Vancouver, British Columbia
Martina: …Bitch. Fortunately mine and Catherine’s respective charms united in one beautiful moment, and enabled us to make our connection and return to Canada.
Once in Vancouver I was relieved to discover that at our absurdly cheap $9 a night accommodation (booked by Catherine as a recompenser to our Seattle sponger) was not just a cardboard box hastily erected over some sleeping bags, but a real, bona-fide fully-bricked building.
Upon entering, it soon became apparent that the man in charge of the hostel had the faintest whiff of body odour about him, a smell which nicely complemented the general whiff of the place. Handwritten notes adorned the walls, such as ‘THERE ARE FRIENDLY PEOPLE IN THIS HOSTEL. DO NOT HAVE SEXX IN THE ROOMS. HAVE SEXX IN THE SEXX ROOM’ (…the aforementioned Sexx Room being where I inadvertently showered the next day). Unfazed, we went upstairs to our dorm, where we discovered stained sheets and pillows, and a potentially thigh-gashing metal edge on Catherine’s bed frame.
We decided on a quick escape, so headed out for some food. After fantasising all day about the luxurious fish lunch we were going to devour as our first treat in Vancouver, we eventually settled on a 6-inch Subway in a downtown food court.
Catherine: Thus nourished, we jumped on a bus to Stanley Park where Martina had one of her now traditional afternoon naps whilst I ‘covertly’ filmed a middle aged Japanese woman doing some exercises. This exercise was lunging and then waddling like a penguin to the nearest tree and back. I thought I was doing a good job at being a secret voyeur, but um, I think she saw me. In fact, she did see me and then scurried off.
Once Martina had awoken, we engaged in a mini-sports day of a sprint around the trees and picnic benches and then the long jump and triple jump. We decided this manic burst of sport might make up for our weeks of over-indulgence.
Martina: In the evening, we ended up on Davie St, which is the gay area of Vancouver. We had a cocktail and some lovely tasting beer in the first bar we frequented; being the geeks we are, we enjoyed a light round or two of the game Yahtzee.
Catherine: Afterwards, we headed for an (you guessed it) all-you-can-eat buffet, this time in the form of an Indian.
Martina: Heavy with food and ale, we sloped back to the hostel, realising how whiffy our dorm was upon entering. Think the most smelly feet in the world, but on a man with forty legs. Horrific. We rested in a haze of stink with the mattress coils perilously close to escaping from their dirty bed haven and penetrating our vulnerable flesh.
Catherine: Deciding to take a break from the city, the next day we jumped on the Sea Bus to North Vancouver and to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. (Recommended by the Iron Lady Mrs Thatcher – apparently she loved it so much, she went twice. Now that’s an endorsement you can’t ignore.)
Martina: Hmm. Due to a childhood fear of bridges (it was only relatively recently that I succeeded in mastering the 7m high footbridge in my hometown - a fear I have only known to constrain one other adult, my grandmother’s mentally troubled friend Sylvia), I was somewhat nervous about this treat.
Catherine: The Booth crept her way along the wooden bridge, buttocks firmly clenched and forcing a tight smile from her mouth. But she did make it...
Martina: …to the other side of the bridge, with a wonderful forest area where we had lots of fun, concluding our time there by dutifully collecting all of our stamps in our Capilano passports in order to pick up a certificate by a nice woman endorsing us as brave souls who had conquered the bridge.
Thus buoyed up with a somewhat smug sense of courage (and why, I don’t know - another ‘grown-up’ that I caught stamping her passport had a fishy smell of embarrassment about her), we took the bus up to our next physical challenge, Grouse Mountain, where you have to take a cable car up to the mountain and its activities.
Catherine: The weather had other ideas and it was foggy up the mountain, so we decided to wait until it might be clearer. We settled for Plan B which was a trip to Lynn Valley - inspired by the woman who thrust Martina from her loins – Mrs Lynn Booth.
Martina: Having spotted a warning sign on the bus there, I had a passing fear of being attacked by a massive bear, but this soon abated when I became engrossed by the very blunt “Welcome” boards at Lynn Valley, which detailed the vast array of ways you could hypothetically drown whilst enjoying your visit there.
I soon developed a rabid hunger, so thus we made our way back to the bus-stop. Back on Davie St, we went to a quaint little Mongolian place which allowed you to be the master of your own grubbular destiny (picking your own raw ingredients and sauces, and then handing it the chef at the front of the house, who BBQ’s in a matter of seconds.)
Catherine: I had high hopes of my culinary mixing skills, but alas, failed miserably. I had three valiant attempts, but none would win me a Michelin Star methinks.
Martina: Once more, the Martina Love Bus™ carried on rattling through North America, this time seducing the BBQ chef, who insisted on slobbering all over my hand as I left the restaurant. He probably violated at least two public health codes on the way.
Catherine: Naturally, I was insanely jealous that Martina was getting all the action. But this rivalry was soon forgotten over a pint or two, where I filled Martina in on the finer points of The O.C’s plotlines (it was playing in the bar).
Martina: Yes, I’m always about ten years behind such cultural events – hence one of my “new reads” on the holiday being Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Catherine: The rest of the night was uneventful, save for the nutter sharing a dorm with us who woke us up a number of times in the middle of the night, sitting bolt upright in bed and shouting “Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god!” In the morning, we both woke and glanced over at her, and saw her lying down but staring straight back.
Martina: We shall return to this oddity-ball later… I woke up on day three in Vancouver and headed to the shower. While I was showering, my body was shocked by a large opera explosion which appeared to be occurring directly outside of the shower room.
As I carried on scrubbing away (that smelly feet smell! It was deathly), I overheard a man speaking to a girl who was brushing her teeth next to a soggy bucket filled with water the colour of an old man’s death. He appeared to be solemnly explaining the reason for the music, but what with all the bad air molecules whooshing around, it was difficult to eavesdrop and catch his drift.
On the way back to the dorm I noticed a dusty, yet very-present sound system which had been erected all over the rather large hostel, and it was this which was pounding out the opera. It later dawned on us that the music had been playing in homage to Luciano Pavarotti, who had passed away that morning, but to us, it served to add another string to the hostel’s owner rather eccentric bow.
Catherine: We ate egg soldiers at the café next to the dorm and then returned to Grouse Mountain to try again. Martina resumed her clenched-buttock position for the ascent up the mountain in the cable car, but soon found it to be a doddle. I then made sure we hot-footed it over to the ‘world-famous’ lumberjack show. This is essentially two ex-lumberjacks (now amateur actors) putting on a little display of wood cutting and tree climbing linked by a very flimsy plot.
Martina: Boy, it was wooden.
Catherine: I loved it! We then went to admire the views, and managed to sit by a lovely fresh pile of bear poo.
Martina: Later as we pigged out in the café, Catherine got ridiculously star-struck when she spotted the lumberjack actors behind us, even going so far to put her sunglasses on to have a ‘discreet’ stare. She looked like a right wally, I tell you. That girl does not do subtle!
Catherine: As it was our last night n' all, we got quite drunk in an Irish bar…
Martina: …where an annoying British man gave us 50p…
Catherine: …Then we had a meal on Davie St before drinking whisky and coke in a bar near the hostel.
Martina: Back in the room, I soon had reason to press charges of ‘common assault’ against the aforementioned arch-nemesis nutter-girl, who screeched “WHO ARE YOU? WHO ARE YOU?” in my face as I was trying to quietly close the door. I was frightened – she could have been armed. As Catherine wet herself on her bed, I had to spend an anguished few seconds attempting to placate the girl that I was indeed a legitimate human being.
Catherine: This still makes me chuckle.
Martina: Upon waking the next day in the top bunk, I was very hungover and sleepy. A half-jokingly uttered comment from Catherine - “come to mummy”, said with arms outstretched, was the only prompting I required to tumble from the bunk into my friend’s arms, disrobing her towel-adorned legs at the same time. Thankfully for Catherine, my eyes and head were too groggy for register her sudden flash, so her dignity remained intact.
As I was in no real fit state to do anything, I left the checking out stuff for Catherine to do while I spent some productive time gazing at the newspaper article-addled wall. Suddenly, I noticed a piece which explained that our pungent, Pavarotti-admiring hostel owner was also a renowned reggae fan, who had gone in the ‘80s to the Caribbean to record a dub reggae version of Il Canto Degli Italiani, the Italian National Anthem. Wonders never cease!
Catherine: Our last morning in North America saw a return to our traditional breakfast of either cheese omelette, hash brown and toast (Martina) or pancakes (myself). This time however, we ate in a Chinese/Canadian joint called ‘Smile’. Never before had I seen Chow Mein and pancakes and maple syrup on the same breakfast menu. We furthered our culinary tour with sushi at lunch and then headed to the airport. Barring a stinky man sitting behind us, we had a super flight home and scored another free meal. Top stuff.
words and pictures: Catherine Bolsover and Martina Booth