I’ve always thought that Canada’s old tourism marketing slogan was brilliant. “Canada: Friendly, Familiar, Foreign and Near”. If you’re from Philadelphia as we are, the not “nearest” big Canadian city is Vancouver, 2,956 driving miles away, according to Google maps. Of course, the slogan makes a lot more sense if you are traveling there from Seattle. Vancouver is only 141 miles north of Seattle. This geographical fact explains why we planned our first trip to Vancouver, Canada, when I had to be in Seattle, Washington for a Social Security law conference.
The conference coincided with the week of our tenth wedding anniversary, so while my husband, Steve, was not that keen on spending our anniversary hanging out with 1,000 Social Security lawyers (I can’t imagine why), he was willing to tag along when I dangled in front of him the prospect of being able to hop across the border to Vancouver. On that particular occasion, we did not even have to look for flights to Vancouver. We just made our way to the Seattle Greyhound bus station.
Fast forward ten years to our 20th wedding anniversary. It turned out that a visit to Vancouver once again figured in our plans, only this time we arrived in slightly grander style — on a cruise ship from Alaska. Instead of 1,000 Social Security lawyers, we were accompanied by our two teenage sons, my seventy-something parents, my sister-in-law and her partner, and my husband’s 90 year old grandmother, Nona, and her 84 year old friend, Sarika.
Our seven day cruise started in Seward, Alaska and once I had everyone safely on the ship and settled in their cabins (a bit like herding cats), we really enjoyed the spectacular itinerary. Our last day was spent sailing down the Inside Passage before pulling into the Vancouver Cruise Port next to the iconic five sails of Canada Place.
We especially picked our Alaska cruise because it ended in Vancouver and we thought it would be best if we made sure everyone in our party over age seventy had their land legs back before we all flew off to our east coast homes in Philadelphia, Boston and New York City. We were happy we had a few days to introduce our sons to Vancouver. We sent the Greatest Generation folks off on a bus tour to visit Victoria, the veddy British capital of the province of British Colombia, while the Baby Boomers and our echoes took a “hop on, hop off” bus tour of Vancouver.
One of the places we hopped off was at Stanley Park, rightfully possibly the best known Vancouver “must see”. The park is larger than New York City’s Central Park and the intent of the park overseers is to keep it as much as possible in its natural state. We walked part of the 5.5 mile seawall that follows the perimeter of the park, sharing it with folks on roller blades and bicycles. There are a multitude of camera worthy vistas along the way.
As much as they enjoyed strolling along the sea wall with their parents (NOT!), our sons’ favorite Stanley Park attraction was the Vancouver Aquarium. We were all quite taken with the beluga whales. If you’re not sure what a beluga whale looks like, think the Pillsbury Dough Boy meets Flipper. (BTW, we do not talk about the photo of moi in the Aquarium gift shop with a purple stuffed animal octopus on her head. Fortunately, the photo was taken before we had a digital camera, so I think I control all the copies).
We already spent our 30th anniversary in Helsinki, Finland, but I’d be happy for an excuse to head back to Vancouver.