt made of our trip.Muppets go to Panorama

The arrival of friends and family

After being in Canmore only a matter of weeks it was time to host our first visitor.  Frankie, our friend from Bromley arrived at the beginning of September from New York and was our first guest. It was nice to still be off work and be able to show her around the area a bit. 

We went up to Norquay Gondola and after a wet and cold ride up and a hot chocolate in the restaurant at the top, the clouds cleared and we could see right up the valley and over the town of Banff. Got some great photos up the top.Fergus and I on top of Norquay Mountain

The weekend she arrived was also the annual Canmore Highland Games so we went down in the afternoon for a look around and some food and drinks. There were lots of stalls as well as a big beer tent and food vans. We watched some highland dancing, pipe bands and Irish dancing which was amazing! Had lots of drinks and listened to the various bands inside the tent. It was a great day and night. Frankie stayed with us two nights before moving on to the hostal on Canmore and then to Hi Hostal in Banff.Frankie, Sheryl and Fergus – Highland Games

On September 19th Kim, also from Bromley, returned to Canmore. She did a visa a few years ago and was here to do a second. I was working when she arrived so left her to explore the town on her own on her first day but later that same day my cousin Susan arrived from New Zealand! I told Kim Susan was arriving around 2pm and funily enough they arrived at my work at the same time! So I sent them off for lunch and a mosey around town before Susan returned to help me close the pet store.   

That evening we all met up for locals steak night at The Wood and a few drinks and a game of pool afterwards. Kim has now moved into a lovely flat in Canmore. 

The following two days Fergus and I had off work to play tour guide to Susan who was on a 5 week tour of Canada and the US. Unfortunately the weather on both days was rubbish and you could barely see the mountains through the cloud and on and off rain. 

The first day we went to Calgary airport to pick up my skis that I had sent over from London and then went up to Spray Lakes to do some wildlife spotting. Didn’t see a lot apart from some Chipmonks, rabbits and a deer. I guess the Bears had headed to higher ground to prepare for hibernation. Susan and I at Spray Lakes

The following day we were up early and headed up to Banff to look for Elk. We had been told they like to hang out at the Golf course so went for a drive around the course loop near bow river and we were not disappointed! We came across a male with a bunch of females and saw another 3 males trying to move in on the pack. They were making weird noises but we didn’t see any fights unfortunately.Elk at Banff Golf Course

Had a quick stop at Bow Falls before carrying on up to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake for a look.Susan and I at Bow Falls

Driving up the road to Moraine Lake was great, it had been snowing up there and small areas of snow lined the roadside. It was quite misty and we felt like we were miles away from anywhere, that is until we arrived at the lakeside lodge and saw loads of tourists milling about!

We climbed the small hill at the head of the lake and from the top, the view, even though we still couldn’t see the tops of the mountains, was amazing! The lake is a stunning blue/green colour and is surrounded by green forest and stunning snow capped peaks.Susan and I at Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake Panoramic

Had a look through the the gift shop at the Lodge before carrying on to Lake Louise. Again, it was crawling with tourists but it’s a very impressive place. The huge Fairmont Hotel stands at the head of the lake looking to the mountains and glacier in the distance. Again, we were unable to see the glacier or the tops of the mountins due to the low cloud.Lake Louise

Had some lunch in the small Lake Louise shopping area before heading back to Banff. Had a look around Banff town before dropping Susan off at her hostal and saying our goodbyes. The following day she got the tour but up to Jasper and we were happy to learn the weather had cleared so she was able to get great views for her trip. 

We are so lucky to have had so many visitors and new arrivals so early in our stay in the Rockies. It’s such a lovely part of the world to share with loved ones.

I hope it continues.