My pal Aimee and I had been trying to find a long-weekend getaway for several months. Original plan had been to explore Vancouver Island, with the obligatory stop in Victoria but also may be Tofino and other places, as we’d never been. But we couldn’t get our work schedules/vacation requests to align in August. So we both agreed to block out a 4 day period in early November. And, what with November weather, decided that we’d skip Tofino, and just explore Vancouver the city, instead. Also, the exchange rate is super favorable for americans right now, so it was like getting 25% off our whole vacation. Searching deals online, found an amazing special at The Fairmont, so we decided to treat ourselves. And it was soooooo worth it!
A month after we’d booked the hotel, realized our travel dates would have us leaving two days after the US election. Oh well, we thought, we’ll either be celebrating or commiserating with our Canadian neighbors. But hadn’t really expected such a pall of national shame to surround the trip. There was a momentary worry that we’d have an issue at the border, turned away as asylum seekers, but it was no problem. But we did encounter lots of shared grief and disbelief from folks whenever we said we were from Seattle. I mean, they were super polite about it (being Canadian). And we both were overworked from our jobs, unrelated to election stress, so it was wonderful to not have any alarms, to just sleep in, relax in our fancy hotel room, wander around the city, and eat lots of great food.
Aimee was our driver, which was such a joy for me (as I’m so rarely the passenger on roadtrips). And T-Mobile provides the free international data, which made my duties as navigator much easier. Plus, Aimee came fully prepared with all kinds of amazing snacks. But because it’s only a 3 hr drive, we didn’t really need them. They’d have been great to have in the hotel room, but we were on the “Fairmont Gold” floor, which provides free snacks throughout the day. So eating our OWN snacks would’ve been like losing money. Ha! Stopped for brunch in White Rock, because restaurant breakfast is the best ever! Wooden Spoon Cafe was lovely. Great atmosphere and way more crowded than I’d have expected at 10am on a Friday. This is the first time we were mistaken for locals (hooray!), and we let that misconception ride unchallenged every time. I mean, I think that’s fun at all times, but especially if we could avoid having to discuss/apologize for the election, even better. Then off to our hotel.
We were hours before check-in, so expected to just drop off our luggage, but the concierge escorted us to a fancy living room area on the Gold Floor, and brought us hot tea and scones. Yes please! And the team rushed behind the scenes, because our room was ready within 20 minutes. Wonderful. Entering our room, we found a cute tiny plate of sweets with a “welcome” card from the Hotel. And the card made me laugh so hard I had to sit down or risk falling over.
I’d completely forgotten that the Fairmont online system listed “Rev” as one of the choices when signing up. And, as I’ve now performed 10 weddings, I’d say the title is well proven. Still, whenever we’d call the front desk, they’d address me as Reverend Middlebrook, and it was amazing every single time!
It’s a ridiculously pretty city. Full of natural beauty, but also lots of really interesting choices in architecture, which I sooooo appreciate. Instead of just tall rectangles, there are all kinds of swoops and curves and bold color choices. It’s really great to see. Came across some wedding photography at the park, and loads of herons and other birds. As night fell, we started back to the hotel, and began to hear some chants and ruckus. Aimee suggested an anti-Trump rally. I wasn’t so sure, being we were in Canada. But, sure enough, we came across a Trump hotel (where the hotel had covered up the Trump sign with giant tarps) and a few hundred people outside. Giant signs “Build Kindness, Not Walls.” Lots of honking horns of support. Then some window shopping at all the fancy stores. Me, holding my camera: Go stand over by that statue. Aimee: Why?!? Me: Um, whimsy? And the three story tower of Polar Bears, which I loved very much.
We had a Seagull visitor to our window ledge on the 9th floor the following morning. It was very fun. As he came back each day, I’m pretty sure other guests must sometimes feed them (the window does technically open and there are no screens). But instead he would just stare at us longingly, as we took selfies with him, and ate whatever snack was currently available in the Gold Floor Lounge.
The Fairmont breakfast selection in the lounge was quite impressive. And throughout the day there’s be a small selection of cheese and crackers and usually one hot appetizer, and some nuts and chips, as well as a massive tea selection.
Off to explore Granville Island, to see the farmer’s market, as well as all the artisan shops. This is a part of Vancouver I’d never explored before. It was super cool. And indoors, which is lovely. Amazing produce selection, with lots of great things from Asia (I bought my obligatory mangosteen. Yum!). Also I found a Granadilla!! This was one of the best discoveries from my time in Ecuador, but not a fruit I knew you could get outside of South America. This one was imported from Colombia and I bought two of them. I texted Erin a photo, and she laughed because my text was almost identical to the one she’d sent me from Peru, when she’d found a Granadilla. More wandering among the produce, and artisan cheeses, and fancy sausage, and chocolatiers, and amazing bakeries.
Aimee and I bemoaned our large breakfast, as we were too full to partake of all this bounty. Then we spent about 2 hours wandering through all the shops and galleries, found a few wonderful prizes to take home, and managed to work up an appetite, so we could grab a meal here. It was lovely.
We found a Tim Horton’s on our way back, for the obligatory purchase of Timbits. When we returned to the hotel, we found it was “afternoon tea” in the Gold Lounge, so grabbed some pastries, and headed to our room for a most Canadian of High Teas, with our Timbits in attendance.
Also with Mangosteen and Granadilla fruits *smile* The Seagull friend returned, and this is when we realized he was probably begging for food. We still found his visits delightful, and took more selfies with him.
We saw a wonderful new musical “Miss Shakespeare” that evening at the Firehall Arts Centre, which is a very cool theatre space, in the part of town where all the homeless are relegated. It’s striking, as you drive through the touristy Gastown, and then one block past that neighborhood, hundreds of people are living on the street.
We slept in the next morning (yay!) and then went off to explore Stanley Park more thoroughly, with a thought to visit the Aquarium afterwards. The park is gorgeous and huge. Such a treasure. When we encountered the jam packed parking lot at the aquarium, I suddenly realized it was Sunday afternoon, and that even if we could find parking, the aquarium would be so full of families, and we’d be obligated to let the little kids stand in front and go first at the touching pond, etc, that we decided to skip it. So we just drove off to explore the city, no destination in mind. And then I found myself recognizing the neighborhood. Turns out we’d made it to the area around the Cultch theatre (where Heather and I had seen “Heathers the Musical” last year). Which meant I knew of a great brunch spot, Havana, that also gave a 15% discount to Cultch theatre ticket holders (and we had ticket’s to that night’s show). Yum! Also, look at this thinly sliced avocado. What madness is this?!?
We encountered a wonderful street vendor, selling the “Hope in Shadows” calendar (result of a photo contest from the low income community and supporting local shelters). When I asked “Mark the Spark” to tell me a little more about this calendar, we were given a 15 minute story. It was wonderful, learning about the photo contest and the community voting and celebration surrounding its production each year. Also nice to have my choice of 2017 calendar sorted. Back to the hotel room to watch the University of Washington football game against USC (The less said about that, the better. We had to leave after the 3rd quarter to get to the play “Empire of the Sun” in any case, and that proved a good thing). And the play was quite good. Tetsuro Shigematsu is a born storyteller.
Relaxing during our final morning, we made great use of the breakfast choices and brought trays back to our room. Yum! Then packed up our bags, and headed off for our leisurely drive home. We wanted to have some delicious Indian food before we left, but knew we’d be too full from the free/included breakfast, so found some other ways to linger in Canada. Including driving over the Stewart Farm House, where we wandered around in the rain, spotting a Bald Eagle beside the stream.
I was playing at Anne of Green Gables in my head (even though the time period and Canadian region were incorrect). Then off to “Tasty Indian Bistro” in Surrey. Yum! Then a lovely drive back home. I’d brought my mini CD binder for the roadtrip, acting like it was the early 2000’s or something. And we had the easiest/fastest pass through at the border ever. Thanks again for driving, Aimee! That was such a treat.