Canada Eh?

We’re back from Canada and I must say, I adore that place! I do not love it as I do Seattle (I don’t think anywhere else will ever own my affections as Seattle does) but Canada was a very fresh, different experience, and makes me yearn to plan more international vacations, so that I might immerse myself in different cultures.

On the night we arrived in Vancouver, the street our hotel is on was blocked off with police tape. We drove around the block, taking in the fire trucks and hazmat team. Finally, Paul found a place to park in an underground parking garage (the stench suggested that our parking spot probably doubled as a homeless person’s bathroom) and walked to the edge of the commotion to learn what was going on.

Canadian police are actually pretty nice, as long as you don’t cross their caution tape. We got to witness one man doing this, and the subsequent yelling at him by a slender female police officer. Just as quickly as she’d been authoritive and sort of loud, she turned to us and became professional, polite, and geniunely sympathetic. She explained that there had been a chemical fire in a neighboring building and that it was evacuated indefinitely. With nothing else to do, we walked to a nearby restaurant for appetizers and drinks. The place we hit on was called Cactus Club. It features a fabulous menu and, on that particular evening, was the host of a wedding reception. Paul’s mom and I enjoyed taking in the dresses of the partygoers.

We did finally get checked into the condo, and I fell asleep that night with the curtains open, enjoying the view of the city lights from my floor-to-ceiling window. The next day we visited Grandville Island, formerly known as Industrial Island. It’s a market similar to Pike Place, with fresh breads, candies, produce, and souveniers. We wandered the market and took everything in. After lunch, we chose fresh salmon, a lovely sourdough bread as well as assorted cheese breads, vegetables for salad, and the most amazing fruit tart that I’ve ever had in my life to take back to the condo for dinner.

While in Vancouver, we also took a trip to Stanley Park to take pictures and enjoy being outdoors on a sunny day. That afternoon we piled into the car and drove up to Whistler, where the Olympics were held. I would love to take the drive to Whistler again in a few weeks, when all the leaves have turned orange for fall. The town was picturesque and I loved it. Poor Paul got a parking ticket (we did pay for parking, but he entered my license plate number wrong), so we were given the experience of visiting the Canadian parking authority. The woman behind the counter took our receipt and promised to handle the ticket. I am still amazed at how easy it was to take care of the issue.

While in Vancouver we discovered Earl’s, a hip and yummy upscale restaurant that just happens to also have a location in Bellevue. The food was delicious! We dined at Earl’s twice in Vancouver, and a third time for lunch once we reached Victoria.

On Wednesday we took the ferry boat to Nanaimo, which really does not get the attention it deserves as being a great place for a vacation. That town is beautiful! We had a nice walk along the shore, through a park. We got to see fish, crabs, and starfish. I liked Nanaimo and would definitely spend time there again. After a lunch of fish and chips (delicious, but waaaay too greasy!) we drove to Victoria. Our arrival there was anticlimatic compared to the one in Vancouver, which suited all of us just fine. We purchased two day tickets for a hop on, hop off bus tour and spent the first day checking out downtown Victoria.

On Friday, we had breakfast at a diner and then went to tour Butchart Gardens. To anyone who likes botany or gardening, I highly recommend this place. Even on the gray, rainy day that we toured the gardens, it was a fantastic experience. The original garden was built in a rock quarry. From that, designer Jennie Butchart developed an Italian Garden, a Rose Garden, and a Japanese Garden. There’s a carousel and a stage for summer outdoor performances. The gardens also host a summertime fireworks display. I loved it and we got some beautiful photos of the gardens.

Saturday, Paul and I had planned on going out kayaking, but the owners of the rental booth were gone until October. Dismayed, we got lattes at a local coffee shop and instead went to Oak Bay Marina. I wanted to visit the marina because the bus tour promised that it was a popular place to spot seals. None appeared, but I did find a shot glass for Paul at the gift shop! From there we took the bus to Mile Zero on the bus tour and walked through Beacon Hill Park. The park is immense and features beautiful gardens, a play area for kids, and a giant totem pole. I loved the park and could have spent the whole day there. Finally, we were too hungry to keep exploring and walked back downtown for lunch.

The trip was wonderful! Obviously I haven’t detailed every minute of the vacation, but these were some of the unusual things, as well as my favorite highlights. I’m relaxed and ready to rejoin the working class, at least until our next vacation!

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