I came across this old blog on a travel website I started but had not visited for several years. It was my first, not terribly good, attempt at blogging. I have included bits of it here to ensure all my writing is in one place.
It is the account of a trip to Canada with friends Mark, Julie and Sharon, with Mark and Julie’s kids. It was an adventure that was cut short by the death of my beloved father. Because of what happened we never really spoke about this holiday. We didn’t share the photographs with our family and I didn’t keep any of the information about this adventure. It all seemed too painful.
However, it was a memorable holiday in so many ways, especially the welcome we had from our friends Lyndon and Laura. Five years down the line, I can now share with them how much we appreciated being with them.
The news of my father’s passing meant that we had to return home at short notice to be with our family. We always said we have unfinished business in Canada.
Here’s what happened…
August 13th 2009
We had for a long time talked about visiting our friends Lyndon and Laura in Canada. They had emigrated some years earlier. They were two of the youngsters in our Youth Group and as with many of the others, when they grew up they became our friends. Julie’s brother had been able to get ridiculously cheap flights to Canada and so we decided to go.
The plan was that we would fly to Vancouver, spend a few days there before driving up to Kelowna where our friends lived. After a week in Kelowna we were going to drive through The Rockies, along The Icefields Parkway to Calgary; from there we were going to fly to Toronto, visit that great city and see the Niagara Falls, before flying home.
Adventures don’t come much better.
Thursday 13th August 2009
We enjoyed a great flight from London with British Airways and landed in Vancouver.
For thousands of years, the Vancouver area was home to native people who flourished on the bounty of forest and river.
In May 1792, American trader Robert Gray became the first non-native to enter the fabled “Great River of the West,” the Columbia River. Later that year, British Lt. William Broughton, serving under Capt. George Vancouver, explored 100 miles upriver. Along the way, he named a point of land along the shore in honour of his commander.
In 1806, American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark camped at what is now Capt. William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach just east of Vancouver on the return leg of their famed western expedition. Lewis characterized the area as “the only desired situation for settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.”
In 1825, Dr. John McLoughlin decided to move the northwest headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company from Astoria, Oregon to a more favorable setting upriver. He named the site after Point Vancouver on Broughton’s original map. Fort Vancouver was thus born.
For many years, Fort Vancouver was the centre of all fur trading in the Pacific Northwest from its vital location on the Columbia River. Vancouver was also a centre of British dominion over the Oregon Territory. In 1846, American control was extended north to the 49th parallel. The northwest became part of the United States and Captain Vancouver moved north to Canada, where a new city was born named Vancouver.
It was on Jan. 23, 1857, the City of Vancouver was born. Through the rest of the century, Vancouver steadily developed. In 1908, the first rail line east through the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge reached Vancouver. In 1910, a railroad bridge was opened south across the Columbia. In 1917, the first span of the Interstate Bridge was completed.
The city was named the Top Destination in Canada in TripAdvisor’s 2012 Travellers’ Choice awards, and was chosen as the world’s “Most Liveable City” in 2010 by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a title it has been awarded eight times since 2002.
Vancouver offers travellers both outstanding opportunities for outdoor adventure and the sophisticated amenities of a world-class city.
While this sea-level port city is known for its temperate climate, the surrounding snow-covered slopes are perfect for winter sports and breathtaking views of the city twinkling below. Vancouver is one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to ski in the morning and sail in the afternoon.
We loved exploring the city. One day Mark and Julie went to visit some friends on Vancouver Island.
I remember writing….’ Nearing the end of a fantastic stay in Vancouver. Worn out but seen all the sites! We are on the way to Kelowna a 395 Km drive tomorrow after we check out.’ Missing my family and friends back in Wales.’
Sunday 16th August 2009 7.00 a.m. Canada Time
3.00p.m. Dinas Powys Time
I wrote in my travel blog….
‘Had a good sleep at last! My body must be getting used to this new time zone.
I was shocked the spell checker on this computer did not recognize Dinas Powys.
The others are all in bed but will be down soon for breakfast, before we depart for the long drive to Kelowna. We plan to stop in a place called Hope for a break. Hope it’s a good place. I think it probably is a nice place but who can tell.
Oh well, I have no idea if anyone will read this but me.’
The hire car, which took us from Vancouver to Kelowna and on to Calgary.My travel blog recorded these words…
‘At last we have reached the main destination of our holiday in North America as we arrived safely in Kelowna, British Columbia. The journey up to here yesterday took about 7 hours, but included a couple of stops, the main one in a place called Hope – no sign of Bob anywhere – but we did have a picnic beside a beautiful mountain lake, it was stunning and we began to appreciate the beauties of Canada after the busyness of Vancouver.
The long drive took us up through the mountains and eventually we reached Kelowna and had a happy reunion with Lyndon, Laura and the kids, Charlotte, Jamieson and Jacob.
Lyndon and Laura’s beautiful home in Kelowna
Again I recorded these words in my blog… ‘We had a BBQ in what Lyndon and Laura called their backyard – although it looked like a beautiful garden to me. After a wonderful time we began to make our way to the holiday home we are staying in for the week.’
On the way there, we had a brush with the Canadian Police! It’s something we still talk about years later…
‘Just as we left Lyndon and Laura’s and I was feeling good about driving this car which had its steering wheel on the wrong side , the police pulled me in! We had driven away from the house and at the next junction, the traffic lights turned to red so we stopped and a police car drew up behind us. On green I turned left and saw a sign 30km/hr max…
So I went 30km/hour, which is very slow indeed (even for me!). Anyway, before long, on went the flashing blue lights and I was signalled to stop. I stopped and got out of the car. The police screamed at me… “Get back in the car!!! Get back in the car!!! Get your hands on the steering wheel!! DON’T MOVE!!’ So I did..quite quickly actually! The police office walked slowly up to the car with his hand on his gun and asked if I owned the car and where I was going. I explained the situation…
He then said “Why are you going so slow sir!!’
Why does everyone always say that to me?!
When I explained about the sign he laughed and said that was only when the kids were in the nearby school. He suddenly seemed much calmer and after checking my documents, gave us directions to our place and wished me well.
I drove off shaking, with Boo a quivering wreck beside me…and we reached our cabin at a respectable 50 km/hour.
The house where the owner of our holiday home lived.
My travel blog went on… ‘Things have certainly quietened down now after the excitement of my ‘arrest’ for slow and careful driving but we have had such fun talking and laughing about it! We spent yesterday quietly in Kelowna. We visited another mall, which they seem very proud of. We started with a Tim Horton’s Coffee- very famous here and very nice indeed – a great way to start any day.’
I wasn’t fussed on the shopping bit but I managed to find Chapters Bookshop with a Starbucks so all was not wasted!!
We spent the rest of the day in our cabin and by the pool….boring for you to hear about but hugely enjoyable for us.’
The blog continued… ‘In the evening we trecked over to Laura and Lyndon’s for Pizza and Corn on the cob. We had a fab time. They are looking after us so well. We are so grateful. We have so many happy memories to share.’
Kelowna – 18th August 2009
I wrote… A chilling day today at our cabin. Nothing much to report other than we are all well and enjoyed this much needed day doing nothing. I did use the time wisely to give our Canadian friends some bombing lessons. Bless them they are tough outdoor little kids used to hunting, skiing in the winter, they get involved in all kinds of sports and outdoor activities but have no clue about ‘bombing’ so I sacrificed my day off by concentrating my efforts in improving their bombing skills. It took a while but they just about got the hang of it towards the end of the day. I was pleased that even after the lessons I could see them trying to improve their skills in their own time. I even saw Ben and Nathan having a little go but of course as true Welshmen they were born good ‘bombers’.
This is a particularly difficult version of The Bomb”. Holding your leg at this angle is only done by experienced ‘Bombers’.Had a great BBQ in the evening and Lyndon and Laura joined us for a Thommo special around the pool.
Kelowna Day – 19th August 2009
As the largest city located on stunning Okanagan Lake, Kelowna is a recreational lakeside paradise with miles of beautiful parkland and several sandy beaches that provide wonderful opportunities for swimming, boating, water skiing, windsurfing and fishing. Even Kelowna’s main street ends at a beach!
Today, Lyndon and Laura showed us round Kelowna and took us to some incredible viewing points to see the wonder of the place where they live.
To round off what was proving to be the perfect day, Lyndon decided to take us sailing on his boat. He looked the part in all his gear and we looked forward to some real adventures.
It was quite a small boat so we decided to take it in turns to have a trip around the lake. Jean went first with Ben. We all had a huge giggle watching Boo trying to get her ample figure into Laura’s life jacket – called a Body Glove.
She eventually succeeded, although there were bits of bosom sticking out of every available belt hole and armhole.
The weather was quite calm when they left but as they neared the centre of the lake a squall blew up and Lyndon quickly decided he had better take them back to land.
This proved extremely difficult, especially when he got to shore. The wind was buffeting the small boat against the quayside and Laura was duly dispatched to summon help. It was hilarious and the incident has been recounted many, many times since that day. I am not to sure Lyndon thought it was as funny as we all did.
It was shortly after this that this perfect day changed, in fact everything changed and my life will never be the same because of what followed. We had a call from my son telling us my father was unwell and that I needed to ring my brother.
We made our way back to the holiday home and I went out to a local phone box to ring home. I had a Canadian phone card.
I was alone.
I got through and before he could speak my brother started crying. Eventually, he told me my precious dad had passed away that day. It was sudden, unexpected.
I could do nothing to stop myself falling to my knees in that car park as the news began to sink in. I wept bitterly for a long time. I felt so alone and so desperately sad. I made my brother promise he would take care of my mum, although I didn’t need to, as I knew he and my sister would and that they would do it well.
I promised him I would come home as soon as I could.
I could not have been with better friends and Mark and Julie and Sharon along with Lyndon and Laura cared for me in the most wonderful way.
As best I could, I went back to our holiday home and shared the news with Boo and Bethany.
The following days were just a blur. On Sunday, after church, we were due to leave Kelowna and make our way down through the Rockies to Calgary. It seemed a better choice than driving back to Vancouver. Sharon was sharing our car and if we could get her to Calgary, then she could catch her onward flight to Toronto with Mark and Julie and the kids as planned and we were able to arrange emergency flights home from the same airport.
Sunday 23rd August 2009
Jean’s birthday was today but we had met the night before to celebrate.
We went to Church with heavy hearts. We were cheered up when we saw an old friend , Simon McKenzie, who had driven up from Penticton to see us.
The journey to Calgary was planed to take us a few days but we had to change plans in order to get to Calgary as soon as we could. We felt gutted for the others, but I think they understood. From Kelowna we headed north to stay overnight in a place called Valemount. This small town was near to the start of the Icefields Highway.
Jasper – Monday 24th August 2009
We started early the next day as we had so much to fit in. We headed for Jasper.
Jasper is a turn-of-the-century railroad town and resort area that lies along the Athabasca River within sight of four mountain ranges. Small lakes—some warm enough for a dip—dot the valley floor, and trails for walking and biking loop throughout. It was a breathtaking drive . Dotted along the highway were numerous gates which could be closed in winter if the conditions become too bad. Other sings warned of the need for snow chains to be put on car wheels. Jasper itself was wonderful. The reindeer it seems wander free!
From here we made our way down the famous Icefields Parkway. Trying to balance the utter sadness we felt with the exhilaration of the majestic beauty of this wonderful country was confusing. I saw many breathtaking sights through tear filled eyes.
The Icefields Parkway
A great swath of sensational country awaits south along the Icefields Parkway. Named for the Columbia Icefield and the squadron of glaciers visible along the route, the parkway bowls along for 143 miles , passing through long, forested river valleys cradled by walls of dazzling peaks. Drivers frequently spot elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black and grizzly bears, wolf, or caribou. After about 21 miles of forest and crag, we pulled over beside Bow Lake for a good look at Crowfoot Glacier clinging to the scabrous cliffs of Crowfoot Mountain. From the lake’s north end, you can make out Bow Glacier Falls, a ferocious cascade plummeting nearly 400 feet (120 meters). A 3-mile (4.7-kilometer) trail leads to its base.
The Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most stunning roadways.
Banff National Park
The National Park stretches roughly 300 miles along the jagged crest of the Canadian Rockies, Banff and the adjoining Jasper National Park take in a vast tangle of great strapping peaks, mauled by glaciers and capped by the largest ice fields south of Alaska. Melt-waters thunder from the heights, pool in gem-like alpine lakes, and rush down the forested walls of broad U-shaped valleys into powerful rivers. It’s a staggering, heart-swelling landscape, rich in wildlife, laced with hiking trails, and traversed by the most spectacular system of roads in the Rockies.
In the afternoon we arrived in Banff, settled the others into their hotel, left them with their dreams of Toronto and the Niagara Falls and we made our way to the airport and our flight from Calgary back to be with our loved ones.
It was an awful flight but when we arrived in London we were overwhelmed as Kate and Jason and Gaz and Keri had come to meet us at Heathrow.
Words can never express how much that meant to Boo, Bethany and me.
AXA Assistance Chicago
122. S. Michigan Ave
Mr. Roger Newberry
+1 312 935 3550
+1 312 803 2754
Mr. Roger Newberry
Mr.Newberry, I am writing to confirm that you, your wife and daughter and have been booked on the flight we previously discussed for this evening. The flight details are as follows:
Flight BA102 departing Calgary August 24th at 21:35, arriving into London Heathrow at 13:25 on August 25th.
The locator for your flight is 3QJ25Y.
Please contact our office if you have any questions.
I acknowledge the help given by our travel insurers…
We always said that we had unfinished business in Canada and we were totally delighted to be invited back to Montreal in the summer of 2014 to attend the wedding of Charlotte Thomas. She and Bethany have been friends since they were born. Both are getting married this year.
One more promise I make is that we will visit Laura and Lyndon again and travel The Icefields Parkway without rushing and view the majestic beauty with eyes that are not misted with sadness.
You have my word.