Exploring Canada with the Ford Explorer

Art on canvass hide otherwise unsightly industrial structures.

Art on canvass hide otherwise unsightly industrial structures.

A few weeks ago, we went to the land of salmon and maple syrup, Canada. Specifically, British Colombia.

Our itinerary included going to Vancouver, and then to Bowen Island where my sister-in-law lives.

I hadn’t been to Canada for 13 years, and frankly all I could remember was of being cold there because it was winter then.

Our agenda this time was to experience as much of the local life, and for my son to check on the possibility of going to a local university.

There was five of us traveling: me, the hubby, and three of our older kids. We left the twins back home because they were too young to travel long haul. When we arrived at the airport, a Ford Explorer was waiting for us as our ride for that week.

The new Ford vehicles come with a lot of bells and whistles on the dash, which sometimes make them look like a spaceship console.

This one was just enough to offer all the trims without overwhelming the “titos and titas” of Manila using them.

We usually make it a point to compare the onboard navigation with Waze.

So, we inputted the address of our hotel on both systems and compared the times and ease of use.

The navigation system on the Explorer was very intuitive and spot on.

Our first stop was downtown Vancouver. Initially, I didn’t want to shop because my Canada-based friends told me that it was always expensive there.

But somehow, because of the higher exchange rate of Canadian dollars (as compared to the US dollar) to the Philippine peso, shopping in Canada became cheaper for us.

This resulted in having four big bags from our initial three (I had one medium-sized luggage inside one of the big ones; tricks of the trade for hoarders).

This was not a problem for the Ford Explorer since the 7-seater SUV’s third row has Powerfold where the seat folds completely flat to make more room for bags.

Vancouver is consistently part of the top 5 cities with great livability and quality of life.

Although it rains most part of the year, they have two months of summer/sunshine, and of course, about 3-4 months of winter.

The people are more helpful and warm.

One sunny day, we went biking around Stanley Park and the marina. There we saw Vancouver’s claim to fame: their scenic coastlines and nature parks.

We also learned during the tour that the city is one of the friendliest to bikers and road users. They even had bike stoplights and dedicated bike lanes.

A must-see place is Granville Island; it’s a food and art hub. There’s the farmer’s market that showcases artisanal cheese, bread, seafood and produce.

Granville has theaters, a row of local artist galleries, and a big Kids Market with an amusement park and playground.

One of the disadvantages of driving your own car in Vancouver is parking and its cost.

The Explorer tackles Bowen’s road terrain with ease.

The Explorer tackles Bowen’s road terrain with ease.

There is no Uber in Vancouver, and cabs are quite expensive.

Although the Explorer might sound huge to you, it was easy to park. It had a 180-degree view with cameras in the front and rear.

It also had a lot of proximity sensors especially when backing up.

Our next stop was Bowen Island, a 20-minute ferry ride west of Vancouver.

It’s an idyllic mountain residential island where our relatives live.

On the first day, it was cold. Happily, the kids discovered that the second row of the SUV has a seat heating function, and that came in very handy.

This is the same feature I liked when I tested the Philippine version. The Explorer had seat ventilation or cooling which meant goodbye to kabag (gassy stomach) when you park your car outdoors.

Bowen’s road terrain is a new driver on manual transmission’s nightmare: all hill climbs and lots of hanging time when you need to follow the right of way and traffic rules.

All the hill climb and descent assist came into play. We climbed the mountain effortlessly even if there where five people and four big bags on board.

Another surprising thing with the Explorer is its 2.3L Ecoboost engine and its very good fuel consumption.

We encountered a lot of traffic downtown, and drove a long distance to Bowen ferry terminal which is 40 minutes away from downtown, and back to the airport. There was just less than one half of gas left in the tank.

Vancouver is beautiful, people are helpful, and the quality of life is high.

I had a few important discoveries which I would have never expected from the trip. One of them is that food is good and reasonable.

There are a lot of local Canadian brands that offer better quality and Asian-fit clothes (think Lululemon, Aritzia and Ryu), and cheaper too.

Lastly, Filipinos are lucky to have an abundance of sunshine in their home country. You really won’t appreciate something so ordinary until you lose it.

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