The next day saw the border crossing into Canada -- relatively trouble free except for some errant apples. Gaynor seems to take it a little personally when she has offending food. To be fair, there wasn't much warning fruit would be a problem. The weather driving into Vancouver was lovely -- the city itself is set in a spectacular locale -- and would prove to be one of the few sunny spots of our stay. Since we only really had one shot at the interview at the consulate we went to check things beforehand.
The interview at the consulate went fairly well the next day, especially since I did not have a complete set of paperwork. I have to say, the US Department of State is one of the more efficient, helpful and reasonable vestiges of US bureaucracy. They gave me time to organise what couldn't be done before the trip, due to another less efficient US government department, with no need to schedule another appointment or to bring everyone back in. We hit the Vancouver Public Library so I could have some internet access back to my work to try and sort it out and everyone made the most of the unexpected delay.
Eventually, the paperwork was sorted and I returned the next day to finalise everything. One of the aspects to renewing a visa out of the country is that it must be approved before you can re-enter. So if you are on some kind of schedule, there is always a bit of angst over whether it will be approved and delivered in a timely fashion. In our case, the member of staff was very helpful even suggesting they could complete the visa in shorter time if needed. Indeed, the visas were ready for pick-up on time on the Friday.
So with the business of visas out of the way, we had time to spend relaxing in Vancouver. We took in the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, a walk through gorgeous scenery, a ferry trip out to Bowen Island, a visit to the medal ceremony area for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and lunch in Stanley Park.
Of course, sometimes travelling coincides with birthdays -- Elijah's in this case -- and we do the best we can with what is at hand. He picked the restaurant and the birthday 'cake' and his ever-helpful sisters provided the finger candles. He's the kind of young man who patiently learns new things at museums so he can experience the sporting thrill of something like the Olympic staging area.
And then, with visas in hand, we headed south. The border crossing back into the US was more arduous with quite a long wait to be seen and then an hour of processing time. Seven people (Micah had a free pass), including fingerprinting of the older ones, just takes some time I guess. We stopped in central Oregon overnight and took the opportunity the next day to experience some of the famed Oregon outdoors with a hike to some natural hot springs. Incredibly scenic, wonderfully peaceful and deservedly relaxing.
Finally, we pressed on to visit our good friends in San Jose for a day or so, including Memorial Day. A trip to one of their favourite parks was a highlight for the younger children, especially the miniature steam train for Micah and the carousel for Bryna.
So we counted the trip as successful -- a long drive but some new things to seen and done. We can highly recommend Vancouver as a destination -- clean, interesting and a fabulous natural location -- even if you don't need to visit the US Consulate (which was at least one of those things).
You can check out all the photos of the trip on our Flickr page.