Thursday, 5 December 2019

November Life Lately

IT'S CHRISTMASSSSS!

Well, it's December at least!

My tree is going up at the weekend (more on that below), my Christmas jumper is coming out and I'm working through my Makeup Revolution advent calendar (thanks Mum!).

I have so many blog posts I want to get done before the end of the year, including my year in review, favourites of the year and... my ten years of blogging anniversary!

So without further ado, here's what I got up to in November.

(And here's my one second every day of the month)

What I did

So, as I mentioned last month, November meant a new job! My last day at Stagecoach was wonderful and awful and sad and amazing all at the same time! My team decorated an entire meeting room for me and got everyone in while I opened my presents. The commercial director and head of marketing both said a few words about me and I obviously cried! I got some absolutely amazing gifts, from a bus Christmas tree decoration to a trip to go cuddle alpacas, to a beautiful Pandora necklace to a box full of Stagecoach merchandise! I had a wonderful turn out to my leaving drinks and I felt so proud to have worked with such an amazing team. I was incredibly sad to leave but so happy to have made such amazing friends and had so many wonderful opportunities.

And then of course, when one door closes, another one opens and I started my new job as CRM manager at Manchester Airport Group on the 18th November! I can't believe it's only been 3 weeks as I already feel so settled already. I work with an absolutely brilliant team and I'm really loving it. And I can see planes from my desk (bonus!).

With starting a new job we'd kept November pretty quiet, which meant we had a little bit more time for spontaneity (I know! Us? Spontaneous?!). We've had a couple of date nights, friends over for board game night and evenings out this month which has been really lovely. 

We've also used a lot of our spare time on stuff for our house. Yes, we've been in here over 2 years but we've been really taking our time with things and now the wedding and honeymoon are over we've had a bit more headspace to get things done. We've ordered new carpets which are coming on Friday (and then we can put up our tree!), we've been sorting out some bits of painting, reorganised the kitchen, had a big trip to IKEA and we've asked for a new TV cabinet for the living room and a fireplace for the front room for Christmas. It feels like we're nearly there now with the downstairs of our house! I can't wait to spend a bit more time in the front room now the winter is here - it's such a cosy space with a lovely bay window where we have our Christmas tree, and I know it will be so nice once the new carpet is in this week (and maybe a new sofa in the new year...)

Where I've been
The 8th November marked mine and Phil's 6 year anniversary and he's just about letting me celebrate our "dating" anniversary as well as our wedding anniversary (and our engagement anniversary...). We got off to a great start in the morning by getting each other exactly the same anniversary card...
We had booked a celebratory meal at the Oddfellows on the Park. This is actually where we went out for our anniversary meal last year, but for Phil's 30th my parents got him a voucher for the tasting menu with a wine flight, so we thought our anniversary would be the perfect opportunity to use the voucher.

The food there was amazing last year but I cannot recommend the tasting menu more. Each course was absolutely exquisite, incredibly interesting and a bit fun. Phil had the classic menu and I had the vegetarian option. The staff were brilliant, explaining every course and every wine, and we had such a brilliant time. Don't be fooled by the thought of a tasting menu - we were so stuffed by the end we couldn't finish our (second!) dessert! They change the menu every season so I'm tempted to go again next year again (I'm still thinking about that celeriac and truffle soup...).

We had another evening out in November to a gig with two of our best friends, Meg and Si. We'd seen Glass Caves busking in Manchester city centre years and years ago, and when Si was booking tickets for the gig saw I liked the band on Facebook and asked if we wanted to come along. The band were brilliant and we had such a good time!

What I read

Eight books read this month:

The Last Girlfriend on Earth
The Exorcist
Dark Matter
The Truth and Other Lies
Miller's Valley
Changeling
One True Thing
Starve Acre

I thought I would struggle to keep up with reading this month as I drive to work now and lose my lovely 20 minute bus journey commute each way, but I've been really trying to make time for reading in the mornings and evenings to make up for it.

My favourite book this month was The Last Girlfriend on Earth which my friend Alex lent to me. I devoured the whole thing in a working day I loved it so much. I also absolutely loved Miller's Valley, which led me to One True Thing, both by Anna Quindlen. For horror I finally read The Exorcist, and I'd been so excited to read Starve Acre and Changeling and they did not disappoint!

What I watched

Two cinema trips this month to see Doctor Sleep and Knives Out which were both brilliant. I'm a huuuuuuge fan of The Shining and I was over the moon when I found out Mike Flannagan was directing Doctor Sleep as The Haunting of Hill House is one of my favourite TV shows ever. I loved Doctor Sleep so much and have been surprised by how much I keep thinking about it!

At home this month we've watched:
In the Mood for Love
Spirited Away
Paddington 1 and 2
12 Angry Men
Muppet Christmas Carol

I feel like most people know this by 12 Angry Men really is a masterpiece! I also picked up both the Paddington films the day before starting my new job and we watched them both on a Sunday afternoon. Oh and I saw Muppet Christmas Carol for the first time after being terrified of it as a kid (it was great, but the ghost of Christmas future is still terrifying).

What I've listened to

After enjoying Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test last month, this month I listened to So You've Been Publicly Shamed. I've also recently gotten into The High Low podcast and have been listening to the last year's worth of episodes on my drive and it is exactly my cup of tea!

Other things I loved

I'm not super into beauty or hair, but I have picked up a couple of great things this month. I am a bit obsessed with my hair and mostly how long it takes to dry, so I picked up one of those towel turban things for a fiver from Asda and I've been shoving my hair straight in that when wet and leaving it for 20 minutes to dry while I do my makeup and/or read rather than rubbing it to death with a towel straight out of the shower. My hair maybe hasn't dried much quicker but it definitely feels less frizzy and softer which I really like.

I also picked up some reusable cotton pads after someone was talking about them on twitter. I usually get through a couple of pads a night and these are so big I can use one for both my mircellar water and my toner, and then they just go in a bag and into the washing machine. Bargain!


What I read online

The Guardian - How we fell in love with sweet potatoes - yes this is a long read about sweet potatoes and yes that might be my wheelhouse
Unusual Efforts - Andre Gomes and displays of male love
Buzzfeed - 27 Doctor Sleep Making-of Facts
The Atlantic - Stop trying to raise successful kids
Writing Between Pauses - 5 Things I've learned about being resilient
A Cup of Jo - 15 things I wish someone had told me when I started cooking
Huffington Post - Having kids later in life isn't selfish
The Guardian - Why am I happy to spend £20 on four pints of beer but not on a bottle of wine? - this whole concept of money and emotion is absolute fascinating to me
Self.com - When I speak out about fat shaming I'm told "just lose weight"
Yes and Yes - The trap of the overly virtuous lunch (and how to avoid it)
Buzzfeed - 28 pieces of advice people learned from therapy

Hope you are feeling fantasically festive and having a wonderful December!

Charlotte x



Wednesday, 6 November 2019

October Life Lately

After a manic few months, October brought us some much-needed quiet.

Well, apart from two significant life changes.

On 1st October Phil started a new job, which is very exciting and he's really enjoying it after a long three month notice period.

And in that same week, I got a new job too. 

So next month, after three and a half years, I'll be leaving Stagecoach and joining Manchester Airport Group as a CRM Manager.

It still seems weird to see that written down and I'm exactly equal parts terrified and excited! I simultaneously can't wait to get my teeth stuck into a new job and also desperately upset to be leaving the company I've worked for the longest and know inside out, and all my colleagues and friends.

So as you can imagine, it's been a bit of a strange and emotional one! I can't believe that when I write one of these next month I'll have a different job!

Here's my one second every day for the month, and here's what else we got up to in October...

Where I've been
This month we had another beautiful wedding when Phil's friend Pete married the lovely Kat at the gorgeous Old Grammar School.

I also went to visit my friend Ellen for the day. She's also been to Canada this year so we had a LOT to catch up on!

The 13th October marked 6 months of marriage so we celebrated with a long and very soggy Sunday morning walk with brunch in Marple Bridge at the end of it.

I had a great time out with my best friends to see Jonathan Van Ness, and I also went to see one of my absolute heros, Margaret Atwood! It was an absolute honour to be in the same room as her. She was absolutely incredible - so funny, so insightful, so smart - it was amazing.

What I did
I ran my 200th parkrun! And got a PB! 

And got this super cute write up written about me!

Next stop, 250 tshirt!

What I read
Nine books in October:

Mising Person
The Confession
Bone China
Wakenhyrst
The Truants
The Heavens
Girl, Woman, Other
Things we say in the dark
Making Space

My absolute favourite by a mile was Girl, Woman, Other. So well deserving of the Booker prize. I couldn't put it down but also didn't want it to be over. It's absolutely stunning (and made me cry). I also loved The Confession and feminist horro short story collection Things we say in the dark was great fun.

What I listened to
I've also been really enjoying audiobook this month, listening to Jonathan Van Ness' Over the Top (which I really recommend on audio) and The Psychopath Test.

Also I know everyone is banging on about it but Dolly Parton's America podcast is absolutely amazing. I've laughed, I've cried, I've done both of these things in the middle of a run...

What I watched
October in the Cantillon house means horror films only. Here's what we watched at home:

What We Do in the Shadows
Nightmare on Elm Street
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Cabin in the Woods
Trick R Treat

Then we took three trips to the cinema this month. We saw Joker, went to see one of our favourite films on the big screen, The Shining and went to the Cineworld Unlimited screening of Luce.

What I've loved
Like everyone on the internet this month, we got obsessed with Untitled Goose Game and all the subsequent memes. I was so gutted when Phil completed it that I might go back and have another go myself!

I also completed #SecondhandSeptember with a month of only shopping second hand. I got some great finds from Depop, including new winter boots which were barely worn, once-worn brogues and the most gorgeous fleecy lined leather jacket!

The day the challenged ended though I did need to do a dash to Marks and Spencers for new knitwear. I got some lovely soft jumpers from there for work, and I've also picked up a few gorgeous knits from Oasis so I feel very winter-ready!

What I read online
The Guardian - Films that terrified our writers as kids
The Atlantic - The Millennial Lifestyle is about to get more Expensive
This terrifying story from horro writer Grady Hendrix on Twitter
Swoonworthy - How to look after your candles
Refinery 29 - The moment I knew my friendship was over
The Atlantic - The greatest, fakest world record
Vix Meldrew - New beginnings, again
Vice - If you don't want kids you don't have to want kids instead - this was so relatable it was almost painful -


"There’s an expectation that modern women should fill any downtime with side hustles or organized “self-care” activities. “As a woman, I feel like even my free time needs to be some sort of self-development: meditation to calm my anxiety, journaling to help with my mental health, exercising,” Danielle said. Maddie, 24, agrees. “I think men have more flexibility when it comes to hobbies. My relaxation through my hobbies is more likely to be seen as time wasting, but a man’s is more productive. In my relaxation time I absolutely feel smothered with guilt. I’m constantly thinking of the money I could be making instead of enjoying my time.”"
Have lovely November!

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Our honeymoon in Canada - Part Two: The Rockies, Banff, Toronto and Niagara Falls

This is part 2 of my Canada honeymoon posts - you can read part 1 on Vancouver here. Rather than doing a day-by-day account of the second part of our trip, I decided to focus on my favourite things we did and my absolute highlights.

The Rockies and Banff


Grouse Mountain

"So," said Phil, "The gondala up Grouse Mountain is $60 each, but if we walk up it's only $15 down. It's about a 2 hour walk but it's all on paths and it's a pretty easy walk."

"Okay, that sounds good, I said."

It was a foggy day with rain focast, but I put on my trail shoes and leggings and warm jacket and we headed to Grouse Moutain.We parked and found the entrance to the Gondola and saw some nice-looking tshirts in the gift shop, but there were no signs pointing to the walking path. It wasn't even mentioned in the leaflet for Grouse Mountain.

We made some friends with a couple of girls also looking for the start, and eventually we found a sign for the walk. The Grouse Grind.

Now that should have been a sign, but no, it wasn't. Even the sign saying "this is a challenging hike, be sure you have enough food and water" didn't deter us. And then we laughed at a sign saying bears had been spotted in the area (we even took a silly picture!).
So we start walking and... it was pretty hard. And it wasn't on path. At all. It's thousands (2,830 to be precise) huge steps (there's a reason they call it "Nature's Stairmaster"), most way above knee height on me. And just as we were getting going, it started to ran. Torrentially.

I'm not sure at what point we realised what kind of hike we were in for, but I think we had some inclination at the 1/4 of the way mark sign which declared "That was the easy part" and "after this point you can no longer turn back as it's too dangerous to climb back down". This was not the easy walk we had in mind.

So we kept going. We took breaks. We realised we'd had no idea what we had gotten ourselves in for. We realised Phil had definitely mixed this mountain's hike up with another mountain's hike. We passed people running. We stripped off sodden layers. We made friends. We agreed if we managed this hike we were buying those tshirts in the gift shop.

And eventually, after an hour and a half of slippery rocks and steep drops and thousands and thousands of steps, we could see the light. We scrambled to the top. We'd made it!

We had the most well-earned cup of tea of our lives, and while Phil was in the bathroom I had a look through the leaflet. And my heart dropped.

"We're not at the top"

I thought we were both going to cry. We had to get to the top.

So we grabbed our cups of tea and swapped into slightly less-wet clothes and went to find the top. We passed two grizzly bears in an enclosure (they were huge and amazing!) and asked where the top was. We passed a sign saying that rocks and debris were falling and it was dangerous to get to the top, but we had to. There wasn't a single other person climbing to the top but us. Mostly because, as we realised when we got up there, there wasn't anything there but a ski lift. But it was the top.
We found out after that the hike is known as The Ground Grind and it has a 1.8 mile ascent. People train to climb up it.  It was once rating one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. And yes, we got the bloody tshirts!

Sea to Sky Highway



After Vancouver, our next stop was a night in Whistler before we headed over to Banff, so we hired a car from Vancouver. I cannot recommend this more! The drive between Vancouver and Whistler is known as the Sea to Sky Highway and it's one of the most beautiful drives I've ever been on. This was the shortest of our drives (after Whistler we drove to Salmon Arm for the night to break up the journey to Banff which is about 10 hours total) but everywhere you looked there was a moutain or a lake or oh, turn a corner there's another lake. We had our carefully curated roadtrip playlist on and it was just absolutely gorgeous. While this was the shortest drive we had we did stop at Shannon Falls on the way to admire the waterfall which I also recommend if you're doing that drive. There are also absolutely loads of lookout points too with amazing views along the route.

Whistler Bear Trip

Whistler is a very cute little town. It's used predominantly for skiing in the winter, but it was busy in the autumn. It hosted part of the Canada Winter Olympics in 2010 and it has loads of little cute restaurants and bars and shops.

But we were there for one reason.

When I lived in America I never once saw a bear. I knew people in Minnesota who had seen them and when I went travelling I apparently just missed one in Yosemite, and I'd always wanted to see them. So when we were planning our trip to Canada "go see bears" was high on my list.

The bear trip had been the biggest challenge to book, everyone in the travel agent knew about us and our bear trip, but I wouldn't budge.

So this was the reason we were in Whistler.

We met the group at 7.30am where we were split into two groups - one per car. We were grouped with a lovely British family and their two children, and our guide was Harriet, who was also British. 

She drove us up the moutain and we were to keep a lookout for bears. It was berry season and she was taking us right into their natural habitat so we could see them.

It was all a bit nervy for the first half an hour when we didn't see any bears (the trip was 3 hours), but then, there one was! Just eating berries!

We were allowed to get out of the car and stand 50m away, but even without binoculars you could see them so clearly (with bincoulars it was incredible!). They know you're there (bears can smell for 18 miles!) but they're pretty happy to ignore you. Black bears don't really eat meat unless they discover it, and tend to stick to berries (they eat 20,000 berries a day!) plus they prefer to flight rather than fight when approached.

We ended up seeing 7 bears in total! It was absolutely incredible! Harriet was absolutely brilliant and gave us so much information. I know so much about black bears now! Did you know they give birth while they're hibernating? And that female bears can mate with multiple males and have babies from more than other father in one litter? But that the eggs lay dormant after conception until it's time to hibernate? And the more they eat before hibernating the more babies they have? (I have so many more facts seriously hit me up if you want to hear facts about bears!)

It was one of the best things we did seeing them up so close. We didn't end up seeing any other bears on our trip (probably for the best because there were a few spots on our hikes where I really did not want to see a bear!) so I'm so glad we did this!

Canoeing on Lake Minnewanka

It was my friend Ellen who recommended canoeing on Lake Minnewanka (pause to laugh at the name). She'd been to Canada over the summer and said Lake Minnewanka was bigger and quieter than Lake Louise where they canoed.

Lake Minnewanka ended up being our first stop on the four and a half hour drive from Salmon Arm on the way to Banff (except a quick toilet stop!). It was the first taste we got of how beautiful Banff National Park was.

We were fortunate that it was quite quiet the day we arrived at Lake Minnewanka. September was a lovely time to visit Canada in general - while we had a few wet days, it was generally mild and quite warm in Vancouver, and nowhere we went was especially busy, even the tourist-y bits.
We hired a canoe straight away and got straight onto the lake. I've never canoed before so that was fun! It took me a bit of time to get going, and we did get stuck on some rocks and one point and when we finally pushed off, we found a group of tourists applauding us!
The whole experience was dream-like. It was absolutely beautiful and surreal and one of the best things we did on the whole trip. The weather was perfect and the lake was incredible. It was such a good introduction to Banff National Park and I can't recommend it more.

Johnston Canyon

We arrived at our hotel in Banff in the late afternoon (more on Banff town later!), but we still had a few things we wanted to see before the end of the day. So we grabbed what has now been defined as "the best sandwich of my life or was I just really hungry" from Wildflour Bakery and headed straight out to Johnston Canyon before it got dark. Johnston Canyon is about half an hour away from Banff town and we were told it would take us a couple of hours to get around both the falls.

Johnston Canyon is free to enter and open all the time, and there are two beautiful waterfalls to explore. It only took us about an hour and a half to explore everything (except the track which was marked for horses only!) including a viewing point behind the lower falls.

Moraine Lake sunrise

The plan for Thursday was to get up early to see the lakes. We'd watched a lot of YouTube videos before heading to Canada and we knew the parking for the two most popular lakes - Lake Louise and Moraine Lake - got filled up early, so we wanted to make sure we beat the rush.

So we planned to get up and grab the hotel breakfast, and leave about 8am.

However, as we were paying our dinner bill the night before the waitress asked what we had planned for the evening. "Oh nothing really, we're going to go to the lakes tomorrow so we want to be out early". "Oh yes," she said, "You probably need to be getting there for about 5.30am to get parked."

"Five thirty am?"

"Oh yeah definitely. The car park will be full by seven."

What they don't tell you when you stay in Banff is while you're in Banff National Park, Banff National Park is huge, and Moraine Lake is an hour away. 

So suddenly our alarms were set for 4.30am.

We woke up in the dark, threw on our clothes, had a quick coffee and were on the road by 5am. The roads were pitch black and we didn't pass another car for miles. We arrived at the Moraine Lake car park just before 6am. And true to her word, there were maybe 5 parking spaces left. At 6am.

Other people had head torches. We sat in the car with the interior light on. 

At just after 6 we got out of the car, still pitch dark, and followed the groups to Moraine Lake, which at this point was still pitch dark. Oh and it was freezing. And we waited. And we waited. After about half an hour a pop of blue started to appear. After an hour it was starting to lighten, and by 7.15am the sunrise started to appear over the moutains. It was absolutely incredible. The photos I have from that morning are some of my favourites from the trip.

And then it was 7.30am, and we had to rush to Lake Louise.

Lake Louise and Lake Agnes Tea Room

We arrived at the Lake Louise car park before 8am and we really thought we were going to have to turn around. We drove around the car park twice before finally finding a spot.

Lake Louise is absolutely beautiful and we were lucky in September it was nowhere near as busy as we'd seen in some photos. We watched a few videos that recommended the hike up to the tea room which sounded amazing, so we headed off for the hike.

There were so many gorgeous stops along this hike! There's an amazing view of Lake Louise from a viewing point, and a stop at crystal-clear Mirror Lake on the way up. But the top is where you get the real reward - at the top of the hike at beautiful Lake Agnes is the Lake Agnes tea room which is so worth the walk! The tea room was built in 1901 and has been serving tea to hikers since 1905! It has no electricity and staff bring up fresh suppliers daily up the hiking trail! It's the most beautiful stop after a gorgeous hike and the hot chocolate is amazing!

Peyto Lake

Peyto was the last lake on my list to visit on our lake-filled day, and it was one of my favourites! You can't actually get close to the edge of Peyto Lake and instead see it from a viewing point. It's a bit of a walk from the car park (which we didn't expect!) but the view is absolutely incredible - it's so blue!

Sulfur Mountain

Remember at Grouse Moutain when Phil told me the hike was pretty easy and all on paths and took a couple of hours and then you got the gondola back down? It turned out he'd got the Grouse Grind confused with the hike up Sulfur Moutain! This was my absolute favourite hike of the trip. It was absolutely pouring it down on our last day in Banff but we were desperate to do this hike. As we waited for the shuttle bus we debated whether to wait for the weather to blow over, but in the end we thought, come on, this is our last day in Banff! Let's make the most of it! When we arrived at the base of the moutain, as with Grouse Mountain, the start of the trail was hard to find! We weren't even completely sure we were going the right way when we started!
This hike was amazing. It was all along switchbacks so it was a straightforward hike and we waved at people in the gondolas going up and down! We had our eye out for bears on the way up but honestly, I was a bit scared because we didn't see a single other person doing the hike and we were definitely not prepared for what we'd do if we saw a bear! I was so proud of us when we got to the top and the view was absolutely insane! You get so used to incredible views in Canada but this was one of the absolute best. 

After a cup of tea, like at Sulphur Moutain, we had to climb to the very top viewing point up hundreds of steps. We heard someone say it took 30 minutes so we made it a race - getting up all the steps and right to the top in 10 minutes just to make a point! The view was even better from there. 
The gondola back down was great fun too. Unlike Sulfur Moutain, which had huge gondolas with a few dozen people in, these were small cable cars so we got one just the two of us. The view on the way down was so beautiful and it was great to admire how high and how far we'd hiked!


Banff Town



I wanted to do a separate section to celebrate Banff town itself - my favourite place of the trip. It was bigger than I expected, with lots of little shops and restaurants and hotels. The roads have the cutest names - I laughed every time the sat nav said "turn onto Bear Street" or "turn down Beaver Street onto Wolf Street." It's also, of course, absolutely insanely beautiful with the mountains all around. Our favourite places were Banff Avenue Brewing Company (which we went to twice in one night!), Cows ice cream, Cascade Gardens, the Banff Fairmount Springs Hotels (you have to visit! It's like the Overlook Hotel combined with a cruise ship!), Park Distillery for their housemade gin, the Bow River Trail and Block restaurant. But honestly, just walking about Banff town was an absolute dream. It was beautiful.


Toronto

From Banff we drove to Calagary Airport where we flew to Toronto. 
We had a lovely couple of days in Toronto, the highlight being a screening at Toronto International Film Festival! We hadn't realised we'd be in town for the festival until a few weeks before, and we were lucky enough to get tickets for a screening for the last day of the festival. It was so cool to attend a film screening as part of the festival and we bought loads of TIFF merch to take home!

Other highlights included Funhouse Toronto, a weird, fun, slightly terrifying and completely unnerving immersive art installation with 16 different themed rooms. It was weird and wonderful and such a cool experience! 



We also loved CN Tower and reading all about how to tower was built and the records it broke, although I got a bit wobbly on the glass floor!



And we got an amazing view of Toronto from Toronto Island, and I loved going over on the boat!

We had amazing pizza at Pizza Libretto, cool drinks in the distillery district and discovered my favourite place in the city, Barchef, the coolest hidden cocktail bar I've ever been to! We didn't quite splash out on one of the insane $30 cocktails which come with a snack and a story, but I've been thinking about my strawberry and lavendar cocktail ever since!

Niagara Falls

Our final stop was Niagara Falls. Now super super long term readers of this blog might remember me going to the America side of the Falls back in 2012 when I lived in New Jersey, but I'd always heard the Canadian side was ever better.

This was the veiw from our hotel room!!

We were super excited for Niagara Falls because our itinerary said "falls view room" and it did not disappoint!! So much so that we spent our last night in Canada with a takeaway pizza sitting by the window in our room admiring the incredible falls!


We were absolutely knackered by the time we got to Niagara, and after a few rainy days in Toronto, the weather in Niagara was a welcome sunny treat, so we spent more than a few hours just lying in the park in the sunshine watching the falls!

Of course, we had to do the Hornblower Cruise. This was another of my absolute trip highlights. Even though we'd watched the boats loads of times before we got on board, we didn't realise quite how wet we were going to get! There was one point where we were right up under the falls and the water was coming down so fast and hard I was gripping onto the edge of the boat with my eyes closed and laughing so hard I could hardly breathe! It was absolutely hilarious!

Niagara Falls was an absolute wonder and I'm so glad we got to see the Canadian side, it was such a treat!

If it hasn't been clear, this was the best honeymoon we could have asked for and the best holiday we've ever been on! It was beautiful and exhausting and fun-filled and incredible and it was the perfect trip for our honeymoon. I love being able to close my eyes and remember how incredible the trip was and think back to all the amazing places we visited and the things we did!

I can't recommend a trip to Canada more!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Our honeymoon in Canada - Part One: Vancouver

I've umm-ed and ahh-ed about how to blog about our incredible honeymoon in Canada. We did so much and there's just so much to say! So after slaving over a day-by-day account of Vancouver I realised it really wasn't realistic to write a) one post or b) keep doing a day-by-day account! So, while part 1 is a day-by-day summary of our time spent in Vancouver, I'm going to focus a bit more on the highlights of the second half of our trip. It was the best holiday I've ever been on and a real trip-of-a-lifetime - saying that, I hope we go back one day!

Vancouver


Vancouver was our first stop and the place we were most excited to visit. We'd heard so much about the city and it did not disappoint! We stayed at the Rosendale on Robson (we did everything through Thomas Cook (RIP)) which was more like a serviced apartment which was perfect for us when we were exhausted with jet lag and just wanted to watch TV for a bit! The location was also amazing as we were right in Yaletown which we loved. 

Vancouver was quite an expensive city, but we did find Canada in general quite expensive. Like with the US, tax and service aren't added, and with the 15%-20% tip you need to add on to everything from a meal to a coffee to a drink at a bar, we found we spent quite a bit more than we expected. We also found activities quite expensive, but we walked everywhere (the only expections being boats across the water, and the day we went to Richmond Night Market) and went hard on the free hotel breakfast so we didn't spend a lot on food during the day.

Day one

We were lucky enough to arrive on a really beautiful day, and thanks to our early flight, it was only early afternoon once we'd dropped our bags off at our hotel! We spent our first day exploring - we walked down to the waterfront at David Lam Park, had Happy Hour drinks in Yaletown (we got veryyyyy into 3pm Happy Hour!) and had dinner at Meet, a vegan restaurant in Gastown. We were sooo jetlagged but managed to just about stay up til 8pm!

Day two
Thanks to jetlag, we both woke up at 2am wide awake and contemplating heading down to Stanley Park for sunrise. Unfortunately, or fortunately for me!, I ended up falling back asleep til 5am! We did end up heading down to Stanley Park before 7.30am where it was beautifully deserted. Stanley Park was one of our favourite parts of Vancouver. Vancouver is a beautiful green and clean-feeling city anyway, but Stanley Park is an oasis in the city. It's a huge, stunningly beautiful park right on the water, and it didn't hurt that it was an incredibly beautiful day (I had bare legs nearly every day we were in Vancouver!). 


We walked all around the edge of Stanley Park and explored the totem poles (our new favourite thing!) which took about 3 hours, but when we were finished it still wasn't even 10.30am yet!


We'd heard amazing things about the food market at Grenville Island so we took the boat across. Grenville Island is basically a tiny island with bars, tiny shops, a distillery and brewery and a food market. We'd watched loads of videos on what we had to eat at Grenville Market, so obviously we were incredibly decision-fatigued by the time we arrived! We started out with a coffee and a cookie sitting by the waterfront, then the candied salmon we'd heard so much about and then I found a blog which recommended the olive and feta tapenade from one of the stalls, which we had with a sourdough roll each. It was incredible! Phil was also super excited to try Lee's Donuts, which is meant to be legendary on Grenville Island. He went for their famous honey dip and he was not disappointed!
We headed back over to the mainland to explore more of the city. We went to the library and sat on the rooftop terrace overlooking the city, and then we went to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens. Phil did so much research for our trip and said these gardens kept coming up as a must-do. I had no idea what to expect, and was surprised at the $28 entrance fee, but these gardens are absolutely beautiful. In the middle of bustling Vancouver, this is a lovely escape. There are loads of areas to explore and it just feels so tranquil - I'd definitely recommend it if you're in the city.

Now by this time it was still only around 3pm, so of course, we went looking for another Happy Hour! We were already in Gastown so we had a look around there for a nice bar, but the once Phil fancied wasn't open, so we ended up back in Yaletown (if it isn't clear, we really loved Yaletown, which was conveniently where we were staying!). We had amazing tacos for dinner from Tacofino, had one last drink to keep us out and awake and managed to stay up til 9pm!

Day three
Phil did a really good job of researching all the places to visit on our trip, but we didn't want to plan every single day. By Friday we'd done a lot of the areas of the city where we were staying, and we knew we had parkrun on Saturday and we wanted another trip to Stanley Park before we left, so we decided on Friday to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge.
We got up early, obviously, and headed down to Canada Place to catch the shuttle (with me sneaking a photo with Pixel Orca who was cordoned off for an event). The shuttle is free and the journey takes about an hour, and when we arrived the lady at the desk gave us $10 off for our honeymoon!

We got there on the second shuttle of the day, which was great as it was pretty quiet when we arrived. 

Capilano Suspension Bridge is a huge, long suspension bridge 70m above a huge canyon. It is high. It is long. It is, as they put it "reassuringly wobbly". I can tell you kids, there is nothing reassuring about that wobbling! I was not a happy camper! Luckily it was quiet so there wasn't anyone jumping, but as soon as people get on it starts to rock! I braved it and we got some cool photos but I was not happy! 


Once you cross the bridge though, there's a treetop adventure with loads of mini bridges between the trees. It is so cool! Once I'd gone of the big bridge the little bridges weren't quite so scary, and it was so beautiful in this huge and beautiful forest! There's also a cliffwalk over the edge of the canyon which was really cool (and scary!)
Then we headed to Lonsdale Quay where there was another food market and a few little restaurants and bars. I was intrigued by a pink latte and the man at the stall was so excited I was interested I couldn't say no! (It was nice!) and then we had maybe the best sushi of my life as a starter, and Mexican food as a main. 
We were just heading to the Aquabus to take us back to the mainland when we walked past the modern art museum. I don't know what made us notice, but there in the window was a huge poster for The Clock. You might remember back in November last year we saw The Clock in London and it was one of our absolute highlights of the year. And here is was. In Vancouver. While we were here. We went straight in. 
It turns out it's only in one city at a time so it was massive coincidence that our favourite exhibition happened to be in Vancouver. It also turned out it was the night of the 24 hour screening! However, we were too jetlagged still to last all night, so we did a couple of hours in the afternoon, and came back for another hour and a half in the evening (unexpectedly catching a few bands at the Shipyards Night Market too!).

Day four
Saturday morning in the Cantillon house means one thing and that wasn't going to change just because we were on the other side of the world - parkrun! I was absolutely thrilled when I found out there were two parkruns in Vancouver. We decided to visit the quite new Central parkrun, about 40 minutes away. There were only about 40 of us, and lots of other British people - parkrun hasn't quite taken off in Canada yet. It was a beautiful park and a really nice run and it was so cool to have done our first International parkrun!

Saturday mornings also mean brunch, and I'd eyed up Cafe Medina as the place to go. We ended up waiting an hour and a bit for a table, which gave us some time to explore the nearby shops. It did not disappoint! I had the Harissa "burger" which was like a deconstructed veggie burger - it was so good!

It was another beautiful day and we didn't have any firm plans until the evening, so we decided to walk around the whole of the sea wall to Grenville Island, which took us a few hours and absolutely beautiful. After a beer flight and a cocktail we headed to Richmond Night Market.


A word of warning, don't go to Richmond Night Market when it opens. We arrived about half an hour before opening and the queue was around the block. We waited over an hour to get inside, but noticed the queue had completely disapated by 8pm. Richmond Night Market is a cross between Blackpool, a festival and a market in a touristy Spanish town. It was full of hundreds of stalls selling all kinds of food. It's also cash-only, which we only realised after we arrived with only $30 on us and the queues for the cash machines were insane! The first thing I wanted was a rainbow grilled cheese, purely for the photo. It was incredibly cool and pretty disgusting but totally worth it. I also had a sushi taco (very cool!) and Phil had a kimchi and beef wrap and some Korean BBQ skewers (the corn on the cob from there was awesome too!). It's only on during the summer but it's well worth a visit if you're around on a Saturday night.

Day five
On Sunday we'd planned another trip to Stanley Park but when we woke up it was absolutely chucking it down! Like, David Fincher rain. We had breakfast and basically ran to Templeton Diner for coffee. In the end we decided, screw it, this is our last day, and we went back to the hotel to change out of our soaking clothes (we were that wet!) and walked to Stanley Park. This time we were through the middle of the park, to a foggy Prospect Point (where I believe there is meant to be a great view but all we saw was fog and mist!) and Beaver Lake, and for a photo in The Big Tree (which we loved). Then we went out in search of some authentic Vancouver cuisine.

First stop was a Japadog, but because of the rain I insisted on going to one with a seating area. Japadogs are a bit of a Vancouver institution - hotdogs dressed up with Japanese toppings. And they do a veggie version! Then, the big one, authentic poutine. I insisted on finding a place where the gravy was already vegetarian so I got the proper experience, which led to a 45 minute walk to La Bella Potate. La Bella Potate does dozens of kinds of poutine but went for the original, taking it out and eating it on a bench while the sun was popping its head out. It was absolutely delicious and one of my favourite memories!
It was our last day in Vancouver, so of course we had to have one more happy hour, and ended up finding our favourite place! I absolutely loved the Yaletown Distillery and their own gin was so good I wish I'd got a bottle to take home!

We were so so so sad to say goodbye to Vancouver, but we saw pretty much everything we wanted to see and did pretty much everything we wanted to do in the five days we were there. Plus, we knew we had the Rockies to explore!

In Part Two I'll tell you about the second part of our trip - The Rockies, Banff, Toronto and Niagara Falls!

Charlotte x