The Great White North: Christmas 2013 in Vancouver

Since Christmas Day, I’ve been enjoying the confines of my aunt and uncle’s cozy home in Vancouver. The past six days have been utterly relaxing, fun, and time well spent with my mom, brother, cousins, and aunt & uncle. For one, I got to re-experience Christmas just like I did when I was a child, with a delicious Christmas dinner and gift-exchange by the Christmas tree. Plus it was cool exploring the area, from the suburban amenities of Richmond to the high rises of downtown Vancouver.

But the cherry on top of the cake was definitely my multi-day snowboarding trips to Cypress Mountain, an awesome ski resort best known as the location of all the freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Not surprisingly, the resort did not disappoint, with some fun runs, well groomed snow, and challenging terrain (on even some of the green runs!). We went snowboarding every other day, going a total of three times and improving drastically each time. In between, we went with the cousins to go bowling, watch movies, and eat lots of great food. In this post, I’ll highlight some of the more memorable activities we did over the holidays.

Flight

Final connection from Seattle

Final connection from Seattle

My flight to Canada was pretty smooth, with a quick stopover at Seattle for lunch in the airport. A couple of observations – it looked pretty cold and dreary outside already, and boy does Seattle love its Seahawks, with a full sports bar in the airport called the Seattle Seahawks 12 Club. I scarfed down my Burger King meal and continued onward to Canada – except I sort of cheated and landed in Bellingham, Washington, which was my final flight destination (much cheaper plane tickets, ha). My uncle was at the airport waiting for me, and after an hour-long drive and surprisingly intense 30-second interrogation at the border (the customs agent phrased his questions to indicate guilt, i.e. “what did you buy?”), we were in Richmond, Canada. Guess a lot of people try to sneak in purchased goods without declaring or paying taxes. My uncle remarked that everything in the States was cheaper, including the gas!

Christmas Dinner

Delicious turkey!!

Delicious turkey!!

After settling down at the house and waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we were seated in front of one of the most delicious turkeys I’ve laid my eyes on. It was a feast for the ages, with mashed potatoes, salad, turkey, Asian cold cut meats, and cracker cake. After Christmas dinner, we had a fun gift exchange with the cousins and took pictures with the family.

Bowling

Bowling for pizza

Bowling for pizza

Bowling was pretty typical, but one of the funniest incidents reflecting American-Canadian language differences happened here. A waitress came by and asked me what kind of pop I’d like. I think I made her repeat that question multiple times because I could not for the life of me figure out if I was hearing her correctly or if there was some sort of pop-related food. And then the twin realization set in as we burst into laughter at the exact same time. It was simple: I was one of those Americans that didn’t understand what Coke or Sprite was. I enjoyed the pop that day.

Movies

We watched a couple of rental movies, including The Lone Ranger and Man of Steel. We also went to the neighborhood movie theater, and I watched The Wolf of Wall Street with my mom while the others watched Frozen. Quick thoughts on The Wolf – very impressed and overall a great movie. I’d put it up there on Scorsese’s top films. It most closely resembled Goodfellas, which is pretty funny because of the ironic similarities between certain white-collar Wall Street stock brokers and the mob.

Gingerbread House Contest

Gingerbread houses: complete!

Gingerbread houses: complete!

The cousins paired up for a gingerbread house contest. It was my brother Alan and eight-year-old cousin Julia versus myself and twelve-year-old cousin Brian. While I thought our house was sooo much prettier, the parentals declared a tie, and we had a fun time decorating the houses and eating the decorations at the same time!

Food

Wow. Much fish. Such fresh.

Wow. Much fish. Such fresh.

I’ve decided. Regardless of place, country, or continent, there will always be good food. It’s just a matter of finding the good ones, or knowing someone that will point the way. Luckily, we had our Vancouverite aunt and uncle, who took us to some memorable restaurants, including an all-you-can-eat sushi place, pho, White Spot (baby back ribs!!), and Chinese seafood. Only place I didn’t get to try out was the famed Japadog. Next time!

Snowboarding

Snowboarding/skiing with uncle/bro/cousin

Snowboarding/skiing with uncle/bro/cousin

I recently bought a used Burton Custom snowboard off Craigslist, and this trip was the first time I was able to test it out. Long story short, this is by far one of the most stable and solid boards I’ve ridden, and one of the best snowboarding trips I’ve experienced! Over the course of three trips, I thoroughly enjoyed riding my board and improving my control on it. We started off on the green runs and gradually worked our way to the blues, but keep in mind that even the greens in Canada are equivalent to harder runs in the States. My brother and I improved exponentially during each trip. By the third trip, I had pretty solid control of the board and was getting very, very close to truly carving it and not just skidding. Still a work in progress but I’m hooked, once again! The highlight was definitely the last run of the third trip. It was getting dark and had started to snow by the time we got to the top of the mountain. The ride down was absolutely unreal – I felt like I was snowboarding in an action movie, the perfect end to an epic three days of boarding.

Exploring the City

View of Vancouver from the Waterfront

View of Vancouver from the Waterfront

Today I had the chance to ride SkyTrain (Vancouver’s rapid transit system) from Richmond all the way to the Waterfront in the downtown area. It was an overcast and cold day, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the beautiful view of the city by the water and walk around exploring the area. From the Waterfront I ventured into Gastown, Vancouver’s historical downtown best known for the Gastown Steam Clock, a large clock powered by steam from the steam grate it was built over. I also wandered among the tourists and locals around the shopping area of City Centre, taking pictures and just enjoying the sights and sounds.

Final Thoughts

Tomorrow is New Year’s and I’ll be back in San Francisco. My trip to Vancouver has been restful, fun, and most importantly time well spent with the most important people in my life – family. Signing off for 2013 and wishing everyone a Happy New Year and awesome year to come!


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