Thursday, 22 July 2010

Vancouver, eh? Departure and day 1

This blog starts with a very long posting of a day to day account of my trip to Vancouver in May/June 2010. Each day has been split into a seperate post to make it easier to read.

The Departure

I’ve been psyching myself up for the 9 hour flight for weeks now. There’s something about flying that makes me nervous, but it’s not to do with the idea of the plane crashing, it’s more the fact I don’t like being enclosed in such limited space. The fact I’m travelling alone on such a long journey also makes me nervous but the bursts of excitement and anticipation of going to CANADA begin to outweigh the nerves as I sit in the airport waiting on my flight.

There’s a man sitting beside me dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and a cap. He looks like he’s in is late 30s but there’s something childlike about him. He munches on a double decker chocolate bar and he seems nervous. He strikes up random conversations with the people on his other side. He’s in front of me as we board the plane and he stops to chat to the airline crew, telling them about trains he has been on and ones he plans to ride in Canada. He clearly has some kind of mental disturbance and I hope I’m not sitting beside him on the flight.

I have 2 Vancouverites beside me, one young woman, one slightly older, neither travelling together. The young one directly beside me is friendly enough but has a standoffish manner. Avatar is on the film choices. I spend most of the 9 hour flight trying to watch the whole thing as it keeps getting paused (by lunch, by some lottery collection). My companions choose to have their air conditioning on full blast for the journey so I’m glad of my jumper but wish I had my scarf. I like the fact there is a map on the tv screen with a little plane moving along, showing us where we’re flying over. As we fly over New York I think that this is the next place I’d like to visit.

As we begin the descent to Vancouver the woman talks about how a lot of films are shot near where she stays by UBC, a quiet area outside town. She says the end of her road is often blocked off by film crews. She notices my Robert Pattinson MP3 cover (ahem) and tells me that he apparently likes Vancouver. I wonder if he told her this personally.


The woman walks with me off the plane. The girl hurries away without a goodbye. The woman is really proud of Vancouver International Airport. She tells me it’s the best airport ever and points out the waterfall and water features which are pretty amazing. She says goodbye and points me in the right direction for international arrivals.

The man at passport control asks me what I do back in Scotland.
“I’m a careers adviser.”
“A what?”
“A careers adviser?”
“A what?”
“I help people find jobs.”
“Oh reeight, a careers adviser.”

Clearly my accent is going to be a problem.

I get into a taxi. My taxi driver is Indian and wearing a turban. His conversation is limited. I’m slightly disappointed I didn’t get a Vancouverite asking me all about back home. It’s raining really heavy and it sort of feels like...home.

I arrive at my accommodation, a big house which reminds me of ones from American films like Hocus Pocus and the TV series Charmed. I buzz Diana, who owns the place, and she comes down to meet me. She has a friendly gentle manner and I feel at ease as she helps me up with my case. I am delighted and relieved to discover that my little suite (called the Penthouse as it’s on the top floor) looks even better than it did online. It has real character with rustic wooden furniture, sky windows and an old dresser. It feels very homey. I comment on an art installation hanging on the wall as we walk up the stairs and Diana says it’s part of a project she did with a community group.
(This is the website of the suite in case anyone reading this is planning on going to Vancouver and looking for somewhere to stay. Highly recommend this place.

After unpacking some things I decide to take a walk down Commercial Drive, armed with umbrella and rain coat. A house down the road from me has a Peace sign in the window.

First impressions of The Drive are that it is very eclectic and full of character (and characters). As I walk up the street, past a range of shops and cafes, I can smell a heady mix of Incense and cannabis. I walk past Native Indian types, old men who look like they’ve walked out of a cowboy film, funky young people who look like they’ve stepped out of a 90s grunge film, hip hop and hippy types. It strikes me immediately how attractive some of the men are; they have a fresh look about them which is lacking in the dough faced men back home (sorry men back home!). I see Joe’s Cafe in the distance, the rainbow mural on its exterior adding to the ‘hippy’ vibe of the drive. I saw a picture of Joe’s Cafe online, reading about how Douglas Coupland shot some documentary here. It feels good now standing here, seeing it for real. The shops and cafes along the Drive look very cool and unique. There are interesting Alice in Wonderland trinkets in one window, with a part of the script coming out of an old typewriter.

The rain is really pounding down on the pavements but this does nothing to dull the vibrancy and colour of The Drive.

I call into a local shop to buy some food and camomile tea (how rock and roll). The cashier greets me with “What’s your number?”
I look at him blankly and he repeats the question. I start to mumble something about not understanding and explain I’m a visitor.
“Ah,” light dawns on his face. He still doesn’t explain what he meant but asks me where I’m from.
“Near Glasgow.”
“Ah Glaswegian.”
I tell him not really, as I live in a town nearby and grew up further down the coast. He says they don’t understand these technicalities but he ‘detected a bit of the brogue’.

I head back to my suite, try to have a nap but can’t, try out the weird shower and Jane comes over later from work, armed with maps and explanations about the transport system.


  1. I passed the link to my son as he is in the process of expanding his business into Canada and is using Vancouver as a base - he's always wanted to live there especially as he's in Birmingham at the moment. He's just made this comment about your blog:
    'I read through the whole lot, and bought the Douglas Coupland book she
    refers to. Interesting stuff, actually'

    Well done! Ann Burnett (one of your mum's pals)

  2. Thanks for passing on the comment Ann. Always nice to see people are reading!