It’s funny how we are only on day 4 of our family travel adventures around the world and we’re already leaving Canada.
It seems like 2 weeks already, probably because we are pooped and ready to take the long flight to England tonight.
As we were finishing cleaning our our house, I rolled my foot. Not my ankle but my right foot. I felt and heard a snap or crack. 9yrs ago I had a hairline fracture that hurt like hell and immediately swelled. I was in a cast for 6 weeks. I was so mad at myself for not paying more attention to where I was stepping. This didn’t feel like a break but none the less, I was limping and in pain, the night before we embarked on our world adventure. I elevated my foot all night, even while sleeping and iced it most of the night. We put a good bandage/brace on in the morning and I was good to go but was still sore. No swelling just sore. YES!
We spent the night before at my parents house where my brother and niece also live. Originally, we had planned on taking a morning train to Seattle from Everett but decided to spend more time with my family and try and get some lunch in the International District AKA Chinatown in Seattle. We ran a bit late so we were only able to get lunch to go. We said goodbye to my family and told them we’d see them before they knew it.
We didn’t get a lot of pictures because we were preoccupied with saying goodbye but my brother got a lot. I missed pictures of Tegan (my niece) and my dad.
Canada here we come!
We traveled by Bolt Bus from Downtown Seattle on September 1st 2016 to Vancouver BC. It was a very easy and smooth ride and I HIGHLY recommend it if you want affordable ($18 per person and NO extra fees) transportation with WiFi, few stops and spacious seats. After getting out and walking through Customs with a drug sniffing dog who was more interested in not doing his job…we were off.
The walk to our Hostel in Vancouver Canada
When we arrived in Vancouver 4hrs later, we decided to see if we could schlep our bags around the city with ease.
We learned that we all needed to toss some more stuff, rethink how we arranged everything and that after sitting for hours dragging bags around town was doable but not super fun.
We got a little turned around on the walk to our Hostel, St Clair Hotel. The maps weren’t clear that we should go over the bridge so we ended up going under and found a Skate Park (under the bridge) and a Costco also under the street level. When we were all sort of looking around trying to figure out how to get where we needed to, an Elevator appeared next to the Costco. This is a fun little video that shows some of that walk.
Shawn was frustrated because he’s a really good navigator and doesn’t normally get turned around. It’s one thing to get lost in a foreign country where the signs are in another language but not in Canada, Eh?
You can imagine how we were all tired and he just wanted us to get to our Hostel with ease. Poor guy. We all had a moment of frustration during the walk but rebounded quickly. Everyone was doing their part to work together.
After trudging up a slight hill and walking past a lot of fountains, we found the small walk up to the St Clair. There was a huge sigh of relief heard from all of us but…then we saw all the stairs.Uggghhhhh… Up we went.
Now, originally, when we were discussing the planning of our trip last year, Shawn really wanted to do more of a backpacker lifestyle and stay in Hostels. I wanted to Housesit and not stay in Hostels so much. If it was just us then Hostels would be easy but the kids were both thinking that they would be jenky or ‘weird’ or just not some place they would want to go.
When we picked our flights out of Vancouver I found that most of the Hotels were already booked but there were 2 Hostels available with rooms the size we needed and in the area we wanted to be that also weren’t going to break the bank. I knew Shawn really wanted a Hostel experience so I read all the reviews on each and settled on the St Clair because of it’s close proximity to Chinatown and Downtown. Also, we were able to get an entire dorm room with 2 bunk beds for $22 a person a night. We paid a total of $206 with tax.
The Hostel was clean, everyone was friendly and taking showers and using the shared bathrooms was not as inconvenient or as weird as the kids and I thought it might be. We all loved our stay there except for the bunk situation. The problem wasn’t the beds but rather the people who slept in them.
Both boys called TOP BUNK immediately upon learning we were having bunk beds. They were so excited! Alex and I happily relented and upon arrival Shawn got on the bunk above me and Sam above Alex.
The issue is that both guys move a LOT in their sleep AND, neither liked sitting on their beds…they both wanted to sit on my bunk – Alex gave them stink eye when they’d go near her bed. I would rather get top bunk so I didn’t have them and all their crap on my bed. Next time the boys will go below. Also, the squeaking was super annoying. When they rolled (Sam was the worst) you could feel it and there was squeaking.
Overall though, the staff was super friendly and knowledgeable. Shawn wakes up super early and loves to sit in the common areas reading, doing his work and just to meet people. He met George, a 70+ year old gentleman from London who was in Vancouver to visit an old friend who was ill. They chatted a few times and Shawn informed us that when we go to Kuala Lumpur that only Americans refer to it as that. The rest of the world call it KL. Thanks George. Now we will sound more worldly! We also met Luca from Italy. He was in his early 30’s from Italy. They just casually chatted and he told us of some cool beaches to visit in Thailand.
We would all stay in hostels again. Hopefully they are all as great as the St Clair.
That evening we rested for a bit and then headed out to get some dinner on Granville street. We told the kids were were going to put everyone on a daily food budget because it’s easy to get out of control when you are eating every meal on the road. Everyone gets $25 USD per day. So in Canada, with the conversion, we decided that $30 a day was perfect. That’s $100 USD a day and we could easily spend a few hundred a day eating in restaurants. We thought it would be a good way to make the kids accountable for their purchases and to really want what they were ordering.
For example, is a frappechino that is $5 of your budget really worth more than getting a 5 pizza? Well, if you spend less some days you can spend more on others and treat yourself. Budgeting is a great thing to teach your kids. They have loved being able to just get their food allowance and then choose how and what they would eat. When we are in house sits we won’t do this daily budget but while traveling and not having a kitchen and groceries, this has been working great.. Alex did a happy dance when she got a Strawberry & Nutella Crepe.
While Shawn got his food we were stopped by a guy on the street trying to make money doing cardboard portraits.
Everyone got food they wanted and at our last stop, a pizza shop, a torrential downpour was occurring. We couldn’t wait it out because we were all so tired and just wanted to head back to the Hostel. We were running and totally soaked and smiling and laughing. It would’ve been easy for any one of us to lose our shit and get upset or cry or be frustrated by how wet we all were but instead…we were having so much fun. We are WET but this picture is just as we were leaving the pizza place…you should’ve seen us after a few more blocks!
Our first day was mentally and physically exhausting but nothing crazy or anything we couldn’t easily handle.
The next day we explored Downtown Vancouver and Chinatown
We all woke up early. Alex started to toss some of her belongings and we all followed suit. It’s getting easier and easier to discard our possessions. Also, we value and appreciate the things we do have more because of it. Then we headed off in search of breakfast.
Shawn insisted that he was getting a veggie smoothie at a Vegan cafe around the corner. While he was getting his smoothie Sam had to go back to the Hostel to get his phone as we were going to be gone most of the day. Alex and I decided that we wanted a sit down breakfast nearby as were were starting to have grumbly stomachs. We found a small restaurant across the street called the Happy Cafe. Once we all came together we found a booth inside and giggled at the menu. It was listed online as a greasy spoon type of place. Shawn and I were thinking along the lines of our two favorite Seattle cafes, The Hurricane and Beth’s Cafe.
This place was not at all like what we had hoped for. When we opened the menu’s we found some basic breakfast basics like bacon, eggs and toast but also a full Chinese menu. The service wasn’t great but we didn’t care, we just wanted some food. Alex ordered French Toast and she was so funny. She said it tasted like French Toast Mein. Basically, all she tasted was Chow Mein no matter how much powdered sugar she added on top. And, she realized that only one side of her french toast had egg on it. We laughed a lot at breakfast. Our family is very good at laughing and seeing the humor in most every situation and circumstance.
After breakfast we headed off towards Chinatown. It started to rain so we ducked into the International Mall. We walked around a bit and after heading upstairs we found a “Catfe” – It’s a cat cafe where you pay to hang out with cats. You can either pay $8 to just pet them (by appointment only on a busy day) or $5 with the purchase of food and drink. We are people who are spontaneous for the most part and were super disappointed when we were told the waiting list was backed up until 4pm. That was 3hrs later. We reserved a spot but we never made it back.
We headed back out towards Chinatown. We stopped into a few little shops where the kids were looking for some souvenirs and a new crossbody bag for Alex. They bought a few small things and we finally found New Town Bakery where I was happy to get my Almond Cookies and a few other treats. I am still nibbling on my 2nd cookie today!
We mostly just walked around the rest of the time. We passed a film crew on Perkins street taking a lunch break, not sure what they were filming. On the way out of Chinatown we passed a lovely couple smoking crack on a side street and decided we needed to get back on a more family friendly road. Neither kid noticed the crack pipes being used but Shawn and I did. That led to some fun discussions. Alex does not care for Vancouver, what she’s seen of it anyway. She says it’s a more ghetto version of Seattle – which she happens to love. Sam LOVES Vancouver because it reminds him of Seattle and said he could see himself living there. Canada is nice but I’d rather live in Seattle if I had to choose between the two.
We rested for a few hours back at the Hostel and decided that we had to try this noodle house around the corner that always had a HUGE line outside all day long. They told us that 6pm was the least crowded time to go back so we hung out until then and all took some alone time and also adjusted our bags in preparation for checking out the next day.
I think that the stress and excitement and cleaning and painting and saying goodbyes over the past week or two finally caught up to us. We were exhausted. Our goal was to have a chill night, eat some awesome noodles and the kids wanted to go window shopping. No way did we need more ‘stuff’ to travel with right now. Europe is where we really want to get new wardrobes…not Vancouver.
Dinner didn’t disappoint. It was delicious. SO GOOD! If you are ever in Vancouver Canada you must stop in at GOJIRO RAMEN on Richards. You will love it. My Basic Bowl was AMAZING. It might look simple but the flavors weren’t.
We were pooped but we sucked it up and headed back to Granville and then into the malls. Alex and I went into a shoe store and were appalled by the prices so we made a Facebook live video. The quality is wobbly because we didn’t want to let the staff know what we were doing so try and get past the view. Some shoes were $2500 and looked like we could make them.
Day at Granville Market then off to the Airport
We checked out of the Hostel at 10am the next day and dragged all our crap up to Granville street to a pawn shop to sell Sam’s computer. It’s too heavy and he and Alex decided to share the Microsoft Surface she used for School. She doesn’t need a computer any longer but the deal is that she an use it if she needs to for her resume or any reason with no issues or bitching from him. The surface is way lighter and he loves it but we didn’t just want to toss the computer. We sold it for $80 and were headed off to find our bus.
There was a Taiwan festival so buses were diverted and we had to go to another street with a bunch of other backpackers to find the right area to go in. We missed our first bus but no worries, it’s not like we had any schedule to keep. Each bus ride was $2.75 in coins. We thought we’d head off to Granville Market first, which is in the direction of the Airport.
Basically it’s a more pimped out and awesomer version of Pike Place Market. The food was fantastic and we had the best time feeding the pigeons my sunflower seeds. They landed on us and it was so much fun. Check out the video
We left Granville Market and headed back to the bus to get to the Olympic Village train station so we could head to the Airport. Once at the airport it was a breeze getting through security. We had to catch a flight at night to Calgary.
We had decided to just find a quiet spot in the Calgary airport (still in Canada) to sleep for the night and then hunker down for the next day because our layover was 16hrs. Sam was supposed to start online school but hasn’t heard from his teacher yet. We had planned to use this time to have him crank out some work out but instead… We had Wheelchair Races in the empty part of the airport. Watch the video here. I am a nervous nelly and totally a rule follower so I was just waiting for security to show up. It was crazy how empty it was. We weren’t sure where we should sleep so we found a spot in another area way further away where there were some other people sleeping.
At 3am we were woken up by a security guard and told we had to move because the area was being taken over by US Customs. CRAP! We were dead. We packed up all our stuff and made our way over to the larger terminal and found a quiet and comfy spot in the dark. No less than 1hr later the bright lights turned on and we were inundated with loud speaker announcements. None of us slept well but we are awake, got a lot of Scentsy work done, this blog post, ate, cleaned up and repacked to make our storing of baggage easier on the plane ride to Manchester. We are now just a couple of hours away from leaving Canada and North America.
It’s been real Canada. Real exhausting and real FUN!