It had been 7 years since we had been in Vancouver and, thanks to an appropriate conference, good timing, and easier mobility with fewer pets, Alistair and I flew back to the sprawling city we have both called Home.
Alistair was born there and grew up in West Vancouver. He attended UBC for both his undergrad and medical school training. I was born there and lived in the suburb of Port Coquitlam until my family moved to Grand Forks, a much smaller town. I returned for 6 months of every year after I turned 12, though, for my skating and I spent a lot of time in the city during my Chilliwack-college years in the early 90s.
And while we know our way around and we have many, many friends and family members still there, Vancouver definitely isn’t our Home now.
For one thing, there’s the traffic.
It wasn’t surprising because Vancouver has had 3 million people and 3 bridges to the downtown core for many years but it still takes some adjustment to get used to after a long time away. We drive lonely gravel roads to get to our ranch in Montana and Alistair spends hours on highway 200 that darts across this enormous state where he won’t see another vehicle for 2 or more hours.
We both remembered the frustration of real traffic when it took 30 minutes to travel 5 plugged city blocks. On a Sunday!
While the streets are all where we left them 7 years ago, they have been re-routed to allow for an incredible network of bike lanes. And these cyclists are hard core! They share the streets with cars, trucks, buses and taxis with a confidence that would seem to better fit a suit of armor versus just their little helmets. Which is another reason we could never come Home to Vancouver to stay.
I took advantage of a sunny morning while Alistair was learning all about Pediatric emergency updates and opted for a trip down Robson street… on foot. Vancouver is easily explored that way and there is no road rage.
Robson street is a classic for Vancouverites. Its where we used to drive up and down the road, bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights, looking at everyone who was looking back at us. Cruising Robson street.
This time around, though, I was cruising somewhat as a tourist. Or, better yet, a spectator. The street and the city didn’t disappoint.
I got to share in the festivities associated with Falun Dafa Day! (I had no clue at the time but its a traditional form of Chinese meditation that is persecuted in its homeland). There were drums, a band and dancing, all performed in brilliant colors with smiles on the performers’ faces. This all happened on the front steps of City Hall. How Canadian.
Then there were the open displays of the various types of weed you can buy and what different things they were good for. Right in front of the street police. I overheard the big guy telling British tourists that marijuana wasn’t going to be a criminal prospect in the near future so they weren’t busting anybody anymore. Not for sharing information or selling T-shirts with the beloved plant leaf boldly celebrated.
How even more Canadian.
I loved seeing the bikes you can rent around town. I mean, why not use those bike lanes, right? Its a Green concept and a healthy concept and its SO Canadian and it made me smile as I continued down Robson street on one of the first sunny days the city had seen in weeks.
I chuckled to myself when I saw the stores that had been there when we cruised the street close to 30 years ago.
And I smiled when I craned my neck upwards to gawk at skyscrapers on other streets during my little jaunt down memory lane.
The city is full of construction and concrete and the skyline has grown. There appears to be no end to the impressive towers and while it was kind of neat to see it was just as nice to see the older, historic buildings of downtown Vancouver.
Like the ancient Hotel Georgia, where we stayed up on the 11th floor. The bar there used to be known as somewhat of a dive but the entire place has been revamped and it was as beautiful as it was luxurious. (And pricey but we have that handy exchange rate on our side right now.)
Our hotel was across the street from the famed Hotel Vancouver, which is now a Fairmont. Everyone knew it from its copper peaks and it probably still is a feature to the skyline even if it sits in the shadow of an array of skyscrapers.
With conferences and concrete and sirens and throngs of people downtown at all hours, it was a welcome relief to eventually cross the Lions Gate Bridge and head to West Vancouver. We couldn’t find parking at Lighthouse Park (Alistair’s neighborhood stomping grounds back in the day, where he would hike, swim and fish for hours without seeing a single soul) so we made our way to nearby Eagle Harbor for a walk along the ocean.
It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind and I remembered how it was so easy to fall in love with Vancouver during good weather. You can find peace and serenity if you look hard enough or you know the secret places.
The briny smell of the ocean was a wonderful sensory memory. It took me back to my parents taking our boat under the old Port Mann bridge in the 70s when we lived there. It transported me to walking in the sand at White Rock and eating the most incredible fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. And it delivered me to Kits Beach where we would meet with other skating friends for pic-nics in the early evenings after a full summer day at the ice rink.
It took Alistair on his own journey as we revisited the house he grew up in. Its re-painted and has had a change or two done to it and there are roads and subdivisions with many houses behind it where there used to be train tracks and a forest but its still the house his dad designed many years ago.
And what’s a trip for us without the golf clubs?
We were excited enough just to see my dear friend, Liz and meet her hubby and even more pumped when they invited us to a round at their private golf club out towards UBC, Shaunessy.
Some of the holes had temporary greens but most did not and our merry foursome shared old stories, updates on mutual friends and our families, a drink or two and much laughter.
The course has a lot of history, which Danny was able to share having grown up playing golf there. He is the best golfer we have had the opportunity to play with in our short golf lives and it was an idyllic, flower-adorned little place to lose yourself within the big city.
It was a great way to end a trip that brought our little family back together again. Yes, we finally got to enjoy time with both Gareth and Whitney this trip and it was as laughter-filled as ever.
Whitney’s bestie, Jaclyn joined us, too, which was also fitting as she has been an honorary Fyfe for as long as I’ve known the kids.
The 5 of us had a wonderful meal of incredible seafood at Yew restaurant in the Four Seasons right across from our Hotel Georgia.
And we picked up right where we had left off, which filled both Alistair and I with warm fuzzies.
The kids joined us back at our hotel for more stories and for me to get my 3rd book into Whitney’s and Gareth’s hands. Jaclyn has to start from scratch so I gave her the 1st book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake.
Our trip back to our home land was an exciting journey and although we didn’t get across to Vancouver Island where more friends & family live, and we didn’t eat at a White Spot or Keg (so Canadian) and we had to pay a toll to cross the new Port Mann Bridge and it was a few days until I knew who was eliminated on Dancing With the Stars, there was so much that we did do and see.
More familiar roads.
And more familiar stomping grounds.
And now we’re back home, together in Montana for a few more days before Alistair heads back to our ranch in North Dakota. Rainy cool weather has prevented many people from enjoying our Montana golf course but we’ve tried to get out there every day since we’ve been back.
It was fun visiting the big city again. Even if every Vancouverite wears black. How “city chic.” I guess. Like I would know.
I’m happy to have already lived such a diverse life in diverse places and I’m happy with where we are now. Sure, I’d like it better if Alistair and I were together full time but that’s not how it is at the moment.
Its good to be Home with the pets and my upcoming book events. Its good to be together. And while the politics of Canada are a little less frightening and volatile at the moment I’m okay to be where we are. We are both dual citizens, proud of certain aspects of each country that we call Home.
Because Home is where you feel connected, even if its not where you started out. As Toad the Wet Sprocket says, and as I’ve quoted before, Home is “not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”
Here’s to you, Vancouver!