Here’s something I’ve never told anyone before…

Here’s something I’ve never told anyone before…

It was our first travel trip abroad, and the excitement was palpable for my brother and I. We had journeyed to North America from Australia – we were naïve (and very young) to say the least. Our itinerary of five major cities in six weeks had been inspired by our individual cultural and historical interests. Vancouver, British Columbia (BC) with its urban Canadian charm and wild, natural landscapes, was my pick. Why? Well, it was 1999 and I was in my 6th year of dedicated worship of The X-Files. This was ground zero for filming!

As a true fan who could name each of the 161 episodes to date, of course I had a list of obscure and far-flung filming destinations I insisted upon tracing. And while I did have access to the internet for my research, we certainly did not have Google Maps at our fingertips to get us around in the wintery outskirts of BC.

Still, off we went into the wilderness. Little did we know, this adventure would teach us more about the magic of serendipity than any guidebook ever could.

Armed with vague directions gleaned from an online forum, we set out on a chilly, dark winter afternoon, on a bus that I thought would take an hour, but it took two to reach our destination.

The sky was a steel grey, and the air crisp with the promise of snow. As the bus dropped us off on the edge of the forest, the real journey began. The path, initially clear and inviting, soon twisted into a maze of undergrowth and towering trees, shrouded in mist.

Winter scene at Bunzten Lake

As daylight began to fade, the realisation hit us: we were lost in the woods. The trail markers had disappeared as quickly as the light, and every turn looked ominously similar. Panic was just about to set in when we stumbled upon a clearing. Our frustrations faded away, replaced by awe, as the trees parted to reveal a scene so serene it seemed otherworldly. We had reached a place called Buntzen Lake (pictured above), a frequent filming location for The X-Files but particularly well known for two episodes I loved, One Breath and Quagmire.

Before us lay a silent lake, its surface a perfect mirror reflecting the snow-capped mountains and the deepening twilight sky. It was a scene of untouched tranquillity, the kind of place that didn’t seem like it should exist so near to a bustling city. No signs of X-Files or human presence; just pure, majestic nature.

We spent what felt like hours there in the hush of the evening, the only sounds the soft rustling of the trees and our own breaths, visible in the cold air. It was a moment of unexpected magic, a gift from the universe at a time we felt most vulnerable. We found more than what we were looking for – an enchanting spot that was the complete opposite of anything we’d known in Queensland. To us, it felt like a secret kept from the rest of the world.

The experience was so profound that we ventured back the next day, this time in the full light of day. The magic of the lake was different under the sun’s rays, but equally captivating. We explored the surrounding area, finding quaint trails and scenic vistas, each step filled with the fresh exhilaration of discovery.

Returning home, the lesson was clear: sometimes, getting lost is not a misstep, but a path to the most spectacular finds. We had set out in search of a piece of television history and ended up with a personal landmark in our hearts, a reminder of the surprises waiting off the beaten path.

Now, I share this story to remind us all: embrace the unknown with open arms. Particularly if you’re feeling unsure right now – know that the path will become clear, and sometimes the best memories – travel or otherwise – are the ones you never planned for.

The X-Files and Vancouver travel journal | first time travel diary

The X-Files and Vancouver travel journal | first time travel diary

The X-Files is back in 2016 – how X-traordinary. To say I was obsessed with this show when I was in high school is probably an understatement, but what can I say – it was a good one – still is! Not surprising then, that my X-Files and Vancouver travel journal is a prized possession.

I wasn’t alone – I had mates, Leisa, Michelle, Julie, Jacquie, Melissa… to name but a few. We all fed the beast. There are worse things to be addicted to though, and actually this series taught me about smart storytelling, mythology, history, passion, spirituality and creativity.

Like many fans around the globe, I’ve begun watching episodes again, cherry-picking my favourites, as sadly I don’t have time to get through all nine seasons (just yet). Through the re-watching exercise I’m remembering why I loved it so much – depth, characters and chemistry (despite at-times dodgy ’90s sound and production technology).

I also found one of my favourite destinations in the world because of this special production – Vancouver.

As many diligent fans before me, I too made the pilgrimage to Vancouver to hunt X-Files sets (although by the time my brother and I travelled to North America, filming had been shifted to LA). I ended up discovering a city I feel utterly at home in.

Life is strange and beautiful.

Anyway, the treasured travel diary I kept on that original adventure has since been in my top three personal possessions that I would take with me in the face of that hypothetical fire! The trip was my first foray into freedom, travel, challenges and real growth, fueling an incessant wanderlust; this diary and its stories of our adventures over six weeks in five areas of America and Canada represented all of that, particularly in the many years that followed where travel was not part of my life.

Now the show which inspired me in my teens is back (as of 24 January 2016) and also shot on location in Van, I decided I’d read back to relish in what actually happened across December 1999/January 2000, as Josh and I investigated on our own, throughout British Columbia (BC), to California and beyond.

Did we find what we were looking for?

Read on…

X-Files and Vancouver travel journal

17 January 2000

Vancouver now – so much to tell! Flying into British Columbia (BC) and driving to our city accommodation, I was breathless seeing snow-capped mountains, green grass, clean streets… this place is lovely!

We stay in Gastown, the oldest, original part of Vancouver. Quaint shops line Powell and Water Streets, and downtown city centre is only a block or two away.

The X-Files travel blog diary extractFound Canada Place where the ‘fountain scene’ from X-Files episode ‘Duane Barry’ was filmed, as well as the Gastown rail yards where many other X-Files episodes were shot (located a street behind our accommodation, actually). This, all framed by pretty waterways, ocean and snow-drenched mountains.

Met up with [Josh’s friend] Shawna yesterday. Took the skytrain to Surrey to meet her then drove back towards the city and had a look at Granville Island. Along the route, the epic landscape evolved – mountains, flat lands, residential areas, parks, snow – so inspiring, and appropriately (in my head, at least) the ride was set to an anthemic soundtrack of Savage Garden’s album, Affirmation.

Today was the real treat though. Woke up to find sunlight and fairly warm weather (7 degrees!). Decided to aim for Lighthouse Park and Atkinson Point in west Vancouver. This is the forest park where much including ‘Darkness Falls’ X-Files episode was filmed. Found the right bus route and it was a nice ten minute walk through the woods that eventually open up to the sparkling seaway. Beautiful BC!

Caught the bus back to Park Royal Shopping Mall for lunch. By accident, I spotted Buntzen Lake on a map. Previously I couldn’t find this precious location where ‘One Breath’ and ‘Quagmire’ were filmed.

The X-Files travel blog diary 2000Worked out the bus to Lonsdale Quay, seabus to Waterfront, skytrain to Westminster and then found another bus to take us to the area around Buntzen Lake just fine – I was a woman on a mission; too bad I can’t navigate my way around Brisbane this well.

Only problem, we didn’t realise it would take an hour and a half to get to this quieter and more regional part of BC – far away from Vancouver. We got there nearly on dark.

A local showed us a short-cut to the remote lake which turned out to be a twenty minute hike through snow, forest and mud, over a dodgy wooden bridge and well into falling darkness.

Emerging out the other side we found this peaceful, shimmering body of water surrounded closely by snowy mountains. It was the picture image of ‘One Breath’ (though I understand this emotional episode was filmed at a few locations around the region). The anxiety and craziness of walking back through a foreign forest in darkness (far too close for my liking to having just seen Blair Witch Project) will be worth it if any photos turn out to capture this simply magic moment. It was stunning, and gratifying finding this place, for many reasons. I can’t believe I’m here, cosy amongst such tranquility and in a world so far removed from Queensland. I should have written more on Vancouver. It’s touched me so.

Grouse Mountain and first time snow

The very definition of ‘winter wonderland’ is stepping off the skyride at Grouse – for above the city, through and beyond the clouds, Grouse was like a glowing powdery-white world of its own. Certainly, we’d never seen anything like this before. Josh tried skiing. I took photos with my new camera. The experience was just amazing. I’ve become obsessed with photography, especially framing the picturesque beauty of BC.

Friday 21 January 2000

Counting my location spots: found Grouse “Skyland” Mountain (‘Ascension’), Buntzen Lake in Anmore (‘Quagmire’, ‘One Breath’, ‘Conduit’), Lighthouse Park (‘Darkness Falls’ forest) and more across the city; Hotel Vancouver from ‘Fire’, St Andrew Wesley Church and St Paul’s Hospital from ‘All Souls’ and ‘Pusher’ respectively. Saw the site of the arcade from ‘DPO’, and the Ovaltine Cafe from ‘Jose Chung’, but these shops in north Vancouver and downtown don’t exist anymore. Found the GM Place stadium [now Rogers Arena] where the huge chess game and final Vancouver ep, ‘The End’ was filmed; and the fountains at Canada Place used in ‘Duane Barry’.

BC Grouse Mountain Sarah Blinco travellivelearn

Of course, we stayed in Gastown where much was filmed, including the rail yards and Water Street from ‘Redux II’, and ‘Beyond the Sea’, plus found the ‘angel made of stone’ from the same episode outside the city’s central transit centre. In Vancouver, The X-Files is all around you – particularly brilliant if you’re a fan. There’s always something being filmed around the streets of the city, it’s really cool. Vancouver proves to be true to its nickname, Hollywood of the North.

Pondering all this and sheltered from a cold winter’s night, I enjoyed a post-dinner tea in a cafe on Powell/Water Street, across the road from our hostel. Chatted to the owners who told me more about all the filming which happens around here. In fact, they had a photo of Billy Zane from when he filmed The Survivor in that very space!

We’ve decided to stay an extra day to return and attempt to capture better photos in the sunlight at Buntzen Lake, then we’re going straight to San Francisco. Oh, and I stopped by GM Place earlier to say I stood there (Ricky Martin is playing there on March 3!).

Spent some time on my own over the past couple of days, and I love the anonymity. Breakfasts have an ‘arty’ feel and I have adopted a favourite coffee shop in Gastown where I go almost daily for tea and fave North American find, sticky buns.

Just as I have to leave, I realise I’m sad because I’ve found a  place here. Nestled snugly within the Burrard Inlet, snowy slush and bare trees; despite a crisp winter not previously experienced by us, it’s a bitter-sweet comfort being so far away from home. But I can breathe.

Change of scenery – X-Files and LA

30 January 2000

The X-Files travel blog visitor pass[My friend] Lauren and I staked out Fox Studios in Los Angeles today – we’ve made it to the one and only Hollywood now! Fox is down on the Avenue of the Stars at Century City, between the massive space of Pico Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard, south of Santa Monica. We saw props and buildings which would be sets, we imagine, but no-one was around for us to question.

I have a phone number to make use of tomorrow. I’m fearful of hearing that word, ‘no’, but I’m not easy to stop! It’s worth a shot anyhow, to see if I can get on the set – I’ve come so far, why stop now?

Superbowl today, but I’m more excited about the brand new XF New Year ‘kiss’ episode that’s on tonight, ahead of Australia :-)

X-Files Day – 30 January 2000

The X-Files travel blog diary extract travellivelearn.comThe world’s technology didn’t shut down on New Year’s as predicted, and just as astonishing, I talked to Gillian Anderson at 6.30pm tonight, before she left with [her daughter] Piper! She was lovely and pretty and had her costume on from the movie! I told her I’d come all the way from Australia and she smiled. She asked what we were doing there and I said we’d been watching filming. She laughed and said it must have been “so exciting” (the scene was fairly low action, not that I cared at all). Then she shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me. Dream done.

The second shot we saw in our two and a half hours on set, was of Scully receiving a phone message from Mulder and then she could be seen adjusting her bra before she left with an overnight bag and the Cigarette Smoking Man (who also smiled and said hello when we were on set)! We listened to proceedings in our own ‘Guest’ director chairs with headphones to hear what was going on, and could see in the monitor the shot in sequence.

I got to meet Gillian Anderson today, and watch her play the character I love. I made this happen somehow. No one can take this away from me! This is amazing. I’ve read back through my diary too, and noted the aspiration to make this set visit somehow come alive here. I believe that it was always meant to happen – I just knew it, but I didn’t know how. ‘I want to believe’ (yep, truly dorky fan-nerd pun right there!).

Turned out we were watching the filming of ‘All Things’. And we could eat what we wanted from the huge snack table. Can’t believe after sweating on hold on the phone this morning and talking through several different people that they agreed to let Josh and I on set. I pulled this one-off by calling Fox myself and basically making it happen (despite being shy!). I can’t quite believe it but I’m very very glad.

2016 - present day

Funnily enough, I still live by this exact mantra today – write your desires down and go for it – regardless of fear. What’s the worst that can happen? More importantly, what’s the best thing that could happen?! That’s the lesson I share.

Looking back, I’m pretty proud of my ‘little self’ for being so resourceful and passionate in pursuit of her dreams, no matter how ‘out there‘ they may have been.

As for Vancouver, I’ve been there a few times now, and we even lived and worked in Gastown for a spell. Despite having to say goodbye to the city repeatedly over the years, it’s been a wonderful X-perience and ride.

Please share your thoughts below, I’d love to hear from you!

If you’re interested in more stories from this divine part of the world, you might also enjoy:

Heaven is Harrison Hot Springs

Coffee & cocktails in Gastown

Love this artist, Lisa Penz

Wonderful Whistler adventures

Discovering Grouse Mountain and Victoria, Vancouver Island

Music and travel

music and travel

Has a song ever inspired you to travel? Or alternatively, do you relate a particular track (or even album) to a travel experience? I remember on my first big trip ever when my brother and I headed over to North America and Canada, I had a really good listen to Savage Garden’s Affirmation as we journeyed across British Columbia on board the SkyTrain. The beautiful anthems behind some of the tracks on the album formed a soundtrack which set the scene for me: stunning snow-capped mountains reaching into rainy skies, vast woods broken into parts by deep, eerie lakes, and a spectacular evolving landscape of green, aqua and earthy tones which rolls beyond Vancouver’s city limits. It sticks in my mind and is often something I call upon when reflecting on my most memorable travel experiences; and of course, any time I hear that music I’m transported back to the SkyTrain within a drizzly yet sublime space in time. Music and travel – such a special combination.

A few years ago too, Cooper and I were sitting in a bar in Barcelona – ironically, an Aussie-themed establishment called Hogans. As we ordered tapas and gazed happily upon Las Ramblas in the centre of a wonderful city we’ve come to love, we heard Olly Murs’ Troublemaker for the first time. We liked it instantly, but aside from generally enjoying the song’s fun melody, it was from then on always associated with an adventure en España.

Music and travel – is it just me?

These are a mere two of my examples, so it’s unsurprising that I was intrigued when travel website, Wotif, sent me survey results to consider which touched upon other travellers’ emotive music and travel experiences. They found that while only 39 per cent of participants surveyed said a song had actually inspired them to make real plans to travel, 77 per cent said that emotions brought about by music do generate a desire to get out into the world. Interestingly the tops songs with this impact included Leaving On a Jet Plane (Jen Denver), New York, New York (Frank Sinatra), On the Road Again (Willie Nelson) and another ode to NYC which yes, often makes me feel like catching a flight to JFK, Empire State of Mind (Jay-Z and Alicia Keys).

The survey also found that particular cities or destinations most pined for following musical triggers are New York, Australia, California, America and Paris.

Indeed, 54 per cent of survey participants said they associate a particular song with a holiday memory and 99 per cent of respondents said this was a good thing, that is, a nice memory association to keep hold of.

It seems most travellers associate songs with either an epic road trip or adventure (25 per cent), partying the night away (22 per cent – we’ve all done it!), ticking something off the ‘bucket list’ (13 per cent) or finding love (7 per cent).

What’s your story? Drop us a line in the comments below with a song, artist or album which either inspires you to travel or reminds you of a wonderful adventure. 

-Sarah x

Bye beautiful British Columbia

Bye beautiful British Columbia

British Columbia Gastown Vancouver travellivelearn.comVancouver, you’re my third home. It’s been brilliant living and working in the city for a couple of months.

I’ve loved it here ever since my first visit in 2000. At that time I was merely in pursuit of old X-Files’ filming locations (“nerd”), but my mad film obsessions lead me to one of the prettiest, easy-going, outdoorsy and downright beautiful places on the planet.

Bye beautiful British Columbia… 

We stayed in Gastown (pictured) this time around. Sure, this historical part of town is renowned – one, for being a waterfront tourist mecca, but two, for hosting a ‘wide variety’ of people – from the wealthy design set to the ‘residentially challenged’ as they say here.

Across my three visits I’ve never ever had a problem in Vancouver, even in the so-called ‘dodgy’ area. I’m enamoured of the city and its water views across to the northern section, and the reciprocal views from North Vancouver to the downtown area.

Tom Cochrane Life is a Highway lyrics always spring to mind when I look across from Lonesdale Quay as sun sets across the cityscape. There’s nothing more lovely than strolling through Gastown in the evening as it is lit up by fairy-light encrusted trees and old Parisian style street lamps.

beautiful British Columbia Vancouver

Cycling around stunning Stanley Park, fish ‘n chips at Deep Cove, snowboarding down Grouse Mountain overlooking the vast city, watching productions set up for a day’s filming then disappear, and getting lost amongst Capilano’s Christmas Canyon light display – it’s all magical to me, and I can attest first-hand to the many reasons this city is consistently voted one of the most liveable, and naturally gorgeous, in the world.

I’ve written several travel pieces on the region, focusing on the plethora of activities, sights and attractions… in fact it’s all happening in Vancouver! This time around however, I’d like to touch on Vancouver’s vibe, its people – they’re cool, creative, interesting, friendly and welcoming. We had the pleasure of meeting several new friends in Vancouver this year – some of the most interesting, inspired people I’ve met in a long time – you know who you are!

Then there’s the dog factor. They’re everywhere, and Vancouverites love ‘em, therefore I love Vancouverites. Dogs and coffee… it’s a little like dogs ‘n beer going hand-in-hand in London pubs.

Finally, the really noticeable nicety about Vancouver? The air! It’s clean, crisp, fresh… beautiful British Columbia (BC) is actually pretty ‘green’. They’ve had electric buses on the streets for a long time, even beyond when I was first here. It’s noticeable. Clear skin and fresh air in a busy city. Two thumbs up to everyone contributing to that, many cities should be paying attention.

I hope to see you again soon, Vancouver, and BC. I’m inspired by your beauty and the fact that no matter how much time I spend I can never seem to get enough of your amazing offerings. So, I’ll just have to head back again one day x

We adore Canada and British Columbia and believe it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Play flickr gallery:

Created with flickr slideshow.
Capilano in the Christmas spirit

Capilano in the Christmas spirit

Dscn3525_800x600One of my very favourite experiences travelling the world has been visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge (just outside of Vancouver), especially when they switch on the beautiful twinkling Christmas lights display throughout the forest.

We’d visited this special site a couple of years ago and loved Capilano’s Canyon Lights so much that we specifically waited until this December to head up and into the woods again.

Dscn3510_800x600Unfortunately my images don’t do the spectacle justice (the camera I have isn’t working so well in the dark; go to the official site or Instagram for a divine view); let me assure you, it’s a vast fairyland high above the canyon and into the rainforest – sparkling lights throughout the woods, a magical treetops walk set to sweet classical music tunes echoing throughout the trees.

Every adult, youngster and dog visiting tonight (on a particularly lovely, clear night here in Vancouver) marvelled in childlike wonder.

5/5 for this fantastic Vancouver experience. Almost indescribable; simply spectacular.

Our afternoon’s IMAGES HERE.