British Columbia - 2007

img_1278The train north only leaves once a day and returns once a day so we didn't have a lot of choice when it came to time. That's ok because with it leaving at 8:30 we'd be getting into Vancouver at just before noon and the returning train would leave at 6:pm which would give us almost two more days that we wouldn't have to pay for accomodations. We had several choices of stations to leave from making us feel a bit like Goldilocks including Seattle (too far away), Edmonds (too small) and Everett (just right). Most of the Amtrak stations that I've been to on the west coast are dinky little shacks in the wrong part of town but Everett has built a brand new station that they're sharing with the Everett City transit and Greyhound. When (if) we ever get a commuter rail it too will service this station in addition to the 5 state colleges have classrooms upstairs. It really is a nice station and I took plenty of pictures of it.

The train up was comfortable and took about 3.5 hours. We didn't stop at the border because apparently the Canuks aren't nearly as paranoid as the Americans are when it comes to terrorists blowing up trees in the middle of nowhere. We arrived at Vancouver station at about 11:30 am and went through immigration easily enough. I brought custody papers and they asked me where "mom" was and I fumbled as I usually do. I finally said that I was the sole parent and they let us on through. The first thing that we did was find an ATM so we could have some Canadian spending cash on us. There were taxis waiting out front so we told them to take us to the Victorian Hotel . About  5 minutes and 7 Canadian dollars later we arrive and are greeted by a lady with a strong French accent.

It was a beautiful sunny day and she urged us to put our stuff in our room and head directly to Stanley park which I had planned to see the next day. After checking Saturday's weather she said we should go right away. We dropped our bags in our very nice old room, got our bearings and took off. The bus was supposed to pick us up at the end of the block so we waited there. Another bus came by and asked us what we were waiting for and then informed us that the routes had changed because of the work being done on the subway. He then volunteered to take us to the correct stop which he did. The correct stop was in front of the revolving restaurant that you see in a lot of pictures of Vancouver. Strangely the buses don't take dollar bills so we went downstairs to a souvenir shop and bought a $1 bookmark with a $10 bill. This gave us plenty of coins for the next bus. We went back to street level and the bus pulled up immediately. Fifteen minutes later we are at the entrance to Stanley Park and Piper won't stop asking if we can ride bikes so we set out to find bike rentals.

So we've decided to go to Vancouver BC and we need to get there. There are several ways of doing thisimg_1292
  1. Greyhound Bus
  2. Amtrak Bus
  3. Car
  4. Amtrak Train
  5. Ferry to Victoria, Ferry to Vancouver
The first is out on the account that I'm not into torture especially when I'm the one being tortured. Amtrak Buses aren't too bad but really if you have the choice of riding a train or a bus which would you choose? Maybe you don't know because you've never ridden trains but let me tell you there is no comparison. A coach seat in a train is about the same size as a business class seat on an airplane. A seat on a Greyhound bus is worse than a 2nd class airplane ticket - you decide. The fifth choice is a great one but I took it out because of time constraints. That leaves two choices - drive or ride the train. The cheapest would be to drive my car to Vancouver but the problem I have with that is my car has a lot of miles on it and who knows how much longer it will last. Ok, so I can rent a car for the weekend which ends up costing about $40 more than the train plus I need to pay for parking once I get there. So my two choices are rent a car, spend 6 hrs driving, have to find a place to park it in the city, sit in line at the border for customs checks, worry about convincing the rental car agency to let me cross the border, convince the border people that it's ok to take a rental car across or walk onto a spacious train, watch the beautiful Pacific Coast scenery (not seen in a car) and cross the border stress free. Hmm, not hard to decide. Having said all of this if you can drive it will still be faster and cheaper than the train.

There's just something about trains though that make you feel like you're further from home.
Originally I was going to take all of Spring Break and do a Northwest trip that included Seattle, Victoria B.C. and Vancouver B.C.  Image but my project at work is dragging on so I only had a few days left of it for holiday so we decided to just spend it in Vancouver. I figured that it was close enough that we could come back later if we liked it. Since I did the research for the whole Seattle->Victoria->Vancouver->Seattle trip I will be putting that Itinerary up on this site later for others to follow. That section of course doesn't even exist yet (but it will).

So I've lived in the Pacific Northwest on and off for 17 years and I've never been to British Columbia. For those of you who don't know it's only a couple hour drive from Seattle. So why haven't I ever packed a picnic lunch, got in the car and driven to Canada? Well, when I first moved here I had other pressing issues (no money, no interest), then later after I moved to Seattle I was busy experiencing Seattle and the U.S. side of the border like the Olympic Penninsula. Once I started traveling I would climb on an airplane and fly halfway around the world and not even think about BC. British Columbia got neglected.

There is another reason I never went there - similarity. I've met quite a few Canadians over the years and they all resemble us (Americans) for the most part. When I started traveling I wanted to go to foreign lands, not the Canadian side of Washington. I feared Canada would be too much like the U.S. to warrent any serious travel. Canada in my opinion was for inexperienced travelers that couldn't make it in Paris or Istanbul.

So I originally planned on spending a week somewhere because my kids were out of school for Spring break. Not knowing what was going to happen at my job in the near future (like whether I'd have any money or not) I decided on going somewhere close. That means Portland, Spokane, Seattle, Victoria or Vancouver. I live in Seattle so obviously that's out, I've spent enough time in Spokane to know you don't want to be there in the winter and it's not that great anyway in comarison to the others, Portland is getting old since we've been there quite a lot. At this point the hilight to Portland is ice skating in the mall! So that brings us to Victoria and Vancouver - the northwestern cities oft neglected by me.

As I said I had planned on spending a week in the two cities but project overruns at work meant I was only going to have a few days. That cut out one of the cities and since Vancouver is easier to get to (and larger) we decided to name it the winner and give the runners-up prize to Victoria. I did however, plan the whole Victoria/Vancouver trip so I'll be finalizing itineraries and uploading them to this site in time. Later we'll do it as I planned.

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