Episode 405 – A Month Back in B.C.: Ups and Downs, Joy and Sadness.

Note: Our last short stop in BC was 6 months ago, so we expected that the in-law suite we’ve returned to in son #2’s house would be completely empty of foodstuffs. Luckily, our son and daughter-in-law are great cooks, so we knew we’d get fed – at least on our first day back!

We also knew we’d be guaranteed fabulous coffee. Son #2 is quite a barista in his spare time, and has all the specialty equipment to go with his coffee hobby.

Nope, not a café ….. just #2’s kitchen coffee shrine!

Week One. Settling in and celebrations.

BC’s landscape is stunning: water, huge trees, and snow-capped mountains all visible at the same time in many places. One of our favourite things to do here is just go out for walks along the Coquitlam River (just a couple of blocks away), or through the huge Coquitlam Town Centre/Lafarge Lake Park. We did both during our first couple of days “home”.

The fountain in beautiful Lafarge Lake, which 35 years ago was the site of a gravel pit! The lake and the huge surrounding park were initially developed as part of preparations for the 1991 BC Summer Games, and continued to be improved until in 2017 when Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park was named “Best Public Space” by the Canadian Institute of Planners.

The tulip magnolias had just a day or two left when we arrived. We missed the peak of the cherry blossoms which were so spectacular in March.

More of the park gardens.

While we could just walk around gawking every day, practical stuff needed doing too of course. Let’s start with food.

While we were in Mérida, I got quite used to groceries being delivered to our door each week, something we’ve not done anywhere else – even during Covid. I ordered from a large Mexican chain called Chedraui, who used Uber for their deliveries. Each delivery cost $38MXN/$2.85CAD/$2.10USD plus I’d give the driver a $20-50MXN tip. After all, he was the one taking his life into his hands crossing traffic on Calle 56 (all the streets in Mérida’s Centro district are one-way, and he could only park on the opposite side of the street) to get things to our front hall. Plus some weeks – when there was beer in our order – the bags could be heavy. The total delivery cost was much less than it would have cost us for a one-way Uber home from the store after choosing our own groceries, and we quickly discovered that the produce and meat were as carefully chosen as if we’d done it ourselves.

At “home” in BC we don’t have a car. We could Uber to and from the grocery store (there are a couple in one way walking distance – but Coquitlam’s streets have BEARS!!) or we could impose on our kids to include us in their shopping trips, but that’s not necessarily convenient for their busy schedules. So … just before we left Mérida I went into the PCExpress app on my iPad and prepaid for a year of grocery deliveries for $99CAD. That allows me to shop online from our local Real Canadian Superstore (my favourite grocery store) and get unlimited “free” delivery of online grocery orders of $35 or more for the duration of the plan.  It’s cancellable for a pro-rated refund anytime, so it’s a good deal, ESPECIALLY factoring in current gas prices and Uber rates. I’ll get $30CAD in store points in our first year, plus all the loyalty points offers I’d get if I were going to the store myself.

If I place 3 orders per month, AND decide to tip the driver $5 CAD each time, my monthly pro-rated cost would be about $25CAD for the convenience – WAY less than 3 round-trip Ubers to the nearest store!

The actual cost of groceries, though, is not only higher than in Mexico, but much higher than when we last shopped in Ontario. BC is also generally a more expensive province when it comes to food. There’s an interesting blog about the province-by-province cost of living in Canada: https://www.canadacrossroads.com/cost-of-living-in-canada-by-province/. Rising food prices seem to be on all Canadians’ minds, as evidenced by this recent news story from one of our largest national media outlets: CTVNews – 2023 Rising Food Prices

Our “start-up” shop was over $600CAD ! To be fair, I bought meat for the whole month since we have a freezer, refreshed our first aid kit, and a couple of the items were not groceries per se. The Superstore has housewares too, so I ordered cookie sheets, and a duvet for our spare bedroom in preparation for my cousins’ visit in June. The order could have been even more, but I’d reached the weight limit for delivery. Who even knew there was such a thing?

Sadly, Canadian grocery delivery did not prove to be as seamless as Mérida, with our first order not delivered until I called customer service, who called the store, who explained that I needed to confirm the substitution of triangle-shaped tortilla chips for round ones (the same brand and price) before they would ship my order. They’d warned me about that substitution via email, but needing to formally accept it was NOT what the email indicated, and the process was further complicated by the fact that the store staff was “not allowed” to call or text me because my cell phone number is out-of-area. In Mexico, I’d get a call about substitutions, and when they realized that my Spanish was limited they switched to SMS and Whatsapp to allow me to translate and respond.

The order finally arrived, but almost 3 hours after the requested delivery window.

The most important thing, according to our grandsons, is that the cookie jar has been refilled with Voortman’s oatmeal chocolate fudge stripe cookies.

A second order worked better, because I indicated a suitable substitute – or no substitution allowed – for every single item.

Shortly after getting home, grandson #3 celebrated his 7th birthday. We’d already given him his main birthday present while we were still in Mérida (a new bed), but a few years ago we decided we’d try to gift each grandchild with a day out instead of a wrapped present. Over the past years we’ve gone to the Royal Ontario Museum, LegoLand, and on movie outings; this year it’s Vancouver Science World, which is also where we took #2 grandson for his birthday last October.

One of #3’s favourite areas was outside “Bodyworks”, where there were lots of hands-on activities demonstrating how different muscles work. It’s a lot harder to wheel a manual wheelchair than most people realize.

Part of the fun of a day out is riding the Skytrain, Greater Vancouver’s elevated light rail system, and another part is dinner out at a place of our grandson’s choosing. Birthdays have meant a lot of fancy Shirley Temples, good burgers, and delicious ice creams!

True to form, birthday dinner on his actual birthday was burgers and fries at Five Guys, and a Dairy Queen Oreo Blizzard ice cream cake …followed by McDonalds (#3’s request) on our day together.

Week Two. Establishing our permanent residency in B.C.

Moving between provinces means paperwork, and each province requires their own specific combination of things to verify people’s identity. We couldn’t complete our health card online application process in Mexico, because we couldn’t post-date our arrival in the province, so I completed that process at the end of week 1 here. In three weeks we should get our cards in the mail, and then there’ll be a waiting period of up to 2 months before we can use them. In the interim, our Ontario plan remains in effect as if we were just on vacation here in BC.

I also needed to switch over my driver’s license (right now Ted can’t pass the eye test, so his will have to wait). Fortunately, I was able to schedule an appointment at the ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) office online while we were away.

I arrived for my appointment with a ziploc bag full of documents: son #2’s lease agreement that shows us as occupants, Canadian passports, social insurance cards, Ontario health cards, birth certificates, Ontario driver’s licences, our marriage licence (because my passport name does not match the name on my birth certificate or the social insurance card issued when I started my first part-time job at 16), and my 50 years’ worth of driving records which I had to request (and pay for) from the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario. It turned out that all I had to show was my current driver’s license, birth certificate, and marriage certificate. They took my word for my address. There were a few basic driving questions (What does a flashing green mean? In BC, it indicates a pedestrian-controlled traffic light) and a vision test (distance, depth perception, peripheral vision, and colours – confirming for me that Ted would not have been able to pass), followed by the obligatory non-smiling glasses-off photo. I paid a $17 fee and got my temporary license paperwork. Easy and efficient – and the ICBC clerk even welcomed me to BC!

My experience was NOTHING like dealing with the DMV sloth from Walt Disney’s Zootopia!

Our biggest priority this month was getting Ted’s eye issues dealt with quickly. Since we don’t yet have BC health coverage, and the optometrists we talked to last week didn’t seem to understand the provincial reciprocal health agreements, our “plan” is to pay for the surgery and get reimbursed by a combination of our Ontario provincial and supplemental insurance plans.

To that end, we had an appointment with a BC optometrist. We had Ted’s 2-week-old Ontario diagnosis with us, hoping to expedite the referral process. The doctor re-did Ted’s eye exam, confirmed the diagnosis, assured us that the condition is easily fixable with a 5 minute laser procedure (Ted says “phasers set on stun”, but he’s my nerd). Depending on ophthalmologist and equipment availability, Ted should be “fixed” within the next 2 months – not in time for Ireland, but hopefully in time for Alaska in August.

To end the “work” week we had appointments at the bank to meet a potential new financial advisor. Canadian banking rules limit what bank-based advisors can do out-of-province, so we need someone here, but it’s important to have an advisor that “gets” us. We were both really comfortable with Jennifer, so that’s one more thing crossed off the to-do list.

On Mother’s Day weekend the whole family headed to Squamish for the day to take the Sea to Sky gondola ride taking us 885 metres/2900 feet above sea level. Ted and I drove the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler 20 years ago, but didn’t stop in Squamish, so this was a new experience providing the incredible views pictured below. The photos are a combination of Ted’s and #2 son’s.

Our views ascending in the gondola, from the parking lot to the summit.

We were all gobsmacked by the breathtaking scenery below us. In the other direction? Scary rock cliffs, albeit mostly covered by trees soaring to heights of over 30 metres/100 ft.

Conditions at the top.

There is a suspension bridge at the summit called the Sky Pilot Bridge. I’ve never been comfortable with heights, but our travels in the past year provided many opportunities to access high lookout points above the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, so I felt ready to try this. Ted, son #2, and grandson #2 crossed while I was still building up my courage. Grandsons #1 and 3, having done the Capilano Suspension Bridge in January, were not interested in walking across, leaving me to do it on my own while they stayed behind at the summit viewing platform with their mom. At about the midpoint of the bridge, holding on to the cables on BOTH sides of the bridge, I was in an absolute sweat – but with no real choice but to go on. From his vantage point at the opposite side of the span, Ted coincidentally captured the moment when I thought I might just cry.

Happiness is reaching the other side!

The bridge’s website says “The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is approximately 100 metres/328 ft long and has a backdrop that falls away thousands of feet below, giving you a greater feeling of exposure and height over land. The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge offers amazing 360 degree views of the area, both up to the high alpine of the mountains above and down to Howe Sound below.”, but I never once looked down, focusing on the platform at the end. Nonetheless, I still want to attempt the longer (137 m/450 ft) but much lower (70 metres/230 feet) Capilano Suspension Bridge when my cousins come to visit in June.

The walk back, with Ted, was far less nerve-wracking, although I still held on to both sides. Bottom right you can see my intrepid grandson #2, at 8-1/2 years old, walking behind his dad and not even holding on. Sheesh.

Having pumped up our adrenaline, we ventured out for a 90 minute hike along the 1.3 km Panorama Trail loop, a beginners’ level route.

Two of the lookout points along the trail. Left: the path heading to Look-back Loop. Right: the Chief Overlook cantilevered platform.

Does it get anymore majestic than these snow-capped peaks viewed on a hot sunny day?

Waterfalls, flowers, mountains, ocean (that’s the Georgian strait that separates mainland BC from Vancouver Island), and trees. Magnificent.

Is there a hidden message in the name of my Mother’s Day wine?

Week Three. Just breathe. And walk.

There’s so much glorious nature here, and so many different ways to view it. Many are absolutely free, like the parks, lakes, rivers, waterfront boardwalks, beaches, and forest trails that are all over the province. Others are pricier, like the gondolas at Whistler, Hell’s Gate, and Squamish that soar above the treetops, and the suspension bridges at Capilano and Kitsilano, which each cost $60+ per person. Having splurged on the weekend, this week we were more frugal.

Photo credits: Ted, #2 son, and occasionally even me!

Strolling the PoCo (Port Coquitlam) Trail alongside the Coquitlam River. The river’s name (also our city’s name) comes from Kwikwetlem, the Coast Salish word meaning “red fish up the river”. In the fall, the river fills with spawning salmon.
Fern curls.
Growing in “our” own garden. Left: saxifraga x urbium, aka “London Pride”.
Right top to bottom: wood spurge; Robert’s geranium; blue bugle.
I have to admit that, up close, even the dandelions I’m trying so hard to eliminate from the rock garden are beautiful.

We had one last grocery order to place for the month. Unfortunately, when this third order arrived, it wasn’t our order at all! The poor DoorDash driver had to go back to the store, and I had to jump through the telephone hoops involved in dealing with a store who can’t call my cellphone from their landline.…. and my order needing to be re-picked, finally arriving 3 hours late. This NEVER happened in 4 months of weekly orders in Mexico. I miss Chedraui.

But ICBC was surprisingly fast! My photo driver’s license arrived well ahead of the promised 21 days.

Our week suddenly became a sad one when our daughter-in-law’s wonderful mom’s declining health unexpectedly took a sharp turn for the worse and she was admitted into palliative care, necessitating some very fast travel arrangements to get their whole family back to Ontario. Thankfully, son #2 had access to 2 weeks of compassionate leave through the Canadian Air Force, and working as a team we were able to get the last 5 seats on a 6 a.m. flight out of Vancouver for them, as well as a 3:30 a.m. airport shuttle.

Ted and I held down the fort here. It was too late to cancel our upcoming escorted tour, departing in less than a week, but we did what we could to ensure that when they got back home everything would be ship-shape for them; no laundry to do or chores to worry about.

Son #2 had been talking about some front garden maintenance, so while Ted tackled tidying the garage, and got their computer printer back up and running, I spent some time pulling weeds and invasive plants and placing their Nova Scotia rock collection in the now empty space. Unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough to remove the dead palmetto stumps (the house’s owners will need to do that someday) but at least the beautiful lime green wood spurge now has room to take over.

Week Four.

While we packed and prepped for our next adventure, our excitement was tempered by the passing of my counterpart grandmother. It was a traumatic several days for our daughter-in-law, son #2, and their family, particularly so for the 3 little boys who love their Nonna so very much, but we feel sure her passing was made easier by the love of her entire family surrounding her at the end.

She was a wonderful, compassionate, and interesting woman; an always supportive mother to her three children; and the most loving grandmother anyone could hope for. Her hugs were one-of-a-kind in their warmth, and her baking was legendary. It was a privilege sharing our grand-parenting with her.

Details of our preparations and lots of blogs from the Emerald Isle coming up.


  1. First of all, so very sorry for your DIL’s mother’s passing. Hugs💕.

    The photos of BC are wonderful and it must have great to get back and see your family.

    As for groceries, I have never ordered online, so I can’t imagine it, but without a vehicle, I can’t see why you do it. I just love shopping for groceries. I have always found it relaxing and other than lugging them back to the condo, I love every part of it. Weird, huh?

    Looking forward to seeing all of your photos from Ireland. Hoping Ed gets his surgery ASAP after your return.

    Take care

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually thought I’d miss perusing grocery shelves, but surprisingly not! The up-side is that shopping from a list without all the visual temptations has helped us stay in budget!


  2. Have you considered going across the border to get Ted’s eye issues dealt with before you leave for Dublin? You’d be paying OOP, but at least he’d have his vision restored.
    I had this done last year. It really was very quick, but as it was covered under my initial cataract surgery, I can’t tell you the cost.


  3. when you said that you got a PC express delivery , I held my breathe, because they are the worst for delivery! here in Ontario, I regret ordering from the fortinos’ and had a driver lost on the radar. He was updating his delivery status, but all of a sudden, we lost connection and didn’t even know if our delivery would arrive…. Our order was 2 hours late, but nonetheless this NEVER happened to us by Longo’s or Metro for that matter. I think there is an issue with doordash delivery, but that could just be me.
    Condolences on the passing of your daughter in laws mom. So very sad, when a life is passed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your sympathy.
      Here the problem seems to be the order pick/pack at the store (sadly). Our actual delivery guys have been great. But… I’m tempted to try SaveOn with their refrigerated trucks, although their grocery prices are (even) higher.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ROSE: Sorry to hear that your daughter-in-law’s mother passed away so quickly.  It was good they were able to make the trip back to Ontario. BC is beautiful.  I wanted to laugh when I saw you face on the bridge, but i know that would not be nice.  Maybe we will make it out there sometime while you are out there/ Have a wonderful trip! Al

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My heart goes out to you, your son and his family! I’m so glad they got there in time to say goodbye My heart also goes out to you and Ted. You are hurting for all of them ❣️ What a lovely tribute to her Thank you for sharing

    Your blog. I could feel your apprehension – in my case it would be pure terror !!! I would also not enjoy the view and someone would be holding my hand.

    Safe trip to Ireland


    Liked by 1 person

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