We’ve heard from several friends that Vancouver, British Columbia is a must-see. So following our four-day stint on the Olympic Peninsula and after we dropped off Paul at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, we drove the 3+ hours to cross the border and pay a visit to our northerly neighbor.
And after a very stressful, very frightening interview with the border patrol agent, we were in America’s Hat.
Alright, so our border crossing wasn’t stressful. Or frightening. At all. A super friendly, super pretty Canadian lady in what we assumed was meant to be an intimidating plexi-glass booth asked to see our passports, then asked where we heading, then asked if we had any stun guns or firearms. Every question was posed with a wide smile and we were quickly sent on our way in less than 30 seconds. We also got a jolly “oooooh yeah, well have a great time touring CanaDAH then, both of YAH!”
C’mon Canada. This serious lack of security is just poor form. How often does an agent see a Ford Focus with Illinois plates loaded with odd shaped duffel bags, one bigass cooler carrying plenty of undeclared alcohol, and two seemingly unemployed twenty-somethings cross the border?
In any event, our good cheer brought along by the super nice, super pretty border agent quickly faded when both our iPhones started buzzing with text messages.
Welcome to Canada! Your current mobile plan charges incoming and dialed calls at an additional 89 cents/minute on top of your current rate. Data roaming charges are $1.50/MB.
We quickly realized that not everyone, nor everything, in Canada would be as welcoming, or as easy going, as our border patrol agent. (And since we’re writing this blogpost after the fact, we can now tell you we spent an additional $21.34 on mobile data usage in Canada. We had to. At one point, it was simply a matter of life and death to find the nearest Tim Horton’s.)
We had booked two nights at an Airbnb apartment in downtown Vancouver. Getting to the apartment posed a challenge since 1) our Rand McNally atlas didn’t have a very descriptive map of the downtown, 2) we couldn’t use our phones unless we wanted to take out a loan, and 3) our GPS wasn’t working either. Lesson duly learned: before leaving the country, download updated maps for your GPS.
Now, situations similar to this one have happened on the road before. Traditionally though, Gracie’s sense of direction has always proven right and Andrew’s quick thinking behind the wheel has never disappointed. Maybe it was the looming threat of being without trusty iPhone data for three days, or the weirdly friendly border agent (was this some sort of sting operation now?!), whatever the reason, we were off our game. We immediately got lost after crossing the bridge into Vancouver. And then we got really lost.
Unlike most cities, Vancouver doesn’t have many multi-lane streets or highways. There are very few street signs and even fewer highway markers. Pretty soon we had no idea where we were, or even where we were attempting to get to. Stress continued to build because we had agreed to meet our Airbnb host at an agreed upon time, so we could get into the apartment and have a conference call with one of our clients. We decided to stop at the nearest coffee shop we could find, hop on wifi, figure out proper directions, contact our host for a later check-in time, and coordinate with our client for a new call-in number via Skype.
As we parked Fordy in front of a Starbucks (naturally), we realized we couldn’t pay the meter because we didn’t have any Canadian coins. So obviously this movie clip quickly came to mind…
So it was a rocky welcome to Vancouver. But things got better. As soon as we had a couple very stiff drinks. We eventually made it to the apartment, connected with our clients, and proceeded to gorge on some of the best sushi we’ve ever tasted.
Now to wrap things up, here’s a brief list of what we feel Vancouver has to offer, and what it still lacks….
- An impressive contingent of Cars 2 Go
- 3-5 hair salons per block
- Mussels, clams, and oysters galore
- Beautiful Stanley Park and Seawall Walk
- Somewhat surprisingly, extremely well dressed men: Andrew’s flannel + fleece vests combos weren’t cutting it here.
- Sports other than hockey: Multiple bartenders looked baffled when we asked them about watching the World Series.
- Affordable drink options: Another lesson duly learned, Canadians really like to up-charge the ol’ alcohol.
- Olympics memorabilia: Apparently the 2010 winter games have been forgotten, except for in Vancouver’s gleaming subway system!
- The West Wing: This discovery was simply soul crushing. How do Canadians live through each day?