Monthly Archives: October 2012

Vancouver

Vancouver Harbour

Vancouver Harbour

Last week, we learned it takes remarkable skill and cohesive precision for two adults to share one umbrella.  Especially if one adult is 6 feet tall while the other is 5feet 2inches.  Why didn’t we just ask for two umbrellas from the hotel, you ask?  Well because of course it’s more romantic to huddle together and hold each other close as you walk, and maybe even steal a couple kisses in the rain.  But at one point, all thoughts of romantic gestures were lost on me, as I kept trying to nudge my husband’s elbow, conveniently attached to the umbrella at the time, just a little bit more to the right and back to provide me with more protection against the elements.

You better believe that anytime we came across a street awning, we eagerly went our separate ways. I walked under the awning, happy as a little clam. And he courageously battled the rain with his single umbrella.

In a city dully dubbed Raincouver, we tried to get a handle on umbrella etiquette over the 3 nights and 4 days we spent in Vancouver.  For novice umbrella users, seemingly run of the mill protocol proved to be a bit questionable for us.  Where are you supposed to put your sopping umbrella at a restaurant if there is no box at the door? Or at a store? And if you place your umbrella in the designated box, what’s to keep someone else from taking yours? Not to mention the rigorous game of chicken that pedestrians seem to play, swerving at the last minute to avoid an eye-gougingly unfortunate umbrella mishap.

Pretty yachts, Stanley Park, Vancouver Harbour

Swanky yachts, Stanley Park, Vancouver Harbour.. Now that’s the life.

All umbrella thoughts aside, we had a blast in Vancouver. This vivacious city has continuously ranked at the top of the “world’s most livable cities”, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. This year it was ranked third, but nonetheless, I can definitely see why the city is so attractive. Interestingly enough, I just found out that Calgary is also among the top five cities!

Not very large by any means, that cool factor I mentioned in an earlier post about Calgary is readily pungent in the air in this west coast city as well. Fantastic restaurants, hipster art showrooms, and immense cultural diversity pretty much give you the lay of the land. Not to mention, coffee, coffee, and more coffee, with big chains and local coffee shops on every corner. Could it be the proximity to Seattle?

Latte in Vancouver

I really want to learn how to do this.

My husband and I are notoriously bad tourists, despite the fact that we travel so much. When we go on vacation, it’s usually to spend some quality alone time together.  So we’d much rather have a relaxing good time than worry about trying to visit all the crowded “must-sees.”  When visiting a new city, we generally follow a few guidelines to make the most of our trip.

1 – Stay in a nice place, as close to the most desirable part of town as you can get. In Vancouver, we stayed at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia on W. Georgia St. just a few minutes walk from the best restaurants, shopping, Gastown, the harbor, and Stanley Park to boot.

Historic Gastown district.

Historic Gastown district.

2 – Drive as little as possible within the city. There’s something so authentically organic by absorbing a new city on foot or using the metro/train/subway. In Vancouver we were lucky enough to be able to walk everywhere, even in the rain.

3 – Don’t plan every detail ahead of time. Granted, this motto caused us to miss out on the Colosseum in Rome, as it was closed off the day we tried to see it. But generally this spur of the moment attitude has served us well on trips in the past, and worked out great in Vancouver too.

The only real touristy activity we ended up doing was a tour of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. We have actually received word that by this time next year, there’s a real possibility we might be moving to an East Asian country for a new project. Of course, if anyone knows the oil and gas industry, these things tend to change quite frequently, so this plan is definitely not set in stone. But for now, I find myself more and more engrossed with all different aspects of Asian culture. And the garden did not disappoint!

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver

The entrance to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver

Inside the tranquil gardens.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver

All of the plants and materials were imported from China.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver

The skies cleared up during our tour.

All in all, if my husband ever got assigned to work in Vancouver for a while, I would definitely be excited. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of Asia.

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Rockies Road Trip

Rockies Road Trip

Just starting off.

Last week, my husband and I took a road trip through the beautiful Canadian Rockies all the way to Vancouver on the west coast.  After three and a half years of marriage, this was actually the first road trip we’ve ever taken on our own.  We’re talking about some serious quality time after being apart for the last 10 days. For the sake of my marriage, I have learned to suppress my inner backseat driver. My sisters claim it’s done wonders for humanity as well.  But something I cannot and will not even try to suppress is my inner roadside diva. That’s right, I am an absolute belter. I cannot describe how happy it makes me to sing in the car. I am literally content with singing along to all sorts of music for hours.

Shout out to my free-spirited grandmother for introducing me to Mariah Carey at such a young age and encouraging us (all four sisters) to sing along in the car. In tandem. As loud as we could. Moving on.

The trip from Calgary to Vancouver is approximately a 12 hour drive (you could say I was a little parched by the end of it.)  Since we didn’t want to drive in the dark and waste precious opportunities to enjoy the absolutely wondrous scenery, we stopped for the night about half way through in the small ski-resort town of Revelstoke in British Columbia.

Approaching the small rainy resort town of Revelstoke, BC.

Approaching the small, rainy, resort town of Revelstoke, BC.

In the midst of literally belting out Taylor Swift and Beyonce for hours (yes, my husband is an angel), the constant changing weather conditions kept us at the edge of our seats in amazement and made us more than a little nervous sometimes too. We literally drove through snow storms, pouring rain, and bright sunshine all in the span of a couple of hours. Our temperamental mountains were at times either snow-covered, vibrant green, or spattered with warm autumn colors of the most unusual reds, yellows and oranges. We knew it would be amazing, but we clearly underestimated our journey from the number of times our jaws dropped, and stayed dropped, for quite a while.

Snowstorm on HWY 1, British Columbia, Canada

The start of a snowstorm.

Sunshine in British Columbia, Canada

Sunshine just a few kilometers away.

Choosing just a few images for this post was no simple task.  I hope these photos speak more than a thousand words, as I won’t bore my dear readers with the endless details. Suffice it to say, this was the road trip of a lifetime.

Cloudy autumn skies in British Columbia, Canada.

Cloudy autumn skies in British Columbia, Canada.

Canadian Pacific Train in British Columbia

Anyone else get excited by trains?

I know I’ve really been on a Rocky Mountains kick in my last few posts. Thanks for bearing with me on my last ode to this phenomenal part of the world.

Glacier National Park

On our way back to Calgary through Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park

“On the road again. I can’t wait to get on the road again”

Banff National Park

Homestretch.

Banff National Park

Last, but not least.

For anyone interested, Highway 1 was our main route between Calgary and Vancouver, with a few detours here and there. Part of the way, we were fortunate enough to drive along a short segment of the Bow Valley Parkway/Icefields Parkway (HWY 93N), which was actually included in National Geographic Traveler’s list of twenty “drives of a lifetime.”


Star of the Day

Dark Parisian Skyline

A brooding picture of the Parisian skyline to get you in the mood. Taken on my recent trip to Paris a few weeks ago.

Now that I have your attention, allow me to tell you all about my French class. For the better part of a year and a half, I’ve found myself missing my university days. I’ve mulled over the idea of a Master’s degree, however I can’t quite put my finger on a program that screams, “Yes, I am worth every penny of this $100,000 tuition.”  Until I find my absolute passion in life, I can’t say I’m willing to fork over that type of money for a subject I’m luke-warm for.

However languages have been an intriguing constant in my life. I actually spent a few years teaching English as a second language to children and adults on a variety of levels when I first moved to Qatar quite a few years ago. Being bilingual, I’ve decided to pursue a third language to keep my mind working. I’ve been attending a beginner’s French class for a few weeks now at the University of Calgary’s downtown campus.

No, this is not just a “something to keep me busy” type of activity.  I can keep myself ‘busy’ by vegging on the couch watching shows and Skyping all day. (Been there, done that.)  I actually want to learn French as I think it will be quite useful one day, considering our frequent visits to my in-laws in Montreal.  Not to mention there’s no better reason or impetus to do something than with the hope of besting your husband.  Especially your very smart, successful and trilingual husband. (Hands off ladies and gentlemen.)

Due to our busy traveling schedule, I opted for the more laid back option of a continuing education class. No exams, attendance, or grades to worry about.  It’s so interesting how continuing education classes bring together so many different people from all walks of life.  From debonair cosmetic moguls, sky-diving aficionados, and highly-tattooed Spaniards, this class is a veritable melting pot. And I love it. Whether for the sake of trying something new or in preparation for a big trip to Europe, we all have so many different reasons to learn French and we’re learning it together. Endearing, I know.

Each class, one student is assigned to be the ‘Star of the Day’ and must make a presentation about themselves in French.  Our only instruction was to split our short presentation into four categories; family, favorite restaurant, dream trip, and hobbies/interests.

Star of the Day: French Presentation

Anyone care to translate?

Yesterday was my turn. Above is my presentation with the markups from my instructor.  I admit I felt kind of guilty when she took the time to correct the accents on the letters.  Frankly I was just too lazy to try to figure out how to insert them into my word document.  This isn’t the first time my laziness has me feeling guilty.  Darn you laziness. Darn you guilt.

Now, unless you count introducing myself to a group of very nicely dressed girls and ladies over brunch, or perhaps a book club meeting or two, I haven’t had to address a room full of people since I resigned from my job in early 2011.  Although I used to do very well in front of auditoriums full of people and also in front of cameras thanks to my previous (and only) full time job in media relations.  But that was another time and place.  For now at least, I’ve chosen a different life. One undeniably of leisure.  But I digress.

As the teacher asks the rest of the class questions about my presentation, I can’t seem to wipe off the adolescent grin on my face as a classroom full of people discuss my interests and dream trips.

“Hehe,” my mind giggles as my classmates are now discussing how I like to ride my bike around the park and hope to one day visit Scotland (Hello Scottish lairds of my dreams, derived from my cherished and oh-so-tasteful historicals.)

During my presentation, I thought I’d add a bit of shameless self-promotion for this newly minted blog, but when it came right down to it, I simply couldn’t stoop so low. So I left the title of my blog out when I told everyone, “I enjoy writing on my blog.”  And to think not one person asked me what it was called.

True to my reasons for taking a non-credit French class, I’ll actually be missing two sessions next week as we’re taking a road trip across the country to Vancouver. Yes, road trip!


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