It was good to be met at Vancouver station instead of doing it all on my own. And quite a scrum there was too at the baggage carousel. I was kidnapped with kindness by ringer Alan, whom I’d met, along with his wife Mae, in Melbourne some years ago. I expected to be met and taken to my hotel. Which in a sense I was. But it was by the long route – via Whistler!! Now Whistler is so far out of town that it was never on my agenda. Nor was Manning Park which Alan and Mae took me to the next day. The scenery on those two trips was fantastic, amazing, what I expected on the train but didn’t see so much of.
Also, on the train we’d whizzed by a bear and a coyote. Travelling by car and stopping off, I got to see a brown bear and a black bear, some deer and some marmots. These little creatures learn fast. Those near the park entrance scampered off as we approached with cameras. By the park shop they came up to you looking for a food handout. I thought one was going to run up my leg so it was me backing off in a hurry! When will people learn not to feed the animals?
After dinner with Alan & Mae that first night, Alan took me to my hotel. That was a bit of an adventure in itself. There was a riot happening following the playing of the Stanley Cup final match. No, I’m not into ice-hockey but it is Very Serious Business in Canada. I found it hard to comprehend really. I’d always thought of Vancouver as a beautiful somewhat conservative city. My hotel was only a block from some of the main action. Police were gathered on the corner and a few people were wandering about randomly. But Alan delivered me safely with no damage to him or his car. Not long after I got to my room I heard the loud hailer outside: the area was declared a no-go zone and anyone found there would be arrested. All went quiet very quickly!
Next morning as I made my way to the sky-rail station there was blood on the ground in a few places. When I was in the city the day after that I saw boarded up windows. I thought this must be a property that was about to be renovated. No. It was the flagship Bay store with all windows smashed. Then I noticed other properties also had smashed windows boarded up. All the boards were being written on with supportive messages saying things to the effect, “This isn’t the real Vancouver or Canada but the work of a very small minority of troublemakers” – which is no doubt very true.
After two days of out-of-town sightseeing with friends, next came another but on a tour bus. I wanted to go to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, and in the last days of planning before leaving home, this looked the easiest, but not the cheapest!, way of doing it. Thrown in for good measure, not as my choice, was a visit to Butchart Gardens. One of those ‘unplanned’ but fabulous visits. These gardens are magnificent. The bus stopped there for a good two hours and could have stayed longer. That says something coming from me, the non-gardener.
I came home with a lovely souvenir too, though not specific to the gardens. I’m a bit of a glass fan and saw a couple of delightful little vases by a local glass artist in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. I couldn’t decide between the blue glass with blue flowers or the clear glass with red poppies. When the sales staff proved lacklustre I decided it wasn’t meant to be and kept my money in my pocket. When I saw them again at the Butchart Gardens at $20 cheaper I knew it was meant to be after all and got a blue mini rectangle vase. Happy shopper!
On to Victoria where we then had just under two hours to look around after the bus did a tour of the city pointing out the sites. Only time to walk along the foreshore area and admire the outside of various grand buildings … and a stop in an old-fashioned soda shop where I had a strawberry soda – or spider in my language.
This was quite a long day, believe it or not. The ferry took 1.5 hours each way, the bus to the ferry took half an hour each way. Getting picked up and dropped at my hotel was the luxury I’d paid for!