Vancouver- June 26th-29th

My arrival to Canada was….let’s just say, less than auspicious.  I took the Amtrak up, and while going through customs I apparently didn’t pass their test (you see, it’s very suspicious that I’m traveling on my own for the sake of traveling and pack lightly.  That alone is just cause to consider me a drug smuggler…).  So I had to go through “secondary screening” which was another interrogation by a border patrol agent while he completely unpacked my bag and went through all of the pictures on my camera.  I half expected him to ask for the password to my phone.  He kept asking me why I looked nervous, and it took all my willpower not to respond that I wasn’t nervous, I was ticked.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t find anything and I was free to go, but I was not a happy camper…..

Luckily, the day got better from there.  After checking in at the hostel I went to one of my favorite places in Vancouver – Granville Island.  It’s a tourist trap and public market all in one.  I loved all the cheap produce and wonderful treats (I had maple-walnut gelato twice during my 3.5 day stay). The hustle and bustle reminded me of NYC, but I’m not sure even NYC has a place quite like this.

After Granville, I headed downtown to walk around old Gastown (Vancouver’s historical district) and Canada Place

Gastown and the Steam Clock

“Gassy Jack” in Gastown, on the site where Vancouver was founded

Canada Place

Olympic Torch – Winter 2010 Games

The next day I went to another of my favorite places – Stanley Park.

I also hit up Chinatown, which ended up being much less tourist-oriented than all other Chinatowns I’ve ever been to.  I walked around forever searching for Bubble Tea, but none was to be found.  I actually had to leave Chinatown and head back downtown in order to find some, which just blew my mind.

That evening I decided to try to watch the sunset from Sunset Beach (naturally), but due to some low lying clouds I didn’t get the experience of watching the sun dip beneath the mountains.

I did, however, get to see the famed Inukshuk.  The Inukshuk is a human-like figure made of stones which the Native Americans and Eskimos used to construct in Northern Canada and Alaska as a kind of trail marker.  The Inukshuk was chosen as the symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympic games and has come to represent the human spirit and a sense of friendship and all being in this together – in other words, it lets you know that you’re not alone.  For some reason, this just really resonates with me.  Can you imagine traveling in a small nomadic group through the arctic hundreds of years ago, perhaps beginning to doubt if you’re on the right track when you come upon a larger-than-life Inukshuk, and suddenly you know that, not only are you on the right track, but someone’s been there before you?  You may never actually see them in your lifetime, but you know that they’re there, experiencing the same exact things you are, walking the same trails.  I think it’d be just a bit awe-inspiring.

The next day I walked around some of the beaches in south Vancouver, killed the rest of the morning on Granville, then heading back downtown to take the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay, which is like another Granville Island).

The following morning was filled with another trip to Stanley Park and Granville before I headed to the bus station to take the Greyhound back to the States.  Luckily the border crossing went more smoothly, though the agent did look like he was thinking about making me go through another secondary search.  Seriously, is it really that odd to travel for the sake of traveling?  I know that some people think traveling alone is odd, but is that really just cause to look at me like I’m a criminal?

Anyway, much like Seattle, I’m glad I came to Vancouver, but I don’t necessarily need to come again.  I guess I really am more of an East Coast/ Midwest girl after all 🙂

******

Where I Stayed

Samesun Vancouver Hostel / 4 person dorm

Pros:  Free breakfast started at 6am (even though it was only toast and jam, it was better than nothing) / Great location on the main street (Granville) / Plenty of showers and bathrooms

Cons: Wifi didn’t reach the room

Favorite Parts:

-Granville Island

-Stanley Park

-Canada Place waterfront area

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Montreal

I went to Montreal this past weekend, but have been wayyyy too busy to blog about it.  Between school, homework, and work projects I’ve literally barely had time to eat during the day.  I was supposed to spend all day today working on a project for Marc, but thanks to SJG and JChin’s inability to keep their noses out of anything, the project is no longer happening, so I have time to blog 🙂

Work and school were both closed starting Thursday for the Jewish New Year, so that’s when I left.  I took the train up and back because a) it was cheaper than flying; and b) I’d heard that the scenery was beautiful.  Now, I’m sure many people think I’m insane for taking an 11 hour (one way) train ride for the view and the cost, but I’m glad I did.  It was surprisingly comfortable, the scenery was beautiful, and I had plenty of time to catch up on my reading.  I was on a Shakespeare kick and managed to read MacBeth, King Lear, and Troilus and Cressida (along with another novel) during my 22 hour round trip.  I could have read more, but the mountains and river were really distracting.

Montreal’s super cute and the people are reallllllyyyy nice.  Like, so nice it even creeps me—the Midwesterner—out.  Parts of the city look just like NYC, but Old Montreal is very European.  Cobblestone streets, gothic architecture, huge cathedrals, little cafes—the works, basically.  My favorite part was Mont Royal.  It’s this huge hill (I think it’s something like 760 feet high) and if you climb up 432 steps (yes, I counted) and walk up multiple sloping paths, you’re rewarded with an amazing view of the city, the St, Lawrence river, and a couple mountains in the background.  I went up two of the three mornings I was there.  The park on the “mountain” was designed by the guy who later designed Central Park, so clearly that was gorgeous too.

I went to other parts of the city too: Chinatown (cute), Little Italy (lame), Olympic Stadium area (ugly), Botanical Gardens (lovely) St Louis Square (charming, especially the surrounding houses), St. Helen’s Island (beautiful, with awesome views).

My favorite shop was Suite 88 Chocolatier.  I read rave reviews online, so I just had to go.  I tried both their original hot chocolate (made with melted chocolate and milk) and their intense hot chocolate (made with cream and a whole lot more chocolate).  Both were delicious, but the intense was even a little too much for me….and that’s saying something.

Overall, my vacation was blissfully uneventful.  I’m sure that would be boring to some people (*cough*EK*cough*) but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I think I’ve firmly established on this blog that I’m mellow and drama-averse, so the polite chill atmosphere of Montreal was exactly what I needed.  The only thing that would have made it better was if the subway conductors actually stopped the train completely before opening the doors….. lol

PS: This pic’s just for you EK 😀