Walla Walla is a stop on Lewis and Clark’s exploration across the North American continent, as is evidenced by the seemingly thousands of highway signs dedicated to preserving their memory. Because we had very recently purchased a new car just before our wedding and cross-country move, we needed to come up with a name for it, and well, Lewis and Clark now live on in our household, for we decided upon Merriweather Blue for the car.
She’s been a reliable, fun vehicle to drive, with nice shocks and a comfortable interior. We enjoy trips in this car, possibly because Susanne used to drive a rather tippy Chevy Sprint, and I a Ford Escort that I pushed more than I drove. Everything is, after all, relative.
Pacific Ocean outside Vancouver
We piled into Merriweather B. in the middle of Seattle and made our way to the north of the city. Driving by Everett, Washington, was fun because I kept pointing out the amenities of the city as if they were my own. “Look, I have a middle school,” I would announce, pointing at some random building. “Oh, I’m working hard on road improvements using my citizen’s taxes,” I would say. Yes, it got old fast. But Everett was larger than I thought it would be, a proper suburb with all the sprawlish trappings therein.
Washington State pushed up upward into more rugged mountainous terrain and we started seeing snippets of snow alongside the road. Finally we came upon the border, and I mistakenly got in a lane that said, “Nexus Only.” Unfortunately for us, once I realized my error I could no longer leave the lane, lest I drive over orange divider cones and alert the Royal Mounted Police force/Border Patrol/Customs officials to my dalience from the rules. I sheepishly pulled up to the window, our passports in hand.
“I’m sorry, I think I got into the wrong lane. I don’t know what Nexus means.”
She looked at our credentials, very displeased with me.
“What are you doing in Canada,” she asked, tersely.
“We’re going to a conference,” I answered.
“Where?” She sounded like she was sitting on a chair of needles.
“Vancouver.” Hopefully she had heard of it.
“And what is your business there?”
Was this a trick question? I thought it was a trick question. I looked at Susanne imploringly.
“We’re going to a conference,” she said.
Say what? That’s what I said! Susanne didn’t know anything more than what I knew! Oh, crap. I count on her to have the right answers to this crap.
“What kind of conference,” was her next question.
I debated, in three nanoseconds, whether to say it was a conference for people who dress up as furry creatures in order to get aroused, then thought better of it.
“Political science,” answered Susanne, and the border guard frowned. Clearly we should have gone with furries.
She handed us back our passports and looked at me, with daggers shining in her eyes, saying, “A word of advice, if you don’t know what something is, don’t get in that lane.”
Well now, that’s extrapolatable to everything else. What a brilliant pearl of wisdom. I nodded, secretly cursing her in my mind, and we drove into Canada. With border patrol agents like her, I thought, Canada better start planning on spending more marketing money to keep its image as a country of nice people, Susanne notwithstanding.
Thirty kilometres outside Vancouver the sun ducked behind clouds, not to be seen for three more days. We made our way to the Hyatt downtown, and checked in to a fancy room devoid of anything complementary. Even the Wi-Fi cost $16 a day. It was like spending time with cheap, rich people, when you bring a nice bottle of wine over to their place and they keep it and open up some crap they bought at Costco instead, and you think to yourself, well, this is why they’re wealthy and I’m not. Yeah, it was kind of like that. But it had a nice view of the street below, and I think Vancouver is the only place on planet Earth where you have mountains and the Pacific across from each other like that. Well, maybe Japan is like that, since it’s been formed by volcanoes. But Vancouver is the first place I’ve ever seen with that kind of terrain, and I found it endlessly fascinating.
Our first evening in town we opted for Ethiopian for dinner, so we checked out Addis Cafe about 20 blocks away. Our Googled directions took us through a neighborhood that is called “Canada’s skid row.” This is funny for several reasons, including the following:
1. Canada has only one skid row.
2. It is this one.
3. Canadians know this because they’ve asked around.
4. Nobody has realized that “skid row” as a concept is like, 70 years old. We call them “crack neighborhoods” now.
While it seemed a bit rough around the edges, I am here to reassure every Vancouverian that really, it’s not a bad neighborhood. But okay, you wouldn’t want to hang around on the corner bleeding $50 bills.
The eatery was small, a row house-style building that was clearly focused on the food and not the ambiance. We ordered a veggie combo with wot and a lamb entree, and were greeted with a beautiful plate of injera and really well done toppings. The wot was spicy enough to make its presence known to one’s tongue, but without so much heat that it upstaged anything else on the plate. The cabbage was crisp, well spiced, and a great compliment to the lamb, which was tender, rich, and free from gristle, always a possibility with lamb butchering. We also enjoyed the lentils, and the freshly made cheese. We also were delighted to converse with the chef, who was eager and beyond pleased that we’d enjoyed her cooking. She and the waitress were the only employees to be found. I highly recommend Addis Cafe for anyone looking for a low-key, affordable, and excellent meal in Vancouver.
Next up: The Legendary Noodle House and desserts at Sweet Revenge