Well, the school district gave V a long weekend off for mid-winter break, and since she's had her passport for some time we had no good reason not to go. So off we drove toward the nearest border crossing to enjoy a few days in Vancouver.
The dollar-to-loonie exchange rate, though not as favorable to Americans as it once was, is still pretty good -- as of this writing, one U.S. dollar is worth about $1.25 Canadian -- and Miss V is always looking for a good bargain, so the moment we were settled in our hotel, she made a beeline for the nearest Dollarama. Much squeeing ensued, especially when she discovered all the craft supplies they had available.
|Me, I just got a giggle out of the Thrills gum slogan.|
And, of course, we had to take V to Granville Island. We didn't make many purchases or even see everything there was to see -- it was cold and wet, and someone had forgotten to bring along a windbreaker -- but we managed to take her to a few art studios, drag her into a couple of stationery stores (ah, Paper-Ya, how I love you!) and introduce her to the joys of poutine.
|I call this one "A Girl and Her Uncle." By then she'd borrowed my coat because she was freezing to death.|
Most Daiso stores in the USA are relatively small, packed with all manner of household goodies. This place was like one of ours, but ON STEROIDS, and it had a much wider variety of items, including some... interesting... toys.
|Captain Midnight spied this one first. His comment: "Nore than Eats the Mye!"|
|...and Hello Fatty.|
After about half an hour of hapless meandering, we got the idea to pull over and ask for directions. V went into a Dollar Tree (well, of course she did) and while she couldn't find proper directions for the restaurant where we intended to go, she did get a very warm dining recommendation from a fellow bargain shopper who had seen V in the Daiso earlier. This recommendation led us to Chen's Shanghai Kitchen, a little dive in a strip mall with high native factor and a whole lotta deliciousness. And yes, they did have xiao long bao, although we all ran into trouble when we tried to retrieve them from the steamer intact. Once we were filled with dumplings, long beans, sticky rice and general contentment, we retreated for the night to our hotel.
|The courtyard of our fancy digs. Beauty, eh.|
See, Captain Midnight has a real fondness for longans, which he developed during his brief time in Singapore, and when I saw fresh longans at Superstore I thought, "Woohoo! SuperSCORE!" Except Captain Midnight was our designated driver, so his hands weren't free to eat the longans I'd brought him, and I didn't think to switch places with him, and our next stop was the border... and when the U.S. border agent asked the fatal question, "Are you transporting any fruit?" we made the mistake of answering honestly. As we soon discovered, longans from Vietnam are perfectly acceptable to sell and consume in Canada, but not in the USA. Not only did the Agriculture agent seize our longans, but it also triggered a full search of our car for other potential contraband. Did I mention this all went down on Friday the 13th? At least we knew enough about the vagaries of U.S. law to scarf down all our Kinder eggs before we reached the border.
Sadly divested of our longans but otherwise content with our adventures, we proceeded home, where the Roxy-cat expressed her pleasure at seeing us again by freaking out and lolloping wildly around the house for several hours. The chocolate is already gone, and the chips have been broken into, but Miss V should have lasting memories of her trip as long as the Dollarama disco ball continues to hang from a hook in her ceiling. She's already planning another trip (or as she puts it, another shopping spree).