We landed back in New Zealand on the 16th January, after an incredible six weeks of travel. The first part of our adventures started in snowy Canada, which were simply magical and so much fun. We landed in Vancouver, on 7 December, and drove north-east, straight to Sun Peaks, some 407km / 235 miles.
It had been nearly twenty years since my husband and I had last visited Canada (we’d honeymooned there in June 1999, enjoying the scenic wonders of the Ice-field Parkway, from Jasper to Banff). This was our children’s first visit to Canada and the first time hearing Christmas songs that held their meaning – having spent all their other Christmases in warmer climates. When the songs sung of snow, stockings by the fireplace and fairy lights, they resonated with a true ring!
My children laughed at my gasps of delight whenever I saw fairy lights (I couldn’t help but let out a squeals of glee!). As we approached Sun Peaks, and started to drive up to the ski village, at some 1,000 metres above sea level, the snow all around us was absolutely magical. The hotel lobby was adorned with massive Christmas trees and decorations, as well as a roaring fire with large, comfy armchairs befitting of Father Christmas’s great body of merriment.
We felt immense relief to enter our hotel rooms, with the anticipation of a good night’s sleep, particularly after extra hours of travel (some 40 hours door to door, instead of the planned 23 hours; our Wellington to Auckland flight was delayed, meaning we missed our connection in Auckland). We should have been out of Auckland, on an Air NZ flight direct to Vancouver, Canada, arriving a day earlier… but ended up spending our first night of our holiday in an airport hotel in Auckland, instead of on that flight. On the positive side, Air NZ were extremely helpful and having listened to our pleas of not being put on a flight to LA at 11pm (and then have to do a domestic transfer to San Francisco and another flight from there onto Vancouver). Instead, they paid for our dinner, our overnight accommodation (we managed 5 hours sleep) and breakfast, scheduled us on a 7am flight to Sydney, where after 3 hours in transit we finally boarded a flight to Vancouver!
Our hotel rooms at Sun Peaks Grand were luxurious and overlooked the outdoor swimming pool, hot tubs and ski slopes – a real winter paradise! Over the next few days we delighted in apres-ski soaks in the hot tubs, whilst snow flakes fell on our heads.
The first day of skiing was blue bird – with ‘sun dogs’ circling the sun – rainbows of light – and beautiful colours of blue, white and evergreen trees dusted with snow. The slopes were so quiet – pre-Christmas holidays and mid-week skiing – so perfect.
We all delighted in the long runs from top to bottom, skiing through islands of trees, and knowing we could return to our hotel on the mountain at anytime for a rest.
The village was just large enough to provide a mix of cafes and restaurants to keep us heartily fed and entertained. We didn’t have to battle crowds and noise. This was a peaceful, relaxing, winter paradise.
Most memorable experience for me was spending an afternoon skiing with my oldest daughter. We took off together on a track far away from the main runs. She was making pretend animal noises behind me – giving me the spooks! After a fun ski down, on a run where we didn’t come across a single person, we rode up to the highest point on the chairlifts and marvelled at the elevation, before skiing some 5 miles back down to the village.
I also loved a late afternoon snow-shoe walk with my hubby and our other two daughters – if nightfall hadn’t crept up on us so soon we would have walked for so much longer. It was a beautiful experience to walk through deep snow and through the trees.
After a wonderful four nights in Sun Peaks we drove to the Whistler Backcomb Ski Resort, one late afternoon into early evening – as darkness descended and snow began to fall. I was grateful to my husband for being such a careful driver on the twisty roads and in the snow!
Whistler was everything you’d imagine an international ski resort to be – incredibly well facilitated, twinkling lights everywhere, a plethora of shops and restaurants, so many activities to choose from, besides the obvious ones of skiing and snow-boarding, and staffed with international seasonal workers from around the globe (a large proportion from Australia!).
Our hotel was at the foot of the ski slopes, with a heated outdoor pool and hot tubs, just like at Sun Peaks (with more noise and party sounds going on in the surrounding bars!).
The food choices in Whistler were amazing, but one restaurant in particular stands out for us – the Sushi Village Japanese Restaurant – amazing service, food and sake margaritas!
We also loved the Mongolie Grill!
It snowed heavily whilst we were in Whistler, which created a ton of fresh powder! We loved skiing down and having fun playing in the snow and sinking to our knees in it!
The girls and I were quite tired after our skiing at Sun Peaks so didn’t do as much in Whistler, but still got a good run or two in over the 3 days we had. We loved the atmosphere of the apres-skiing and browsing all the outdoor shops, as well as traditional crafts and art.
The ice-skating rink was a real highlight for us all. It was half indoors, half out and lit up with lights.
We all had such a laugh skating around and playing in the snow afterwards.
We very much enjoyed hitting a couple of museums, seeing the sights and eating more yummy food!
Our favourite eatery in Vancouver was again a Japanese restaurant – Black Rice Izakaya, which served contemporary Japanese cuisine. We also experienced oysters at Fanny Bay Oysters (had to be done!) and a delightfully scrumptious Mexican meal, with a great atmosphere, at Patron Tacos & Cantina.
Science World had so many hands on exhibitions, as well as natural history and science shows (which our 8 year old really loved).
There was also an incredible Pixar animation exhibition on whilst we were visiting, which we all learned heaps from!
The Museum of Anthropology was absolutely incredible – a collection of art from not only Canada, but around the world.
There was a wonderful exhibit of contemporary women artists from Aboriginal Australia, which was stunning and very meditative!
We also visited Granville Island public markets and marvelled in the work of local artists and delicious food.
Alice was particularly fascinated to watch someone doing glass blowing.
On our last day, before boarding the evening flight to London Heathrow, we visited Steveston, a fishing village away from the hustle of the city.
We boarded the plane to London, full of excitement, thinking about spending Christmas and New Year with our relatives in England.