We have been to Vancouver to visit the kids many times before, but this trip felt and was very different.
Once we landed at YVR and picked up our checked bag, we headed for the Skytrain to downtown Vancouver. Social distancing was already startubg to happen in Vancouver and we kept space between us and our fellow travelers. We also Purelled our hands frequently, after touching anything new. We were booked on the Via Rail train for our March 23 return trip, so at least we would not be going back through YVR airport. More on this later.
Disembarking at City Centre station, we walked 15 minutes to B & K’s apartment, stopping only for coffee supplies at 49th Parallel Roasters and at Tartine for a sour cherry pie. After all, we could not arrive empty handed. K and Benji greeted us warmly, but there were no hugs and no touching. This made us sad, but none us were taking any chances.
After dropping our bags, we headed out to walk Benji, while we awaited our son’s arrival home from work. Once we were all together, we tried to fall into a normal routine, but it all felt slightly out of step to our previous visits. Oh, we had a few laughs and at the beginning, we were still able to dine out in some of our favourite restaurants. We just chose our times and seats more carefully and the Purell bottle was always handy.
Nonetheless, we were determined to make the best of our situation, under these new circumstances and at least, we were there to make sure our kids were prepared for the coming storm. We came bearing hand sanitizer, wipes and masks, all of which were no longer available on store shelves in Vancouver. Our parental coaching as to how to deal with the situation, while not always well received was well meaning.
Over the next two weeks, we went for long walks on less crowded West End sidewalks and empty Stanley Park paths, did some off hour grocery shopping and cooking for the kids, took public transit and ate out less frequently and even then usually take-out, had game and TV nights. As Via Rail service updates came in, we began to wonder how or if we would get home.
Some observances of the situation while in Vancouver:
First, the good:
- Residents were doing far less panic shopping in Vancouver than back home in Edmonton. There were lots of supplies including TP on the shelves.
- Stores were a bit more crowded than we would have liked, but people were respectful of others’ space.
- Social distancing was starting to occur on sidewalks and on the minimal public transit trains and buses we took.
- In the building elevator, everyone kept their distance or waited for the next elevator, rather than crowding in.
- In checkout lines, people kept their distance and customers were encouraged to use “tap” pay systems rather than cash.
- Restaurants had notices posted to show the extra cleaning steps they were taking.
- Coming back from an outing, one day, an innovative homeless person surrounded by pigeons, advertised that he still had plenty of pigeons for sale.
Now, the not so good:
- Out walking one morning in the strong late winter early morning sunshine, a pedestrian ahead of us sneezed. We were horrified to see a 3 foot radius droplet cloud surrounding her. We moved to the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
- Many people were still coughing into their hands and then continuing on as if nothing had happened.
- People were still spitting on the sidewalks. On our last morning, a city worker did this right in front of us and another pedestrian went ballistic on him. Habits are hard to change, but this should never be a habit in any case.
- Joggers were employing what I call the “farmer’s handkerchief” nose blow while still jogging. I mean no disrespect by the term, but, this habit has to stop.
- Any cough, sneeze or sniffle on a bus or train caused an immediate shuffling of passengers from one seat to another.
Our kids managed to take a short break to Whistler while we were there, as we were happy to look after Benji. While they were away, the news came that our train home had been cancelled. Hmmmm. It did not thrill us that we might be 4 people and a dog trapped in one small apartment, if we had to self isolate. While the kids were sad we would be leaving sooner, we opted for an earlier departure on March 18. I booked a rental car for a one way drop and a hotel in Valemount for the night. Now, we just had to hope rental cars were not cancelled and province boundaries would not be closed to travel.
In the meantime, I will leave you with these photos of our trip. I promise more Vancouver posts in the future, not talking about COVID 19.