It’s hard to hate anything Canadian. When you get right down to it, our neighbors to the north are simply way too mundane for Americans to really dislike. After all, who can say anything bad about maple leafs, mounted police, or William Shatner? OK, I’ll admit that Justin Bieber is kind of irritating and poutine can be somewhat unsavory, but they’re easily offset by the likes of Shania Twain or maple syrup. Who in their right mind cheers against the Toronto Raptors anyway? Did Gordon Lightfoot ever make you mad? Those of us living south of the 49th parallel simply have nothing against anything remotely Canadian–whether ice hockey, Tim Hortens, or Michael J. Fox. We all love Lake Louise and the entire chain of Canadian Rockies. From British Columbia to Nova Scotia, the True North strong and free, eh?
My sister Mary and her husband Robin, a native Canadian, live in Vancouver, British Columbia. I’m headed up for a week-long visit and all of you are welcome to tag along if you wish. Let me warn you that Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cosmopolitan cities on the planet, surrounded by snow capped peaks, pristine blue water, and luscious green parks and floral gardens. It’s ethnically diverse with food and activities to die for. Mary and Robin reside in a beautiful downtown penthouse condo overlooking the harbor. I’ve spent many a peaceful evening smoking a joint on their rooftop balcony watching cruise ships and seaplanes glide and dock on the serene waters of Burrard Inlet, silhouetted against the picturesque backdrop of the North Shore Mountains. (OK, the “smoking a joint” part didn’t really happen–It just seemed to flow better with the prose of this whole Canuck ladened theme.)
Traveling with me on this trip are my brother Michael, his wife Michelle, and their ten month old son, Gabriel. Normally, it’s against my religion to travel with babies on airplanes but Gabriel proves to be an exception. He’s always smiling and happy, evidently already saliently aware of the fabulous and grandiose expectations which life has in store for him. We’ll be meeting up with my cousins Linda, a genuine world traveling foodie from San Francisco, and Patrick and his wife Queenie from Los Angeles. Patrick could be my doppelganger, the two of us having often been mistaken for identical twins in our youth by the undiscerning eyes of unwary, round-eyed Westerners. My mom always said I was better looking, but you be the judge.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that I’m no rookie when it comes to Canadian travel. My earliest memories are of Niagara Falls and the anger and disappointment at being denied passage on the “Maid of the Mist” boat ride due to being underage. Since that time, I’ve attacked Canada with a vengeance–witnessing the grandeur of Expo ’67 in Montreal, encountering bears while hiking near Banff, chasing down high tides in Nova Scotia, and experiencing the natural beauty and isolation of Newfoundland. Whether it’s Whistler Ski Resort or the CN Tower, or the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, I’ve seen it all. And yet through it all, Vancouver stands out as my favorite. You’re about to find out why.