Most of you are no doubt entirely unaware that I am in Canada. However, do not feel neglected, dear ones, for even my parents – from whom I had to mooch the necessary resources to fuel this trip – were only informed of my desire to make a grand tour of the northern continent on Thursday (I flew out on Sunday). This was an enterprise conceived in the shadows and executed in the utmost secrecy. So, on to my adventures thus far.
[Author’s Note: the following email is rather particularly lengthy, and whilst I have divided it into easily digestible chapters, it remains a not insignificant read.]
The flight over was as uneventful as such fights generally are, though one of the stewards generously smuggled me some of the accoutrements of first class, including a bottle of wine that I had to (very regretfully) give back, as I couldn’t take it through security in Los Angeles to get on the flight to Vancouver. (Apparently, following the most recent American terrorism attempt, the risk of semillion-based attacks are at an all-time high). I made up for this, however, by buying some 100 proof Absolut and, of course, a bottle of Bombay Gin. Of course, I then discovered that Canadian customs only allows each visitor to bring 1.14 litres of spirits (Don’t ask me why it’s 1.14, I have no idea) however, the lady with whom I had been sharing a row the whole trip and I agreed that if I sheepishly played off my Australianess, I could probably get it through.
(Wherein the road to hell is paved with good intentions – and bus transfers)
So, on arrival at Vancouver airport, I pass through passport control, pick up my bag, and then file into the line for customs. I get to the front, an official takes my carefully filled out form, and I walk through to… nothing. That’s it. They just took the card, didn’t even bother looking at it. They did have signs up warning that sniffer dogs were on duty, but evidently these dogs aren’t proficient in the metric system, as they certainly didn’t smell my excess booze. So then I met my fellow traveller’s father (whose 91st birthday she was coming over for) bad my farewells, and went in search of information on how to get to White Rock (a town outside Vancouver, where Emily lives). A kindly old lady volunteer who almost certainly looked as though she belonged on the front of a box of cookies, or some cake mix, told me I cold either catch a taxi, which would set me back about $45, or the bus, which would cost $3.50. It was not ’til much later that it would occur to me just how great a distance was implied by a $45 cab fare. So, with directions on how to get to the bus stop, I began making my way. Discovering that bus transit over here requires exact change (which I most definitely didn’t have) meant a frantic run to a nearby convenience store with my very heavy bags in tow, while the other passengers shuffled aboard. Fortunately, I got back to the stop in time, and was on my way. Dropped off at the 22nd Street SkyTrain station, a guard showed me to the information phone where I was given precise directions with bus numbers and the associated etceterum necessary for my continued transit, and then he showed me how to buy a ticket. Thus I boarded the SkyTrain and was treated to a pretty impressive ride through Vancouver on the elevated railway. I was also delighted to spot a poster advertising the fact that Eddie Izzard has his own show over here. Truly, they live as gods. Anyway, long story short, a few more helpful Canadians later, I found myself in White Rock Centre, thoroughly exhausted, and rather a bit over the 3 1/2 hours of public transport I had just experienced. So, I made my way to a supermarket, hoping to find someone that could call me a taxi for the final leg of my journey, and was shown to a courtesy phone specifically installed for that purpose. Perhaps this is actually a common thing for supermarkets, but I found it amazing. I then bought some shampoo, &c. and got to experience actually checking out my own shopping – you actually scan it yourself and pay a machine and everything. I suspect that Canada is probably the only nation in which the citizens can be trusted to actually do this. Finally, I took the taxi on what turned out to be an embarrassingly short trip to the motel, where, by 7pm, I was finally checked in (having arrived in Canada at 2:30). A lengthy shower and vigorous shampooing later, and the accumulated crud of 21 hours of transit was washed away. The truly sad part of the experience, however, is that whilst all they were trying to do was be helpful, the friendly Canadians managed to cooperatively send me on what I am assured is (almost) the lengthiest possible way to get to White Rock from Vancouver.
(Wherein a father’s loyalty is questionable)
No longer smelling like I’ve just spent 17 hours in things starting with “Airp”, I set out to Emily’s house. I arrive at about 9:30, worried that it was really a bit impolite to be calling so late, but confused by the fact that it was still not quite dark yet, and was greeted by Emily’s dad at the door. Emily, unfortunately, had not yet arrived home from work, so I asked what time she would be leaving the next morning, and he agreed to keep my arrival a secret, and I set off back to the hotel to sleep. Such are the perils of international surprise. I have since given Emily a good ribbing over the fact that her dad is willing to share the details of her personal schedule to perfect strangers, and keep secrets from her for them.
The next morning I get up at about 7 (shocking, I know) and once more head to Emily’s house. I ring the bell, and am greeted this time by Emily, wearing an expression that I will regret not taking a picture of until the end of my days. It can only be described as complete dumbfounded confusion. After a few minutes of Emily still trying to process the fact that I’m real, we headed out to have breakfast, and then to her work, where she had to take care of a few things before skiving off to go to Vancouver with me. We then headed to white rock beach, where we observed beachy things, as well as Canadians in their natural habitat, and the mighty white rock, after which the town is named.
(Wherein Joe Camel informs children that smoking is cool)
In Vancouver, she took me to Mccloud’s bookstore, which is, in my opinement, everything a bookstore should be. Stacks of books rise from the floor throughout the shop, and it is filled with delightful tomes of varying antiquity. We picked through there for a while, at one point I was delighted to discover a copy of Plato’s Symposium translated by Percy Bysshe Shelly, which I promptly read out to Emily, the section where Alcibaides shows up pissed as a newt and starts hitting on everyone. From there, after stopping for some bubble tea, we went to Granville Island, which isn’t really an island as much a peninsula shaped like a mushroom. We went to the kid’s market, which is, surprise surprise, a market for kids. Of particular note was the puppet store , which was filled with the wonders of puppetry . Then we visited a hat store, where I found the first ever hat to fit my head! And as if this wasn’t enough to make me want it, it was an Indiana Jones hat! Naturally, the first thing I said when I put it on was “It belongs in a museum!” The $160 price tag discouraged me somewhat, but I may yet go back for it. Then we went to the food market, where we acquired a loaf of bread, cheese and some meats, which we then ate by the waterside, while observing the terrifyingly large seagulls. We then headed back to White Rock, where I bought a pair of trousers, deciding that jeans were not such a great idea in the heat over here (It’s really rather warm) and some socks, because for some reason when I was packing for the trip, the entirety of my sock drawer yielded only two pairs. Then we went to the Cactus Club, where I met Sonny and Ashley, (and was struck by the fact that Sonny didn’t sound at all like I expected he would, though, I had to admit, when he asked “What did you think I would sound like?” I had no idea.) And we were later joined by Dan and Dylan, who is, apparently, pretty cool. Topics of conversation included the scandalous attractiveness of the waitresses, which is perhaps a new trick over here. The bathrooms were also rather impressive, featuring not only a television, but carefully topiary’d trees and a couch, as well as foot-activated flush buttons which seemed to me to be a pretty good idea, self-replacing plastic covers for the seats, and laser taps, for which I have an undying fondness. Evidently my rouguish Australian charm was in full swing, as by the end of the night I had been offered accommodation at both Emily’s and Ashley’s houses.