We are recovering from watching Dancing with the Stars last night. This is a more raucous version of Strictly Come Dancing with less obvious dancing and way more advertisements. Today we are off on a tour of the North Shore of Vancouver with minibus driver/guide Rob, another driver who displays some signs of the ‘no hands on the wheel’ Canadian driving style. This is a personalised tour for just six of us. We drive through Vancouver’s North Shore Rainforest to Capilano Fish Hatchery, to take a stroll through the forest and watch the salmon. The hatchery was created following the building of the Cleveland Dam, which interfered with salmon returning to their spawning grounds. The hatchery now releases 1 million salmon, of various types, a year. It was fascinating to see large saplings that had rooted in the decaying stumps of other trees. Next it was off to the suspension bridge, which was built so someone could access their house but is now a tourist attraction. This activity is described as ‘adrenaline pumping’ and involves walking across a 450 foot wobbly bridge 230 foot off the ground. I hate heights – did I say that before? Why am I doing this? In the end I accomplish the challenge by dint of walking very fast and looking straight ahead. Fortunately, as Canada is already virtually closed for the winter, there aren’t too many people about, thus reducing the wobble factor. Then as if this isn’t enough I traverse twenty mini suspension bridges in the tree top walk. This was actually more difficult. There is a quiz available for children, Never one to refuse a challenge, I am able to persuade the person dishing these out that our party can participate. I thought it was a bit mean that we only rated one reward badge between us on completion. I did draw the line and pass on the cliff walk. This walkway can allegedly take the weight of 35 killer whales. I remain to be convinced that someone has actually tried this. We see a Douglas Fir that is 1300 years old, 20 feet in circumference and 205 feet high.
Then a gondola ride up a very misty grouse mountain. The ‘panoramic’ views of Vancouver were somewhat compromised by the weather but at the top were at last bears. Ok, so they were captive bears but their enclosure covers five acres so we still might have missed them but they were both visible through the drizzle. Grinder and Coola, the grizzly bears were orphans who were rescued about fourteen years ago. Having seen them from behind the safety of a wire fence maybe I am glad we didn’t encounter any whilst out for a stroll.
Our guide takes as back Downtown (all the city centres are referred to as ‘Downtown wherever’) via the expensive British Properties. Many Canadians like to surround their homes by trees. These are often so close to the building that they must block out almost all the sunlight.
Back at the hotel, I attempt to avoid the not sitting together issue of our internal flight by cunningly checking on online. This sort of works except that I press the button for a web based boarding pass instead of having it emailed to me. I have no way of printing this. Front desk are very helpful but unable/unwilling to link my lap top to their printer. I can’t email this to them for them to print as it is not an email. I try turning it in to a pdf but the vital part comes out blank. I try retrieving the web page on the guest computer – fail. I therefore have to keep the web page open and lap top charged until I arrive at the airport. Then there are issues with the room’s fridge. Most of our rooms have had full sized fridges. This one turns out to be more of a freezer. Don’t freeze bananas – ever – just don’t.
We check out in the morning. I carefully put my room ‘key’ (card) down while I check the bathroom. I return to find it missing. Despite turning the room upside down – still missing. We brave this out by handing just one key card in and seem to get away with this. Then luggage stowed on our coach we are on a walking ‘foodie’ tour of the food carts of downtown Van. Roughly translated as a tour of the street vendors of central Vancouver, of which there are over 200. Fortunately for our legs and stomachs we only visit four. To get a coveted license you need to show that you can offer something different, so there are some weird and wonderful concoctions on offer. When carts were first allowed for the Olympics, seventeen licenses were on offer and 800 applications were received. Most carts are not allowed to open near to a restaurant selling similar food and only a few are open in the evening.
This is not something we would choose to do if it weren’t part of the package but we jump at the chance of free food and are game for pretty much anything, unlike several of our fellow travellers. Our guide keeps shouting ‘come on foodies’, which most of us clearly are not. Our first stop is ‘Japadog’, who offer us hotdogs with seaweed. This tastes pretty much like you’d imagine and the seaweed looked (and tasted) more like fish skin. The flavour has an unwelcome persistence. The high refusal rate benefited the nearby rough sleepers, who were given the portions that our party rejected. Next was a green onion pancake, followed by an exotic naan bread something or other. Finally a chocolate chilli cookie.
Then to the airport to leave our driver Mike and guide Anne-Marie. I attempt to wave my lap top at check-in but they are uninterested and our passes are printed. Chris has problems at security with a flat, credit card sized spanner in his wallet, that has escaped the scanners of all the other security desks we have passed. We then have a four hour wait. Vancouver is a very pleasant, uncrowned airport and we chat to those who have been on the tour with us. I decide to use up our small change and have a coffee. All I wanted was an ordinary black coffee but I lacked the sophistication to know which of the many options on offer would result in my ending up with what I desired. Inevitably I choose wrong and end up with an egg cup full if something totally undrinkable. I am persuaded, with the support of one of my new friends, to take this back and ask for it in a larger cup topped up with boiling water, which is a slight improvement.
The flight is quite empty so we have plenty of space. Despite our bodies thinking it is night time, I do not manage to sleep, as usual. We land at mid-day UK time, or 4.00am to us. We rush though corridors, lifts and travelators and manage to arrive at Heathrow coach station with ten minutes to spare in order to catch the earlier coach to the one we have booked. The downside to this is that we have to pay £40 to change our booking, The thought of being in Devon four hours earlier is too much for us and we succumb. There is no time to get food or drink or use the facilities. Well, actually there was, as the earlier coach was late but we didn’t know this at the time. Never mind we think, we can get food when we stop. Unfortunately, as the coach is running late we are not allowed to alight at any stop, except our final destination. In the event this was still a good decision as the coach we were actually booked on ended up being an hour and a half late, so it would have been gone midnight before I got home. We go back to Chris’ to get the car and find that our friends have cooked a meal we can share – hurrah. Then it is home at last ZZZZZzzzzz
Normal service will resume shortly.