Another standby trip: never let it be said that I don't take full advantage of opportunities that come my way! I could take up to seven long-haul trips in the course of the year, and I fully intended to do just that. So far, it had been Dubai (aka my staff travel Learning Experience ...), Jamaica and Miami; Vancouver would be trip 4.

I was hoping to get out to Cuba, but while it looked like I'd get there ok, getting back again was looking unlikely, which struck me as a drawback. Since flights are only once a week, this wasn't really a good candidate for closing my eyes and hoping for the best.

But Vancouver wasn't a bad Plan B - especially as Virgin was about to cease flying there as a result of the Delta merger, making it my last chance for a cheap trip to one of the world's most beautiful cities. Two of my oldest friends live in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, so a new plan was hastily assembled to spend two days in Victoria and two days in Vancouver.

You'll find far fewer photos than usual in this blog, supplemented by a few snapshots, as visiting friends was the main focus of the trip. I did shoot a few videos, though.

Of course, with Virgin retiring the route precisely two flights after the one I hoped would bring me the 5,000 miles home, the trip wasn't without a tinge of adventure around the edges, but hey, we're a long time dead, right?

Victoria is either a four-hour ferry ride or a 25-minute commuter flight from Vancouver. The ferry crossing is reputedly one of the most beautiful in the world but would be rather wasted in the dark, so flying there at night and taking the ferry back in the light seemed like a sound plan.

My Virgin flight was scheduled to arrive at 17:30 and the last flight to Victoria was 20:00. That appeared to allow a comfortable amount of time to collect my baggage (aka Brompton) and grab the shuttle across to the South Terminal in time to check-in for the connecting flight, so I hit Skyscanner and gambled CAD$120 by booking the flight.

That just left a Vancouver hotel to organise. came up trumps again, and I found a hotel with a view of the harbour and excellent reviews for about £70 a night, including the rather steep room taxes in Canada. That booked, my planning was complete.

I asked the ex-pat Brit friends if there was anything they wanted me to bring over, as I could get an Ocado delivery timed to arrive before I left home the following morning. Their daughter asked for Chicken Super Noodles. I also wanted to get a bottle of decent bubbly for the friend at Virgin who was making this all possible, so I placed an order for an 8am delivery of what must have looked like a somewhat unusual breakfast.


The Ocado delivery driver duly handed over a bottle of champagne and a dozen packs of Chicken Super Noodles, observing that "at least you'll have something to wash it down with." You definitely get a better class of delivery driver with Ocado.

Some London Brompton Club members had suggested some crushproofing might be a good idea in the Bikepod case. There wasn't really room for the suggested tube, but I cut and folded some envelope stiffeners. Adding some flat sheets of cardboard to protect against the risk of the cardboard punching through the case if subjected to shocks completed the preparations.

The infinitely-capacious Brompton T-Bag and a small camera shoulder-bag made up my handbaggage.

As ever, my travel checklist meant packing was a rapid affair. I've travelled with my old roller-bag for so long that it still felt really strange to be carrying a different set of bags, and especially having hold baggage, but staff travel is all about being a zero-hassle passenger, so I wasn't about to pitch up at the door with a bicycle and a pleading look.

The Miami trip had really underlined the freedom and joy of having my own bike with me on these mini excursions, though, so it was worth the unfamiliar hassle of bag-drops and baggage carousels.

I have an Unlimited Priority Pass membership which gives me access to airport lounges around the world. Not the poshest ones, by any means, but somewhere quiet, comfortable, with laptop power, free wifi and free drinks & snacks certainly beats being out with the great unwashed.

At Heathrow, the main eligible lounges are Servisair. These are basic everywhere, but the Heathrow T3 one really was becoming a tatty dive, so I investigated alternatives and found the No. 1 Lounge also qualified. This was a much nicer place, with complimentary hot snacks as well as cold. They do charge for alcohol, but I almost never want to drink before a flight. This will be my new T3 home bar the rare occasion I'm able to swing admission to the Virgin Clubhouse.

The loadings suggested a decent chance of an upgrade to Premium, and the upgrade fairy did indeed pay me a visit. I got two Premium seats to myself, which really is a very comfortable way to travel.

It looked a little less hospitable down in Baffin Bay.

The whiter bits of Canada also looked a tad chilly.

It was such a treat to have clear skies over the Rockies.

The flight landed about 40 minutes early (Virgin seems to make a habit of early arrivals), and by external appearances at least my Brompton also appeared to have enjoyed a comfortable flight.

I soon found, though, that someone had apparently tried to lift it by the extending handle rather than the main one, then jammed it back in to hide their misdeeds, so it no longer pulled out. This unfortunately isn't going to be repairable:

A bungee cord served as an emergency handle, and I later found out that attaching a luggage strap to the shoulder strap clips, and routing it through the two fasteners on top of the case, makes it perfectly manageable - phew! Could have been an expensive purchase otherwise, with just two trips to its name.

The short hop to Victoria was from the South Terminal, which is a basically a comfortable shed. The Beech 1900C is a little on the compact side.

The flight was due to leave at 8pm, but by 7.45pm all five passengers were on board so off we went. We were in the air for 11 minutes, and I could watch the landing over the pilot's shoulder.

Caroline met me at Victoria, then she, Giles and I had a really enjoyable evening catching up from <mumble> years ago. They claim the second bottle of wine was my idea.


A day that was really enjoyable for me but uninteresting to read about - just chatting about anything and everything with Caroline.

Caroline had never kayaked, so we rectified that.

We had lunch at the bar-restaurant where Caroline's daugher Catherine worked. She'd recommended the grilled cheese sandwich, which was amazing.

It was served 'drizzled in maple syrup' - I was dubious about that so asked for the syrup on the side, but tried it and, amazingly, it was a fantastic complement. I then tried fries and maple syrup and that worked well too. I think I may have inadvertantly become Canadian.

We had wine (me) and cocktails (Caroline and Giles) in a nice bar, before grabbing some Thai takeaway. Um, no: it was closed. This was like 9.30pm on a Saturday night. So we settled for Chinese. Uh-uh: that was closed too. We then found a burger bar (a proper one) that was open for another 11 minutes. Vancouver Islanders go to bed early.

My camera only came out of its bag twice, having done my usual thing of picking up a cheap tripod earlier. We missed the sunset, but still - this is just down the road from Caroline & Giles' place:

The legislature:

Vancouver Islanders might go to bed early; we didn't. We sat up chatting and drinking far too much wine until 3am. Then promised ourselves we'd get up at 6am for the sunrise. I told Caroline it had better be a bloody spectacular one else there would be lawyers involved.


The lawyers were stood down: we didn't get up until about 8am (still somewhat drunk). We had toast for breakfast, then the plan was to go to a fantastic milkshake place for lunch.

I'd been giving Caroline some Mac driving lessons, and we finished getting her email set up on Mac and iPhone.

I travel with three days of clothes to minimize baggage (perhaps a little unnecessary when taking a Brompton in a case, but old habits die hard) so I borrowed a robe and Caroline kindly put everything in the wash so I had clean clothes to last me the remaining two days plus flight home.

We did originally have a plan to walk on the beach before heading out to brunch at a place that offered spectacular milkshakes. I also needed to have an essential Canadian experience that I somehow had never managed before: bacon with maple syrup.

The walk on the beach didn't happen, but the far more important milkshake did. And the bacon with maple syrup. As far as I can tell, maple syrup works with everything - but I still prefer my bacon unadulterated.

I'd originally planned to take the ferry back to Vancouver, but having gotten up close to a seaplane while kayaking, I decided that was the only way to travel. Amazingly, while most flights were close to $200, I'd found one for just $63 including taxes! I'd booked it immediately.

The flight departed at 3.30pm. At 3.05pm, some 15 minutes away, I suddenly spotted the time, having thought it was about an hour earlier. We all piled rapidly into the car and dashed down to the harbour.

We made it, and I took Giles' advice to elbow my way to the front at the gate so I could ask the pilot if I could sit in the co-pilot's seat. I was fully prepared to barge in front of pregnant women and trample disabled grannies underfoot, but it turned out not to be necessary.

Having been focused on grabbing the VIP seat, I left a photo of the plane until arrival at the other end, in Vancouver harbour. It's a DeHavilland Canada DHC-3 Turbine Single Otter, dating to the 1950s.

The safety briefing was delivered by the pilot holding up an iPad for the passengers to watch. Immediately after it finished, ending with the instruction not to use electronic equipment during the flight, the pilot asked if anyone had any questions. I asked if I could use electronic equipment during the flight, and showed him my Garmin Virb Elite camcorder. "Sure," he said.

The flight was 35 minutes, and I've condensed it into a five-minute video.


It was an overcast day, with very flat, grey light, but the forecast at least said that it would stay dry - which is good going for Vancouver.

Sunday's primary mission was a cycle ride around Stanley Park. Absolutely everyone said that it was one of Vancouver's best features. I took the same water bus back to the south side I'd taken yesterday.

Vancouver seems to be the friendliest of cities. I had a map of Stanley Park open on the water bus, and no fewer than four people offered me advice on what to see - including the cop who was checking tickets.

I followed the waterfront cycle path around into the park. Cyclists and pedestrians each have dedicated paths, with the cycle path mostly physically separated and up a high kerb, so amazingly pedestrians mostly stayed off it. Partly, I suspect, because pretty much the entire population of Vancouver was cycling around it, so they didn't get much opportunity to embed themselves into the constant stream of bikes.

The cycle path was at times narrow, and had rather a lot of blind bends created by the rockface, but this was solved by making it one-way, counter-clockwise. With all the cyclists riding in one direction, and only a small chance that a pedestrian would be on the path, one could enter blind bends at a reasonable pace with decent odds that you weren't going to kill anyone.

I enjoyed the lap of just over five miles so much that I did it twice. I also cycled along a couple of the trails that cut through the middle of the park. These are mostly packed dirt, with some poor-quality tarmac, but it had been dry for a few days so they were bumpy but perfectly rideable on the Brompton.

Given the boring light, I didn't take any photos - but did shoot some video of the cycle laps.

After which it was time for lunch. Caroline had recommended the local steaks, and I don't take a great deal of persuasion where steaks are concerned, so had asked my hotel if they could recommend a place to get a great steak somewhere vaguely near the park. They suggested the Cactus Club.

I knew as soon as I opened the menu that this was my kind of place.

The steak was absolutely perfect, and what better to accompany it than asparagus and buttery mash?

Afternoon wine? Why not - can't have steak without it, right? I was going to be trying a local wine later, so stuck with the safety of the Argentinian Malbec. This was also very good.

The sun came out during lunch, as you can see, so I decided it was only reasonable to do one more lap to get some cheerier video footage.

I also shot a little Brompton porn.

And a good executive summary of cycling.

I then cycled back the way I'd come to ride through Gas Town, taking a couple of photos of my new favourite form of transport along the way.

Then into Yale Town. I didn't bother with any other photos. Oh, except for this one.

Can't argue with that.

Then it was back on the water bus as I reckoned a viewing platform directly outside my hotel was the perfect place for a sunset shot of the city. You've already seen it at the top of the page, but here's a gratuitous second copy.

The viewing platform was a sociable place, with various chats. A honeymooning British couple were about to pack up about 20 mins after sunset and I suggested they might like to give it another ten minutes, as half an hour after sunset is usually the perfect moment. They did, and agreed with me.

After my indulgent lunch, I didn't want a big dinner, so just grabbed a takeout to eat back at the hotel.

Beneath my hotel is rather a funky market, which included a wine shop selling only Canadian wines. I told one of the assistants that I liked big reds with equal amounts of fruit and spice, and she recommended three. She of course said the most expensive of them was the best, but at 20 bucks I thought the experiment worth conducting.

Wow. That is a spectacular wine. I decided I might risk picking up a few more bottles and some bubble-wrap and fitting them into the Brompton case. If my Brompton arrives home smelling of wine, you'll know why.


An even greyer morning than yesterday, but it was at least still dry. My plan for the day was the Capilano Suspension Bridge followed by the cable-car up Grouse Mountain, but a quick check of the webcams showed that the mountain was in cloud. I thus opted for a morning of cycling back on the south side, hoping for better weather later.

I took the advice of a regular visitor to Vancouver from the London Brompton Club, Andy, to cycle onto Granville Island, then did another lap of Stanley Park (I quite like this place ...). This was followed by some rather aimless cycling around the city.

With grey skies and flat, boring light, I didn't even bother taking the camera out of the bag. Great portraiture weather, rubbish scenery weather.

By 3.30pm, however, the sun put in an appearance. Vancouver seems to have free wifi in just about every cafe, so I borrowed some to check the webcams and, sure enough, while the peak was still in cloud, the Chalet - the top of the main Skyride cable-car - was now in sunlight.

I cycled back to Waterfront station and hopped once more on the water bus to the north side. Caroline had advised that the ride round to Grouse Mountain would make for boring cycling, so I opted for the bus. She was right: it was very boringly suburban, and very uphill too, which would have added injury to insult.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge was en-route. It's one of the 8,943 attractions on the planet to describe itself as the eighth wonder of the world. It's not, but it is impressive: a 450-foot span across a gorge, with a drop of 230 feet down to the river below.

The signs make much of it being a rope bridge built in 1889. This statement involves a certain amount of poetic licence: the hemp rope was replaced by wire cables in 1903, and the bridge was completely rebuilt in 1956.

It's a fun crossing, the bridge swaying and bouncing as people walk over it. There's a man who sits in a booth on one side using a PA to ask people not to run and jump, which everyone ignores. The crossing is probably best avoided by anyone who suffers from vertigo.

I also bumped into the honeymooning couple again. If we managed it again at Grouse Mountain, people were going to talk.

Wikipedeia tells me that a social experiment was conducted on the suspension bridge, a female researcher getting chatting to men and offering her phone number. Men were found to be more likely to call her when the encounter took place on the swaying suspension bridge than on a nearby solid one. The conclusion was that the men confused the adrenaline caused by fear for that created by sexual attraction.

I was not accosted by any attractive female researchers.

I shot a bit of video on my iPhone to give you the idea of what it's like to walk across.

On the far side is a treetop walkway, which I think served as the model for the one in Kew Gardens.

Then I hopped onto the same bus line to continue on out to Grouse Mountain, whose summit is at 4,000 feet - though as that was still in cloud I only went to the chalet level.

There are two ways up the mountain. The first is a hike described as one of the most gruelling in the world, with an average slope of 31%. The second is the Skyride cable-car. I took the appropriate amount of time to mull over the options before choosing one of them.

At the top, you have a view of mountains to one side and the city to the other. I had a wander, scoped out where I wanted to be for the sunset and then managed to grab a corner table by the panoramic windows to enjoy a glass of wine while waiting for the sunset.

Nature and stuff out that way ...

And Vancouver down there ...

Back at the hotel, I did online check-in for my flight. With the service about to cease, it could have gone one of two ways: everyone piling on to get in a last trip, or winding down. Fortunately, the latter appeared to be the case: I not only got a seat, but my boarding card made for a very pleasant sight.

A brief but very enjoyable stay!