Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oh Canada!

Around this time last year, while I was extremely pregnant, Adam flew to Vancouver for his sister Robin's wedding. Some parts of this year's trip involved me doing some of the things that I missed out on by not accompanying Adam last year. Other parts of the trip involved introducing Emmett to aspects of his paternal culture. Most importantly, it was Emmett's first time meeting Aunt Kelly, Aunt Robin, and Uncle Step.

Our border crossing experience on the way up was quick and hassle-free. We stopped at the Peace Arch Visitors' Centre briefly. Adam loved that the parking area on the Canada side had an electric vehicle charging station; I dug the in-bathroom Canada trivia questions. On the return trip, our wait was longer but it was also pretty seamless. My US passport, Emmett's certified birth certificate, and Adam's green card were sufficient to be allowed back into the USA. You never know how much or how little a hassle border crossings will be. On the way back, there was a dog show going on at the border. If the crossing had taken longer, I might've gotten out of the car to check it out.

One thing that is nice about being in Vancouver is that Adam knows the city well and much of it is also familiar to me after repeated visits. It would've been expensive to use some of our fancy phone features like navigation while out of the US, but we mostly didn't need to since we knew our way around. We stayed at The Sylvia Hotel on English Bay and loved being in such a great location. There are cafes, restaurants, and even grocery stores within walking distance and it's right near the entrance to Stanley Park. The hotel is even the setting for a few children's books about a cat who named Mister Got To Go who used to live in the hotel. We ended up buying a copy of one of the books for Emmett because the story was sweet and because it was fun to see art with both animals and the actual hotel.

I immediately had Adam take Emmett right up to the ocean (Emmett has visited the Pacific Ocean before setting foot in the Atlantic Ocean!). Right across the street from the hotel are both grassy and sandy areas near the beach. On several evenings, we would take Emmett out to the grassy areas for walking practice. People were especially charmed when he'd use the umbrella stroller as a walker and push it along the grass.

One of the first ways that I relived Adam's trip from the previous year was to have us all visit the Vancouver Aquarium. Last year, Adam went there and took pictures and videos and bought otter-related souvenirs, but I really wanted to see things for myself, especially the otters holding hands. Also, we were excited about having Emmett see his first otters, so we watched them first. We also spent a lot of time watching the belugas. One of the baby belugas was pretty close in age to Emmett. There was a funny moment where the baby was trying to nurse and the mama beluga was trying to swim away. The aquarium also has a very nice kids' play area that includes a space where kids can do x-rays on stuffed animal versions of seals. I have to admit that I wanted to play with a lot of that stuff!

Another day, Robin suggested that we check out the baby-friendly matinee of a show at the Arts Club on Granville Island. It was called "Mom's The Word: Remixed" and was a funny and poignant show about various aspects of motherhood. Several of the actresses in it were also the playwrights and I especially liked that the play had certain Vancouver-related elements to it. I'm not 100% sure, but Emmett may have been the only baby who stayed in the theatre for the whole performance--not that he was silent or sitting still the whole time (he in fact spent a lot of the second half crawling around the back of the theatre). Still, I was impressed with how well he dealt with sitting through a play. We haven't even yet taken him to the movies (not because we haven't felt it appropriate, more because of being unsure it'd be worth going since we're not sure we adults would stay awake).

In the program for the play, I saw an ad for a show at the Museum of Anthropology about Japanese-influenced Inuit art and suggested that we go to that museum another day. Besides the special exhibit, I wanted Emmett to see some of the totem poles and other First Nations art there. We also spent some time on the campus for the University of British Columbia and Adam got to see some of the things that had changed since he'd studied there.

Another big highlight of the trip was something that wasn't entirely planned. On our last full day in Vancouver, we were hanging out near Chinatown and it was raining hard enough that we didn't really want to be walking outside as much as we had on other days. When we realized we were pretty close to the Vancouver Public Library's central branch, we decided to go in and check out what the children's section was like. I went from being in a terrible mood to being really happy and excited. First we spent some time in an area with a lot of wooden puzzles and puppets. After being camped out in that section for a while, I decided I wanted to see the rest of the kids' floor and I found an enclosed space with lots of mats on the floor and toys for building and playing. After several days of having Emmett play in our hotel room, it was nice for him to have the chance to play in an area like this that was meant for play. I really love the libraries that we visit locally in North Carolina, but this one had some impressive options.

That same day, we had another fun surprise. We'd gone to Stanley Park to go see the totem poles and it turned out that there was a "Celebrate BC Parks" event going on right nearby. As we arrived, there was a kids' play going on where a beaver and a raccoon debated who was better equipped to be Canada's mascot. Some audience voting was involved and consensus was that the beaver was most appropriate. There were also tables from various organizations available, including one group that brings a full orca skeleton around to school groups and has kids put it together. They were giving out paper beaver masks at most of the tables. As we were leaving the park, we actually saw an adult raccoon with two babies.

Much of the rest of our time was spent on shopping and dining. We went to quite a few baby/kids' stores. One favorite was Kidsbooks on West Broadway. Everyone there was super-nice and we found some cute early birthday presents for Emmett, including a Haida-inspired beaver hand puppet.. We also went to a couple of fancy pet-related stores in order to buy presents to bring back to Lucydog. In terms of dining out, eating early and quickly proved to be a good strategy for a trip that involved a lot of restaurant meals. We tended to bring a variety of items along to help amuse him during meals and this worked out pretty well.

Having a baby along meant that this trip was much different from previous Vancouver trips, but it was more fun in a lot of ways. Many people would start conversations with us about Emmett wherever we went and being with him around the clock was good in terms of bonding.

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