Friday, October 10, 2008

OH Canada! Part I

Where to begin…

I am SO glad that I decided to go to Vancouver!!! It was a blast.

Things went smoothly on our way to Seattle. Our flights actually got in early, our bags were there and we had a cheap rental car waiting for us. I also have to say that this was my first time flying into Seattle and I thought that it looked beautiful. LOTS of green colors and small ponds/lakes all over the place. Plus, with it being Fall, all of the trees were changing colors. We don’t get seasons in S CA, so it was nice to see those colors. The drive up to Vancouver, from Seattle, was fun (for the most part). We had an opportunity to catch up and the time went by quickly. Everything was all fun and games until we got to the border. As is usual at any border, they took our passports and started asking question after question after question…. ‘why are you here?’ ‘where are you going?’ ‘you’re visiting your old college roommate…okay, where did you go to school?’ and on and on and on. We finally thought that we were free to go and then the border patrol lady handed us a slip of paper, told us to park our car along the side of the building and to go into the border patrol building. Yay! Given that neither Jamie nor I look like hoodlums, I figured that we were just lucky to have been randomly selected for a check. So, we go inside and just wait. Probably about 20-30 minutes we spent waiting around for someone. Then they call us up and it’s at about this time that I remember I have pepper spray in my purse (oddly enough I went through OC Airport security and they didn’t notice it- not sure how I feel about that). Well, I didn’t want them to do a purse search and then find the spray and wonder why I didn’t say anything, so I immediately told the officer that I had it and they ended up having to confiscate it. Then they take our passports and we are told they have to ‘conduct a routine examination’. Examination??? Excuse me??? My warped mind automatically thinks body cavity search. I believe it was at that moment that the color drained from my face and I was ready to turn on my heels and head home. Turns out that the officer whom we were speaking with was not a native English speaker… he was French. Apparently ‘examination’ to the French just means a background check. Thank the good Lord. So we sit for another 20-30 minutes while they check our background. But, it was rather entertaining. One guy came in with 10,000 dollars in CASH on him. The officers had him empty out his pockets and turn them inside out. He said that he always carries that much cash around. He doesn’t use credit/debit cards…he only deals in cash. Sure… I often carry around 10K in my stinkin’ pocket! What??? Even if you do only deal in cash, why on earth would you have that amount on you?

Once Jamie and I were cleared we were back on the road. We got into Vancouver a short time later and headed to a bistro/café to grab something to eat. Good food. Nothing unusual. If you didn’t know better, you would think that you were in San Francisco or Berkeley… very similar vibe. We then met up with her old college roommate, got settled in her condo and then got ready to go out. She took us on a driving tour of the different areas in Vancouver and then we went to Granville Island, to the Sandbar to grab dinner. Well, Angela grabbed dinner… I grabbed myself some Crème Brulee and Jamie grabbed herself a piece of Chocolate Pecan Pie. At that point we were barely functioning, so we went off back to Angela’s and fell asleep almost immediately.

Granville Island

The next day we made our obligatory stop at a local coffee shop for breakfast and coffee for Jamie and Chai Tea Latte for me. Know what we were supposed to do that day? We were preparing to go on a hike up Grouse Mountain because there are, apparently, stunning views from up there. We were all dressed in our exercise-type clothes and ready to go. That was until we stepped outside into the cold, drizzly weather. We opted to hold off on the hike until the next day when we might have better weather. So we went off to walk around the beach… not really a S CA, layout all day type of beach…again, think San Francisco beaches; but, a great place to take a walk/run or to sit and read a book. Next we drove through Stanley Park. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST if you ever visit Vancouver. Absolutely beautiful! Trees everywhere and many of them were changing to the Fall colors. The park is out next to the ocean, so you also have the water element as well. Bunch of different things to stop and see along the drive… totem poles, statues, bridges, etc. It’s in places like that where you are just struck by how amazing God is… how incredible His creation is… you can’t help but be awestruck.

Oh, and Grouse Mountain??? Yeah, we saw a diagram outlining the local mountain ranges and Grouse Mountain was on there. Was it high? Let’s just say that the top of it was literally covered in clouds. We both started laughing… Angela apparently had much more faith in our athletic abilities than were warranted. The idea of climbing that mountain was not discussed again for the entire trip. Our next stop was at the Cupcake Shop! Yum! So many different flavors… Red Velvet, Mint Chocolate, Lemon, Coconut Cream, Dulce de Leche to name a few. Thankfully, they had mini-cupcakes, so we could have a variety to try. I was so happy :-)

We had to run by Sears to pick something up and, let me tell you, Sears ain’t the same as it is in CA. It’s like a Nordstroms. Fancy schmancy. I’m used to walking into Sears and feeling like they haven’t changed a thing since I first went to one in the 70’s.

We also went through Chinatown. The smells reminded me of Thailand… not pleasant. Perhaps it was the dried shrimp, squid, mushroom combination in the vendor’s boxes out on the street. I felt like I was getting food poisoning just by looking at it.

One very sad part of Vancouver is the homeless problem. Lots and lots of homeless… mainly seemed to be men. Especially on this one street- Hastings Street. It was pretty overwhelming. To me, it didn’t really seem to be more so than L.A. or San Francisco. I would just say the main difference is how blatantly drugs are used. You pass by one street corner and there are 30-40 people on the corner and they are just exchanging money for drugs and in the alley next to the corner, you could see people using drugs. Very surreal.

Next we went back to Granville Island and did some shopping and, let me tell you, if I lived in Vancouver I would, easily, be 50 lbs heavier.

The market at Granville was AMAZING! Any type of food you could want was there… just a ton of small little markets within the larger market. You could buy Italian food, seafood, Chinese food, desserts… literally anything! We stopped and picked up a snack of Red Pepper Hummus with bread and a Caprese type salad… both were really good although one of them had so much garlic that both Jamie and my mouths were burning. Sorry to the folks who were anywhere near us!!! At this point it was pouring rain and so we made a dash for the car… we kept ducking into stores to try and get warm and then we’d run as far as we could before needing to duck into another store. At one point, we were in a scuba shop checking out the dive gear :-). That night we went out for pizza… that was really good as well… it had sliced apples, bacon, tomatoes, green onion and drizzled with ranch dressing… I was in heaven!

Well, that’s all that I can go into for now… getting tired. Will finish up tomorrow.


Sara Warren said...

Sounds like an absolutely amazing time! Love the video from the previous post too! You're definitely living life to its fullest!