On August 23rd, 2013, my Seattle friends and I boarded the Amtrak Cascades and headed up north in the direction of Vancouver. I couldn’t resist bringing along a small bag of produce and dairy that I’d been using to cook in the hostels, even though it added a few pounds of heft to my already-painful load. (This pattern will be shown to repeat itself throughout my travels.)

The ride was clean and beautiful. We planted ourselves in the observation car for most of the 4-hour trip. Dangerous electric tea was made. I was introduced to a devious card game called Bartok, in which each player adds a new, arbitrary rule during their turn. Every time a player breaks a rule or asks a question, they draw a card. As you might expect, it gets a little bit crazy.

Half an hour from the border, I realized that I was woefully underprepared for my customs interview. What was I doing? Where was I going? Should I have brought some printouts of my itinerary? Did I need to hide my butter?!

The border agent gave my slightly disheveled self a stern look before letting me through. Little did he know of my contraband!

I booked into my hostel, while my friends checked into a hotel in a… slightly seedy part of town. (Given how high Vancouver is rated in terms of life satisfaction, I didn’t even know it had seedy parts!) We had a good laugh observing some friendly neighborhood drug dealers from the hotel room’s 3rd story window.

So… Vancouver! What’s it all about?

Well, it’s a peaceful little city. Stanley Park is lovely to walk through, and it seems like there’s a lot of interesting restaurants and other businesses. (Once place I want to give a shout-out to is Fritz European Fry House. I don’t think the poutine there was “real” — the cheese curds were kind of melty — but it was still some of the best poutine-like stuff that I tasted during my Canadian trip.)

However, much like the last time I visited, it didn’t strike me as a city I wanted to spend too much time in. The architecture was kind of drab, and the whole place had an overbearing “new development” feel. Not cozy. Didn’t warm the heart. I don’t know how else to put it.

However, I’m very thankful for the company I had. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without it!

Onward we go… aboard the VIA Rail.


February 1, 2015