I’d been hoping that, for some bizarre reason, nobody would want to travel between London and Vancouver on Easter Monday, and I’d be offered a cheap, if not free, upgrade from Air Canada. Business class had been available – but at more than £800 I didn’t think I could justify the cost versus the amount of champagne and cheese I could eat during an eight hour flight.
Even Air Canada’s business lounge at Heathrow was maintaining standards : “I’m sorry, we don’t allow economy passengers in, even for a fee.” They were less choosey at the United lounge, where anyone could come in for $50US. Given I’d checked in three hours before the flight, I did a quick currency conversion in my head, looked at the piles of pastries and free drinks around the corner, and concluded : “Sod it. I’m on holiday.”
Stuff for free is always good, even if you know you’re probably paying for it. Take, for instance, the daily free wine tasting hour at the Listel Hotel in Vancouver. It was a nice surprise, having just checked in, to be told that the big event was just about to begin. Though to start with, it was just me, the roaring fire and the rhino.
I’m soon joined by a couple who are having a quiet night away from home; home being a suburb just ten miles from downtown Vancouver. They like to just “get away from it” – whatever it is – and enjoy a lazy evening on the town. And stepping out onto Robson Street, it’s easy to see why. Unlike many places in the United States, this major city’s downtown area consists of roads that are no more than four lanes wide, making them easy to negotiate.
Although it’s officially only night one of the trip, the eight hour time difference means I’ve effectively been awake for about 24 hours. And after a couple of glasses of British Columbia’s best, there’s only one place to regroup my mind, body and soul. The nearest Irish pub.
Doolin’s just off Granville Street isn’t originally, quirky or clever. But it does have a fine selection of beers and a menu that’s as familiar as any Irish bar in any city. And it also has an extremely welcoming and polite staff.
Roger is also happy to be there. He’s a businessman from Nova Scotia, doubling up as an insurance agent for the shipping trade (and with the port of Halifax that’s a lot of shipping) and what he himself described as “succession planning” – or to you and me, what to do with your old money if it’s tied up in a small business.
“It’s a generational thing,” explains Roger. “You have these guys with really successful family companies, but kids who want nothing to do with it.” His job, it seems, is to provide timely financial advice for those needing it. And, naturally, taking his own cut. Along with Roger are two local girls who work as bartenders. It’s Monday, the quietest night of the week. So they’re spending their night off in someone else’s bar.
It’s still relatively early but I’m beat. And tomorrow promises a busy day involving totem poles, a brewery and ice hockey. In that order.