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Entering the U.S. in Vancouver airport

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Well, I headed back to the U.S after my visit to Vancouver.  For people who haven’t taken a plane from Canada to the U.S., the process is a bit unusual.  After checking in, I proceeded through duty-free shopping, and then went through immigration to the U.S.  After that, it’s U.S. customs, then [finally] checking my luggage and on to the departure gates.

I don’t remember seeing it this time, but at least once, there was a big banner saying “Welcome to the United States”, right there in the Vancouver airport.  I have to say that it felt weird.

I have to believe that, if there is an incident, the police officers who show up are Mounties, rather than U.S. agents.  And, indeed, as far as that goes, what state is Vancouver in anyway?

And I wonder if the staff who work in the stores–like Starbucks or Tim Horton’s–in the departure area are, in fact, paying U.S. income tax.  In some ways, I think that there is a certain amount of fiction in the whole process.  The stores allow me to pay in U.S. dollars, but they always give the change in Canadian funds.  And, the stores themselves are typically Canadian, rather than U.S.A.nian–Tim Horton’s rather than Dunkin’ Donuts, for example.

I suppose it’s convenient for people traveling from Canada to the U.S. to be able to fly to almost anywhere in the U.S., because the arrival airport doesn’t have to deal with customs and immigration–but really, it seems so disrespectful of Canadian sovereignty.  Yet another example of “Big Brother” not acting neighborly, I suppose.

Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Jeremy and I spent a wonderful afternoon in Van Dusen garden.  This is a 55 acre garden [about 20 city blocks] in urban Vancouver–not downtown, a mostly residential area.  The garden was established in 1975, so it has had some time to mature.

At this time of year, one of the spectacles is the laburnum walk.  [It’s on the main page of the link above.]  This is a path with trees on both sides.  At this time of year, the trees are in bloom with graceful chains of golden blossoms–think wisteria, but yellow!  And in the beds below, there are bazillions of lupine [i.e. blue bonnets].  It’s just wonderful.

Also, this is rhododendr0n season.  Van Dusen has a whole “walk” of various rhodos.  They include some colors that I haven’t seen many other places–ORANGE! and yellow…and a wonderful white with a large purple splotch.  In addition, they have some rhododendron hybrids that are fragrant!  Oh my goodness…the scent reminds me most of a spicy melon–slightly vegetable, slightly spicy, slightly floral….it’s subtle, but definite.

We continued our stroll through the Fern Dell–it’s a great time of year for ferns…the weather hasn’t gotten too hot yet, and there has been plenty of rain.  Jeremy’s garden is quite shady, so he has lots of ferns, too.  He’s quite jealous of the fact that Van Dusen can manage to grow some of the ferns that are too finicky for his garden.

We wandered off to the far end of the garden.  It’s another of our favorite spots–the meadow.  The plantings there are all grasses and meadow wildflowers–but at this time of year, they’re just getting started.  I’ll be back in Vancouver in August, and by then, it should be spectacular.

We returned by way of the waterfall–for an artificial water feature, it’s remarkably realistic.  Both Jeremy and I commented on how much it reminded us of a waterfall that we had seen last year in Tasmania.  Van Dusen Garden has some really remarkable water features.  There are a number of lakes/ponds.  Last year, toward the end of the season, we saw a staff person in one of  the ponds up to their chest and “harvesting” the water lilies that were totally clogging the surface.

One of the other charming features is a floating bridge across one of the ponds, that heads from the bamboo grove toward the exit.  It’s a wonderful spot, and I’m glad that we’re members, so we can go for a while and see what’s happening.

On the website [above] let me recommend the “Bloom Calendar”, which gives some pictures of different corners of the garden at different times of year.

The Aquatic Center in Vancouver

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
When I'm traveling, I seek out certain home pleasures.  And one of those is swimming.  I'm here in Vancouver, visiting with Jeremy.  With a little research on the web, I was able to find a great place to swim--the Aquatic ... [Continue reading this entry]