olves!” yelled our guide, gesticulating at some tiny spots of grey flecking a distant beach before downing his binoculars, gunning the powerful twin outboard engines of the Zodiac and sending up a thick plume of spray as we scudded across the waves towards the shore. Driven by earlymorning hunger, the wolves were gorging themselves on crabs exposed by the falling tide, but as suddenly as they had appeared – and before we had drawn close enough to focus a camera – they sniffed the air and slunk back into the shadows of the Canadian rainforest.
“Wow!” said my teenage son, Joe. “Not bad,” said his twin sister, Anna, almost forgetting to retain her indifference. A few days into our “last ever” family holiday, it was exactly the reaction we had wanted.
Such enthusiasm, if I can call it that, had been a long time coming. As they’d turned 16, the twins had made it abundantly clear that they had no desire to go on any kind of holiday with their “boring” parents. Acknowledging that a fortnight in a Cornish cottage without friends or Wi-Fi would have been a disaster, my wife and I began to consider what kind of holiday they would enjoy.
Our research led us to British Columbia, where enticements for the active included ziplining through remote canyons, kayaking around deserted islands in search of bears and wolves, surfing and hiking through rainforest. To appeal to the twins’ urban souls, we decided to bookend the Great Outdoors with a few nights in Vancouver, consistently voted one of the top five cities worldwide for quality of life. Its combination of culture (notably film, but also art, museums, music and nightlife), city beaches and world-leading cuisine would prove irresistible to our townie sophisticates.
So confident were we of our choice, we went ahead and booked, then waited until GCSEs were over to announce the trip of a lifetime. The children’s reaction shocked us. They refused outright to join us on “another bloody family outing”. After paying dearly for airline tickets, a rental car, hotels, a ferry passage to Vancouver Island and a bucket list to tempt surely the most world-weary teenager, we had a full-scale mutiny on our hands. “I wanted to go into London with my friends,” stormed Joe. “If you think I’m sitting in a boring boat just so you can see an otter, forget it,” protested Anna. “Why don’t you go on your own?”
Just days before our flight, it was Joe who capitulated first, aware that his friends were melting away on their own family holidays. “Will the hotels have Wi-Fi?” he asked. When I answered yes, it was a done deal – and Anna reluctantly surrendered.
Fast forward to our flight landing in Vancouver, and the pair could scarcely conceal their excitement. Perhaps it was just relief after the torpor of a nine-hour flight, but they both described the city, sparkling in the coastal sunlight below, as “sensational”.
Once on terra firma, the old cynicism returned. On the 30-minute taxi ride into the city, we pointed out elegant residential villas, glittering skyscrapers and a procession of vintage seaplanes taking off from the harbour. “It’s just scenery,” the twins informed us.
Their mood began to thaw in our room at the harbourfront Pan Pacific Hotel, where discovering the Wi-Fi password put them back in touch with London. Next day, as we set out to
Clockwise from above: Joseph and Anna relax at the beach; the Williams family kayaking on the still waters of Stuart Bay; a First Nation totem pole in Stanley Park; fun in the forest; hip, Victorian-era Gastown; and Jack Poole Plaza, in Vancouver