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Stanley Park, Vancouver

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Vancouver - copyright Evan Leeson
It started drizzling five minutes after we left the hostel. “It hasn’t rained the entire time I’ve been in Canada,” Emily said in wonder. Despite spending a year studying in Toronto, she hadn’t bought a rain coat in her entire year of student life – there had never been a need.

Ten minutes and several blocks later, we were soaked to the skin, pelted by large, frosty rain drops, thunder ripping into the gloomy sky. I seemed to have brought the English weather to Vancouver. Our flipflops soggy and slimy, our light shirts drenched, we continued to hopefully trail around in the rain, backtracking every now and then, consulting tourist signs quizzically. We were on a mission.

The mission was to find a Tim Horton’s – or a “Timmy’s”. Here, I would be able to experience what Emily described as being my first taste of Canada. In her opinion, no other cafe or bagel would do.

We finally dived into a Timmy’s. The thunder trundled to a halt. We scoffed two jalapeno bagels and a hot cup of long-awaited tea to address my jet-lag. The cloudless skies invited us back outside, so off we went into downtown Vancouver.

Despite flying into one of the largest and densest cities in Canada, we were (as ever) seeking the natural boundaries of the city; we were not disappointed in spending our first two days in Stanley Park. This 400 hectare park has been voted the best park in the world by Tripadvisor in 2013 supposedly the sixth best in North America, and the sixteenth best in the world. It felt strangely small, but incredibly “English”. The only part of it that reminded me I was thousands of miles away was the occasional glimpse of the soaring North Shore Mountains, undermining every small and determined step we made. On the constant and far too hopeful outlook for bears and wolves and other mysterious and symbolic animals, we walked casually alongside a horse and cart tour going around the perimeter of the park. Casually, that is, until we heard the announced words ‘and see the bald eagle nest on the top of that tree’, to which we stopped and both said in awe, “BALD EAGLES?”. We looked at the tree hopefully, squinting with insistence, before realising our impromptu tour guide had sped far ahead up the road. Black squirrels crept along the pathways, but otherwise the array of wildlife seemed disappointingly limited.

Until we reached the Lost Lagoon.

The lagoon wasn’t particularly lost – it’s one of the first places you would see upon entering the pack from the south entrance, and bordered by roads. But somehow even so, it kept its peaceful ambience. Within five minutes, we had stumbled across our – well, my – first racoon. For some reason, I had expected something more like a small, quick-moving koala, or a fox. Instead, it lumbered along like a steady moving bear, completely ignoring our squeals and hurried reaches for our cameras. In the next few minutes, we had come across several more – quite nonchalently crossing the bridge, eding around the borders of the lake, disappearing into the bracken. A local, amused by my excitement informed us there were some turtles sunning themselves on a rock near the shore of the lake. We were very quickly satiated with racoon videos, and sat comfortably by the turtles, happy for now with our small piece of North American wildlife.

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