We arrived at grammys(AKA mom AKA Sharon) and grandpa Ricks on 2nd August (yikes..am i that far behind!!) and spent a few gorgeous days hanging out by the lake before loading up the car and heading northwards to Canada.
The car was jam packed with Marco and I in the front, Santana, Sienna and cousin Kira in the back and grammy snuggled way, way in back surrounded by luggage, but content with her Ipod and knitting. On top of grammys Acura most of our luggage was stored in a fantastic contraption, kind of like a giant, durable ziplock bag. Along the way we fielded several comments on our resemblance to the Griswalds in the National Lampoon movies.
We were all excited about the Canada trip. Sharon had informed us some months before that we had been invited by her friends and clients Keith & Julie Thompson to cruise around the Islands of British Columbia for 6 days on their 58ft luxury yacht. Of course we had to check our schedules first to see if we could fit it in (joke!!) and to our delight we could!
Crossing the border to Canada we were amazed by the aesthetics. Just weeks before we had crossed the Mexican border at Tijuana; choked, dusty roads, multiple lanes crisscrossed by street vendors, the smell of churros, tacos; small, ragged children knocking on your windows their eyes imploring you to buy their wares. Dust, heat, one hour to move 1/2 a kilometre, an ancient woman, tiny, wrinkled, stooped trying to sell peanuts to carloads of people intent on looking the other way. Green light, move slowly to the booth where a stony faced US border guard asks us to please remove our sunglasses. Where have we been, what are we bringing back, where are we going..Marco tries to warm him up with a joke. We dont think smiling is allowed Post 911..he waves us through and we’re back in first world.
The US Canadian border on the other hand is manicured and orderly, beautiful Asian inspired gardens surround it. Families are walking around admiring the flowers. An elderly couple sits on a nearby bluff under a red umbrella watching the cars cross over. It looks like a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon.
The border guard looks like someones younger brother, fresh faced and super polite he welcomes us to Canada and wishes us a great cruise. We head off towards Vancouver where we will be staying for 2 nights, all of us marvelling at how clean and organised this country is.
Vancouver is however, a different story. The first evening Marco and I take a stroll. Its always interesting when you are in a new city, with no idea of the various zones, to try and pick what kind of area you are in;
it wasn’t hard to figure that we were right in the middle of “Seedy Central”. Within minutes a wiry, wild eyed woman approached us for money for a burger. We skirted around her, took a few steps forward when a giant black man leapt out of a doorway, waving his arms crazily, hurling abuse back through the doorway, jerking, swearing…Crystal meth seemed to be big on these streets…we decided to walk back the other way for a while and not finding anywhere we really felt inlined to stop into for a drink, made our way back to the hotel.
The next day dawned beautifully, sunny and warm, we headed through the same streets over the Granville bridge to Granville island. Somehow it seemed less ominous in the daytime although the debris of homeless people waking up to their new day was even more confronting in the daylight.
Granville Island is a beautiful mecca of artists enclaves, restaurants and souvenir shops. The girls found a Kids arcade and were happy to stay there for a couple of hours while Sharon, Marco and I set off to explore the galleries and shops. We lunched on crab cakes, squid and mussels and then boarded one of the colourful aqua cabs which took us speedily to the other side of town. Sleepy from a big lunch and a couple of beers we strolled in the hot sun towards Chinatown, noting that even here on the other side of town we had to watch out for the kids as we passed empty syringes and other drug paraphernalia on the grass. The girls estimated later that it seemed that one of 5 people we passed was obviously homeless (shopping carts filled with lifes posessions) or vacant eyed and lost. Turns out that Chinatown pretty much backed on to the “real” seedy side of town. Hastings street at the end of Granville was Drug Central- a proliferation of wasted lives unlike anything I have ever seen. We stopped to chat with a policewoman and man on their walking beat. They joked about their hopes to clean up the city before the 2010 Winter Olympics. ” Good luck!” we said as another dead eyed twenty something shuffled past us. The girls and Sharon decided to take a taxi back to the Hotel and Marco and I continued our walk. Dont get me wrong there was plenty of colour in the city too… we laughed as a long haired fifty something hippy strolled by with a 3 foot iguana draped over his shoulder and stopped along the way to listen to the myriad of buskers. Half way back to the Hotel we were excited to join in with a Human rights protest March. On the eve of the Beijing Olympics we were happy to make a stand against the Chinese Occupation of Tibet.
We set off the next day to take the ferry across to Sydney on Vancouver Island..will have to save the cruise till next blog as Sienna is impatiently waiting her turn on the computer. Heres a sneak preview of some photos!