Gay’s Canada blog

experiencr25th January

FOR years I have wanted to visit Canada.  As a child I awaited the arrival of a magazine called Beautiful British Columbia, every season every year, from a Canadian airman my mother had met in the war. Awesome really was the right word for the huge mountains, stunning sunsets, glistening seas and plunging rivers.

Then my god daughter Hannah and her husband Patrick moved north of Vancouver, and we determined to visit. Now, almost three years after the birth of their son Eliot, we are finally heading out west.

I wonder how many other frequent US visitors will turn their sights north of the 49th parallel now that the President of the United States might just, for my own example, decide that today’s tweets include an order for the immediate imprisonment of any green-eyed woman from Wincanton in Somerset.

So it’s a question of booking – flights, car hire, hotels, bed and breakfasts and ferries. And trying to fit everything into a 15 day visit.

I might have saved a bit of time if I had thought back to the only other time I had seriously attempted to organise a Canadian trip – that time across the country.  I had researched the journey by train, on those magnificent great locomotives that cross the North American continent. I would have remembered the frustration of discovering that if I booked to go from the east to the west coast, I couldn’t get off and stay at some of the cities along the way. Not without spending almost double on the fare. [See my post Journey of  a Lifetime, November 2013]

It should have been a clue.  Canada is much more “English” than American, so the can-do optimism of the USA is replaced by the “it isn’t possible” of the British Isles.

All this is leading to my attempts to book ferries off the coast of British Columbia. Vancouver Island and the islands around it are unique places, full of wildlife and vegetation and landscape that you really wouldn’t want to miss.

My plan was to go from the mainland south of  Vancouver across Puget Sound to Galiano Island, familiar from Jane Rule’s books, to neighbouring Salt Spring Island, where the name tells you about the fertile farm land but not the concentration of  artists and musicians, to the main, huge Vancouver Island, where whales pass on their northward journeys,  and then back across the Strait of Georgia to Powell River, and back down to the Hannah House.

With international tourist offices now closed across the globe, the idea is that you can find anything on line – and indeed you can.  So I read many pages of the BC Ferries site, downloaded some timetables and scrutinised the Fares section.  There I found something called an Experience Card, which you can load with funds and get discounted fares.

a2d99f2bcaebd09beb18d8cd640b2beeI thought this would be a chance for (say) a five day journey (or experience) travelling at off peak times when the ships were not needed for commuting workers and students, at a lower rate for tourists.


Unable to understand the exclusions applied to the card – which seemed to preclude my plan – I contacted the press office of BCF. To be told, efficiently if not exactly helpfully, that The Experience Card is for those who already have a very substantial Experience of BC ferries, in that they are the regular passengers.

I’m sure that residents SHOULD be able to claim discounts.  They live there. They pay the taxes all the time.

Maybe the company is so big, and so essential, that it doesn’t need to encourage visitors and tourism. But if the Canadian governments, nationally or regionally, want to make the most of the influx of tourists that The Donald will in all likelihood push north over the border, they might re-think.

Should the names we give to things have some indication of what they are? Big question that for the marketing men and women.

The combined London transport card is called Oyster.  The world’s your … etc perhaps. But not immediately comprehensible for the visitor.

A Frequent Flyer card means it is for frequent flyers.

A Residents Discount card is for residents … etc

I hope to have a wonderful Experience of BC Ferries. I hope for unforgettable scenery, wildlife, not too much wild weather!

I’ll let you know