Follow the travel diary of Val and Rosney (The Man) as they travel to the UK via Vancouver one way and San Francisco on the return. The self-drive ‘innocents abroad’ expedition was planned by the novice travllers in celebration of The Man’s 70th birthday to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.
Air NZ to Vancouver 13 hours 15 minutes.
The plane was full up. So much for a thought of spreading out. The Man is by the window, me in the middle and the aisle seat occupied by a Trafalgar travel organiser with a team of golden-oldies on board (heading for the Rocky train trip). During the night several of the Trafalgar goldens suffered body failures, two of them being put on oxygen. There was a general sigh of relief when we landed in Vancouver. After a quick and easy trip through customs, we took a taxi into the city. The driver was amazingly talented, a turbaned Indian who entertained us, talking and gesturing, with at times no hands on the steering wheel. Impressive stuff.
We checked into the Rosedale on Robson, and was suitably impressed with our apartment. Nice added touches and a flash king-size bed.
After a most embarrassing incident of ‘the toilet water being right up the top of the bowl’ and having a suitably diplomatic plumber come to our room to ‘fix the problem’ we discovered all the toilets had water right up to the top – silly me, I should have realised water levels would be different near the other side of the world (dumb Kiwi). Went for a much needed fresh-air-get-legs-working walk and promptly got lost, but not permanently.
That night we dined out at a nearby café/bar called Rosie’s. A beaut meal at reasonable prices, $55.00 for two mains and a carafe of wine. We have planned to bus around this Vancouver place tomorrow, but in the meantime, we’ve been on the go for 27 hours since leaving home, so it’s time for sleep.
Due to the fact we didn’t know what we were doing, it was 11am before we tracked down and boarded the Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus. First stop was China Town which was unimpressive, dried foods displayed on stands out on the pavements. I saw a blowfly cavorting and ballet dancing amid the dried whitebait – live crabs swimming in disgustingly polluted tanks, and a definite undesirable smell about the place. I’m sorry China Town, but not for me! We did discover a real dinkum coffee shop, with real cups with and a N.Z. barista. She sorted us out on terminology and you don’t order a ‘Long-black’ as you do in N.Z. the word is ‘Americano.’
Next stop was Gas Town. A pretty place, but its reputation as being ‘unmissable’ is slightly overdone. Wandering around we came across the cruise ship terminal which was fantastical. Then it was onto Granville Island and the markets, which were both crowded and impressive. A huge selection of cheap fresh fruits, however fish and meats were expensive, and salmon higher priced than in NZ.
Everybody has Maple Syrup for sale.
Next stop Stanley Park.
I feel the most relaxed since we left home. Spent time wandering in the enchanting Stanley Park, where I saw my first squirrel and was immediately captivated. Sweet, furry creatures that scampered about like lightning, I could have spent days there just watching them. We also came across a family of racoons, Ma, Pa and two wanderlust kids. Real fine looking creatures, which for us have only been storybook characters, but we kept our distance after taking note of the length of the claws, and the mean look Pa racoon threw at us. The model Canadian Indian village was a treat, especially the native action dances, it reminded me of the cultural displays that our NZ Maori put on for our tourists, both respectful and educational. However, The Man team leader lead us astray when we tried to leave the village, we got lost. I don’t know how many tourists have permanently disappeared off the map and starved to death in Stanley Park, but we near managed it.
It rains for six months of the year in Vancouver.
It’s tough trying to find a decent cup of coffee, and sandwiches are non-existent.
We figure there is quite a drug problem here. There are many spaced out, hollow-cheeked, bedraggled bods about, beggars, doorway sleepers and unsavoury hanger-rounder’s.
It’s raining, like really raining, big and wet. We walk about town, I found some cheap make-up at London Drug-mart where I bought a lipstick and mascara and chewing gum for $12.20. Found Searles where we had morning tea and then went back for lunch. Found the library and checked email’s… a non-event day . . .
Check out 10am will leave our bags downstairs after ordering a taxi for 2pm.
The rain has gone, sunshine all the way. Took a walk down to China Town this time venturing off the tourist track and came across a queue of scruffy men lined up with supermarket trolleys stacked up with their worldly possessions. It took a time, but we finally worked out they were waiting for their drug-hit. Didn’t have to be too bright to figure that one out as a needle exchange van was also parked on the roadside. They didn’t seem to like us wandering into their territory and I felt hostility in the air . . .way out of my comfort zone.
Crazy lady at Vancouver airport. I figure she would have been right at home as a bully-girl at school. She spent her whole time making sure queues were straight, and had people packing and unpacking their bags, and being sent from point A. to B. only to find they were in the wrong place. A total shamble, but as she appeared to have ‘powers’ one had to go along with her. Air Canada stuffed up our seating and we were in seated in separate parts of the plane (luckily I managed to do a swap with the passenger seated next to me, she wanted to sleep and didn’t care where she sat, so we ended up with the two rear seats with a window, right down the back of the plane).While Air Canada got my worst Airline Award, the flight from Vancouver to Heathrow/London was brilliant. We were flying into the new day.
It was early morning when we flew over Iceland and we were flying low enough we could easily pick out the fishing villages, volcano’s and almost signs of life. We then to hooked onto the UK right up the top of Scotland, and were obviously running well on time as we were rewarded with a leisurely flight over the English countryside right to Heathrow – below us an intricate patchwork-quilt of farms, small villages, castles, churches, an amazing sight and we were blown away. Shame they let the junior pilot land the plane at Heathrow (or maybe it was a passenger behind the controls?). And shame the entry into England was spoilt by a rude, unwelcoming bird at customs who glared while questioning the hotel we had listed as our ‘place of stay’. She’d never heard of it, well bully me, it turned out it had had a recent name change!
At this stage, I did not realise I had left my ‘dress-tops’ behind in Vancouver (we travel with one suitcase so I need to be a fastidious packer and have separate zipper bags for undies/t-shirts etc.) I didn’t know the ‘dress-top’ zipper bag had slipped off the bed while I was packing to leave, and was eventually found by the cleaner wedged down between the bed headboard and wall.
By Val Bird