Take My Money, Canada.
July 1st, 2016 to July 3rd, 2016
The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. It's not for supremely patriotic reasons. It's simply nostalgic. I have fabulous memories spending the day by the pool with my family, eating copious amounts of watermelon, then watching fireworks with friends. As far as I'm concerned, things couldn't get better. And with that in mind Harrison, my brother, and I thought it would be funny to celebrate two national holidays. Double the good times, and why not? So Canada Day and the Fourth of July became our reasons for travel.
Harrison hails from LA, and I haven't spent much time on the West Coast. So we landed on the idea of going to Vancouver, BC for the July 1st (Canada Day) portion.Then train our way down to Portland, Oregon for the Fourth. Though it seemed like a perfect plan, my work schedule didn't pan out and I ended up flying into Vancouver too late to enjoy the holiday. From my brother's report though, he had a whole lobster, beer and sides for roughly 10 USD. I missed out big time.
Also, a quick note to anyone traveling out of the country for a day. Come up with something better than, "it seemed funny at the time," for your reason for a Texas to Canada day trip. Unsurprisingly, I was pulled aside and questioned by Customs', and I think they were utterly confused with my presence. I think they chalked it up to either me being a stupid American, or a crazy Texan. To be honest, considering it was 2AM Texas-time, I took the stereotype as a slap on the wrist, and shuffled off to find a taxi.
Our day trip was short, sweet, and involved over 16 miles of walking. We woke up early, and since Harrison and I hadn't caught up with each other in some time, we left to find a coffee and a place to sit and chat. But like any good friends, our conversation stretched throughout the day.
Our first stop was Lucky's on 4th. Perhaps we're chumps, but we only ordered black coffee. Technically, Lucky's is within 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters. And from what I could tell their coffee and donuts are to write home about. Also a bonus for 49th/Lucky's, they are environmentally conscious by supplying paper bags and using recycled materials. The space is lovely, too. The materials are white granite and wood, creating a light and happy atmosphere. There's also a sunroom, which mimics an open air cafe.
What We Drank: Guatemala San Juan Late Harvest, Organic French Roast
Once we were nice and caffeinated, Harrison's theme song for Vancouver ensued, "Van city bitch, Van, Van city bitch." So, while we perused the stores around 4th and the Kitsilano neighborhood, there was a constant, but lighthearted string of Van city bitches to accompany our stroll. The true highlight of the shopping endeavor, was finding one of my new loves, Fjallraven.
I realize I'm late to the game or suffering major confirmation bias, but since Vancouver these backpacks have popped up everywhere. I'm always thrilled to find a new brand that makes simple products. I'm hoping their gear will age well, too. Also, I'm not ashamed to admit the moment I returned to Austin I ordered the tiniest backpack you have ever seen. The Raven Mini has served me well thus far, and I'm delighted every time I use it.
What I Bought: The Raven Mini | Meadow Green
My excitement to research a new brand didn't last long. It was almost instantaneous, but the moment I peeled away from the walls of perfectly arranged backpacks, my appetite kicked in. And for the record, it isn't uncommon in my family to hear "what's for lunch?" the second we have finished eating breakfast. It's not like my family are a bunch of ham beasts, I think we're excited to try a new place.
Farmer's Apprentice is really fucking tiny. We sat outside on the patio, which seats 6 people, maximum. The people here, like everywhere in Vancouver, were incredibly nice. They were genuine, and thrilled to talk about their love for the city. As far as food, it was above average, but not anything special. I had the chickpea panisse and Harrison ordered the salmon gravlax. To be fair, we both cleaned our plates. But that wasn't hard considering their portions match the size of the restaurant. Though I didn't leave hungry. I'm neutral on this one.
What We Ate: Chickpea panisse, broccoli, greens, poached egg, and salmon gravlax, fennel, creme fraiche, sourdough, poached eggs
After lunch we started ambling once again. In between the Van city bitches, Harrison kept describing his epic lobster meal. Every time I heard the lobster story it changed slightly. The lobster began as just a little 1 lbs. guy, then it was a 1.5 lbs. lobster, and eventually it was probably the biggest lobster anyone has eaten, ever, all for $4. Quite impressive. But as the lobster grew, we made our way to the Granville Island Public Market.
Public markets are something of a dream. I have a strange affinity for grocery stores, and markets are an amplified version. It's like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I get to walk through a worldly fair, and stare at fresh produce, try all these amazing and fresh things. More importantly, markets are prime for people watching. Everyone is excited about trying something they haven't before. It's wonderful. And although this market is incredibly touristy, they have a gem of a Chinese market near the center. It has interesting candies, jellies, spices, and other ingredients with which I would love to cook.
What We Ate: Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and feta stuffed jalapeños
We were kind of tired from our jaunts from place to place, and we both could use an afternoon drink. We ventured over to the Granville Island Brewing Company.
The brewing company was established in 1984, but recently bought by the Molson Coors Beer Co., which hasn't change their operation in the slightest. They continue producing small batches, carrying 8 beers on tap at a time, 1 of which being seasonal and limited.
I spent a strange amount of time talking about Alamo Drafthouse and Austin with the bartender. He was infatuated with not Austin, but the theater itself. However, through his Drafthouse fever he lost track of the tasters he poured me and Harrison. So I can't complain. If you like just solid ales and lagers, I'd recommend a trip. Also, be prepared to wait for a table or a seat at the bar. We spent a fair chunk of our afternoon in this area, and consistently witnessed people waiting out front.
What We Drank: Hey Day Hefeweizen, English Bay Pale Ale
I'll go on record now to say that I am the biggest lightweight in the world. So we started back toward the Airbnb to take a nap before trekking out for dinner. But, thought better of wasting our limited time, and left again for a pre-dinner snack. Classic poutine.
Fries, squeaky cheese, and brown gravy. I'm conviced poutine is one of those things where it's never bad, but when it is good, it's so damn good. I really wanted to know who put this concoction together - genius, I tell you. But alas, my quick Google search didn't help. No one knows where poutine originated, but it seems to have magically popped up in Montreal around the 1950s. Whoever came up with it solidifed a spot on Canada's Top 10 Inventions list (come on, Canada), and is basically a national hero.
What We Ate: Classic Poutine
What We Drank: Milwaukee’s Best (because we're classy AF)
Like I mentioned before, my family has no shame just moving onto the next thing to eat. So, we took off toward our dinner choice.
On our way to Fat Mao Noodles, we stepped into this custom furniture store. Studio 126 is owned and operated by a couple, who apparently has three kids and were still making time for a craft they loved. Their furniture was truly brilliant, but I couldn't afford a single piece. I have a huge soft spot for people doing what they love, and it's a bonus that they're killing it, too.
The couple from Studio 126 told us they often visit Fat Mao and order one of everything on the menu, because everything is that good. We started by ordering the century egg with the house tofu. They process their eggs traditionally, which means an egg is wrapped in salt, lime and ash, then tucked away for about a month. The result is a brown, gelatinous egg white, and a creamy, black yolk. Coupled with their oddly buttery tofu, it was amazing. For my big bowl of noodles, I ordered the coconut and mushroom noodles with a soy egg. It was so good that at one point I was annoyingly full, but I couldn't stop chopsticking fat noodles into my face. Clearly, Fat Mao is on my recommended list.
What We Ate: Century egg with house tofu, coconut and mushroom (fat) noodles with soft boiled soy egg, and braised duck (fat) noodles with soft boiled soy egg
What We Drank: Chang, Postmark Blonde
So, the entire day Harrison and I had been desperately trying to spend the Canadian cash we had. I sincerely don't think I've ever tried to spend money as I did leaving Vancouver. I had taken out 50 Canadian Dollars, which is roughly 40 USD. And let me provide a little list for everything we had during the day: coffee, brunch, market snacks, beer, poutine, and noodles. And I still had money left over. Madness, utter madness.
After dinner, I still needed to spend 10 USD and was trying to find a grocery store or anywhere (reasonable) to spend money. We walked an additional 3 or so miles to find something, but nothing was open due to holiday hours. No sweat, right? I'd just buy something on the train.
Just my luck though. About 15 minutes into the ride, the conductor comes on over the speaker and said, "we take cash, all major credit cards, just not Canadian coin." Well, fuck me. So I still have 10 Canadian Dollars of what might as well be Monopoly money. I'm not complaining, but my god, Canada, just take my money.
On the train we had the unfortunate luck of sitting next to a couple with a baby. And I'm about to sound like a twat, but I couldn't shake the idea of carrying around a screaming baby being equivalent to me blasting my personal speaker, forcing everyone around to listen to my music. But then again, most people think their music taste is on point. A baby screaming is objectively upsetting. And I get it, I'm sure those parents are really fucking exhausted, but spare me. That shit's on them.
On the flip side, I listened to Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color for a good portion of the ride. And I was experimenting with music, memories, and its influence on my mood. I'm still playing around with the idea. But now when I hear Sound & Color (especially Miss You), I think about the Vancouver and train ride, and how lovely it was to be going somewhere. The somewhere never being that important, but the movement towards anew is the real excitement.
What I Listened To: Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Recap: everyone in Vancouver is happy, healthy, and I'm already plotting for my next chance to return. It absolutely deserves more than a day trip.