That’s probably the best way to describe the last 24hrs, or 31st or May. Before we even made it to Melbourne Int. Airport we’d been keeping pretty irregular hours, we were tired and anticipated only a couple hours of sleep between leaving home and actually going to the airport. So add on to that 18hrs worth of flying and hanging around in airports and you’ll start to get the idea of our level of tiredness (as I type this J is snoring away, either that or issuing some sort of audio/volume challenge to the construction dozers down the street!) and general fatigue. But really, that’s just cutting a long story short, and really, where’s the point in that?
We checked-in at MEL around 04.30 (AEST), discovering en route that my combination lock had siezed and permanently locked my bags shut, and were pleasantly surprised by being offered an ‘upgrade’ to an earlier flight. By ‘pleasantly surprised’ I’m really say ‘absolutely elated!’, as we were somewhat concerned about the change over timing at SYD. Instead we had 2hrs to wander (and make our first trip purchase) in the duty free, plus get a drink and relax, instead of racing to catch a transfer from domestic to international, run through customs and panic through the mile long hike to the second last departure gate! What a relief! Instead we took our time and enjoyed the scenery. ‘Scenery?’ I hear you ask, and yes, scenery… whilst sitting in the transit lounge we were blessed to have been bathed in light from the presence of heaven’s gift to mankind, the living embodiment of Adonis, a twenty-something young man traveling, with his mother who we instantly dubbed Imelda, he wore pressed skinny black jeans, an equally slim fitting black jacket with a crisp white business shirt – with the buttons left open to the navel to display his manly physique – and his shoulder length black hair slicked back with the better part of a canister of Pomade. We felt bad for ‘Adonis’, obviously his future was unbearably bright, so he was forced to wear his aviator sunglasses inside, and in the midst of defending himself from the accursed sunlight, he had to juggle the overwhelming love and adoration that poured in via his iPhone, leaving Imelda to wait inline for boarding the plane.
Okay, I know that all sounds pretty harsh, and it’s a good thing no one has to worry about slipping on the pool of sarcasm, but we watched this clown for 1.5hrs as he paraded back and forth through the lounge, ignoring anyone, or thing, unless it was in his direct path whilst chatting away on his phone. When Mummy Dearest arrives he ignores her for a good 10 mins, then poses for the obligatory ‘airport lounge’ photos (with the air of nonchalance that goes with such a cool customer), then he tells Mummy to stand in line as he wants to keep talking/texting and trying to charge his phone. We honestly didn’t know what to make of this schmuck, and had we been Imelda, well, all you’d have seen of him was the Pomade skid-mark on the carpet from being kicked in the butt!
The flight however was brilliant, Air Canada many years ago was great, and it’s something they’ve maintained! From the second we sat down (in seats 19B and C), we had regular attention, great food (which for airline food feels something akin to an oxy-moron) and very minimal turbulence! What more could you ask for? Oh, and we landed nearly 30mins earlier than scheduled! Brilliant! The flight crew were very friendly and nothing was too much trouble. We were also really happy to see a good mix of ages in the crew, along with ‘comfortable’ and ‘practical’ uniforms for them, must make things much easier!
Arriving into YVR at 7am we breezed through customs (they actually laughed at us for declaring the ‘wood’ that we had, which I can’t list here because it’s a surprise) and waved us through out into the main baggage collection area. Watching the bags come ’round was funny, and it never ceases to amuse me watching people dive to retrieve a bag, only to toss it back. What makes me scratch my head though is when one individual continually does this, but grabs bags of all different sizes and colours, eventually seizing two plain black suitcases. WTF? If your bags are plain black suitcases love, why the hell did drag off someone’s pink duffle and look so disappointed when it wasn’t yours. It’s not a lucky dip darling, you don’t get to make-a-wish or take potluck?! From there we navigated our way to the hotel. Well, that’s not entirely true. You see, it had been our plan to take BCTransit in, but after such a long flight we really just couldn’t be bothered, so we grabbed spots on the next available Aeroshuttle (we had to wait 45mins, but that was all the excuse I needed to sample a 20oz Vanilla Latte from Tim Hortons), the shuttle however was an experience and a half! The driver, who we forgot to get the name of (or maybe we didn’t and we’re simply protecting his identity) was an ex-advanced tactile driving instructor and we were again blessed to be given a private lesson, including laying some rubber and doing fishtails in the Sheraton dropoff-zone. K hooting and hollering egging him on, J wishing it would stop so she could get out and kiss the solid, non-moving, ground beneath her feet.
After a few rounds of laughter, thanks and promises to recommend him we made our way into the hotel and were once again pleasantly surprised to find that even though it was 10am, we were given the key to our room and wished a quiet nap and happy stay. Well, when you’re greeted like that, it’s hard not to! The room was… better than I’d expected. From the reviews we’d seen we were expecting it to be a bit rough, for the wifi to be hit-and-miss and honestly that would have been okay. We were tired, so as long as it was clean that was fine. But no. The room is spacious, separated walk-in-robe, coffee making facilities (not your average freeze dried crap, no, proper filter coffee if you like it) and a full bathroom. The bed is soft and comfy, pillows firm but accommodating, a 30″ LCD tv with cable and A/C. Wow! So much for the crap reviews, the Sandman Hotel (City Centre/Downtown) is great! Couldn’t ask for better! We’ve already given in partially to the tiredness and had a short nap before heading out onto the day’s checklist of things we HAD to do. Oh, and of course, breaking out my Leatherman ‘Wingman’ and hacking off the over zealous combination bag lock! Already justified in having packed that!
A 20min walk later and we’re at the Pacific Central Station to collect our Amtrak Rail Passes. Well, what a hoot! For those that know the story, Rail Plus in Australia whose business it is to book/sell international rail tickets had by and large been pretty unhelpful to deal with and we’d been a little on the apprehensive side before we left. So you can imagine our humour/annoyance/frustration/incredulity when standing at the counter and the poor lady, B*, from VIA Rail stares blankly at the computer and says ‘I don’t know what it’s doing and it won’t let me print the tickets. You have paid haven’t you?’ Yeah. K kept her cool and didn’t lose it, J was slightly more stunned, but that could just be the extreme exhaustion, but together the three of them did battle with the wretched system, and with some help from the higher-ups and a well placed call to Amtrak, eventually sorted it all out. Once you understood the system it made perfect sense… if you were deaf, dumb, blind and from Jupiter! We felt terrible that we were causing so much distress to B* as she was still in training.
Returning the way we’d walked we made our way to Robson and Granville, to Future Shop, where K was let loose in the technology section to find a wireless HD, some batteries and a SDHC card for… the GoPro! Yes, you heard it folks, we have it! Let the insanity ensue! No problems whatsoever in the store, and the guys were really helpful, even giving us suggestions on what was a better deal for phone sims for our trip, which was really nice of them considering it did them out of a sale.
So as Day 1 draws to a close, and Day 2 rapidly approaches (ugh, have to get up at 4am AGAIN!) we’re happily ensconced in our room, about to eat our first meal in the Northern Hemisphere, an amazing selection from Ursu Korean BBQ, and see if the tv programming is any better here than it is back in Australia. Not really sure if it’s physically possible for it to be worse.
So for now we’ll wish you all a good night, or day if you’re back in the Land Downunder!