Saturday, February 14, 2009

Canada Trip: Part 1

(written on the plane on the way back)

What an incredible two weeks this has been. I'm now only 1000km away from London, looking back at two weeks spent with family and friends in Kelowna, at Silverstar, and back in the city I love so much, Vancouver. Watching Vancouver's lights get smaller and smaller beneath us as we gained altitude was so heart wrenching it nearly brought me to tears. There's no doubt in my mind at all that I need to move back there one day.

Two weeks ago, on January 24th, I flew out of London Heathrow airport to visit home for two weeks. Everything about the flight was calm and uneventful, and i unexpectedly ended up with a window seat right behind the wing, my favourite spot. The only negative thing about the flight was that the plane didn't have screens in the seat backs. They had the plastic bevels for them, but Air Canada had cheaped out on getting the actual screens, so thee was just a panel of fabric there instead. There were three in-flight movies shown on the other screens, but I only remember the one I watched, Mama Mia. At one point in the flight, I looked out the window just as we were crossing the foothills. Directly ahead were the jagged peaks of the Rockies, every bit as beautiful from above as the are from the ground. That moment, seeing the Rockies, was the moment I knew I was home again.

We arrived in Vancouver nearly an hour ahead of schedule due to favourable winds, but all that time, and then some, was chewed up waiting in the lineup at immigration. Carrying two bottles of scotch and one of sherry from duty free as well as my carry on bag was incredibly uncomfortable as the line never quite stopped long enough to put things down for a minute, and the duty free bags were cutting into my hands. It was so nice to finally be through that, and able to get my luggage and stuff the duty free in it. I had hoped to meet up with Jenn briefly before catching my flight to Kelowna, but the lineups ruined any chance of that, so I headed directly to my departure area, and waited there. While I waited, I looked for somewhere to eat, and found a White Spot very close. I had a wonderful pint of Granville Island Pale Ale, the first beer I'd been served cold since I left, and a BC chicken burger.

The flight to Kelowna was also uneventful. I was again in a window seat behind the wing, and this time, the seats did have screens, so I queued up some Styx from the music library, and listened to that on the way. When I finally arrived at my final destination, Kelowna, my sister was waiting there for me with a great big hug. She drove me back to my parents' house for the grand reunion with my parents and grandparents. By this time, it was 3am for me, but I forced myself to stay awake until 9:30 (5:30am to me) to try to adjust to the timezone change. I was a bit groggy, but not completely out of it, the next day, so I think it worked well enough.

I spent a wonderful four and a half relaxing days in Kelowna with my family. My car was insured and on the road so I was able to do a bit of driving, though I didn't do nearly enough of it. However, I probably could have spent the entire four days driving the car around, and it still wouldn't have felt like enough. My grandma brought down loads of her wonderful baking for us all to enjoy, and my mom cooked all my favourite homemade meals, so I ate unbelievably well the whole time I was there.

After that time in Kelowna, I borrowed one of the cars with winter tires to drive up to Silverstar for the annual ski trip. I was the first one to arrive, so I checked in for the group, made sure the hot tub was hot and settled in to eat dinner (leftovers from my grandma) and wait for the rest of the group to arrive. People arrived throughout the evening, from Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Parksville, and San Fransisco. It was so incredible to see everyone again after so long away. Quite a few of them I hadn't seen since the ski trip last year. I was there with them for three and a half days, played lots of crib some board games, spent lots of time in the hot tub, skied for one morning, and went ice skating. Having to leave after only three and a half days to catch up with everyone was painful. That's not nearly enough time to spend with more than a dozen people I haven't seen in almost a year. There was a bit of excitement with vehicles leaving the ski hill. One vehicle was stuck in the foot of snow the hill had received while we were there, and had to be towed out. Thankfully, one of the vehicles there was an off-road equipped jeep, with big knobbly tires and a winch. Getting the vehicle out was a piece of cake, with that.

On the way back, I was driving my parents' car as far as Kelowna, where I was dropping it off, and changing into a friend's Mazda. However, on the way down from the ski hill, as I was following, I smelled what I thought was overheating brakes, so I radioed ahead to my friends to see if they smelled it. They did not, so we all assumed that meant it was my brakes, so I drove the rest of the way down the hill without hardly touching the brakes, until we pulled in to a parking lot to let my brakes cool. As the other vehicle pulled in however, they realized that there was smoke coming out from their wheel well, so it wasn't me after all. It turns out something had seized, and one of the belts was heating up and smoking. At least, that's what it looked like, but we played it safe, and called Mazda, as the car was still under warranty, and had it towed to Kelowna, the nearest Mazda dealership. We all piled into my car and drove to Kelowna while waiting to hear from the dealership about how long it would take to fix the car. We had lunch there, and then found out that all the dealership had to do was cut the belt to the air conditioning compressor (the part that had seized) and the car was able to be driven again. This was excellent news for the car's owner, because they're from Vancouver Island, and needed to get it back there for repairs, so they wouldn't have to find a way to get it back from Kelowna. It also meant we could drop of my parents' car, pile back in the Mazda, and carry on our way, only a few hours behind schedule. All in all, it was probably one of the least inconvenient ways that it could have broken down.

My time in Vancouver was incredibly packed. On arriving late Monday evening, I was dropped off at a friend's Mazda shop in North Vancouver, which was on the way to the ferry for the friends I was travelling with. Chris, the shop owner, and I went for dinner in Burnaby, at Swiss Chalet, and I had what used to be called the Messy Chicken Sandwich, which is basically bread with chicken on it, smothered with gravy. From there we took my luggage to Richmond with me, to my friend Jenn's house where I was staying, before going bowling.

(more to come another time)


Benjamin Random said...

Beer isn't cold in the UK? Missed that factoid!

Benjamin Random said...

And yes 3 days is not even remotely enough.