The scenery on a Canada rail holiday is breathtaking, it took only an hour of being back on Canadian soil for me to visit Tim Hortons. I knew there would be one at Calgary Airport so I made sure there was enough time to stop in before our bus to Banff.
When you become an expat, you romanticise the things you miss back home. Be it relationships, places, things, food, there are things that you look forward to when you finally make a trip back. Sometimes they’re worse than you remember, sometimes they’re better, and sometimes they meet and even exceed your expectations no matter how much you build it up in your mind. Tim Hortons, for me, is the latter. I think I had it nearly every day we were in Canada this trip. It’s not that it’s particularly tasty (and you need to know the best things to order) but it definitely brings back warm, fuzzy, nostalgic memories from growing up which to me is even more important.
Luckily for us, we just missed a massive thunder/lightning/hail/torrential rain storm (a theme for the start of our trip, clearly) so our landing and bus trip to Banff were rather uneventful. We spent most of the 2 hour drive staring out the window at the Canadian landscape. I do try to be unbiased but Canada is just so darn pretty.
Arriving in Banff kicked off the real reason(s) for our trip – family reunions and our wedding. My mom was there to meet us as she had graciously offered to drive from Gibsons (which is like 12 hours) to pick us up. Car hire costs are stupidly high in Canada (especially for one way) so it was actually cheaper for us to cover her costs then to hire our own car plus we got more time to hang out together.
Once we had settled in, we met up with Matt’s sister, Josie, and her boyfriend, Rahul. We hadn’t seen her in over 4 years so it was a long overdue reunion! Together, we headed up Sulfur Mountain to take in the views of Banff Valley.
We had our awesome wedding photographer, Neville, come meet us in Banff to do our pre-wedding shoot and you can see some of his photos on his blog. Here are a couple of our favourites that aren’t on his site.
There’s no rest for the wicked and I had planned a wickedly busy road trip for us all. Our days were planned down to the hour but we had a good time and got to see lots of Canada that even I hadn’t experienced before. And yep, it was all down in a spreadsheet!
It was such a whirlwind that I only took photos of the first few days before I stopped. I feel bad for saying this, but it was actually really nice to not have to worry about having my camera on me and just enjoy everyone’s company.
We stopped by my sister’s house and got to hang out with her and her family, and my brother. She also blogs so you can read her recap here! My niece and nephews were recruited to the DIY Wedding Projects team and helped a lot (thanks Graham, Nathan, and Emily)! Every time I go back to the Okanagan, it gets harder to leave. I could so see us living there one day with it’s hot summers, and proper snowy cold winters. Also, amazing wineries (looking at you Dirty Laundry), and delicious ice cream at Summerland Sweets where a small cone is actually the size of your head.
Our group grew in size once we got to Vancouver with Matt’s sister, Sarah, and his mom, Janet and her partner, Allan, joining us. My Dad and his wife Gail were also in the area and it was so nice to see them after 3 years and finally get to see their new portable home (you can read about their travels here)! And people wonder where I get the travel bug from??
We did the usual Vancouver tourist sites like dessert at a revolving restaurant, walking around (shopping) Downtown, Granville Island, Capilano, and Grouse (and yep, now kicking myself for not taking more photos).
We also did the Grouse Grind, which I swore I would never do again but clearly I’m a severe sufferer of FOMO and was persuaded (embarrassingly easily) to walk up the mountain again.
When we arrived in Gibsons, our focus turned to all things wedding. I’ll go into detail on the DIY projects I had going on in the next post so all I’ll say for now is, thank God for family and friends! If we didn’t have a bit of a sweat shop operation going there’s no way it would been done on time, or turned out as amazing as it did.
Being in Gibsons with Matt’s family was so surreal – it was one of those things I had hoped for, but never expected to happen. It was a very special thing to have the chance to share my hometown with my new family.
Another very special thing happened in Gibsons as well, it was the first time in 3 years that my 3 immediate siblings (there’s 9 of us in total – my Dad has made getting married and having children into a bit of a hobby) and I were all together. A few months before the trip, I had the idea for the 4 of us to get matching tattoos. It took a while (and a bit of fighting which is to be expected) for us to figure out what we want but in the end decided on 4 in roman numerals.
At the time I thought it would just be a fun thing for us to do together but it wasn’t until I got back to London that I realised just how much it means to me that we got them. Every time I look at mine my heart swells with so much love for those three and even though we’re miles apart, it makes me feel like I’m in the same room as them.
The last stop on our tiki tour of BC was to Comox on Vancouver Island to visit my Grandma and Aunty Nancy. True to form, they put on a feast for us which was delicious but not ideal when trying to fit into a wedding dress! Matt and I took the opportunity to finally see our wedding venue for the first time. Yep, 2 days before the wedding! And my Uncle Ian and Aunt Charlene showed up as well so it was really nice to get to spend some extra time with them.
Our next stop was Victoria and more importantly, our wedding!