Vancouver, CanadaJuly 20, 2017 in Canada
First world feast.
I'm not a huge fan of flying and I'm definitely not a fan of waiting so I had to mentally prepare for our journey from Lima to Vancouver. Hope for the best, expect the worst. Amongst many things, I expected insufficient leg room, fat neighbours (two stops through the US...put the odds at roughly 5:1 given that Cat would be occupying one of those seats), crying babies, horrible customs officials, lines, sleeping on airport floors and troublesome delays. It's fair to say my expectations were low.
But we had a fantastic trip. At the top of my list of surprises were outrageously clean bathrooms (with flush toilets - which flush paper), friendly staff, skinny neighbours, hamburgers with real meat and, what struck me like a bat to the face, the English language. We haven't been in an English-speaking country since we left the BVIs at the end of January, six months ago. It was an absolute joy to check in, order food, ask for directions and listen to obnoxious overhead announcements and blaring tvs. So much comprehendable information drifting through the air. We got so excited we didn't bother to read signs or check tickets - we literally just kept asking. In fact we were so excited we tried to check in with the wrong airline and weren't even embarrased when the attendant corrected us. Ciao español...I'm not looking back in a hurry. There are so many things I've come to miss about the western world without even knowing it.
Vancouver itself was another real treat. We cleared customs so easily it felt like a domestic flight and were aboard the skytrain heading downtown before you could say humpty-doo. We also made a card payment on an automatic ticket machine which made us feel like we were either in a futuristic space movie or just back in real life. We disembarked midtown and got sushi (!!!) before boarding an on-time bus (with no chickens!) - obviously the fare was waived when we didn't have correct change. I love Canadians. I love the western world.
We walked down wide, sealed and well-lit streets, generally empty save for the odd jogger (yes, jogger!), cyclist, or vehicle which took great care to give way to us, irrespective of our distance to the intersection. The gardens were absurdly immaculate, with not a petal out of place or a weed in sight and the houses...oh the houses! Did I mention I'm in love?
Cat's friend Tristan and his girlfriend Mahsan have a one bedroom apartment in Kitsilano which they had kindly offered to share with us for a few nights. We were greeted with smiles, laughs, cold beer, vegan snacks and a warm lounge to sleep. They offered up their house, their kitchen, their pantry and their camping gear - we really couldn't have asked for a warmer welcome!
Cat and I enjoyed our rest the next morning before setting out to explore. Starting east of the city we walked a silly distance, along fantastic boardwalks, parks and reserves. People were out jogging and strolling and walking their dogs and generally just doing all things South Americans don't. We were surprised at how surprised we were. We went to the Granville markets and abused the free tastings before settling on avocado rolls with feta - we needed a little South America something to help prevent an overload!
Our stroll took us through downtown and into Stanley Park, which despite my impression of that in Lima, was an outstanding public space and green zone. A monstrous, green and ancient park I know many of you would enjoy taking to by foot or on bike, several times per week. The sun was out, the wind was down and there was so much space. Nobody hustling you, no vendors blocking the footpath, no trucks whistling wing mirrors past your head or horns in your ears. It was bliss.
We hit the wall in the park (figuratively) and crawled back through town to Kitsilano with the aid of smoothies and an essential trip to the infamous Wholefoods. We spent that evening at The Local in Kits, with Tristan, Mahsan and my friend Emily, her boyfriend Dave and a selection of their friends/housemates. Good beer, great company, tasty food and many, many months of catching up were had.
Cat and I had a slow start the next day, passing the morning with admin, coffee and bowls full of (largely) maple syrup. We attempted to venture out but the truth is, Kits has so much to offer it's not really worth the trouble. We brunched at Ellis cafe (appropriately), did washing, shopped, ate ice cream and took time to appreciate quality. Quality shops, quality clothes, quality food, cars, gardens and lives. We also made little effort to engage in strenuous activity, except for a short run which was quiet, cool and despite embarrasingly poor fitness levels, very enjoyable. It was also interesting to note that a slight rain had zero effect on the population (seriously nobody even acknowledged it) compared to Sydney which would have turned into an umbrella department store and a city-wide traffic jam at the fall of the first drop.
We passed that evening at Earls - date nights with football is my favourite - before stopping by Biminis on the way home. We met the others at Tristans and chatted away the night. After two days I was head over heels for Vancouver. I'm not entirely sure it was Vancouver itself or just the western world (to which I'm so very much attached) but those two days were dizzingly lovable. In more ways than one, I felt like I was born again at considerable expense. It was an emphatic reminder of just how lucky we are.
The next morning at an hour we're not used to, Emily picked us up for a weekend camping in (or near) Whistler. A couple of (real!) coffees later I was pumped!Read more