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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Things I forgot to blog about in 2014. Part Two: America!

Following our Victoria trip, we didn't leave much time to ourselves, we had just one short week left in Vancouver, where we made the most of our time by visiting all our favourite haunts, taking a heck of a lot of photos and spending lots of time eating and being merry with friends. A wonderful day trip was had with 2 friends I made at work visiting the beautiful town of Whiterock, where we spent the day prancing around on the beach and generally making the most of each others company.


The view from the pier - along with the town's namesake - the White Rock!

Spotted some eagles nearby!

Saying goodbye to our apartment was weird. It's the only place I've ever lived other than my father's house, and the first time Ian and I had lived together so it was the first time I've had to properly let go of a space I have thought of as entirely my own. But say goodbye we did, we packed up the last of our things (having squished an extra bag with my Dad back in January we managed to get back down to the one carry on and one checked bag each which we originally took out with us) and dutifully carried it to our friends house, who were kindly going to look after it, while we went on our last jaunt! And so it was back to our apartment for our last night there, and then handed over the keys the following morning, and what followed the oddest day we possible spent in Vancouver.

 I distinctly remember handing our landlord our fobs for the lift and then walking outside and thinking, that's it, we can't get back. It's not home anymore! And so we spent the day aimlessly wandering Vancouver. We ended up going back to our favourite beach (CRAB Park!) where we people watched (and dog watched), reminisced, laughed and I must admit, battled some sadness.

The Strip - Pittsburgh.
And then the adventure began! We hopped on the skytrain to YVR - and took an overnight flight to Toronto, from there we took a short flight (on the teeniest plane I've ever been on) to Pittsburgh. Clad in my union jack jumper we met my family.

We spent a few days settling in, for me to spend time with my family again, and for Ian to get to know them. And we got to meet my cousins lovely fiancee (now wife!!) and we spent a few days relaxing after the hectic week.

Ian and I had planned on a road trip to Niagra, and some of my family very kindly offered to take us up there, so we bundled our stuff into there car and pottered off on a road trip...back to Canada! The drive took us through Pennsylvania and New York which were both lovely to see, and then we hit Ontario. My cousins had organised the hotel and my goodness it was stunning. Our bathroom had a hot tub, which was much appreciated, I spent a lot of time in that tub. So we did the Niagara Falls thing, then our cousins drove us further afield, and we visited Niagara on the Lake, and looked across the lake at the very distant Toronto.

Ian and I next to Lake Ontario.

Next day we made the hours drive into Toronto itself and we spent some time wandering the city, had a spot of lunch and just generally enjoyed each others company. I must say Toronto was nice, but it didn't strike or grab me in quite the same way Vancouver did. (I realise one day probably isn't enough time to judge but still, Vancouver already captured my heart!)

Bottom of the CN Tower.

Following the roadtrip, it was back to Pittsburgh. While there we did a whole range of things, had many family events, barbecues, bet on the Kentucky Derby and tried out a Pittsburgh must, the Primanti Brothers sandwhich (pictured with the travel duck!)

Highlights for me include visiting PNC Park to watch a baseball game (I have been previously on a trip in 2008 and LOVED it, so going back was a must!)  and also visited the Mattress Factory, a contemporary art museum which we also adored. http://www.mattress.org/

PNC Park
The Mattress Factory - Pittsburgh.

And then far too soon, it was time to throw our stuff together, and hop on a long flight back to Vancouver for the final leg of our year long adventure.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Things I forgot to blog about in 2014. Part One: The End of Vancouver :(

I left off with a whirlwind explanation of our final few months in Canada and with an airy promise to fill you in later. Clearly that idea bombed, however, I'm attempting to pull myself together and get back on the blog wagon!

So, things I forgot to blog about in 2014. (Part One because this could take awhile.)

  • My Dads visit to Vancouver
So last January my father came to Vancouver to visit, and I wrote a little about his arrival and my preparation for it, but didn't hugely touch on the subject much afterwards. Well, I had a wonderful few weeks with my Dad in Vancouver, and we managed to cram in rather a lot, considering I had to work for part of it.

Initially we spent a few days relaxing, wandering the city a lot with my own version of a guided tour, showing my Dad all the places we loved around Downtown Vancouver, such as Gastown, Coal Harbour and Chinatown. We chatted and drank a lot of coffee, and just had general father/daughter time which was lovely, and gave my Dad a break from his workaholic lifestyle back at home. It made me realise quite how much I missed my family and I wanted to make sure we made the most of our time together, so then we went into tourist mode!

After my brief stint at work we filled our time considerably, we walked around Stanley Park a lot (New Years Day we stumbled upon the Polar Bear Swim at English Bay, I'm signing up for that next time! It sounds mad, but really, what an experience.)

We spent a day in North Vancouver and took some gorgeous pictures of sunset over Downtown.

Father on the cliff walk!
One day was spent visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was a nice trip out, if a little too 'touristy' and guided for my liking. I'm a bit more of an open spaces, off the beaten track kind of girl, but nevertheless, I enjoyed the bridge, and seeing the engineering involved in it, along with the cliff walk.

One of my favourite days was spent on Grouse mountain. We took the ferry across to North Vancouver and then a bus to the bottom of the mountain. Earlier in the year Ian and I had ascended via the Grouse Grind, which I had wanted to show my Dad, but unfortunately it was closed for Winter. So we had to take the tram up the mountain, which was a lot quicker and rather beautiful anyway. From there we rented snowshoes (I can't remember quite how much, but I rememeber thinking it was reasonably priced, but if I lived in Vancouver I'd totally buy my own pair and do this all the time!) and we spent the day plodding in the snow up the mountain! The scenery was beautiful, but the snowshoes are hard work! They make your feet feel oddly inbalanced and heavy, and tired us out!

Me in the ol' snowshoes!

Another day while walking in Stanley Park, and one of my favourite memories that I share with my Dad involved coming across a lady and 2 children feeding chickadees. These are small birds that live close to Beaver Lake, and as we walked towards the lady and children saw that they were surrounded by these tiny, delicate birds. The lady approached us and gave us some seeds too, and we spent a wonderful afternoon feeding them, simply by holding out seeds on your hand and waiting for the chickadees to land on your palm and dash off nervously with a seed clasped in its tiny beak. They were adorable and nervous, and very light, but with strong little feet. Very cute indeed, 'tis a shame I never got a photograph. If you're ever intending to go to that area, definitely take seeds with you and have a go!

Another evening we visited the Harbour Centre Tower and I again I took a million photos as the sun went down over my adoptive city, which I have no grown to love more and more.

Overall, we had a wonderful time together and saying goodbye when he left was almost harder than saying goodbye when we left London. But at this point Ian and I had decided we would not be renewing our visas, so we knew it wouldn't be long before we were back in good old England again!

  • April - Anniversary in Victoria, BC
Our last weeks in Vancouver flew by way too fast, and leaving work and people behind was more difficult than I could have imagined. The day after my last shift was Ian and I's anniversary, and we had planned a trip to Victoria. So we got up early and took the Skytrain/bus to Tswassen ferry terminal and hopped on a ferry to Vancouver Island, and then took a final bus to Victoria. While there we stayed at Ocean Island Hostel, which we loved for its kooky community feel and amusing paint job.

Victoria was pretty, but we couldn't help constantly comparing it to Vancouver and finding that it came up short. Our first port of call was to track down a pub, as one thing that Vancouver lacks was a pub (as opposed to bars, of which there are many!) and we dove into one and spent our first afternoon getting suitably drunk and doing not much else. I honestly don't remember a lot of that day.

A lot of walking took place, we checked out Victoria's Chinatown, which was very pretty, but considerably smaller than Vancouver. A highlight for me was walking through Beacon Hill Park all the way to the beach, where we spent the day snuggled on the sand, played with sticks and met a pug. We stumbled upon a great little coffee shop called Solstice Cafe, where we spent a considerable amount of time eating and drinking (the salmon bagels where delicious!) and overall we had a lovely stay.

We may not have been entirely blown away by Victoria, but we had so little time to really get to know the place, the largest feature for me were the places to eat and drink. I wish we had had more time to enjoy the city in more depth, and had more time to travel further into the Island, as I'm certain Vancouver Island has a whole lot more to offer.

After our brief stint on the Island, we pottered back to Vancouver and our sweet little apartment, and started packing our things up for our next adventure...

In an effort to keep these manageable, I'll split the post up so I don't post too much all at once, so:

Part 2 - America/Niagara Falls

Part 3 - Returning Home/Canada Work Visa Round up

Monday, 28 July 2014

Raider Rachel Returns!


So. How to begin.

It's been awhile since I last posted, and I must say the last few months have been a whirl wind. So this is a quick update on my current whereabouts and a brief overview of our journeys the last few months. (With the intention that I will write several posts going into more detail.)

Basically, Ian and I are back in the UK!

We spent a lovely spring in Vancouver, I last posted in March when flowers and tree blossom was erupting beautifully all over the city and we were making the most of spending time with both the city and the friends we made there. We watched the St Patrick's Day Parade go down the street right outside our apartment and I took a lovely walk around the city to see the TED sculpture outside the convention centre (see last post for pictures!)

April was lovely, at work we were gearing up for Easter, Ian and I were making exciting travel plans, and I was generally getting excited, exercising and eating healthily, spending time with friends feeling very free and great about life.

I finished work on April 15th, and I was so upset about leaving. Saying goodbye was pretty rough, I loved my job, largely because of the fantastic people I was working with and I'm going to miss them incredibly. (If you're reading this I love you guys!) The last day was fantastic though, as I was allowed to help the chef make cookies, and I had a ball basically playing with chocolate. Handing over my key at the end though was horrible!

The following day was our 4 year anniversary. Crazy or what?? I can't believe we've been together so long, it feels like that time has gone in a blink of an eye. So that day we took the ferry to Vancouver Island and spent a few days there. (Incoming post on Victoria!)

We had a week back in Vancouver, had intended to visit Seattle but that fell through, but managed to cram in a trip to Whiterock, and just enjoyed spending time with our friends. (4/20 was interesting!)

Then we packed up our stuff, left our apartment for good and flew to Pittsburgh to visit my family, whom I hadn't seen since 2008 and introduced Ian to them. And with them we drove up to Niagra Falls and Toronto for a few days. We had an amazing visit with them (incoming posts) and it was hard saying goodbye after such a short time with them.

From there we flew back to Vancouver for one day (long story, annoying plane tickets!) and then spent a long, long journey travelling home. We landed back in the UK mid May, a few days short of my birthday, and now, here we are!

Two months down the line and I have finally managed to bag myself a job and tra la! I finally gave myself a moment to sit and write about the last few months. Now I have a week or so before I start work, I'm going to make sure I take the time to give my blog some much needed attention, so watch out soon for postings galore!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Spring has sprung!

I woke up today (incidentally my day off too!) to find that the first day of Spring had quietly sprung up on us, and today it certainly lived up to its expectations.

Vancouver in the spring is... well, just stunning!

So out I dashed to grab some coffee and few snaps before a Skype session with mi madre, and got a few beauts like these...

By lunch time I was itching to get outside again, so off I trotted, camera in hand, and wandered down Granville Street towards the Waterfront and Canada Place, where they are currently holding the TED conference. I've been wanting to get a look at the hanging sculpture thingy outside the conference, and now I definitely need to go back and see it all lit up at night!

Anyway, here follows the pictures I took, which really don't quite convey how lovely the city looked today.

Granville and Pender

Granville and Hastings (I think?)

Canada Place, North Vancouver and a container ship!

The TED art at Canada Place

Mountains Gandalf!

Burrard and Hastings

Burrard and Hastings

Burrard and Hastings

Burrard and Hastings

Robson Square/Vancouver Art Gallery

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Christmas and my Dad!

Hey guys!

I've had a busy few months since I last wrote in early December, so the next few posts will cover what we've been up to!

December was amazing, it was busy at work with all the Christmas products going on, but an enjoyable time to work in a chocolate shop, chocolate seems to bring out the joy in most people. (Not everyone, it definitely still has some of the pitfalls of retail.) But it was a fun time.

In late December Ian and I managed to grab an evening together and we shot down to the Vancouver Christmas Market, which we loved. When we arrived there was a HUUUGE queue to get in, so we debated whether to wait in the line or just not bother, but we opted to wait and the line moved pretty quickly, so if you're considering going next year, don't let long queues be a deterrent, it's amazing! On first glance its like being in a winter wonderland, it was very pretty inside, and the German theme definitely got us missing Europe. Once you get in you have to get a wristband if you want to drink, but at the time I was on medication so couldn't, so Ian got one, and we swiftly made our way to get him some Mulled Wine and and I had non-alcoholic apple cider. Mine was delicious, and started my new found love affair with hot apple cider, which you can get in most coffee shops round here in the winter...so yummy! You also get to keep the mug you drink from (we accidentally smashed one at a later date, so now we only have one *sadface*.) We wandered around the stalls, lots of food places that smelt incredible, a lovely candle shop, and a really cool place that sold organic and fair trade products. It was a great night out, and would highly recommend it for anyone next year! It made everything feel mega christmassy!

Christmas Market!

Also, we had our first dusting of snow. I LOVE snow and was incredibly excited!

Christmas rolled around, I worked Xmas Eve and Ian worked Boxing Day so we only had the one day together, but it was lovely. We had a quiet one, exchanged gifts, Skyped our respective families, breakfasted on a holiday ham and bread, and made a traditional christmas dinner together, then drank into the evening. It was odd to have a Christmas without any family at all, I'll admit I got a bit teary skyping home and seeing everyone having our normal Christmas at our house. I got a bit homesick, but it was lovely to chat to everyone, and see my niece and nephew.

Boxing Day was nuts, I had a small wander around Downtown, and the sales were incredible, people all over the place, running around with huge bags of purchases. I've never seen so many people out and about all at the same time, the pavements were just full! I wish I'd taken a picture to demonstrate how busy it was. I only lasted an hour and headed for home, it was too hectic for me!

Following Christmas I had a few days back at work, which were steady with our post Christmas sales (after a holiday our seasonal products got to 50% off!)  and then on the 29th I had the happy task of picking my Dad up from the airport, as he had come for a 3 week visit!

I was so excited to see him, so I got up early and started tracking his plane across the Atlantic and Canada on the internet. About an hour before he was supposed to land we headed off to the airport, and got there quite early.

I made him a sign so we couldn't miss him... but somehow at arrivals he managed to creep around and sneak up behind us. I still can't figure out how we missed him! But anyway, he was safely collected and we scuttled off to the Skytrain to bring him back to his hotel, which was literally one block away from our apartment.

Next post coming soon! Vancouver with my Dad!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Getting Christmassy!

December is flying by now and we're gearing up for our first Christmas together, as well as our first Christmas' away from our respective families.

I feel very organised for a change, I'm normally running around the week before crimbo but I've managed to get myself pretty sorted this year.

I think the fact that at work Christmas has exploded all over the store made me get my arse in gear to be honest! So December 1st I ran around town looking for christmas decorations, and managed to score myself a mini tree, decorations, lights and the obligatory chocolate tree decorations, then I ran home and threw them up enthusiastically and topped it off with our little flags we have left over from Canada Day back in July.

Our tree looks like this!

At the beginning of the month we were also excited to discover that filming for 'The Interview' movie was taking place just down the road, so we managed to get a glimpse of the set and James Franco in action! They'd put up a weird statue and had extras walking round in what looked like Korean Military costumes, and as you can see, loads of green screens around. We didnt get a chance to see Seth Rogen,but it was still pretty cool to see!

The set of 'The Interview'

And then work has been a bit hectic for us, with our schedules never quite matching up, Ian and I haven't had many chances to have days out together, so I dont have much interesting news to share.

As far as work goes, this is what the store looks like at the moment, stock everywhere!

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory!

Christmas themed caramel apples!  
Candy Cane stir sticks ( I helped make these at Head Office last month!)

Showcase and Christmas stuffs!
The 3 foot Santa with creepy eyes... thats 25lbs of creepy chocolate right there!

Winter boots!
So yeah, Christmas is on my mind a lot. I recently sent out all my cards to friends and family in the UK ( I hope you get them soon guys!) And all I have to do now really is finish off a little shopping and plan Christmas dinner!

Yesterday we made an attempt at visiting the German Christmas Market but it was so bloody cold, we opted to go for a coffee and a reading session at our favorite coffee shop instead and then a TV day in bed, so that's something for us to do in the near future, I'll try and take loads of pics and report back!

I have lots to look forward to soon, with Christmas round the corner and my Dad's visit shortly after that (3 weeks today!!) and then we are looking into some travel further afield in the not too distant future so things are looking good!

To conclude, I have also added in a picture of my amazing winter boots, which I mentioned in my last post, and was requested a picture! I still love them, they keep me warm and dry and are crazily comfortable.


Monday, 18 November 2013

Aaaargh, where did Fall go?

OK so I've been mega relaxed about blogging lately, and I suddenly find that Fall/Autumn/whatever you like to call it is on it's way out and winter is swiftly creeping up on us. The last 6 weeks or so have been mega busy for me, and blogging has slipped down the priority list in favor of eating/sleeping/doing fun stuff, but today I find myself with a quiet afternoon to sit back, sip green tea and write a little.

So. What have we been up to?


At the end of September we discovered the delights of Storm Crow Tavern, an awesome restaurant/pub type establishment that caters to the geekier side of Vancouver. The place has a huge statue of Cthulu, a ridiculously big stack of boardgames, posters and signed pictures scattered on the walls, with various memorabilia from pretty much any geek tv show/film/game you can think of. We got particularly excited at the signed photo of the cast of Firefly.

October was a bit hectic.

We discovered Sherlock's British Store in New Westminster, where we excitedly got meat pies in the cafe and then spent ages wandering round the shop attempting to buy something small that reminded us of home. In the end we opted for a drink each (Ribena for me and Ginger Ale for Ian) then a packet of Pickled Onion crisps each and a sachet of Angel Delight. (We only recently ate the Angel Delight, and oh my, childhood memories.)

Fall/Autumn started setting in, and the city started looking beautiful. This was taken just down the street from my apartment... I can't quite believe I live here sometimes.

In mid-October we visited Dunbar Haunted House with some friends of mine from work, and I've never been so terrified. We queued for abut 45mins outside, while characters in creepy costumes wandered around and posed with people waiting. I must say the costumes were amazing and pretty disturbing, they definitely got you worried for the main event. As we got to the front door and told staff we'd not been to anything like this before, they all gave us looks as if to say 'Good luck!' We headed in with the 2 girls in the middle and the 2 guys at the front and back, but that really didn't help. As we moved from room to room, characters jumped out at us from anywhere, and no matter where you were in the line they could get you. The theme was History of Terror, so each room was something historic, for example Egyptian, of a Black Plague Room. For me the most terrifying room was the last one, where a creature in a cage rattling bars and a character in an weird orange jump suit jumped out at me, and then it was finished with us being chased out by a guy with a chain saw. Ive never been so relieved to leave a building. Sadly this was the last year for Dunbar Haunted House, so I'm really glad we got to experience it, and hats off to all involved.

On our next day off together, Ian and I did the Grouse Grind. The Grind is a climb up Grouse mountain, and I'm not lying when I say it's one of the more exhausting things I've done. We underestimated how much of a hike it was going to be I think, but we enjoyed the day nevertheless and we definitely want to return to the mountain at some point soon. The hike up the mountain takes around an hour and a half, and then you pay $10 to get back down, or you can take the Skyride up the side of the mountain at an extra cost. At the top there a few places to eat, drink and take stunning photos (see below) as well as having extra entertainment in the summer. We were there off season so the only real entertainment left was the 2 Grizzly bears that they look after. We really enjoyed watching them as we happened to be around while they were quite active, and feeding on salmon, so we got great views of them. It made for a long and tiring day, but very memorable.

Images of our Grouse Mountain trip - October 23rd 2013

Next on the agenda was Halloween! I was scheduled to work, so had to dress up. I opted to go as a bloody surgeon so I got some doctor scrubs and a mask and sprayed them with fake blood. Working on Halloween was great fun, we had trick or treaters and creepy music, then wandering home in costume with all the other people dressed up. Some people go all out on Halloween, we spotted some great costumes, here's mine! (By this time the blood had soaked into the fabric so you couldn't see it as well :( )

More recently, we've visited Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park, which I loved as they have a jelly fish exhibition at the moment, and I love jelly fish! (I'm considering a Jelly Fish tattoo!)

At work things got really busy in November. (On the 5th Martin Sheen came into the store and everyone got really exhited!) But besides the celebrity thing, the store is quiet in November so some members of staff were asked to do some hours in our Head Office in Burnaby, where we would either be in production or packaging. I took the extra hours for Christmas monies and did some overtime as well, so I had a few weeks where I was working like a mad woman. Production was kinda fun, you got to make chocolate, I made some chocolate dipped candy canes which we recently got in our store, so I've nabbed myself a bag. Its pretty cool to sell things to people and be able to say, I made these! Packaging was mostly box folding or wrapping, hard work and longer hours made for a very tiring few weeks, hence the lack of online presence.

We also spotted a film set one evening, we think it was for the TV show Arrow - but we're not quite sure...
Ian in front of the film set!

This week we said goodbye to a colleague and her partner who were moving to Calgary, so we had a lovely evening out in Chinatown, where another colleague showed us around the area a little, told us a bit about it, and then took us for a lovely Chinese! (Even the weird bean/seaweed soup for pudding, which was...interesting.)

Now winter is soon upon us. I just bought myself some snazzy new winter boots, which I'm stoked about, and stomping around Vancouver like a lunatic.

And I found out a few days ago that my Dad is going to visit after Christmas for a few weeks, so I'm mega excited, as well as the fact its only like 5 weeks till Christmas!