Saturday, February 4, 2012

Urban Adventures

Urban Adventure in downtown Vancouver

Have you ever gone on an urban adventure?  They are fun, cheap and easy to plan.  The idea is to explore a big city in a different way.  Challenge yourself by travelling without using your own vehicle.  Or pick a ethnic food and seek out authentic restaurants.  You could also take in festivals and events that in the past, you may have overlooked. If you live in the big city you may not find the idea of urban adventures all that exciting.  The hustle and bustle of constant traffic and people are probably a nuisance and not something you wish to seek out.  I understand, I too used to live in a big city and took every opportunity possible to escape it.  What if I had explored the city these ways?  I probably would have been amazed with what I saw and experienced.  Realizing that urban adventures are just as fun as the outdoor ones!

Living on Vancouver Island makes our choice for big city adventures obvious and easy. Vancouver, BC! Really, how can you not find urban adventures here fabulous!  It is the third most livable city in the world after all.  To have an urban adventure you need to have a reason.  What better reason than a parade?  How about a parade that attracts 30,000 people to downtown Vancouver’s Chinatown for the Chinese New Year celebrations? Just for fun let’s do it using public transit!  Sounds like the perfect urban adventure to me!


Ben and Liv are always thrilled and excited when they learn we are heading over to Vancouver.  I love how they have embraced our adventures.  Or it could be the fact they get to unload their piggy banks at the arcade on the ferry ride from Nanaimo to Vancouver; or the multiple bus rides and ticket holding required getting from point A to point B; or getting to ride escalators and hop on the sky train.   

Whatever it is, they love it and that is all that matters.  The adventure for me is getting out of my comfort zone.  As a child and even up until now, riding public transit was never part of my life.   Navigating the bus schedules and routes is foreign to me.  Add the challenge of trying to differentiate between the Canada Line, Expo Line and Millennium Line and what bus to take when and where leaves this rural Alberta born and raised girl looking like a deer caught in the head lights.  This is really no different from me reading a MOMAR map! (Google it)  Thankfully my adventure partners humour me as I attempt to understand north from south.  They continue on and eventually I follow them to the next bus stop or train station.  This is really no different when racing in MOMAR!

Chinese New Year parade urban adventure recap:

8:30am – Walk on the ferry from Departure Bay in Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver.  (No cars allowed on urban adventures) If arriving close to sail time, I recommend grabbing coffee on the ferry rather than the terminal to avoid the 100 yard dash up the loading ramp. The crew would appreciate it.

10:30am – Arrive at Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver and follow the herd of people trying to all exit the ferry at the same time.  Be sure to convince the children to use the washroom before docking because you never know when you will be near another washroom.

11:00am – Board the Horseshoe Bay Express 257 bus to downtown Vancouver, along with the same herd of people we followed off the ferry.  Because we were polite and did not push our way off the ferry, we board the bus with standing room only.  Bus ride is just over half an hour and everyone is getting off at the same stop as us.  FUN!  I remind myself I am being a role model for my children at this point.
11:30ish am – Get off the bus with the herd of other people.  Come on people, where are your line up manners?!?!  The kids are more polite than half the transit users!  Deep breaths.   Now we begin to walk around dazed and confused, looking at the transit schedule on our smart phone, reading signs, try to figure out where the sky train terminal is and which one to use.  All while containing the children at arms length, explaining why there are people sleeping on the sidewalks, and trying to find a washroom to use (because I did not follow my own advice) as I explain what a homeless person is.  Can you say multi task?  Oh, and throw in there some snack breaks, rummage thru back pack for mitts, put mitts back, and find precious dolly.

15 mins later…Still walking but add some escalators (free midway rides for the kids) as we finally arrive at the sky train station.  Once again, follow the herd of people (some now familiar) into the train.  By this point, I am tired of people and line ups and drag the children onboard with me.  This is the reality of using transit kids! To my delight, it is standing room only… AGAIN! 

Noon - Once arriving on the parade route, I anticipate relaxation and reprieve from people! Oh wait, not quite.  Now I must repeat a few of the challenges.  Navigate to washrooms and convince everyone to go at the same time, me included.  More snack break, more mitts on, mitts off.  Where did dolly go? 

2:00pm – Parade complete.  Everyone is starting to get cold from standing in the rain so it seems the perfect time to head over to the International Village.  Embrace the Chinese culture.  Apparently the other 30,000 people thought that was a great idea as well.  Can’t say I have ever experienced crowds like that before.  At least not in recent memory. 

4:00 pm – I am starting to get used to the flurry of activity but not enough to want to stick around.  Time to put the urban adventure in reverse and travel back the way we came.  More line ups, more sky trains, and more bus rides.  New are the buskers performing at various bus stops.  A nice distraction.  We are fortunate to get to sit for the bus ride back to the ferry terminal.  Getting back home can not come soon enough.

7:30pm – Home at last!  Would I do it all over again…. Absolutely!

What would your urban adventure look like?

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