It’s a few minutes before 10 AM on a sunny Tuesday morning, and I have nothing to do. All of my plans and responsibilities fell through or have been postponed. My time is my own for the next few hours, and I’m left with a bit of a quandary. What do I do with a little unexpected me-time?
Not going to lie, I kinda want to go back to bed or curl up on the couch and watch a movie. Sip a cup of tea in front of the fire. Become the living embodiment of a potato. Mm, doesn’t that sound amazing?
Except the sky is blue and cloudless. The sun is blaring the feel-good vibes. It looks like a picture-perfect day and wasting it feels like a shame. Perhaps, a crime? Well, I’m a law-abiding citizen for the most part. I can’t go around violating the laws of nature with reckless abandon.
Oh no, that would not do; It wouldn’t do at all. I need to go out and enjoy this brief reprieve, but where to go and what to do? So many options, but time to do only one. Flip a coin or…No, I know where to go. There’s one place that’s tailor-made for daydreamy mornings.
Fort Langley is a National Historic Site about an hour-hour and a half from Vancouver. It sits next to the Fraser River and lies in the traditional territories of the Katzie, Semiahmoo, Kwantlen, and Matsqui First nations. It’s been called the birthplace of British Columbia, and it embraces its rich historic past.
I’m a passionate history lover, so here’s a bit of the story. Fort Langley was settled in 1827 and became an important trading post for The Hudson Bay Company. Initially, it was a fur trading post, but as the fur trade faded, there was a shift to farming and fishing.
A little over a decade later, the first Fort was abandoned, and a new one was built 4 kilometres away. It was closer to the river and farmland, making it an ideal location for the booming trade. Unfortunately, the new Fort burnt down ten years later, but it was quickly rebuilt, and that Fort still stands.
You can visit the old Fort and get a feel for life in the early days of this province. From the fur trade to the gold rush. You can relive the olden days. The good, the bad, and everything in between. It’s a great place to take your kids or entertain your inner child.
Between gold fever and the abundance of other natural resources, thousands of people flocked to the area in search of their own fortune. The village grew out from the Fort and stretched further towards the coast. Without this little settlement sending provisions up and down the river? Our province wouldn’t be what it is today.
Small but mighty! Don’t judge anything by its size. The Chihuahua, for example. Opinionated little buggers, but I digress.
Today, Fort Langley is a quiet village steeped in a time bubble. They’ve worked hard to maintain an almost antique vibe. The buildings look like they’re straight out of an old western film. Some of them date back to the original settlement, but now you can buy a gelato instead of a beaver pelt. Also, you’re dodging Teslas and not horses with buggies.
Alas, there’s only so much they can do to keep the time warp intact.
Parking my car near the river, I walk along the path that connects the newer Fort to the original. It’s called the Fort to Fort Trail, and you can walk from one historic site to another if you fancy. Today, I’m embracing my laziness, and sticking close to the village.
I used to go to college not far from here, and we’d come for a caffeine boost at Wendel’s Bookstore and Cafe. This is the sort of place that’s become a local institution. Would Fort Langley even be Fort Langley without it? At this point, that’s debatable.
I should say that I’m not getting anything for saying this. No one at Wendel’s knows I exist. It brings back a lot of fond memories. Sipping coffee, nibbling on a cinnamon bun, and studying in the dying embers of my academic career. Foregoing my books the second a friend walked through the door. Spend hours talking about everything or nothing. Oo, hello nostalgia.
No matter how busy it got, no one ever kicked us out, and everyone was treated like an old friend. Sit, eat, drink, and have a laugh. We’ve got all the time in the world.
But that’s the way it is here. No one is in a hurry, and why would they be? This is the town that time has forgotten. Minutes, hours, and years have no meaning. Walk into one shop filled with odd, old doodads and smell the antiquity in the air. Step outside, cross the street, and into an old diner from the 50s. Stroll over the rainbow crosswalk, and find a more inclusive world than the surroundings might lead you to believe.
As I walk up the main street, down alleys, and quiet avenues, it feels like layers of transitory— but still perpetual— space rise and fall. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The new blends with the old to make strange but beautiful bedfellows.
I grab a drink and walk down to the old CN (Canadian Northern) Railway. It was built in 1915 to expedite trade and bring new settlers to the growing Fraser Valley. The train tracks remain, but they’re not used. Newer tracks were built not far away— built well before my lifetime— and they remain a vital part of our economy.
This old station lives out its days as a heritage sight and a quiet, quaint place to sip a beverage. There’s a garden to the right of the platform and a caboose to the left. A chalkboard listing arrival and departure times is nailed to the wall. A baggage cart waits to be of service, but I don’t think those wheels have turned in decades. The old tracks still smell like creosote which you’ll either hate or love the added ambience.
For me, it has an old-timey smell that I adore while sipping my cappuccino. Hm, time is weird.
I sit on a bench, camera in one hand and drink in the other. I feel like a traveler out of time. The noise of modern life fades away as I lean back and enjoy the laziest of moments. My mind wanders off on a tangent of nothingness, emptiness, and peaceful solitude.
Ah, the power of the timey-whimey. I sigh and sip my drink.
There’s something magical about stepping into a time warp like this. The mighty clock can’t tick loudly in my ear, not here. I’m not in a rush because why would I want to hurry through the dreamiest moment? That would be silly. No, my friend, when life presents you with a gift such as this?
Well, you slowly sip your drink and thank whatever power granted you this precious moment. Perhaps, spare a moment of gratitude for the town that time forgot. Cheers, Fort Langley, you are a beauty.
Fort Langley At A Glance:
- Most of the buildings are easy to access, but there are a few that have stairs to enter. Some have alternate entries, so if the stairs are a no-go, ask if there’s a side door.
- Given their age, most of these buildings weren’t built with disabilities in mind. Narrow and cramped spaces might make moving through a challenge.
- Along the river, you’ll find plenty of benches to rest. As you go further into the village seats are sparse, but there are a few courtyards and parks to rest up.
- The old train station is accessible by stairs, but if you walk down towards the train tracks, there’s an accessible entrance through a garden up to the platform.
- The sidewalks are decently wide, but they’re irregular and cracked.
- Watch out for the train tracks near the river. They’re slick and uneven. They’re also active, so look out for trains.
– There are public toilets in the park near Fraser River. Most restaurants have toilets, but some do require purchase before use.
– Plenty of choice for food and drink, but the prices can be punchy. This is an affluent area and touristy too, so watch out for the dollars. Two of my favourites: Wendel’s Bookstore and Cafe, and Little Donkey (delicious burritos).
Safe travels, friends.
Thanks for sharing your insights & the history behind such a unique place. It truly is a great spot to get lost in thought or time. Mid-day visits in the spring and fall might be a little less crowded than a weekend in the summer. And I agree, Wendel’s is a must to vist; they have something to suit every taste. I haven’t been to Little Donkey – thanks for that recommendation 🙂
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