Bears, Snow and Vertigo

11 July 2014

We spent our last couple of days doing our usual whizzing around Vancouver catching up with family, along with the odd bit of retail therapy. Canada, your economy should be doing well after our month-long visit. Mikey ‘Imelda Marcos’, my shoe-loving partner (Y-Gens – drop “Mikey” and google the rest; Imelda made Paris Hilton look shoeless), will need to grow some more feet if he’s ever going to wear out all his new pumps.

Granville Island

We toured out to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to visit the Museum of Anthropology, worth it not only for the First Nations totems but also for the amazing architectural design of the building. Vancouver is actually getting quite hot and a little bit humid, which is kind of weird when the mountains that tower over the city still have snowy toques (beanies for my Down Under readers). So a quick trip down the moss-covered wooden stairs from UBC to Wreck Beach seemed like a great idea. Whilst collecting more driftwood to sculpt with, I realised Wreck Beach was a ‘clothing optional’ beach. The Vancouver sun might be hot, but the water is still frigid. So I’m still not sure why the male sauntering down the beach in the altogether (except his backpack) was walking so proudly.

However, it wasn’t all shopping and mixing with BC’s nudists (I was still clothed).

Thanks to Isobel, we also had a night at the theatre; visited another amazing Canadian art gallery; and kayaked on the ocean. There is nothing like paddling along the shoreline between the shadow of the snowy peaks of pine- and cedar-clad mountains and forest-covered islands each with their own lofty pinnacles.

Howe Sound Paddler

One day was devoted to Whistler, Blackcomb and the Squamish Chief.  Apparently, the side of this mountain looks like an Indian Chief. Sorry Canadians, maybe with one eye closed and after a lot of Canadian Club Rye Whisky … but then, I never could get those “magic eye” paintings either.

We were totally gondola-ed out by the end of the day. I think we visited most of the local massifs; even threw a few snowballs and sent some emails from the 2160 metre summit of Whistler – WiFi is conveniently everywhere these days.

On Top of the World

Here was I thinking we wouldn’t see a bear on this trip. I mean, the rest of Canada’s wildlife had put in an appearance by this point … except Elk … but after a great meal in Vancouver’s downtown, at least I now know what Elk tastes like. Gamey and extremely rich, but lovely with wild mushrooms and a huckleberry coulis. Mmm…

In fact, whilst suspended in a cable car between two well-known Olympic ski slopes, Mike spotted a bear. Which is surprising really, as he usually has his eyes closed shut with his toes curled and feet sweating at any height. Now, being a considerate traveller, I thought the melange of Indian, Chinese and German tourists would also like to see the bear which was ambling amongst the forest below us. What I didn’t consider was having 15 people all scramble to one side of a glass cage suspended from a cable 500 metres above the valley floor below. That bear’s furry bottom will be included in photo albums around the globe … and Mike may never get in a gondola again.

Sitting on the deck of Mike’s family home, sipping wine, watching the sunset over the fjord with that amazing blue twilight haze that I always thought was artistic licence in the Markgraf paintings I’d seen until I viewed it every night, is a memory I’ll always hark back to.

Howe Sound

Especially combined with my Canadian mother who always spoils me, making Lions Bay my second home.

Sadly, we had had our fill of beautiful BC salmon, fresh-picked blueberries and raspberries, and incredible hospitality.

It was time to replace it with aircraft food, “shoes off, belts off, watches off” security screening, US immigration, no smiles, liquids and gels “are they more than 100ml” checks, “iPads must be on to check that they are real”, bombastic human interaction, “stand with your legs apart and arms up for the pat down check” biometric scans.

As Douglas Coupland philosophises: “May every day be September 10”.

The antithesis of our Canadian odyssey.

About Freoroamers

Richard has worked in hospitality and travel for almost three decades and has been a regular traveller since childhood. He now travels for both work and pleasure, and is a Senior Contributor to Trip Advisor and other digital media travel platforms.
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