We’re back from Vancouver, and with lots of photos and stories!  I officially annoint this Canada Week here at The Penny Farthing.

We had a lovely time, all around. It’s wonderful to reconnect with old friends and chat about their future wedding plans, to giggle at Canadian vs American stereotypes, to see French on every sign posted, and to buy Aero chocolate bars while sipping Tim Horton’s coffee. Jesse and I have a soft spot for Canada, as it was on a road trip to Toronto that we “fell in love,” you could say. Canada is for lovers, I guess.

Toronto 2007

Vancouver, 2011

Maybe that’s why it’s one of the friendliest places in the world. I hate to fall into such broad stereotypes, but it’s hard to ignore when people are constantly striking up a conversation! There’s Shannon, the sweet intoxicated lady who talked to us for 45 minutes in a bar, congratulated our friends on their upcoming wedding, and gave me a goodbye hug. There’s our bus driver, who spoke over the intercom about the nice weather, his take on the weekly news, and how to work the A/C on the bus. There’s the rough guy dressed in leather on the street, who advised Jesse to ring his bike bell for safety, and wear a helmet.  And about ten more people in the three days we were there.

City view from Queen Elizabeth Park

We stayed in White Rock, BC, which is a cute beach town right across the US border. Then we drove into Vancouver one day and took the train the next.

Vancouver is a beautiful city. All the buildings downtown are residential, meaning people literally live in the city, and work outside of it. So the streets are bustling with dog-walkers, food carts, shops, joggers and friends.

Downtown from the 17th floor. Forgive the reflection.

There are also parks scattered everywhere, including the huge 1,000 acre Stanley Park, which we biked around (more on that later!), and the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park. It was a bit too early for flowers, but the daffodils were trying their best, the cherry trees were budding in profusion, and the fountains were splashing higher and higher.

Don't worry, they were good quality rain boots.

We didn’t do any big museums or attractions this trip, instead deciding to wander around and browse. We did hit Granville Island with their brewery: I also bought a red polka-dotted beauty at the Umbrella Shop.

Granville Brewery tasters. Yum!

We found Gastown, with it’s steam clock. It rings every 15 minutes–see the steam?

And totem poles in Stanley Park.

We wandered the streets, we talked to people, we ate food, we shopped. We marveled at the number of languages we heard and at the countless Irish pubs squished next to the countless sushi bars. We noted how much it reminded us of San Francisco, and how small it made Portland seem. We realized we’d be okay living there someday, if the chance came up.

Though we traveled to a different country, it could easily have been just over the state border instead. This is all the Pacific Northwest, with the same trees, animals, cloudy skies, rugged coast, and excellent beers. While Americans and Canandians do sense a strong difference, I’d bet that at heart Vancouverites are a lot more similar to Portlanders/Seattleites than, say their own Quebec countrymen. Because of that there is a movement afoot to create Cascadia, an independent country that includes Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Some proposals include a larger bioregion, but the basic idea is that the Pacific Northwest would become it’s own republic, and the 20th largest country in the world. Wild, huh? Think it’ll ever happen?

Location of Cascadia

Perhaps someday we’ll all be fellow Cascadians, but for now, it was well worth pulling out my passport and trekking across the border. Stay tuned this week, and I’ll tell you all about what we ate (yes, it deserves it’s own blog post), and how we managed with our folding bikes.

Happy Monday!