August 2007 - Canada  

  Our little Raji man was two months old and had just recovered from a moderate case of baby acne, so it was the optimum time for an adorable passport picture. We'd learned a few years ago when we tried to sit Axa up for a picture that little babies can't really sit up. What little neck they have disappears if they try. And it makes it even less likely that they will be looking at the camera with their eyes open. So we laid him on a white sheet and snapped a few pictures. One of them turned out very cute, except that Tony hadn't buttoned up his pajamas, so one of his arms looked like it was falling off. Undeterred, Tony took the other arm in photo shop and flipped it and pasted it over the missing arm. Voila! A perfect passport picture.

We were in the post office applying for the passport when Tony received a phone call from (Great) Grandma Fletcher. She said they had a week booked at a five-star resort on Vancouver Island that they would regretfully (for them!) be unable to use, and offered it to us. We accepted on the spot, and Tony ran back into the post office and expedited the passport. We found out later that passports will still not be required at the Canadian border for another year or two. But it's always good to have a passport. You never know when you'll need to leave the country on short notice, as we found out some six months later when we moved to Italy on the spur of the moment.

Our Canada trip was just the relaxing escape we needed after all the excitement of Raj's birth settled down. On the advice of a friend in Vancouver Washington, who was from Vancouver Canada and had been to Vancouver Island before, we spent the day in Vancouver (the city) before taking the ferry over to Vancouver Island. Vancouver is a nice city, deserving of it's reputation as one of the most livable cities in the world. Axa loved the little "aquabus" ride to Granville Island, which had a fun market where we bought delicious organic fruit and brown-rice wraps.

Our haphazard trip-planning almost got us into big trouble that evening. There was only one ferry to Vancouver Island, and it arrived at 9:00 p.m. It was still two hours to the resort. When we arrived at 11:00 the reception desk was long closed. Tony left Sarah in the car with two sleeping children, and walked all the way around the building. He finally found an employee who just happened to be working late and let us in. Whew.

During the ensuing days, we enjoyed the relaxed island atmosphere and Vancouver Island's emphasis on quality local food (it's a stronghold of the Slow Food movement). We indulged in the family passion for cheese at a cute little farm with a tour and tasting table. There was a little fruit stand near the entrance to the resort where we even bought fresh local mushrooms for our own little gourmet dinner on the balcony.

Axa's favorite stop was at the alpaca farm, where we were pleasantly surprised with the diminutive stature, gentle personalities, and downright fuzziness of the alpacas. We were told that the latter is a result of them not producing any oils to get into their hair. Unlike sheep, which get all matted-up with lanolin, the alpacas stay as tidy as a fairy tale. Unfortunately, even the combined efforts of Axa and Sarah could not prevail upon Tony to buy one as a pet.

Lunch was at a restaurant called "Goats on the Roof" for obvious reasons. The whole roof was planted with grass, and the little herd of goats sometimes would risk coming to the edge. We suspect they sometimes were fed from the eaves by restaurant-goers.

On our last full day, we went down to Butchart Gardens, world-famous botanical gardens planted by the wife of a steel tycoon in the unsightly crater left by the mining operation. We were especially charmed by the Italian garden, with a statute of Mercury against a dramatic hedge backdrop. And our future as read from the mirror gazing-balls in the garden looked bright, albeit bulbous.

If you ask Axa, the best part of the trip was the ferry rides, both little and big. The thrill of driving one's car right onto a boat can barely be overstated. At the end, it was home to our own little provincial Vancouver. But now, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Fletcher, we can say that we've been to Canada!


the BIG boat: for cars

the LITTLE boat: for people

the food market on Granville Island

"Goats on the Roof" (it's
the name of this restaurant)

goats trying to get off
the roof

beautiful Butchart Gardens

Roo Man

visiting an alpaca farm

Victoria, on Vancouver Island
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