Vancouver Update!

You can tell I’ve been busy as I haven’t uploaded a post in quite a while!
This whole ‘settling into a new country’ thing actually takes up quite a bit of time.
When I first got here and was staying at the hostel, I was doing so many activities or meeting new people that I found it really hard to sit down and write about my experiences!

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Streets of the city Downtown

However you can now officially call me a Vancouveriette, or maybe one in training!
I’m still getting to know the area but I don’t need to use Google Maps for a lot of things. I know the three SkyTrain routes and where they go, I can even drive to some places without any help – yay! 🙂

I also now have a place to call home.
When I first got here, I pre-arranged a place to live for 2 months from the Facebook Page ‘Kia Ora Vancouver‘ (Check it out if you’re a New Zealander wanting to come live in Vancouver)
I sub-leased a room from a Kiwi guy who was going away for work at the end of January. As I arrived in Jan, I spent the first couple of weeks at the Samesun Hostel and then moved into my new place later on that month. (living with two Irish guys).

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My first home in Vancouver!

The houses here are so big.
The room I first moved into was quite small (paying around CAD$750 a month) but one of the Irish guys ended up moving out so I moved into his room which was a bit bigger which was nice.
As Vancouver has such a housing problem, most houses actually have more than one family living in them. In the house I moved into, we occupied all of the upstairs however there was one guy living downstairs on the left hand side and what I assume was a lady on the right hand side. (I never ever saw her but they had cat curtains so I assumed it was a lady)
Funnily enough, you never run into each other because each renter has their own separate entrance. There’s doors that connect to the inside of the house but they’re completely blocked off so you wouldn’t be able to just walk into someone’s living room. Crazy to think one house has like three separate kitchens!

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Area around where I work

I was pretty organised and got myself a job before I arrived here.
Once I’d explored Vancouver for a few weeks and moved into my new place, I begun working for the same Travel Agency I used to work for back home.
Luckily I got a week of training beforehand because even though we use the same flight booking system as back home, the quoting system and a few other things were completely different! I honestly felt like it was my first day all over again.
Even now, I’ve been there for about 2 months and I still don’t know so many things. The travel market is so different here too. Most people wait till the last minute to book things and so many people go to Mexico for ‘All Inclusive’ packages!
Back home, Fiji, Rarotonga and Australia were the top destinations I always sold, I’d never even sent someone to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta until recently.

Vancouver is such an awesome experience – but how do people ever go away on holiday here??
From what I understand, Canadians only get 2 weeks annual leave a year. (Back home it’s 4 weeks) however I was lucky enough that my company ‘transferred’ my employment over from NZ so I end up getting 3 weeks leave as I’ve ‘been’ with the company for over a year which makes me entitled to more.

20180329_161153-1.jpgIf you follow me on Instagram or read any of my Facebook/IG stories, you probably have noticed that my boyfriend moved over to be with me in Canada!!

I did feel bad for leaving him – as in cried my eyes out and didn’t want to leave on my final day in New Zealand. However, I knew that if I didn’t do this I’d always regret it. I’ve always wanted to live overseas at some stage in my life and I didn’t want to look back and wish I took the chance while I still could.
I’m glad he ended up coming. To be honest, if I didn’t make the move first, we’d still be sitting at home saying “one day we’ll go here or there….” so it was up to one of us to make the first move 🙂

When he first arrived, we lived at the flat for about a month until we could find our own place.
It wasn’t the warmest for our first few weeks in Canada. It even started snowing but it left as quickly as it came.

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About to catch the bus to work when it first started Snowing

As I had to be out of the flat I was in by April the 1st, we started looking for somewhere to live in March. Finding somewhere to live is actually really hard, luckily for us we got the first place we applied for!
It was a bit out of our budget but I’m so glad we chose it.
We live in this beautiful house in a really nice area. We’re literally just down the road from the mall and only a 8 minute walk to the Skytrain. Instead of me taking a bus and a train to work like I used to, I just take the train and it takes me about 15 minutes on a good morning.20180420_154551.jpg
The house is a bit deceitful in that picture haha! We actually don’t occupy the whole thing, We live downstairs in what they call a ‘basement apartment’
Our landlords live in the main house with their 2 teenage children and me and Nathan live downstairs. We have our own entrance, 2 bedrooms, kitchen & lounge area and our own bathroom 🙂
Even though it’s a basement, we have natural light coming through and both the bedroom’s and living area have windows. We even have our own mailbox and recycling schedule so we’re pretty separate from the people upstairs!
We’ve lived here for about a month and I’ve only seen the owners like twice! They’re either really really quiet or I just come home from work too late haha.

Before we found a place, we also bought a car.
Our first big purchase together!
Don’t even get me started on how much it costs to own a car here….let’s just say we pay what the car is worth in Insurance per year. If Nathan ever runs into someone I will strangle him myself.

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First Car, just a cheeky little Ford Escape to get us from A – B

When we moved into our place, we literally had nothing but a few suitcases full of our clothes and personal items. The good thing about rentals here is if you get a good one, they’ll already come with the oven, fridge, (sometimes microwave) and washer/dryer.
As our place is relatively new, all the appliances are nice and in great working order, we just had to buy our own bedroom and lounge furniture which has definitely been the most expensive purchases so far.
Screenshot_20180401-145158.jpgWe splashed out and spent nearly $2,000 on a mattress, bed frame and bed-side tables but we got our couch second-hand from a girl in Vancouver for like $400.

When we moved in we didn’t actually have a bed as it was going to be delivered to us 3 days after our move-in date. (We were planning to just sleep on the couch) however when we went to pick up the couch, the girl was moving out and had a spare bed that she ended up giving to us for like $50. Thank god she did because our bed ended up taking 2 weeks to arrive!!

When the bed eventually arrived and we got it all set up we realized we ordered a bed that was far too big. As in it’s incredibly high!!!
It literally comes up to my hips and I have to do a little jump to get into bed every night.
Nathan and I thought it was funny until the first night when we couldn’t sleep because it honestly felt like we were sleeping in the sky or something haha. I don’t know how to describe it but it was such an un-settling feeling.
When the people from the furniture store called me about delivering the second bed-side table (which we hadn’t received yet) I asked if we could swap the box base of the mattress because that’s what was making it so high and they said yes but they were going to charge us!
I ended up pretty much yelling at the girl saying that the bed was stupidly high and they shouldn’t be charging us a delivery fee of $100 as the bed took bloody 2 weeks to arrive in the first place. For all they knew we were sleeping on the floor!
In the end, they just agreed to deliver it free along with the second bed-side table but now it’s been a week and…..I kind of like the high bed.
I’m so ashamed now. I think i’ve gotten used to it and it’s so much easier to make the bed in the morning without having to bend down. PLUS, it’s the best height to fold clothes at because it’s literally at arm level. Not to mention I talked to one of the girls at work and she said it’s  completely normal for beds to be that high here! Woops…

Anyways, apart from that we’ve got pretty much everything sorted for our place.
The only thing we desperately need are drawers! We had originally purchased them with our bedroom set but they didn’t fit in the bedroom.
(The bedrooms can only really fit a bed and bed-side tables)
The closet’s are good sizes but we really really need some drawers that can go inside them so we can put away our underwear and workout pants etc – pretty much everything you can’t hang up, It’s really frustrating still having suitcases with clothes in them and trying desperately to find socks in the morning.
Oh well….I’m sure a perfect set of drawers are just waiting to be bought at Walmart haha!

In some more interesting news, Nathan and I went to Seattle last weekend.
Nathan plays for a rugby team here in Vancouver and they were versing a Seattle team so we took the drive down on Saturday and stayed the night at a hotel in the city.
Even though it was only for the weekend, it was really good to get away and have a weekend where we could hang out and see a new place together that we’d never been to. I won’t say too much about what we did (because I want to write a separate blog post about our Seattle adventure) but we had fun!
Not to mention the shopping was great. And here I was thinking Vancouver had a good Walmart…

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I’m really loving it here in Vancouver. There’s still so much else of Canada that we need to explore, it’s just finding the time to do it all!
When I started late one morning I decided to explore the area of where we lived. We’re super close to the Queen Elizabeth park which is a great place for morning walks or a visit to the observatory. As it’s Spring, all the Daffodils are in full bloom and the cherry blossoms are thriving! It’s a really pretty city at the moment.

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Not to mention it’s not as cold in the mornings anymore.
I think people have this idea of Canada being absolutely freezing. I’m sure in some parts it is but you really don’t notice it unless you work outside like my poor boyfriend does!

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The thing I love about Vancouver is everywhere is heated!
When you walk into your house it’s so warm because pretty much everyone has central heating or pipes underneath the floor. Even in Winter if you can’t afford your hydro bill they won’t cut off your heating until it gets warmer so you won’t freeze from the cold.
I hear Summer here is pretty great so I’m looking forward to that.
I would absolutely love to stay longer than 2 years (as that’s all my Visa allows) however the type of job I have doesn’t allow me to apply for permanent residency. (It’s quite a complicated process but you need to be a ‘skilled worker’ to apply for PR). Funnily enough my boyfriend is considered a skilled worker as a builder so he can apply and sponsor me as his spouse! I think I’d have to do a lot of greasing up for him to do that for me…

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I will leave you all with some pictures of my time here so far!
If anyone has any questions about moving to Canada just let me know 🙂

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Winter in Whistler

Monday 15th January

It was a much earlier start than I was used to on Monday morning!
I joined another one of the hostel’s Day Tours where they take you to Whistler for the day (a town North of Vancouver)
It started at 8am so I rolled out of bed around 6:45am. Just enough time to have a shower, wash my hair, do my make-up and have something to eat from the breakfast downstairs.
The tour was organised by a tour group called ‘Moose’ who do adventure travel in Canada for students and backpackers, I think it cost about $50 which was pretty good as we had a few stops along the way and it was nice having someone tell us a little about the areas we were driving through.

It takes approximately an hour and a half to get to Whistler from Downtown Vancouver so definitely bring something to read or listen to on the way up if you’re planning to take a bus or a shuttle. 20180115_090211.jpg
Our first stop on the drive up was to Porteau Cove Provincial Park to have a look at the view over Howe Sound and to the Mountains in the distance.
Interesting fact: Our tour guide told us that an old ship had been sunk in the water to attract marine life and for diver’s to practice their diving. Especially for Police Divers that have to search for bodies in the water as their training.
20180115_090614.jpg20180115_090247.jpgIt doesn’t really snow in Vancouver so I had yet to feel the extreme cold while I’m here, however at this National Park I definitely felt a chill!
I didn’t see anyone camping at the park while I was there, but there are 16 walk-in campsites available about 5 minutes from the parking lot. From what I know, most of the campsites are small, ocean front sites with no picnic tables or anything and only pit toilets. Definitely not my type of camping experience haha.

We then got to stop at Shannon Falls Provincial Park which is adjacent to Highway 99. The falls are composed of lots of cliffs rising 335 metres above the Highway, making it the third highest falls in the province.
When we walked to the falls, there was a scattering of snow everywhere which was pretty 🙂
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The next stop was to a little look-out spot to take some pictures of the mountain’s.
To be honest, I’m not even sure where we where but it might have been about half way up to Whistler by this stage.
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My fluffy wee hat I bought the other day!

They saved the best park for last – Brandywine Falls!
About 20 minutes away from Whistler, we saw the most amazing waterfall and winter wonderland.
As soon as we hopped out of the shuttle, I walked into knee deep snow and across icy paths to get to this waterfall. Unfortunately it was a little too icy for me and I slipped 😦
20180115_104045.jpg20180115_093533.jpg20180115_104651.jpgTo get the best views of the waterfall, you have to walk to the viewpoint which also gives you really nice views of Daisy Lake and the surrounding mountains.
As there was snow everywhere, it all looked really pretty, nethertheless – very cold!

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70 Metre Waterfall!

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By the time we got to Whistler, it was about 11:30am.
The ski-fields were busy, there were people at the restaurants having lunch and it was of course – cold!
Our group kind of split up and went our separate ways so I walked around Whistler Village for about an hour looking at the shops and taking pictures of the pretty hotels.
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This is going to sound super geeky, but as I don’t really ski or snowboard (and from what I understand it’s super expensive to learn at Whistler) I ended up walking past a library so warmed up in there for about an hour. I had brought my Kindle with me and as I was already in the middle of a book I found a chair to read. There were quite a few people sitting around reading so it was nice to sit inside and keep warm while looking at all the snow outside.
As we had all afternoon in Whistler (probably a little too long to be honest if you’re not skiing on the fields) I did a lot of walking around. By the afternoon I had found this really cute Candy Apple store that just had sooo many candy apples and chocolates.
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I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper Candy Apple in my life so after much consideration, I decided on a N.Y Cheesecake Caramel apple which I ate while watching the skiiers come off the mountain at the end of the day.
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As I’d been sitting down for awhile, I was shivering!
Thankfully it was time to go back to the bus and head back to the hostel.
The drive home was a bit long, it probably doesn’t help that the days here are so short as it gets dark around 4:30pm so it felt like 9pm by the time we got back.20180115_160400.jpg

The girls who I’d been hanging out with all week were at the Hostel Bar so I quickly ordered a drink and sat with them.
Beer Pong was the activity of the night so we all signed up in good spirits to win, unfortunately Aussie and I lost the first round so we were eliminated at the very beginning 😦
That didn’t stop us from drinking though. We had about a pitcher of alcohol between us and then shared another one when we played Beer Pong. All the mixing on the drinks made Sarah a bit hungover the next day!

Till next time!

x

 

Gastown & Capilano Suspension Bridge

Saturday 13th January 2018

I’ve been really good at getting out of bed this week to head downstairs for Breakfast.
Usually when you stay at hostels they give you free breakfast and the one I’m staying at provides bagels, little muffins, toast and juice. To save myself a bit of money, I’m trying to get up before 9:30am to attend breakfast every day so I don’t go out and buy it!
Plus, it usually fills me up for most of the day so I don’t have to go and buy snacks 🙂

So this morning I had my usual Toasted Bagel with Cream Cheese and orange juice then it was off to get ready for my day of exploring.
I’ve made friends with a couple of girls here, 1 from Germany, 1 from Australia and 1 from Holland.
Germany was off to look at a Room, Aussie had to go set up a bank account and Holland had some stuff to do so I set off to the Vancouver Police Museum by myself in Gastown.
It was about a half hour walk away but I thought it was a good opportunity to explore some more of Downtown Vancouver.

On my way to the museum, I saw the absolute CUTEST dog!!
I tried to take a picture but he kept moving so I took a quick video instead. (Which unfortunately isn’t the best quality)
His ears were just so so soft.


The thing I love about Vancouver is everyone seems to have dogs. I love how they take them inside too! Like I went to go and buy an Umbrella the other day from a big department store (like David Jones) and two people had their dogs in there while they had a browse.

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The Police Museum was small but quite interesting. It was $12 to get in and took me about 40 minutes to walk around. They had a ‘Feature Exhibit’ which I enjoyed. You look around the former city morgue and read about some of Vancouver’s most chilling cases. They also show original crime scene evidence, rare photos, and detailed information about the events and investigative techniques used in each of the cases.
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I wasn’t sure what to do after the museum so I just started walking to see where I would end up.
Probably not the best idea as I ended up walking right through the East Side of Downtown Vancouver (also known as one of city’s oldest areas, notorious for it’s level of drug use, poverty, mental illness, sex work and homelessness)11555314I’m pretty sure I stood out as literally everyone around me was homeless. I wasn’t sure where to go and I didn’t want to take out my phone and have to stand there and Google Map where to go so I kept my head held high (as I always do when I get myself in these situations) and veered off down a street that looked like the Chinatown of Vancouver. Luckily it was Chinatown so I had a very brief look around and found a Garden called the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Upon entering, I had about a 3 minute look around and then left – sorry but there wasn’t much to look at it!

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The day was a bit gloomy and none of the plants were really in bloom. However, I’ve read online that in February they do ‘Lanterns In The Garden’ where they have a display of handmade lanterns showcasing various Chinese legends and have live performances and activities like lantern riddles and Chinese sugar painting.20180113_115149.jpg20180113_125433.jpgI gave my boyfriend a call while I was walking (who’s still all the way back in New Zealand) and just talked to him about Vancouver and how awesome it is etc 😉
In the midst of my talking (again I didn’t really pay much attention to where I was going) by the time I got off the phone, I had to backtrack to get back on route to the Hostel.
I did pass Science World on my walk though, it’s situated on the edge of False Creek (a small harbor of water) so I took a few pictures of the Vancouver city while I was there.20180113_132935.jpg
By the time I got back to my hostel, I’d done about 11,000 steps for the day so had a quick sit-down (I’m so old, my back was hurting so bad haha) and then got ready to head out again.
The girls and I had organised to catch a Free Shuttle bus to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver around 4pm.
It costs CAD$43 to enter the park but it’s sooo worth it.
At the moment, they have a Light Show at night so when we arrived it was still day-light (much better for picture taking) but by the time we’d crossed the bridge and started walking, it had turned dark and the lights were so magical!!
Unfortunately they’re finishing the lights on the 28th of January but hopefully if you’re coming to Vancouver, they’ll do it again because I defiantly think it made the whole experience better.
As you enter the park the whole little ‘village’ is lit up by lights, there’s live music, people are drinking hot chocolate – it’s just so so cute!
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Luckily as I’m a “BC resident” now, the $43 I paid can be turned into an annual pass so I can come and go to the park as often as I want this year – yay!
A little bit of information about the The Capilano Suspension Bridge if you’re curious:

  • It’s 137m long and hangs 70m above Capilano River!
  • The park is 27 acres in total.
  • ‘Cliffwalk’ is the newest attraction which is a walkway clinging to the granite cliff, high above the Capilano Canyon.
  • There’s 7 other suspension bridges that take you through the evergreens called the ‘Treetop Adventures’
  • You can see squirrels! (more likely in the day time)
  • There’s seasonal musical entertainment
  • They sell hot chocolate and ‘beaver balls’ across the bridge which are like little pancakes drenched in Carmel or Chocolate sauce

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View from the bridge – the mist hanging low made it that much better!
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View from the bridge – they had lights that kept changing colour

If you’re ever in Vancouver, I highly recommend going here!
It’s been one of the highlight of my trip so far.
The bridge definitely swings when you’re walking across, however from what I know (if you’re afraid of heights) no one has ever fallen off the bridge by accident.
When we got to the other side, we took lots of pictures and then walked through the Treetop Adventures which are smaller swinging bridges (but only about 30m high above the forest)
I tried to take good pictures but I’ve just come to the conclusion that if I ever want good photos at night, I’m going to have to invest in a proper Nikon camera or something.
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I got this picture off Google – had to show a good one!

There’s some beautiful lanterns hanging around the park, just above the water which was nice 🙂
We also all took a picture on this Santa’s sleigh they still had set up from Christmas. Even though it was pretty cold, I can just imagine how wonderful this experience would be if it was just before Christmas time and they had Christmas Music playing.
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Once we’d experienced all the lights, Aussie and I got a Hot Chocolate from the little cafe they had.
When I saw it was filtered Hot Chocolate, I inwardly groaned as I knew it’d just taste like watery chocolate but surprisingly it was really good!! They even put “whip” on top.
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We headed back across the bridge after buying out Hot Chocolates. This time round, I was a little more confident and didn’t grip the railing as much when we crossed  – well I like to think I didn’t!
We had some time before the free shuttle bus arrived to pick us up so we did the Cliff-Walk and took some more pictures.
Personally I think the Cliff-Walk would be better in the day-time or when it’s still light out as there’s a few fact’s and information written along the way that was a bit hard to see in the dark. Plus the views would be amazing!
20180113_182805.jpgThe bus back to the Hotel was short (only about 15 minutes) and then we walked back to our Hostel. (Quick note: the Free Shuttle bus only picks up people from 4 different places in the city, one of them is the Hyatt Regency Hotel every half hour which is where we caught it from)

Once back at the Hostel we all ordered some food from the Beaver Bar downstairs and had a few drinks. Even though it was Saturday night, I was in bed by probably 9pm as I was so tired!
I did try and finish this blog but I started to get a sore tummy (probably from all the tomato I ate at dinner) so turned my light off and went to sleep.

Tomorrow’s blog – Granville Market!