Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Yesterday (I'm a day behind in our vacation reporting - maybe I'll do two days tonight, we'll see), we got up super early and took a taxi to the airport. (I called down to the front desk to ask for a taxi at about 5:45 and the front desk lady was incredulous, "You want to go now? In the early morning?" I explained that our train left at 7:40, so yes, we really did want a taxi for 6 or thereabout. She was happy to oblige, just surprised. It started the day off with a chuckle. We were all bright eyed and bushy tailed as our bodies were pretty certain it was 9am.

The doodle couldn't get over how cool it was to be in a taxi. With a meter! And he's driving us! Honestly, sometimes I think we could just go downtown at home and take public transit around and he'd be just as happy as if he'd been taken on a big vacation. Me, not quite as much.

We got to the train station and it took exactly 7 minutes to get checked in and have our bags checked. I mention this only because Tim was mocking me for wanting to be there an hour before departure (or more). Apparently you don't need to treat trains like planes. Who knew? (Possibly everyone who is not me.) So we sat for a bit and then wandered about for a bit and then stood in line to get our seat assignments and then sat some more and then, finally, we boarded. Because the train was not sold out, the very nice train engineer (I was going to say train lady, because I think the engineer is just the person who actually drives the train, but I'm not sure) gave us a set of four seats to ourselves rather than sitting a fourth person with us. So we had two sets of two seats facing one another with a table between. And may I just add now that the seats in "coach" on a train are about the size and cushiness of the seats in first class on an airplane? I see now why some people (hi dad!) prefer trains to planes when given the choice. Plus you can walk around (heck, they encourage you to walk around). The doodle was in heaven. Tim and I were close - the scenery was amazing the whole way up and living in the Pacific Northwest is now on my bucket list.

The above is just one small example of the gorgeous views we had the whole trip. And really, I'm not sure the photo does it justice.

Regardless, after about four hours, we pulled into the station in Vancouver, BC. It was just about lunch time and the doodle had been mentioning his hunger for the past, oh, hour, so we were planning to hit the hotel first and then get food, but there were golden arches spotted by Mr. Eagle Eye himself and so, figuring that we were pushing it to check in that early anyway, we caved. Amusingly, the toy he got in his Happy Meal was the exact toy he'd gotten a week previous at home. Now they are twins and they fight. (It's really rather amusing.) (Also amusing is the fact that Canadian McDonald's have a red maple leaf in the middle of the M and their milk jugs are called Lait's Go - if you know French, you'll get the humor.)

From there we caught another taxi (oh, the rapture!) to the hotel where we were lucky enough to be able to check in and get our room right away. They also let us know about a free shuttle the hotel has to take us just about anywhere downtown. I had planned to use the bus system and had even researched how to do so, but a free shuttle sounded just about right. So after dropping off our luggage upstairs, we headed back out to rent bikes and toodle about Stanley Park.

In preparation for this bike renting extravaganza (wherein I'd hoped to rent a tandem with a ride along extension for the doodle), we had gone up to Old Town Alexandria to rent bikes (hoping for the same set up) to see how it went. They said they couldn't add the trail-a-bike to a tandem (makes the bike too long), so we did a trailer and two bikes instead. In Vancouver, though, we decided to do the trail-a-bike with Tim's bike rather than the trailer because the doodle had been sitting for so much of the trip so far and he needed to wiggle. He enjoyed being able to pedal along and "help" daddy drive the bike. I enjoyed riding in front of them much more than behind where I had to see just how often his feet came completely off both pedals and he leaned precariously to the right (always to the right).

Stanley Park in Vancouver is magnificent, and if you ever go, you really need to rent bikes to see it. They have incredible bike paths around the perimeter and some that break off to wind you through (we rented from Spokes and found it a reasonably priced, enjoyable thing - and if you are more adventurous and less clumsy than I, you can choose to rent roller blades instead) to see the sights in the interior. We spent about three hours tooling around, did the entire perimeter and then wandered around inside looking for the miniature railroad (that we never did find, we finally gave up because we were getting tired and hungry and hot). Along the way we stopped at several playgrounds and saw two fabulous public water park / pool type places, along with several beach areas. Since it was Sunday afternoon, it was a tad crowded, but everyone had lovely manners for passing slower moving bikes and so on and so forth. Even the folks who were clearly there for racing/exercising purposes. (Which was not so much the case when we rode at home.)

Along the sea wall portion of the ride, there is an artist (perhaps several artists, that much was unclear) who make stacked stone sculptures on the rock beaches - they were fascinating to look at and a beautiful natural art installation.

When we were finished with our ride, we returned the bikes and decided to walk back to the hotel (the free shuttle is drop off only). Vancouver is a lovely city for walking - we ended up choosing a primarily residential street for most of our trek (it was about a 40 minute walk) and it was quiet and clean - honestly it didn't feel like we were even in a city, it felt like we were in one of the small towns that make up the Chicago suburbs (if you've ever walked through Wheaton or Glen Ellen, you'll know what I mean). Along the way we were looking for a place to grab supper, but didn't see anything that met the criteria of probably having something the kiddo would eat and being fit for people who had been on a train and then bikes for the majority of the day. We did see lots of ethnic food that if we were still childless would definitely have been on our radar (or perhaps if we'd somehow managed to unlock adventurous eating in our child - still working on that one, but it's not going super well). Ultimately, we landed at a pizza place two blocks from the hotel, where we got a pie to go and sat in the room with our feet up to eat. It definitely hit the spot. (Amore Pizza on Robson, if you're wondering. Very tasty.)

The doodle crashed and snored in bliss the entire night (which engendered great rejoicing from his parents who are rather tired of waking up with him several times a night. Still. At three.) We headed for bed around 9, which made us feel like old folks, but we decided that since it felt like midnight to us, we could get a small break.

So far, the vacation is off to a fantastic start.


michellewillingham said...

I'm really enjoying hearing about your trip and seeing the pictures. Living vicariously! :)

Gwynne said...

What a great sounding adventure! And now you've sparked my interest in getting a tag-along for our bikes. We love the Pacific Northwest. Glad you're enjoying it too. :-)

beth said...

Michelle, I'll try to post more pics, but I can also send you a link to the shutterfly site where I'm uploading all of them if you want to gorge (there are something like 240 already...after 2 days. Because we're crazy that way.) I stopped with 2 last night because Blogger + hotel wifi = super slow connection.

Gwynne, we were trying to figure out if we could try and squeak in a chance to see you, but we did wave from the airplane, didn't you see us? :) The trail-a-bike is awesome and I totally plan to get one for home when we get back.

Lynellen said...

see, just like Orion, the doodle just needs more exercise and he'll be a perfect sleeper. so put the doodle on a treadmill everyday. no dinner until he has run 10 miles.

Gwynne said...

I would love to see you guys but I also know what it means to travel on a tight time frame and with a 3 year old. Enjoy the journey!! :-)