Pacific Northwest Thanksgiving: Vancouver

We’ve come to part three, the final leg of our Thanksgiving tour of the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know why I have such a strong impulse to say we. You’re here with me I guess. In spirit. I’m not like, assuming you’ve been here all along just waiting for this final post. Like, “Where did you go next? What did you do there? How many reindeer did you see? How gay was the B&B you stayed in? Did the Very Special Canadian Minivan ever reunite with his long lost family?”

Tldr; Vancouver, some stuff, a few, quite, and yes. It was tearful.

Days 7 & 8: Vancouver

We made the crossing from Seattle to Vancouver in about 3 hours with a bit of traffic just outside of Seattle and just inside Vancouver. Canada welcomed us with a polite handshake and a pretty good rainbow game (see Seattle’s farewell-bow for comparison).

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To round out our variety of overnight accommodations (with friends and in a couple hotels in Portland, and an AirBnB in Seattle), we found a cute, historic bed and breakfast in the West End of the city. We passed on sherry hour in the B&B lobby and took a walk toward downtown to find ourselves a secret Thanksgiving dinner. Luckily we found Forage on Yelp, where we spent a few hours over a truly awesome meal. I can still remember a couple of the courses with little prompting over a year later: A grilled kale salad, mussels and frites with BONE MARROW AIOLI, and some tasty layered crumble for desert. There may have been a pig in there somewhere. That pig may have been me. Metaphorically. At any rate we had a great Thanksgiving dinner, even if no one around us knew that’s what we were doing.

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On Friday I had my first actual B&B breakfast experience with other guests. It was cute and a little awkward. Our very sweet and quietly hovering host served us at a communal table with the other 4-6 guests; we made a bit of chit chat but were mostly taking it all in. We were the last ones down I think and I felt super American in that sticking-out-like-a-sore-thumb way you can when traveling abroad. Which honestly I wasn’t expecting in Canada. You’re basically our hat, guys. We’re all part of one outfit.

Compounding the awkwardness of being typical late Americans and B&Breakfast virgins, Vancouver was hosting the Orange Cup that weekend and the other guests were all abuzz. What is the Orange Cup, ye fellow ignorant Americans ask? Well it’s only the Canadian Super Bowl. Kiiiind of a big deal, and we were just like, “Gorsh, what’s that? Canadian football? I didn’t know you even had a league.”

Eventually we mustered the courage to quietly excuse ourselves from the table (I never know how to leave an awkward party. Big fan of the Irish goodbye.) and got ready for a day exploring.

The only thing I wanted out of Canada was some cold weather that actually felt like winter (damn unfestive temperate Bay Area), hopefully with snow, and a bit of nature. We mapped out a route to Grouse Mountain, billed as a winter playland with plenty of nature to spare, with a stop at the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

The wooden Capilano Suspension Bridge was built in 1889 and spans 450 feet—230 feet above what I think it would be fair to call a raging river.

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I think this is the team that built the bridge. I was clearly not there for the history.

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That moment of “oh fuck, are we doing this?”

Which is nutty enough, but then you let a bunch of idiots walk on it all at the same time and I’ll admit it felt precarious as fuck. I don’t have a particular fear of heights, but I do get vertigo in grandly scaled environments. So I clung to that rope banister, focused on walking as smoothly as possible, like my marching band friends taught me, and for the love of God did not look down. It was much better coming back, and we even braved a pause in the perilous journey for a few photos.

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Taken by a nice couple on their 30th wedding anniversary, revisiting where they’d come on their honeymoon

We ended up spending more time than I thought we would exploring the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. There’s a trail of 7 of Capilano’s little brother and sister bridges, called Treetop Adventures, that takes you up into the forest. It was super green and lush, and they were precariously stringing Christmas lights all around. The bridges were connected by platforms at various trees, and, to my dismay, about halfway through I read a plaque that explained how no bolts or screws were used to mount the platforms to the trees. “No bolts?” I wondered aloud, “What are they held up with? Hope and maple syrup?” (Actually they stayed up with nothing but tension and engineering. Still unsettling.)

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We carried on up the road to the base of Grouse Mountain, caught the next Skyride lift (which was a little unsettling too), and popped out at a cool 3,700 miles above sea level. As advertised, there was a bit of snow and it was COLD AS FUCK (like, seriously, I know you said there was snow and it’s a mountain but how is anything this cold) so we booked it for the Peak Chalet. There we found a restaurant, some meeting rooms, a theater for nature shows and… not much else. But it was lunch-ish so we grabbed some food and drinks at the Altitudes Bistro, next to a fine view and a roaring fire, and felt all warm and full and like maybe this was a good idea after all.

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Fueled by nachos and a new sense of adventure, we bundled up and went back outside. There honestly was not a lot for us to do up there; we weren’t really prepared to ski or snowboard or take the snowshoe hike, and none of the animal shows were happening at a convenient hour. But we crunched around on the snow for a bit, took in the admittedly incredible views, stared at some bored-looking reindeer (Santa managed to sneak up on us at this point, the jerk), poked around the fairly disappointing gift shop and decided to call it. In the end, there were probably better places where we could have spent our last afternoon, but it was cold, felt for sure like winter, there was snow, and a bit of nature.

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Shady reindeer

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Why did we want to be this cold again?

And that Skyride was pretty intense.

After descending back to earth, we took the long way back to the B&B around Stanley Park, stopping to shout at the Bay and Pacific Ocean. Back in our room, we grabbed a movie from the library (I feel like it was a Harry Potter) turned the heat up, snuggled into bed, and called it a goddamn night.

An hour or two later, we started hearing the weirdest sounds from outside the room. Like something dully hitting the walls or the roof. We glanced at the door to the second room of our suite, which, after taking a tour when we first arrived, we deemed too creepy to acknowledge–what with its antique couches and fading sepia-toned photos–closed the door and never went back in. Maybe one of us mustered the courage to peek inside, but there was nothing visible thumping around in there. I think I poked my head into the hallway, and when I looked at the glass door that led outside I ran back to our room and threw the curtains open. IT WAS SNOWING. Big ol’ flakes too. Coupled with the Chistmas lights our B&B hosts had finished stringing while we were out, it was quite a pretty end to our journey, and felt festive as fuck.

In the morning we had a slightly-less-awkward second breakfast with our fellow B&B-ers, bid an appropriately polite farewell to our Very Special Canadian Minivan, and flew back to the City by the Bay. Feeling a little more knowledgeable, a little more festive, and probably 20 lbs heavier from all the good food. But, like, 20 Canadian lbs. And they use metric up there, so I don’t think it really counted.

2 Comments

  • Aubrey says:

    Confession: I didn’t know Vancouver was driving distance from Seattle. If I were told to place it on a map, I think I’d put it near Toronto. Guess my knowledge of Canada is a bit isolationist!

    • Jennifer says:

      The more you know! It seems like the Bay Area should be closer to all that mess too but it’s a 10 hour drive to Portland from here. California takes up most of the left coast.

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