Vancouver – Checking out the gaybourhood
There’s nothing that moves slower than an immigration queue at the airport after a long, long flight. By the time it’s my turn I’m struggling to maintain a look of polite interest as the official runs through random checklist questions. “And what do you DO for the company you work for?”. “Well, I’m a software development engineer”. Yep, thought he’d rapidly lose interest in discussing the finer details of that one. Ultimately I could have spent 20 minutes being grilled on what that job entails and I’d still have been out faster than my baggage. Mine is the final solitary suitcase that eventually trundles up a conveyor belt. I lose no time getting out of the airport and onto a train that seems to be going in the right direction. I meet Brodie at the far end. I haven’t quite enough energy left to polish off a pretty awful burger in the hotel bar before staggering to bed. Despite the suffocating tiredness I’m wide awake well before the sun peers over the top of the surrounding buildings. The air conditioning in the room seems to clog up your sinuses and it’s difficult to sleep when you can’t breathe. We’re on the 14th floor of a hotel right in the middle of a metal and glass jungle. This one quite opulent compared to the budget accommodation of our last visit. It’s easy to tell someone else is footing the bill for this.
We find ourselves some breakfast and then Brodie joins a conference on something or other that doesn’t sound very interesting while I finally book us some accommodation for the remainder of our trip. We won’t have to join the many homeless fighting for a park bench. A quick reconnaissance of the surrounding area gives me my bearings. After lunch it’s confirmed that our planned snow shoeing trip has been abandoned due to expected bad weather at the weekend. Ironically the weather is currently dry and clear around the city. So we now have a spare day to plan and I needn’t spend the next few days locating appropriate attire for mountain adventures (silver lining). Brodie rejoins his work colleagues holed up in the conference room and I hit the streets of downtown Vancouver.
My circuit starts with a trip to Granville bridge, up along colourful Davie street to the seafront. There I sit on one of the various logs strewn along the beach enjoying the quiet and the opportunity to read in the sunshine. But not for long. A Korean student appears like a genie from nowhere and proceeds to tell me his life story. The premise of his approach is that he wants to practice his English. Unfortunately he hasn’t prepared much in the way of conversational topics. Following an interrogation on where I’m from and if I’m married, I decide this is pushing the boundary of my patience given that I was clearly preoccupied when he showed up. Thankfully he decides to move along and try his luck with someone else. Peace is restored. As he’s still hovering about nearby I decide it’s time to start a trek around Stanley Park before he does an encore performance.
Stanley Park covers a large area. The trail around the edge is 9km so it takes quite a lot of time to get around. It doesn’t help that you’re constantly tempted to stop and admire the views across the bay. There are many people walking, cycling, or running though it gets quieter the further you go. It must be a birdwatchers paradise. However I’m mostly ignorant when it comes to even the more common species. I can appreciate the view though. The park is a lovely place to spend a few hours. Before I know it I’ve passed the halfway mark. My feet are starting to feel tired and I’m regretting not turning back earlier – but the path ahead is now shorter than the one behind. I take a small detour inland to see Beaver lake which isn’t really worth the effort for the somewhat ugly stretch of water at the end. But the journey through the forest is beautiful so I don’t feel robbed. By then my feet are really aching and the sun is indicating its imminent departure, so I head straight for the exit and walk up along the seafront until I finally reach Howe street once more. It’s time to check in and see what’s been happening in the online world while the lights in the office blocks across from our room start to flicker on in the growing gloom outside.
Once Brodie finishes up work for the day we start the eternal debate about where we’ll eat that evening. One thing we’re agreed on is that there will be no more hotel bar food. In the absence of any strong recommendations we decide to walk up to Davie street and try our luck at a Malaysian restaurant I had noticed passing by earlier and liked the look of. The Banana Leaf is a medium-sized restaurant where we get a table looking out on to the active street. The food is interesting and the portions are a bit too generous for us to finish, but they’re really good. Brodie looks confused when I pass comment that it’s unsurprising that our waiter is so flamboyant given our location. “Haven’t you noticed all the rainbow flags draped along the street?”. Apparently not. I enlighten him on where we are. After that educational diversion we depart with full stomachs. We’re completely wiped out when we return to the hotel and pass out at a disgracefully early hour.