Semi-Solo: Sea-to-Sky Edition (or, put simply, my Pacific Northwest Trip), Part I

My dear, dear reading public.

Before you think for even one second that I have abdicated a life of adventure or bombastic antics, I am here to ring the buzzer. Not here! Not now! In fact, the adventure is on more than ever.

With another busy season behind me (*exhales sharply and exudes violent happiness*) and a surreal-seeming trip to Japan ahead of me (*repeat violent happiness*), I knew I needed to make the precious hours of my firm-mandated winter break special. As such, I took to my favorite area of the United States, the Pacific Northwest, to indulge in the splendor and beauty of the winter season up here.

But wait! There’s more. I visited Canada, too.

Now, I’m going to spill the deets on this trip a bit differently than usual. Since this trip is even more ad hoc than Portland, more introspective than Scotland/Ireland, and admittedly a lot less hectic than Japan will be, I think that short vignettes of each major “chunk” will do. Maybe you’ll like this and maybe you won’t. Should the need to clock me arise, there is a comments section below.

Vancouver, BC

I’d only decided the night before my uncomfortably early Seattle flight that I wanted to see Vancouver. I hadn’t been to Canada in nearly 10 years (for our family Whistler trip in 2005) and was craving an adventure that embodied everything I love about winter – lights everywhere, a reliance on hot drinks to heat my face, and snow. The ability to visit two countries over the break was enticing, too.

Contrary to what you may think, the city of Vancouver is not very snowy at all. It’s frigid, clean air sets a cool undertone to the city, but if you look up you’ll see at least some semblance sun. Maybe some rain along with it. The overall air of the natives was healthy, motivated, and overall thrilled to be living there. I don’t blame them – the city is well-kept and has a lot to offer.

My stay was brief, so it would probably be best for me to recount my visit in terms of the 24 “productive hours” spent there, in case you’re wondering about an itinerary for your own purposes:

9:00 – I woke up in the midst of a dream about Team America (I’ll just leave that there) and took to exploring the polished Yaletown area. I got myself some local coffee at The Buzz Cafe, which is a cafe/art gallery hybrid. While the coffee and delectable gluten-free peanut butter cookie were on par with the wonderful cafe fare I experienced in Portland, the service was about as icy as my windows would get later. Nonetheless, I was enjoying the fact that there was not a single ugly building in sight and plenty of cute dogs were running around that day. Indeed, with its walkability and plethora of cute consignment stores, fun eateries, and fitness centers, Yaletown seems like the place to live if you live in Vancouver.

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By 12:00, I had finally made it up to nearby Grouse Mountain. Admittedly, I had spent way too much time debating the merits of visiting the more expensive, bougie mountain Cypress, but I had chosen Grouse due to its offering of ziplining. I deeply regret not going “actual-skiing” up here, because the snow was PERFECT. However, ziplining was great fun and it even came with a free photoshoot.

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Around 3:00, I stopped at Capilano Suspension Bridge because I’m secretly a goobery tourist at heart. Yes, this is one of those attractions that you’ll see on virtually every tourist site known to mankind as a “must-see” for Vancouver. The somewhat outrageous ticket price was well worth it when I photobombed at least 3 bridge selfies (or “bridgefies”) and acted like an ewok as I climbed the Treetop Adventure portion. But honestly, while the view from the bridge and within the actual park was gorgeous, I did think the ticket was a tad steep. Further demonstration as to why I often prefer the path less pummeled.

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This made a cool Instagram pic, though.

4:30 brought me to the acclaimed Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Having arrived near closing time, they switched the admission cost to “by donation” just for me! JK, they always do that at 4:30, apparently. I sheepishly dropped in 10 American dollars, as Canadian ATMs don’t seem to fancy me. I give the man working the counter points for not judging me. While you ideally need around 2 hours to see the museum, my precious half hour still delivered. The museum’s structure itself is worth coming to see. It boasts an impressive collection of anthropological (obviously) artifacts from both the Pacific Northwest and parts beyond. The only exhibit I got to see in true detail was Claiming Spaces: The Voices of Aboriginal Youth, which showcased art from First Nations people in their teens and early 20s on what it is to be native. I have almost no familiarity with most of the tribes up here, so seeing the various interpretations of tribal styles and personal social commentaries was fascinating.

Just one of the pieces on display, and my favorite by far.
Just one of the pieces on display, and my favorite by far.
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A permanent structure exhibiting the creation of man. Intense.
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The museum’s exterior, showing a view of one of the totem poles in the outdoor exhibit.

I made it back around 5:30 and deliberated my evening, including what to eat, for an hour and a half. Again, another instance where not having a brain  would have assisted me greatly. I can’t be too mad, however, as I was able to enjoy a scrumptious Malaysian meal at Banana Leaf in the West End on Davie Street. Not only was my server kind and adorable, he recommended the amazing Singapore Laksa, which is essentially the greatest hits of seafood steeped in curry and noodles (aka: FFREAKING DELICIOUS), as well as the fried banana/ice cream number for dessert. Boy, did I leave happy.

Lastly, in the spirit of Haley O’Bryan-doing-traditionally-group-activities-alone, I attended my first-ever burlesque show at Biltmore Cabaret with…myself. The Biltmore’s Kitty Nights is supposedly Vancouver’s most prestigious burlesque show, and I believe it! The artistry, creativity, and humor that is put into these shows is not to be overlooked. While I may have been one tall, orange beanie-wearing, blue-lipped American standing in the middle of all young couples and mega-fans of the evening’s performers, I felt significantly more at ease than you would think. I would have taken photos, but my phone died. If you’re lucky, though, I will show you the one Snapchat I got of the dancing baby (a performer, not an actual baby. Trust me, this made it all the more interesting).

Other observations about the city of Vancouver:

  • I appreciated the subtle humor that seemed to linger everywhere.

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  • I think this might be the only place where they sell “Japadogs” or “Canadian Steamed Burritos”. I didn’t get to try either. What a bad food tourist I am!

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  •    I deeply regret not seeing Stanley Park, which I’ve been repeatedly told is spectacular. This just means I have to come back.

I have an early ferry tomorrow morning and am having trouble keeping my eyes closed, so let’s pick back up again tomorrow. Stay tuned for the second phase of my journey (The Islands), to be written when I can actually form words and have had some coffee.

– H

Thought of the day: Sometimes it’s fun to just pretend to be a local.

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