Friday, July 03, 2009
Rachel and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia where I was speaking at the DevTeach Conference. DevTeach is one of my favorite conferences to speak at and has brought me to Canada many times, though never to the west coast of country. Rachel, on the other hand, hasn't travelled much at all. In fact, this was her third trip by plane and her second out of the country. That passport has really come in handy! In a way though, it's a dream come true for me to be able to take a business trip to a far-away place and to take my lover with me.
Things in Vancouver were very American, but also just different enough to be a little disconcerting. For example, the skyscrapers looked very American at first glance. But something wasn't quite typical about them. Then we put our finger on it. Even though the buildings were truly tall skyscrapers (maybe 40 stories tall), they had balconies all the way up on all sides. Maybe Canadians never jump from tall buildings?
Another example is that the traffic lights are red-yellow-green, just like American lights. However, the lights would unexpectedly start flashing. I thought that the flashing might've been like European and Middle Eastern traffic lights that indicate its time to prepare for the light to change. I asked my Canadian friends about it and it turns out the flashing lights indicates that a pedestrian on the side of the road has pressed the "I wanna cross the road" button. Since a drunken pedestrian might leap out into traffic at any moment, the lights sort'a warn you that you should expect something like that.
We enjoyed a lot of time in the city. Vancouver is really pretty and, in the downtown area, very walkable. We walked down to the waterline where there were a few remarkably huge oceanliners awaiting passengers. We walked along the waters' edge and enjoyed lots of great seafood. The city was modern, clean, well-appointed with bistros, shops, and some really good gelato shops.
My speaking schedule was rather generous. Most of my sessions were delivered in the morning, plus I did quite a bit of work for Quest. But I still had a couple afternoons open for some tourism, while Rachel had a little more time while I worked and spoke at the conference.
One of our two favorite sites in Vancouver were to the Granview Island farmers market. The island was a really nice collection shops, boutiques, and the big ol' farmers market. The farmers market was just like I like them - full of beautiful, hand-made cheeses (Rachel literally swooned), luscious and vividly-colored fresh fruits, nut stalls, olive vendors, and lots of artisans and artists.
There's a bit of backstory to our cheese expedition. Ever since I was a teenage working in Bruno's Deli, where I got to sample freely, I've loved cheeses in every shape, form, and texture. Rachel knew there was something special about me when we were dating and I'd tell her stories of my cheese experiences with a far away, misty look in my eyes. They were exotic experiences, things that Rachel hadn't experienced - havarti, stilton, and manchego.
Once we saw that Costco had many of these wonderful cheeses, we started to try out new and different cheeses. One kind of cheese, we unrapped and ate in a wonderful frenzy before we realized that we'd thrown away the wrapper telling us what the cheese was. What was this wonderful cheese?!? Would we ever find it again? Frequently, Rachel would stare off into the distance, pining for this wonderful mystery cheese. Her unrequited love for the mystery cheese was like something out of the bodace-ripping romance novels of Victorian England. Rachel and I have had a lot of laughs about the forbidden romance of a woman and the cheese she loves. Would she ever be reunited with her long lost love? Yes! In far off Canada! In the Granview Island farmers market! There it was - her lovely cheese - called contenaar. Oh sweet joy, contenaar, we'll never be separated again, unless the budget is a few bucks short and we can't afford that expensive stuff.
Our second favorite excursion in British Columbia was to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The bridge, the gorge, the river, the waterfalls, and the beautiful douglas fir and frasier fir forest that surrounds the suspension bridge were all extraordinary. The bridge and the gorge were deceptive. They looked high, but you really had no earthly idea how high until you were out on the bridge yourself. And then, with the swaying of the wind, it was suddenly very scary.
Suspension bridges are full of surprises. They dip and sway. They flex in the wind. They shake with your steps. They descend at one end and then rise sharply at the other, sort of like an arc that's inversed. In a way, it's a surprisingly athletic experience to walk such a long suspension bridge because of the sharp descent and then the sharp rise.
I hope you can get an idea of how flippin' high in the air this bridge is. Frankly, it was really scary. Rachel and I both had a moment or two of freak-out out there alone on the bridge. But after the photo ops were done and we stood together surveying this magical visit, it became an overwhelming moment of emotion and bonding. We were lucky - to be together in this amazing place, together and in love - and we knew it.