Back again for my fifth and final update on my Canadian travels! As of now, I’m back in Cobourg and have wrapped up my trip, but I wanted to write my final instalment and debrief.
When I left off, I was just heading to Victoria to stay with Teresa for a few days. I took the ferry over from Vancouver (which was quite nice!) and arrived on the evening of the 19th. I got settled at Teresa’s and we headed out for a night on the town. Teresa took me to two bars – one fancy, one more casual. I have completely blanked on the names of them, which is unfortunate because the fancy one was probably the nicest bar I’ve ever been in. It had been converted to a bar from a bank and was supposedly ~haunted~ I eventually found this to be a bit of a Victorian theme, it seems there are more haunted places than not, definitely something to investigate if you’re into the supernatural. We had a great time catching up over drinks and it was spectacular to see Victoria by night. The downtown seems very old and historical, and at night the legislature building is completely lit up, making for a very lovely and scenic stroll.
The following day we dedicated to more tourist-y pursuits. Teresa took me to the Royal BC Museum, a definite must-see in Victoria. The museum had two special exhibitions – one on families and one on Terry Fox. I’d actually seen most of the Terry Fox exhibits at the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, but it was interesting to see it again. The families exhibit contained old family portraits and items that had been handed down or were representative of certain generations. I felt very old upon seeing my childhood Fisher-Price dollhouse in a glass case. On permanent display at the museum are exhibits on Canadian wildlife (including a life-size wooly mammoth!), native Canadian culture, and a recreation of Victoria in the early 1900’s, which you can walk through. I particularly enjoyed this portion of the museum and enjoyed walking through the little street and peering into the little shops. In keeping with Victoria’s ghostly reputation, the museum is of course also haunted!
We took a driving tour of Victoria where Teresa pointed out many of the interesting points in the city. Victoria has a sense of old-world charm that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it is beautiful and perhaps more laid-back than Vancouver. You’re surrounded by sea and the smell of the ocean wafts through the air. Victoria is an all-around lovely place with beautiful architecture and gardens, definitely worth a re-visit (and also because I promised Teresa I’d be back!).
On the 21st, Teresa and I headed back to Vancouver with the company of her father. Teresa’s family has seasons tickets to the BC Lions, so that night I took in my second game of football. We had literal front row seats behind the goal posts so I got to see everything up close and personal. I made a poor decision of purchasing unidentified stadium sushi but otherwise had an unexpectedly good time. I’m not much of a sports fan, but attending live events has so much energy, it’s difficult to not have fun.
The 22nd was considerably more low-key, which was not altogether a bad thing. If you’re travelling for extended periods of time, give yourself permission to have slower days, it’s so crucial for avoiding burn out. Teresa, Beka and I went out for sushi after I had gotten my nose pierced (sorry mom and dad). I’d been wanting to have it done for a while and thought it would be extra fun to do it on my trip (and Teresa is excellent at distracting). So, we headed down and I toughed it out! Interestingly, the piercer who did my nose had done Justin Bieber’s the year before, a fact which I have shamelessly been pulling out whenever I can.
On the 23rd, we ventured down to Granville Island, which is home to a large indoor market, a brewery, theatres, an art school, and countless seaside restaurants and shops. It’s a happening place for sure and there’s lots to see and do. It seems most of the whale tours take off from Granville Island and there were tons of people in kayaks and paddle-boarding. This is definitely a great place to check out, but perhaps not on a Sunday afternoon which is presumably peak market times.
My final full day in Vancouver was the 24th. Teresa had returned to Victoria and I decided to spend the day checking out the downtown scene. I spent the first few hours in the Vancouver Art Gallery. They currently have a special Monet exhibit which I was keen to see! I don’t often go to galleries, but I really do find them to be wonderful places. Going to one solo is probably preferred, you can take everything in silently and enjoy at your own pace. The Monet exhibit was gorgeous and I was so glad that I got to see it. I also visited the Emily Carr exhibit, which is something I hadn’t been greatly exposed to but is such an important part of Canadian art. I’m making it my goal to frequent art galleries much more.
Following the gallery, I walked down to Chinatown where the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is located. There’s two parts to this garden, one is free to walk through and more like a Vancouver public park, and the second is paid admission and is, for lack of a better word, a more authentic experience. The paid gardens feature architecture and stonework which is reflective of Chinese gardens and is actually built of materials that were sourced from China. As well, all of the plants in the garden are plants that would be found in China, including a large assortment of penjing trees (more widely recognized by their Japanese name ‘bonsai’). Both sections are beautiful, but if visiting I would strongly recommend going for the paid experience. There are a lot less people (and those in the paid gardens were a lot quieter!) and the garden has much more included. They offer guided tours which were excellent (and if you can’t tell, I learned a lot) and a lovely way to learn more about Chinese culture, which admittedly I am not very familiar with. Learning about the garden and the importance of certain objects or the intention behind different structures gave me an appreciation and curiosity for the Chinese culture. The gardens were also crazy gorgeous and so I took way too many pictures, but alas. They also had a koi pond with a 50 year-old koi, so that’s pretty snazzy too.
My last day in Vancouver drew to an end as I roped Beka into watching The Bachelorette with me (I need to stay current on my shows of course) and the following day I flew back to Toronto. Yes, I cheated on my train journey and skipped out on what would no doubt have been the best four days of my life aboard the VIA. I thought about it long and hard, but decided I could not endure another attempt at sleeping on the train, so I caved. It’s also been nice to get home extra early.
For now, I’m working on settling back into my routine in Ontario and re-familiarizing myself with my thesis (truly, bittersweet). Now that I’m home, I’ve had some time to reflect on my trip and this past month, and I can honestly say I learned a lot about not only Canada but myself. Yes, I know that sounds incredibly cliché but it’s true.
First of all, I think that no matter where you go, if you travel for an extended period, you’re going to have to face situations and experiences that you never have before and will inevitably learn something about yourself. I wasn’t really sure how much I’d enjoy travelling for three weeks straight, but it really did fly by. I was pretty nervous about going alone as well and worried that I would get bored or lonely, but I found that in many cases I preferred it that way. I was extremely glad that I got to see friends along the way and share experiences with them, but I was also thankful for the moments where I had to figure things out for myself or be content with my own company. It gave me a newfound sense of independence and confidence, and also an appreciation for solitude. I honestly would probably do another solo trip, which I never thought I would go for previously.
It was amazing to travel across Western Canada and experience Alberta and British Columbia, two amazing provinces. There really is a lot of diversity amongst the provinces and it’s so cool to see that for yourself. It’s sparked an interest for me in Canadian travel and I can’t wait to see the rest of the provinces. I think it’s super important for any Canadian to travel our own country and gain an appreciation for Canadian culture.
Seeing it by train is actually pretty great too, as much as I knock it. I think if I did it again, I’d definitely take a sleeper cabin. The train is a relaxing way to travel through the country and you get to really see the landscape in a way you just won’t on a plane.
So, in the end I can say it’s been one hell of a time. I’m super happy that I got this opportunity for this once in a lifetime trip and I’m grateful for all of the experiences it’s brought. My trip really pushed me outside of my comfort zone in a good way and I feel like I’ve gained some clarity on myself or my own life. I’d 100% recommend travelling alone to anyone and also to travel Canada. I didn’t have the time to make the venture out to the East Coast just yet, but I’m feeling much more inspired to do so, so hopefully that’s in the cards for the future.
Thanks so much for reading and following along on my adventures. It’s been really fun to write about them and talk to people about it and their own travel experiences. Please enjoy this multitude of pictures from the last leg of the trip!