Part of the beauty of traveling is being able to remember where you went, what you did there and most important of all, who accompanied you on the trip. It doesn’t matter whether it was a local trip, a long weekend with friends, or a plane ride that entailed 18 hours of travel. You want to remember the tastes, the colours, the textures. In other words, if there was a way to solidify a memory and the experience itself, then the best way is to write about it, complete with pictures if you must.
The day after we got back from Vancouver last July 11, I wanted to sit in front of my laptop and just write about the experience. I was telling my husband I wanted to pour into words all that I saw, all that transpired, well, maybe not all. Maybe a little editing would help, because who wants to remember the unpleasant encounters that are bound to happen even when you try to be at your best behaviour.
This was our third Vancouver visit. We first went there in 2001, driving through the mountains, arriving in the cloak of night. I was enamoured of the scenery, but after awhile, I had seen enough evergreens and I was ready to be back in civilization again.
We were crammed into a hot vehicle, and were going to attend the wedding of my husband’s youngest brother. On our second trip in 2005, my husband searched for the best hotel on the web. The fact that he’s so used to surfing the web for services, for places to visit or even to book a lodge or a hotel attested to his good taste so I knew we were in good hands. He booked us into a hotel along S.E. Marine Drive. I even saw the online booking, the reviews, and the pictures of the hotel, so I could say I went along with his decision.
I was so wrong! I should have filed a report about Quality Inn. Quality Inn, which is along Southeast Marine Drive is one of the seediest hotels I have ever seen, and I am telling you this because the online pictures were so pretty, so very unlike what we saw when we got there.
Marine Drive is not the best address in Vancouver, but we learned this too late. Judging by the people that loitered around the hotel, the basement parking manned by a half-naked man, I had a feeling everything was going downhill from there. From the lobby, the carpet on the hallway leading to our room reeked of strong perfume (it was as if they had doused the carpet to hide whatever sins it might expose). More dismal news in our room: from the carpet, the box a/c on the wall seemed to be on its last legs, spurting and coughing, but no air. The room was hot. Our view from the window was of the parking lot. I checked the washroom; the towels looked even more suspicious. The beddings definitely needed washing. Even without saying so, my husband began leafing through the yellow pages, checking out other hotels. No luck. This was summer 2005; Vancouver was packed with tourists from out-of-town. We ended up staying with my husband’s brother and his family in Richmond, but not before being told by the hotel personnel that we had to pay even if we didn’t stay. Lesson learned: Don’t believe everything you see on the web. If you know someone who has stayed in a hotel in an area where you’re traveling later, ask for advice.
Fast-forward to 2009. With the recession going on, overseas travel is out of the question. Maybe it’s a consolation that last year alone, we traveled four-five times, once each quarter. And choosing Vancouver as a week-long destination had its merits: My eldest daughter had never been there. This would be a first for her, and then, maybe, a side trip to Seattle too.
My husband went back online, surfing the web for reasonable hotel rates, this time in Richmond. At the last minute, he decided he’d go where the Philippine Airline crew stayed whenever they flew in from Manila, at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel in Richmond BC. I suppose that was okay. I mean if the PAL crew could stay there, then maybe it would have to be reasonably clean, in a good neighbourhood, where we could walk even late at night.
In past holidays, I wouldn’t even think about packing food because we could always stop and eat somewhere. This time, I packed not only non-perishable items, including the ubiquitous Adobo and Itlog Na Maalat (salted eggs) that wouldn’t go bad even in the summer heat. I just made sure to keep our dinner in a small icebox I brought along. After all, we were going on a 12 hour drive over mountains, several national parks, tunnels, small towns, and all the pee-stops along the way. And after eating burgers, fries, and downing cups of coffee, I figure we would crave adobo. I was right.
More next time.