Getaway With Soleil: Vancouver Part 1

            In March, I came to Vancouver to meet Soleil for the first time, and spent six magical days exploring the city. In May, I ventured to Denver for StokerCon, and ate my way through the various restaurants while expanding my horror knowledge. I wrote about both of these events after they happened. The Getaway, as I’m calling it, will be a different chapter of this blog. Instead of saving up all of my adventures for some 25k epic retelling, you’ll be along for the ride.

            For the next month-ish, I’ll be traveling to three countries, various destinations and events, and meeting new people. Most important of all, I’m not alone on this journey. Soleil is joining me, and this will the longest time we’ll have spent together in-person since we matched in 2020. So stay tuned: for the wild, the weird, the delicious, the fantastic, the romantic, and the highs and lows. It’s going to be a once in a lifetime adventure.

            My journey began at 6am on Tuesday morning. I left Reno after five or so hours of excited Christmas-morning sleep, a teary goodbye with my Mom, and worried farewells with Logan. This will be the longest time I’ve been away from home; I’m excited for the opportunity, but nervous about leaving my cat behind. Still, the plane went forward to San Francisco for a quick layover and then onward to Vancouver. I listened to several albums during the flight, and a handful of hours later I was passing through customs and grabbing my suitcase.

            One of the biggest differences from traveling in March to traveling in August has been the changed protocol levels. In March, I had to take a PCR test prior to leaving America, my vaccine card, ArriveCan app, and other info was double-checked in Seattle, and customs was more thorough even if testing was random on landing. Now, testing pre-flight is no longer required for vaccinated passengers, masks weren’t required on my domestic flight and suggested on the other, and customs went quickly. The Vancouver I’ve arrived in almost six months later is a different vibe than the one I left, but that seems to be the state of the world.

            Soleil met me in arrivals, and we shared a big hug and kiss. The best part about second meetings is most of our nervous energy was worked through in March. I didn’t need to second guess myself. Instead, we fell into easy conversation, grabbed a new Compass card for me, and jumped on the train. I’ve already waxed poetic about Vancouver’s public transportation system once, but it’s definitely an experience I haven’t gotten tired of yet. I hope I never will.

            We stopped for lunch in downtown and grabbed Jollibee, which had had a block-length line when we saw it in March. We only had to wait a bit of time before ordering our food and going to Robson Square for a pseudo picnic. The chicken was juicy and tender, and the sandwich had a nice kick to the sauce and crunchy jalapenos. Surprisingly, my favorite part might have been the gravy on the side. We also shared a pineapple quencher, which was perfect after my flights and refreshing.

            Another train and bus ride later, we arrived at Soleil’s rental. I unpacked and took some time to refresh because travel always makes me feel a bit gross. One short nap later, we ventured out again in search of my number one goal of the trip – Soft Peaks ice cream. I ordered the Gastown, a tiramisu type of soft serve, and Soleil tried the Snowberry, a strawberry and cereal type mix. They were lovely on the warm day, and I also tried a strawberry milk tea.

            After ice cream, we bought tickets for Bullet Train and had our first in-person movie date. There’s definitely something different about watching movies on a screen long distance versus when the person is right next to you. The laughter is more immediate, the commentary and whispered jokes are easier, and the after-film breakdown is more satisfying. We both had a great time and thought the film was entertaining fun.

            We grabbed a few things to eat from a grocery store since it was rather late, and air-fried some empanadas for dinner. Overall, the first day had been full of adventure, checked off more than a few things on my to-do list for Vancouver, and brought us together again.

            On the second day, we spent the morning relaxing. One of the best things about having more than six days together for The Getaway is the ability to relax and not feel the need to completely fill the time with activities. Plus, we’re trying to keep some kind of a budget and it’s nice to just hang out. (And take a break from walking sometimes). We semi-spontaneously decided to do a few things and started the day’s adventure at Fife Bakery. I enjoyed a matcha milktea, and we also tried a croissant and meat pie. The whole bakery was decorated with their signature corgi in various ways, and it was a wonderful little shop.

            Next, we went to Faculty Brewing Co. This is a cool place, inspired by universities, where the beers are named after course numbers, everything has a vaguely academic feel, and it’s also founded by professors. We got two flights in order to sample the whole menu. I, obviously, preferred the lighter beers such as their lager, sour, and a ‘shower beer’, but Soleil had a little more luck with some London fog flavoring and a few of the darker selections. While I still wouldn’t classify myself as a ‘beer aficionado’, I can say my education is a fun part of our trips together.

            We walked around a good chunk of False Creek, and I regretted the decision to wear jeans. While most of The Getaway will take place in colder weather, here in Vancouver we’re still enjoying warmer temperatures with a higher humidity than I’m used to. We saw lots of cute dogs and cool boats. Eventually, we took a break on a bench and relaxed in the breezy shade for a bit before I got to try a peppermint hot chocolate from The Belgian Chocolate Café. The flavors were rich and well-balanced and, even with the heat, it was a delicious treat.

            Soleil had a discount at BC Kitchen so we got to try the food at this casino sports bar. With the U.S. Open on in the background, we enjoyed our drinks, ordered too much food, and enjoyed the relatively relaxed environment. My salmon bowl was refreshing and his chicken sandwich was huge. I also savored my first Bloody Caesar of the trip, because if you know me then you know I’m going to drink my tomato cocktails whenever I can.

            We met up for our first double date with some of Soleil’s friends at Good Co. Granville. Since it was a Wednesday it was also trivia night, and we created a formidable team. Out of the 17 teams competing through the four rounds and forty questions, we came in fourth. We were overly confident going into the music round and lost points there, although my ability to identify Alanis Morrisette’s voice was helpful. It was a lot of fun, and good to hang out with another couple.

            After what had been an amazing day, the night was unexpectedly hard. This trip is mostly about the good firsts, but I can’t ignore the bad firsts too. I’ve always been upfront about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and trauma; Soleil has been accepting and understanding of that. Knowing those things from a distance, however, is different than experiencing it in person. I had my first panic attack in a long time. Like sobbing, curled in a ball, can’t think completely shut down. For not knowing what the hell was happening, Soleil helped. I hope it doesn’t happen again on this trip, but—if we want to be together—it’s a facet of me that couldn’t be ignored forever.

            Thursday, then, was better. We spent the day in Kitsilano mostly. Did it take two bus rides and a train to get there? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. I tried a matcha latte from Kits Beach Coffee, and then we grabbed a delicious bagel with lox from Siegel’s Bagels and sat near the beach. The view was gorgeous with the mountains, ferries, and distant buildings, and the salty smell of the air was a perfect taste of the ocean. We didn’t swim, but walked around Vanier Park on our way to the Museum of Vancouver.

            I love museums. Something about the curation and exhibition of history, art, and forgotten stories always settles a part of my soul. We walked through a captivating exhibit on the history of Asian immigrants to Vancouver and their impact on the local food culture. Kent Monkman’s The Four Continents was a searing indigenous indictment of colonialism across time and space told through skateboards. I could’ve spent hours finding all of the details.

            Additionally, as someone not from Canada, it was interesting to walk through a different national history than my own—although similar at times. I was able to see the work British Columbia is trying to do to highlight indigenous cultures they worked against, to bring attention to cultures systemically silenced in the past, and to show multiple facets of their history. A few of the interactive features of the exhibits were cool, like asking people about their childhood memories or how the world can tackle issues like racism, or playing a sample of a psychedelic song from the 60s. Overall, this was a fun experience and another first for Soleil and me.

            We got drinks and something to eat at The King’s Head. It was my first time trying poutine Canada-style, and I can definitely see the merits. The gravy and cheese curds melted on the fries, making for a messy but delicious mouthful in each forkful. Soleil had a goodbye/work party to attend so we walked toward Jericho Park. A handful of hours were spent meeting his co-workers, making small talk and listening to the variety of accents and stories, and enjoying some burgers. I’m usually awkward in new social situations, but did my best and had a good time. The coolest thing about these environments, for a new traveler like me, is how eclectic a group can be: people from all over the world, different ages and experiences, people with adventurous spirits and hearts.

            We didn’t get home till after midnight, after a cramped and exhausted ride on the train, and it was all I could do to put on pajamas before passing out for the night. We have a few more days left in Vancouver before the next leg of our adventure, more firsts to try, and—so far—I’d say it’s going well. This trip isn’t just about the big things that will happen, but also the smaller things. It’s about learning more about each other so we can see the possibilities in our futures.

            In 2016, I shared my Auckland Adventures and its transformative properties on my life. I have the same hopes for this Getaway with Soleil. Maybe I’ll come away from this journey with a better understanding of who I am or what I want or where I could go from here. Anything can happen. That doesn’t have to be terrifying.

            It can be the exciting start of a grand adventure.

            If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Reading Malone’s Ko-fi.

            You can also follow the adventures via Instagram at karleypardue or karleycooks.

4 thoughts on “Getaway With Soleil: Vancouver Part 1

  1. What an adventure! I’m hungry just reading about your culinary tour in Vancouver. Enjoy every moment of your journey—I look forward to reading your posts. Travel mercies to you and Soleil.

  2. Just discovering your blog for the first time. Feels like coming in in the middle of a story but your sense of excitement about your future comes across very clearly from your writing. May the journey continue towards even greater times for you and your partner.

      1. Hey, great that we’re now following eachother – I really look forward to hearing how your future develops, and hope you get everything you wish from it