Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Pre-Christmas Trip to Whistler + Christmas Day Feasting!

Since flying back to Massachusetts from Vancouver is so insanely expensive around the holidays, Dave and I have stayed around BC for Christmas the last two years. It is, of course, not ideal for us to be away from our families for the holidays, but we have definitely made the best of it!

Last year we took an awesome (but at times terrifying) trip to Banff, Alberta for the weekend leading up to Christmas, which you can (and definitely should) read about here: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3. Tons of amazing pictures of mountains and blue skies and mountains and sleigh rides and mountains. Go look.

This year we splurged on a hotel room in Whistler, BC for the night of December 23rd, and turned the entire trip into a hiking/snowshoeing/hot-chocolate drinking/lights-seeing/eating extravaganza!

On Monday, Dec. 23 we headed north of Vancouver towards Whistler, stopping along the way in Garibaldi Provincial Park to go hiking along the Diamond Head Trail to the Red Heather Hut.

Driving from Vancouver to Whistler, stopping along the way for a hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park
.  vancouver to whistler, with a hike in squamish along the way!  .
Diamond Head trail to Red Heather Warming hut in Garibaldi Provincial Park
.  our hike to the red heather warming hut  .

The road to the trailhead requires snow tires or chains this time of year. We drove up Garibaldi Park Road until we couldn't anymore, then we parked and continued up the road on foot about 2km till we reached the Diamond Head Trail parking lot. That's when our park road ended and a woodsy trail began. There wasn't much snow at first - we began with icy rocks and grass, which eventually turned into slushy snow...

Diamond Head trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Then slightly less slushy snow...

.... until finally we were high enough that we were walking over real snow, and we donned our snowshoes for the remainder of the ascent.

I loved being surrounded by the fog and snow in the quiet forest. Every once in awhile I could catch a waft of the pine trees, which really made it all quite Christmasy. Check out the furry trees, with moss dripping off of their bark:

After hiking for a couple of hours or so, we took a steep shortcut off of the main trail and made our way through Red Heather Meadow to get to Red Heather Hut - a warming hut with a wood stove and two large picnic benches inside.

.  view of red heather meadow, from inside of the warming hut  .
This was an amazing place to rest, warm up, and enjoy our lunch of Subway sandwiches, kettle cooked chips, peppermint tea and a Mars bar while our boots dried off by the stove. We rested for about 25 minutes before strapping on our boots again and making our way back down the mountain.

After our morning/afternoon of hiking we got back into the car and continued north to Whistler Village, stopping briefly in Squamish for a quick fast food fix ... where we had a beautiful, full rainbow overhead...

Arriving in Whistler, we checked into our hotel for the evening - Summit Lodge & Spa right in the Village. I was immediately pleased with our decision to stay there. They had gorgeous Christmas decorations in the lobby and a friendly front desk employee, who complimented my Christmasy nails (and thus won me over instantly). The hotel also had a heated outdoor pool and hot tub which we wasted little time in getting into...

Outdoor heated pool and hot tub at Summit Lodge & Spa in Whistler Village
.  so steamy  .

I'm not usually one to enjoy hot tubs - they're so hot - but the chill in the air made it incredibly relaxing to be sitting in a steaming tub of water while surrounded by wintery mountains and snow.

Our room at the Lodge even had a charming fake fireplace, a balcony with a mountain view, a very reasonably-priced snack basket, and big comfy white bath robes for us! We did our fair share of regally lounging in our robes inside of our hotel room, obvi.

Fake fireplace inside our room at the Summit Lodge & Spa in Whistler
On Monday night we strolled through the Village and were pleasantly surprised by the abundance of Christmas lights all over the place. The Olympic Plaza in particular was very festive. The plaza has a big ice skating rink (complete with huge disco ball) and is entirely surrounded by trees with Christmas lights. You can see a little picture of it here... Not sure why I didn't take any pictures of it myself. Possibly I was too chilly to take my hands out of my jacket.

We went to dinner at Black's Restaurant & Pub, where I mowed down on a Caesar salad topped with garlic prawns, while Dave started with a beet salad and had a rack of bison ribs (!) for dinner. The food was yummy, but the restaurant was a bit crowded. I don't mean it was packed with people; I mean that the tables were all really crowded together and it was hard for everyone (waitstaff included) to maneuver between them. Just something to note, if you're looking for a more spacious atmosphere for your Whistler dinner.

After dinner we walked around a bit more before deciding to go back to the hotel to put on additional layers (it was chilly!) and then heading out again for more walking and some hot chocolate. We sipped our hot chocolates beside the Olympic Plaza's outdoor fireplace and Dave played around a bit on the deserted skating rink before we called it a night.

The next day we started our morning at Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub - for breakfast, not beers. I had their breakfast wrap (which was just the right size for me), and Dave had their Blackcomb Breakfast (which might have been a bit small for him). Each of our meals came with an Irish potato cake, which was like a little patty of hashbrowns. It was good!

We had big plans to go snow-tubing at Whistler Blackcomb's Coca Cola Tube Park that afternoon - an activity I was suuuuuper excited about. My parents' house in Massachusetts has a sizable, multi-tiered hill in its backyard. In short, my house was THE house for the neighborhood kids to go for snow tubing, back in the day. We could spend hours out there - gleefully shooting down the hill and then trudging back up it on foot over and over again, only heading inside for short hot chocolate breaks. So when I found out there was a snow tubing park at Whistler, you can bet your sweet ass that it went straight to the top of my list of things I needed to do.

After breakfast at the Irish pub, we took the gondola ride from the Village up to the tubing park, soaring over trees and condos as we ascended the mountain. After disembarking from the gondola, there was still a series of stairs to climb before reaching the tube park. MY EXCITEMENT WAS CLIMBING. LITERALLY.


Ugh. Guys. The conditions on the mountain that morning were too slick for adults to use the tubing park that day. Apparently the weight of an adult would make the tubing tracks too long on the icy snow, so... no tubing for me and Dave, unfortunately. It really was a huge disappointment for me, personally, since I don't ski or snowboard... tubing was the activity for me at Whistler. Mreh!

Since we couldn't go tubing, we enjoyed our ride back down the mountain in the gondola and then opted to walk around some of Whistler Village's many random trails through the woods.

Skiers in Whistler Village
.  view of skiers on the mountain  .

After walking around for a bit, it was time to climb into the car and head back south towards Vancouver. We wanted to hit up the Eagle Run in Brackendale before nighttime, to see if there were more eagles to see than there were the last time we were there. There were definitely more this time! Here are some pics of the scenery and eagles there:

View of mountains from Eagle Run in Brackendale

By then we were pretty ready to head back to our little apartment in Vancouver, where Dave finished wrapping his presents and then we settled in for a little Christmas Eve Fred Claus action.

On Christmas morning I woke up early to FaceTime with my family on the east coast. Through the wonders of technology, I was able to watch them open up all the presents that we'd sent them. Next we Skyped with Dave's family and got to see them open up all of their presents as well. #AyoTechnology.

After all of that family time, Dave and I opened our own presents together. We got each other (and ourselves) all sorts of little goodies. We like to get ourselves small gifts that we can both use in our apartment - it's fun to wrap them all up and then unwrap them again, even if we know what they all are. It's just fun to unwrap presents, isn't it? :) There were still a few little surprises in there though, don't worry.

Dave then proceeded to work his cooking magic - making us a full breakfast of eggs and bacon. Once we had a good breakfast in our systems, we took a mid-day walk along the Seaside Bike Path, with a little detour into a maritime museum where we looked around at different sailboats and I took some blue-inspired pictures:

.  yes, this is the angle i meant to take  .
.  #art  .

Then it was time to head back home because Dave had big plans of making us a roast beef dinner - you know the kind that takes all day to prepare. No complaints about that from me!

.  this was my view for the next several hours  .

He spent the rest of the afternoon preparing roast beef, roasted potatoes, peas/carrots, bacon-wrapped sausage, gravy, and he even invented a new spin on Yorkshire pudding...

Slicing the roast beef Christmas dinner
.  the roast beef!  .

Bacon-wrapped sausages
.  bacon wrapped sausages, for the win  .

Beef gravy for Christmas dinner
.  the yummy, onion filled gravy  .

A pan of Yorkshire pudding
.  this is how you make a yorkshire pudding when you don't have a cupcake pan  .

Sliced Yorkshire pudding
.  slices of yorkshire pudding!  .

Of course he finished up the amazing dinner by making us stove-top hot chocolate for dessert. He sure knows how to feed a girl! He treated me to a similar day of feasting last Christmas, too :)

All in all, our holiday - pre-Christmas and Christmas - was really a lovely one. We got to do some hiking/snowshoeing, enjoyed a special evening in a really nice hotel in a winter wonderland, ate some delicious food, participated remotely in our families' present-opening, and had a full day of Christmas feasting.

I'm happy that Dave and I have been creating special holiday memories while we've been out here in Vancouver... and hope that you were able to do the same, wherever you are in the world!

Oh and... Happy New Year!!!

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  1. What an awesome Christmas getaway! I love being surrounded by snow. I love how silent and serene it is. I also love your Yorkshire puddings! It looks almost more appetizing the way you do it!

  2. amazing! i always went to whistler a lot when i was a kid. it's where i learned to ski and i have a lot of good family memories there. i know one of my friend finds tofino to be there 'getaway' but for me, it's always been whistler. i haven't had a chance to go in a long while and i've been missing it. since the bf hasn't gone before i think i'd like to take him when i'm back in the province.

    1. Wow, that must have been such an awesome place to go as a kid!! I bet it looked a bit different back then though right? I hope you make it back there asap! :)

  3. Bummer about the tubing, but it sounds like you had a great time- and you definitely got some gorgeous photos!

  4. Everything about this is SO amazing! The scenery, the hot tub, the food- love it!!

  5. looks like you had such a great getaway!! :) we also went up to whistler in december, but just for the day! so much fun walking around and taking in the scenery.

  6. Oh wow, these pictures are lovely! Full of envy over here. ;) Heck, I'd settle for one day with a little snow. haha

    1. Thanks for reading about my adventure Toria :)


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