Booked back in january the holiday in October seemed to take forever to arrive, until the final couple of weeks and then we couldn’t get ready quick enough. I say ‘we’, but Jo was packed back in March. And i packed on the morning we left.
During the drive to the boat while we were still on the island I turned to Jo to make sure that we had the $2600 we had budgeted for.
“No,” she says “We only have the $2000 I told you about.”
The vein in my head throbs and my arse starts to ache.
Luckily, we managed to get to the airport without too many mishaps.
“For the last month we’ve been working out what we need for accommodation, food, etc” I seethe, “and we’ve ascertained that $2600 is what we need!”
(Looking back I probably shouldn’t have used the word ‘ascertained’. She probably thought I was swearing at her in Spanish).
Like any losing politican I demand a recount.
There’s $2600. I allow her this one mistake and let her stay in the car.
Hey, I’m not mean – $2000 would’ve been enough. I could have sent her a lot of postcards with that amount!
On the boat we exit the car and Jo walks out in front of a Tesco lorry. She obviously didn’t see the 40 foot, 40 tonne vehicle… and all this has happened BEFORE we’ve even left the island!
A short drive to Farnborough in Jo’s top-of-the-range Fiesta (it’s even got a rear wiper!) and we arrive at a longtime family friends – Liam and Pauline. We’ve known them so long they’re auntie and uncle by association!
Three hours of sleep (that feels like 5 mins) and we’re saying our goodbyes to Liam as he drops us at Gatwick’s South Terminal.
Tickets, luggage, check-in, a Tour of Duty (Free), a cold-but-satisfying breakfast in The Bridge, an hour wait (in which Jo suffers wind of Chris Ettritch sized proportion) and then we’re ready to board.
One of those machines fuelled by the collective will of those on board to stay in the air.
Cruising at 37,921 feet and flying up past Glasgow, The Faroe Islands and over Iceland at a speed of over 600mph, it will take us over 9 and a half hours to fly the 4500miles. Luckily I bought my own headphones and the onboard radio station is playing a David Bowie medley whichs suits my needs just fine.
I had tried to watch Kickass beforehand, but the flight company decided that there will be no violence or swearing in ANY of the films they are showing. I got five minutes into Kickass before I shook my head and aborted the attempt. Next time you see that (brilliant) film just imagine watching it with no swearing or violence and you’ll see what i mean. It’s like porn without any nudity.
I’d once heard that the best way to combat jet-lag was to not eat on the flight. I don’t know who told me that, but if I (or you) see them then tell them they are. Very. Fucking. Wrong. If I thought ten minutes of a kick-ass-less Kickass was hard then so was turning down the food that appeared a couple of hours in. The smell of cooked chicken and veg filled the cabin and I almost caved, but upon seeing the small plastic tray and lifeless box of accompanying cheese and crackers I smiled politely and handed it back.
“Wise move” said the male (and surprisingly not gay) steward.
I looked at him quizzically.
“You won’t be needing any imodium.” he said.
* * *
To give you some idea of how big the second largest country in the world is (if you didn’t already know), we were suddenly above Canada half-way through our flight, which meant we still had another 4+ hours before we reached the west coast and Vancouver.
Looking down at what i first thought were clouds turned out to be vast plains of ice – breathtaking and beautiful. Clouds did then obscure the view until a couple of hours out from VC herself. Fields and unkempt wild land peppered with lakes and rivers and then endless stretches of road unravelled below us slowly. Perfect conditions allowed me to see any cars or vehicles traversing the straight, orderly highways – and there didn’t appear to be many vehicles at all… a far cry from the horrid, twisted, battered roads of the Isle of Wight festooned with elderly drivers!
As we then flew over the Rockies I attempted to get Jo to look at their majesty, but she was too busy trying to figure out why the onboard radio was playing C&C Music Factory when it clearly stated ‘Music From The 80s’.
I left the marvelling at nature to myself.
* * *
What’s the best way to get used to driving a car in a country that drives on the opposite side of the road to your own?
Get in it straight away and drive out of the airport 30mins after landing!
Just a quick tip to anyone travelling out that way and intend on hiring a car. DON’T hire it when you book your flight. The car rental cost me £310 and when I asked to upgrade it to a 4wd model I was told it would be a further £300.
When I got to Vancouver and offered to upgrade it cost me $210… roughly £150 – half of what I would’ve paid in the UK!
An hour of driving around VC in our Ford Escape (complete with Sirius Satellite Radio – always tuned to a hip hop or NFL station!) and we’ve already discovered that Vancouver is a bright and vibrant city. It’s a Sunday and there are people everywhere, both tourists and locals, walking through the streets and packing the shops and beach, despite the lack of any immediate sun.
We also learnt that Jo has (and should never, ever again) read a map.
After several… nay, many wrong turns we ended up at the first hotel we passed – a Best Western one with a sports bar attached to it. Perfect for this evenings Giants & Bears game.
While sat in the bar, watching my beloved Bears lose, I sit with my pen, pad and a pitcher of Bud to summarise what I have seen of VC this day.
It truly is a multi-cultural city, as are many developed cities the world over, but Vancouver seems to have a massive Chinese/Japanese community as reflected by the ammount of Asian shops which number as many as the local stores.
Despite it’s mixed-race core, the Canadians appear fiercely proud of their nationality and clothes are adorned with the maple leaf badge or buttons, and almost every shop and home has a flag or sticker somewhere on its’ premises.
Vancouvians are also very polite. We were sat in a restaurant where a waitress asked a customer if they would like dessert. They declined, and stopped the waitress as she was walking away to thank her for asking!
I also saw only one church on our travels… but a shit load of sex shops. And I mean frickin loads. An indication of todays society, perhaps?
Bars, food shopes and mini-marts occupy most roads and streets and it’s during this discovery that i remember always having wanted to try a Twinkie. I know it’s American but we’re hardly a million miles away and a lot of the sweets and candy are the same in both countries.
We try several shops but to no avail. If you’ve ever seen Woody Harrelson’s plight in Zombieland you will feel my anguish.
Meanwhile, sat in Chequers – the sports bar under the hotel – I’m amused that I’m the only person watching the American Football on the tvs. An englishman in North America in a packed sports bar is the only guy watching the NFL game!
To be fair, everyone is watching three oung men playing in an alcove opposite the tv. They’re very talented guys with great voices, but a penchant for talking waaay too much between songs. And I’m sure one of their mums’ is sat in the front row watching (and interacting) with them.
But they were good, the staff were friendly and as helpful as the rest of the natives, the food throughout the city has been spot-on and all that was left was for me to finish watching my beloved Bears.