The Great North American Adventure

The Great North American Adventure

Spring finally arrived in Calgary and my exchange was swiftly coming to an end. To shake off any sadness I felt, we took a trip to Canmore to spend some time hiking and relaxing with some drinks, board games and friends. We took the scenic Grassi Lakes Trail, which was still covered in snow and it was a lovely finally foray (for now) into Alberta’s scenery.

Vancouver

After an emotional goodbye to the city which had become my home for almost a year, we arrived in Vancouver. We quickly felt at home by the ocean and it was strange to be on the other side of the rockies. We wandered around downtown, soaked up the spring and encountered some intriguing Canadian artwork.

We took a trip to Granville Island and Kitsilano Beach, where we puttered around the market and soaked up the sun. We headed out up North to Whistler, stopping at the glorious Shannon Falls, through Squamish and admiring the mountain views on our cloudless day.

It was a treat to explore Stanley Park, looking at otters in the bay and admiring the wildlife. It helped me pinpoint that one of my favourite things about Vancouver is how easy it is to jump between the bustle of downtown and the glorious escape of nature.

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Seattle

Even Seattle was my first experience of the United States, the city’s vibe was similar to that of Vancouver and the West Coast at large. We were welcomed by glorious rays and an evening of dim sum and adventure planning. We decided to explore Pike Place Market, where we narrowly resisted the urge to buy every handmade craft and homemade food. We were charmed by several market vendors, including a wonderful bookseller who shared his life story and sage advice on running a bookstore.

The Museum of Pop Culture was my favourite place in the city and we spent many hours in several expeditions including “The Lure of Horror” – a history of horror pop culture and psychology; a Fantasy and Sci-Fi exhibit with famous props and costumes and architecture models which encouraged profuse lego creativity

We lunched in a beautiful park near the Space Needle, admiring a musical water fountain with display routines for every number. We took an underground city tour, which was a fascinating and novel way of seeing Seattle and ended our time with cocktails at a jazz bar.

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Portland

Portland lived up to its reputation for being incredibly rainy, and we felt somewhat at home walking around in rain macs complaining about the weather. Despite this, I grew incredibly fond of Portland during our time there. We sampled the market and food stalls, enjoyed listening to buskers, and puttered around the Pearl District for cute little diners. Portland lived up to its reputation for being incredibly rainy, and we felt somewhat at home walking around in rain macs complaining about the weather. We sampled the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, which were worth the wait, and our favourite place was Powells: “the city of books” and time well spent poring over pages.

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San Fran

It was strange being back in a bustling metropolis, and San Francisco was an intense and activate time of sight-seeing. We booked an open bus tour which allowed us to cover more of the city than we could by foot or public transport, including the iconic Golden Gate and Bay Bridges by night. We puttered around Sausalito, a community over Golden Gate where tourists mingle with wealthy Californians and I was struck by the city’s juxtaposition between the affluent and the impoverished neighbourhoods.

We took some free walking tours, hosted by volunteers from the public library, of┬áthe Japanese Tea Gardens and an Art Deco tour of the city. We hung out at Alamo Square and admired The Painted Ladies – beautiful Victorian houses – and then wandered over to Haight-Ashbury, to drink tea with the hippies and glamorise the past. We also hit up Cafe Royale, where they had live jazz and amazing cocktails, and City Lights bookstore where we revelled in the atmosphere of academic pretension. San Francisco was my favourite part of California, if only because it has that West Coast vibe scaled up.

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Los Angeles

We found ourselves at the epicentre of California’s bustle and in Los Angeles. For one day only. We were headed to Irvine to be hosted by a friend, so decided to have a pit stop in LA. As time was limited and neither of us drove, we decided to narrow our scope and hit up Hollywood. We traipsed down the Walk of Fame, checked out Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and avoided the terrifying costume photo opportunities. We declined a tour of Beverly Hills, relished the tacky gift shops and took ridiculous and overzealous touristy photos. LA was one of my least favourite stops on the trip. I had a feeling the city wouldn’t appeal to me, but I’m glad we made it and I definitely think I would have a better experience if I spent more time in LA exploring hidden gems with informed locals.

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Irvine

We arrived at Irvine, dazzled and exhausted. After recovering, our host showed us around UC Irvine’s campus and we enjoyed catching some rays by the dorm pool. We took a bus down to Newport Beach to paddle in the sea and hope to catch some dolphins. Our host encouraged us to help out with his class film project and we joined the A Capella group for the film’s big musical number. Looks like Hollywood did rub off on us a bit!

San Diego

We took a road trip down to San Diego on one of the hottest days. We hung out by the docks, which were beautiful, and then puttered around the Gaslamp District with its oldey-world charm. We may have survived a Canadian winter, but that meant we appreciated summer even more when it finally arrived.

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San Diego

We took a road trip down to San Diego on one of the hottest days. We hung out by the docks, which were beautiful, and then puttered around the Gaslamp District with its oldey-world charm. We may have survived a Canadian winter, but that meant we appreciated summer even more when it finally arrived.

 

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