The good thing when family comes to visit is not just familiar faces bringing stories from home, and this trip in particular, cousin Diana schlepping in 4 kg of kopi Cap Karpal Tanker (ooohhhh yummie), but that I actually get a chance to visit the sights of Vancouver again.
After living here almost 3 years, I've gotten cynical about this city and have been gradually only concentrating on it's negatives. Like, the crazy road system, with it's wonky inbuilt frustrations every km or so and bleeding heart liberals insisting that hard earned tax-payers money is used to provide safe injection sites for the continuing of illegal drug addiction instead of finding a way to help them kick the habit. Coming from a smoothly run and fairly drug free Singapore, little things like this really began to grate.
So having the cousins visit compelled me to look for places of beauty & fun in and around Vancouver. Places that celebrated the energy & specialness of this city that butted between the foot of the Coastal Mountain range and the Straits of Georgia. And, once I relaxed my prejuidices and looked, these places weren't too difficult to find.
The Van Dusen Gardens for one is my favourite. It 's in Vancouver West and has large grounds divided into plants from different regions, lakes laced with pretty Japanese maples, a funky hedge maze and gorgeous temperate gardens. The garden is in the middle of the city yet, when you sit on the benches by the small lake,under the dappled shade of the willows, you hardly notice the city.
The trip up to Burnaby Mountain help give the girls a view of the city. From mountain to river, from the deep fjiords to the open ocean. Also there were the funky totems donated to the city of Vancouver by a sister city in Japan.
The problem with being a tour guide is that although you can control the itineiry, you can't really control the weather. So, for most of the time the cousins were here, we had the wet & grey Vancouver is fairly famous for. Still, that didn't stop us tough & intrepid sight-seers who picked the wettest day for a hike up Lynn Canyon somewhere in between some of the North Shore Mountains.
The suspension bridge alone was well worth the visit, and that's not counting the spectacular waterfall you get to see while standing in the middle of the bridge. The 20 minute hike to Rice Lake was, however, a disappointment (for me at least). BC hydro was working on a big water treatment plant there and the trail led past it.
Still, by the time we got to the smallish deserted lake, the sky had dried up , at least for a bit, and the view of the lake that unfolded before us was quite magical.
Not too bad for a city of over two million, to be able to feel like you are alone in the wilderness by taking juts a 20 minute hike.