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Vacations – a much needed break from the grind

Posted on September 12, 2013 by Taber Times

Summer vacation is always a long-awaited ritual by Canadians from coast-to-coast. We plan our vacations anywhere between a few months to a year in advance to guarantee success when we venture out on journeys across the globe. The daily grind, is of course, mostly monotonous while a vacation or weekend getaway is the perfect prescription for unwinding, relaxing and wearing shorts and flip flops. Canadians book flights or cruise ships in anticipation of visiting exotic locales or faraway lands in a galaxy far, far away or close to home. Canadians drive mini-vans with their families to neighbouring provinces or States to take part in fairs, tourist attractions and parks. Or Canadians sometimes simply enjoy their backyards while reading a must-read book and sipping an imported or micro-brewed brewskie or fine wine.

This summer I visited Vancouver, British Columbia and surrounding area to sit at the beach and breathe in the intoxicating ocean/mountain air. This particular trip featured stints in Whistler, Horseshoe Bay, Squamish, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Fort Langley and Port Coquitlam — to name a few. In Vancouver, stops included Kitsilano Beach, the University of B.C., Stanley Park, Granville Island, downtown Vancouver and a plethora of other city must-sees. It was definitely a planes, trains and automobiles type of experience (those aren’t pillows.)

The Pacific National Exhibition or PNE was one of the activities I indulged in during my stay. I have never been to a fair with so many people — an actual sea of people. At the PNE I checked out the Genghis Khan exhibit, ate deep fried Twinkies and Oreos and pickles, and I even picked up a commemorative PNE retrospect book. Did you know Elvis and The Beatles both performed at past exhibitions? This year’s PNE featured The Beach Boys, Foreigner, The Proclaimers and Big Wreck — but it was way too busy to stay for the evening entertainment, unfortunately.

In Whistler, as luck would have it (bad luck, to a certain degree), the Ironman Canada competition was being held throughout the town. I felt out of place, as I am not a big fan of sports and this was a premiere sporting event with a heck of a lot of screaming and cow bells to cheer on the participants. Not to mention, I’m out of shape and could use to lose a few pounds. The town itself did have a certain whimsy and charm. The stores were trendy and cried “buy the many gifts as souvenirs for the ones you love.” There was also a farmers’ market where I purchased local eventual plump and juicy peaches and artisan bread. Whistler possesses breathtaking scenery but it is the B.C. equivalent to Alberta’s Banff and to a smaller scale, Waterton Lakes National Park.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, as I somewhat got over one of my fears of heights in the guise of a suspension bridge overtop trees and ice cold water below. I was also gifted a “I Survived Capilano Suspension Bridge Park” coffee mug from the gift shop for my successful attempt at crossing the bridge by my patient, understanding and beautiful fiancee, who joined me on my week-long excursion. I have to admit, if it wasn’t for her words of encouragement and the Granville Island maple cream ale liquid courage — I would have not made the plunge, or maybe I would have. Once crossing over to the other side of the nerve-racking but exhilarating man-made wonder, adventurers can explore the trees and visit treehouses, complete with an assortment of various-sized suspension bridges, hanging over pathways and plant life.

I also experienced quite an embarrassing situation before embarking on my suspension bridge expedition. I somehow managed to end up in the ladies room instead of the men’s bathroom. I blame it on my nerves and not paying attention to the details. It was funny, there I was doing my thing in a stall and when I completed the task I left to leave and my fiancee was standing there wondering what the heck I was doing. The funny thing was, I was wondering why she was in the men’s washroom and she was wondering why I was in the ladies washroom. Comic relief prevailed, as I took the walk of shame out of the bathroom.

I was wondering why there were no urinals and I was lucky there wasn’t a barrage of women in the bathroom. Embarrassed, I truly was, but it made for a funny and memorable story, that’s for sure.

Another embarrassing moment was when I forgot to roll up my fiancee’s brother’s car driver’s side window and it poured buckets of rain that evening giving the inside of the vehicle a bath. I say it was simply a leaky window but we all know better. I was the brunt of many a joke during the rest of my stay, in regards to not rolling up my window.

We also visited the Vancouver Aquarium, which was my second visit to the marine life-based family attraction but it was much different without kids. It was weird walking around the facility without running around after kids or listening to them saying “I’m bored,” or “Can we go yet?”  The 4-D salmon run movie was pretty cool — with the smell of pine, the mists of water on the face, the thrusts of air at the back of the neck and the rustling of something undetermined at my feet. Jellyfish were also a feature at the aquarium and later on during our trip we found a dead jellyfish washed ashore at a rocky beach — something we heard was happening from time-to-time to jellyfish around the area. At first we thought it was Jello from a mold or someone playing a prank but underneath it had tentacle-like grossness. We also sampled Pacific Cod fish and malt vinegar drenched chips at the beach and curried mussels, speaking of sea creatures.   

A few observations, as an outsider, regarding beautiful British Columbia. There is a Starbucks coffee shop on every corner much like there is a Tim Horton’s coffee shop on every corner in Alberta. Gas was close to $1.45 a litre and the freeways and traffic were nuts, at times, with rush hour expanding over a three-hour time period.

It was overcast, humid and misty but was still a warm way to end the summer. The beaches in B.C. are amazing and are great to just walk along and pick up shells while dipping sore and calloused feet in the cool salty water.  

Overall, I really enjoy British Columbia, especially Vancouver. It has so much to offer to the weary traveller and offers something for everyone. The food and libations are superb and the people are very friendly and helpful.

A toast to vacations. May they always be a crucial part of summer fun.

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