Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

We're self-confessed not-city people. When on holiday in or near a city we find we run out of things that we want to see or do very quickly - in particular spending lots of time in large shopping areas holds little appeal. With three days planned for Vancouver we were a little worried that we would hit this problem - but apparently not! We successfully managed to enjoy the bits of a city that do appeal and largely ignored the rest!

One of the few things we often say we do miss about living in a big city is the sheer variety of food places there are. The demand is there for the interesting, quirky, local restaurants and the food markets offering all sorts of delicacies. Over the three nights we ate differently each time and, be it tacos or curry wrapped in a roti, all was very tasty and reasonably priced.


We fell in love a little with the public market on Granville Island and certainly if we were local would have visited regularly. We were amazed to find a tea stall with over 100 varieties of tea, include single estate pickings of some of the best known black teas. They brewed us up a pot each of two of the single estate assams and we came to the conclusion that Jen preferred one and Joe the other. The market there also provided us with lunch on one of our days - a bagel stuffed full of pastrami - Joe was in heaven!

Pastrami + Bagel = Tasty

We made up for all the good food by keeping active and on Monday we rented bikes for the day and cycled most of Vancouver's sea wall cycle path which is mainly flat and takes you for a lap of Stanley Island as well as round the harbour.  It was a fantastic way to see the city, though just under 20 miles later and we were rather tired and sore (more cycling than we've done in many many years).

False Creek, Vancouver

On our last day in the city we were looking for something to do not too far from the airport and came across the VanDusen Botanical Gardens - 50 acres of gardens with plants from all over the world. It was another beautifully sunny day and a lovely way to spend our last few hours in Canada.

Waterfalls at VanDusen Botanical Garden

Then, "just" 14 hours of flight later and we found ourselves half a world away in Auckland Botanical Gardens taking the excuse for some fresh air and a leg stretch before the drive to our first hostel. Despite a climate that felt very familiar the jump from an Indian Summer in Canada to early spring was rather confusing for the senses - particularly the sudden abundance of daffodils. While many of the plants felt similar to those back home - a great magnolia display being their seasonal highlight - there were many that felt strange and slightly tropical. The abundance of ferns - particularly the larger tree ferns were a definite reminder that we were somewhere new! We spent much of our walk round the gardens trying to decide whether what we could hear was a rusty gate or a bird, before getting our first sight of a tui - known apparently for including timber-like creaks in its song!

Ferns uncurling at Auckland Botanical Garden

We spent our first 3 nights in New Zealand on the Coromandel Peninsula - chosen for being close to but not in Auckland itself (see earlier notes about not being city people). Little did we realise that after just a two hour drive we would be in a remote quiet mountainous region with a stunning coastline. It was a lucky stab in the dark but we really hit the jackpot. As in Canada we had low expectations of ourselves the first couple of days to help with jet lag and travel fatigue, but apart from being a little sleepy in the evenings we coped with the travel much better on this leg giving us space to go for a couple of short walks, observe some of the local birds and borrow the hostel's kayaks for an hour on the quiet estuary. I don't think we could have planned it better if we tried.

View from the top of the hill at Oputere Youth Hostel

Our next stop is three weeks WWOOFing near Cambridge and is going to be a complete change of pace from what we've experienced so far... watch this space!


  1. You've chosen all the things to do I would have done, not being a city person either... autumn and spring in the same day, weird! It all looks wonderful. Have a great time in NZ.

  2. jjsisley@gmail.com21 September 2014 at 17:05

    I would have loved the botanical gardens. They sound smashing. So interesting seeing the contrast between the two. I should imagine that you have got to the point where you could do with stopping in one place for a while. The views of the beaches are so beautiful. Have you missed September 17th yet. We enjoyed it!

  3. Gosh, it must have felt strange to observe such a change in the seasons like that. It sounds like you two are having a ball and I am really enjoying sharing your experiences, again some beautiful pics here....I await the next adventure!xxx

  4. What an amazing view. You are in the land of my dreams now. I can't wait to share the adventure!


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