Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown

I consider myself lucky in that I’ve never gone too long without some kind of vacation, be it for a week or a long weekend. However, with kids, even a vacation doesn’t automatically mean much downtime. The kids still have to be organised, fed and entertained or at least taken to the ski school early in the morning, getting away for the evening is impossible and one always has  to figure in their ability to remain engaged in anything that the adults want to do.

Lest you think this is a major gripefest, I can honestly say I’ve had some great vacations whether they were in Whistler, the Bay Area or Disneyland, but still, there is much to be said for a trip sans offspring. My sweetie and I have had a couple of opportunities this summer – Portland for a school friends’ birthday, San Francisco so I could meet her friends and so she could meet some of mine, and while these were great, we had limited opportunities to spend time alone.

This changed recently when I decided to take her to Vancouver for her birthday. This was no surprise, but I decided that the schedule for the trip would be up to her.  Her main agenda items were a trip to the Museum of Anthropology and dinner on her birthday at her favourite Lebanese restaurant.  Of  course, things didn’t go as planned. Not long after arrival I explained that I saw the trip as being her present and there would be no big reveal later, should she be expecting some special gift at some point.  Picture Roald Amundsen looking out across the Antarctic wastes and you will get some idea of how this was received.  I guess there was some confusion over the phrase “For your birthday”. However not all was lost as my failure to pack socks and shorts as a result of my severe mental confusion resulting from my recent moving meant I needed to go on a mission of mercy      (  See “The Boxer”).  I found a charming if somewhat pricey First Nations art and jewelry store in Yaletown and all was saved. Phew! I will admit that I was sweating profusely during this dash although most of it can be accounted for by the 85 degree heat and 95 percent humidity. Oh, the joy of returning to a fully air conditioned room.

I hadn’t been in Vancouver since before my son was born, and boy, have things changed! Robson Street, which had been a rather charming collection of boutique stores and restaurants seemed to have gone decidedly downhill and  become hobo central in the intervening 12 years, which I found rather a shame, as seediness is not something I at least, associate with Canada. Whilst on the topic of our northern cousins, I have to ask one question: Are you really going out dressed like that? Maybe I missed an email about the fancy dress party taking place that weekend, but oh boy! What the hell did they think they looked like? I can’t honestly believe that some of the people I saw dressed the way they did without some extenuating circumstances.  Or maybe it was the result of them all having one  Molson too many.

That aside, the Museum of Anthropology was a true revelation. So much indigenous culture has been co-opted that it truly puts thing in perspective  to see objects displayed in a way that explains their true socio-cultural significance and treats them as art in their own right and not as a design on a tee shirt in a souvenir store window.

Of course, the birthday dinner was a big deal. We had some trouble finding the restaurant as it is in a basement in  Gastown  and the only signage is above the doorway and seen from the street is at approximately waist height. However, we found it on the second pass and found parking nearby, so we at least were able to enjoy a wonderful dinner in my sweeties’ favourite restaurant.

One thing that has always fascinated me about Vancouver is how it seems to want to be somewhere else. Let me explain: We took a trip to Granville Island as neither of us had ever been there, and what we found was a destination designed purely for tourists that felt like a cross between Fisherman’s Wharf and Pike Place Market but with the unique feel of neither. To be honest it felt a bit like Disneyland. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it felt less than genuine, and in fact it could have been anywhere. I found this to be a real shame as Vancouver has a lot of history and a culture all its’ own, so why does it feel the need to manufacture something like this? I hope it is not just for the sake of revenue, but then again….

The one thing that stands out about this trip is that it was just for our benefit. We had no agenda, no schedule to keep, no need to do anything other than what struck our fancy at any particular moment, so I guess it was a true vacation.

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Filed under personal relationships, travel, vacation

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