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Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 80 to 84: Vancouver

Do you ever have one of those days where one thing just seems to lead to the other? Our first full day in Vancouver was one of those days.

We had pulled up in the ParkCanada RV park just minutes from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal the evening before, and done a quick whiz-round of this beautiful and busy maritime city - just to get our bearings and get up to speed (quite literally) with driving Vancouver-style.

Today, though, was about getting practical things done. First stop, Richmond...Navigating the myriad of Asian restaurants and shops on Number Three Road in search of Staples, where the computer we had sent off for repairs from an outlet in Calgary awaited us.

We had such great service from Staples employee Walter that we asked him where he serviced his car. He recommended John's Automotive in New Westminster - the former 'capital' of BC, and now an outlying community to the west of downtown Vancouver.

We hadn't counted on just how far away from downtown John actually was, but an hour and numerous roadwork diversions later, we cruised into the tiny hard-court of his mechanic shop and introduced him to Ruby. We were immediately glad we had passed all those other car service centers in favour of John. In fact, he was so friendly and welcoming (and was so well coiffed) that we asked him where a good haircut might be found in the neighbourhood. Without a moment's hesitation he sent us to Teresa just a few blocks away.

And that's how we ended up getting a trim while Ruby got her oil change and service - her second since we had hit the road in mid-June. Teresa had just popped out of the shop to run some errands when we turned up unannounced on her doorstep, but her colleague was so accommodating that we asked him where he would go to eat if he had to kill some time before getting a haircut. He immediately recommended the coffee shop next door, so that is where we had lunch while awaiting Teresa's return.

Teresa's salon proved to be a great place to get the lowdown on Vancouver's must-sees and must-dos. While she chopped she and her colleague gave us a running commentary on their favourite hang-outs in the city, which meant that by the time we left the salon to collect Ruby, our next two days were completely mapped out.

This pay-it-forward approach to travel is a winner. Ask a local where to go and you need never walk into a tourist office again. That evening, we found our way to Granville Island and - heeding Teresa's restaurant advice - ate the most amazing arctic char at the Sandbar. The next day we cycled around lovely Stanley Park, dropped in on a street fair in the colourful West End district, and finished the day in Gastown. Then, on Sunday, we drove down the 'highway to heaven' (aka Number Five Road) in Richmond, where places of worship of every imaginable denomination live side by side in perfect harmony; sandwiched brunch in between gallery hopping along Granville and a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery where we learned about the lives and enjoyed the artistic legacy of the dynamic Cone sisters from Baltimore; and ended the day eating fantastic (and fantastically priced) Chinese food in Connie's Cook House.

By the time we headed over to Vancouver Island on Monday morning, there was a sense that we had done the city both as tourists and as ordinary folks going about the business of everyday life.