I’m going to take three weeks off from my ranting about inanity in the world to describe the various affronts to my sanity that my wife Barbara and I encountered on a recent vacation.
From August 19 to August 29, we embarked on a Tauck Grand Canadian Rockies Tour, desperately searching for evidence that the United States is not the dumbest country in North America. Our mission was, of course, doomed to failure, although our expedition coincidentally occurred at a time when the U.S. was slightly less stupid than usual, by virtue of me being in Canada.
This is a chronicle of our trip, which isn’t so much about the sights we saw as it is an account, in my usual snarky style, of things that made me scratch my head and go, “Eh?”
Saturday, August 17.
9:30pm ET: Barbara really can’t wait to start our vacation. “At this time tomorrow,” she informs me, “we’ll be in Newark.”
Sunday, August 18.
8:00pm ET: We leave for our trip. Since we have a 7am flight tomorrow out of “Welcome to America, Too Bad Your First Contact With Our Country is Newark” Liberty International Airport, and they want you to arrive at least two hours earlier, we are actually leaving for the airport the night before, in case we hit traffic. Kidding. We’re staying in a hotel at the airport. This is to ensure that whatever accommodations we have in Canada will seem really palatial.
Barbara has spent the entire day redistributing our belongings among our various pieces of luggage so that the two bags we’ll be checking are each under 50 pounds. This was made more difficult because the handheld suitcase scale kept wavering between 48 and 52 pounds. Barbara packed and repacked approximately 20 times. Some items simply did not make the cut.
Monday, August 19.
4:30am ET: We hop in the hotel shuttle for the brief trip to the terminal. Lines are relatively short. Bags weigh 46 and 47 pounds respectively, so I could have brought at least two more shirts. Plane leaves on time.
10:00am PT: We arrive in Vancouver. Kudos to Tauck Tours. Met at airport by a towncar, taken to the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, room ready. Really fast and easy. Great harbor view.
We ask Chad, the bellboy, to recommend a good spot for lunch, and he directs us around the corner to a Scottish pub. We walk over but are surprised to discover that it is closed. “What kind of pub isn’t opened for lunch?” we wonder. Then we realize it’s only 11:15 in the morning, not 2:15 in the afternoon, which is what it should be if they knew how to tell time here. Really, I don’t know why every place in the world can’t be on Eastern Time so I wouldn’t have to deal with jet lag. Sure, it would mean that people in London would be having breakfast at two in the morning, but they’d get used to it
12:30pm PT: After getting some maps, we begin walking around Vancouver. We start at Gastown, which is right down the block from the hotel. It’s a quaint area of restaurants, jewelry stores, souvenir shops and Starbucks franchises. Barbara tells me she is looking for a clock. I tell her the time and point out that she is wearing a watch of her own. She says, “No, Gastown is known for a clock.” We can’t find it. We do, however, discover a statue of Gassy Jack, “the Founding Father of Gastown.” This has to be one of the worst nicknames of an historical figure in, well, history. Still, at least they didn’t call him Farty Frank.
Some first impressions of Vancouver:
- The town feels vaguely foreign without making you feel out of place. If it wasn’t for the British spellings, it could be an American city. My kind of international place to visit.
- Some of the women here wear extremely short shorts. Noticed a few cheek leaks.
- The folks here don’t talk like Canadians. I have clients in the Minneapolis area with heavier Canadian accents.
- One of the reasons for the lack of Canadian accents is the frequency of Asian ones. There is a large population of Asian-Canadians. The only area that seems to be predominantly Caucasian is Chinatown. Seriously.
- Vancouver is dirtier than I naturally assume any city outside the U.S. will be. There is also a heavy population of homeless people, which is why there is so much Canadian Beggin’. Speaking of which…
- Canadians don’t call Canadian bacon Canadian bacon. They call it “back bacon.” Seems to me if you have something as great as bacon named after you, you should be proud of it. It’s like if the Chinese disowned their war hero, General Tso.
- It seems to be the fashion here for women to get large tattoos on their thighs. This is probably why they wear such short shorts. Not that I’ve noticed or anything.
5:50pm PT: We go back to Gastown for dinner at a quaint (of course) Italian place on a side street. We sit outside, and I notice a crowd gathering across the street. Suddenly at 6:00 sharp, there are loud tugboat-type sounds and the crowd starts frantically taking photos. We look up and see steam coming out of a clock on the street corner. “That’s the clock!” yells Barbara, searching for her camera. We had walked by it at least once and not noticed it…or the large awning on the store next to it saying “Steam Clock Souvenirs.” In my defense, I did not, at the time, know I was looking for any type of clock, much less a steam clock. The thing goes off three more times while we’re having dinner. It gets old fast.
8:30pm PT: We’re exhausted. British Columbia really should consider all the advantages of being on Eastern time.
To be continued…