Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vancouver, 23rd-27th July

Saturday, 23rd July 2011
I left Toronto at 4pm and after a 5 hour flight, and a change of coast and time-zone, I arrived into Vancouver at a shade just after 6pm. I was greeted at the airport by my host for the duration of my Vancouver visit - Kirsty! After making our way from the airport to the Cook residence I was fed up on a lovely local champagne, rare steak, and red wine - a combination which certainly competes for best welcome so far.

Sunday, 24th July 2011
Still on East-coast time I woke early (far too early) scuppering my plan for a lazy day beginning with long lie-in. However, a long breakfast followed by some morning TV and lounging meant we didn't begin our day's activities until after lunch.

We spent most of the afternoon walking around Stanley Park. Deciding touring the park by tandem would end in tears, foot seemed to be the best option. We wandered for a good few hours, coming across some wonderful scenery and fantastic wildlife. As we sauntered around the shore of a lake we spotted some ducklings along with their mother, flanked by a terrapin, sunning themselves on a floating piece of driftwood.

Duckling, Duck and Terrapin

Despite the weather being much cooler than in Toronto, the sun had decided to shine for my first full day in Vancouver. Luckily my traveller-beaten skin was up to the job, but Kirsty's pale rind suffered. After a brisk walk along the sea wall we returned to the apartment and lazed around before going out for supper along with Mother and Brother Cook to a lovely harbour-front restaurant, Cardero's, quite literally a stone's throw from the flat. After a dousing of sangria, squid, some delightfully rare tuna, and a decent splosh of red wine, we staggered back to the apartment.

That night I was introduced to the other love in Kirsty's life - Canadian TV. American and Canadian television is something I've managed to entirely avoid so far along my travels - but the game was up now I was in Vancouver. A taster of 'Toddlers & Tiaras' followed by a double helping of 'Wives of New York' and I was certainly ready for bed.

Monday, 25th July 2011 
After attaining my goal of a long lie-in we took a long breakfast of pancakes doused in syrup and some strong coffee to prepare us for our fun-packed day. No sooner had we finished and dressed and it was time for luncheon. After lunch we met up with a good friend of mine and my brother's Claire Campbell, who, after the Ski-Season at Whistler, was working and living in Vancouver before flying off to New Zealand for some more of the same in a few weeks time.

Catch-up completed, the rest of the afternoon was spent lounging around our balcony, admiring the view, and sunning ourselves like the friendly terrapin we met the other day.

Coal Harbour

Lounge Lizard

Things all got a bit crazy when Kirsty began performing fingerbatics, and before things got out of hand we went inside to decide where we were going to eat that night.

We settled on our collective favourite: sushi. We returned from the restaurant (in which the staff insisted on shouting and singing to each other in Japanese, and the sashimi was served in a concoction of branches and twigs arranged in a birds-nest-come-fan type structure) to binge our stomachs on chocolate cake Andrina, Kirsty's mother, had got from a local farmers' market; our livers on some fine British Columbia cider; and our eyes on more programmes such as 'Wives of Beverley Hills' and 'Millionaire Bachelorette'.

Tuesday, 26th July 2011
The day started with a lie-in to rival the previous day's. After breakfast we set off for a trip to Granville Island and the Kitsilano area. We caught the sea-bus (driven by a worryingly young-looking chap) over the Granville Island and mulled around the numerous markets before re-fuelling on mussels, fish and chips, and a pint of beer. After a brief tour of Kitsilano we made our way back to Granville Island and caught the return sea bus back to downtown Vancouver.

The rest of the afternoon was spent between the balcony and the sofa and being introduced to the US version of The Office (which I hadn't seen, and in my view is far superior to the UK series) and Canada's equivalent to Judge Judy, Judge Alex - a favourite of Andrina's.

That evening we had a lovely meal cooked by Andrina in the apartment - a perfect way to spend my last night in Vancouver.

Wednesday, 27th July 2011
My flight being at 10am, a ridiculously early start was necessary (well, 'ridiculously early' by my Vancouver wake-up times) to get me on my flight to San Francisco. Kirsty and I caught the train to the airport and after checking in, sitting having a cup of tea, I thought I'd check my emails. 'Ah, an email from Gideon, my host for the next few days in San Francisco' I said to Kirsty. 'Oh, hang on, he's written "see you on the 27th of August" at the end of my email...I...err...he must have made a mistake'. However, after checking the original email I had sent to him some time ago, it turns out I'd arranged to arrive with him on the 27th of August, not the 27th of July. Entering mild panic-mode I called him straight away to try and resolve my monumental mistake and beg for somewhere to lie my head for the next few nights - unfortunately Gideon and his family were flying to Europe that day, so staying wasn't possible. As soon as I was off the phone I managed to book a hostel for the night in downtown San Francisco. Taking it from there, I said my goodbyes and made my way to my flight, and jetted off down the West Coast to San Francisco where an uncertain few days lay ahead.

My visit to Vancouver was brilliant - I loved every minute. The Pathfinders programme does become rather tiring, and even though I've loved every minute of staying with hosts and (as one would expect in polite society) watching my p's and q's and smiling and being energetic and enthusiastic is pretty much second-nature, it was a welcome break to stay somewhere where I literally didn't need to do anything - nor was there an expectation that I, indeed, would. It was just a shame my relaxing time in Vancouver had come to an abrupt end at the airport as I was desperately trying to find somewhere to stay for the duration of my trip to San Francisco three hours before arriving...

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