About a year ago I visited Canada for the first time. But I didn’t just get to visit Canada, I had actually won a trip to Vancouver, which for me, is unheard of. I am a fairly unlucky person. Take me to bingo, the racetrack, or anywhere involving gambling or prizes, and you will see that I do not have the luck of the Irish, despite what my genetics say.
But As Luck Would Have It…
The story of how I won the trip is pretty interesting in itself: I go to Pride every year in June. Two years ago I was at PrideFest in New York City, which is always my favorite event because you get to walk around the Village and just get a crapload of free stuff and meet people. At one of the booths, if you signed up for a raffle to win a trip to Vancouver, you got a free pen. I wanted that pen. I had literally no hope or belief that I would have any chance in hell of winning. I just wanted SWAG. So I signed up. Smash-cut to 8 months later and I receive an email entitled “Tourism Vancouver Congratulates You!”. I have no idea why I didn’t delete it unread. I assumed it was spam. But for some reason, I opened it. I read it. And my jaw dropped. I had won two free plane tickets to Vancouver, a stay in a hotel for the weekend, a walking tour, and dinner for two at one of the nicest restaurants in town. Naturally, at first I assumed this was some kind of scam and at some point I would be asked to donate an organ or they would want a credit card number for “insurance”. But after further investigation it turned out it was actually legit, and I finally remembered signing up for such a prize back at Pride. I was super excited and proceeded to plan the trip, asking my best friend to come along for the ride. For the first time in 26 years, I had won something.
Okay, I Could Live Here
There have been three times in my life where I was able to picture myself living somewhere other than NYC (my hometown and the place I thought I would never actually leave). The first was when I went to Austin, Texas for SXSW (a story for another time). The second was Vancouver. (And the third was Milwaukee but again, that’s a story for another time.) Vancouver is right next to the water, but is also surrounded by mountains. It’s a city, but it has an artsy, relaxed vibe. I loved it. On our walking tour we got to see a lot of Gastown, and other historic areas of the city. I loved that it was a big city but it was plopped right in the middle of some pretty impressive nature too. It was the best of both worlds.
Holy Crap, We’re Up High
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a bridge crossing over the Capilano River. Specifically, 230 feet above the river. The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s very high, very terrifying, and very awesome. The bridge (because it’s suspension) shakes slightly and sways back and forth as hundreds of people walk across it every day but the views are so insanely beautiful that it’s worth the anxiety attack. The great part about the Cap Bridge is that it’s not just you wandering across a bridge into a forest: there’s also a Treetop Adventure section that makes you feel like a squirrel, and the Cliff Walk, which is very intense and built into the face of the mountain. If you are ever in Vancouver, do this. Seriously, it’s 100% worth it, and you can take a bus there.
The Food Though
There are over 150 weed dispensaries in Vancouver. It’s like the Amsterdam of Canada. This means it has excellent food. One of my prizes was a dinner for two at CinCin, a very fancy restaurant. I was slightly nervous about this prize since I am vegetarian and I have several horror stories of being served ridiculous or disgusting vegetarian options. I did not have to worry. The food I ate at CinCin was some of the best food I’ve ever had. My best friend is well-versed in excellent dining (she frequents Gramercy Tavern as often as she can) and she was thoroughly impressed too. Besides that, Vancouver treated us to delicious poutine, excellent diner breakfast food, and some…interesting snacks.
The Vancouver Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in North America. It’s very dedicated to animal conservation and their exhibits are well thought out and immersive. Plus, they have animal encounters. You can meet penguins, dolphins, and seals. But we had eyes for no others; we wanted the sea otters. In a truly magical experience, my best friend and I got to go behind the scenes, into the sea otter exhibit, and feed them. Basically we stood on a rock and tossed them squishy dead sea things but it was amazing. Sea otters have this adorable armpit pouch where they stick their food so they can gather as much of it as possible. Then they float on their back and go HAM. We weren’t able to take our phones into the exhibit with us but I snapped some photos of our new favorite animal after. I have a serious weakness for aquariums and this was hands down the best one I have been to yet.
All in all, visiting Vancouver with my best friend was a wonderful adventure, and one that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Pride. Just another reason for me to love that fabulous holiday. (Pride is a holiday for me, FYI. It’s just as important to me as Christmas and Halloween.) And the best part is, I probably never would have gone to Vancouver otherwise. It’s on the West coast so it’s far, and the plane tickets are awfully expensive, way too much for me to afford currently. Plus, it wasn’t a place that had even been on my radar and I ended up really loving it. It makes me anxious to travel more, because there’s so many other places that I don’t think about or know about that I would probably enjoy too. So thank you Pride, thank you Tourism Vancouver, and thank you sea otters. You are the true heroes.