Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Retreat Part II: Welcome to America!

Miraculously enough, the morning after the night before dawned bright and hangover free. I was still unprepared for discussing my project with colleagues over breakfast though. Talking shop over coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks is perfectly acceptable, but brainstorming over a crab cake bennie and a pot of (bloody awful) tea just seems plain wrong.

Luckily for me, Mr E Man was on his way! He missed the 7 am ferry by ten minutes, but caught the next one, and picked me up from my picturesque (if chilly) hiding reading spot on the resort's boat dock.
(Aside: when I first met Mr E Man, I was struck by how well connected he is. He seems to know someone everywhere we go, and has scored us everything from free Dairy Queen treats to half-price posh hotel rooms in San Francisco and an annual free ski lesson. I, on the other hand, brought only grad students and postdocs to our combined network. But a couple of weeks ago, at an after-work pub session, I realised that I, too, have become One Of Those People. Y'know, the people who say "oh you're going to [resort]? My brother-in-law is deputy director of the ski school there, gets me free lessons. Let me know when you're going up there and I'll see what he can do for you". Or "your hard drive crashed? My friend runs a data recovery business, here's his card". Or "your roof's leaking? Here's my (other) brother-in-law's phone number".

Or, in this case, "our friend's step-mum is a property rentals manager for a bunch of holiday home owners in Sooke, let's call her up and see if we can get a good deal on a last-minute booking".
When I say "our" friend, I obviously mean Mr E Man's BFF).

So off we went to Sooke, on Vancouver Island's Southernmost tip.

As you can see on this map, the border does a weird little blip around these parts in order to incorporate the whole of the Island into Canadian territory. If I'd been reading my citizenship test preparation materials like a good girl, I might be able to tell you whether this act of border manipulation was negotiated peacefully or not. Either way, upon arrival in Sooke my phone sang me its happy little text message song, and I found a "Welcome to America!" message from a US cell phone network, which I thought was a bit presumptuous.

But it didn't matter, because we were in heaven. We had a beautiful little cottage overlooking the water, with a hot tub on the deck. The upstairs bedroom was smaller than the master suite downstairs, but we slept there anyway on account of the two-countries-for-the-price-of-one view towards Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

Hello Obamaland! The beach and the trees are Canadian, the mountains are American. Britannia rules the waves, but only in a general sense.

This prompted me to ask whether seeing America from my house meant that I could be Deputy Prime Minister, and Mr E Man to point out that no such position exists. I really do need to read that citizenship test stuff.

I do like Vancouver Island. We walked on the beach, saw a seal and loads of eagles (but no whales unfortunately), soaked in the South facing hot tub, had a nap, played Scrabble (a rare win for me!), tried some local beer in a redneck bar followed by a lovely dinner in an old (by local standards) and allegedly haunted pub, and finished the day with some chocolate brownies and more local beer in the hot tub. It was interesting though that I didn't have my usual reaction to small town BC - almost every time we visit my mother-in-law on the Sunshine Coast, I get the urge to drop everything, leave the city, and buy a wee place by the water. Not so this time - perhaps it was the chill in the air and the early sunset, despite our attempts to pretend that it wasn't actually winter.

No trip to the Island is really complete without a ferry ride. In an unprecedented move the following day, we arrived at the terminal five minutes before the ferry was due to leave - and got on. Fortified by some hot mint tea and BC Ferries' excellent chips and gravy, we spent most of the trip on deck, continuing our "it's actually summer" delusion.

Very cold and windswept seagull catching a free ride at the back of the ferry

I didn't see any whales this time, but the narrowest point on the route contained several seals and a variety of bird life, no doubt feasting on an abundant supply of fish. Duly inspired, we headed home for an evening of chores... and sushi.

Have I ever mentioned that I really enjoy living in Vancouver?


  1. oh, how lovely....i loved Vancouver (I've been to a lot of places in Canada too!).

  2. Aaaaaaaaahhhhh ......
    I could almost smell the ocean-seaweed-forest smell of Vancouver Island, and almost taste the ferry-chips ;) You are lucky to be living in Vancouver!

  3. The mobile phone connections can be weird. I once got a "Welcome to Estonia" message, and connection to an Estonian network from Soumenlinna, an island in (southern) Helsinki.

    If Canada doesn't have a deputy PM position, you should just claim it as your own. You can sort out the responsibilities later (just as Cheney did).

  4. Ahhh, I loved Sooke. Actually, I just loved the islands around Vancouver, and Vancouver, and...

    I almost felt a little 'home sick' in North Carolina.

    Your trip sounds wonderful.

  5. Sounds like a great retreat! It was too bloody cold for hot tubs when I was in Canada...

  6. Sounds awesome....where did you stay?

  7. Mmmm.... I miss the NorthWest and its excellent fish/beer/coffee/tea. I am so going to have to head up there and go far enough North to see you!

  8. Cath you are making me homesick... :-(

  9. Phizzle, maybe we should compile a meme for the most visited Canadian visitor destinations!

    Nina, I know... and the chips are legendary ;)

    Bob, strange stuff. Given that my phone knows where I am to within a few metres, you'd think it would know which bloody country it's in.

    I like your suggestion. Wasn't that how the position came to be in the UK? Someone (Heseltine???) just decided that they wanted the job, and made it happen?

    Propter, the Gulf Islands are gorgeous too - we've done some kayaking around Gabriola/De Courcy/Valdez/Galiano. Just beautiful. I need to explore more of the main Island though - I've been to Tofino and Victoria, but haven't made it to the Broken group or any of the Northern part yet.

    HG, I bet! Even on the warm(er) West coast, there were a few seconds of "bloody hell!" between dropping the towel and jumping into the tub. The beer helped though.

    Mermaid, just to the West of the main village of Sooke. It was gorgeous, if you're ever interested in going out there I can put you in touch with the property manager. She has everything from mansions to beach cabins on her books!

    SG, totally! Go book a flight, will ya? I might be away for a week in May but don't have anything else booked yet.

    DrDrA, same goes!

  10. Looks just beautiful, Cath. Still waiting for the day that I see the island for myself!

  11. Here are your interview questions:

    1. What/ who influenced you to go in to science?
    2. What would you do/ be if money were not important (besides science).
    3. How did you know your hubby was "the one"
    4. Are you planning on having kids anytime in the future?
    5. What is the most embarrassing drunk thing you have ever done?

  12. ooh.... now I am having flashbacks ;)

    Sounds like a lovely weekend Cath! And the idea of being in the hot tub when it is cold is sooooo lovely.

    Nice pics!! I wonder if I could get one or two with high resolution for a calender I am preparing for myself? [no funny things with selling or so] (my old BC photos are all non digital and I miss them/want to make a 'collage' with several of my fav places...) It would be very appreciated. I guess I'll email you on Facebook and ask if nothing else?!

  13. Bean-Mom, maybe you can charter a flight with SG and DrDrA?

    Crystal, thanks! I'll get to those in the next few days.

    Chall, being Swedish do you do the whole out of the hot tub and into the snow bank thing? We didn't have any snow, but I once ALMOST did that whole thing, but chickened out!

    Please feel free to use any of the photos on this blog or on FB for your project!

  14. Niagara Falls, the Canadian side, also is US phone area. I wanted to call my mom when I crossed the border there (on foot!) to land as a resident, but my phone said "No, you are not in Canada." "But I just landed here and have stamps and paper and everything!" "No, you are in the US. Please pay a lot of money." "No!" So then I drove back to Toronto and called her from there,

  15. ehh... it is not going to be a hot tub but a BASTU (sauna?) and then rolling in the snow or skinny dipping in a lake where you have chopped up a hole in the ice :) Lovely!

    (although if you dip the head you will get a freeze rush since the brain shrinks... or at least it feels like that.)

    THanks!! I will see what kind of resolution there is on the pics but it would be so nice to have some lovely pics of Vancouver! If you want pics of swedenI willbe hsppy to oblige ;)

  16. eastern, that's annoying... I bet I get charged a lot for my Sunday call to my parents. Stupid roaming charges.

    The requirement to go out of the country and then back in again in order to activate PR status is really odd. I mean it's no problem if you live in Vancouver, and even Toronto - but if you live in Churchill or Yellowknife or wherever, you have a very expensive flight ahead of you.

    Chall, yep, sauna - but I just thought you crazy Scandinavians might have adapted the hot tub practice too! The "brain freeze" you're describing sounds like the world's worst ice cream headache...

  17. Cath> proably some people... although I think the billing for the hot water in the middle of winter might make it less attractive :)

    yes, worst. brain. freeze. ever.

    although it is good to try once if you are a skater in the winter time... if you go through the ice while skating. the shock of having the head under water usually takes the breath away since it is so cold. practice is therefore a good thing.

    (then you can avoid dipping the head after a few beers in the sauna ;) )

  18. I'm more likely to hurt myself by falling over than going through the ice - I've skated maybe twice in my whole life and I suck!


I promise to respond to all respectful non-spam comments! Don't be shy! Oh, and please don't type my surname in your comments; I know you all know what it is, but I'd prefer Google to rank other pages before this blog.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.