We’ve returned from our exploratory trip to British Columbia. For ten days we stayed with my friend Cindy and her family in her home in Chilliwack. Chilliwack, other than it being a 70’s band’s namesake, also happens to be a beautiful little town in the Fraser River Valley.
Chilliwack is crowned by a ring of snowcapped mountains. Other than the first couple of days, which were rainy, the weather behaved itself quite nicely for most of the rest of our visit, the clouds breaking up to provide bouts of sunshine-y goodness for our enjoyment.
The city center is like many modern day small town centers – always in the process of being re-vitalized but never quite making it back to its former (and rightly due) splendor. We walked up and down along one of the main downtown arteries, Wellington Ave., where many of the town center shots for the television series Eureka are filmed. The filming crew apparently shuts a segment of the street down to vehicular traffic though they allow foot traffic through the set in between shoots. Unfortunately, we were unable to witness the amazing transformation of “Main St.” as they were not filming any episodes during our visit.
We did, however, get acquainted with the wonderful used bookstore The Book Man, and its friendly red tabby cat. The bookstore is purportedly a favorite stop for the cast and crew of Eureka in between takes, and I can certainly understand its appeal. There were aisle upon aisles of books in all manner of disciplines, and a few little nooks and crannies with comfortable seating in which to test drive your finds. Your warm lap is all that’s needed in order to entice the shop’s feline companion to sit a spell with you. While in town during this visit, we also happened upon a hobby stop on Mill Street, where Gabriel picked out a couple of model airplane kits to build. The owner also graciously allowed Gabriel and Christel to drive a couple of slot cars around a most impressive track (that he built himself), which takes center stage in the small shop. There are modest expansion plans in the near future, involving the tearing down of some walls for additional space.
On the Saturday after our arrival, we took a walk down a snowy trail to the shores of Chilliwack Lake, which was partially frozen. The boys found much amusement in tossing rocks, large and small, onto the lake’s frozen surface, as well as breaking off chunks of ice and hurling the pieces onto the lake.
It was cool outside but not terribly so, and with the sun out we were quite comfortable. We drove back along the road some and stopped along a river. Cindy had packed a cooler for a picnic, and after toiling for a while to get a fire going in one of the grates at one of the picnic areas, we finally roasted some hot dogs and marshmallows.
We went home smelling of fresh air and firewood. My mom used to say that if they figured out a way to bottle the scent of coffee, she would wear it as a perfume. I feel much the same way about the smoky scent of a wood fire.
On another visit into the town center, Cindy and I had lunch and tea at Apeldoorn’s on Mill Street. This quaint little tearoom served up a variety of tea brews as well as a three-tiered tower of crustless finger sandwiches and sweet treats. We picked the Vicar’s Blend and Earl Grey Cream for our tea selections… both were delicious. We arrived after noon and it was still bustling with clientele, almost all of the tables were filled as guests took their turns at sampling and sipping the fare.
During this particular visit, Cindy and I also stepped into some of the little gift shops along Wellington St. and I was able to find some souvenirs to bring back for family and friends. Our final stop was at Klassic European Deli, a deli specializing in … you guessed it … European goods. We picked up some coldcuts, breads, specialty chocolates and cookies and a half dozen Kinder Eggs, which apparently American children are too stupid to eat without choking on the small parts, so they don’t sell them here and it is Gabriel’s personal mission to consume as many of them as possible while we visit Canada. We soon discovered that all the meats and breads were very tasty as we made sandwiches using our newly purchased foods for dinner that evening.
Cindy and her husband Alex are both very fortunate to be able to find employment in the job sectors which hire in Chilliwack, and are able to make quite a decent living to boot. Many inhabitants, though, appear to commute to other areas, including all the way to Vancouver. Perhaps as the economy perks up, so will the business opportunities mount in the outlying areas. I went for a job interview into Vancouver and it took us two hours to get to the far end of West Vancouver (by UBC) with access to the carpool lane. I figure it would take another half hour, at the least, to scale that distance driving solo. I personally think that would constitute a form of self-torture… if I find work in Vancouver, we’ll be living a lot closer to the city… or in the city.
On the day of our Vancouver visit, we also stopped at Granville Island, had some clam chowder, salmon burgers and fish ‘n chips for lunch, and walked around a bit.
The market is huuuuuge, not that you would notice it being so from the outside. We were originally planning to visit Stanley Park as well, but it was getting to the middle of the afternoon and we were worried about getting stuck in rush hour traffic, so we decided to leave. We were all feeling a bit under the weather anyway.
We had all sorts of other plans to execute during our visit, but one of Cindy’s kid’s got sick… and then the other… and then I started feeling it and Gabriel as well… and then both Alex and Cindy… so the snowboarding trip that we’d originally planned on with the kids was abandoned, as was the Harrison Hot Springs visit. Ah well… next time.
It felt good to be “home”… I hadn’t set foot on Canadian soil since departing from my mother’s funeral in 2003. It’s been a long time, and I had felt that without my parents being alive anymore, that there wouldn’t be much incentive for me to return to live there. Oddly, I felt at peace there. It did feel like home, even if it wasn’t the same coast that I grew up on. Strangers smile and greet you when you walk by them in the street. Even though there is a limited population, I got to speak French on several occasions, both in Vancouver and in Chilliwack.
This will probably sound like weird “woo-woo” stuff, but I am sensitive to the vibes of the different places that I pass through. Even though I like the feel of L.A. (and it’s immensely different from the vibe here in the O.C., which is where we live), I really liked how Chilliwack and Vancouver felt (they were each, in turn, different). I’m looking forward to the change… to the move… to the new adventure… to coming ’round full circle… to going home.