Emily was really nervous as we approached the border. Which was silly, since we had nothing to be nervous about – that’s just how she gets (I always laugh at how people who never get into trouble with the law are always the most nervous around authority figures. These are the people who have absolutely nothing to hide.) But her anxiety was validated when our friends got waived through at the border and we were asked to “step inside.” We parked the car and left the pugs to defend it from inside by eyeballing passing cars. After verbally berating us, the customs officer asked us for paper copies of some random documents. We had digital copies, but in Canada, digital isn’t real. The officer actually got out the paperwork to turn us away at the border, when a friend (thanks, De!) saved the day by faxing (they don’t have email, go figure) the documents. The officer was pleased with the ink-on-dead-trees approach and finally let us through, but not before stapling a fat chunk of paper to each of our passports.
Our hearts were finally slowing down when we entered the beautiful city of Vancouver. Thanks to AirBnB.com, we scored a tiny studio apartment last minute for the eight of us (four people and four dogs). The price was amazing and it was quite an experience living in this (very sketchy) neighborhood populated mostly by starving artists. There was a shared bathroom (the toilet and sinks were in separate, lockable rooms) with no soap or toilet paper. The host did leave some in our bedroom for us. The dank air in the hallway was an interesting mix of stale cigarette smoke and body odor. We were instructed by more than one person to leave nothing in our car we wanted to keep. So we loaded up the tiny room with virtually everything from our cars and parked them under the lone streetlight. We never had a problem.
We had one day to explore Vancouver so we headed to Gastown to check out the cobblestone streets, the first steam-powered clock and, inadvertently, some gorgeous graffiti murals. My favorite part of walking down the hilly, commercial street was when there was a gap between the buildings and you could see the river and mountains in the background. The contrast was stunning.
There were a few surprises Vancouver had in store for us. The first was that it’s really easy to come by marijuana whether you want any or not. The second was that cars stop for pedestrians. We were standing at a relatively busy intersection waiting for the cars to go by so we could cross in the crosswalk. Then, for no apparent reason, all the cars were stopped. We thought maybe there was a traffic light. Nope. Sure enough, the drivers had seen us standing there and just… stopped. They didn’t even flip us off when it took us a few seconds to register what was happening before we actually crossed the street.
The last surprise was a beautiful, block-long mural of graffiti by different artists. I loved seeing the different styles merged together, all very well done. It’s amazing what humans will hang up in museums and what they will cover up with a dumpster.
This was the second to last stop on our big adventure out West. My last road trip post will talk about our new home. And I promise to deliver on pictures of starfish and pugs. Just not at the same time.