Canadian Christmas

Happy New Year everyone!

I had an amazing road trip with my husband, Marius, over Christmas. Since I had a lot of time off from work due to the holidays, we decided to go on a week long trip up and down the West Coast: starting from Los Angeles all the way up to Vancouver, British Columbia!

I’ll do my best to give a run-down of how we planned the trip and the timing of everything, in case any of you want to attempt this route someday. Our strategy was to take turns driving every 2-3 hours, with short restroom and gas refuel breaks. We stocked up our large cooler with snacks, water, and coffee to keep us going with as little stops as possible.

Day 1: Somewhere on the 5 freeway….

We left L.A. at about 5:15 am and made it to Sacramento for lunch at an awesome vegan restaurant, Veg Cafe & Bar, and a bit of sight-seeing. We continued on the road after an hour, got caught in a rain storm, and arrived in Medford, Oregon around 8:30 pm. We checked into our hotel and had dinner across the street at the local brewery, Common Block Brewing Co.

The next day, we left Medford at 6:00 am and made our way to Portland around noon for a quick lunch. We found a delicious vegan place called Prasad that was inside a yoga studio. We didn’t stay in Portland for too long, as our goal was to make it to the Canadian border before sunset. However, traffic grew as we got closer to Seattle and debated if we should make a stop there. We decided to go for it, drove through Pike Place Market and scored the perfect parking spot in front of the very first Starbucks. I like to call that “good parkma.”

After 45 minutes in Seattle, we were back on the road but got caught in rush hour traffic. At that point, making it to Canada before sunset was impossible. We found a Trader Joe’s in Bellingham to stock up on food, snacks and beer before we made it into Canada. (Tip: It’s okay to bring beer and wine across the border!)

State Capitol Building in Sacramento
Dinner and beers in Medford, Oregon at the Common Block Brewing Company
Day 2: The Joan-mobile somewhere in Portland
To Washington State!
Quick stop at the Pike Place Market in Seattle
Space Needle

We made it to the border by 7:00 pm and waited in the line of cars for about 25 minutes. After they questioned our reason for visit, we headed to our hotel and cooked our own dinner. After two days of driving, all we wanted to do was end the night with some beers and sit in the hot tub.

The next day, we explored Vancouver. We checked out the Convention Center which had an amazing view of the harbor. We found a tourist center around the corner that gave us some useful tips on what to do in the city during the holidays. With their advice, we walked over to the Vancouver Christmas Market which was totally German themed! They had all the German food staples, souvenirs, and my favorite, glühwein.

We drove up to North Vancouver to get ourselves more groceries, water and beers for the next few days at a Whole Foods. It turned out that grocery stores in Canada do not sell any alcohol and that you have to actually go to a liquor store! So we drove down to Granville Island for some beers. Unfortunately most of the places were closed by that time but we found a cool spot called the Sandbar Seafood Restaurant.

Made it to Vancouver! We spent every evening at the indoor pool and hot tub at our hotel
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Day 3: View of the Convention Center
At the Vancouver Christmas Market, enjoying some glühwein
Driving around Vancouver
Local beers at the Sandbar Seafood Restaurant with a beautiful view of the harbor.

Sunday morning, we made a trip up to Whistler, a big ski resort area about two hours north of Vancouver. That was a beautiful drive. I have never seen such epic landscapes before! We drove along the coast and saw many islands that reminded me of scenes from Avatar or Harry Potter. Halfway through the drive, it started snowing hard.

We made it to Whistler Village, a big shopping center near the ski resorts. It was about lunch time and had no idea where to eat. But lo and behold… I found a ramen restaurant! You’ll have to check out my ramen blog for my review. We checked out a couple of shops, (they have several crystals and new age stores!) and ended our afternoon in Whistler at the Amsterdam Cafe Pub for some local beer.

We left whistler before it got too dark and went back to our hotel to make dinner. We had also stopped by the local liquor store to pick up some beers for the night and to take back to L.A. Marius and I both took some time to practice (yes, we brought some instruments) to work on Christmas music videos. You can see mine on my Instagram.

I didn’t mention this earlier, but when we first checked in at our hotel, we had found some trash that the previous guests left behind. We reported it at the front desk and they graciously took care of the mess and gave us free movie tickets for the theater next door. How nice! We ended our evening with seeing Bohemian Rhapsody. (This was the first time Marius and I ever went to the movies together!)

Day 4: On our way to Whistler
Couldn’t find a restroom so I took a pee break in a snowy forest
Whistler Village
Of course I found ramen!
Yummy honey lager!

The next day, which was Christmas Eve, we had lunch in Vancouver at a poutine place called La Belle Patate. Our friends in LA had told us about poutine a while back, so I couldn’t leave Canada without having some! Poutine is basically french fries topped with cheese curd and gravy. After lunch, we went shopping in Gastown, which was known for their steam clock.

We spent the rest of the afternoon back in Granville Island to check out all the shops and bars we missed out on the other night. We had beers at Granville Island Brewing… and more poutine. I did a little more shopping and checked out the views of the harbor.

We wrapped up the evening back at the hotel to cook dinner, shoot our Christmas videos, exchanged gifts, one last dip in the spa, and packed up for our drive home the next day.

Day 5: Vegetarian poutine at La Belle Patate
Local lager and IPA beers
More poutine… LOL! It had miso gravy and I couldn’t resist trying it!
Amazing view of Vancouver and its glass buildings
Vancouver at sunset

At 5:00 am on Christmas Day, we were back on the road. The US/Canada border crossing was much quicker this time. Since one of my back windows was broken and couldn’t open, the guard had to step out of her booth to quickly look into our cooler. Other than that, it was easy peasy.

We thought it would be crazy to drive everything in one day… but we decided to go for it. We made minimal stops, a short dinner break at a Denny’s in the middle of nowhere and took turns napping along the way. By 3:45 am the next early morning, we were home in L.A. Almost 23 hours of driving!

Day 6: Somewhere in Washington State…
Foam roller break
Somewhere in Oregon, getting close to California

Looking back at our trip, here are some things we learned and what we advise:

  • Have somewhat of goals in mind (ours was to try as many local beers possible, eat poutine, and see nature at its finest)
  • Check out a tourist center, we were glad we did
  • Bring a large cooler for food! We almost didn’t
  • Bring a foam roller, it saved our backs from major pains
  • Have pillows and blankets for the road
  • Book a hotel that comes with a fully equipped kitchen, it saved us a lot of money
  • Also… book a hotel that comes with an indoor pool and spa!
  • Don’t drive more than you can handle, I would not attempt this drive home in one day again
  • Marius and I make a good team on the road

This road trip made me realize how long California is, how big our country is, and that Canada is a totally different country despite how similar it seems to America. I definitely noticed, as far as what I saw, that Canada is way cleaner and much of the housing had strong British and French influences. The glass buildings all over the city looked amazing! (I love architecture btw.) We also felt that the street lights and lanes were a little confusing. But overall, Vancouver was a gorgeous city and I would totally visit again.

I loved the beauty the drive up to Canada had to offer and would definitely love to do this again in the near future. But hopefully with more time to see everything we missed out on and see more nature.

Thanks for reading!

Joan

2 thoughts on “Canadian Christmas

  1. We have been to BC almost ten years ago and started a great tour throughout the province up to Alberta as well as to Vancouver Island. Vancouver is awesome and exciting. We saw also Whistler.
    Joan, you published a very detailed report! Like it!!!

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