Its begun!! We are here in Vancouver 5 days into our adventure. Our trip began as expected, with Jonathan being chosen for a 'random' search at airport security in Hamilton. The whole situation was screaming 'shave your beard!!' to me. Security assured us, that, no, of course the beard had nothing to do with the completely random search. I laughed. Tally: 1 for 1. The flight was wonderfully uneventful. We left Karly in Calgary and made it to Vancouver almost on time. Laura's directions made getting to her place a breeze. We are practically Vancouverites already. We hopped on the Sky Train like pros, zipped up our fleece jackets and donned our raincoats. Fleece, if you didn't know, along with gore-tex, neoprene velcro, laminated fibres and khaki are Vancouver's official fabrics. According to Douglas Coupland's book City of Glass that Laura lent me. From reading this book I now have the inside scoop to all things Vancouver. If you want to know anything about beads,granola, dim sum, greenpeace or grow-ops you just ask me. I know it all. Another tidbit: In Vancouver people refer to the rest of Canada as 'back east.' So, hello to all you easterners!
It was so great to see Laura. We had a lot to catch up on and did so over a deliciously made vegetarian lasagna. Fantastic host! It was like back in University when we had 'Family Dinners' only now with new, extended family. On Tuesday Laura sent us off with a bag full of homemade buttery treats and we picked up our rental car and were very quickly in Chilliwack for lunch with Jonathan's family, Hazel and Brent. They have a beautiful condo up on a mountain over-looking the Chilliwack Valley and surrounding mountains. They were great hosts and, again, it was so nice to catch up. Before we left they showed us to Cultus Lake Provinical Park and we had the chance to go on a nice hike and take in some beautiful inland BC views. We even had a chance to stroll along the Vedder River, something I did almost everyday when I was in CHilliwack on course. There were dozens of people fishing. One guy pulled out a massive salmon as we were watching! Yum!
We headed to Abbotsford and met mom's childhood friend Kathie and her husband Steve for sushi dinner. Again, we were spoiled and had great conversation that continued all evening until it was eventually time for bed. Kathie and Steve had been hard working on renovating their house and have done a fantastic job. The kitchen and floors looked straight from a magazine and their ensuite bathroom felt like a spa. The next morning we headed back to Vancouver to return our rental car. Things were going astonishingly wonderful. We didn't get lost, we didn't get stuck in traffic, we had a supply of chocolate.. It seemed just too good to be true. And so, Dylan from Budget Rental, here in known as 'Pretentious Jerk' plucked us off cloud 9 and dropped us, quite rudely, onto the concrete in this City of Glass. Long story short, Pretentious Jerk said we dented the car, when we, of course, did not. I went out to find the alleged dent and literally could not see it. I stared at the offending spot for 60 seconds. The sun came out. And, oh yes. In the right light, if I squinted my eyes, tilted my head just so, hopped on one foot and spun in a counter-clockwise circle, I could see it. A thumbnail size dent by the gas tank. Seeing as the only two places the car had been parked with us were in gated private driveways, it seemed very unlikely that we were at fault. This was of no consequence to Pretentious Jerk. $300 later and we were left thinking maybe we didn't get such a good deal on a 24 hr rental after all. I am obviously now, and forever on going to boycott Budget Rentals. Realizing that this will be only one of many rip offs we experience over the next year (although hopefully none as expensive) we turned our frowns upside down and caught a bus up the Sunshine Coast to Squamish. Crankiness is not allowed on the Sunshine coast, which suited us just fine. Tally: 2for2 after Jon got searched again by security before being allowed on the Greyhound.
The 'Sea to Sky' highway which runs from Vancouver to Whistler is coined the 'Sea to Die' by locals, my cousin, Adam, informed us, because there are so many accidents along it. Thankfully we found this out AFTER we had arrived safe and sound on the lurching, speeding, corner cutting, honk happy Greyhound. Phew. Any irritation left melted away completely when my fantastic cousin, Adam, roared up in his super-cool-imported-wheel-on-the right side- Japanese truck, grinning from ear to ear. Adventures in Squamish! It was whirlwind fun. We checked out his sailboat, the 'Wet Dream', went to a couple beautiful lookouts and a little lake off the highway that is a popular swimming hole for locals and then went for dinner on the patio at a riverside restaurant 'The Watershed' where his roommate Mare works. Adam told us that in the winter the Squamish River is home to literally thousands of bald eagles. This was confirmed in my guide book that said Squamish had broken a record of sorts with there being 3000 something bald eagle sightings in one day! He said it was a little early for the eagles though. Luckily for us, however, an eagle decided to make a guest appearance while we were in a prime viewing location! His act was followed by 2 or 3 seals playing in the fast-moving water! Fast moving water that Adam and friends once decided to have an impromptu rafting adventure down! haha! I love Adam! I love Squamish!
Little did I know that this love affair was like said raft heading for a waterfall. Adam wants to climb a mountain. Black Tusk it was called. With us. He had been wanting to scale it since he moved here 4 years ago. I tell him that I like hiking, but not really going uphill. The last time I climbed a mountain it was in Whistler 3 years ago with Laura and a bunch of her faculty members. They were on their descent and I was still crawling my way up through the alpine meadow; on the verge of death. I was in bed by 8 and couldn't walk for days. Being family, I thought it was only fair to warn him about my inability to use the stair climber let alone climb another mountain. He thought I was joking. Jonathan knew better but was looking forward to the entertainment, I think. So. There we were, the next day ready to climb 9km UP, up hill, both ways. The description said the first 6kms were a 'steady up hill climb'. This translated to what seemed like 100km of switchbacks steep enough that we probably should have had ropes and spiked shoes and been tied together. Ok, Thats a lie. But Adam and Mare were sauntering along like they were on a Sunday afternoon stroll and I was doubled over gasping for oxygen. Surely the air was thinner up here. Every few minutes they would look back and realize they had lost me, again, and, the caring souls they are, they would wait for me to catch up. Again. I trudged along, faithfully bringing up the rear motivated solely by the fact that I knew Adam had put the chocolate covered raisins in his bag and clearly he had no intention of stopping until we reached the summit. Or, maybe if I passed out from over exertion and rolled back down the mountain too. As expected the breathtaking view of the sapphire lake nestled way way up in the snow capped mountains was worth the exhausting hike up. And, I got some chocolate raisins in reward for survival. Everything was right in the world again.
Adam drove us back to Vancouver the next day. Coming back to Laura and Rosemary's place feels like coming home. We are so lucky to have such a comfortable, warm, cozy place to stay in 'The City.' The four of us bought tickets to go the Vancouver International Film Festival on Monday and rented an award winning film called 'The White Ribbon' that had been in the festival last year to prepare ourselves. We are fancy like that.
Today we strolled, actually strolled, the sea wall that runs along the rim of Stanley Park. We saw seals, birds, jellyfish and starfish! Its a great place, regardless of the weather. We were sitting down for cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes, and the skies opened up. Rain doesn't stop Vancouverites. There is no one hiding under canopies or dashing to their cars. Everyone just pulls out their favourite accessory: the umbrella. Its almost like the more grey the skies, the more colourful the streets become. Bright red, pale yellow, ocean blue and neon green umbrellas pop up everywhere. There are umbrellas with stripes, flowers, polka-dots, plaid and lace. Little Asian girls have Hello Kitty umbrellas and tourists have ones with big red maple leaves that they bought on the street corner. Men hold umbrella's over the heads of the women they are walking with. Thankfully Laura had lent us our very own umbrellas. Walking with an umbrella down a crowded street is an art. Or at least a skill I have yet to acquire. My umbrella was bouncing off everything. Trees, poles, parking meters, windows, but most often, Jon's head. Turns out being a wet-coaster is harder than I thought....