Tag Archives: city trips

Taking the bronze

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Have you seen this? It’s The Economist’s list of the top 10 cities in which to live.

City chart

Whether your city is on there or not, I think we should all just take a moment to notice that Canada is represented 3 times. Yessiree. (Also, high five to Australia, but apparently The Economist forgot about all the creatures that can kill you in Australia. Just sayin’.)

The beautiful city of Vancouver is right up there in 3rd place, and I can confirm, after a trip there this July, that it wholly deserves that spot. We were there for 3 days, but our first remark about how we could live there happened in the first 4 hours. Do you do that? Walk around after a particularly satisfying lunch and say things like, “We could live here, right? I mean, couldn’t you? Right? That was amazing tabbouleh. And plus, look at this place. Yeah, we could live here.”

Granville

The glory of our trip to Vancouver was not only in visiting a great city, but in visiting a great city WITHOUT our kids. All the parents out there can pause now and savour that.

Van street

Our kidlets are superb travelers and they go everywhere with us, which is exactly why a few days without them is so very sweet. And we really reveled in that. We stayed at a boutique hotel downtown where I didn’t have to think about where to put the roll-away cot, we went out for dinner at 10pm (!) where I cut no one’s food but my own, and we even went to a performance of the incredible Vancouver Symphony Orchestra where I didn’t have to sneak out of the row to take anyone to the toilet. It was freeing, people.

Orpheum theatre

We borrowed bikes from our hotel and cycled a portion of the Sea Wall which is a 22 km path along the Vancouver waterfront. We joined up with the path and followed it around the stunning Stanley Park. With the fresh sea air, the views of the city skyline, and the sound of the water lapping at the shore, it is quite possibly the loveliest place to cycle. Plus, I did the whole thing using only 2 gears which is my kind of “active”.

Sea wall

Stanley Park is truly a treasure – a huge forest with ancient trees and peaceful trails right next to the bustling city centre. It felt like a refuge…a refuge with its own brewery. Actually, that sums up Vancouver in a nutshell: a healthy  balance of an active lifestyle and gourmet indulgence. Oh, Vancouver, thank you.

Stanley Park

Totems

Vancouver is an extremely walkable city. This is a blessing because you will want to balance out all of the food you are compelled to eat while you are there. One place to fill your belly is at Granville Island Market. Wowzer, this place is a sensory overload of fresh fruit, tubs of bright pesto, savoury breads, sweet pastries, wheels of cheese, hot mugs of french onion soup, and hissing espresso machines. We went there after a big breakfast – a mistake that I still regret  – so all we could do was walk around admiring the incredible food and the beautiful artwork until eventually we walked enough space into our appetites for a singular golden pecan pastry. Sigh.

Granville fruit

But I will be back for you, fresh fish and chips! And maple fudge!

Van boats

We also ate at Salt Tasting Room – a unique restaurant which pairs cheeses and cold meats with top notch wines; perfect for late night nibbles. However, with its exposed brick and naked light bulbs AND the fact that it is down a dark lane called Blood Alley (I was sure it was the end of me), Salt felt a bit too cool for me. Luckily the food and wine were outstanding. Triple cream brie with local honeycomb has a mysterious way of making me feel at ease.

Salt menu

Cordova street

Rooftops

Van vines

Vancouver, for us, was the ideal combination of nature, culture, beauty, great food, and friendly people. Way to overachieve, Vancouver! I loved it all. I might not ever get to live there (I have a little problem with a place where people use umbrellas when it snows – I am sure you understand), but I will most definitely visit again to soak up more of this city’s wonders.

Maybe I will even take the kids….nah, they’ll end up eating all the maple fudge.

Van buildings

Van downtown

 

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” 
― Hans Christian Andersen

Knock, knock. Who’s there?

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* Remember my grand plan? The one that was to bring structure to this blog? Well, turns out that I have to come to dread that structure, particularly the last bit: Story That Needs to be Told. NEEDS to be told? Talk about setting yourself up for failure.

What if I have a story that can’t live up to that? What if all I have is a few memories that are neither here nor there? It has started to feel like I always need to deliver a convocation speech when all I want is a bit of small talk sometimes.

My solution up to now has been to stop writing, to abandon posts half way through writing them, and to allow weeks to go by without posting because I can’t get every post perfectly written.

I’d like to change that. I’d like to slip into the blog equivalent of elasticized pants. I want to relax and share more even if it doesn’t conveniently fit into the structure I laid out at the beginning. We’ll all enjoy this a whole lot more, just like we enjoy Thanksgiving dinner more when we allow ourselves to pop that top button on our jeans.

Wait…you do that, right?

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Let’s talk about…Barcelona, Spain (I personally don’t pronounce it as “Barthelona” which in my opinion should be left to the guy in black socks and sandals who is lisping his way through his holiday photo slideshow.)

Barcelona street

It is not difficult to find good food in Barcelona. You need only to wander the narrow, meandering streets with laundry strung above them, following the smell of garlic and the warm glow of candlelight.

What IS difficult is being pregnant in Barcelona and unable to eat that good food.

The rules about what a pregnant woman can and cannot eat are as confounding as, say, the reasons why the Kardashians are famous.

Meat, but only if fully cooked. Cheese, but only if pasteurized. Eggs, but not undercooked. Fish, but no sushi. Vegetables, but only if washed.

I found it difficult to navigate Barcelona’s menus with these limitations swirling in my mind. Really tasty tapas include things like cured meats, marinated raw fish, pâté, farm-fresh cheese, and shellfish. As much as the logical part of my brain told me that Spanish mothers eat all of those things, all the time, it was nerve-wracking.

Yes, I probably played it safer than necessary (and may have even eaten at a bagel place once), but I knew that Barcelona would welcome me back another time to feast on ALL of the food with only my appetite as a limitation.

As if I need an excuse to go back.

Barcelona alley

There are numerous spots around Barcelona where you can see the fantastical creations of architect, Anton Gaudi, but the most famous is Sagrada Familia. This enormous church is still under construction, but it is already incredible to behold.

Church towers

I loved the soaring pillars and the colourful stained glass. I also loved that his designs were slightly wonky, dreamy, and playful. It seemed as though Gaudi was equally inspired by nature as by Dr. Seuss.

Sagrada Familia

This trip to Barcelona had many purposes: to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, to escape the Norwegian winter, and to stay in a swanky hotel in a big city before we had a baby and swapped swanky for swaddling.

To this end, we booked into a very posh hotel right downtown – a place that had fluffy robes and a shower head the size of a dinner plate.

Hotel

One night as we slept, cocooned in sheets with a high thread count (for the price of the room, I would hope they were), we were startled awake by someone knocking on our door. Before we could make sense of what was happening, the knocking turned to banging. Then the banging turned to shouting.

Matt checked the peephole and asked the guy what he wanted. (What could we offer, really? A shower cap?)

The guy started yelling at us to let him in, but not in a menacing way, just in a drunken-can’t-remember-his-room-number way. He clearly was convinced that his friend was inside our room, refusing to open the door for him. He kept on shouting until finally Matt was shouting back at him, “YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG ROOM”.

With all of this middle of the night hoopla my luxury hotel experience started to feel distinctly youth hostel-ish. We should’ve just sealed the deal and invited him in to share a beer, wash his clothes in the sink, and hand-stitch a Canadian flag on his backpack.

We didn’t, though.

Facade

“Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind…”

– Ernest Hemingway