A Canadian Christmas
January 5, 2012
I have just been watching the time lapse video of Vancouver City (a couple of posts below) and realised that I can now identify most of the locations on it. Vancouver is beautiful. Even in the rain and even with jetlag Vancouver is beautiful. According to the video it can be a lot more beautiful, but I was grateful to be there and to get a feel for the place and for Canada.
I have learnt a lot about Canada. From a retired firefighter (with experience of helping at 911) I learnt about the education and political systems, building regulations, salaries and tax incentives while we flew somewhere in Santa’s airspace. At Vancouver’s stunning airport on arrival I learnt that for all the directives on importing food, seeds, imaginary animals and non-sensible goods of any description, it is actually ridiculously easy to bring in Christmas cake (2kg, iced), Christmas puddings (2, Cognac-laced), chocolate (rather a large amount, Cadburys), secret gifts from other people which I had not personally wrapped (a significant number, hidden) and clothing for wet weather (enough, just).
I did not bring any gifts for the cat my sister was minding. I hope she (the cat) would not mind. She (again, the cat) is known as Gorgeous, except at my sister’s where she is known as Betty, a far more aesthetically appropriate moniker. She is what is called a Cornish Rex. Somebody, at some point in Canada’s history (they have history as well as geography) for reasons not released to the public, imported a Cornish Rex and Got It Through Security. Let me show you a Good picture of Betty:
Now don’t go thinking she’s actually quite nice. She doesn’t have fur. What you are seeing is a thin fleece. She doesn’t have muscle either, which may explain her utter clumsiness. She also smells (sometimes deliberately, I believe), has a need to show her ears at close range, dig her ‘never been clipped’ claws into your best trousers and crawl on faces at night time. The solution to this is to not share a room with her. My poor sister, giving her bedroom for my stay had to endure Betty’s charms each night and for this I am truly grateful.
I am also truly grateful for my lightning tour of Vancouver and Environs. Considering we had 4 days, an evening and a half day, we did pretty well. The best weather was on my arrival, and I saw Rocky Mountains (several) in pink in the setting sun, as I squinted past several people with peepholes on the plane. After that we had rain, but apparently this is normal December behaviour for the weather there.
We visited key parts of the city, popped into some lovely shops, got our nails done, had proper sushi, admired totem poles and went on buses which looked like trams (as well as a sky train which turned out to be an underground, a greyhound which turned out to be a coach and a water taxi which was neither water nor a taxi).
I learnt that Canadians always have time for you, are even more obsessed with Michael Buble than the man himself is and have a passion for adverts featuring solutions to mucus and phlegm. They have pretty leaves printed into the concrete paths, clocks powered by steam and black squirrels who don’t stay still for photos. There are hummingbirds, homeless people and hummers.
My sister works in film (post-production editing things) and so we went to see a film she had worked on called Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows which was thrilling for me (especially as it was the first time I saw my sister’s name on the credits while sitting next to her) but for my sister and her work friend it was a big exercise in finding the editing mistakes and blaming ‘comp’. I felt utterly unqualified to comment, but enjoyed the story and the fun of it all.
On Christmas Eve, badly in need of some snow, we travelled up to Whistler, which is made of slush and nice shops, with a big mountain or two behind which come in handy for skiing and that sort of thing. If you are looking for normal socks you will not find them in Whistler. However, you can get a lovely steak or lobster, before taking a gondola up one mountain and then another across to the other mountain.
There are a huge number of families with young children in Whistler, some with gloves on, many who can ski well. There are also many many trees adorned with little lights. In Canada they do it properly (on the whole). Lots and lots of little lights, no flashing on and off, one colour at a time. Very pretty.
On Christmas Day we skyped home, visited a local church after my sister opened her presents and then she made a roast Turkey crown dinner, which was very tasty. Mum spent the past few months making her a quilt. It tells the story of my sister’s life so far and meant sourcing parts from old clothes, places she’d lived in and even printing some photos. The cat was, quite clearly, not allowed near the quilt.
Boxing Day meant (for reasons I cannot remember) braving the largest shopping mall we could think of and later going to a Canucks Ice Hockey match at the Rogers Arena. We got tickets from one of my sister’s colleagues. The match involves three periods of 20 minutes, and took from 7:00 until about 9:30. There was a bit of Ice Hockey, a lot of entertainment, and many more calories. Thankfully the Canucks (and We Are All Canucks I now realise) beat the Edmonton Oilers something in the region of 5-3. They did this by means of violence, skating skill, twins and breaking a lot of sticks and part of the perspex safety wall. Every time the Canucks scored the crowd went wild for a sensible period of time and rubbed the fact in very loudly with music and humour. Every time the Oilers scored the scoreboard registered the fact politely enough.
After very little sleep that night we visited Granville Island the next morning, which is as middle-class a wharf as you are likely to find in Vancouver and full of interesting looking shops, breweries and eateries. Having eaten our fill of local Bison at something like a bistro we took a zip car to the airport. I did not enjoy the travel home, but I did greatly enjoy meeting my husband at Heathrow and each of the children back at home. They had all had lots of fun together and with grandparents and since then we’ve done some fun things together while I try and get my body back into UK o’clock.
Bye for now Canada. Next time I’m bringing the family!