A week in the 'burbs

Vancouver Travel Blog

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I was met at Vancouver airport by my lovely, rowdy relatives: my aunt and uncle and four cousins, ages 6 - 16. Summer in Vancouver feels only slightly warmer than winter in Sydney (I'm half serious!), but I could tell it was a beautiful place to live, lots of trees, calm drivers, mountains in the distance. My relatives live in Richmond, so my time in Vancouver was spent in a house in the middle of suburbia - a very different experience from backpacking, but with my own room and bathroom and free food from Tim Horton's (a doughnut/coffee/sandwich franchise, they own one near the airport), I wasn't about to complain.

On my first day in Vancouver, my cousins' dog almost drowned. It started off as a nice neighbourhood walk, with my uncle running ahead with their newly-acquired 7-year-old German short-haired pointer. My aunt and two youngest cousins and I found my uncle standing by the river looking bewildered. Bear, the dog, was nowhere to be seen. He had apparently chased a duck and ended up in the marshy shallows of the river, but had disappeared behind some reeds. I was ordered to take my little cousins back to the house, where we fearfully awaited their return. Thankfully, we didn't have to bury the poor (stupid) dog - after almost an hour of swimming around in circles, he found his way out and was welcomed home with a bath and lots of hugs.

The next day I was taken to Granville Island, which is full of specialty shops and the big public market. It had a nice, if touristy, atmosphere about it, and we ate lunch by the harbour. My uncle then drove around various streets and gave me a sort of tour of downtown Vancouver. In the evening, we visited Richmond's night market, which was just like any market - good thing I love markets! They have a bizarre little 'game' there - a long, low tank full of tiny fish. You can keep any fish you're able to scoop out of the tank - using a plastic scooper with a piece of flimsy paper as the net. My cousins became the proud owners of 3 fish.

On Sunday, I cried twice. The whole family (that includes the dog) and I drove down to the States, specifically to Bellingham where there are a few wholesale/discount brand name stores. At the border crossing, I had my passport inspected by a complete arsehole (excuse my French). Apparently, because I had visited the US in April (when I went to New York) and I hadn't returned to my own country within 3 months of that visit, I had breached part of my visa (under the visa waiver program, where I technically don't need a visa). I know now that what he was saying was complete rubbish. I only stayed in NY for 5 nights, then Miami for 1 night - nowhere does it state that I have to return to my own country within 3 months of visiting the US (that's a stupid rule by all accounts). At the time though, I was flustered under his rude and arrogant interrogation. He asked me about my job back home, and when he found out I wasn't actually employed (I had quit, to go travelling, of course), he asked me how I could afford my trip, to which I replied: by saving (you idiot). Among other things, he said that the immigration official in Miami had let me into the country by error. In any case, he grudgingly said he'd give me the visa, but he obviously thought I was going to sneak off into the states to go work illegally, because he was adamant about my returning within the 90-day visa period. For crying out loud, we were just going to Bellingham for one day of shopping! My poor relatives couldn't help me. I'm just annoyed that I let him reduce me to tears, when I didn't do anything wrong.

It was an uneventful day after that, followed by an uneventful border crossing back to Canada. We watched that new Adam Sandler movie, Click. I cried. I normally don't even watch Adam Sandler movies so that made it even more embarrassing.

The following day was BC (British Columbia) Day, and a public holiday, and we decided to climb a mountain. The Grouse Grind is a 2.9km upwards trail, pretty much all stairs, through dappled woodland. Pretty much everyone had decided to do the climb that day, so this foray into nature wasn't as peaceful as it would normally be. I relished the fact that I could still breathe after every 10 steps (as opposed to gasping for breath after even the slightest incline in La Paz), however, my younger cousins struggled and turned back at the quarter way mark. So only my uncle and I made it all the way to the top, where the lovely view was being enjoyed by dozens of others. We caught the massive cable car/funicular back down to the bottom, had a snack, then drove to the dam. I'm not sure what my uncle was expecting, because it's just a big body of water - picturesque, for sure, like everything else in Vancouver - so after a short walk, we returned to the car and went to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It's 150 metres long, suspended some 70m above a river, and is fun to walk across - with so many people on it, it can't possibly stay still. Maybe not so fun if you're scared of heights. On the other side of the bridge is a lovely shaded woodland area with nature walks - all eco-friendly and educational, fun for kids and adults who still want to be kids (like me!).

I finally made it downtown the next day - which happened to be cold and rainy (I'm told this is normal Vancouver weather). Because of this, I didn't venture too far from the main streets (Robson, Granville, etc) which are good for shopping and stuff you can do in any city. I caught a B-line bus back to Richmond: how advanced, I thought, that all the inner city buses in Vancouver run on electricity! It must be great for the environment too. I don't know where she found them, but my aunt had cooked giant steaks for dinner - the best steak I've had outside Argentina.

Apart from an afternoon at Playland (see review), getting my hair done and going bowling, I didn't do a whole lot during the rest of my time there. Despite this, I can see that Vancouver is a top place to live in and would love to return, for a visit during winter or as an alternative to (what I see now as) harrassed, time-poor Sydney. I've already 'booked' a room with my relatives for the next Winter Olympics there...!


mypictures4u says:
Hi, Vancouver is great. And I remember going to Bellingham, too! :-D Bought some pair of jeans.
Posted on: Jun 20, 2007
vances says:
My brother-in-law has a German Short-hair and I agree that they are spastic! My dogs have always been well trained (though I have mainly enjoyed Golden Retrievers) and I can't stand this unruly breed. So sorry about your visa dilemma...troubling times for international adventure, I fear.
Posted on: Aug 25, 2006
Raches says:
It's lovely, but my opinion is you don't get to see as much of the city/area as you might have if you were alone or backpacking. Which means I'll have to visit again!
Posted on: Aug 18, 2006
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