Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tame Travels with an Edge: Vancouver, British Columbia

By Cal Orey
As a native Californian whom has traveled to Canada and most of our 50 states, I'm all too aware of our megadrought and how it's affecting our water supply--and my sense of adventure happiness. 

Exploring in Canada on March 24, I got to escape reality and savor water from morning till night. In Washington and Canada when I visited cafes to restaurants, it was not asked by servers: "Do you want a glass of water?" And I could sense their thoughts: "Do you really need it?" And refills for tea?  A wash, too in our Golden State. Water in B.C. was plentiful in showers, bathtubs, pools, hot tubs, eateries, and tea rooms, the skies, and environment. I was in Waterworld and I loved it...

Waking up in B.C... At home each day I awaken to three sweet but demanding fur kids. I am nestled amid pine trees (and a receding beach at Lake Tahoe a few blocks away). In every room of the cabin each window I look out of boasts towering trees (minus one that fell on the cabin last December). On Sunday last month it was a breath of fresh air to open my eyes to a solo bed with a city view and water. This corner room on the 24th floor boasted a balcony which I did learn to savor. Most of the time I was in the room the door was open and fresh air and space was awesome to my senses.

Monday morning after the carafe of coffee (I didn't want to walk into Starbucks so early in the morning with intense customers high on their caffeine fix) and one more toasted bagel to avoid the fifty dollar waffle affair, the morning swim workout and hot tub time outdoors was unforgettable.
It was a blissful welcome; not a 2 mile drive to the resort pool at Tahoe (which is doable, too). I did feel spoiled and smiling to enjoy water all alone again. Guiltless. Knowing that Vancouver Aquarium was next up made me feel in sync with the fish I'd visit. 

Where'sthe Sea Monsters?... I was looking forward to seeing the super Sea Monsters. As a former writer for Tropical Fish Hobbyist, I assumed these creatures would be big and bad. Out of the pool, into the bathtub in my room; it was time to go have a face to face with the spooky fish. Like a kid I was anticipating the unknown.

I was at the aquarium more back in 1999. I vowed to go back alone since my traveling partner was not my cup of tea. Once there it wasn't much different except I liked being alone. The air was very humid.  Lots of energetic children screaming and laughing were everywhere I walked. If I was a little girl I'd be asking my parents: "Where are the sea monsters?" Once downstairs I was stunned to see a fossilized sea creature. No real live sea monster. I wanted to cry. My fantasy was squashed.

Back to Tea Research... After my time spent at the aquarium (I connected with penguins, sea otters, and a frog), I went back to the hotel and prepared to set out again to visit the tea people. Both experiences taught me a lot--which I will share in my book.
Tea and treats were a top highlight of the trip. Above is a peek of Teaworld. Sweet and savory edibles and tea(s) were served to me. 

I enjoyed some of the items. But, but, but I detected attitude by a few servers. I'm not sure if it's a Canada quirk, like in Quebec, or what, but my sensitivity was spot-on after I discovered from other patrons that this was not in my imagination. 
...Into the City...  From swimming to hot tubbing, visiting the fish--dead and alive--sipping teas and munching on eats was decadent, enlightening but I needed a break. Since it was raining which didn't seem to bother the Canadians. In fact, I couldn't help but notice everyone walks, swims, and drinks coffee in the rain and doesn't seem bothered. At all. 

I decided to take in a movie but the theater was too far for a trek and I got a cab. It was 50 Shades of Grey--the sexy film--that I decided to see so I wouldn't blush watching it in a town where everyone knows everyone. The glitch? The concierge gave me the wrong time of showing. That said, I was stranded in a mall in a foreign country. 
A sweet security guard offered to hail a cab. No such luck. After 30 minutes of trying, he gave up. It was left to me to get back to my hotel. Actually, I should have tried myself. Within minutes a cabbie stopped and we were en route to my point of destination: Dry and cozy.  Since I was water logged with tea, for once in my life I didn't crave the hot beverage.  

In My Room...Back in the room with a view I thought: "I don't want to be around the hustle bustle of the city." So, I splurged. I ordered two films: "Wild" and Still "Alice"--a chick movie marathon. Worse, each movie was $17.  The Canadian dollar doesn't go very far, I'm told. But the movies, especially the one where the character Cheryl hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, inspired me and brought me back in time. 

When I was in my mid twenties I hitchhiked from the San Francisco Bay Area south to Los Angeles and on through the Mojave Desert to my gran's in Tucson, AZ. The thing was, I was on a mission to deliver my mother's ashes in a box.  This grueling adventure--being stranded on Interstate 10 to talking to my deceased mom in a box-- was an important journey. It ended up as a novella in my thesis back in grad school.  While viewing Wild, the saga hit me with vivid memories (going hungry to dangerous happenings) of being like an animal on the road.

But this time the way I traveled was different. This time around it was a book signing, book research, and some fun things to do. Back in time each day was about survival. After the films I fell asleep because the hotel wake-up call would ring at 4:00 A.M.--allowing me enough time to get to the train station headed back to the states.  From being young and naive sleeping in a sleeping bag with a dog to decades later cuddled up in a bed with a postcard view, it hit me: "I'm still an adventuress going out of her comfort zone but no longer wild."

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