Masked up and ready to go!

Like most everyone, getting away for a holiday in the summer is something we look forward to. This year Jenn also had a bonus trip for us planned around the Easter break as well, in order to meet brother Andrew and gf Sarah’s new baby, Denver (who was born in March). We had planned to see my sister in Canmore and my folks’ new place there as well, plus we were going to see the Oilers demolish the Flames live in Calgary! Our summer trip was going to be the usual, back to BC for some R&R on Lake Okanagan, where we would also celebrate Jenn’s mom’s 70th birthday. Lots to look forward to for sure since arriving back in Bermuda from Big White in February.

Of course, our holidays were not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world in 2020; ultimately most of our carefully-laid plans were cancelled. Or rather, postponed, as it turned out. As the situation developed, Jenn was busy booking and rebooking flights and accommodation as things became available while Bermuda and Canada slowly progressed through their stages of reopening. We ended up with a modified version of our original plan, and ultimately (thanks to Jenn’s persistence) were able to see everyone that we originally planned, with their blessing of course in these times of elevated risk – we were very fortunate!

Sleeping beauties

We were able to get off island at the end of July, as the Bermuda airport reopened at the beginning of the month. Canada was still in the early stages of reopening – they were imposing a two-week mandatory quarantine to any incoming international travelers – so there were very few people traveling as compared to usual! There were some new rules to follow as well due to COVID: we had to wear our masks the entire time we were in transit (except to eat of course), and as our final destination was Kelowna we had to avoid leaving the airport in Toronto or Vancouver on the way or risk getting ‘stuck’ in quarantine prematurely. This meant sleeping in chairs in the Vancouver airport en route, a small sacrifice. We eventually made it to our first of several rental homes in the Okanagan area, just north of Kelowna by the town of Vernon.

Jenn and I had planned around the two-week quarantine with our respective offices and arranged to work remotely from Canada; working from home was still mostly the norm up to this point, so we figured there wasn’t much difference working remotely from another country! Plus, this allowed us to not ‘waste’ our first two weeks of holiday on being in quarantine. We weren’t able to find one house for the full two weeks, so we ended up moving after a week to a second house (the move being cleared with the Health Authority). Both houses had a pool to help keep the kids entertained while we worked, plus Jenn made the most of being in civilization and had multiple deliveries from KiwiCo and Amazon (to name a few) come to the house to bring the kids (and us!) various things to keep us busy while in confinement. We were nearly on a first-name basis with the people delivering food from Save-On-Foods, too. It was really eye-opening to see how easily you could live like a hermit with all these conveniences at your fingertips! Anyway, the time change (Bermuda is 4 hours earlier than BC) ensured we were up early and able to finish working at a reasonable hour, often I would be done work by mid-afternoon and able to hang with the kids by the pool for a few hours before we helped them make HelloFresh dinners for the family (something else we had delivered while in quarantine to help them pass the time and maybe learn some new skills…). Most evenings we would spend watching an old episode or three of Alias, one of Jenn and I’s fave shows (the plan is to keep watching all 5 seasons). And of course in these weird times there were a few Oilers hockey games to watch… Good times (or perhaps not so good in the case of the Oil…).

Hoops by the pool

Lil’ chef Ryley

Our time in quarantine went as ok as it could have, it was nice to be able to relax by the pool at the end of a workday and on weekends, it made the time feel a bit ‘holiday-ish’. The +30 to +35 degree weather didn’t hurt either. The first week’s house was an older place but still spacious and all we needed. There was a great view over Vernon to Swan Lake, plus it was on about 5 acres so there was room to go for short walks (or run up and down the long driveway if you’re Jenn and in desperate need of exercise)! We quickly discovered the two ponies and Alpacas on property as well, it was a bit of a fun challenge for the kids to find and get a photo of the animals as apparently they like to hide, though we saw them often enough. The property we stayed in for the second week was literally 2 minutes up the road so the view was similarly spectacular, and the house and pool were much newer which pretty much made up for the fact that we had no fun animals on property! We used the fire pit for s’mores once or twice, plus there was a BBQ for us to use too, both a nice-to-have for sure. So we were comfortable but were still counting the days (literally) we had left before we were free! We had two calls to check on our health from the BC Health Authority during the two weeks, and were pleasantly surprised on the last call to find out that isolation time was over at midnight that night rather than 3:30pm the following day (which would have been the exact 14-day mark)! We made it!

Our first day out of quarantine wasn’t as busy as you might expect. To save some cash, we didn’t rent a car upon our arrival (it wouldn’t have been used!), so after working for the morning we took a pre-booked taxi back to the Kelowna airport to pick up our rental mini-van. From there it was to the mall for some retail therapy, then we headed to friends Bob & Susy’s for dinner. Over the next few days we checked in on the house at Lakestone, visited the Kangaroo farm, took an afternoon to visit friends Colleen and James while they holidayed at nearby Mara Lake, did some school supply shopping, and finished up the last bit of work before actual holiday time begun!

Hello baby Denver!

We had a nice surprise our last night in Vernon, as Jenn’s brother and gf Sarah plus new baby Denver stopped in for the night! Jenn’s family were all due to meet up in Summerland the following afternoon so we were happy to see them earlier than expected. It was late when they arrived so Denver was already asleep; the next morning you might have thought it was Christmas with all the excitement! After introductions it was time for breakfast and one last dip in the pool before packing up and heading to Summerland. We had time to kill between leaving the house by 10am and arriving at the Summerland house by 3pm, so on the way down we met up with Jenn’s folks at the Log Barn in Armstrong for a little entertainment then lunch at Farmstrong Cider, before trying out Westside Road instead of the usual highway through Kelowna (a good decision I think, never went that way before) to get down to our final destination.

Once situated in Summerland it was time to just decompress after a long last several months of COVID-induced stress! The house was actually the same one we rented last year, a rather large and gorgeous contemporary place right on the lake. We didn’t stray too far from the house this year of course, but still found our way to a few wineries and fruit stands for some local home-grown goodness! These coupled with our usual home-cooked meals and perhaps a few cocktails were the perfect vacation recipe. The most elaborate meal we ate was actually part of the surprise 70th birthday celebration for Jenn’s mom Helen: the kids arranged for a super-fancy picnic at the house, complete with a million pillows around a low table in the yard overlooking the beach, fancy stemware and of course a meal of charcuterie boards – all set up and provided by a company called Gypsy Chix Luxury Picnics (set up was done while Jenn and Wendy were ‘distracting’ Helen at a nearby winery…!). Wendy whipped up an amazing pavlova for dessert, too, which we enjoyed before retiring to the beach fire pit and a few cocktails before bed. Not a bad birthday party I’d say! This wasn’t even the first birthday party we had this holiday – we had a little celebration for Ruby’s 7th birthday a few days earlier, complete with a wicked dragon cake (another Wendy creation) and some karaoke! These guys know how to party. 😉

Happy 70th, Grandma!

We did get some exercise while eating and drinking the week away… in addition to going for some long-awaited runs, we thought it would be a good idea to take the kayaks and paddle to the opposite side of the lake and back! We wondered aloud more than a few times how long it would take, so Jenn convinced Tim and I to just go for it. Turns out it was about 2.5km across, I believe it took about an hour to get across and back. Then Jenn and Wendy did it the following morning, and Josh made the trip with me after that! We also did some actual boating with the whole family, too, on a pontoon boat we rented for a day down in nearby Penticton.

The week flew by and before we knew it we were eating our final meal at the house – friends Amber & Bryn joined us for chef Andrew’s delicious ribs! A good send off for sure.

The next morning, we went to Canmore to see my sister Cass and her family plus my folks, who conveniently had relocated there in the last year (much easier to visit everyone when they’re all together)! I had nearly forgotten how beautiful it is there. We stayed at Cass’ place, which is just 5 minutes up the road from Mom & Dad’s; it was great to hang with my family, especially my nephews who we don’t get to see nearly often enough! Cam (6) and Scotty (2.5) were fun to hang with, they’re certainly full of energy!

Sweet backdrop for a ride

We had about 4 days there, so we filled ’em up with plenty of stuff! We spent lots of time biking along the various trails (like around the Nordic Center) and back roads in Canmore (Josh, Kent, Dad, and myself did 20K one day); there are just so many trails and bike parks, it’s awesome. We had rented some pretty sweet mountain bikes at the Nordic Center – Josh had a full suspension bike and was definitely loving the bike parks! We did our share of hiking, too – we took on the Grotto Canyon trail as well as another smaller trail in town, both of which were handled admirably by the little boys! Mom managed to find time to get Uncle Kyle to come down for some family photos as well – they should turn out pretty well, she’ll have these up on her wall in no time I’m sure! Ski hills are pretty cool to see in the summertime, Mount Norquay is no exception. They served us a great lunch at the quaint Cliffhouse Bistro at the top of the main lift – Ryley’s charcuterie board was the most talked about (the fancy local wild meat was amazing)!

Of course, no family gathering at Nana’s place is complete without a snacky game night or two! The favorite game was Ticket to Ride; coupled with Kent’s famous margaritas it made for a long evening or two (for me at least… 😉 ). Our few days went by too quickly here as well – we squeezed in a quick game of frisbee golf before having lunch at Cass’ place, our final meal at that house as they are shortly moving to another place in Canmore! Soon after we were back on the road to Calgary to fly to Vancouver, our final vacation destination! We were happy to be able to tick a few more boxes, namely seeing Nana & Papa in their new digs and catching up with my sister and her family at their place. Now we’ll have to go back again to see their next house!

Yet another beautiful backdrop

So we arrive in Vancouver on what I believe was day 28 of our crazy Canadian trip… what a break so far, we’ve nearly reached the end (promise!). It was actually Tim’s birthday so we happily helped him celebrate! We snuck away to Chilliwack (with Ruby in tow) for our first full day to see my Lang grandparents (another box ticked!) and nearly got lost in a corn maze; it was nice to see them and hang at their place for a bit – it had been a while! Back in Vancouver, we did a few things like a bike ride one afternoon in Stanley Park (’cause you’ve gotta!), but mostly spent our final week of vacation chillin’ like villains at Wendy and Tim’s new house (yet another box ticked!). It was great to have the space to stay with them at their beautiful place, in their previous (smaller) abode we would have got a hotel room nearby. We were originally planning on being there for just a few days, but due to flight changes we ended up staying for an entire week! Jenn and I helped Wendy with some things around the house over the weekend (yay, building stuff!) and due to our extended time away we agreed to return to work remotely for our final few days. The kids went to a mountain biking camp with their cousin Ruby to pass the time (and not drive Wendy bonkers!) while we worked.

Canada trip day 35 (!) found us finally packing up and heading out, back to the relative isolation of our island home. Upon arrival we had our first COVID tests at the airport (which came back negative), we’ll have one more before being freed from the mandatory 8-day self-quarantine and a third test on day 14 before being allowed to return to our respective offices. The kids will miss the first partial week of the school year, but are allowed to return after the 8-day period with a second negative test. The four of us all feel rested and healthy, we were vigilant with masks and hand sanitizer / hand-washing while traveling so I doubt we have anything to worry about.

When all is said and done, we had a fantastic month+ in the Great White North; the air travel was fine, the weather during our trip was ideal, but most of all the company of family was a much needed tonic in what has been a crazy 2020. Here’s hoping for a return to ‘normal’ soon!