Salmon Festival float

Canada Day in Steveston

River boats at Granville Island
River boats at Granville Island

I frittered away the next morning. After the activities of the previous two weeks, I felt I needed a rest! At lunchtime, I took the bus to Granville Island which I had visited on a previous trip. It houses many craft shops, cafes and a food market and is an easy place to wander. Whilst having my lunch, I enjoyed chatting to a couple from Tasmania, who began the conversation by asking if I was from Australia or N.Z.. They had recognised the Kathmandu logo on my bag. They had just finished an Alaskan cruise and coach trip round the Rockies and had stayed in a lakefront room at the Chateau in Lake Louise. We were obviously not in the same category of traveller!

A little later, I was checking my map when I became conscious of shouting around me. When I looked up, a crowd of naked cyclists chanting “less dress, more ass” confronted me. It was a sight to behold!

I walked part way back to my accommodation as I wanted to have a look at an area I had passed through on the bus. It was further than I thought! I was also looking for somewhere to buy bus passes for the next couple of days. In theory, they were available from many places but no-one had any in stock.

My ambling took me to another second-hand bookshop. I perused for a long time whilst eavesdropping on a telephone conversation the owner was having with a friend who was having problems with a teenage daughter. Thank goodness I no longer have to cope with teenagers! On our travels up the west coast various people had recommended two Canadian books and I was hunting for them. When he came off the phone, the owner told me “The Golden Spruce” was hard to find, and he didn’t have “The Curve of Time”. They are both historical accounts of life on the coast in the early 20th century. I will have to keep looking.

Back at U.B.C., after a walk to the supermarket, I bought a takeaway curry and settled into my room for the evening.

Happy Canada Day
Happy Canada Day

Canada Day, July 1st, is a Big Day in Canada. I decided I didn’t want to join the revellers and other tourists in the city so opted to go to Steveston, on the Fraser River, instead. The annual Salmon Festival was taking place and not to be missed! The journey to get there was long and involved. I had been unsuccessful in my quest for a day pass, so the bus driver let me ride for free to the SkyTrain station where I bought my ticket. The train took me to Richmond/Brighouse at which point I joined all the other festival goers on a bus to Steveston. The journey itself was an adventure!

Thanks to my friend Mr Google, all my connections went according to plan, and I arrived in time to have coffee and find my spot on the street for the parade. In front of me, sitting on the pavement, were grandparents minding their three young grandchildren. Each float handed out sweets or other free goods. The lady encouraged the children to grab anything going and if they missed out, told them it was because they hadn’t said ‘please’. She collected everything in a bag and wouldn’t let them have anything! Next to me was an Asian lady who was even more ‘pushy’ in her bid to get goodies. On my left, two couples with their respective small children, all dressed in red with maple leaf stickers, tattoos and flags, just enjoyed the occasion. A cross-section of Steveston’s population surrounded me!

The parade was long. Very long. It represented every business, political party and community group in the area. Police monitored events from horses, motorbikes, stilts (I kid not) and 4 wheel drive vehicles. The atmosphere was wonderful and I was impressed with the patriotism of Canadians, the extent of which I don’t think I’ve met anywhere else. Before the parade ended, I went in search of the Salmon Barbecue. According to the website, there was a limited supply and when it was gone, it was gone. I didn’t want to miss out! I made my way through the crowds and bought my ticket. The salmon was delicious; the bread roll not so and the salad was indifferent. However, I had had my Salmon Festival experience and still had time to watch the end of the parade, which hadn’t finished.

Afterwards, I strolled along the attractive and historic waterfront. It was a beautiful warm day, and I wandered in and out of the restored Cannery buildings and on to Fisherman’s Wharf, where fish was being sold direct from the boats.

Crowds had by then congregated in this area. Restaurants and cafes were doing a roaring trade; there was a craft market, gymnastics and dance competition and street entertainers. Today, the crowds didn’t bother me as the atmosphere was so relaxed and friendly with everyone out to make the most of the day. Canada Day is a time for family and friends, it seems.

Boats and crowds at Fisherman's Wharf
Boats and crowds at Fisherman’s Wharf

By 4pm I had had enough. It was time to find the bus stop for the return journey. Chaos reigned as roads were closed and buses weren’t running their normal routes. Nobody seemed to know what was happening. I got on a bus that was going to Richmond. But not for another 10 minutes, apparently. In the meantime, the red-haired lady sitting in front kept me amused with her comments, which included such gems as “you might want to move along and get friendly” to people standing in the aisle. Once we were moving, she tried to help an old lady with a walking frame get off the bus but the lady didn’t seem to want to go once the driver had stopped. Nor did she know where she was getting off. The red-head had a lot to say to the driver about that one!

Having at last found a shop that sold a bus pass, I boarded the SkyTrain where a friendly man launched into a discussion about oil spills, the oil industry, the fire that destroyed an Alberta town which was deliberately lit (his opinion) and the number of windmills killing Canadian geese. It was quiet after he got off.

The 99 bus was the last stage of my journey ‘home’. A group of drunken boys waited at the bus stop and got on at the same time. I sat down and observed. One of them tried to engage in conversation with the driver who did his best to ignore the comments. Another had his leg in plaster and was using it as an excuse for everything. There was swearing, and they passed beers around (although didn’t open them). Eventually, one made a comment about having a “good unresponsive discussion” with the driver which made me smile. Another one noticed and took it as his cue to launch into conversation with me, overheard by the entire bus! I found it amusing but I’m sure the other passengers breathed a collective sigh of relief when the boys realised they were on the wrong bus and got off to continue their Canada Day elsewhere!

I was too tired by 10pm to walk down to the waterfront to see the city fireworks across the water. It was also raining. My Canada Day had been well spent!

My flight to Auckland the next day wasn’t until the evening so after breakfast and my favourite coffee from Blenz, I packed and took my bag to the airport where I left it at the luggage storage. The rest of the sunny day, I spent at the Designer Outlet Centre I had spotted from the train. It was crowded, mainly with Asian shoppers, and some shops, such as Kate Spade, restricted entry to a limited number so there were queues outside. I didn’t go into any of those! I dislike shopping but make the occasional exception. The first couple of hours were a novelty, but that wore off. However, I made one or two purchases and was pleased with myself when I returned to the airport. I had to shuffle my bags around, but managed to fit it all in!