Crosswalks and City Vibes

It’s funny what you notice when you travel. The sights, the food, the smells, the people (not necessarily in that order!). One of the things that you would think would be universal across the world is the way that we cross the road. Spoiler alert: it isn’t!

I’ve started to become quite tuned in to crossing habits – or at least the crossing signs and sounds that facilitate them. It sounds really nerdy and I apologise for that, however I’m starting to believe that you can learn a lot about different cities by their road-crossing habits.

New York for example: no jay walking and no messing about. They have huge traffic lights, clearly marked crossings and timers that count down the time you have left to cross. It’s perfect for the no nonsense city of Manhattan. They also have ‘diagonal crosswalks’ – getting you from one side of the road to another in the most effective way – the Big Apple has busy people so it makes sense that the crosswalks get you from place ‘A’ to place ‘B’ as quickly as possible. They also use the visual symbols of a red hand for stop and a green man for go – just to keep everyone clear.

Being from the UK, it became a game on our last trip to New York to see which crosswalk would ‘turn green’ to get us to our route the fastest. Let’s face it; we are haphazard and disorganised in England, sometimes we have crossing guards or pedestrian crossings to help us get across the road, but most of the time we take our life in our hands and just cross wherever – we are rebels when it comes to jay-walking!

Vancouver crossings? They use the same visual imagery as those in the USA, however they are accompanied by a chirping bird sound to help those with visual impairments become aware of the safe times to cross.

We stayed in a busy area of Vancouver on our trip and the first morning I was amazed by how much bird-song I could hear until I made my first trip on foot around the city and realised that I was listening to the crossing sounds rather than actual birds. It’s a beautiful way of making something functional also sound natural. Perfectly at home in the city that fits neatly between mountains, beaches and trees.

I thought that the Vancouver crosswalks had won the achievement of the cutest crossing with their bird chips, however I was corrected on a recent trip to Vienna. Yes their crossings have an annoying ‘click’ sound which is not a patch on the Canadian bird noises used to support those with visual impairments and yes I did complain about this multiple times (although it did the job, I could hear it really loudly though the wooly hat I bought to help combat the -7 degree weather). However, as I looked up at the visual display on the crossing, I saw the cutest crossing image that I’ve come across so far……

The ‘don’t cross’ sign was fairly standard – two red people stood side by side. But the ‘safe to cross’ sign; was two people, waking hand in hand with a little love heart. I loved it! A tiny little touch, but I think that it says a lot about the lovely people of Vienna that they took the time to add this detail. It made me smile, despite the cold weather!


Vancouver Highlights

We’ve been lucky enough to visit Vancouver twice and both times we’ve seen different parts of this wonderful city.

The first time we visited, we were staying with a friend who directed us to see their favourite parts of the city. The second time, we rambled without a plan, spotting new sites. It’s hard to look around this city without marvelling at it’s beauty and diversity. Here are some of our favourite places in Vancouver to spend some time:

Gas Town

Such a beautiful mix of old and new come together in this part of the city. Twinkly-lit bars and restaurants meet victorian style street lamps. This is definitely Vancouver’s swish older sibling. A great place for some chilled out nights or grabbing a bite to eat, we absolutely loved spending time in this area of the city.

English Bay and Sunset Beach

Exactly what is says on the tin, Sunset Beach is home to some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. We are talking deep red skies and little sail boats outlined against the sea – straight off a post card. I’m a sucker for sunsets and sunrises (as I detailed in this post all about some of the most beautiful skies we’ve encountered on our travels) but Sunset Beach still wins hands down for me!

Granville Island

Granville Island is reached by a beautiful little trip across the water by water taxi. Part of the fun is the trip, bobbing up and down in the tiny crossing boat and stepping off on to the pier on the other side. Granville is full of markets and shopping locations. The most colourful and exciting is the indoor market – full of food and trinkets to catch the eye. The first time that we visited here, we were attacked by the cockiest seagulls I’ve ever encountered, however, on the second visit we were left in peace, meaning that we could explore the pier in more detail.

Stanley Park

A huge wonder of a park, this was a great place for us to visit and relax. Seeing the Lost Lagoon and its fountain spring up through the trees was stunning and as we were visiting on a fairly sunny day, we had the pleasure of watching the ducks swim out on a sun-kissed lake.

Grouse Mountain

No trip to Vancouver is complete without a trip out to Grouse Mountain. Slightly outside of the city, the trip up to higher ground is well worth it. You can read about our visits here and here. Seeing the city from above is such a great way to get a sense of how much it has to offer. Mountains, sea, beach and modern city all in one location – take us back, we’re getting nostalgic!


Vancouver is more than just a travel destination for us. It brings up memories of road trips, new friends and celebrating diversity. It definitely holds a piece of my heart.

A Stinky Pool in Paradise

Banff’s sulphur hot springs stink. There’s no getting away from it, the smell of sulphur is everywhere and it reeks.

As soon as we pulled up in the car park, the smell invaded everything and it smelt like rotten eggs. Still, we’d never visited hot springs before, and as the saying goes, try everything at least once!

We’d been up Sulphur Mountain the day before and marvelled at the amazing scenery. The basin below is home to the historical site of the first National Park, an information centre and the grotto which housed the sulphur spring.

The grotto was fairly small but the pool within was like something out of a movie.

Surrounded by rock, the green glow of the water reflected all around us. The smell of the sulphur was almost overpowering at times but it was really interesting to see the source of the ‘healing waters’ that people had once flocked to bathe in.

Outside of the cave, a small visitor’s centre provided information on the history of the site. Around the outside of the site, the pool deck provided a walkway around the edge of the pool. Standing up on the higher walls gave a great overview of the site and really highlighted how deep the pools were.

Living in the caves and basin are a species of endangered snail. Although we could get close to the pool edge, we were warned not to put our hands in to avoid upsetting their delicate eco-balance.

We spent the rest of our visit checking out the visitor’s centre and learning more about the basin site before heading up to the hot springs themselves. If you do decide to visit the baths, be warned, they are the hottest waters I have ever been in, and I like my shower set to scalding!

Although the centre only really has enough to keep you entertained for a short visit, it’s well worth a stop, especially if you look out for the red chairs – a great place to sit and take in the view.

Learn more about Banff’s cave and basin here:

$4 for adults, children go free.

Emerald Lake

Avoiding visitors to Emerald Lake in Canada

It’s in all of the travel pictures – stunning, calm, serene emerald waters, but what is Emerald Lake really like?

On our road trip around parts of Canada, we took some time to visit Emerald Lake as a stop off en route towards our next location.

The view from the path at Emerald Lake

The first thing that struck us about this place was the different approach it had taken towards visitors to the lake. Many of the other places we had stopped at were full of cars, visitors and camping vans, parked up as close as possible to the edge of the water. Whilst this is great for getting a viewing spot, it’s not so great for trying to find a calm, quiet place to absorb the beauty of the view. Some of the places we visited were busier than their town centres!

Emerald Lake differed in this respect, as cars were not allowed over the small wooden bridge towards the accommodation. Instead, a car park and shuttle bus was provided to support people too and from the cabins. This resulted in the lake being a little less crowded – not that it wasn’t busy (it certainly was), but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some of the places we visited (Lake Louise we’re looking at you!).

Not too busy along the shore of the lake...

The trip over the little bridge was also quite exciting, it made the lake feel a little more hidden and cut off from the rest of the world.

The cabins felt like little hide-aways set in stunning scenery

We were staying in one of the cabins alongside the lake and they were beautiful! Looking out of the window, past the balcony (yes we had a little balcony!), the colours of the lake were so vivid, even from a distance. The rooms were basic but fairly spacious and included a little log fire which would be lovely in colder weather. They were beautifully designed to blend in with the blue skies and green waters.

The main lodge was a great place to hang out in the evenings – a mixture of pool, beer, TV and music made sure that we were all well entertained (one night a little girl jumped on the piano and she was incredible!).

The path around the lake is the jewel in the crown when visiting Emerald Lake. We only did the lake circuit (you can head up to the basin for more stunning views) but it was one of the most memorable walks of our trip. The lake trail is around 5km and is a fairly easy walk in most places – although there are some muddy, forest parts which would be challenging for someone with accessibility needs.

The last of the canoes on the lake

The start of the path takes you out on to a gravel path and as soon as you get past the first couple of yards, most of the visitors to Emerald Lake fade away. We only saw one or two other people for the rest of the walk – this was brilliant as the escape from the crowds left us feeling much more immersed in nature.

The first half of the walk keeps you close to the shoreline on a gravel path and gives a close-up view of the path the glacier follows as it melts down to the lake. Whilst making our way around the lake, a fire helicopter made numerous visits, filling up the water bucket on the way to a nearby forest fire.

Helicopter filling up the water bucket to battle a nearby forest fire

The wooden bridge at the far end of the lake marked the start of the return journey. The path ran through a forest area for most of the walk home, giving very different views. This was my favourite part of the walk as it was fairly dense and almost had a jungle-like feel to it.

Part of the lake trail at Emerald Lake

Staying on the lake is an excellent idea if you want to grab some photos that don’t include 20 other visitors. Once everyone goes home, you get a much more natural experience of the environment.

Evenings by the lake were beautiful, particularly once most day visitors had gone home. We were lucky enough to find a pier without anyone around and sat looking out on to the lake in silence, admiring the colours and stillness in the early evening.

Zombie Girl and Wandering Beeb at Emerald Lake