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During late summer at some point I often make a trip to the Cariboo region of British Columbia where my parents have a cabin on one of the myriad of lakes you can find in that area. Actually, the cabin–usually referred to as a cottage back East–is more like a house, with a kitchen, bathroom, and a large bay window overlooking the water. If you like nature, the Cariboo is a great place to spend a few days, and the drive from Vancouver is incredibly scenic. True–you’re not going to find resort towns on your way, or places to shop for he latest Coach bag. Dairy Queen will probably be the classiest of the restaurant offerings. But you will find mile after mile of lush scenery driving through the mountains and along the Fraser and Thompson rivers.
Does this look like Canada to you? If you’re thinking it looks like some desert landscape, you’re right. Canada actually has two deserts–one in Southern Manitoba, the other in British Columbia’s Okanagan area, which extends into the United States and into the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. There are several other patches of land in this central area of the province that have desert-like conditions. On our drive we encountered miles upon miles of rolling hills blanketed with sagebrush and vistas that were definitely different from anything you would see heading out of Vancouver, which is geographically situated in a temperate rainforest.
The wineries, lakes, fruit picking orchards, and picturesque towns in the nearby Okanagan Valley make it a popular destination for tourists and Vancouverites wanting to leave the city behind for a long weekend, but the Cariboo offers an unbeaten path, full of rugged nature, and gold rush and pioneering history. It may be a path less traveled by Canadians, but it is hugely popular with Europeans–so much so that overheard conversations can make you feel like you’ve just landed in Germany.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m rather a city slicker. A few days in the country and I’m itching for a bookstore and an extra-hot caramel latte from Starbucks. I grew up visiting the Cariboo; the nature was background scenery, always taken for granted. But as I sat on the porch of the cabin with my family, looking at the calm blue lake with a cup of coffee in hand, I felt a deep sense of contentment, connected to something outside myself. Sometimes I get so busy that I forget that feeling exists.
The weather on the lake can go from brilliantly sunny to stormy in a heartbeat, and I could feel the whiff of early autumn in the air. I definitely saw it in the vegetation around the cabin, with the leaves already turning color and the myriad of ripe rosehip shrubs.
It’s interesting how having a camera in hand causes you to look at the details, to notice things you might not have noticed before, to appreciate color in a different way.
Sadly, I was only able to spend a few days in the Cariboo before heading back to Vancouver–which has it’s own share of natural beauty to offer. My trip was a reminder to not take that for granted.
If you are interested in finding out more of this spectacular region in British Columbia, check out some of these links:
Last week I took a much needed holiday and flew across the country to Prince Edward Island.
Now, I have a confession to make. I’m a big traveler; there is very little I love to do as much as to hop on a plane to somewhere I’ve never been, or return to a place that has captured my heart. Despite this, I have traveled very little in my own country. When faced with time off and some extra money, I’m more likely to go to Europe or the United States. Although I was born and raised in Canada, the number of Canadian Provinces I’ve been to can be counted on two fingers. Well, actually now three.
A couple of years ago, my brother and his wife bought a cottage clear across the country on Prince Edward Island. I thought it was high time for a visit. Actually, PEI was one of the provinces I’d been to in the past, on an exchange trip in junior high. Except for a couple of the keg parties, it was so long ago that I fail to remember much about the trip.
Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in Canada and is known for its pastoral scenery and lush agriculture. The rolling green hills, white sand beaches and famous red soil have made the island known for spectacular natural beauty. The land served as inspiration for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, a late Victorian tale beloved the world over. The book was published in 1908 and was intended for readers of all ages, although in recent decades it has been considered a children’s book. It has been translated into thirty-six languages and is especially popular in Japan, where it has been on the school curriculum since 1952. Thousands make the pilgrimage to Green Gables farmhouse every year, and many Japanese couples get married on the grounds. Many tourist attractions are based on the book and the musicals Anne of Green Gables and Anne & Gilbert are performed at theaters on PEI.
When you are on PEI you definitely know you are in the Maritimes. It has a Maine/New England vibe to it. It seems as though there is a church or cemetery on every corner, and a lighthouse on every horizon.
Though the weather was unusually cool for late June/early July, with several periods of rain and overcast skies, we still managed to see a lot of the sights. I loved Charlottetown with its quaint shops and beautiful marinas.
Even though I’m from Vancouver, where a lot of Hollywood films are made, it’s been a while since I’ve experienced a celebrity sighting. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone remotely famous on PEI, but on my first afternoon in Charlottetown, my dad held a restaurant door open for Chef Michael Smith from Canada’s Food Network. Michael is Canada’s best-known chef and is the host of four Food Network shows. He has received a James Beard Award for Cooking Show Excellence. His Chef at Home series is filmed at his home on PEI and inspires home cooks to improvise and move beyond recipes by teaching viewers fundamental techniques in the kitchen.
By West Coast standards, a lot of the buildings in Charlottetown are old, possessing the sort of graceful beauty that age brings. I have always adored history and its remnants, which is why I’m always drawn to European cities. My favourite building in PEI’s capital was definitely the Citadel, a Catholic church in the town’s center. Built in the 1920s, it seemed much older, its porticoes and arches bringing the Sacre Coeur in Paris to mind.
Life is funny. When I first visited PEI years ago, I never thought I’d be back. Now I’m so thoroughly charmed by its lush scenery and friendliness of the people, I’m sure this little island province has not seen the last of me.