We arrived back in Vancouver on New Year's Eve. Before leaving for Victoria we had popped into the hostel we were now staying at and asked what they recommended for New Year celebrations, and were informed that there was going to be a great big firework celebration on the waterfront, the first for a number of years and that it would be well worth going to. Brilliant! Sorted!
We sorted ourselves out some food and had some drinks in our room. A lot of time was spent taking amusing photos of each other and singing Elephant Love Medley extremely loudly. I'll admit, there was a point when we were both considering just staying in for the evening...we managed to talk ourselves out of it. We walked down Granville Street, there was a great atmosphere of fun that we were looking forward to rejoining after the countdown. On we walked, stopping for a drink at a bar before getting ourselves a spot at the waterfront. There were plenty of other people there ready for a countdown, though it wasn't obvious where the action would be taking place.
It all kinda...went wrong from there. Samantha seemed to very suddenly get bad heartburn and wasn't able to stand and watch, so we were a little distracted when people around us started counting down. Not in your traditional 10...9...8...7.......kind of way. No, more in an abstract, you can't tell me what to do sort of way. TEN....SEVEN......FOUR....EIGHT....SIX....TWO....ONE....NINE.....
I spent the first minute or so of 2014 wondering whether it was 2014 or not.
We found a bar to get Samantha some water and use the loo, then as the heartburn passed we found another with some delicious daquiris, before admitting defeat and going home. New Year has expectations too high to be an awesome night, but it's certainly one I'll never forget.
Our next excursion was to the Aquarium, I'd read about their bioluminescence shows and was intrigued. We got ourselves there and enjoyed a few hours looking at the jellyfish and dolphins and a looooong time watching the belugas. We waited around for a long time to see this show, and were less than impressed to find it was called 'It's glow time!' and aimed entirely at children. I'm sure it was fantastic for them, but not quite the impression I had got from leaflets...
Another trip out was to Stanley Park, taking a wander round the beaches and through the trees. I could never get bored of Stanley Park, and will miss it hugely. We got to take a better look at the smiley statues and actually understand why they were there....as opposed to just how they were feeling.
We had read about the Vancouver Art Museum and that we got a discount with an HI membership and took ourselves over there, finding to our joy that the membership gave us free entry not just a discount! Win! That's pretty amazing really, the entry was $17, so to get down to free was brilliant. There was a fantastic exhibit on Charles Edenshaw, a Haida artist from British Columbia, amongst many others. Absolutely worth a visit, particularly if you have an HI membership (it's a YHA membership in the UK and Australia, but they're linked to HI).
One day's adventures took us on an epic walk around Vancouver. After eventually finding the Jimi Hendrix shrine, we discovered it was closed. Damn. We took the opportunity for a wander back round to Granville Island, though it took much longer than expected...we went a little bit mad on the way, sitting for awhile watching a couple across the water and making up their conversation. It involved cheese, that's as much as I can remember, or as much as was coherent.
Another day took us through Gastown, the older part of Vancouver. It was mostly souvenir shops...but there was a steam powered clock, which I loved.
The last few days were filled with walking and Tim Hortons and relaxing. We saw The Big Lebowksi at midnight in a mega cheap cinema in East Vancouver, and then took ourselves back over there to watch Anchorman 2. It's worth a watch - some points are trying desperately hard to be just Anchorman, but there were some real laugh out loud parts and it's just as instantly quotable as the original.
A couple of days before Samantha was due to fly home I discovered my funds had run low much more quickly than I had thought, terrifyingly so. I felt a real panic and on top of already feeling ready for home, I was lost and worried and not sure what to do. Thanks to my wonderful parents I was able to book myself onto an earlier flight home, one less than an hour after Samantha's. So her last day turned into our last day...we had a last coffee in Tim Hortons, and left behind some playdough for other people to enjoy. I hope they have. We went back to our favourite eatery in Vancouver, The Famous Warehouse, and enjoyed some delicious $4.95 food. We perused some shops, careful not to buy anything as everything had been precariously packed.
Reasoning that at an airport one expects to wait, we head off a little earlier than we thought we would, hoisted bags onto ourselves and got to the train. The ride is unbelievably easy, particularly compared to home, and we were soon at the airport and checking in. As we got there we discovered Samantha's flight was delayed by an hour and a half...and mine by 4 and a half. Doh.
Somehow, the wait didn't seem too long. There is no huge great trek to the gate like there is at Heathrow or Gatwick, mine was almost opposite Samantha's, so I waited with her until her flight left and ambled over to my side. The delay had been decreased to three and a half hours, so it seemed like nothing at all until the time printed on my ticket for boarding. It came and went. Someone asked if we were still supposed to be leaving at the time displayed on the board, and they were assured it would be....despite it being ten minutes until that time and there being no sign of boarding.
Eventually, we boarded, and proceeded to wait there for an hour before finally departing. Unlike other flights who might try and get people into their new time zones as quickly as possible, Air Transat decided to keep us well and truly in Vancouver. At midnight we were served dinner, and just before landing in the UK we were given breakfast...despite it being nearly 5pm. The flight was long and uncomfortable...the screens are tiny and terrible quality and the food shouldn't strictly be called food. The only reason I didn't hate the flight entirely? I saw the northern lights! They weren't the brightest and most exciting, like the kind you see on leaflets, and airplane windows are not the best for giving views. But it was absolutely wonderful to have actually seen them on my trip in some way, though it has just fuelled a desire to go and see them somewhere properly.
Finally landed and bags retrieved I got out of there as quickly as I could, finding my mum waiting for me in arrivals. I could never have squeezed her hard enough! She took me back home to a dinner at my sister's house, squeezes with siblings and niblings and parents all round.
So....I did it. I went to Canada. I had the most amazing time, I met a huge amount of people, some people who I was glad to part company wit, some who I'm hoping are back in the UK soon so I can see them again! There were times when I wished desperately that I'd just stayed at home, some when I thanked my stars that I had gone through with the trip. I saw beautiful places and some less beautiful, but no less memorable. I caught the sun and stood waist deep in snow. I spent 5 days of my life on a tour with people who didn't speak english, but 4 evenings of those 5 were spent in hot tubs. My camera broke almost the instant it got to Canada, but thanks to my amazing family I got a new, lighter, and better one. I got so used to huge distances I thought "oh, only 5 hours on the coach, it's not that far!" and spent 3 days on the train. I spent a night picking frozen grapes at -15 and confused a whole lot of Canadians by asking for goose fat.
I am so proud of myself for going, and I'm looking forward to seeing how my experiences have changed my outlook on the world...at the moment I'm still emerging, dazed, from jet lag. I appreciate my bed like never before, not to mention not having to dress in a barely metre square space after a shower and drying or straightening my hair? Hello luxury!
Of course, over this time I finished my photo challenge. It's been a mental year, and I've got tell you, I'm loving not having to have my camera with me all the time. I will certainly be keeping my blog...I like it. I think I will like it more when there's less expectation for regular posts like before!
Thank you for reading over the past year, and over my wonderful journey. This year is going to be an adventure of another sort, I'm sure, and I look forward to keeping you all informed.