Last Thursday, while many friends and neighbors were busy preparing for Turkey day, this family headed North, crossed the border, and landed in Vancouver B.C. for the long weekend.
The French don't celebrate Thanksgiving... or do they?
Over the years, we have been invited by generous friends who have introduced us to this great American tradition: Sharing a delicious meal, laughter and stories, with loved ones. Feeling grateful for the good things and the good people in our lives. It seems everyone in the United States celebrates Thanksgiving!
|Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want (1943)|
|Mickey, Minnie and their friends|
|The Simpson family|
|[A very] Modern Family|
This got me thinking: Whatever the origins of Thanksgiving may have been (giving thanks for a plentiful harvest,) the meaning of that very special Holiday seems to have evolved over time, and if that meaning is the one I just described, then the French celebrate Thanksgiving too. In fact, while I was growing up in France, Thanksgiving was simply called "dimanche" (Sunday.) Every weekend, without fail, several generations would gather around a large table for lunch. There was scrumptious food; there was lively conversation and laughter; there were heartfelt toasts honoring hosts and special guests. Who says the French "don't do Thanksgiving?!"
|Giving thanks the French way...|
Le Déjeuner des Canotiers (the Boating Party) - P. A. Renoir (1881)
If the French give thanks on a regular basis, isn't it logical, then, that our family should be tempted to take off and make the most of the long Thanksgiving weekend? This is not France, after all, and time off is like [American] turkeys in November: an endangered species!
So, once again, our family turned down several generous invitations and left town. Personally, I was looking forward to a break. It has been a hectic fall, and you may remember morale was low just a few days ago when we received an impromptu visit by les Bad Men.
Vancouver B.C., our old friend, was waiting.
What's not to like in that gem of a city? It is scenic and cosmopolitan, surrounded by water and mountains. The urban vibe is very much alive, but nature is just a few minutes away. I don't think anyone could take a bad picture of that spectacular city! It also earns a high score in my book for being eminently walkable, and for its excellent public transportation system. Over the years, we have visited often, and have come to love the Canadians' hospitality and laid-back style.
|A [young] boy in the [big] city|
|Vancouver: The Old and the New|
Canada Trust Building reflecting the Vancouver Hotel
|In Vancouver, the sea and the mountains are never far away|
As far as I can tell, British Columbia only has one drawback: Its weather. Its long, wet winters. That is one thing at least, Seattle and Vancouver have in common.
|Better be ready for Vancouver weather come November!|
|This is clearly not a California or Florida store window!|
Undeterred by the weather, this family enjoyed a très French celebration on Thanksgiving day. We had dinner reservations chez Jules, our favorite bistro in town, in the old Gastown neighborhood. Great food. Great atmosphere. Fair prices. We did not miss the traditional turkey, opting instead for more Gallic fare...
|Junior enjoyed two servings of les escargots!|
|The famed Gastown steam clock is nearby|
|Capilano Suspension bridge|
|Not for the faint of heart!|
|On the brand-new Cliffwalk|
|Fighting Northwest Giants!|
|We did not meet many "Banana Slugs" on the way: They knew about |
our encounter with les escargots the night before!
Driving back into town, we decided to stop at another local favorite for lunch: Granville island. The Granville Island market is the big draw in the neighborhood, but there is so much more to experience. Fun, eclectic boutiques; restaurants; and let's not forget boats, a lot of boats. During our first visits to Vancouver, many years ago, we always stayed at the Granville Island Hotel and spent hours exploring the area. Junior's favorite place was the Toy Market (you can guess why.)
And voilà the perfect transition to the end of my story. Boats. And the people who love them.
When Le Husband and I first moved to Seattle, back in the 1990s, we met a young couple from West Vancouver. Like us, they lived away from home. Like us, they were child-less in Seattle. Like us, they owned a great dog. Like us, they spent their weekends boating. The pets and their humans became instant friends, and for several years, shared many adventures, on land or on the water.
|Finn and Shadow a.k.a. "Salt and Pepper"|
|People, boats and dogs: Those were the days!|
|An unusually elegant breakfast in La Conner, WA (Tulip Country)|
|Brave girls swimming in the Puget Sound!|
|Happy July 4th!|
|Exploring small towns in the Puget Sound area...|
(Roche Harbor, San Juan island)
Then the children came. Our friends moved back to Vancouver. But we stayed in touch; visiting now and then; spending the occasional vacation together. The boats, and our wonderful "salty dogs" are long gone. On Saturday evening, reunited once again in Vancouver, we toasted them all. We always do. And that, my friends, is our tradition, not just for Thanksgiving, but year round.
West Vancouver, BC (summer 2011)