Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Vancouver Trip O-13!

Vancouver trip O-13! Daniel here, to report on a successful and exciting trip north of the border. My mom received word from a friend that Amtrak was featuring a buy one get one free special on train tickets. We figured it would be the perfect opportunity to get some distance between us and Northwest Hospital, and enjoy some fun vacation time in a different city. Tickets purchased (a steal at $32 each roundtrip), bags packed, away we go!

I had not taken too many train rides, so it was extra exciting for me to ride the rails. We were dropped off at Edmonds by Steve/dad, and within a few minutes of the train arriving we were happily in our seats! This already was better than going to the airport! The train traveled along the Puget Sound for most of the way, which afforded us the most spectacular views of marine life, the Olympic Mountains, sky, clouds, trees, and the occasional waving beachcomber. It was just spectacular! At one point, we we even saw a bald eagle that flew right next to the train for almost a minute, it was awesome! Another nice thing about taking the train is how quickly you get through customs, or at least, some passengers do. While it sometimes takes over an hour to get through customs in a car, the train just goes right through to Canada, and you simply get your passports checked by Canadian customs officers once you arrive at your destination station. I was hopeful as I saw almost every passenger in front of us quickly let through after a cursory glance at the passports by the Customs agent, but when mom got up there, something triggered a "random search" and we were directed to a side room. I don't know if it as the almost bald head, large bag containing needles (her neupogen shots to raise her white blood cells), or my temporary neck tattoos that set the guard off, but there we were, the only ones on the train getting our bags searched. Thankfully it was pretty quick and they were quite friendly, especially when they found out mom was in chemo. The officers even were kind enough to write down walking instructions to our hotel! Thanks Canada!

Here are some of the fun things we did during our 1 night stay in Vancouver, B.C.:

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop: We ate lunch at this AMAZING taco place. Mom had eaten here before on a business trip to Vancouver, and she told me it was fantastic, I was skeptical, as we have some pretty good taco trucks here in Seattle, but I was blown away! These tacos were so good! Fresh, quality ingredients, rich, delicious sauces, a variety of homemade salsas, and a fun atmosphere as well! Fantastic! Here we are posing with our delicious tacos! Next time we want to go on Wednesday so we can get 6 tacos for the price of 4! 

Walk to Stanley Park: From our hotel downtown we walked to Stanley park. About 3 miles each way (I tell you, people think my mom would be worn out from chemo, but I'm 23 and I can hardly keep up with her when we are walking :-)), this is a lovely walk along the body of water known as Vancouver Harbour. There is a very nice walkway that is divided for wheeled individuals and individuals on foot. We loved looking out at the water, and seeing all the cool boats in the harbour. Getting to Stanley park was a long walk, but totally worth it, as it is one of the most beautiful parks I've ever been to. At 1000 acres, Stanley park is larger than Central Park in new York (843 acres), and far prettier in my opinion. There is so much to do here, we only wished we had more time and bikes to get around better.
Mom in front of the largest tulips! Along walk Vancouver Harbour walkway towards Stanley Park.

In front of Vancouver Harbour, I'd take any of those boats!

Granville Island: We love Granville Island! Although it is really more of a peninsula, it feels like an island because it is so different from downtown Vancouver. Filled with shops, restaurants, and artist studios, Granville Island is a great place to mosey around. The best part for food-lovers like us, is the marketplace! Like Pike Place, this farmers market offers delicious and fresh produce, meats, cheeses, seafood, pastries, and prepared foods. We wanted to eat everything! However a few of our favorite pastries were: blueberry bread from Terra Breads, chocolate almond croissant from La Baguette et L'Echalote, and nanaimo bars from a place whose name I can't remember. Everything was so delicious! Another great thing about Granville Island is arriving via the world's smallest ferry! I don't know if it is actually the smallest, but it was the smallest I had ever seen! It fit about ten people and was operated by one person who goes from the dock near downtown to the dock at Granville island. For a couple of bucks you get a scenic trip on an adorable little ferry (see pics below!)

My beautiful mom in what looks like a Hamlet of England, when we are actually five minutes from downtown Vancouver! This is why Granville Island is so cool!
World's smallest ferry! The captain was the girl on the far right of this picture, she loaded passengers, captained the boat, took cash, made change, and docked the boat all by herself! I was quite impressed!
Terra Breads at Granville Island! If you are ever here, you MUST try the blueberry bread! I have never had anything like it! Chewy, moist, rich, tart, sweet, and delicious.
La Baguette et L'Echalote was fantastic! We got the almond chocolate croissant on far right.
View of downtown Vancouver from Granville Isalnd. I'm amazed at how many condo skyscrapers are in Vancouver. Condo city!
Granville Island! (actually a peninsula)
Sweet tooth Gabrielle was in heaven :-)
Our fun ferry ride to Granville Island!
Fish and Chips: The best Fish and Chips I have had in a long time are from Go Fish just a short walk from Granville Island. These are amazing! Crisp, perfectly fried fish, served with hand cut, crispy french fries. The fish was so fresh, moist, and cooked perfectly. Also, I am not usually a coleslaw fan, but they did a coleslaw with a vinaigrette that was light and peppery, which was very delicious. Mom loved her halibut and chips, and I loved my cod and chips. This is worth a trip to Vancouver, just for these fish and chips! Also, we sat and ate them on a bench overlooking False Creek and downtown Vancouver. Simply gorgeous!

Cod and chips!
Best fish and chips ever!
Halibut and chips!

Beach walk: After getting our fill of fish and chips (I ate way too many fries), we decided to walk it off. With perfect sunshine and a light breeze, we made our journey across the Burrard Bridge, and turned left on the Seaside Bicycle Route past Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach. It was beautiful weather and we felt truly blessed to have such a wonderful mini vacation. I was thinking on that walk that there are a lot of things a cancer diagnosis can take away from you-- strength, physical well-being, emotional energy, hair, etc. But there are even more things cancer can't take away from you. It can't take away the beauty of God's creation (very evident in beautiful British Columbia), it can't take away our faith that we are sons and daughter of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, it can't take away our hope that there is healing and that God performs miracles all the time, it can't take away our relationships with friends and family who give us so much love and support, and it can't take away the joy of a perfectly fried piece of freshly caught Alaskan Halibut with malt vinegar! Yumm! :-)

Mom on the Burrard Bridge! A beautiful view of downtown and False Creek entering English Bay (beach on right is Sunset Beach) 
Mom in front of the Vancouver Olympic statue (an inukshuck, an ancient Inuit symbol)

Some cool art by English Bay Beach. Mom is throwing the shaka (hang loose symbol)

This is my "yes! my mom is almost done with chemo!" face
Gelato: Our favorite treat while in Vancouver has always been gelato. When we first came here when I was a little kid, Seattle hadn't gotten on the gelato bandwagon yet, so we were in awe of this delicious, powerfully flavored Italian treat! Our favorite place was called Mondo Gelato, and we thought it was out of business, but we realized on this trip, that it simply had changed its name to Gelarmony. This is the best gelato in Vancouver! Fantastic, homemade with fresh ingredients. Delicious! 
My sweet mom with her sweet treat! I think this was raspberry and coconut gelato. Yummo!

All in all, a fabulous trip to Vancouver B.C.! It was so nice to get away from the city and not think about chemo for a little bit! Thank you for continuing to pray for my mom. Our family has felt the prayers, and we feel extremely blessed to be surrounded by so many loving and compassionate friends, family members, and coworkers. I am eternally grateful for your support of my mother through this journey. -Daniel

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