The Vancouver Trip
Well, I’m back home after an amazing trip to Vancouver, B.C. Vancouver is a beautiful city that is so accessible I just loved it!! However, I am glad that I started with such a short trip and close to home because I learned a lot about travelling as a blind person that never occurred to me when I was fully sighted. Planning will be the main key going forward. Having maps and knowing where I’m going and how to get there has been re-affirmed as critical to fully enjoying my future trips. I also have learned that padding my trip with more time to rest and relax is vital for keeping my eyes working as well as they can. Also, scheduling a little extra time to research and write, last week kind of got away from me, is also vital to keeping disciplined for my work projects. Below is a day by day summary of the trip. I hope you enjoy.
I flew from Edmonton International Airport with West Jet to Vancouver, British Columbia. My Dad brought me to the airport and handed me off to an attendant. A whole series of attendants helped me through security and brought me to the area where I needed to wait to board the plane. Once I began boarding I asked the air hostess to help me find my seat and she checked to see if I would need a special reading of the emergency presentation that they do at the beginning of every flight. I told her that I didn’t and sat back and relaxed for the hour and a half flight. The flight was wonderful! I couldn’t believe how fast we got to Vancouver and the view of the mountains out the window was spectacular.
When we arrived at the airport I waited for the other passengers to deplane. This just makes it safer and easier for me to get my bag without being rushed or jostled. Before I could get my carry-on bag from the overhead bin, the air hostess was back and pulled my bag down for me. She escorted me to the door of the plane and handed me over to another attendant. The new attendant asked where I was heading and if someone was meeting me. I told her I was going to take the Skytrain and she brought me right down to the Skytrain terminal, helped me get my tickets and then made sure I was where I needed to be to catch the train. Truly exceptional service from West jet and I would highly recommend the airline to anyone flying anywhere that West Jet flies.
I made my way to the Airbnb where I was staying, my hosts directions were superb, and was warmly welcomed by my host, Mario. He showed me around the suite and I immediately made my self a cup of tea and got comfortable in my new room. The house was beautiful, and the area was so central and led to easy access to all parts of Vancouver. I took a wander around the neighbourhood, enjoying the fair weather I landed in.
On my second day, it was raining in the morning, but that didn’t dampen my spirits. I had left below zero and piles of snow and ice and escaped to clear streets and greening grass. I had my interview with Dr. Yu of Wellsprings Clinic and spoke to many of his patients. The treatment looks promising and an article specifically about Chinese Herbal Medicine and particularly Dr. Yu’s treatment for R.P. Will be covered in at a later date. Suffice to say that it does look like a promising help to extend the “life” of our vision until a cure can be found. I, of course, need to do more research on the topic from various angles before I can bring you a fair assessment of the treatment.
From Dr. Yu’s I headed to U.B.C. the most amazing university campus I have ever seen. It is situated in what looks like a massive forest. The mammoth glass and steel construction weirdly blends into this environment seamlessly. You wouldn’t think that something so modern and stark could manage this but somehow this structure works. Maybe it’s the angular shape juxtaposed against the evergreens that somehow reflect the mountains in the background, I really don’t know but I do know it was breathtaking. I didn’t do a lot of wandering because there was construction going on right around where I got off the buss, however I was truly blown away.
By the time I got back to my room to deposit my notes from the interviews, I was getting hungry and asked my host for a good place to eat that was close to home. Mario recommended East is East, an Indian Afghanistan fusion restaurant just a few blocks away. I had a memorable meal that hit all the right spots. I then headed to Nantes Market and enjoyed a quick perusal of the isles while I picked up a few supplies.
My third day was a wine tour of the Fraser Valley wineries with Lawrence Tours. I know I can’t seem to say anything negative about this trip, but it was so wonderful, and I truly had no negative experiences! In fact, I really didn’t want to come home.
Lawrence Tours Wine tour was one of the highlights of my trip. As embarrassed as I am that I am a total lightweight when it comes to alcohol, I had a great time and learned a lot about B.C. in my guide, Michael’s capable hands. The tour started at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver and can I just give them a major shout out here? I wasn’t staying at the hotel, but my instructions were to wait for my tour host in the lobby. I went in and spoke to the two doormen and they let me know that the tour bus usually parked just a little right of the front doors. I was super early, so I asked where I could get a coffee. They directed me to the Starbucks just to the left and around the corner from the doors of the hotel. I went and got my usual tall Pike’s Peak with milk and sat on the outdoor patio area listening to the sounds of the city. When I was finished I circled around to where the doormen had said and noticed the big conference centre and the view of the water with the mountains peaking beyond it. I took a short video of the scene and then somehow deleted it when I tried to upload it to this site. I really need to work on my tech skills. I guess that means I’m just going to have to go back to Vancouver soon!
The view was picture postcard perfect and the hour went by quickly. I went back to where the doormen said to wait and I watched as several tour busses came and went. A black bus pulled up and I was trying to find a name on the bus but didn’t see one. One of the doormen remembered me and came over and asked if I was looking for Lawrence Tours. He helped me get into the van and I thanked him profusely. If the doormen of this hotel are that kind and curious I can only imagine what staying in the Pan Pacific Hotel must be like.
I spent the day visiting with Michael, my tour guide. I was the only one booked for the trip, so I had a private guide for the price of a packed tour. We stopped at four different wineries. The first and third were my favourite but here they are in the order in which we visited:
Backyard Vineyards http://www.backyardvineyards.ca/
They have a sparkling wine that is so good I brought a bottle home with me! The host was charming and very knowledgeable. They have a warm and friendly atmosphere and this is the first place were I ever tasted port. It was quite boozy, but also quite enjoyable, perfect for a cold night by the fire.
Township 7 https://www.township7.com/
The Queen likes their wine more than I did. They have a story on their wall about how the Queen came to visit and loved their wine so much she had to have more. I thought the wine was kind of generic, meaning, it was the same as I could find in the liquor store back home. It’s not that it was bad, it just wasn’t as unique and impressive as the other wines I sampled on the tour.
Glass House Estate Winery https://www.glasshouseestatewinery.com/
This was by far my favorite! The wines I tried were delicious, unique, and had such depth I couldn’t help but be impressed. The family run charm and the beauty of the place was exceptional. The mother and daughter were our delightful hosts who greeted us warmly and entertained us with stories as we sampled several wines. Each was unique, and many had a light fruity finish that was perfect for a warm day. And of course, I had to bring home a bottle of my favorite, the Cameo Rose has a citrusy finish that pops on the palate. It has a darker hue than most rose wines and its distinctive flavour has such a unique quality that you simply have to try it to understand how delicious it really is.
And finally, we stopped at Blackwood Lane https://www.blackwoodlane.ca/
Now in all fairness I was already tipsy by the time we got to this winery. It is the top end winery in the Fraser Valley and each bottle comes at a pretty hefty price.
My favorite was the Sea Buckthorn Riesling. Again, it’s unique flavour is what stood out for me. It had a sweet start with a slightly bitter finish but there was so much going on in the sip that it was a pleasant experience. The Sea Buckthorn berries used in the wine are considered a superfood and what a great way to get your vitamins and minerals not to mention the essential fatty acids.
The wines that are created at this particular winery are almost what one might call health foods. No chemicals are used, and the wines are aged in high-quality French oak barrels for extended periods. Their wines are some of the highest scoring wines in B.C. and the taste is quite exquisite.
We finished off the tour with a late lunch and then back to Vancouver where I was dropped off at my door. Michael was an amazing host and Lawrence tours is a great company that gives a personal touch to your adventure.
This was the day I thought I would do some sight seeing before meeting my friend Chelsea and her mom for the best Chinese food in Vancouver. This is where I learned the lesson of not just where to go but also how to get there. I made it out to Granville Island and enjoyed looking at all the sailboats in the harbour. I found some cute little shops and bought a couple of souvenirs. I then headed back into town and wound up in China town. I thought I might find Sun Yet Sen Chinese Gardens and yet I couldn’t figure out the streets. I wound up in a cute little park with and interesting, winding water feature overlooking a baseball diamond but that was as close as I got to the gardens.
I think I went through Gastown while on the bus, but never did find the steam clock. It also seemed that everyone I asked for directions didn’t live in Vancouver and therefore couldn’t help me find the places I was looking for. I had a good lunch and then headed home.
Dinner was wonderful! Chelsea and her Mum are Chinese and they ordered for us. We had green tea served in small pots that seemed to be bottomless. The cold chicken dish had a sauce made of ginger and green onion that was really good. The sticky rice was also really tasty and the other dishes equally as good. I wish I knew the names of these dishes, but I don’t. The menu was written in Chinese and I left myself in the kind hands of my friends. They didn’t disappoint. The meal was finished with mango in condensed milk and a tapioca-like sweet soup. I could only have a taste of each as I was so full from the meal. We had a fantastic visit and I was sad to have to say goodbye at the end of the night.
Despite my lessons in planning and making sure I know where I’m going and how to get there, I had a really good day and enjoyed the trip thoroughly.
I checked out of my Airbnb at 10 am and headed to the airport by cab. I checked in with WestJet and discovered an error on my ticket. Apparently, the return trip was a month later, instead of March 17th I somehow booked it for April 17th. WestJet not only fixed the problem but then upgraded my seat and helped me to get home on an earlier flight. They were so great I just can’t say enough good things about this airline. At a time when you hear horror stories about various airlines and the horrible ways they treat their customers, WestJet, in my experience is a world away from that. They go out of their way to help and are incredibly kind and understanding.
I came home to a snow storm and really wanted to ask for the flight to just turn around and let me go back to Vancouver for that month. I could sleep on the beech like a vagabond, really, I could. Unfortunately, we landed smoothly, and I had to disembark. I had checked my bag on my return flight because of my bottles of wine and the staff helped me to find the bag despite its getting stuck in one of the conveyor belts. Again, I just can’t say enough good things about WestJet Airlines.
Final thoughts on the Vancouver trip
I learned a lot of valuable lessons on this trip. Planning, planning, planning is key to a complete trip. If I had of had a map with me or a cell phone with google maps I would have found the places that I wanted to see. Although I’m a bit disappointed in myself, it was a good lesson and a great excuse to return for another visit.
The only real hiccup I had on the trip was security at the Vancouver airport who ran my belongings as well as my cane through the x-ray machines and because I had forgotten about a can of juice in my purse they kept me waiting without my cane as they examined everything more thoroughly. The WestJet attendant that was helping me asked for my cane back as it is a mobility aid, but the security guard refused to return it until he was finished checking everything. Another security guard expressed her exacerbation at his attitude and she helped to get me my items back as quickly as possible. All in all, not a terrible experience, just a little uncomfortable.
As I write that last line I find myself struck by the thought of it. A few years ago, I would not have been able to conceive of a time when I would feel so vulnerable without my cane. I guess it’s like anything in life, once you’ve gotten used to a thing you begin to depend upon it being there. As annoyed with my cane as I often am, it is a tool that I have come to rely on and without it I feel a bit lost and unsteady.
Travelling blind isn’t difficult but it is different from when I was fully sighted. You must plan ahead and make sure that the airlines know that you are blind and will need assistance. Choose your accommodations carefully so that you are close to public transportation and have easy access to everything you will need. Take some kind of map or GPS device with you so that it’s easier to find the places you want to visit. Plan in rest periods to keep the eyes and body performing at their best. And for me specifically, make sure I add in some explicit time to do my work so that I don’t miss a week of posting. And for everyone reading this post, visit Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, you won’t regret it!!