Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Round The World Travel: Vancouver B.C., Canada

Where I am

Country number deux on the round the world tour - Canada! In that funny way where the land seems to 'know' you've crossed the border (see the England/Scotland border if you think I'm crazy), Canada immediately felt different to the USA.  I'm not quite entirely sure why, but I think everything seems calmer, the people less intense.  No offence to you, America, it's just that whatever you do, you do BIG, so the friendly people are very friendly, but the crazy people are properly mental, and it felt nice to be somewhere a little less in your face.

Vancouver is the feel of a sunny Friday afternoon come to life.  It's a city of wide, tree and garden lined streets, cycling paths and gorgeously coloured clapboard houses.  It was, and remained, uncharistically warm and bright throughout my stay, though it was noticeably cooler than Seattle.  No one was deterred, though, from visiting the cities numerous beaches or chilling outside the waterfront bars.  In fact, much like my native London, people took to it with the gusto reserved for sunshine in a land of rains.

Where I stayed

With my very old (as in we've been friends since our early teens, rather than he's 90) friend, Jon and his lovely girlfriend Crystal in their new apartment a few blocks from Main Street in the centre of the city.  After we figured out just how long it had been since we last saw each other, a dear-god-we're-getting-old 8 years, we settled into the pleasant groove of all true friendships, realising we're both basically the same people, just much happier and less melodramatic. And, scary as being a girl friend meeting a girlfriend is, Crystal was both lovely and the consummate hostess, switching her day off round so she could meet me when I arrived and producing an endless supply of excellent eats.

It was nice to settle in for the week, too, emptying my backpack in its entirety and generally seeing how much of a mess I could make of their guest room with my limited belongings. Answer: more than I thought I could.

What I read

'Unlimited' - Jillian Michaels.

I don't, since I turned adult, generally read 'self-help' books, but my enormous girl-crush on Ms Michaels gave her a free pass and in actual fact this is more of a practical manual for goal achievement, with a sideline in understanding self sabotage, than a wishy washy 'Secret' pile of crap.

Which is exactly what you'd expect from JM.  I don't know why I even doubted her. I'm sorry, Jillian! Please hurt me!

What I listened to

Biffy Clyro - everything of theirs.  

Some weeks are Biffy weeks, this was one of them. Mon the Biffy.

What I ate

Pumpkin pie.  Proper, real life pumpkin pie, courtesy of Crystal.  It was everything I'd been led to believe it would be, with an extra crunchy, nutty, sugary topping to boot. Yum.

The most beautifully presented crepe of enormous proportions at Moii Cafe.  I fell immediately in love with this shabbily chic coffee shop and its mismatched furniture and attention to detail.  In fact, if they'd like to come and decorate my house I'd be eternally grateful. 

Spaghetti bolognese which I made.  Was fun to cook, as I've not since I left.  My Maltese Nan might tell me off for calling this bolognese, but Jamie Oliver's is the tastiest of all.

McDonald's.  Yeah, I know, I know, but it was post-the Grouse Grind (see below) and was thus the best thing I have eaten in my life.

What I did

Mooched.  I crashed and burned the first few days, just slowly meandering in a 10 block radius.  Thankfully that took me far enough to reach the thrift stores on Main and Athletes Village by the waterfront.  Jon and I got beers on the roof of the Tap & Barrel  overlooking the harbour.  We were only alerted to its nobby nature upon realising a suspiciously large number of the collars in the joint were popped. 

Watched a late night screening of American Psycho at the Rio theatre, complete with drunken Twisted Twins, a fancy dress competition and bloody burlesque show (turns out you can look sexy in a plastic poncho, provided you're wearing nothing but great lingerie under it).  Great fun watching such an amazing film with equally black-humoured company. And the Rio serves beer.  Beer and naked Christian Bale? Life just doesn't get better.

Climbed the Grouse Grind with Jon.  Did not quit or die.  We beat the average time by 15 minutes in fact.  Team GB!  If this doesn't sound like much it's because I haven't informed you yet that it's nearly 3km upwards on rough cut steps that sometimes disappear entirely and sometime resemble a ladder.  Imagine being on the stairmaster for an hour and fifteen minutes.  I had to do some parts on all fours.  The record time is 23 minutes.  I genuinely cannot fathom how anyone who is not actually a superhero could do it that fast.

Walked down to Gastown, the older part of the city, to see the brickwork and the steam clock that pipes on the quarter hour.  Toot.

Visited Granville Island, apparently a celeb hang out, to wander the brewery and sup a pint of their pale ale under the famous yellow umbrellas of Bridges.  Jealously stared at the people on thier boats.  Decided to buy a boat.  Oh, and learn to sail...

Took the B-line, otherwise known as the free line, Jon informs me, because its three carriage bus set up makes it virtually impossible, or at least far too much hassle, to police, to the University of British Columbia and wandered their Museum of Anthropology.  I read anthropology and politics at university, so was far more excited about potlatching ceremonies than a normal person would be.  That said, it was a glorious museum with a huge, bright atrium filled with totem poles and a beautiful outside display of Haida Houses.

Took a long walk to visit the cathedral, having read of its gothic architecture and presence, only to laugh as I remembered what a young country Canada is.  It basically was a very pretty church that Ken Follet could definitely not have written a brick of a novel about.

Hired a bike (with a basket 'natch) and cycled the seawall at Stanley Park.  It was breathtaking, not least because I can't cycle if there's even the smallest incline, but because the views out to sea are just stunning. 

Hung out at Kits beach where I attempted to paddle, but feared frostbite, so sat on the sand and watched other, more tanned and athletic people play volleyball.

Turned 29! Jon and Crystal thoughtfully hired us our own personal barman* for the night at the Kosmik Zoo, who made me drink some terrifying flaming concoction that was actually delicious and then taught us all about the different types of tequila and rum we should try.  

*They didn't, it was just a quiet night in there, but the result was the same, only free!

Telus Science World

The steam clock mid-toot

Moii Cafe

Hawaiian gift giving exhibition or new season Urban Outfitters? 

Not even a 1/4 way through...

The Grouse Grind

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