Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"honey, your shoes need a shine"

That's what the Muslim woman hawking shoe shines and African massage at Vancouver airport yesterday called out to me, whilst shaking her head sadly. And I couldn't argue that point; after several days of almost continuous walking, the footwear was looking even more beat up than usual. "It's okay, these are my travelling shoes," I answered her. And I kept walking.

The travelling shoes are now back in the front hall closet, still scuffed up, and the memories of the final few days in Vancouver are starting to blur. But a few highlights stand out from the general feeling of exhaustion that comes with returning from a satisfying and very full trip.

There was the wander down Commercial Drive, where we stumbled upon Audiopile, the used record store that Matthew had recommended. And what a great recommendation that was; it certainly boasted one of the most extensive collection of stuff I actually wanted to buy that I have ever encountered, and well organized too. I now have a half-filled loyalty card in my wallet, so I have no choice but to make another pilgrimmage there next time, even if the farting dog is still skulking the aisles.

There were the several hours of walking Yaletown in the increasingly persistent rain and wind, which included touring an open house at a townhouse condo on a rather busy downtown street, which could be ours for a mere $725,000.00. You would think that would have prepared us to brace for sticker shock upon opening the menu when we stopped for dinner a few blocks later, but I think we were lulled into a false sense of security by the innocuous name. Bluewater Cafe does sound more like a mom and pop restaurant than an upscale eatery swarming with dozens of staff all clothed in black selling $150.00 Scotch, don't you think? The sports bar, which we settled upon after paying top dollar for a glass of wine and some edemame and making an early escape from the upscale eatery, was a welcome relief, even if there was a mini television imbedded in the mirror, tuned to basketball, in the women's bathroom.

By the time we found our hotel again, after several hours of walking, we were seasoned hoofers, and couldn't believe that couple who advised us to take a cab back to Davie Street when we realized we had been heading in the wrong direction. A cab, we scoffed, it's barely raining anymore, and what's another twelve or thirteen blocks?

With the OFKAR attending classes the next morning, I was free to meet with an old friend, and catch up on the past thirty years. Although it was astounding to me that she lives a mere three blocks from our hotel, I did find myself thinking that this was just another sign that the west end was a place I could easily call home. Of course our visit was far too short to truly cover everything we wanted to discuss, but now that I know we like to hang out in the same hood, we'll be having more of these chat and giggle sessions.

The afternoon brought a return of the monsoon, so the OKFAR, who was skipping class, and I decided this would be a perfect time to visit the aquarium without battling the crowds. Because who pays $22.00 to stand in a deluge from which the otters and dolphins are hiding? Answer: half the population of the lower mainland. But it was okay, because the ubiquitous German tourists and the dads with diaper bags were actually a nice bunch with which to bump elbows whilst gawking at Melo the otter. And the two-toed sloth, the fruit bats, and the tree frogs are always worth the trip. The stern Quadra fish kept us all in line with their baleful glares.

After a final evening spent lounging in our room wolfing down pizza and forcing Todd to eat leftover sushi, the OFKAR treated me to a farewell coffee at a little french bakery along Davie before I dropped her and her goods off at her dorm, and then Lady Garmin, with her bitch please voice and her exasperated "recalculating...", ushered me out to the airport where I offended people with my shoes.

But my scuffed up shoes and I will be back. Just wait.


Gifted Typist said...

Travel shoes should be scuffed up but I have noticed that certain other cultures/countries prize the shined shoe more than we do, maybe the person was from another culture.

mister anchovy said...

Geez, it's been a while since I've been to Van. Your post is wonderfully vivid!

pilgrimchick said...

Sounds great--I've never been there, but after seeing the Olympics this year, I am far more interested in visiting.

Todd said...

Yay! Glad you enjoyed your last morning in Vancouver - it was a pleasure to finally meet you!

And to be fair, while twelve or thirteen blocks may seem like a lot, those are really short blocks and so easy to walk.

Speaking of the shoe shine station, nobody stopped me, but that's probably because I abandoned my ratty old shoes and bought a new pair... I could almost hear one of my old pairs screaming from my luggage to be let out and treated to a good shine. Next time. :P

John Mutford said...

Those shoes deserve a glass case and special lighting.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

She was most certainly from another culture, Gifted, which could go a long way toward explaining her disgust at the state of my footwear. That and the fact that she was in the business.

Thanks, Mr Anchovy, it really is a great city for exploring by foot.

It's a beautiful place, pilgrimchick, insanely scenic and wonderfully temperate (for Canada).

The shoe shine lady must have been just beaming at you as you passed by, Todd! You are in her good books, obviously.
It was so lovely to finally meet you as well. Looking forward to the next time.
And yes, 12 blocks in downtown Vancouver is pretty small potatoes.

They think that they do too, John. They are such prima donnas.

Allison said...

Blast! I just wrote a long comment and then my computer decided to do an update and restart without warning. Damn you Bill Gates!

*fist shake*

I can't remember what I said...but glad you are home safe and sound. And go to know you have a specific shoe for Vancouver's hills now. ;)

Charlie said...

I would have taken my shoes off and had my feet shined. They need love too.

Vancouver looks insanely scenic, but it would take all of Martha's money to take me there.

I'm glad that you and the OKFAR had a nice break with friends. Now back to work.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That evil evil man!
Al, I think the key to walking Vancouver's terrain is to alternate pairs of shoes. Fresh pair and you can go another 6 hours!

I have returned my nose to the grindstone and have commenced grinding, Charlie.
Vancouver really is a lovely place, and one which Martha really should take you to sometime.

Wandering Coyote said...

I was exhausted just reading this!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It was a little bit of an excessive trip, WC, I have to admit that.