Day 69: Saturday 20th May
It was time to collect the final addition to our ragtag band of followers: my best friend Graham. Graham is another of my frequent travel buddies – we’ve done three road trips around Ireland together, a Balkans trip including Exit Festival in Serbia, a fateful winter holiday in the Czech Republic where I infamously tried to teach him how to ski, as well as city breaks in Barcelona, Budapest, Vienna and Hamburg – but this was our first time travelling outside of Europe together.
I was so happy to have both Graham and Jenn, my two most faithful fellow travel buddies and enthusiasts (before Gwynnie came into my life 😉) on the road trip with me.
Graham was convinced that we were never going to make it to Vancouver on time. For months before the trip, he expressed concerns that we were going to break down somewhere and get behind on our schedule, or we were going to decide we really liked a place and stay longer than originally planned, and it was all going to result in us completely missing him in Vancouver. He regaled us with stories of how his brother had done a road trip around Australia and had never managed to meet up with a single person that he had planned to along the way, due to getting drunk, oversleeping and setting off too late. Graham clearly did not understand the power of the road trip spreadsheet or how truly dedicated to it we were 😉 (Also he did not understand that we had not been drinking or partying much on the trip, and had mostly been getting early starts in the morning without having to suffer from the effects of hangovers or late nights.)
Although not as early as our camping starts, we set off at a respectable 10am from Kamloops, gushing with goodbyes and thank yous to Jenn’s long-lost relatives. From there it was only a few more hours to Vancouver. Graham had been horrified when he’d heard how far away we still were the night before and was convinced we weren’t going to arrive until the evening. We actually arrived around 1.30pm 😉
Vancouver was unfortunately not one of the cities where we managed to find free parking. Although we had parked for free in Chicago, New Orleans, and even New York, our hostel in Vancouver had told us they could not offer us free parking, and advised us not to park on the street outside their premises as the car was likely to get broken into. Very encouraging. They recommended a parking lot under the Pacific Centre shopping mall, which turned out to cost an outrageous $32!! (That’s around 25 US dollars!)
This was also the point in the trip where Thomas was rejoining us after we had bade farewell to him in Las Vegas a week prior. Thomas and Graham had both been in Vancouver for a couple of days already and had met up and had fun and shenanigans of their own despite never having met each other before (but you’ll have to ask them about that, it’s not our place to tell).
After checking into the hostel and meeting up with Thomas and Graham, our road trip band was finally complete – five people – a whole carful 🙂
We went for – and I do not mince my words here – fucking AMAZING food at The Poke Guy. I had never even heard of Poke before but apparently it’s the new big food craze and I can confirm that it is fantastic. It hasn’t quite made it to Europe yet – or only barely, and the ones that Jenn and Graham have since tried in London and Dublin were apparently nowhere near as good. But this was, quite frankly, some of the best food we had on the trip – up there with the Cajun soul food we had in New Orleans and the amazing food fusions like sushi burritos and Korean tacos we had in Chicago. It was DELICIOUS.
Between us we had quite a few friends in Vancouver. Gwynnie had a friend called “Angry Matt” whom she met in Japan. Me and Graham had a friend called Ger whom we had met at Electric Picnic festival in Ireland the year before.
I also had a friend in Vancouver called Kamilah but unfortunately she was away because it happened to be a long weekend due to some national holiday. In any case, Angry Matt (I think he prefers to be called Matt) and Ger joined us for Poke and the rest of the day.
We had basically left all the itinerary planning for our time in Vancouver up to Graham and Ger – Gwynnie and I were relieved to have the burden of responsibility off our shoulders for a change – so after our delicious meal Ger took us to Kitsilano Beach.
Vancouver is one of those perfect cities that has everything: beaches, mountains, parks and greenery, a lively downtown… it was one of my favourite cities of the whole trip. I would say it was my favourite Canadian city of the trip, but that’s not much of an accolade seeing as we only properly spent time in two of them (and Montreal was also very cool…). Kitsilano beach was gorgeous, with views of mountains in the background.
I think it was here that we revealed to Matt that Gwynnie and her friends in Japan had called him Angry Matt. Matt was a little surprised to learn that he was known as Angry Matt, but I don’t think he was angry. (Gwynnie: Well, maybe 3 of us called him that because he was occasionally grumpy. He’s actually lovely!)
After that we went back to the hostel for a little rest, and then met back up again with everyone at the Alibi Room. Ger had brought a few other friends along – it seems there is a large Irish expat population in Vancouver and Ger seemed to know all of them. We had some great food, craft beer and cocktails, and then some of us went on to The Roxy – a nightclub with a live band playing some great tunes. (Gwynnie: I ended up having a catch-up drink with Matt at some bar that had board games, and we had a nice game of Scattergories).
Apart from a few relatively tame nights in bars in Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Miami and New York, this was my first night on the trip going “out” out – drinking, dancing and staying up late – and it was loads of fun! The place had a great vibe, the drinks were cheap and the band was great.
We left around 3am and after talking to some strangers on the street and walking home, we finally tumbled into bed around 4.30am.
Day 70: Sunday 21st May
Gwynnie had not joined us for our nightclub shenanigans because she had to get up early the next day to go meet a long-lost relative of her own – an aunt whom she had never met before who lived in Sechelt, part of the Sunshine Coast and accessible by ferry from Vancouver.
Gwynnie: I had contacted my Aunt Win a few years ago when I realised that we had a lot of family in Canada who I had never spoken to or met, so it was great to finally have the chance to meet her! Technically, you can drive to Sechelt as it isn’t on a separate island, but it’s faster to take the ferry. I had to take a bus to the ferry point, but once I got there everything was very easy – there were electronic ticket machines as well as stands, so I got my ticket in no time and waited for the ferry in a nice, warm waiting room with coffee machines.
The ferry is a commuter ferry, as a lot of people who live in Sechelt commute to Vancouver for work, and it takes tons of cars with it as well as foot passengers. It’s only around $8 CAD to get there, and the journey back is free! As for the ferry itself – wow! It has a restaurant, really nice seating, and small work desks with electricity and Wifi, so I grabbed a coffee and did some writing while I crossed.
I couldn’t find my Aunt for ages when I got there, and after trying to call her a few times she eventually picked up and we found each other. She took me to her lovely house, where I met her husband John and we spent the afternoon wandering around the town, drinking beer, chatting about all sorts of things (mostly our family) and then had some lovely dinner. Check out the view from their house!
Anna: Meanwhile, the rest of us headed to Lynn Canyon Park. First, we walked over a big suspension bridge…
…from whose wobbly confines we saw some beautiful waterfalls.
Then some of us braved the icy water and went swimming in 30 Foot Pool.
It was cold.
Really, really cold.
Thomas got his chance to be a hero and show off his lifeguard credentials by saving a woman from drowning when she started to get swept away downriver. After that sterling act of heroism, we expended some energy by climbing on trees…
….and then went for lunch at The Black Bear Neighbourhood Pub.
Then we drove on to Deep Cove and hiked part of the Baden-Powell Trail.
We ended up at Quarry Rock, which offered some great views.
After sunbathing for a while, we hiked back and drove to Barrett’s View in Cypress Provincial Park, which offered some more great views.
Then we drove on to Horseshoe Bay, got some ice-cream, and walked out to the pier.
We went for dinner at The Capital, which had an awesome everything-for-$4.95 menu, which excited me and my budgeting ways very much. Graham and Ger went on to a bar afterwards, but me, Jenn and Thomas went back to our hostel and went to bed at a respectable 11.30pm.
Jenn and I had actually realised that there was a parking lot right next to our hostel that was much cheaper and closer than the one under the Pacific Centre shopping mall. So we parked the car there this time and were annoyed that the hostel had recommended us one so far away (well, relatively speaking) and so expensive, but it turned out it was because the car park next to the hostel wasn’t very secure and people had had their cars broken into there before. Still, we were lucky and nothing happened to us!
We were so grateful to Ger for this amazing day he planned for us – we hit loads of the best sights in Vancouver, and had an awesome day that included hiking, swimming, scenery, views, and great food – we could never have done it without him (or maybe we could have done, but it would have been a lot more effort!)
Day 71: Monday 22nd May
Jenn and I had planned to go running together while on the trip – I had ambitiously taken my running shoes with me but so far had only managed to go on one run (in over two months on the road!) with my friend George in Boston. Jenn had also only managed one run so far, in Las Vegas, but to be fair she had only been with us just over a week. Jenn had a much bigger motivation than me in that she was training for a half-marathon, but I was also keen to get some exercise and not let my running shoes go to waste, so we set off on our run at a nice early 8.20am.
We followed a really nice route down to the waterfront and looping around the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.
We were supposed to check out of the hostel by 10am, which did not end up happening – it was around 10.20am by the time we finally handed in our keys – but we still hadn’t finished packing. We dumped our stuff in the common room and finished packing there (as well as having a spot of breakfast). Around 11.15am we finally managed to actually leave the hostel, dump our stuff in our apparently unsafe car, and walk to a Starbucks to meet back up with Ger, who had more fun activities planned for us. Thomas unfortunately had to work that morning and Gwynnie was still with her aunt in Sechelt (or travelling back on the ferry at that very moment), so it was just Jenn, Graham, Ger and I.
We walked to Yes Cycle, who have an awesome pay as you go system which means you don’t have to decide beforehand how long you want to hire your bike for and worry about having that eternal conflict of either rushing like a mad person to get it returned in time, or hiring the bike out for too long and wasting money when you get sick of it halfway through and return it early. The cost was very reasonable – starting at $7 (CAD, of course) per hour for a single bike, with the cost decreasing by a dollar for each successive hour, and $14 per hour for a tandem, with the cost decreasing by two dollars for each successive hour. They don’t round up – so if you’re out for 1.5 hours, they don’t round the cost up to two hours – and locks, helmets, baskets and maps are thrown in for free. Awesome!
We hired two single bikes and a tandem – it had been a long-standing dream of mine to ride on a tandem, especially since our car was named Daisy, which meant for the entire duration of the road trip I constantly had this song playing round and round in my head:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true
I’m half crazy all for the love of you
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet
Upon a seat
Of a bicycle made for two.
Me and Graham attempted the tandem first:
It was not without its difficulties. Starting was the hardest part – we couldn’t seem to get enough momentum to actually get moving and my feet kept ending up back on the ground. Once we finally figured out how to move, we still wiggled around a lot and couldn’t seem to go in a straight line, which meant a lot of near-misses with fellow cyclists and pedestrians. Also, I was sitting in the back seat which meant Graham had control of the steering and braking, which was, quite frankly, terrifying. Tearing down a hill when you have no control over when and how hard you brake is one of the more petrifying experiences I have had the pleasure of undergoing in my life.
We cycled through Stanley Park…
…and stopped by the totem poles at Brockton Point.
I think it was around this point that we swapped and Jenn and Ger had a go on the tandem.
We cycled on, passing the Lions Gate Bridge…
…and stopping at Third Beach…
…where we saw a dog which Jenn fell in love with.
We also passed this sculpture by Yue Minjun called A-maze-ing Laughter, located in Morton Park by English Bay Beach.
Graham and I swapped back on to the tandem and we managed to cycle gracefully back to the bike shop to return our bikes.
Ger had been taking a lot of photos and videos today and the day before, but at some point we found out that almost none of the photos and videos had been saved because he was using SnapChat! (Youngsters these days and their goddamned kerfungled wangdoodled knicknacks! Actually, I think Ger is older than me, but whatever.) We were all horrified and upset by the loss, but fortunately there were some survivors, and the rest of us had been photographing a lot as well of course (especially me).
Gwynnie had returned from visiting her aunt in Sechelt that morning and was at Japanese eatery Kita No Donburi with Thomas and Angry Matt (sorry, I mean Matt), so we went to say hi to them there. The rest of us were still desperate for some more Poke, so we went back to The Poke Guy – only to discover that it was closed! (Because of whatever national holiday it was, probably.) Very very sad times.
So we went back to Kita No Donburi just as Gwynnie, Thomas and Matt were finishing their lunch, and in a last-ditch attempt at getting some more Poke before we left Vancouver, we all walked to another nearby Poke establishment called Pokerrito – but it was also closed. By this point me, Graham, Jenn and Ger were starving after our cycle ride, and it seemed that every Poke establishment within a mile radius was closed, so Gwynnie, Thomas and Matt went to sit in a park while the rest of us walked back to Kita No Donburi and had lunch – which, while not being Poke, was still very good.
Then it was time to head on to Seattle. We said our regretful goodbyes to Matt and Ger. Vancouver had been a truly awesome, sunny, stunning, and fun-filled place.