OPINION — After flying from Little Rock to Chicago, and then from Chicago to Vancouver, my wife and I got on a bus with a bunch of others going on the same Alaskan cruise, to ride to our hotel. The first thing that struck me was how plush and comfortable the bus seats were. If I ever become king, I will require the people who build busses to collaborate with the people who build airplanes, and put bus seats on planes. It will be too late for Jocelynn and me, of course, since our backs are already permanently disfigured, but future air travelers will build monuments to me.
Above: Getting ready to ride the big boat. (Contributed/Kendal Hemphill)
We stayed at the Vancouver Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, not to be confused with the Vancouver Fairmont Airport Hotel, or the Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, or the Vancouver Fairmont Wharf Rats The Size Of Clydesdales Hotel. Seriously, there are four Fairmont hotels in Vancouver. For some reason. Our room overlooked the bay, so we had a spectacular view of the shipping port, featuring 67 bazillion shipping containers and a myriad of impressive cranes. It was dazzling.
Since we stayed two nights in Vancouver, we had a day to check the place out, so we rode a shuttle to Granville Island, which is the recommended way for tourists to get rid of their unwanted cash while in Vancouver. The island is covered up with shops offering jewelry and art made by local artisans, and most of it is outstanding. There are also plenty of stores selling T-shirts and souvenirs, and a grocery market the size of a small city, where you can purchase a wide variety of really disgusting meat with no way to know for sure what animal it came from.
The market was a lot of fun, though, because it’s about as international a place as I’ve ever seen. It has sections where you can get food from all over the world, such as Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Germany, Switzerland, and lots of other places. I never found any tamales, but they did offer Jarritos, which is soda pop made in Mexico with real sugar, and it’s delicious. That’s about as close to Texan food as it gets, in Vancouver.
Ammolite and Jade are both found in Canada, so a lot of the jewelry features those stones. At the White Ocean Gallery we bought some dice made of jade from a fellow named Alan, who actually goes out and digs the stuff up himself. He had pictures on the walls showing him at his dig sites, carrying a pretty impressive semiautomatic rifle. We asked him if he had to protect the jade from thieves. He said, “No, but there are a lot of bears.” No wonder the jade costs so much.
Above: Meet Alan, who actually goes out and digs the stuff up himself. (Contributed/Kendal Hemphill)
The interesting thing about Vancouver, by which I mean the irritating thing about Vancouver, is that almost none of the stores there accept American money, and if they do, they offer a horrible exchange rate. You can spend US dollars just about anywhere in the world, but not Vancouver. So we had to either charge stuff to a credit card or use Canadian money, which is similar to Monopoly money, only with less value. Of course, all the price tags gave the cost of items in Canadian dollars, so we would try to figure out the exchange rate, which is pretty much impossible for someone with my math skills. Plus a lot of our Canadian money was in coins, whose value was indiscernible to us, so every time we bought something we would end up holding out all our Canadian money, and the clerks would take however much of it they wanted. The system worked out very well. For the clerks.
But I assume the clerks were all honest, since the Canadian people are so polite and friendly. They smile and nod a lot, and they’re happy to try to answer your questions, although I could hardly understand anything they said, except for the ‘eh’ at the end of every sentence. I got that part. If it weren’t for the 12% sales tax on everything, Canada would be a great place to visit.
Unfortunately I managed to run afoul of ‘the law’ in Vancouver, and was arrested by the RUMPs, not to be confused with the RCMPs. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are Canada’s famous national police force. The Royal Unmounted Military Police are three guys who go around wearing uniforms similar to those worn by the RCMPs, except their insignia says RUMP. They charged me with flying into Canada from Arkansas, of which I was guilty. Luckily they use plastic handcuffs, so I escaped pretty easily, eh?
The next morning we rented a couple of bicycles with the most uncomfortable seats available and rode them several miles around Stanley Park, which is a park named after Stanley. Bicycles are quite popular in Vancouver, which is not surprising, since gasoline costs over six bucks a gallon. We barely got back to the Vancouver Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in time to line up to get on our cruise ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam, for our trip up the Inside Passage to Alaska.
If we ever get through the line and actually get on the ship, I’ll let you know . . .
Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily newsletter, The LIVE! Daily.