Category Archives: People

Those wonderful AirBnB hosts at Qualicum Beach

We stayed at Susan & Roelof’s house at Qualicum Beach for one night. This sociable English/Dutch couple invited us to a tour of their wonderful garden,  then, as a welcome, Philippe was offered a tasting of Reoelof’s home-brewed beer and Yasuko some cherries and later even a glass of wine before going to bed. The next morning Susan & Roelof spoiled us with a three course breakfast with fruit salad, a salmon crepe and a fruit crepe! All organic or home-grown fruits were delicious and Yasuko who loves berries was all smiles : ) Wonderful breakfast in their garden booming with gorgeous flowers, organic berries and herbs.

We had such interesting conversations on the Canadian/Swiss politics, problematic Vancouver Island’s railway (the trains are not running), etc. that we stayed up close to midnight!  We felt that we came as Airbnb guests and left as their houseguests.

2-day hike on Sky Line Trail, Jasper (Day 2)

Click here to read day 1

Day 2

After a copious breakfast, the steep ascent to the Notch (2’510m) awaited us. The last part of the climb was 45-degree up and we struggled over snowfields and gravels, while stones and gravels were falling from our footsteps.

The ridge walk from the Notch was the highlight of this trail. 360-degree panoramic view under the blue sky and strong wind. Re-fueled by the magnificent view and yummy brownies and cookies from the Lodge, we started descending to the vast Athabasca Valley.

Wild animals, particularly marmots, appeared often on our trail and they seem not to be afraid of human presence.

On the way we met a friendly Canadian couple in 60s, who often tavels in the Arctic in a canoe for a month! They determine a place, get flown in by a helicopter and and call per satellite phone when they want to be flown out again. They pack one-month supply of food in a canoe and just travel. What an adventure!

By this time Philippe got tired and became dead silent. Around 10km before the end of the trail he said with desperation, “I had enough! “. We however had two more hours to go and could not take a tele-cabin like in Switzerland so he had no other choice but to keep walking : (

The last 8km of the Signal Mountain fire road in particular was known for bear appearances so it looked as if a bear could be lurking anywhere in the dense forest and jump at us (even if bears neither lurk nor jump). We kept blowing our emergency signal whistle and kept the b ear spray handy. Propelled by an uneasy feeling and persistent mosquitos again, we were walking at an astonishing record speed. We were happy to come out from this mosquito-infested, bear-inhabiting forest, shook off our boots and put our feet up for a while.

Banff to Jasper

After spending five days in Banff, we left this stunning national park for the next one, Jasper. Today’s highlight was the road which connects two national parks: The 280km long Icefields Parkway.

On both sides of this parkway the majestic peaks of mountains continued and the parkway climbed up to 2’088m of altitude.

The major attraction of this road is the humongous Colombia Glacier. When we reached, the stadium-size parking lot was booming with buses, over-sized camping cars (like ours) and other cars. The park center itself was worse and packed with people from all kind of places. It was simply a zoo!

Here we encountered again the same Californian couple whom we met at Lake Louise the day before. They were dashing out to get on a shuttle bus and walk on the glacier. Even though there were many other attractions to “experience” the glacier, we run away from this touristic zoo!
Living in Switzerland and having hiked on one of the largest glaciers, Aletcher Glacier (900m in depth!) or having skied on many times (Philippe), it was not, well, exciting enough. Nevertheless, the vastness of this glacier was impressive!

Once we arrived in Jasper, we narrowly got one of a few spots left in the Whistlers Campground! After securing our spot for spending the night, we rushed into the town and organized the logistics for our upcoming two-day hike of Skyline Trail, talking to the Parks Canada people, buying the map and arranging the transport. Looking forward to this hike!

Today’s evening meal was special: our first BBQ!
Philippe was happy grilling a huge piece of meat (Yasuko grilling corns), finally proper camping with fire, while Yasuko thought it was a boy-thing!

Nikkei Internment Memorial Center 日系メモリアルセンター

After we met by chance on a mountain top and talked to Tomo Fujimura, a Japanese resident in Revelstoke and a mountain guide as well as an avalanche specialist, I got really interested in visiting the Nikkei Internment Memorial Center to find out more about the history of Japanese-Canadians. Fujimura-san told us passionately about the history of Japanese-Canadians and how important it is to communicate this part of the history to other Japanese.

The history of Japanese immigrants is something I have been interested in since I visited the Japanese Immigration Museum in Sao Paulo ten years ago. Since then I have read about this relatively unknown part of the modern Japanese history. It is a sad and crazy part and the story of Japanese Canadians was not different…

After the Pearl Harbor Attack 22,000 Japanese-Canadians living in Vancouver were labelled “enemy aliens” by the Canadian authorities, deprived of their possession such as houses, shops, cars and others, and sent to the internment centers. Families were separated and many men were sent to labor camps to work on roads and fields. They had to pack up their limited personal belongings in 24 hours and were forced to move to “relocation” camps in the Rockies, which was considered to be “remote wildness”. It saddens me when I think how desperate, angry and confused Japanese Canadians felt. They are second or 3rd generation of Japanese-Canadians and they have been living as Canadians for their life, some of them not even speaking proper Japanese anymore. Just because of their Japanese ancestors and their crazy war which they had nothing to do with, they were thrown out of their lives all of a sudden.

The Nikkei Memorial Center in New Denver maintains original buildings of the internment camp and keeps its history. I did not know anything about the history of Japanese-Canadians so the exhibition and the history was “disturbingly interesting” (as Philippe said).
The war, as any war, created only misery to individuals. It is simply maddening that the war game is still continuing and we humans seem not to learn anything from the past. In Japan we are heading into a scary ultra-conservative direction again…

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Center is located in a small town called New Denver. Apparently there are still 20 Japanese-Canadians living in this town, who are now in their 70s to 90s.

After the museum, we visited a zen garden at the lake-side, Kohanso 湖畔荘. It was almost sadly serene because it is so peaceful despite the history of this town. We sat there for a while, looking at the mirror-like lake and thought about our crazy world….

Vancouver Day Two

Another sunny day in Vancouver. Today we decided to discover the city by Philippe´s favorite means of transport: BOAT

We chose the False Creek Ferry which has small, cute nutshell-like boats which accommodate up to 12 passengers. These boats take you to several piers and main city attraction points. The young English captain who took us to our first destination, the Science World, was very relaxed and friendly and volunteered some good sightseeing tips.

The Science World building stands out with its shiny gigantic metallic ball, which is often featured in major postcards and guidebook covers. Even though it is supposed to be quite interesting, it was such a sunny day to be inside so we opted to walk around the building and the end of the creek only, and still enjoyed the interesting outdoor exhibition along the port.

The next stop was Granville. A small island, which was transformed from an industrial site to a wonderful open market, community activity place as well as an artsy center of the city with galleries and artistic shops. The highlight of this place for us was, of course, food! The market was a fantastic alley of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat, with an international food court. A lot of locales as well as tourists were enjoying a nice day out there.

The last stop was “Maritime Museum”. We happily did not visit the museum, as Philippe noticed “air activity” from far already. Anything in the air, even if almost invisible to the untrained eye, is caught by my “big boy” husband. It turned out that there was the annual Vancouver Kite Festival with many dozens of kites flying. A group of 6 people, the Vancouver Kite Squad, maneuvering a kite called “Evolution” and showed off their synchronized flying. They used a kite called “Evolution”, a four liner which is phenomenally maneuverable in all directions at any speed. I saw the kite flying like this for the first time and it was beautiful.

We lazied around on the lawn most of the afternoon and watched these kites flying. Others are also enjoying the sunny day biking, walking, jogging or inline skating. .Bike/walk paths are everywhere around the city and It offers people lots of outdoor activity options. We felt content after this relaxed, beautiful day.

Vancouver is definitely a city we could move into…

Vancouver Day One

Surprisingly it takes not more than 10 hours with a direct Edelweiss flight to arrive at Vancouver Airport. Not so surprisingly, a heavy jet lag (-9h) knocks us out for several days…

But before this, on our first day and evening, we meet Brigit, a friend from Zurich who lives in Vancouver and just recently decided to emigrate to BC for good. The “Bee in BC” as she calls herself on her blog has started something new, true to herself in a place far away from home. But a “home” is never one place and constantly moving, for some people like us…. We spent an evening with animated, interesting talks about life, family, expectations, social constraints, freedom,  and … Vancouver, of course. That kept us wide-awake despite our jet-lag…

Just after our arrival in sunny blue-sky Vancouver we checked in at Elisha’s place. We booked a room in her apartment in the middle of downtown Vancouver through AirBnB. To be more central is difficult. It is the perfect location for our four-day stay in BC’s Capital.

After our first night of rocky sleep, we woke up to a sunny day. Today’s destination is one of the highlights of this city – Stanley Park. It is a verdant peninsula, located on the tip of downtown Vancouver. It took us about 3 hours to walk around it, starting at Coal Harbor. And as usual, every walk along a harbor takes a bit more time with Philippe pondering the pros and cons of those many boats mooring. Very oishii (tasty) ramen at Motomatchi Shokudo gave this day a surprise “kick”. Excellent spicy Ramen.

Little joys in the Orosi Valley

Sometimes we are fed up with bad bread, weak filter coffee or carelessly or unimaginatively prepared food. Theses are the moments when a small thing can make our day.

In the Orosi valley, we had a few of those moments 🙂

Almost hidden next to a colorful fruit shop, Yasuko walked into a tiny smoothie  shop. She ordered a mora (blackberry), fresa and mango smoothie and fell in love.

Next to it, there was a Swiss bakery where we had a nice chat and an impromptu jam tasting with Swiss native Francisca in her Panaderia Suiza. An excellent espresso and some delicious pastries gave me a zen moment.

Then we made one of our many “let’s check the menu” stops at restaurant Don Juan on the other side of the Orosi Valley. Well, this stop turned into a meal. When you see many locals in a restaurant, you don’t need Tripadvisor anymore. We had an excellent meal with a lime & mint Juice for Yasuko and my favorite local beer Bavaria Gold. Lots of families, likely from the nearby capital, sharing the terrace and the views.

Cloud forest wonderland – Santa Elena Reserve

Our first walk in the cloud forest was with Marcela, an accountant-turned-to-nature guide. This native of Costa Rica worked as an accountant for a while after finishing school. She was locked up in an office all day and often spent time in a nearby zoo over lunch to compensate. She quickly came to realize that she was happier in the zoo than at work.

So she became a guide and has been working for the Reserve for 13 years, happily surrounded by nature.

She walked us through the dense, lush cloud forest for two hours and explained about its amazing biodiversity, fauna and flora almost non-stop (but in a very nice way). Suddenly she would grab her spotting scope, install it in no time, point it at something, focus, just to have us looking at a rare bird resting or a hummingbird feeding its newly born offspring. We wondered how she knew it was there.

Marcela explained how the ecosystem of the cloud forest works, how the Strangler ficus trees become a heaven for various orchids and other plants – one tree can host up to 200 spices of plants, how Costa Rica has uninterrupted natural corridors throughout the country connecting various national parks and reserves to allow animals to move and migrate freely and how the bromeliad (family of pineapple) is like a hotel for frogs and insects with a bath (holding lots of water) and food!

Marcela at one time pointed to the ground and a parade of ants which were carrying leaves and explained that these ants cut leaves, carry them to their nests and use them to make fungus as their primary nutrition. These leaf-cutting,  fungus-growing ants have apparently a very complex social system to work together.  These amazing small creatures embody the wonders of nature.

It was again the moment for us to feel  and awe the power of Mother Earth. It is so intricate and ingenious! We appreciated Marcela’s passion for nature and her community’s commitment to the preservation of the nature.

After two hours with her we spent another two hours hiking around the Reserve on our own and enjoyed the late afternoon quietness of the deep forest. We left the Reserve with a sense of hope and respect for the Costa Ricans’ efforts to protect their natural heritage.