Well we arrived after a 16 hr flight via Auckland… Barely 2 hours after we left Bris with a turn up through New Zealand. We have gained in time which is rather nifty. I thought the night would never end however. Sleeping sitting up has never been a favourite of mine but this night was definitely more difficult and disorientating.
Seeing the snow capped Columbian Mountains in the distance though was a sight to behold, simply gorgeous. It is a prelude to sights we have yet to see as the Rocky Mountains lay beyond these. Driving on the right hand side of the road… a small nightmare. We could have been anywhere in winter Aus’, though the sky is a brillant blue, the breeze brisk and the city friendly. That we are actually in spring/summer, which is Vancouver now is our reality.
The strangest things I saw to my mind are the small things. The prices look the same but at a guess I would say that the groceries are cheaper. Then they add tax and if it’s the hospitality and service industry you are looking at a further 15%-20% gratuity or service charge. How I hate this extortion they call gratuity, a poor excuse for not paying staff a living wage.
It isn’t as though the service is any better, though the smiles are there. The service is mostly lacking in our experience and I long for the Aussie hospitality I an accustomed too, without a view to a gratuity. Maybe Aussies have a reputation in being poor tippers and I feel sure that we have if the service is anything to go by.
We actually had a waitress walk off in the middle of taking our order… not interested in completing the service and we knew what we wanted at the time and was in the middle of telling her. She just didn’t want to serve and was more interested in a table of Americans who was more likely to leave a bigger tip.
On the whole it was very poor service in the restaurants unless you were very obvious in wanting to throw money at the wait staff. Cafés are often more friendly and I adored the waffle café which simply was exceptional, divine and decadent.
In the home base a few things are quite odd. That they don’t have switches on their electrical plugs is a remnant of Ireland, that they have override switches in the whole apartment a remnant of Wales and that the white goods in the kitchenette are strange in their use. But what is most disorientating is that all and any switches they do have… such as for lights, flick up to turn on… the reverse of what you will find in Aus. Revealing also is a remnant of Sweden or perhaps of Europe, which has things like washing machines combined with dryers and ovens with odd combinations and the microwaves are strangely wide though they look very efficient. The Man can’t seem to work them out though… perhaps if he wore his glasses it wouldn’t be so bad.
All these things might yet prove unique to our apartment but it is the impression you come away with… I don’t know if I will ever find out all that the oven really does, but it looks impressive. One thing that is unique to Canada I think is that to turn a light switch on you need to push the flick up…. which is quite confusing and truly reminds us that we aren’t in Aus.
We are in the throws of adjusting our heads to the time changes as well. The night doesn’t fall until after 9pm and daylight arrives around 5am. The shops however don’t open until mostly 9:30am so the sun is high in the sky and to us the day feels well along its way when the city comes to life.
There are stars to be found in the skies in the city centre, though it is hard to judge the clarity of the night skies as the lights get in the way. The currency too is like monopoly money to our minds… crisp, light-on weight and strangely new. But people are happy to take this readily so it must be OK.
Most of all though I find the traces of brilliant white snow on the mountains at the rim of the city the most intriguing and that I am spending monopoly money… somehow it isn’t really money! That is fun. We have allowed for it, planned for it and to my mind it is already spent… I may as well enjoy it!
Oddities to Aussie eyes and most disconcerting is that there are no buttons on the pedestrian lights. I can’t tell you how much I have missed them… standing there pressing those testy little button to hurry the change of lights along (it doesn’t btw) is like taking a form of control. I miss it, but here the lights run 24/7 seemingly and there is no stress relief to be found in a little button.
Processed food is also at a premium and fresh meat an oddity, I have yet to see a butcher or even a fresh chop. All sugar also comes in little packets… gone are the sugar bowls and instead you have choices of sachet’s of sugar, salt, pepper, milk and even the sugar has been replaced by fake stuff.
Spoons have found little plastic replacements and everything you buy is mostly sweet and buttery. I could understand that the butter is the French influence and it is delicious, but coupled with the sweet you begin to long for the savoury in the world of foods.
The patisseries are everywhere with mostly French fare, sugary and buttery. Croissant’s the favourite of the city it seems… I searched for a meat pie but the closest you could come was a pot pie served with hash browns which were described as ‘potato’… I was expecting a hot spud of the steamed and creamed variety. I miss savoury hugely after only 3 days.
Tomorrow we head out into the Canadian Rockies along the gold trail and there aren’t that many roads out that way. We are told that there aren’t many roads … period. The difficult terrain rules and this can be seen in the high riding cars and trucks that cruise the streets.
On a whole though… it is a lovely city. Small and quaint and it reminds me of french provincial. A city born of people who have been escaping the US for a century and half now. Long enough to have a soul all of its own. It is worn, worldly and on the edge of a vast wilderness. I love it!
Ps… I am told by those in authority that they don’t freecamp in Canada 😕 It just might be the big bears they have.
Jan is an Australian author and writer. You can find our more about her publications at her official web site. Be sure to check out the reader discounts there.
Read the full travelogue of Jans adventures in the e-book ‘The Rockies and the Greater NW USA’ now available at Amazon for just $US1.99