In August 2015 we spent two weeks cruising the British Columbia asphalt: a family road trip back to our old haunts around Vancouver, the lower mainland, and Vancouver Island. Along the way we saw some familiar sites, ate some long-missed food, and caught up with many folks who’ve migrated west in recent years. These are some of the highlights.
On Familiar Streets & Old Haunts
We opted to camp in Burnaby. All this talk of Vancouver (recently and a decade past) and we so rarely mentioned that we didn’t actually live there after Karin moved out to the coast. We relocated no the (very) nearby City of Burnaby, butted up right against Vancouver and barely noticed when passing from one municipality to the next, but a different city nonetheless.
So in the name of old haunts (and cheaper hotel rates) we booked at the very same hotel where the parents often stayed when trekking out to the coast to visit us all those years ago, a quiet little inn located in an out of the way corner of the corner of Burnaby.
Only it wasn’t.
Our decade absence left much behind for us to be nostalgic about, but the residents of our former residence have been busy building in the last decade and a lot has grown and changed.
We went for a number of walks during our visit — our old neighbourhoods, near my old office, around Granville Island, to shop in familiar malls and into once-frequently-traversed train stations. And it was all familiar, or at least familiar enough that Claire was quickly (though reluctantly) engrossed in her parents own “Great Nostalgia Tour of ’15” — but the changes were almost as abundant as the hazy memories.
Urban density had increased, obviously. More businesses as sprouted below new towering condos. The old mall where we would wander too frequently was being “revitalized” in a process that involved an excavation site that could likely be seen from space. And the little forested area I walked past each day on my commute from the train to the old apartment was now a groomed shrubbery bordering a few-hundred-unit walk-up condo.
On Trees Forts & Fish Tanks
Between reminiscing meanders through the Vancouver and Burnaby streets, however, we did find some time to play tourist.
We had a short but lovely Granville Island lunch with Jess, who in the turning of tables way of life is now happily encamped in the Vancouver lifestyle while I am the one stuck back in Edmonton (it was the other way around about a decade ago!) On the same little adventure, we bought Claire some art supplies at the Emily Carr school art store and some actual art at an island gallery — a piece that was dated during our tenure in the City and became our delicate bit of luggage for the rest of the road trip.
We also spent a quality afternoon at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has expanded greatly since my last visits. It used to be a short stop with a wander across the bridge and back. It is now a kind of adventure park, with tree-top platforms, a vertigo-inducing cliff walk, and a few kilometers of beautiful trails. It took us a solid three hours to get it all done.
Our third day in the City was started with a previously documented run in Stanley Park (my sea-wall-bucket-list run) followed by an air-conditioned wander through the Vancouver Aquarium, which captivated Claire if for no other reason than I gave her a camera and, yes, she used it.
And yet those were just the big name stops. We navigated traffic and tracked down another half-dozen little places to explore, if only for a half hour break here and there, or to get out of rush-hour traffic for a bit.
On Sushi, Seafood & Ice Cream
And, of course, we ate.
The only thing that outnumbers Starbucks in Vancouver is probably really good sushi restaurants. Karin was pining for sushi. We lived on sushi when we inhabited the West Coast. We landed in the city, went for a quick walk, and then Karin walked to the first sushi place she saw and grabbed a few rolls (for a fraction of the cost we’d have got the same in Edmonton, of course) and we munched them down in the hotel room (in a taste comparison that would have kicked ass on anything we could get at home… *sigh*)
And speaking of nostalgia we tracked down both (a) the hole-in-the-wall sushi shop that supplied the bulk our addiction when we still lived in Burnaby (unfortunately closed on Mondays!) and (b) the all-you-can-eat place in uptown Vancouver on Granville (now renamed but the same sort of deal) where we took our last meal in the city.
To avoid mentioning the glut of various food joints we checked out on our multi-week adventure to the coast I’ll mention now that Vancouver started the trend of seeking out what amounted to a week-long diet of nothing much more than mostly sushi, seafood, and ice cream.
Now thoroughly entrenched as Albertans, one of short-list of regrets from leaving the coast has been that we’ve cut off our supply to fresh, quality (and cheap) seafood by living in a landlocked province. My seafood dining inventory for the duration of the trip ranged from a selection of fish and chips, to seafood platters, to all-you-can-eat sushi menus to delicious chowders, to food truck fish tacos, heaping bowls of mussels, and a sampling of nearly anything that used to live in the nearby salty waters.
And of course stops for ice cream in between… probably a few more times that I dare to disclose here.