Vancouverites are accustomed to rainy winters, not snow. Growing up here, it was a major event if we saw one snowfall during the course of a winter. If the snow remained on the ground at the end of the same day, that was an even bigger deal.
We’re of course accustomed to snow on the nearby mountains, such as the Lions (above), but not necessarily down in the city.
Last month, though, we west coasters saw Metro Vancouver’s coldest February on record in more than 80 years … and posssibly longer. Records go back only as far as 1937.
As you’ll see from these pictures I took at Kitsilano (Kits) Beach, we also had more snow than usual. In the first two weeks of February alone, the city received more than triple the usual snowfall for the entire month!
In recent years, it’s been typical for snow to fall on two days during the month of February. In 2019, we had 10 days of snow. It was also one of our top 10 snowiest months since records have been kept. The total amount is meagre compared to people in colder climes, but a typical February average at Vancouver International Airport (which is in nearby Richmond) would be 6.3 centimetres. In 2019, 31 centimetres dusted the airport!
This is one of a pair of swans who are anything but shy. I’ve visited them a few times lately, and they make their way to the shoreline when I approach – likely hoping for food.
I learned, on visiting Edinburgh, Scotland this Spring just how outgoing swans can be when they’re accustomed to people visiting their lakes.
Neither of this pair has (yet!) stepped up out of the water and approached me as the Scottish swans did, but – despite the apparent look in the first picture here – these West Vancouver swans seem to have no issue feeding away with company nearby.
Well, not exactly! I caught these early morning images in a pond.
This pair of swans were busily feeding.
If you’re from the Scottish Highlands, or if any of your ancestors hailed from there as did the MacDonalds Clanranald on my dad’s side, you may have grown up hearing or singing an old folk song known as Over the Sea (Skye Boat Song). If you’ve no Scottish heritage but watch the Outlander series, its opening song is an adaptation of Over the Sea.
My paternal grandmother’s family came from the remote island of Skye and so we heard not only the song, but also stories of the heroism displayed in 1745 by clan member Flora MacDonald. Like many Highlanders, our MacDonald and Chisholm ancestors emigrated to North America.
Our family settled in Antigonish, Nova Scotia – where my grandmother, who was born a hundred or so years later, didn’t learn English until she began school. Even as an adult, she and her sisters would speak Gaelic to one another. My dad remembered more than one occasion when his mother and the aunts would slip in to the Gaelic if discussing matters not meant to be heard by young ears.
Flash forward roughly 240 years from when this branch of the family emigrated to Nova Scotia, and this Canadian had the good fortune to visit the achingly beautiful Isle of Skye this Spring.
Invited to give a presentation to the Scottish PA Network in Edinburgh (thank you again, Rosemary), I began planning what I think of as my 2019 Scottish Road Trip … one that involved happily memorable stays (fittingly, at Macdonald Hotels & Resort brand properties!) in Edinburgh and St. Andrews before driving across Scotland and over the bridge to Skye.
Call me crazy (my husband did), but I set off from St. Andrews on the east coast of Fife, and drove across the Highlands and over to Uig in a single day. Bear in mind that this trip also marked my first time driving in the UK, which meant adjusting to changes in both steering wheel placement and the lanes in which I drove. Thank goodness for the patience of Scottish drivers during my first couple of days at the wheel!
I made it to the Isle of Skye shortly after 7:00 but, given a misadventure with my GPS (story to follow), I tumbled in to the hospitable property known as the Uig Hotel some time after 9:00 p.m.
When you visit Skye, you’re in what’s known as the Inner Hebrides. You’re up north – far north! If you’d like some perspective on its location, Skye is a mere 1,134 kilometers or 705 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland. You’re closer to Iceland and to all the other Nordic countries than Vancouverites are to Toronto!
I’d prepared myself for a soggy visit, but lucked out this March. It didn’t rain until the final day of my stay. Only then, as I stopped by Armadale to visit the ruins of one of the MacDonald clan’s castles, did it rain … and it poured buckets!
In addition to amazing scenery and great hospitality at and around the Uig Hotel, I got to see Highland Cattle and more than a few sheep. I also navigated any number of one-lane roads, with pullouts appearing at regular intervals.
If you decide to visit Skye, plan early and don’t go without accommodations confirmed in advance. This remote and rugged island is ridiculously popular, thanks in no small part to the Outlander series, James Bond movies, Harry Styles’ Sign of the Times video and even a Volvo commercial.
I have plenty of pics and stories to follow, from the Isle of Skye and from St. Andrews and Edinburgh – which I visited again after Skye. For now, I’ll leave you with this look at Carbost, Skye.
Interested in that lovely old song? You’ll find a rendition and the lyrics below.
Chorus: Speed, bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
over the sea to Skye.
Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air,
Baffled our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.
Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean’s a royal bed.
Rock’d in the deep, Flora will keep
watch o’er your weary head.
Burned are our homes, exile and death,
Scattered the loyal man.
Yet ere the sword, cool in the sheath,
Charlie will come again.
… or, rather, we saw them in July and August! It’s been a busy this last while, and I just realised I’d prepared but not published this post. So, here you go ….
This is Vancouver, where thousands of us converge on English Bay to make mad dashes into the waters off English Bay (or watch the madness!) for the city’s Polar Bear Swim each New Year’s Day.
So, when you have gorgeous mid-summer weather and an annual fireworks festival, you can imagine how many of us turn out to enjoy good company and watch the skies light up.
This annual event is known as the Honda Celebration of Light. It’s a tradition for Vancouverites of all ages, and for visitors.
The Celebration of Light is a friendly international competition of sorts.
Each year, three different countries offer up their own fireworks show, accompanied by music.
The entries are judged, and the winning country is announced after all three fireworks displays have been completed. This year’s entries are from South Africa (July 28), Sweden (August 1) and South Korea (August 4).
Last Saturday, for South Africa’s entry, we joined the crowds at Kits Beach.
The shows begin at 10:00 p.m. (sharp!), but there’s fun to be had with good company and gorgeous west coast views even before the sun drops over the Pacific.
There are plenty of people out viewing the show from the waters, as well – and the boats make for part of the spectacle.
All the photos you see here are from Sweden’s entry in the competition last night.
For Sweden’s show, I caught these shots from a great (and, surprisingly, not overcrowded) vantage point on the Granville Street Bridge.
I wanted to capture shots above and around the city’s art deco Burrard Street Bridge.
Do you enjoy summer fireworks festivals where you live?
Or does the place you call home have other traditional summer events that draw people together?
This is Vancouver’s very own Corpse Flower, aka Titan Arum.
As you’ll hear in my video, it’s one of the hottest tickets in town this week.
It’s not only the largest flower on this planet; when it first blooms…
… it’s also the smelliest.
When the petals unfurl, the deep red segments of this self-heating plant draw pollinators such as carrion beetles and flesh flies that feed on dead animals – or, at least that’s what they do in the plant’s native Sumatra!
Fortunately, there were no signs of them today at the Bloedel Conservatory!
Nor was there any discernible smell this afternoon, on day two of its anticipated 48 or so hours of bloom time. The smell is apparently at its most pungent in the early and late hours of the day.
At six years, this plant is an early bloomer. This is the first time a corpse flower has bloomed in Canada, and it’s expected to be some years before this massive plant blossoms again.
This may help cool you down!