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Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

Hitchin, United...
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Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

This is a day by day account of our tour around BC which took place from mid September to early October 09. It's very long (sorry) but I thought that too much is better than not enough, then at least people can skip most of it if it's not interesting. It was 3 weeks after all. I'd just like to say thanks to the BC experts and members... I didn't ask many questions but believe me I was soaking up the information from the BC forum like a sponge in the 2 months before the trip, so thank you for answering everyone else's questions, I certainly benefitted from your knowledge.

Our trip was mainly centred around seeing some of the best bits of BC as the last time we were there in the winter (Between Vancouver and Whistler that time) it was foggy, depriving me of some of the gorgeous views I'd expected. I planned a loose itintery based on hiring an RV from Vancouver, taking in a loop around the Okanagan Valley, up to the Rockies, and back down the Fraser Valley before taking the bus over to Vancouver Island for a few days and then back to Vancouver itself to fly home. So onto the story of what happened:

Day one: Arrival in Vancouver. We arrived at 1430 and after a small delay at immigration (the officer never did explain properly why I was detained for a short while) opted to take a taxi into town rather than the much cheaper Canada line, mainly because there was no CL station within walking distance to our hotel. Fare was around $30. We got to the Westin Grand at the Eastern end of Robson by around 1630 and recieved a free upgrade toa Queen suite... it's a great hotel with a kitchen in every room (seperate review posted soon), and with a small supermarket (The IGA marketplace) next door on one side, and a liquor store on the other side, it couldn't be better located. We went to an "Irish pub" just up Robson called Lennox's where we had burgers and Yam fries, and then went back to sleep off some of the jetlag.

Day 2: Vancouver and Stanley Park. After a jetlag assited awakening at 6am, I had my first ever White Spot breakfast. It was good, but my God it was big, and it sat in my stomach like a lead weight until mid day. I went back to the IGA and bought fruit juice and pastries for my wife, at least then she wouldn't have indigestion for the rest of the morning! On our last visit we walked the seawall walk around Stanley Park but the views were spoiled by fog and rain. Not this time though, and after a couple of lovely hours of very scenic walking, we got back to English Bay as weary as last time, but with a generous helping of sunburn. I promise to remember my hat next time. That night following a recommendation from ******** (thanks!) we headed down to Yaletown and ate at the Yaletown Brewing company in the restaurant. The food was excellent and we had a great time, popping into the brewpub next door for another pint before eventually walking home.

Day 3: Time to leave Vancouver to head off into the interior. Klaus from Go West RV Rentals picked us up at our hotel and drove us the 30 minutes or so out to Go West's base at Coquitlam. Another staff member, Jan, took us through the hour of explaination on how to work the unit, empty the tanks etc, and we were ready to go. The staff at Go West are thorough yet friendly, and I was impressed with our unit, a 26 foot Winnebago Access. Slowly I made my way out to a nearby supermarket to stock up on food and beer, and then on to the Trans Canada Highway into the traffic, struggling initially to get to grips with the width of the unit and the road positioning. It was a nervous first hour! Our first stop was was going to be Hope, in particular the Othello Tunnels campground and RV park. After about a 2 hour journey with steadily decreasing traffic and steadily increasing confidence, we arrived in the Hope area and eventually found our campground, a good few miles off the main Highway. Being my first ever RV park I wasn't sure what to expect... it was pretty small in comparison with many that we would stay at... only 20 or so pitches, but being outside the main season we were the only transient customer that night. We lit our campfire in the pit, cracked a few beers, got the dinner on, and got our heads into the books to learn more about how the RV worked, and also to plan the next days trip.

Day four: Manning Provincial Park. We woke fairly early after a slightly noisy night (trains and trucks do pass by quite close) and before checking out, we walked the 1 mile or so down to the Othello tunnels, which we really enjoyed. As a first taste of the BC interior scenery, it was a great start. In the early afternoon we were back on the road and heading for Manning Provincial Park. As we drove, the highway narrowed in places to one lane and started to get twisty and a bit steep, but by now I was starting to get more confident and the driving wasn't too demanding. Eventually we reached Manning in mid afternoon and stopped at Lightning Lake Campground. There are four parks in Manning, but being the winter season only this one was open to RV's. This was to be my only stop at a provincial campground and I was really impressed, despite having nearly 200 spaces it was beautifully kept, natural and about as unspoilt as somewhere like this could be. In common with many provincial grounds there was no electrical hookup so it was going to be battery power all night. We almost immediately headed off on about a 4 mile hike around Lightning lake which was really beautiful, and we hardly saw another soul. On our return, we met our friendly one legged park ranger (really!) who sold us some firewood and took our camping fee. Then it was time for more cold beers, dinner, and a good hour spent staring up at the stars, which were spectacular thanks to the low light pollution. We enjoyed hearing the forest creatures raping and eating each other before we headed for bed.

Day five: Keremeos and Penticton. After a chilly night out in the forests, we eventually got on the way towards one of BC's desert regions at Keremeos. After an hour or two's drive of slowly changing countryside, we came to Keremeos itself, with its fruit orchards and vegetable fields contrasting sharply with the surrounding rocky, scrub covered hills, which somehow reminded me more of cowboy films from my youth than of British Columbia. Keremeos was delightfully hot, dusty and sleepy, and I stopped just north of there at Bears Farm fruit stand where I bought fresh bell peppers and hot peppers, onions and garlic. My wife bought peaches (the biggest she's ever seen), some other fruits and some local beef jerky which was perfect. It must be great to be able to eat produce like that all year round. Another 90 minutes later, just short of Penticton we arrived at Wright's beach park. All I can say is that Mister Wright must be the most fortuitous RV park owner in all of Canada. Set on the shore of Skaha Lake, around 30 of the pitches back straight onto a private beach. So on a nice sunny evening, (albeit with a very stiff breeze) we cooked up some of the vegetables from Keremeos, drank some more beers, and fed the ducks. Marvellous.

Day six: Vernon. So we headed North, up Okanagan Lake, and on through wine country. I must say that I didn't see as many vineyards as I thought I might, and despite the various signs from the roadside, I'd say there's plenty of room for more. Just kidding really, but I was surprised not to see a more "blanketed" look similar to the vineyard regions of Germany or France. We got off the main highway and dropped down the other side of the hill following signs for Grey Monk Winery, where we took a free tour and learned more about wine production in the Okanagan. It's a very nice vineyard and we bought a few bottles from the well stocked shop... they nearly all made it back to the UK with the exception of a Gewurtztraminer that had to be opened that night. We then pushed on to just short of Vernon, stopping the night in Dutch's campground. It's a nice enough place, blighted only by very frequent freight trains shunting slowly through the edge of the park. I don't mind them when they rush through, but my God, when they keep stopping and starting they don't half make a clanging, banging racket!

Day 7: Revelstoke. After a very pleasant couple of hours drive we found the well rated Lamplighter Campground with no problems, and we were glad we did. It was one of the prettiest and well maintained campgrounds that we would stay at. I was looking forward to this one as it was within walking distance of a major town, which meant I hopefully wasn't going to have to cook. After a short walk of 2 miles or so around the river dyke area, we headed into Revelstoke itself which was about a half hours walk. At this time of the evening on a Monday the town was dead, but most places were still open, if not busy. We headed into the pub at the Regent Inn where the food was pretty good, and afterwards found ourselves in a "sports bar" about 3 blocks away which actually seemed more like a social club, bingo hall and bar all rolled into one! Still we weren't made to feel unwelcome and we had a pretty good time. Staggering out, we managed to find the town's one and only cab on a Monday night (the friendly driver explained that there are usually more later on in the week) and were soon back at the Lamplighter.

Day 8: Revelstoke again. After unhooking the RV we headed off up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway to Mount Revelstoke National Park. We did some of the smaller foot trails around the summit but they were so short that each one only took minutes and as a consequence there were lots of visitors there. Instead, we headed off onto one of the much longer lake trails, through woods, rocky paths, and open meadows (very much bear country!) With much handclapping and loud talking we reached the first lake on the trail safe but tired just under 4 miles later. Beyond this point, my wife wasn't confident on the increasingly rocky paths, so we about turned and walked back, hollering and clapping once more. We found ourselves back in the RV by late afternoon, and we headed back into town as the light started to fail, picking up a pretty good Chinese takeaway on the way back to Lamplighter to spend one more night.

Hitchin, United...
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1. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

Day 9: Rogers Pass and Donald Station. After a provisions stop in town, we headed on towards the rockies... I was planning on some short hikes around the Rogers Pass visitor centre, but on reaching it in the early afternoon I was amazed to find it closed despite both the "Rough Guide" and "Lonely Planet" stating that it was open until well into October. I didn't know enough about the area to plan my own hikes (I'd relied on the visitor centre for a local map!) so we pressed on to see how far into the rockies we could get before we'd have to turn back West due to time contraints. By late afternoon we'd reached Donald Station and I'd had enough of driving so I stopped in the first campsite I saw, something like 40 miles short of Golden. It was actually a good find... nice and quiet, tidy, and with all the necessary stuff for a last night heading East, including wood and a firepit. I'd not had a nice fire since Manning! The night sky was again spectacular thanks to the remoteness of the campground.

Day 10: Kamloops. A further drive than I'd planned to do on a daily basis, but I needed to make up some distance in order to get back to Vancouver in good time, so we set of for Kamploops fairly early. Stopping by Revelstoke once more for a much needed Tim Hortons, we carried on, taking a new route west via Salmon Arm, noticing again how the lush pine forests and steep mountains were gradually giving way to heat, scrub, and rocky outcrops more akin to somewhere like New Mexico. A long drive later we arrived at our campground, positioned just on the North shore of the South Thomson river it was unremarkable enough, mixed in with a permanent trailer park on the edge of an industrial park. That does sound unpleasant I know, (actually it wasn't bad) but it was chosen for it's proximity to town... Lonely Planet said it was a 5 minute walk to downtown across the red bridge. That evening after a 35 minute walk (and vowing to throw my Lonely Planet guide in the nearest bin) we had an okay meal in a dodgy copy of an "Irish" pub called Hennessy O'Shaughessys, or Murphy O'Shenanigans, or some such rubbish... a place so hackneyed that they make their poor staff wear kilts. Hmm. Actually the food was okay, and the girls didn't look as bad as the guys in their kilts, so not all bad. And yes, I probably should have known better. ;-) Afterwards we had drinks in the Commodore Lounge on the same street which was actually very nice indeed. Canadians do seem to do lounges (and cocktails) very well in our experience! Another 35 minute walk home (thanks again Lonely Planet) and time to hit the hay.

Day 11: Cache Creek, Hell's Gate, Harrison. Setting off into the even more desert-like scenery around Cache Creek, we intended to once again cover a fair few miles. After filling up the tank at Cache Creek, we drove on and reached Hell's Gate in the early afternoon, paid our fee and took the cable car down to the touristy little collection of buildings at the bottom. I'm glad it was quiet, it preserved some of the majesty of Hell's Gate itself, and I hate to think what it's like in the summer when it's busy. A couple of km further down the road we detoured into a small national park where a far more serene view of the Fraser could be had from the old 1920s disused road bridge which had carried the original road North prior to the building of the present highway. The bridge was stunning, in a decayed, buried in the middle of woods, planet of the apes way! (I so wanted to shout "God damn you all to hell!" but I somehow held back). Eventually we came to Agassiz, hazelnut capital of BC (to our surprise!) and then Harrison Hot Springs where we camped at the Harrison Hot Springs RV park for the night. It was a delightful, cosy, thickly wooded site with great facilities, run by a friendly couple and their many dogs.

Day 12: On to Burnaby and a bonus Vancouver night. There was only 1 day remaining before the RV had to be back home, so we drove back to Burnaby and checked in early to the massive Burnaby Cariboo RV Park (in excess of 250 pitches). On the downside, It's soulless, huge, cramped and noisy. On the upside, there are full RV cleaning facilities, swimming pool, a skytrain station within 15 mins walk, and the staff are very helpful and friendly. After washing the unit down and doing most of the internal cleanup we headed into Vancouver for the late afternoon. We got the waterbus over to North Vancouver and Lonsdale Quay where we enjoyed browsing the fantastic indoor market, and took in the beautiful sunset views of the city. Deciding to eat back downtown we later took the waterbus back and went to the Ichiban-ya Sushi house on Thurlow. It was obviously popular as the turnover was fast and the place was busy... my food (teriyaki and tempura) was good, but my wife's sushi was amongst the best she's tasted. We still can't work out how most places in Vancouver can do Shushi at 4-6 dollars for 18 pieces, where in London it would be more like the equivalent of 20-30 dollars for 18 pieces. It's not like we're far from the sea either!

Day 13: Handover of RV and on to Victoria. In the morning, bright and early, we finished our cleaning tasks and gassed up the RV once more before the short drive to Go West. Our handover was very fast and trouble free... I'd worried about a couple of broken items (cups and a bowl etc sustained after failing to secure a cupboard whilst crashing over potholed roads) but the friendly staff said that as long as it was only consumables, they didn't care. As long as we were back safe and the unit itself was okay they were happy. They then paid for a taxi to take us to the Pacific Central Bus Station where we caught the Pacific Coach Lines service to Victoria. The 45 mins or so down to Tsawassen was quite painful... a rather underdressed and over jewelled young lady sat in front of us and spent the whole trip flapping her jaw on anything and everything to her friend at an ear splitting volume for the benefit of anyone within about ten rows. It was like listening to a particularly thick and vacuous parrot. I was relieved to get on the ferry and to get in the queue for the restaurant, only to find she was right behind me, so I had ten minutes more ear bashing. Ah well, the remainder of the ferry journey was spent outside in releative silence watching the beautiful views as we moved between the gulf islands. On arrival in Victoria we walked the very short distance to the Marriott Inner Harbour and checked in, revelling in our first stay in a proper room for 10 days. Later that night we took a cab out to Spinnakers Brewpub where we were lucky to get a table in the restaurant after a short wait. The food and the beers were excellent, but we did find that something happened to the service after a while... most of the waiting staff seemed to disappear leaving our lone waiter struggling to serve everyone so we had to wait over half an hour for a cold dessert. If he had any hair, he looked like he would have been pulling it out. Still, it's a nice place and I'd go back.

Day 14: Victoria. After a bit of a wander around in the morning we booked a whale watching trip for the next day and then caught the Grey Lines bus down to the Butterfly Gardens and then on to Butchart Gardens... both were really nice and I was glad to have seen Butchart Gardens later in the day. (I took this tip from the BC forums). Any earlier and I think the hordes of cruise ship passengers would have made it unbearable. Later that evening we ate in ******* seafood restaurant on the front which we really enjoyed. The Jonah Crab cakes in particular were delicious.

Day 15: Whale watching. We first went for an early lunch at the little wooden shack down near the Harbour Air terminal and had fish and chips which were really good. Then it was off to the Ocean Adventures hut (shared with West Coast Air), into the survival suits and onto our Zodiak boat with only 2 other couples (again I was thankful to have travelled at this time of year!) The ride out was quite fun, bit bouncy and nice and fast, and an hour later we were right there amongst a pod of Orcas, spending around an hour in company with these magnificent, huge creatures. What an experience. Jim our captain then said the weather was turning and so we headed back for Victoria, taking over an hour to crash over extremely rough seas in fast worsening weather, often getting airborne by several feet off the top of the waves. It was actually great fun and we both loved it, it took ages to get rid of the grins on our faces. I wasn't sure if the other couples liked it as much, one of the ladies looked decidely unwell. That night we ate in the good old "Keg", a big favourite with my wife every time we go anywhere in BC. The steak and the king crab legs were great.

Day 16: Back to Vancouver. Another coach journey with Pacific Coach lines, and a slightly murky voyage on BC Ferries brought us back to Vancouver and the Westin Grand once again. We were offered another upgrade (this time for a small fee!) but it was cheap and we got a King suite, which was virtually an apartment with full sized living room, hall, bedroom, bathroom and even a balcony. We browsed some of the shops on Robson and ate dinner in Joe Fortes... it was fairly good but I'm glad I saved somewhere better for our last night! Thanks again to the experts on the forums for that info.

Day 17: After a trip to GM place to get souvenirs (I got a rather nice #17 Ryan Kesler home jersey) we got ready for our last night which was to be a meal at Raincity Grill on Denman Street. We got down there on the 5 Robson bus (I love the Vancouver buses by the way, usually crowded but really easy to use and everyone seems friendly and accomodating) and we were a little early. The Raincity Grill was empty as we entered but soon filled up (within 20 minutes actually) and we had the best meal we've had in Canada, ever. In fact (as much as I shouldn't say it!) it would put many London restaurants to shame.... I've posted a review separately, but it was the perfect way to say goodbye (or au revoir) to BC.

Day 18: Going home. We checked out of the Westin, but left our bags with the staff as we headed off once again to Stanley Park to see the Vancouver Aquarium, which we have somehow missed on our last trip. On the walk through the park we saw black squirrels (One of which touched my wife's leg) which we rarely see in the UK but here they lived in abundance. At the aquarium, the Beluga Whales were obviously beautiful and inspiring, and to be honest the whole place has a lot going for it, but for us the high point is the Sea Otters, so much character! We were laughing our heads off at their antics. I know they are only scrubbing air into their coats, but they looked so human, scratching their heads and bellies. They looked like me, waking up on a Sunday.

We got a cab back to the Westin, slightly downcast (as that was the last we'd see of Vancouver for a while) and picked up our bags. We then got a cab to the airport, checking in with no problems, only to spend our last 3 hours in the depressing YVR departures area. Maybe it's the brown and green and orange decor, or the lack of 24 hours of shops, but I find YVR to be the most depressing airport in the world to depart.

Or maybe it's depressing because you're leaving Vancouver?

In short this was an amazing holiday which we will both remember for life. I'm sure we will return to BC very soon... maybe not the next holiday as one has to try different things, but I can already feel the most beautiful place on earth calling us back.... maybe after the hectic rush of Vancouver 2010. Eh?

And by the way Vancouverites, stop worrying about whether the 2010 games will do you any good or not. I was amazed at the anti Olympic feel of many in the city. From an outside point of view, rest assured, no other city is better placed to take this on... the world really admires Vancouver and Whistler. I am sure you'll host the best Winter Olympics ever. So good luck, and get behind it. It'll be amazing.

Thank you BC for an amazing trip.

Hitchin, United...
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2. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

Oh by the way, sorry, but there are two ***** entries buried somewhere in there. (I'd had to research those asterisks and I didn't quite get the names before posting so)... The first is BC Robyn, thanks for the reccomendation of the Yaletown Brew Company for my day 2.

And the second asterisks are for the seafood restaurant we ate at in Victoria. It was Nautical Nellies. (Day 14)

Cheers!

Winnipeg, Canada
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3. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

Loved your report. Would you do the RV thing again? This is subject of huge debate at my house. RV and camp or drive and hotel? I personally love the feeling and smell of the outdoors permeating the indoors?

Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed your travelogue/journal. You both clearly enjoyed (and NOTICED) every detail on your trip. It is great to know that the tips and suggestions posted here were of use to you. Hazelnut capital of the world, eh? Who knew? Thanks for posting.

Vancouver-by-the-Sea
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5. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

Outstanding report-Thanks for posting!

Canada
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6. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

An excellent report. I had a good chuckle here and there during the read. It sounds like you had a great memorable trip.

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

I really enjoyed reading your report. The reason I come to this forum is because being born/raised here all my life, I tend to forget what a great city/province I live in sometimes. Reading visitor thoughts reminds me to sometimes stop and enjoy where I live rather than go on with my jaded/blinders view on! Your report certainly did, and made me smile! Thank you!!!

8. Re: Trip report: 3 weeks tour around BC. (Long)

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