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Fly­ing the flag for Canada

I re­mem­ber read­ing sto­ries in the press in 2012 about a rel­a­tive fall in the num­ber of wed­dings be­ing booked for the fol­low­ing year – ap­par­ently be­cause peo­ple didn’t want to get hitched in a year with the num­ber 13 in it. Se­ri­ously! Sara and I threw cau­tion to the wind, and had a fab­u­lous day for our civil part­ner­ship that au­tumn. Seventy-five friends, town hall, the Pink Singers, gas­tropub and lash­ings of cham­pagne. Per­fect.

We loved or­gan­is­ing it; of course the table plan threw up a few diplo­matic is­sues, but the lists, the timeta­bles, the end­less Post-it notes, were all fun. That said, a task that is en­joy­able can still be tir­ing. So my mes­sage to any­one plan­ning a wed­ding? Have a proper hon­ey­moon af­ter­wards! I don’t mean you have to spend a for­tune, you’ve prob­a­bly al­ready paid for the big day (we’d have loved to go to New Zealand, for ex­am­ple, but that has had to re­main on our long-term wish list). How­ever, a de­cent length break is a must, to de­com­press af­ter a lovely, but fran­tic, pe­riod.

For us, that el­e­ment of the nup­tials was as im­por­tant as the main day it­self – be­cause we felt very strongly that we should spend our money in a coun­try that was gay-friendly. In an ideal world, wouldn’t we all love ev­ery hol­i­day to fall into that cat­e­gory, but Sara and I felt par­tic­u­larly strongly about this pre­cisely be­cause it was our hon­ey­moon. So where to start? We’re not par­tic­u­larly in­trepid trav­ellers, or, to be hon­est, I’m not. Sara de­spairs that I won’t en­ter­tain the idea of camp­ing (I go away for a rest, I al­ways say, not to sleep some­where cold and have to tramp across a field to go for a pee). So we had to find some­thing to sat­isfy both of us – I love beau­ti­ful land­scapes, but also need in­ter­est­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, gal­leries, good restau­rants; Sara pri­ori­tises scenery, par­tic­u­larly moun­tains. Af­ter some re­search, we found the per­fect place – Canada.

Same-sex mar­riage was le­galised there in 2005, and the coun­try has a his­tory of sup­port­ing LGBT rights. We plumped for Van­cou­ver, a won­der­ful city on the water, which fre­quently re­minded me of San Fran­cisco. It’s the most densely pop­u­lated city in the coun­try, but doesn’t feel busy; it’s eth­ni­cally di­verse with a good food scene; Stan­ley Park is per­fect for cy­cling, and there’s a gay area cen­tred around Davie Street. A short ferry ride takes you to Van­cou­ver Is­land – head to its west coast for stun­ning views of the Pa­cific Ocean. Or a drive in the other di­rec­tion (a long one, to be fair – Bri­tish Columbia is 365,000 square miles, and we only grazed it) takes you to the towns of Jasper and Banff; you might know them as ski re­sorts, but out­side the ski­ing sea­son there are ex­cel­lent walks – though watch out for the moun­tain bik­ers whizzing past you through the trees.

Canada’s glaciers are some of the most awe-in­spir­ing sights I think I will ever see, and when you pull up at a beau­ti­ful lake to take photos the next one a few miles down the road will be even more stun­ning. We saw bears! And a salmon run! I prom­ise this col­umn isn’t spon­sored by the Cana­dian Tourist Board, but re­ally, what’s not to like? Be­cause on top of this rich va­ri­ety of land­scape and ex­pe­ri­ence, it was also one of the most wel­com­ing coun­tries I’ve ever vis­ited.

We stayed in all types of ac­com­mo­da­tion – B&BS, through to larger guest­houses and one high- end ho­tel, and were able to be com­pletely open about who we are and why we were there. I’ve only re­cently dis­cov­ered that the first Canada Pride is be­ing staged in Au­gust in Mon­treal – the idea be­ing that a dif­fer­ent city will host a na­tional Pride fes­ti­val ev­ery four years. How I’d love to be there this sum­mer to con­tinue our Cana­dian love af­fair; I’ll just have to put 2021 in the di­ary.

We were able to be com­pletely open about who we are

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