Pit-Stop Canada: There’s no place like home.

Before continuing on our much anticipated journey to India, we felt a calling to visit the Great White North during the hot sticky summer to wave a hello and give hugs to friends and family.  Since we have close friends and some family on the west coast, we thought it best to start our visit home in Vancouver.  Not only could we  reconnect with friends, but it would also give Dale a chance to see Vancouver and the Island during a moderately nice season (wait a minute, that’s any time of year), with the chance of being hooked on it as a potential “when we grow up” place to live.   Following that, we’d fly to back east, beginning in Windsor, Ontario to visit Dale’s mom and brother, then onto Toronto for a few days with some more friends.  Next up, a rest in Kingston to see my parents, family and friends.  Following that, two weeks north – first in North Bay with some of Dale’s closest, then even further North across the Canadian Shield to Dale’s hometown of Iron Bridge where we could chill out at the lake for a few days.  A return trip to Kingston with a pop over to Montreal and it would be time for me to catch my flight to Thailand, one month before Dale.

I was excited to get to Vancouver.  It had been a year since I last visited my adopted city.  Our 1am departure from Lima took us through Toronto with a brief layover before continuing westward.  The minute we exited the plane at YYZ it was like no time had passed.  I was warped back in time a couple of years, with visions of my frequent business trips, which had landed me in Toronto.  But the feeling was different.  Instead of checking into the nearest Westin, and going to a business meeting with terrible jet lag, we could kick back and relax.  We made it a point going through immigration to request a Canadian stamp in our passports.  For me, it would be the last stamp in my book, which was now full.  The Canadian stamp was centered in my final page.

Due to my previous life of business travel, we were lucky to upgrade to executive class for free for our flight to Vancouver.  It was nice to have that treat, and Dale’s first experience.  I really felt like I was home when I walked amidst the HSBC ads at the exit gate in YVR.  We walked by the familiar green and white of Starbucks, claimed our bags and hit the sky train.

We were greeted with open arms by a friend of mine, and former yoga student, who we would be staying with during our visit in Vancouver.  They were absolutely delightful hosts.  They even lent us their car for whatever we needed while we were there.  We enjoyed conversation over much-anticipated Vancouver sushi and flopped into the comfort of a real bed for a solid coma-like sleep.

The following day after practice, I made a trip to the passport office to get a new passport, rush ordered, so we could catch our flight to the Detroit the following week (our route to Windsor).  This was also the day I had a blast surprising my dear friend, and MOH (maid of honor).  I had been planning the visit to Vancouver as a surprise to her… she was virtually the only one of my friends who didn’t know I was coming.  I thought for sure that the shipment of wine we sent from Chile would give it away, but nope, she was surprised all right. Screamingly surprised.   She thought we were going home to Ontario.  The rest of the week was spent practicing in my old shalas, and enjoying great food hosted by amazing people and one visit to the Vancouver staple, Cactus Club.

After five days, we boarded the ferry to Vancouver Island.   My aunt and uncle were gracious hosts on our arrival in Victoria, and following our visit with them, we had three days to drive around the island, hunting for a place that we may eventually call home.   We drove around in Sooke, Victoria, Jordan River, Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, Lake Shawnigan, Port Alberni, Duncan, Nanaimo, and Courtenay/ Comox.  We meandered around lakes, beside the ocean, through National Parks, around Mount Washington, through the Cathedral Grove Forest and many dirt roads.

photo of Cathedral Grove Forest Vancouver Island

Dale looking up “the big tree” at Cathedral Grove

Some strange looking duck-like birds crossing our path at Cathedral Grove

owl photo

Hunting from this branch, the owl swooped down in front of us to snack on one of the ducklings. It was successful in it’s hunt.

Photo at Comox BC

Comox BC

photo Jordan River BC

Jordan River…. an hour and a half northwest of Victoria.

Although the island holds unique beauty within it’s laid back vibe in each of it’s towns, lakes and hamlets, Sooke was the place we fell in love with.  Right now, this holds a first place ranking should we decide to nest in Canada.

It checks pretty much everything off of our “must-have” list.  The only exception may be the rain, but that’s the sacrifice we get for nice weather year-round, in Canada.  Here, there are mountains, lakes, ocean, green space, small towns, organic farms, fresh air, sport-minded and health conscious people, young families, along with excellent education and health care.  This means we can snowboard, surf, scuba dive, mountain bike, hike, have locally grown food, build a community of friends and provide our children with opportunities in sport and school.  Did I forget to mention it’s absolutely beautiful?  And… yes it’s more expensive than many parts of Canada, but it’s much more affordable than the coastal mainland at the same latitude.

The big tree cathedral Grove forest

Some of the trees in Cathedral Grove are over 800 years old. This one, is the biggest tree in the park, standing taller than the leaning tower of Pisa.

And the best part – it’s in our home country.   We set out to South America with the mind-set we may set up camp there and watch our kids grow up to play soccer in the neighbourhood dirt pitch.  Ironic?  Of course.  We travelled thousands of miles, through 9 countries and found our top choice living place on our home soil.

The next leg of our journey was a pleasant visit with Dale’s mom and brother (with new 4 week old nephew Kieran) in Windsor, Ontario.  After a week of sharing stories and an evening of making excuses for our favorite teams as we watched LA hoist Lord Stanley’s cup, it was time to continue east to Toronto.  A couple of nights with a recently relocated friend, chatting and exchanging life advise and a night with another member of our bridal party and my ex-travel partner and we again moved east.  The trip to Kingston wasn’t nearly as easy.  Being at the end of our trip, having ridden a thousand buses, we opted to post an ad on kijiji (a free classifieds website) requesting a ride share in exchange for some gas money.  We got a hit right away.  I don’t recall her name, however, she was confident in her email and offered to pick us up “anywhere” in Toronto.  Perfect, Yorkdale is an easy on-off.  Well…. an easy on-off for someone who knows how to drive in Toronto.  What a nightmare.  We knew we were in for at least a semi-terrifying experience when the girl driving said she never goes to malls because there are too many cars in the parking lot.  Yikes.  She had only driven in Toronto one other time;  three days prior at the beginning of the weekend.  Well, we were there now, so proceeded with the plan for her and her boyfriend to drop us in Kingston.  When Dale or I drive from Toronto to Kingston, it’s a pretty simple 2.5 hours.  With this girl, it was the worst 4 hours of driving I have ever seen.  Yes, we experienced some nut-ball suicidal-like drivers in South America, but they had something this girl didn’t – confidence.  She was the type of person that causes accidents.  To let you know how aware she was, she knocked the rearview mirror with her elbow as she first got in the car after picking us up.   The whole drive, I could see my lap in that mirror.  She didn’t fix it.  Translation – she did not use her rearview mirror – not even once in 4 hours.  Awesome.  When she put her blinker on 3 exits early to pull off the highway where she’d drop us off, I finally took a breath.  I had no fingernails left, nor feeling in my legs from being scrunched in her 3-door shitbox.  This made me even more excited to see my mom at our meeting point.  Next time, we’ll take the bus.

Our 2 weeks in Kingston gave us time to slow down.  It was nice to finally be in one spot for more than two sleeps.  We were able to get back into our routine of practice, cooking and of course socializing.  Dinner with friends, time with my parents, subbing a few Mysore classes, a family gathering with my 90+ year old grandparents and a visit with my 85 year old Gram… and the time flew by.  Before we knew it, we were slinging our packs over our shoulders (we hadn’t even unpacked) and driving north for more visiting.  We were fortunate, my grandmother loaned us her car for our trip.

8 months of mail waiting for us when we got to my parents. This was the pile of garbage after opening it…ready for the recycle.

In North Bay – one dinner out, a BBQ and a real life sighting of our friend’s growing yard-farm (chickens, pheasants, turkeys and pigs), good chats and great friends and we were off again.  We had a beautiful drive through part of Northern Ontario from North Bay to Iron Bridge.  Before heading to the Degagne family cabin on a quiet lake just outside of town, it was nice to first stop and see Dale’s dad.

We had done all the necessary grocery shopping in North Bay, so when we got to the lake we could just chill out.  And that is exactly what we did.  For one night.  Again, it was nice to be in one spot for a while.  This time – one week.  Each day we had new visitors from the family or out of town friends, with bar-b-ques, fishing, cliff jumping, practicing on the dock and campfires.  We could not have asked for a more perfect time.   On our final day, it was just us and the lake.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.  We soaked it all in, and although we have the pictures to reflect on, it is the feeling we had there that we will remember most.  Complete relaxation.  Loved it!

spider eating fly photo

I hate spiders but was extremely entertained watching this garden spider devour a fly.

northern ontario sunset photo

Sunset from our fishing boat at the Lake.

northern ontario lake

Just another rough day at the Lake.

northern ontario photo

The Lake mid-week…. so quiet. How can you not love this place?

Dale’s farewell to the lake… stand up paddling in the motor boat, looking for fish.

The 9 hour drive back to Kingston was easy.  It had been something I was dreading, but we had built up such a tolerance in South America that it flew by.

We had one more week left in Kingston before it was time for me to fly out to Thailand.   We did as little as possible in this week, but still managed a trip to Montreal for my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday, and a visit with my brother and his family.  There — we had seen everyone.  Phew.  It was a pit-stop, but we certainly didn’t stop.  It was totally worth it.  If you have never travelled around in your own country, you need to do it.  This also made us realize, we need to do it more.  And for sure, we will.

Dale and I had been side by side, 24 hours a day since departing in November.  So far, we haven’t killed each other, actually we haven’t even thought of it.  Sure, we have our tiffs, mostly the symptom of our stubbornness or miscommunication.  In our first year of marriage, we have learned so much about each other.  We shared our dreams before, now we are living them… and still dreaming new for the future.  Our love for each other is stronger than it was on our wedding day.  With this love still growing, our communication getting better every day and our dreams continuing to build – for the first time in 9 months, we would be apart.  In separate countries for 4 weeks.  All of a sudden I was leaving – we were “on the road again.”  This is our life.

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