Here Comes the Sun: Week 3 Abroad

Here Comes the Sun: Week 3 Abroad

As expected, a few people were less than thrilled to hear that I’m not in love with Vancouver. I completely understand. I actually appreciate their protectiveness. I think it’s amazing that we can develop such deep connections to new places!

… Which is why I’m still hoping for one.

This past week in Vancouver was better. Thanks, in large part, to the sunshine.

After our first week was mostly overcast and rainy, I started hearing Vancouver referred to as “Raincouver.” Ha. That’s a good one!

I admit to being a product of my environment and natural light is one of those things can have a profound effect on me.

Seeing the sun shine down daily didn’t magically change my perception of this city, but it did help me have a better attitude when traveling around.

What also helped was finding a couple of places that I could actually love.


La Belle Patate

The first thing I found to love was this amazing restaurant, La Belle Patate, in the West End.

Food has a way of comforting your soul and helping you feel at home, no matter where you are. And since I’ve been thinking about Montreal so much this place was perfect for me.

La Belle Patate is owned by a Quebec restaurateur who set out to bring a taste of the French province to the West Coast. Here you can find the Quebec classics of Smoked Meat sandwiches, steamies (hot dogs), and poutine dressed in a number of ways.

It’s a low-key restaurant with sports and Quebec memorabilia on the walls and where you order at the counter from a burly man with a long beard. Also the sort of place where Every. Single. Patron. was from Quebec and shouts happily at you to see how much you appreciate their culture.

I loved it.

The first thing I loved in Vancouver.


Vancouver Island

victoria vancouver island the obriens abroad family travel

The second thing I found to love in Vancouver is a clear 3 hours away! But that still counts, right?

We drove an hour to get to the ferry terminal, spent almost 2 hours ferrying to Vancouver Island, and then almost an hour driving from the island port to the main city of Victoria all because we had 2 free tickets to a whale watching tour.

It took almost 4 hours of travel, over $100 each way to ferry us + a car, and we still had to pay for Whit’s tour ticket, but, hey- we were invited!

I mean… that’s worth some minimal effort, right?

Well, I’m glad I insisted on getting out of the city and using those free passes because Victoria is AWESOME!

As soon as we parked I felt comfortable there. We were met with charming old architecture and a gorgeous coast line. Ahhhhh…. I was definitely bred for island life! Thanks, Mom.

The first thing we did in Victoria was eat. We chose Red Fish Blue Fish based on reviews and ordered a huge platter of fish and chips plus a side of fried pickles (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) and it was all the best I’ve ever had.

Batter? Amazing. Pickles? So flavorful. Fish? Super tender. Sitting on a stool looking at the ocean while we eat? Can’t be beat. 

After walking around downtown Victoria; eating ice cream and marveling at the buildings, we met our whale watching tour. That experience deserves it’s own article because it did not disappoint!

Good food, beautiful place, nice people, and unique activities are pretty much my recipe for a great location.


Planning Our Escape

travel journal the obriens abroad family travel

The last thing that helped me appreciate Vancouver is the fact that we have officially have an escape route!

It essentially took two full days to get small, international airlines to accept our foreign credit cards (I was not prepared for this hassle and now know our new travel card number by heart), but we finally have tickets to spend 6 days in Hong Kong and to then fly to Seoul, South Korea.

We still haven’t found a place to stay in Hong Kong, but a week is plenty of time for that, right…?

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but it definitely helps me appreciate a place to know my time is limited. It feels really good to just stay as busy as possible trying to get in every last thing just in case it’s what we would have ended up loving.

Something to Look Forward To

We still have 8 days before we leave for Hong Kong, and this final week will be slammed.

We’re spending 6 days in Whistler, a resort mountain town 2 hours north of Vancouver, and then a long weekend back in Vancouver.

I’m writing this from our hotel in Whistler and am actually excited to get back to Vancouver! We’ll be meeting my sister and brother-in-law there; two of our favorite people. They’ll be in town because my sister is performing in a concert with the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir. My brother-in-law decided to fly up for the weekend to stay with us, see Vancouver, and go to the concert together.

We’ll do the hop-on-hop-off bus tour through the city (so they can get a fair idea of each district) with special stops in Chinatown and Granville Island, go to North Vancouver for the Capilano Bridge, rent bikes to go through Stanley Park, eat at La Belle Patate for poutine, and go to the concert.

It’s nice to think about what we’ve enjoyed enough to show someone else, which helps me recognize some of the good here.

If we’ve left out anything important please share!

In the meantime, wish us luck on a jam-packed week in Whistler!




  1. I’m so glad the sun finally came out for you! The PNW weather isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. And good food makes everything better. Have fun in Hong Kong and Seoul!

  2. I totally get the need for sun. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for three years we finally ended up moving away because of the lack of sunshine there. Vancouver Island is so beautiful and makes the trip worthwhile for sure 👍🏼 Safe travels indeed!

  3. Everyone’s experience is so different! I didn’t love Paris! I loved a few things, kind of like you did with Vancouver, but also overall wasn’t in love. I respect your honest opinion, knowing mine could be different!

    1. I’ve heard others say that about Paris! It’s good to keep in mind that we just won’t love EVERYTHING when we travel!

  4. Oh my goodness, how amazing! I live in Toronto and can you believe that I’ve never visited Vancouver? It is on the bucket list! Have you been to the east coast of Canada – the Maritimes?

    1. We spent a week in Ontario and 2 months in Quebec and loved them both! i
      m dying to go to Newfoundland and NS!

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