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Land Of Mountains, Snow and Sunsets: Canada, Part 2

In only a few corners of the globe will you encounter the Pacific Ocean embracing a mountain range as it does along the sea-to-sky highway
Sunset in Victoria
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In only a few corners of the globe will you encounter the Pacific Ocean embracing a mountain range as it does along the sea-to-sky highway leading to Whistler. The journey unveils a breathtaking panorama of azure waters caressing the rugged coastal mountains. En route, the sight of Shannon Falls cascading down, alongside its provincial park, captivates the senses. Observing families revelling in outdoor activities on weekends show Canadian affinity for nature.

Dual-coloured rose with interesting names
Dual-coloured rose with interesting names

The journey from Vancouver to Whistler typically spans about six hours by car. Opting for a self-driven rental from Vancouver airport offers flexibility during travel. Our itinerary comprised a flight with a short layover in Calgary, swiftly followed by the rental of a car for the six-hour drive to Whistler. We boarded an early WestJet flight to capitalize on daylight hours upon reaching Vancouver.

BC ferries
BC ferries

Whistler’s village centre buzzed with summer tourists, offering a vibrant atmosphere and all necessary amenities. Souvenir shops displayed postcards and fridge magnets showcasing Whistler’s winter beauty as a popular ski resort.

Opting for the scenic route to Blackcomb mountain meant a lengthy walk to collect passes for three gondola rides. A queue at the centre briefly dampened our spirits as we learned of impending thunder showers. However, the weather forecast predicted rain after 4 pm, which wouldn’t affect our day’s excursion. We got a clear sky.

Butchart garden
Butchart garden

We hiked to Upper Village from the Blackcomb Tourist Centre, from where we boarded a gondola that ascended to the next station, offering stunning views of the pine forest below, home to grizzly bears. We were dropped at the Peak-to-Peak Gondola station. This gondola transported us higher to a flat tableland, the starting point for the hike toward the Peak Express chair car station. The walk provided the most rewarding views of the Blackcomb mountain range. Interestingly, the Peak chair car, though the most challenging and adventurous ride, was the quickest to reach the summit. Boarding this chair car that accommodated four people, required synchronized seating; otherwise, one might end up traveling alone or with strangers.

Canada Place
Canada Place

The following exhilarating adventure awaited us: traversing the Cloudraker suspension bridge. Unfortunately, a group of playful tourists, young children, added to the excitement by shaking the bridge, amplifying the already swirling winds. With careful steps and a firm grip on the railing, I concentrated solely on making it to the other side, my anxiety palpable to those following behind.

The Ravenclaw viewing point offered a panoramic view of the snowclad mountains and capturing still photos here was notably easier than on the bridge. On our return journey, we encountered numerous adventurous tourists boldly posing near the precipice with the Inukshuk—a primitive landmark unique to indigenous peoples. This spot drew in several sports enthusiasts; mountain bikers tackled a challenging terrain set aside for them, leaving us, the struggling tourists, in awe of their skill.

Emerald Lake in Whistler
Emerald Lake in Whistler

From the Peak Chair station, visitors had the option to either take the Whistler Village Gondola for a swift descent or choose the longer, more scenic route back to Blackcomb mountains. Opting for the latter, we embarked on our return journey to the base, taking ample time to capture missed photo opportunities by the Creekside. Watching the frothy blue and white waters dance on the rocks induced a meditative state.

A family photo
A family photo

We bid an early farewell to Whistler with the goal of reaching the Tsawwassen ferry terminal at Delta before 4 pm. Along the way, we made stops at various viewpoints along the Sea-to-Sky Highway to savour the breathtaking scenery one last time.

Upon reaching Vancouver downtown, we made our way towards the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. The voyage to Victoria typically spanned about one-hour-and-thirty-five minutes. While queued up at the toll booth in our designated car line at Tsawwassen Quay, we took advantage of the opportunity to indulge in gelato and do some shopping. What caught my eye was the orderly procession of cars boarding the ship’s parking lot—a sight that left me pleasantly surprised!

Inside the B-garden

Once onboard the cruise, we ascended to the seventh-floor deck using the elevator. While most passengers revelled in the views from the decks, some opted to unwind, engrossed in books and accompanied by their furry companions. Public places in Canada conveniently offer compostable or disposable poop bags and water taps at floor level, ensuring hassle-free travel for pets.

The legislative assembly of Victoria
The legislative assembly of Victoria

Upon arriving at our hotel in Victoria, we wasted no time in heading to the harbourfront and downtown area to explore. The sight of white yachts set against the pink hues of the evening sky resembled a scene from a slowly awakening painting. Along the promenade, we discovered plenty of seating steps where entertainers delighted the crowds with impromptu shows, while artistes showcased their creations in vibrant stalls.

Live music at the Granville island
Live music at the Granville island

Victoria, the island capital of British Columbia, paid homage to Queen Victoria, the esteemed monarch of Britain, from whom it derived its name. An elegant fountain in front of the legislative assembly provided the perfect backdrop for countless selfies. The Victoria harbour point served as the launch point for whale-watching excursions into the Pacific Ocean. The question lingered-would we be lucky enough to catch a glimpse?

Whale-watching in Victoria
Whale-watching in Victoria

It turned out to be our fortunate day. Witnessing fast-swimming marine creatures, adorned with pairs of dorsal fins and playfully spouting mini fountains of water, proved captivating. The chilly, windy morning prompted me to seek refuge on the lower decks while standing to capture photographs. As we sailed across the heart of the Pacific Ocean, distant views of Washington emerged, along with an old black-and-white painted lighthouse, visible from afar, and the island where Victoria’s first settlers arrived. The onboard naturalist enriched the journey with intriguing whale facts and insights into the surrounding area, while witnessing seaplanes taxiing off from the harbour added an extra delight.

The following day was dedicated to immersing ourselves in the splendour of Butchart Gardens, Victoria’s largest privately owned garden, now under the care of the third generation of the family. A magnificent array of roses in every imaginable colour captivated us with their beauty, each variety adorned with enchanting names. The sweet fragrance of the roses hung delicately in the air, enhancing the sensory experience. Towering redwoods, majestic mahogany trees, and elegant pines, along with a diverse assortment of flowering plants and unique foliage, graced meticulously planned sections throughout the gardens. From the enchanting rose garden to the serene Japanese garden and the picturesque sunken garden with its vibrant flower beds below, there was no shortage of Instagram-worthy moments to capture, including the sight of the well-preserved family boat moored at the dock.

Vancouver from the bus
Vancouver from the bus

The souvenir shop at Butchart Gardens presented a stunning display of artworks crafted from glass, wood, metal, and mixed mediums, all created by esteemed Canadian artists. This European-inspired garden left an indelible impression, especially for plant enthusiasts and those intrigued by family history.

On our final day in Victoria, the lively ambiance of the vibrant harbourfront called out to us once again, enticing us to soak in its bustling atmosphere.

View from the sea wall
View from the sea wall

We returned to Vancouver via the same cruise. On our second day, we rendezvoused with my brother-in-law Ankur and his wife Katelynn at Canada Palace, our initial stop before boarding the hop-on-hop-off buses. These buses provided a comfortable tour around the city, offering unobstructed views of the skyscrapers while drivers doubled as tour guides, sharing fascinating trivia. Our journey concluded at Gastown, the historic heart of Vancouver. Like typical tourists, we patiently awaited our turn to snap a photo with the iconic public steam clock, designed by architect and horologist Ray Saunders. Our photo turned out to be a memorable family portrait. After a swift lunch, Ankur suggested we abandon the bus in favour of a stroll along the Stanley Park Seawall. His suggestion proved to be a wise choice.

Peak chair
Peak chair

The Seawall provided panoramic views of the Lionsgate Bridge, connecting the North Shore with Stanley Park and the City Centre. It served as a haven for cyclists and weekend adventurers alike. My curiosity about the North Shore was soon satisfied by my friends Sayantan and Karnika, who introduced me to their baby daughter Shanaya. They treated me to an exhilarating drive across the Lionsgate Bridge, culminating in a visit to the Shipyard. There, we were treated to a stunning sunset followed by an unforgettable fine dining experience. As night fell, the cityscape from the Lionsgate Bridge resembled a glowing computer motherboard.

Misty mountains as seen from Whistler village
Misty mountains as seen from Whistler village

Vancouver was a paradise for food connoisseurs. Its vibrant streets, particularly Downtown and Granville, boasted a plethora of culinary delights ranging from local delicacies to global cuisine. One could experience a ride on a water taxi from here.

British Columbia offered an abundance of diverse and vivid experiences to indulge in. As we bade farewell to the majestic vistas and immersive encounters, the essence of Canada lingered—a land where landscapes told compelling stories, and every interaction was an invitation to explore further. These cherished memories remained etched in our minds, keeping Canada’s beauty alive in our hearts.

All Images: The author

Surela has been writing features on lifestyle, health, art and culture for more than a decade. Her work has been widely published in both print and digital platforms. When not writing features, she dabbles in poetry and short stories. Recently her short story was published in an anthology titled ‘The Flight of Deities: An Anthology of Desecration & Devotion’. She is a bibliophile who enjoys reading both fiction, non-fiction and poetry. As a core member of a poet and writer’s community, ‘Lampshade Writers’ she has organised an in-person poetry reading event in Kolkata. She is a person of varied interests of which history and archaeological discoveries fascinate her the most. Spending hours in a museum is her favourite way to unwind. She loves travelling and is a pet parent to two loving rescued puppies. To read more of her works check – www.surela.in and https://medium.com/@surelachakraborty

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