Every year since my divorce, The Boy and I have taken a wee trip. Some years have been more “wee” than other. We started with Portland for just two days when he was five, then last year, just before his sixth birthday, I took him to England for a week. My oldest friend, whom I consider virtually a sister, lives in London. We have known each other for almost 35 years. She is a very glamorous costume designer with her own IMDB page, which always thrills me to no end. She and her husband were incredibly gracious during our stay. I miss her!
While there, we did Boy-Centric Things, like riding the London Eye, which is a giant Ferris wheel on the edge of the River Thames, taking double-decker buses, riding trains, visiting the National Railway Museum, and other stuff small boys enjoy. Here, my friend, her hubby and The Boy pose as we roll over the river on the London Eye. Note how darn British hubby looks in this photo!
We visited a couple castles. This one is Bodiam Castle, which is very castle-y, don’t you think? Complete with moat. The Boy protected it from marauders using his balloon sword from our amazing antique steam train journey to the site.
But my favorite photo from that trip was taken at the Tower of London. I’ve titled it: “Oh No! Canons!”
A trip like that requires literally years of saving up, however, so this year we tried to keep things a bit simpler. The Boy professed a desire to visit our Northern Neighbor: “I’ve always wanted to see Canada,” he said, with great gravity (never mind that my ex and I took him there for a week when he was three). So off we went. Unfortunately, as Amtrak’s trains only run at bizarre hours to Canada, we were forced to drive. I figured I could fulfill a dream I’ve “always” had, which is to ride my bike around the entirety of the seawall at Stanley Park, so the bikes went on the car, and we were off.
After a quick stop in Bellingham, where we bought some books at a small local shop (that turned out to be my salvation) and ice cream in the neighborhood of Fairhaven, we cruised through the border without incident. I remembered, at the last minute, to bring a signed letter from my ex giving me permission to travel with The Boy. I didn’t need this for London (his passport is technically implied permission, as both parents must sign to get it), but the border here is very anxious about single parents transporting their kids out of the country, so we played it safe. It was a good thing we did, as the border guard was highly interrogative until I produced it.
After our check in at our hotel, we knew it was bike ride time. But first… our hotel. I chose it because, for Vancouver, it was cheap at less than $100 per night, and the location was within easy riding distance of Stanley Park. It was called The Victorian Hotel, which didn’t hurt. Patterned on a small European hotel, the rooms are not ensuite, but share bathrooms down the hall. Having traveled worldwide, I wasn’t much bothered by this. The outside of the building was a bit off-putting, as they were constructing a new set of stairs… and clearly had been for a very long time. The plywood version was already well-weathered and covered in pigeon dung. Inside, however, it was lovely. Our room was small, but nicely appointed and scrupulously clean. We were very comfy.
This photo feels trés continental to me; I’m not sure why. Must be the mellow lighting. The building was quite lovely inside, like many boutique European hotels.
Best of all, though I didn’t need to take advantage of this, The Victorian Hotel rents Pashleys. Yep, Pashley bikes. They have four or five of them in both step-through and diamond frames.
They were very nice about storing our bikes down in the basement when we weren’t riding them, right next to their Pashley fleet.
Out in the parking lot when we arrived, a couple were assembling their bikes from airline containers: they had brought them from Switzerland. It was a pretty bike-friendly place, really. We would definitely stay there again, and perhaps even rent a Pashley.
The Boy and I were antsy to get moving at this point, especially The Boy, who does not really enjoy a four-hour car ride. Not knowing the city at all, we walked our bikes along the sidewalk the first five or six blocks until we reached the start of the seawall trail. On the way back, we discovered Vancouver’s amazing system of separated riding lanes: more on this later.
The day was beautiful, and the bike lane was smooth as silk. The Boy and I stopped to watch the seaplanes take off in the bay. This was what I remember him doing when he was three, too. Some things never change.
Our ride wasn’t very long. It was late, and a couple miles was more than enough for a small boy at the end of the day. The Raleigh took a break next to some pretty flowers…
Besides, seaplane watching had to be done at both the beginning of the ride, and toward the end.
We were prepared to walk our bikes back the last six blocks, when I noticed this:
Yep, a bike traffic light! This light was for the dedicated bike lane, which was separated from traffic by a barrier. With a bit of coaxing, The Boy took to these lanes and was won over completely. “Why don’t we have these in Seattle?” he kept asking. Good question, eh? (note Canadian inflection!). We were able to get very close to the hotel this way, within a block or two. Amazing, and safe even for a wee boy on a bike. The lanes were easy to find, once we figured out the system. Street signs were labelled:
And bike lanes were clearly marked at major intersections:
This made us very excited for Day Two… Stanley Park and the Aquarium.