A decade ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Winter Olympics that were held in Canada (not the Calgary ones, I’m not that old). I believe that at that time, my brother and I got to see Vancouver and Whistler at their absolute best. We rode the newly built Sky Train, meandered aimlessly through the streets of Vancouver and bused our way up to Whistler on the expanded Sea-to-Sky highway. As for the events, we were very fortunate as we saw Canada win their first medal of the games and also got to watch the men’s hockey team score eight goals in their opener. The sporting memories are some of the most vivid of my life and we still laugh about how lucky we were to secure tickets. Over time these memories have overshadowed some of the hiccups (like the bus lineups, the rain, and the protestors). I was looking forward to reliving some Olympic glory. But alas, where Paige got fortunate with Saltspring living up to her memories, the same could not be said about Vancouver and Whistler.
Don’t get me wrong, the setting is still beautiful and they both still had some great moments. Once again we were fortunate with the weather as it was sunny with temperatures near 25 degrees. In Vancouver, we stayed at the gorgeous campus of Simon Fraser University with the idea of taking public transit into the core. We did not realize that the R5 rapid bus from the University runs right down Hastings street and the Lower East Side. Areas of Hastings street are in “rough” shape with tents lining the streets for many blocks in a row (Read about it here). We were caught off guard on the bus and our kids had a lot of tough questions for us.
That evening, we decided to eat at the Vancouver outpost of Tacofino (a famous food truck in Tofino where you wait 2 hours for a taco). We were happy to find a location in Gastown without the huge lines. We had a super-friendly waiter who brought the kids some really cool colouring mats that turned into a Tacofino truck. But just when the meal came, a couple of people wandered into the adjacent laneway (and by adjacent I mean 4 feet from where we were seated) and injected themselves. We quickly ate the meal and left. Overall the experience left us saddened.
We still did the standard Vancouver tourist stuff and visited the Granville Market, walked the UBC campus and explored the seawall. In retrospect, I am happy that I had never toured these campuses after highschool. I would have ended up going to school in Vancouver and would have had a very different life. At UBC campus, Paige and Julie went to the Museum of Anthropology and came back with a wealth of information about totems. Whenever we now see one, Julie has to take the time to identify all the different elements of the sculpture. “Dad, do you see the bear.” “No! That’s not a raven, it’s a thunderbird!”
As for Whistler, it was packed. I can’t even fathom what the town is like in the winter when you can actually ski. And the prices were ridiculous. The gondola was $90 for us to go to the top. No skiing, just an individual gondola ride. And yet despite the tourist craziness, it still can have its charm. We stumbled upon bike paths that were off limits to allow toad migration! We sat on a bench and watched a ginormous black make its way across the road and onto the golf course. And we camped at a provincial park just up the highway where we pretty much had a waterfall all to ourselves. It wasn’t the Whistler of a decade ago but it was a little bit closer to what I was expecting.
When I started writing this about a week ago, it was a much harsher blog post. I might have mellowed since we were there but I can say we were happy to move on to the next destination.
Where we stayed (5 words or less):
- The Simon at Simon Fraser University: Watched students move in
- Nairn Falls Provincial Park: Skip Vancouver, stay here instead
By the numbers:
- Distance travelled so far: 12,350km
- Length of time I waited to buy doughnuts in Granville Market: 16 minutes – it was sooo worth the wait
- Iphone batteries fixed: 1 – after many attempts elsewhere, the apple store solved Paigey’s problem
Ciao for now