Secker Goes Globetrotting
19th Jun 2012 - 20th Jun 2012
Planes trains & automobiles (or how me and my parents got to Vancouver)
The train journey to Vancouver was nice and relaxed and very smooth. I dozed for the first few hours of course but woke just before we pulled into the last US stop. So much nicer than getting the greyhound I have to say.
As we rolled northwards I looked out the window at the changing scenery. I was trying to Fight the growing excitement that tomorrow my parents would arrive. That wasn't easy. As we passed across the border, the train warden/hostess (I can't think what they call themselves?) said that if we looked out to the left we might see Bald Eagles out on the rocks/beach (the train line hugs the coast as it goes north) so to keep our eyes peeled. Not my side of the train unfortunately but I craned my neck to have a look when a murmur of excitement rippled from the left hand side. I couldn't get a picture but I definitely saw one. We arrived late morning and after getting through border control ok (she had lots of questions about where I'd been this past year when she fingered through the various visas in my passport - I couldn't work out if it was because she was genuinely interested in my travels or because she was curious from a security point of view). I grabbed a taxi and for a minute I thought I was back in Thailand. I gave the driver the address and he said "where is it?" (this happened a lot in Thailand). Erm what? I don't know this is why I'm taking a taxi! It turns out I'd confused him with the address and he wanted to know what area of town it was in. My English accent made west end (where it was) sound like Westminster (which I didn't realise is a burb of Vancouver) so there was lots of confusion between the two of us. Nevertheless we got there in the end and once settled i went exploring. I decided a good way to get my bearings was to follow a lonely planet suggested walking tour. I walked towards Canada Place which is where it starts and stopped for a caffeine boost before i set off. Canada place was built in 1986 and is an iconic postcard view of Vancouver. Its now a convention centre and cruise ship terminal (there weren't any there today). It was quite a cloudy day so the mountains in the distance were partially covered - it was still pretty breathtaking a view across the water and I could only imagine how beautiful it would look on a sunny winters day all snow covered. I walked around and read all the info placards and stood and watched the sea planes taking off and landing for a while. I eventually walked round the perimeter of the whole place snapping away at the landscape and the skyline from various angles.
The walking tour goes up through the main shopping street and then detours to the public library. This was on Homer street which gave me a giggle as clearly it's named after the Greek writer but I can only think of Homer Simpson (of which I'm a big fan!). The library is an interesting piece of architecture. The main body of it is built in the shape of a coliseum complete with pillars. The atrium on one side curves round with the building and connects another narrow yet curved building to the main coliseum section. The atrium is all glass from floor to ceiling - about 6 floors tall and light floods it. Very cool. While standing outside taking a picture this lady came up to me and gestured to the collection of pigeons outside and said "they know me". Politely i smiled. "usually i feed them". I continued to smile politely and wondered where she was going with this. "you see, they see the bags and they think I've got food but I've got to go and buy it yet". I smiled nicely and said "that's nice of you" and she wandered away muttering to herself, or the pigeons I can't be sure. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I dislike pigeons.
I walked back towards the area my hostel was in. It was getting on to be early evening by this point and I'd decided that I'd see how far the hotel I was moving to the next day (yes, a hotel!!) really was. I had it in my head i could walk it with my bags but I really had no idea. The street was quite long and I started to wonder whether the hotel was really where I thought it was (I was doing this from a picture of google maps I had in my head). Eventually I spy the hotel sign. Ah, probably not that far tomorrow then. My parents had asked me to sound out some options for dinner the next day as they would be tired and hungry by the time we checked in to the hotel. I had no idea what was in the area and as I came over the crest of the hill I was pleasantly surprised to see a hive of activity a restaurants in front of me. That was easy. At the end of the road my jaw dropped. In front of me was English Bay beach. The sun had started to come out as the day wore on and at
6pm when I stumbled across it, the sun was sill high in the sky. The place was packed with people mulling around, walking dogs, playing on the beach, running, cycling - you name it. There was a buzz in the air as everyone enjoyed the sunshine. I found a bench and sat for a while. People watching mostly and I was feeling a bit reflective which often happens when I arrive in the next country on my travels. Canada was the penultimate country (well technically it was the last but I'm going back to the US for a few weeks so I'm counting that as 12 and Canada as 11) and what with the arrival of the vip's the next day I was a mixed bag of emotions.
After a quick fast food dinner (i got very hungry very quickly and my cheap options were a bit limited at the time to mcdonalds) I walked back up towards my hostel. It was about 8 by this time and the sun still hadn't set. I didn't want to go back to my hostel yet so I walked towards a different part of the beach thinking if catch sunset. I found a nice spot to sit and reflect some more (that mood wasn't going away) but the sun took ages to set and by 9.30 it looked like it wasn't going down yet and I needed the bathroom pretty badly by then. I thought I'd adjusted to the time difference well but knowing it was still so light outside confused me.
Finally it was parents day! I woke up with excitement beyond anything I've felt in a while - I couldn't believe it was today! I packed up and checked out and walked down to the hotel. The receptionist was also called Karina (different spelling of course) who was very helpful in getting my bags taken upstairs for me (I couldn't check in yet). I had a few hours before I needed to head out to the airport (I wanted to be on the hire car insurance so I had to go out to the airport but I would have wanted to go and meet them anyway!) so I walked back into downtown Vancouver, sorted out a telephone number and then found myself drawn back to Canada place. The sun was out and no clouds were blocking the view of the mountains. It almost felt like a totally different place from the one the day before. I still had some time to kill so I walked down to Gastown. This was one of the original settlements of the city and its buildings have that historic old feel to them. it was named after a Yorkshireman who talked a lot and so was nicknamed Gassy - hence Gastown. I only had time for a quick walk around but I stopped and admired the steam clock (which obviously Runs on steam). I grabbed a sandwich for the train ride and started my journey out to the airport. I arrived just as they landed so I had plenty of time.
Arrivals was busy, I didn't know where to stand so they'd see me. I debated if I had time for a bathroom stop. I did, they'd be a while yet. I thought I was past traumatic toilet experiences but this was a new one. Quietly minding my own business in the cubicle I felt some splashing on my ankle. I knew it wasn't me and as I looked down to my left I saw the pool appearing in the cubicle next to me. I was lost for words - how can someone miss the bowl that much? Especislly women - even when you hover it's not that hard. I was no longer lost for words but what could i say that wouldn't have embarrassed the lady in the cubicle. So I said nothing and just washed my ankles.
Back to arrivals to distract me from my bathroom incident. All of a sudden I felt nervous. Why? These are my parents, there's nothing to be nervous about. When I saw them
For the first time walking through all that just went away! They were here! Yippee.
I can't describe how happy I felt at that moment. Hugs and kisses galore for mum and dad and accidentally a swipe to his chin as I went to lavish hugs on Brenda (my mum and dads very good friend, I've known her my whole life so she's like family really). Oops but he didn't seem to mind.
They were holding up well given the 8 hour time difference. We strolled to the car hire place and set about sorting that out. Patronizing sales woman and all. She asked if we wanted GPS. We said no. She said oh but you're driving all they way to Calgary. I would really recommend you do.
At their prices? Hell no, we'll take our chances with good old fashioned map reading skills thanks. I added a bit too sweetly its ok I have an iPhone that does pretty good with directions.
My dad had Also taken out extra insurance so we didn't have to buy their extortionate add ons. Patronizing sales woman did not like this. Thankfully I wasn't completely knackered from a long flight and a bit more able to decipher some of what she was on about - most of it we didn't need of course.
After refusing the expensive upgrade to a bigger car she handed over the keys. First problem was opening the boot. We worked it out eventually but newer cars have fancy functions our key based cars don't!
It was an easy drive to the hotel - thank you iPhone google maps (take that car hire lady!) and once we'd checked in we went for food and drinks at a lovely and rather trendy cafe on the beach. It felt as though it hadn't really been 11 months since I was with my parents having lunch in covent garden on the way to heathrow. We talked and drank and ate.
We went for a short walk to stretch the legs after dinner. My dad did his knee in a few weeks back so after a while him and I went to the hotel bar and left mum and Brenda to walk on. Dad lasted until about 8.30, Brenda went up about 9/9.30 and mum managed to stay up with me until 10 (which was 6am UK time).
That night I slept in my own big double bed. And the bathroom had a bath - the first I've seen in 6 or more
Months. I was going to enjoy the luxury of the next two weeks!
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