Our Trip to British Columbia

Christine and I at the steam-powered clock in Gastown

At the end of July, 2001, after Christine took the bar exam, she and I left for a post-law school post-exam vacation to British Columbia, specifically Vancouver and Victoria. Neither of us had ever been anywhere near there, plus we wanted to go somewhere cool (in both senses of that word).

We flew from Richmond to Vancouver on Friday, July 27th, via the monstrosity known as the Toronto airport. (Who organizes their airport alphabetically by country? Why do some monitors display gate numbers and some don't? Why did the bus from the detached second terminal drop us at the exact opposite end of the terminal from customs and baggage, twice? But I digress.)

Our accommodations in Vancouver were outstanding. We stayed at the Laburnum Cottage Bed & Breakfast in North Vancouver, which we originally saw on the Travel Channel's TV show, "Best Places to Kiss". Our hostess, Delphine Masterton, was an institution in the area and was always ready with a suggestion and a call to a local restaurant after our activities for the day. The garden behind the house was extraordinary.

[2011 update: Mrs. Masterton died in 2003. Bing and led me to her obituary: "MASTERTON _ Lila Mary "Delphine" (nee Nicholson). Born in North Vancouver March 13, 1925, passed peacefully at St. Paul's Hospital July 26, 2003 with her children by her side. Predeceased by her husband Alex in 1991, she is survived by her daughters, Tibby (Peter) Campbell, Margot (Wyn) Segers and Susan Masterton, all of North Vancouver; her sons, Michael (Marilyn) Masterton of Fort Langley and Sandy (Wendy) Masterton of Comox and her sister Betty (Jack) Giolma of Vancouver. She is especially remembered by her 11 fantastic grandchildren, Sam, Tom, Alexis, Allison, Andy, Peter, Cameron, Sarah, Eric, Stuart and Duncan. Delphine's great sense of adventure took her to visit over 130 countries, plus 10 ocean voyages and thousands of miles of travel with her family through beautiful B.C. One of the highlights and achievements of her life outside of her family and friends, was the 18 year success of her creation ... Laburnum Cottage Bed & Breakfast. To all of her lifelong friends, to all those less fortunate that she assisted, to all the friends of her children and to all the travellers that she hosted at Laburnum Cottage - her essence will be forever cherished and appreciated. The Masterton family is supremely grateful to the kindness of a stranger who assisted Mum last Tuesday afternoon, and especially to the world-class care that Mum received from the staff in the C.C.U. at St. Paul's Hospital. A special thank you also to Mum's friend and helpmate Karin Essinger. In lieu of flowers a donation to the Scleroderma Association of B.C. (604-940-9343) in Mum's memory would be greatly appreciated."]

We spent our first day in Stanley Park, an oasis of Pacific Northwest calm in the middle of Vancouver. We saw Lion's Gate Bridge from Prospect Point, got our picture taken in front of the totem poles, saw people in white outfits playing cricket(!), and more. The highlight of this day, and the place where we spent most of the day, was the Vancouver Aquarium. We loved the beluga whales, both underwater and on the surface. We marvelled at the jelly fish, smiled at the otter, and even took a trainer tour to feed cute seals like this one. If you like aquariums, this is a must while in Vancouver.

That evening, we headed up the sky-ride on Grouse Mountain, which offers a great view of Vancouver and is just north of the city. It was cloudy, so we didn't get as great a view of the fireworks as we'd hoped, but we still saw a little, and it was still a great time.

The next day, we struck out for a more city-oriented tour. We hiked from Stanley Park to Gastown, where we shopped and got our picture taken at the famous steam-powered clock (see photo at left).

From there, we headed down to Chinatown, where we tried to figure out what dim sum was and took in the atmosphere of that section of the city. If you go to Vancouver, you MUST visit the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first classical Chinese garden built outside of China. This Ming Dynasty-style garden is simply beautiful, and it takes going on the tour, which is extremely informative, to really appreciate it. From the view through the traditional door to just walking around one of the little courtyards, it's easy to see why this would be a scholar's paradise.

Monday morning took us to the Capilano suspension bridge, which is a bit intimidating but a great attraction. If you're the outdoors type, you'll appreciate the chance to hike around some of the trails in the park, and history buffs can read through the whole history of the bridge. Plus, it's a great setting for a picture.

Later, we took the ferry over to Vancouver Island, then drove down to Victoria, site of mile 0 on the Trans-Canada highway. In Victoria, we stayed in the Prior House, another excellent B&B. This photo shows the entrance to our garden room there, the Hobbit room.

Although it's a smaller, quieter place than Vancouver, there's a lot to do in and around Victoria. We spent most of our first day there at the Royal British Columbia Museum, an absolute must. From the natural history section to the first peoples exhibit to this street in the provincial history area, the RBCM is a fantastic way to spend at least half a day (more if you actually want to read everything) and learn about the history of British Columbia.

The next day took us whale-watching with Eagle Wing tours. Alas, we did not spot any of Shamu's relatives, but we did see bald eagles, watched seals playing on Race Rock, and got to wear these stylin' duds. This is our tour boat and guide Harold, eh?

Later that day, we went to the Butchart Gardens. Among the many highlights of these spectacular gardens are the Japanese Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Rose Garden, Ross Fountain, and this pool in the Italian Garden. They illuminate the gardens at night, so this is a great place to spend a late afternoon and evening.

We spent our last half day in Victoria at Craigdarroch Castle. This mansion, whose story starts with coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir, is still undergoing renovations, but is a great place to visit even only partially complete. While you're there, you can see this view of the castle from what's left of the grounds, look up at the tower, view both family rooms and bedrooms, and take in the view of Victoria from the tower.

After another ride with BC Ferries back to the mainland, we drove up to Granville Island, where we stayed at the Granville Island hotel. We had wonderful view from our room, both inside (the hotel doubles as a micro-brewery) and outside. After enjoying a rendition of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None at the Stanley Theatre, we were ready to call it a night.

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The next day, we barely made our connecting flight in the Toronto airport (thank you stupid customs baggage system), but managed to make it back to our sleepy corner of metro Richmond.

If you have the chance to make it to the Pacific Northwest, do it. We had a blast.

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