Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vancouver 2010 or Bust

In an effort to get psyched up for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games (or for the simple reason that I’d never been there), we spent Memorial Day weekend in British Columbia. It’s not often that we both get three-day weekends at the same time, so we wanted to make the most of it. Our original plan was to take the Amtrak to Vancouver, but apparently everyone else had that idea because the train was booked by the time we began making our plans. Not that we waited until the last minute or anything… Therefore, we hopped in the car and drove north. Jon did have the foresight to check the border crossing times, and we wisely took a less crowded route that was only slightly out of the way. We breezed through the checkpoint and for the first time I got to use my “enhanced driver’s license,” which in Washington essentially doubles as a passport for Canada. The customs official was not as excited as I was. Once we arrived in British Columbia, we decided to stop off at a Visitors’ Information Center to get a better feel for how the trip was going to shape up. I have a bad habit of being an overly go-with-the-flow traveler, so I was up for anything. Not very helpful in the planning stages, but I usually tell myself that Jon gets a kick out of that part. He had been to Vancouver years ago, but that trip was more of a drink-Molson-while-watching-hockey kind of adventure, so we were both eager to try something new. Unfortunately, said Visitors’ Information Center was closed (on a Saturday, mind you), but lo and behold, it happened to be next door to a brewery. I am not making this up. It would have been bad karma to not stop, so we enjoyed a nice lunch before continuing on to Vancouver. On our way to the hotel, we took a little detour through Granville Island. It’s a pedestrian friendly area with lots of little shops and restaurants and even a public market similar to—albeit not as cool as—Pike Place. Oh, and there’s a brewery there, too. Shocking development. I swear Jon has some kind of “brew-dar.” Since the weather in late May was beautiful, the majority of our Vancouver activities were outdoors. We spent that afternoon checking out the flowers and exotic birds at the Bloedel Conservatory. We also couldn’t help checking out the flocks of dressed-up teenagers taking pictures of themselves. Evidently prom is not just an American tradition. To conclude our evening, we headed to an area of Vancouver known as Gastown. We got the vibe that Gastown is a touristy/trendy neighborhood (not what you’d expect from the name), and what do you know, there’s even a brewery. We had a hankering for tapas/dim sum/small plate food and relied on our friendly bartender and his new-fangled iPhone for recommendations. Our outdoor adventure continued on into Sunday. Still marathon-training at that point, we had a short 8-mile run to cross off our to-do list. We chose Stanley Park for our route and were greeted with some incredible views from the sea wall as we ran. It turned out to be quite fortuitous that we needed to run because we saw sections of the park we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Plus, we saw a couple of bald eagles close enough to poop on us (they didn’t). Forced to choose between several appealing options (everything was pretty darn expensive), we opted to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge in the afternoon. 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River, it was not for the faint of heart. However, it was much sturdier than the bridge from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—which I thought about the whole time—as this bridge could hold 96 elephants or 9 737 jets. That’s what you have to tell yourself when you can feel the whole thing sway with every step. For the heck of it, we took a little ferry ride after our bridge experience. We rode to Bowen Island and back and were “those” people who didn’t even get off the boat.

On our final morning before making the long drive back to the U.S., we decided to return to Stanley Park for the Aquarium. I had momentarily forgotten that Canadians don’t honor Memorial Day, so we toured the aquarium with numerous school field trips. It made our visit more authentic, though. In addition to all of the cool fish, frogs, snakes, otters, seals, dolphins, etc., we watched a “birds of prey” show, complete with a bald eagle. Not something you see every day…except for the day before. Content with the touristy vacation, we’re now ready to return for the Winter Games in 2010. Lithuanian curling, here we come!

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