Late Afternoon/Evening of the 22nd

After rolling around in our hotel room, we took a walk through the Washington Circle area, checking out the sights before attending mass. This city feels entirely different from New York: it has all the marks of a big city (homeless folks roaming around/loitering on the park benches, busy business men and women scurrying about, fire trucks and police cars occasionally screaming down streets), but it's just... different, from the buildings right down to the air one breathes. It looks and feels more laid back, and the people, in general, are nicer. Our next few adventures proved that easily, with all the folks who went of their way to help out or to simply be courteous, and some random encounters in restaurants with people being nice enough to give us advice on where to go and what to do. I like the energy of New York, but I also like the neighborly sort of ambiance this place has to offer.

Anyway, we ate an expensive and slightly disappointing dinner at the hotel's bistro (not doing THAT again, for sure), then spent our first evening properly settling in. This time to relax and cool our heels really helped, given the fact that we spent the entire day afterward walking through the Tidal Basin and National Mall area, soaking up the sights.


The 23rd

The Tidal Basin and the sprawling area of the Mall with its trees and birds and squirrels and flowers made me feel like a kid again. I do recall that such expansiveness was what I immediately missed when we moved back to the Philippines. Manila is simply too crowded and too tiny for a girl who grew up with trees and mountains.

War memorials hold a special place in my heart, if only because I have always been fascinated by stories of the battlefield and warfare. I'm no war freak, but military history is one of my not-so-secret passions. I also feel that the soldiers who were out there ought to be remembered, and the families some of them left behind ought to have somewhere to go back to, to know that their loved ones fought the good fight.

On another note, it was nice going to the World War II memorial and see that the Philippines was recognized. I hadn't expected it, but a bit of thinking did make me remember that at the time, my country was still considered a part of the United States, in a way. Of course, strolling through that area brought out the old stories of my grandfather, who served in the USAFFE. Apparently, sometime before he died, my parents took a detour to Corrigidor on the way to Baguio, and searched out his name on the monument to the battle that was fought there. We have a picture of him pointing to it.

Beyond that, the presidential memorials were truly impressive, and even had exhibits that better acquaint outsiders like myself with what these people did to build the country that stands at present. Every piece is directed towards building the image that they want you to see - this isn't necessarily a bad thing, in my eyes. As it is, it's enough to make one reflect, should one care to.

In general, I am impressed at how America really attempts to remember its forefathers, and honor the people who fell in order to defend their country, whatever the country's 'actual' reasons may have been.

We topped off the day with an excellent dinner at Full Kee, this Chinese restaurant in, well, Chinatown. Unsurprisingly, all of us conked out early and woke up rather late the next morning.


May 24th

Our first Smisthsonian stop was the National Air and Space Museum by unanimous vote. Every single display had me giggling like a fangirl, and I, of course, dragged my brother over to the Mustang they had in the World War II section for a picture.

Shut up, it's a beautiful plane. 8|

As it is, many of you know that my childhood dream was to be a veritech pilot or an astronaut (since the veritech pilot thing would obviously be very hard to do), so my massive fangirling and enjoyment of this particular museum should come as no surprise.

After a stopover at the McDonald's in the Air and Space museum (father reacted a bit to this; we've been surviving on McDonald's stopovers a lot, in his eyes), we sped to the Museum of Natural History to gawk a bit at their dinosaurs and their mammals and the ocean hall and the Hope Diamond. I kind of wish I had more time to go back and really explore the Museum of Natural History, but I suppose that'll have to be for another day.

Cooled our heels off at the hotel again, then went back to the fringes of Chinatown for a dinner at Zaytinya. Small plate restaurant, so the servings were dismally tiny, but the food was wonderful. I've fallen in love all over again with Mediterranean cuisine. *^*


May 25th

Took the Metro down to Arlington Cemetery, and hopped on the tour mobile in order to get a good overview of the place without dying under the heat of the sun. There is no way we could have walked that thing - the place is massive.

As it is, though, I really enjoyed myself. I've got a thing for old cemeteries, and Arlington is a combination of two of my favorite things since it's a cemetery for soldiers, and is full of interesting war memorials. I was reminded, once again, of my grandfather, although he's buried back at home in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Our second and last stop for the evening was Georgetown, beginning at Georgetown University. The banners sounded eerily Jesuit, and a bit of walking and a stop at a statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola proved to us that it was, indeed, a Jesuit university (we didn't know this when we got there).

Peter was suitably creeped out. Mom promptly dragged him to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and some research has proven that if he does land a scholarship, my folks may just be able to send him there. Now he's agonizing over his future. "THINGS WERE SIMPLE BACK IN MANILA," in his words.

I do agree, but simple isn't always good when it comes to one's education, you know?

As it is, Georgetown U was a real treat, with its gothic architecture and Harry Potter-ish feel. Not a place I can see myself taking up a degree in, but lovely nonetheless.

Dad had me take the reins at that point, for our walking tour of Georgetown. I used our Frommer's book, and we pretty much covered the ENTIRE area. The place really is quaint and lovely, and there was this lovely ice cream bar that I wish we could go back to. I want to try their other flavors. ;w;

We were going to go out for dinner after a bit of a rest at the hotel, but we ended up ordering Chinese takeout instead. It was delicious. owo
We were utterly defeated by the American Museum of Natural History for several reasons:

1.) It was bloody fucking huge.
2.) Peter's boil was seriously acting up, so he and I took it slow.
3.) We met our cousin Eric and two of his kids, which is about as awesome as going through all of the lovely exhibits.
4.) It was bloody fucking huge.

I'm now looking forward to the Smithsonian. I barely remember the place, but I do recall thinking it was amazing. Then again, I was incredibly young - museums tend to be pretty amazing for impressionable little girls.

Eric dropped us off at a pharmacy that was supposed to have a doctor on call later in the afternoon because Peter was having a really hard time with his boil. Suffice to say, that didn't work out too well - the doctor wasn't going to do any procedure, which left us trying to figure out what to buy for home treatment and the like. Bit of drama on that part, since there were phone calls, disagreements over how to treat him (to lancet the thing and squeeze the pus out or not?) and even talk about us canceling the rest of the trip and going home if it got bad. Fortunately, after lots of parental fussing and treatment (caked blood and pus on gauze looks disgusting, by the way), it looked like Peter was definitely going to be fine by morning as long as he rested. That meant leaving him behind, though, and going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

They say that even if you were to visit the Met once a week for a significant period of time, you'll always stumble across something new even in sections that you've already visited before. I can completely believe this - the place has three floors, but it is MASSIVE. I was literally dragging my parents from room to room to see the stuff I was really interested in and one of the suggested exhibits (Temple of Dendur - they constructed an entire frigging wing for it to show you how the temple is supposed to look), and my feet were killing me, but I didn't want to stop at all. We only got to cover bits and pieces of three areas, but we left incredibly happy.

Parents bought me a painting on the way to Central Park - dad wanted us to cut through it on our way to the subway station. Apparently, my parents never managed to actually walk through the park in all of the times that they've been to New York, so it was a real treat, seeing them that happy while enjoying the place all the same. We got rained on close to the end of the route, but we were all prepared.

Stopped over at the hotel to pick up Peter and rest our legs a bit. Funny moment happened while flipping channels:

Me: *after Peter hits an adventure film - Conan the Barbarian, I think?* ...Is that Arnold Schwarzanegger?
Peter: No idea --
Guy on Screen: *while tumbling through a hole* RAAWARAWARGGGHHHH--
Both of Us: *stare*
Peter: ...Yep, that's Arnie.

Our next stop was the Empire State Building, in which we spent about two hours lining up just to get to the elevator to the 80th floor. Overheard a funny conversation while we were going through the line: two members of the staff were fanboying Supernatural ("Dude, how are they going to top last season? They beat the DEVIL, man!"). Anyway, after spending the entire day standing and walking, I did not appreciate the line-up at all - or more like, my body didn't. Still, all of us hate lining up even more than we hate cramps, so we rushed up the stairs to the observation deck.

The view of New York City at night made it all worth it, and then some.

There was another line going back down, but it wasn't so bad. We dropped by the hotel again to change Peter's bandage, then headed out to eat at Carmine's, which was one of the restaurants suggested by our little tour tour book. Servings were huge, atmosphere was great, people were friendly and the food was just glorious. Overall, it was a great way to top off our last official day in New York.

Parents woke the bro and I up early this morning to do our packing (all of us decided to crash early rather than pack our stuff before bed) and rush breakfast before hopping into a cab to the Amtrax for Washington D.C.. Peter and I barely felt the three-hour ride since the both of us decided to watch Glee and the last two episodes of Supernatural (WTF WAS THAT ENDING). The view from the window was pretty interesting for me as well - I've got a thing for abandoned buildings and countryside.

We landed at the Grand Union Station, which was a super pretty place to be in. The taxi ride en-route to our hotel took us through the National Mall area, which gave us a good look at some of the spots we'll be touring later. Oh, and front desk gave us an upgrade to this really huge suite; the guy's reasoning was that Peter and I weren't going to fit on a double bed anyway. I suspect that the token of good will was partially due to the fact that our hotel is close to George Washington University and they want smaller rooms available to people who really can't afford the bigger stuff, and since we reserved ahead and there are four of us... well, there you have it.

Either way, things are looking really good. I jokingly told Peter that he better pay attention in Mass later: he owes the Big Man a whole lot.

Doubt we'll be touring since it'll be evening after we finish Mass, so I suppose this means I ought to enjoy this room while I can.
Our next few days in Toronto were generally quiet, filled with family dinners and chilling out. Attended Sunday Mass at the parish in my bro's old neighborhood - mixed race community, with this really interesting mural that represented pretty much all the colors that they had in their particular location. We also went to the Ontario Science Center with my bro's family, which was a treat in itself because of the interactive displays. One of the exhibits amused me, though. It's called The Truth, and it's supposed to be enlightening in the sense that it exposes biases - racial, gender, social and whatever else - to common folk. I suppose people like me - pseudo-expat from Canada, native born Filipina, university student of the Humanities - were not the target audience at all. That aside, though, it was fun; I even got to catch one of the IMAX feature films before we rolled out.

The stop after that was this Japanese-Korean restaurant (apparently all Japanese and Koren restaurants in Toronto, to Phil's knowledge, are Japanese-Korean fusion cuisine places); we witnessed an accident en-route - high speed collision between a car and a van on the interchange. No one was hurt, luckily, but the cars were totalled. Oh, and the restaurant had good food.

Strange tangent right there, but there you have it.

Our next stop the following day was the CN Tower, although we didn't get to see much since the weather was lousy. The fog, though, is an attraction in itself to me - made a bit of a game out of sitting by the windows, trying to peer at snippets of the city skyline through holes in the clouds. Oh, and mom was really cute in the glass floor section: she's scared of stepping on it.

Our last full day was spent relaxing at the house since my folks needed to do random errands and they wanted to scout around for a doctor for Peter, who had somehow developed a boil on his neck (we didn't bother with it: 320 dollars?!). Peter and I also got to go with Philip to the grocery store, which was short but fun. Our dinner was a bit of a special occasion, because we decided to turn it into a mini belated birthday celebration for my niece.

The morning of our departure day was busy, of course, and the ride going down to Buffalo Airport was pretty damned scenic since the weather cleared up and we passed through roads winding between the Great Lakes. The plan ride was delayed getting to the airport, though, and on the runway because of a storm, AND it was nearly called back because of a 'security breach' (something, by the way, that has never happened to me in all of my years of traveling). It was raining when we landed in New York City, and the taxi ride to our hotel was an experience in itself. I can totally see why so many people were inspired by this place.

Quick segue: I've been to New York before as a child, but I don't remember much beyond being wowed by the Statue of Liberty, staring at mounds of snow on the street, and going all goo-goo-eyed at this toy store that my mother brought me to. Coming back as a young adult with so much more life experience and a keener eye for detail is nothing short of awesome.

We're staying at The Hotel @ Times Square. (Yes, that really IS it's name.) It's this quaint place along 46th and 6th, which puts us pretty damned close to the center of everything. On our first night, we dropped off our bags at our hotel room and cooled our heels off a little before walking out into the rain in search of a restaurant.

My first real look at Times Square left me dazzled, and that really shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. The people were everywhere in spite of the late hour, and the lights in the square itself and on Broadway were something else. If you look up, it's like the sky - which is bright as heck if it's cloudy since all the lights of the buildings reflect off of the clouds - is being hugged by the edges of the buildings while they're closing in on you. I don't find it claustrophobic, though; it's closer to awe-inspiring.

The four of us ended up eating a super late dinner at Friday's, then we all crashed pretty late once we got back. Parents woke the bro and I up early-ish for breakfast at the hotel since it's free, then we headed out to the subway station at Times Square for our first official day.

We got really lucky with the weather - it was supposed to be raining during our entire stay in New York, but it awas bright and sunny with a good breeze the entire time. We strolled through the Battery, dropped by the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Museum, took the ferry past the Statue of Liberty then dropped by Ellis Island. Once we were back, we checked the World Trade Center memorial out before deciding to double back to a hospital that a random Filipina on the subway referred us to, since Peter needed to get his boil checked. Some words on the sights:

Jewish Memorial: Impressive, impressive museum with an incredibly fair representation of the historical events that it was commemorating, and a whole lote of wonderful things to preserve the memory and legacy of the Jewish community. It is interesting to see how one really CAN equate the Jewish struggle with a struggle of the 'fringes' in general, if one truly thinks about it. Reading the timeline and walking through the testimonies and checking the special exhibits was a highly emotional experience as well.

The fountains were fun to my bro and I for a very shallow reason: the birds always swooped down to bathe in them.

The Ferry Ride: Awesome skyline of Manhattan. That is all.

Statue of Liberty: Our original plan was to get dropped off on Liberty Island instead of Ellis since we could only choose one (it was already too late in the afternoon for us to do both), but we figured it'd be a waste since going up to the Crown and Torch weren't possible anyway. As it is, my parents and I have already been through that place, and Peter was content with just seeing the statue.

Ellis Island: Interesting walkthrough of the history of immigration to America! There was a lot of trivia and stories that I couldn've have ever known without being in the museum or going through academic texts. On another note, my bro and I had fun feeding the pigeons while we took an afternoon snack outside of the museum.

Our subway adventure was something else because we got totally, utterly fucking lost. First we hopped on an express train, so we had to double back. After that, bro got stuck because of a faulty entry machine thing, so we missed two of the trains that we could've jumped on. When we finally got on the right platform, the train we were supposed to take was so delayed that it switched to express on is, so we ended up taking ANOTHER express by accident. Oh, and when we finally got to the hospital, they wanted to charge us 900 dollars for a basic consultation.

Yes, that's right.

900 fucking dollars.

Suffice to say, our "Filipino instincts" (as my dad put it) kicked in at that point, and we just wandered back to the hotel. Got a bit lost on the way, but that turned out for the better since we spotted a Pharmacy, and mom got to consult the medical staff on call there about what to do with Peter's boil.

We're currently back at the hotel room, resting our feet and contacting relatives and friends - mom, in fact, is talking to my cousin Eric on Skype while I type this out. We'll be taking a late dinner, from the looks of it.
Haven't been able to sign on for the past two days because we were on the move and such. Taking some time out to write this before my parents pretty much kick my bro and I out the door again.

Sore throat was gone by the time we had to fly to Toronto, but it was replaced by this allergy-cold sort of thing that I must've gotten from staying in our room - it was apparently pretty dusty in there. If you think about it, that put me between a rock and a hard place: staying inside rooms meant suitable warmth but a lot of dust, and staying outside meant good, fresh air but cold conditions. We were already heading out, though, and the only thing that I could possibly be concerned about was if my 'cold' was going to make landing and taking off hellish.

Our old maid picked us up and brought us to the airport, where we proceeded to go through the simplest check in and registration process that I have ever had to go through. Dad was amazed at how everything was so smooth, and how most of the proecess was automated. I told him that since we're used to crushing ineffeciency, we forget how most people actually expect things to work out versus expecting things to go horribly wrong. We then met up with our other old maid and her husband at the White Spot for brunch. It was really, really nice, hanging out with them and actually seeing the kind of people they are - I was very young the last time I was in close contact with them, and you know how that sort of thing goes. It's touching how much gratitude and respect they still have for my parents: they really feel as though they wouldn't have had anything of value if my folks hadn't brought them to Canada with us back then. From the stories I have heard from them and my folks, this might just be true.

The last check right before hitting the boarding area was a bit hassling for everyone except me: Dad got tagged for bringing in the food that our maids prepared for us (some of it had gravy), and my bro and my mother were randomly tagged for a full body scan. The plane ride itself was also the most turbulent flight that any of us have been on in a long while, aaaand they didn't feed us or provide free earphones for their in-flight entertainment systems (thank god for my headphones). Beyond that, though, all was well - I finally watched Toy Story 3 (nice way of finishing the series, imho), and since my folks were seated beside me, I got to watch them watching a movie together, which was super cute since they were leaning against each other and holding hands. Still going strong after thirty-seven years, and all.

Landing was super smooth, and my ears didn't feel the shift in air pressure at all in spite of my cold. My brother Phil picked us up with his little girl, and it was an adventure traveling through Toronto airport in order to get to his car. Place is fucking HUGE, let me tell you. It is also apparently thrice more expensive to fly in and out of Toronto than any other place in North America. Maybe even the world, if I was hearing Phil correctly.

Car ride to Phil's place was short and sweet since he and his family live nearby - we're staying at one of the apartment complex's guest suites, which is tiny, hot (since the entire tower's air conditioning system is offline for maintenance) but otherwise very swanky (lol full glass shower stall). We all ventured down to my bro's unit (which is, like, three doors away from our suite) and ate all of the food that our old maids packed for us (Dad admitted that he suddenly didn't regret the hassle of bringing it through the airport). We must've ended by midnight or so, and only because Phil does the graveyard shift and we didn't want to keep him up for too long.

Hands down: my first official day in Toronto was amazing. The subway system looks like something out of the movies (old trains, dingy stations, street performers in the tunnels, bustling crowds, strange people lurking around), and the city itself just has character, from the people wandering the sidewalks right down to the buildings themselves. It's been a long time since I've been in a city this huge at an age where I can really pay attention to the details, and believe me: I was looking every which way to try and catch as much of it as possible. We walkd down a bit of Yonge Street to get to the square on purpose so that we could get a good look of the place. I now understand the appeal of window shopping - the stores were all so different, and given the fact that I'm in the Philippines, it was pretty awesome, seeing adult sex shops, video rentals, fortune telling shops and kink stores spilling from every corner. The crowds themselves were a treat too; we even met crazy people on the way. My parents weren't too thrilled, but my bro and I found it cool.

We decided to take this city bus tour that does the entire route through the central area and lets you get off wherever you please. In spite of the fact that it was cold and slightly rainy, my bro and I stayed on the top deck of the bus the entire way to get a really good look of the place. It was totally worth it, because if the buildings weren't awesome, the pieces of art that they have scattered around were in their place. It was at that moment that I fell in love with Toronto, and I think that if I ever had to move back to Canada, it'd have to be here. There's just so much happening; it makes perfect sense now, how writers seem to love the place.

All four of us were freezing, tired but happy by the time we got off the bus. Stopped by McDonald's for a bit of food and to catch our breath, then we headed down into the Path, which is apparently the largest underground shopping mall in the world. All of the people who should've been up in the streets were down there instead, since it was bright and warm. We didn't walk around too much, though, since we had to head back to the station near my bro's place to meet up with him and his family. They drove us through Missisaga, the area that they used to stay in before moving to Sherway. Totally enjoyed the quick stopover we had by the lake in his old neighborhood: there were swans (they're bigger than my niece, holy shit), mallard ducks and Canadian geese!

Ate dinner at this lovely Vietnamese place with wonderful food and huge servings - we all just sat around and talked again, which is the best part about staying close to family. Got home late, of course, but I managed to stay around with my bro for a bit to hook up the internet on this thing and just catch up.

Little bro dutifully informed my parents and I, first thing this morning, that all three of us were snoring now. I apparently do that when I'm sick or really tired, ahaha. Now we're off to breakfast with Phil's wife and kid before heading out for the day.

The original plan was to go for the museum since the weather was supposed to take a turn for the worse, but when noon hit and there was no sign of that so-called thunderstorm, we took a chance and zipped down to the Toronto Zoo.

Most.

Kick ass.

Place.

EVER.

(Pics will follow eventually.)

My new favorite animal is the snow leopard.

Now that that is out of the way, let me babble briefly about the GPS that Phil lent to my dad. It's incredibly smart and can be programmed to calculate routes that best suit your driving style and speaks in this interesting, low female voice.

I want to name it after that computer system in Eden of the East. Yes, I am a dork.

We met up with Rob (my white brother) and his wife Regina for dinner after we finished walking the entire length of the Toronto Zoo (my legs still hurt like a bitch, by the way). We ate at this lovely Chinese place, and I am one to believe that the food really was excellent and it wasn't just me and my little bro starving after walking everywhere on a light breakfast and no lunch. We also got to meet up with this guy who has apparently become one of Philip's good friends while he's been staying here. A bonafide Chinese genius who calls himself 'yellow and geeky'. He appears to live up to this title well.

Peter wanted to stay up to watch stuff for a bit, and I took so long settling in and checking online accounts that out of desperation, he actually clamped down unto my shoulder and whined unto I turned on the next episode of Supernatural. Oh, family.
Woke up with a sore throat - it already felt raw the other evening, but it was worse by the time I was up. Parents decided to cancel our Victoria day trip and take my bro and I downtown instead. Dad took the car down to the station on the north end, and we took a ferry over to Gas Town. Spent the rest of the time walking, since our parents wanted to show my bro and I around while they ran some errands.

The city of Vancouver's just as pretty as the scenery, which is quite a feat for a place, if you ask me. The best part about wandering is being able to look at all the smaller details rather than the bigger picture, and, if you're in good company, occasionally talking about whatever comes to mind. There is also a special joy in strolling down a street with hot chocolate at hand and the wind on your face.

Of course, I might just be feeling romantic about that. It's probably something that a whole lot of people get to do down here. Try that in Manila, and... well.

Our next stop was Capilano Suspension Bridge. The park has seriously expanded and organized itself since the last time any of us were there. It doesn't JUST have the bridge; it has exhibits on the history of the place, and this really awesome path way that they strung up between the trees, allowing you to see things from a much higher vantage point. Peter and I were on the lookout for animals, and while my bro didn't get to see his racoon, we did spot a lot of birds and a pair of mallard ducks.

Passed out again early since I wasn't feeling too good - Mom and Peter went off to buy dinner at Earl's while my Dad kept me company. Woke up after three hours to kick ass chicken fritters and fries. Not much else to say about THAT, though, since I went to sleep for real after eating.

Now I'm up again at a decent time, and feeling worlds better. We're going to do another round around town, I think, since it's too risky for us to take that day trip to Victoria at this point.




First stop we made was over at the Museum of Anthropology within the University of British Columbia (which, by the way, has an incredibly huge campus). All of the stuff in their collection brought me back to my grade school days in Canada - they're really big on racial awareness and the conservation of what they now call the First Nations people. Wandered around a lot, spotted the exhibit they had on the Philippines, and bought myself a really nifty pewter necklace~

Dad brought us over to the house of an old family friend of his, and he and his wife treated us out to lunch at Fortune Garden, this awesome Chinese restaurant close to Granville. It was really, really pleasant, since Dad's friend really reminds me of Dad (they even say the same taglines), and his wife is vivacious and engaging. They went with us to Granville and toured us around before we stopped over for dessert. Peter and I got to feed the pigeons after we were done, which is kind of something that I've been itching to do since I was little.

Forgot to mention: we spotted a pair of American bald eagles en-route to Fortune Garden. Peter and I are still holding out for that racoon.

The lot of us parted ways close to dinner time; we headed back to the lodge so that my folks could prepare for another dinner with friends of theirs. Peter and I were supposed to tag along, but I was tired, and somebody needed to keep me company. Ended up sleeping for a long time (I do that a lot these days), and the bro bought me dinner from Earl's sometime before I woke up for real. We've just been chilling out now, occasionally watching stuff, occasionally packing.

We'll be off to Toronto tomorrow, which means another timezone, a colder place and my third older bro, with family. I'm feeling a lot better now, but it'd be awesome if I could stop sniffling.
Writing this after a surprise 3-hour nap and a good shower. Most of my morning was actually spent chilling out in bed, catching up with some folks on the Plurk end of town and doing a bit of writing. I was waiting for my parents and my brother to wake up; they did just a bit before noon. Not exactly as we all planned, but perhaps it was for the best. We've been moving at light speed these days.

Dad drove us down to Horsehoe Bay, which is a part of this lovely sea area called Howe Sound. We rented out a boat to take a look around - part of the attraction of the place, beyond the awesome scenery, are the seals, since they have a haul-out around 15-30 minutes away from the cove. It felt a bit like being in a Discovery channel show, looking at them chilling out on their rocks, under the sun. There were a lot of pretty birds too!

We took our time after that, circling through the area and checking up on interesting places marked down on the map that the personnel at Sewell's Marina gave us. Good thing too, because we were lucky enough to stumble upon a whole pod of dolphins on our way back! The lot of them stayed with us for a good ten minutes, and mom and my bro were busy snapping photos and taking videos of them leaping up into the air and swimming around. Our luck stayed with us on the next detour, since we spotted a heron in flight and we got to get up close and personal with five deers that were grazing close to the shoreline.

No worries: I have pictures for later.

Since it was too late to go to Capilano Suspension Bridge, we just ended up wandering around town as soon as we landed. There was this adorable family of Canadian Geese on the beach - the male goose was all vigilant and stuff, eying the people who got a little too close (like me) while his wife and kids shuffled around for food. We then ate dinner at this restaurant that's apparently been there for the past twenty or so years (mom recognized the place; excellent lamb, it has), then topped it off with dessert at Baskin & Robbins (chocolate chip cookie dough + red velvet cake ice cream = best).

The more I go around here, the more I realize that it's Vancouver's scenery that I've been looking for my entire life. Everything about it, from the general landscape to the finer details, touches me in ways that nothing else has before.
The net connection we're getting down here has started to become an exercise in frustration for me. The download speeds are wonderful and browsing speed's just fine, but Plurk takes forever to load anything. I'm getting through due to sheer bullheadedness on my part.

The lot of us woke up 'late' by my parents' standards - that is, 7:30 in the morning. Had breakfast in Denny's, a restaurant that I've had a soft spot for because of my trip to LA last year. Peter's still getting used to American servings; I was just happy to have some real bacon. After that, we all drove down to Stanley park to visit Vancouver Aquarium.

There are a number of place that my mom used to take me to when I was younger: Stanley Park, the Sea Wall, Dundarave, Ambleside, Vancouver Library and Vancouver Aquarium. My memories of most of the places are hazy but fond - Vancouver Aquarium, though, is nice and sharp. It's because of that place that I grew up loving nature, and dreaming about becoming a marine biologist. Dad even bought me this educational computer program all about sea life and the world's oceans because I wouldn't shut up about fish and dolphins and killer whales. My elementary school also brought us on a field trip when I was in Grade Three, where we all slept over at the aquarium. We were up near the beluga whales, who made it a point to show off and distract us kids from sleeping by being absolutely adorable.

Going back to the aquarium was a different experience altogether. I've always loved visiting zoos and such, and couple that with the emotional attachment that I have with this particular place and... well, let's just say that I felt like a kid again, dragging my parents around to see this or that fish and gawking at all the cool exhibits they had. We burned away the rest of our morning and a good part of our afternoon just wandering through the area, then we took a turn around Stanley Park. We got lucky; the rain had stopped by the time we stepped out of the aquarium. The wind was nice, the sun was out and the trees were just beautiful. Oh, and Peter finally got to see his squirrel. I got to see my Canadian geese, plus babies.

The next leg down memory lane involved eating at the White Spot branch that my family used to frequent, then attending mass at our old church, then driving down Dundarave before hitting up the lodge for a quick nap. Had dinner at mom's friend's place again, although this time all of her OTHER friends came around to join us. They were all amazed at how my bro and I had grown up, and honestly? It was really fun talking to them. You never really know the friends of your parents and your own aunts and uncles until you're old enough to listen in on their conversations and really speak to them.

Got three more days until we leave Vancouver. We're all hoping that we'll get to see everything we want to see before we're off. It shouldn't be too difficult, though; we'll be flying back here a little before the end of our entire trip.

Something not entirely related: managed to do a lot of thinking about things, and talking it all through with my parents and bro have given me a better sense of where to go next. I think I'm going to be okay.
One of the best things about traveling with one's family is talking. We ended up waking up at around 5 in the morning and just wandering around the room, talking. Heard some bad news over email with regard to jobs and the like the other night, but with that also came a sense of freedom. Mentioning it to my father brought up all sorts of nice quotes.

"When you plan you life, factor in the fact that you are not God."

"There are boundaries and there are obstacles in life. If it is an obstacle, goddamnit, fight it! If it's a boundary, respect it. Because you'll never win against a true boundary; you'll just get hurt."

"Since I'm imparting my wisdom to you, and you have no choice but to listen to me..."

"The curse of individualism is the lack of gratitude."




We drove down to Whistler after a light breakfast - the entire route was really, really pretty. I realized that you really can't describe the small and beautiful things about nature without seeing it first hand. The way the trees look, the layout of the mountains, the movement of the river... books will only give you so much, as will pictures.

Segue: before hitting the highway, dad drove us through our old neighborhood, from the exit on the highway to the shopping center mom used to do the groceries in to our old house, to my old school. It's really interesting how memories work; you just sort of dig them up if they've been sitting a while, and everything comes back in vague flashes. You also learn more about what your life was really like in the past many years after the fact. I suppose this happened to me because I was very young when I still lived in Canada, so there naturally wasn't a lot that I would've been told, or known about on my own.

After our little trip down memory lane, my parents decided to go for a quick stopover at Alice Lake, where my family used to go swimming during the summer. It was fucking cold, but beautiful. Bro and I kept our eyes peeled for squirrels, and ended up disappointed. The robins were cute.

Whistler has apparently changed a lot since the last time any of us have been there, and it's mostly due to the fact that they hosted the Winter Olympics last year. Had a great lunch in a pub (tried a Whistler Honey Lager; awesome stuff), then we went up on the lift. None of us were expecting a lot of snow. The long and short of it is, we got a fuck load of it. We even got snowed on, and went through a cloud. The silence was eerie; the landscape was haunting. Oh, and naturally, all of us frooze our asses off, but that in itself is a bonding experience.

We also got to see a black bear on the ride down from the mountain. Peter was amused at how he got to see a bear before, y'know, a squirrel.

On another note, being back in Canada really confirmed it. I love cities, beaches and desserts, but it's the strange, sometimes gloomy and always overpowering beauty of mountains and temperate countries that truly inspire me.

Everyone passed out en-route to the lodge - dad even had to pull over for a quick nap. Once we had changed, though, it was off to the house of one of my mom's very old friends. Her husband is an awesome cook (who ferments his own wine: how cool is that?) who fed us salmon (*A*!), chicken fingers and mashed potatoes. They were really happy to see us, especially my bro and I - we were wee little things the last time we came around.




Pretty much acclimatized to the timezone through sheer exhaustion and the like. Glad that I have net access at the moment. Helps me record things as they happen.
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