The full Moun­tie

WILD AT HEART: There are many rea­sons to visit Canada, but for Sheena Hast­ings and fam­ily it was also a sen­ti­men­tal jour­ney.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Travel -

O begin at the end, it says ev­ery­thing that we left Canada af­ter 16 days al­ready plan­ning our next visit. That rarely hap­pens. But then the four of us – my hus­band, stu­dent daugh­ters and I – were pre­dis­posed to love the land of maple syrup, Moun­ties, moun­tains, lakes, rivers, forests and bears.

Months of de­bate had gone into the itin­er­ary, which took us to Bri­tish Colom­bia and South­ern On­tario. The coun­try of choice was a no-brainer: Canada was the home of our daugh­ters’ lately de­parted grandma, a war bride who’d trav­elled from a land of bright­ness and plenty to one of bleak aus­ter­ity af­ter mar­ry­ing a Bri­tish flyer.

As we de­scended over the west­ern flank of the Rock­ies, crossed a wide, fer­tile plain and landed be­yond the coastal moun­tain range in Van­cou­ver, high school geog­ra­phy was brought to life.

In the same sweep of the eye we could take in glaciers, thou­sands of acres of for­est and sil­ver-tinted rivers me­an­der­ing, their gi­ant cargo of roped lum­ber snaking from for­est to sawmill. This year’s moun­tain view; next year’s tim­ber-framed house.

Van­cou­ver is a clean, friendly, pros­per­ous city, with a stunning ocean­side lo­ca­tion for yachts and sea­planes to the nearby is­lands, and moun­tains for ski­ing and sum­mer hikes fram­ing the bay. It seemed al­most too good to be true.

We joined the run­ners, walk­ers and cy­clists en­joy­ing the water­side path around the bay to Stan­ley Park, a spit of land with a beach area, wood­land, pic­nic spots and a fa­mous and ri­otously colour­ful col­lec­tion of First Na­tion totem poles, pre­serv­ing fam­ily his­to­ries for pos­ter­ity. From city cen­tre gal­leries to street signs and the en­gross­ing Mu­seum of An­thro­pol­ogy, there is a pride in the his­tory of the tribes who in­hab­ited this breath­tak­ing place long be­fore the Euro­pean ex­plor­ers claimed it.

We were anx­ious to ex­pe­ri­ence the wilder­ness of Van­cou­ver Is­land, an hour away by ferry. In the dwin­dling evening light, we spot­ted curlews and golden ea­gles swoop­ing above trees, trees and more trees, and barely met an­other ve­hi­cle as we wound through moun­tains and skirted lakes. The air was heavy with damp pine resin, and we were far re­moved from our ev­ery­day lives.

It took four hours to cross to Tofino on the Pa­cific Rim. We did in­deed feel we were on the edge – next stop: Ja­pan.

Cana­di­ans are warm, po­lite, hos­pitable and bend-over-back­wards help­ful. They’re also safety con­scious to a fault, so ho­tel room in­for­ma­tion ex­plained pro­ce­dures to adopt in the event of en­coun­ter­ing a bear, a cougar or a tsunami warn­ing. Cougars don’t much like hu­man chat­ter, we were told…so we kept up the flow of con­ver­sa­tion on our coastal walks and stayed rea­son­ably close to­gether. Our for­ays were re­warded with our own pri­vate beaches to play on, plants and flow­ers we’d never seen, breath­tak­ing views and a feel­ing of be­ing cleansed and en­er­gised by the crash­ing surf.

Af­ter so much empti­ness, the bright lights of Toronto (a five-hour flight from Van­cou­ver) were a shock. Se­ri­ally judged to be the world’s most live­able

Our for­ays were re­warded with our own pri­vate beaches to play on.

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