Jane: That’s it. I’m done. I can’t walk another step, I’m calling an Uber.
Cinder: Come on, Mom. We’re almost there. All the cool stuff is just around the corner.
Jane: You said that two kilometres ago. And four kilometres ago.
Cinder: We’re almost there. Don’t be a wuss.
Jane: OMFG why will you not let me call an Uber?
Cinder: Remember all those family death marches you took us on when we were kids?
Cinder: And that time in Havana you made us walk all the way to the Hemingway Marina?
Cinder: Vengeance is mine.
So I’m in Vancouver with my eldest progeny, days shy of his twenty-first birthday, stupid fit, and apparently determined to kill me. We’re walking 20 to 30 kilometres a day, partly to avoid Vancouver traffic, partly because Vancouver is so very walkable (East Hastings and some of the bridges except, but that does not stop us), partly, as I find out on the last day, as payback for all the walking and exploring I inflicted on the children when they were younger.
Vengeance is his.
Raise fit kids, they said. Make them play outside, they said.
I really need to stop listening to them.
I don’t think he appreciates how well I’m doing, though, keeping up with him. I’m doing that damn 6.8 kilometre hike across Stanley Park into the West End – and then back at the end of the day – at the end of the day with nary a murmur, ligament-light knees, misaligned pelvis, malfunctioning SI joints, and let’s not talk about what’s happening with the cartilage-less vertebrae, notwithstanding.
I’m pretty happy with my performance. My feet and shins hurt, but the back-hip-joint pain, my constant companion for the past 15 years and flaring up badly the past year, is proving the point that these days, it’s sitting that’s killing me, not exercise.
But not this week. No time for sitting this week, we’ve got bridges to cross.
I’ve never experienced Vancouver at quite this pace before.
(A travelogue, for my reference purposes, follows. For the punchline, skip to section v)
On the night we arrive, after driving 973 km in about 11 hours and six minutes, we do our first hike from North Vancouver across Stanley Park to the West End and join the hordes of people at English Bay to watch a sunset.
The sunset is indifferent: we are from the land of pornographic skies and spectacular sunsets, and we’ve had the Northern Lights on every other night over the last little while, so, you know, the boy is hard to impress. But the Persian meal we devour for supper does impress even him (Kaghan Restaurant – we are spoiled for choice on Denman). We Uber to the hotel that night, but just to pick up the car and drive to the Richmond Night Market.
I don’t know how to describe the Richmond Night Market. You should probably just go and see it; bring cash, go hungry.
The next day, we do all the things. Literally. Hike across Lion’s Bridge, and then around the Stanley Park seawall. Stroll a bit through Denman and Davie – find some amazing ice cream – keep on walking to the False Creek Ferry Terminal, where I convince him to hop the boat across to Granville Island (he wants to walk across the bridge). We explore the Island and I buy him some overpriced artisan leather works, also, fish and chips. We take the ferry to Yale Town and walk up to Pacific Centre and around Robson and Gastown, skirt the edge of Chinatown and end up at the Plaza of Nations – a ferry to Granville again and another to Kitslana. The Beaches. Final ferry ride to Denman, then we search for what’s supposed to be the best sushi in town – so we overheard some random dude telling some other random people on Granville, and we really don’t know any better.
(It is maybe not the best sushi we’ve ever had. But it’s very good. Miku on Robson. Yum.)
Then, an 8 kilometre walk back to the hotel, through the interior of Stanley Park at night. We don’t die, and we only run into two slightly sketchy people. Everyone else is a cyclist.
On the third day, it rains and progeny wants to see Richmond (long story, don’t ask), so we get in the car, avoid the traffic on the bridge and have a pretty smooth drive into Richmond. We explore Richmond pretty thoroughly, then drive to the UBC campus to check out the Biodiversity Museum and walk around the Museum of Anthropology. We walk down the 400? 500? Steps to Wreck Beach, even though it’s gross and cold, just so that we can say we did it. Then, we drive to Chinatown for dim sum at Jade Dynasty Restaurant and eat all the things.
I take him to Blim, which is basically next door, and buy him a couple of outrageous outfits, and a present for his brother. Next, Commercial Drive – via a look at East Hastings and Main, because I think it needs to be seen, talked about, processed.
Then, we drive to Burnaby to check out City of Lougheed – the boy likes modern buildings and is fascinated by the execution of the Lougheed concept – before heading back to the downtown area. I had seen a Persian teahouse – potentially a sheesha lounge – on our earlier walkabout adventures and I think it might be a good place to sit and chill for a couple of hours, so we track it down and are treated to an… interesting experience. (The sheesha is terrible, the atmosphere is not – I’m conflicted about introducing my son to my one substantial vice, but there it is, I do it.)
Then we wander down Granville Street for a while and find an Irish pub, share a pint of Guinness – the first drink we’ve had together since he turned 18 in 2020.
We eat dimsum and Persian leftovers for a late dinner in our hotel room that night, sleep like the dead.
We have no agenda for Monday, so we start the day by going up Capilano Road to the tourist trap Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. I’m not saying it’s not pretty – it is. But the pricetag. Dear god. I push through my fear of heights and walk the bridge, the clfif walk and the canopy walk with the child, all the while talking about cars.
I know nothing about cars, but knowledge is not required. Listening is.
We hit a Belgian waffle house off Denman for a brunchy-lunchy, and eat delicious things before heading back across Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate Bridge to West Vancouver and Lighthouse Park. The drive is beautiful as is the park. We walk. A lot. I guess it’s a mini-hike. There’s al lighthouse. Big trees. Conversation.
We drive back to the hotel, I think, to rest. No. We’re just ditching the car to walk back across the bridge and Stanley Park. I weep. I negotiate: the demon child wants to run around the Stanley Park seawall, because he didn’t get enough exercise yesterday. I walk the short way through the park with the plan to meet him at English Bay.
He laps the all twice and runs all the way to Granville and back before I make it to Denman. We find a Greek place on Denman and eat all the food.
I desperately want to Uber back to the hotel. But we don’t.
The plan is to Uber to Lonsdale Quay and take the seabus across to Canada Place. But of course we don’t Uber. Why would we? It’s only 48 minutes and mostly downhill and we have time, so we walk. We explore Lonsdale Quay, then hop the bus across. Walk to and around Canada Place, and then to the Harbour Air dock for a seaplane tour of Vancouver. This is the kid’s special treat, but, also, to be honest, my motivation: here is 45 minutes that I can spend not walking.
I manage to forget, somewhere along the line that I’m really afraid of heights, Oops.
The plane ride is marvellous. Although we both feel sick when we hit the mountains.
That afternoon, we separate. I set him free to roam – and suggest he stay away from East Hastings, but, you know, odds are he can outrun any trouble – while I meet my Vancouver colleagues for lunch.
We reconvene in a couple of hours on Granville Island. I Uber there. He, of course, walks, through Olympic Village.
We visit our favourite places on Granville, then take in the car dealerships on Burrard (yes, all of them) and explore along 4th Avenue in Kitslano.
It’s after that that he enacts his vengeance.
We end the day with ramen at Jin Ya – and an Uber ride back to the hotel.
The next morning, we leave Vancouver at 6 a.m. to drive to Kelowna – but that’s another story.
It’s a good trip. He says, I feel. I have felt distant from this eldest child of mine for some time: I feel I basically threw him to the wolves and told him to fend for himself when his sister got so ill and, well, he did, but I had felt I had lost him even before he got so angry at my about the divorce. His sojourn in Kelowna during the pandemic was both healthy and necessary but I lost him even more during that time.
I don’t know that I find him, or help him find me, on the trip. But perhaps I set up some signposts.
Get in a lot of steps.
Learn that revenge is a dish best served walked.
PS I’d post photos, but then I’d never actually hit publish on this post, so if you want to “see” this trip, check out my Instagram – @nothingbythebook. It’s private, because single Christian fathers of four and retired military colonels keep on following me and sending me creepy message requests, but if you have a legit Insta handle – and do not claim to be a single Christian father of four or a retired military colonel on your profile – I’ll probably let you follow me. 😉