Notes from a Pacific Northwest road trip – Up to Vancouver and Granville Market
A morning spent on the boardwalk at Long Beach was a great refresher before the epic journey ahead. Even though it was the end of July, the beach was delightfully quiet, with only a few runners coming along the boardwalk. The salty and sandy air made buildings disappear in the distance. The beach wood whale sculptures and the massive skeleton – the remnant of a grey whale which had beached there years ago – were swimming among the thick, wild grasses. It smelled like a perfect Yankee candle out there near the shore.
It was not long after taking the walk that we hopped back into the car, beginning our two-day-long journey, which would take us up to Olympia, the capital city of Washington, to stay the evening and meet up with my nephew, who is in the army. We stayed in Olympia only one night before collecting my sister from the Sea-Tac airport and heading across the border to Canada, and onward to Vancouver.
The border crossing was easy enough – be sure to have passports ready at the window – and then, getting into Vancouver wasn’t too difficult. The most difficult part, perhaps, was trying to figure out what lane to be in all through the city. The lights didn’t seem timed very well, so we would drive one block, stop at a red light, go a block, stop, and so on. And, all of a sudden, a lane would end, and I’d end up cutting someone off to stay on the main street.
We finally ended up at the apartment where we were staying, near English Bay, Granville Island, and quite close, though downhill from, Davie Village. This was going to be quite the party area, as the beach was hosting the British Columbia Fest one evening, with loads of music, and the next day, the Gay Pride Parade was passing right in front of the apartment, including a festival on the beach as well.
It appeared as though we’d be partying our three days in Vancouver from dusk until dawn.
One major advantage to our location, besides being the party spot, was that a very nice little ferry boat – False Creek Ferries – was just down the beach to take us to Granville Island.
Granville Island used to be a manufacturing industrial complex back in the day. During the 1920s, when the world was on its knees with the Great Depression, a shantytown of sorts sprang up and the down-and-out set up shop there to sell things near the market. Today, it is a vibrant market area, with amazing food and drink, food gifts, outdoor seating, and interesting shops. Some of the old industrial buildings have been converted into shops, restaurants, tasting rooms, and bars. The public market building is quite a maze of shops, restaurants, and food stalls.
It’s hard not to love the cleanliness of Granville and its outdoor seating areas. We got lunch there twice and sat outside to enjoy it, trying to avoid the very, very aggressive seagulls. They will literally take anything from you if you’re not careful, and they are not in any way shy about grabbing what they want. I saw many a sandwich or French fry stolen from kids not being mindful of their food.
It’s hard not to have a foodgasm at Granville Island Public Market if you love food. Cheeses, spices, maple syrup goodies, wine, meats (including loads of bacon), meat pies, desserts, flavored sugars and salts, and all sorts of my favorite things were around every corner. At the little French patisserie, we went crazy with the macaroons. Now, I’m not generally a macaroon fan, but these ones – with flavors like Earl Grey, margarita, rainbow (for Gay Pride Day), lavender, mojito, goat’s cheese, and honey cream – changed my mind. We went through a few boxes of those!
I went a little crazy, but I had to make sure that I could fit whatever I bought safely into my suitcases for a long-haul flight back to Hong Kong. It’s amazing how many little vials of pure maple syrup can fit …
The Canada Foods shop was a worthy stop. Outside, a woman was roasting handmade flavored marshmallows with a torch, and the samples were free. It’s a win-win situation, really. I ended up buying chai spice and honey lavender marshmallows to bring to our grave level camping trip. Gourmet s’mores could make any weeklong trip with 11-year-olds that much sweeter.
Of course, the market isn’t the only thing on the island. It’s easy to spend a day (or two) exploring the shops and restaurants of Granville. There are many boutique shops, including some native crafts, the 10,000 Villages shop where fair trade items from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are sold, lovely clothing, art items, postcards, and tourist tat. The 10,000 Villages shop is absolutely worth a look, as the women who make the beautiful items are being supported by the sales. I bought a book about schools around the world, handmade ceramic measuring spoons, delicate earrings, and a reusable coffee collar made with felt and old rubber tire. There were many beautiful things, but I couldn’t fit some of the items safely into a suitcase.
After popping in and out of shops and food stalls over those two days, I found that my suitcases were quite a bit heavier than before.
Part of the fun of Granville is the sassy, quirky nature of the signage and the art around the island. It made walking around and checking out different areas of the shops and parks quite entertaining and interesting.
That evening, my sister and I walked to the Yaletown/Gastown District of Vancouver, all in search of gelato, which seemed to sound really delicious at the time. Many of the sidewalks in the hipster neighborhood were imprinted with leaves.
On the way back to the apartment, the sun put on a spectacular show as it sank over the calm waters of English Bay and below the horizon. I’ll just leave these here because sunsets are one of my favorite things (right up there with fall leaves and the scent of pine at Christmas):