Trying to pick the highlights from a fortnight with our friends in Vancouver is incredibly tough. We managed to pack so many things into a short space of time, it's amazing we didn't exhaust ourselves, or Ravi and Sunny. Maybe we did, and I have since slept.
Arriving on a Boltbus in the centre of Vancouver, we met Ravi at his work and dropped our bags off before wandering around the centre. Gilly found some outdoor cushions outside the Vancouver Art Gallery and had a nap.
Ravi works in an office where he is highly regarded.
The signs change regularly. At last glance, he was known as "The 'IT' guy". The quotes are deliberate - like Chandler Bing, no-one is actually sure what he does. Still, he finished work and this obviously meant "pub", so we obliged. My first cider in ages went down smoothly, and there was a fantastic view to top it off. We also introduced Ravi to calamari. We didn't find out until after we'd ordered and eaten that he'd never had calamari in his life before. I consider it "giving something back".
Ravi and Sunny's house is based in Surrey, and is huge. Three storeys huge. They have an entire basement which is essentially a self-contained apartment in itself. It's also beautiful. We were treated like VIPs for our entire stay, and it was wonderful.
They cooked us some pasta, and it was washed down by wine and some whisky that Ravi kept locked away. From memory, I think it was Crown Royal, but Sunny believed it was hidden away for the health of the guests. I actually thought it was pretty good.
The next day we had to head to Home Depot on the way home, and they were gearing up for Halloween. Obviously you can't go to do chores without a reward; ours was a cupcake shop where Gilly almost passed out from the excitement of too much choice.
White Rock was next on the agenda. This is a nearby city, but we went to see the beach which has - incredibly - a white rock on it. In BC, they keep the etymology simple.
Sculptures are a big thing in White Rock. Many are abstract, some leave it up to your imagination.
I try not to have many regrets in life, but one of them was Wings. This is a restaurant that serves wings. Who'd have thought? The regret wasn't having wings, but not opting for the mental megadeath spicy wings or "The Bobby Wing". They are apparently so hot that they come with a release form you have to sign before eating them. We were told - and this may be urban legend - that after trying one, one guy immediately rushed out and dived into the sea to try and cool himself down. I'm not sure the biology of this stands up to logic, but you have to admire the drama.
I wanted them, but bailed in the end and went for some slightly less spicy ones which packed a punch on their own. When we visit again though, the Bobby Wing will be conquered, and I may either succeed or end up floating face down in the sea. Maybe that's where "Bobby" came from.
Ravi had been able to take some time off to spend with us in the week, but Sunny was working pretty much full time so we tried to make the most of our evenings with her. Dinner came courtesy of Tasty Indian Bistro which, like White Rock, lived up to its name.
The next day involved bicycles. I hadn't ridden a bike since Cambodia. I am not good on bikes. Cycling around Stanley Park was an experience. It's illegal to not wear a helmet in Vancouver when you're on a bike (rightly so) and luckily the Stanley Park circuit has a dedicated lane so I was in no danger of running anyone over.
The park is filled with totems, monuments, a nine o'clock gun, a beacon, figureheads, and a girl in a wetsuit representing Vancouver's dependence on the sea. It's also a great place to cycle around when the weather is nice, and it was glorious that day. One minor near-miss came when I almost got hit by a local pelting along behind me, screaming at me to get out of the way. He wasn't wearing a helmet. I'm sure he will be fine in later life.
Of course, we can't forget the swings. I thought Gilly would avoid playgrounds since the events of Sunglassesgate, but thankfully she got back on the wagon.
Lunch came courtesy of Lanna Thai, which was filling but forgettable. Taking a stroll up towards the Vancouver Convention Centre, we came across the Digital Orca:
Not far from the VCC is Gastown, Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood. One of the draws for tourists is a clock that lets off steam every hour. It's as exciting as it sounds.
We carried on along to the Chinatown district which houses, amongst other things, the Jack Chow building - the world's shallowest commercial building. This refers to its narrowness rather than its superficiality, but it's always good to clarify as you can never tell what some buildings think of you.
A delicious homecooked meal was provided by Ravi's lovely parents who we visited in the evening. In fact, everyone we met in Vancouver was lovely. It's a lovely place with lovely people.
I also enjoyed having beer thrust into my hand at every given opportunity. It's something I could definitely get used to.