When I told my U.S. returned friends that I would be accompanying my husband who was going to Vancouever for a conference, they wished to know whether a visit to the U.S. was on our itinerary. Learning that it wasn’t, their reaction ranged from one of surprise and disbelief. “How can you be so foolish as not to include The U.S. which is not far from Canada? You don’t know what you are missing. You just have to see for yourself how the country has advanced technologically which makes an American feel justifiably proud of his country,” said they. Some went as far as saying that Canada is like a poor cousin of the affluent U.S. and its people constitute their poor cousins as they don’t own luxury cars or holiday during weekends as they do. Though I was a little cheesed off by such comments I decided to form my own opinion about the so called “Poor Cousin” of The U.S.
The first thing that drew my attention as we were making our way to the exit from the Vancouever International Airport, was the sight of two people engaged in polishing a Bronze cast which was gleaming under the lights. On closer look at what was written I learnt it was The Spirit of Haida Gwail, The Jade Canoe by the world renowned artist and carver Bill Reid who has been widely acclaimed as the pivotal force in the renewal of artistic traditions of the Haida people of British Columbia.
Nestled on Canada’s Pacific Coast Vancouever, its third largest city and the venue of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games we found is a scenic gem. The occupants of multistory office, condominium, and apartment buildings which dominate the skyline are justifiably proud as they can savour the beauties of nature viewing the mountains or sea from a multitude of windows and the requisite balcony. A walk on busy downtown streets has also its rewards as you will be treated to the sight of the Coast mountains, the splendours of Stanley Park, the waters of Burrard inlet, or all three depending upon where you are situated. A lack of freeways zigzagging about contributes a great deal in avoiding congestion in this well planned city. However it doesnot mean there is a shortage of automobiles including Limousines as people do own them even here. Public transport comprises excellent bus service and sky trains and we did most of our sight seeing traveling in their comfort.
There are several tourist attractions around Vancouever which include manmade wonders amidst wonders of nature. We decided to visit Grouse Mountain, a fifteen minute drive from the city of Vancouever over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Vancoueverites boast that given the right season, it is possible to ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon when the snow melts on Grouse Mountain! It may not be technically untrue but no Vancoueverite dares it, we were informed.
The Grouse Mountain Sky ride, an aerial tram that whisked us, 1,100 metres over the tree tops in a minute reminded us of the cable car ride we had through the rain forest in Cairns during our visit to Eastern Australia. The difference however was the nearly half a dozen cabins of the cable car accommodated four passengers in each whereas we were more than 50 in the hexagon shaped single tram referred as Gondola. We followed the elderly lady who was wheeled into it and we all returned her greeting. Over a brief conversation she said she was fond of traveling and seeing places (I was amazed at the facilities in foreign countries offered for the disabled to travel in comfort). In Cairns we passed through Eucalyptus trees on the ascent while here the ascent was lined with a thick growth of Cedar, Hemlock and Douglas. We peeped out through the enclosed glass and were mesmerized by what we saw—-ships sailing in the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean appearing like small boats from a distance on one side and cone shaped trees rising to the sky on the other. We alighted on the Mountain top and walked along the mountain path and could watch the melting snow, pure and white as ever enjoying the picturesque surroundings to reach the venue of the world famous Lumber Jack show. We found it was a show of “Birds in Motion” where rare and endangered birds of various size and colour flew out of their cages and perched themselves on the demonstrator’s palm for her to parade them one after another in front of us accompanied by a running commentary regarding their classification, characteristics and lifestyle. After the exhibit they flew away only to present themselves to the audience, coming close within our hands’ reach perhaps for us to admire but none of us even dared to touch these attractive winged creatures! Later they flew back to their respective hideouts. This fascinating show would certainly have delighted an Ornithologist, I felt. I returned with the thought that the name of the Mountain probably had some relation to the Game bird which bore the same name. After tasting a sample of Vancoueverites’ hospitality towards visitors and guests I concluded that Canada is certainly not the “ poor cousin” or its people the “ poor cousins” of the “affluent” Americans .
N.Meera Raghavendra Rao