Two days in and I already figured out why Vancouverites are happy to live here in all this rain and dampness. It's not the clean mountain air. It's not the breathtaking vistas.
It's Beer Soup.
This week I’m in Vancouver with my job. I’m feeling grateful that our office and my hotel are at the centre of the downtown core and, though I’m really busy with work, I get to look at some spectacular views even from the vantage point of the office. My workload should ease up a little as the week progresses and I will get out and explore the city on foot and take some proper pictures. In the meantime, despite the work, I’m enjoying the feeling of being out of my element – those large mountains being a rather imposing reminder.
Last night around eight o’clock I’ve had enough of the current proposal and go down to the hotel bar to have a glass of wine and order some takeout for my room. I’m distracted by some not-quite cringe-worthy lip smacking, and I turn to look at the man sitting next to me, and admire his impressive looking cheese plate.
The fellow, who looks to be in his late fifties, asks the bartender in an Italian accent what the soup of the day is.
“Fennel. It’s not one of our usual ones, I don’t know what it tastes like so I can’t give you a recommendation one way or another.” Then she says, “I’ll go back and taste it and give you a report.”
I joke that she’s going above and beyond the call of duty, mostly because I’m not a real fan of fennel soup. The bartender comes back saying she didn’t really like it, and gives the man a little taster sized dish of the stuff. He doesn’t like it either.
He says to me, “I love soup” and I tell him what a fan of it I am too, and we agree that we could both eat it every day. He says his wife makes great soup, even though she doesn’t like it as much as he does. He says he misses her (and her soup). I ask him where he’s from and he’s from the Toronto area too.
He’s been here for more than a week and will be until the second week in December, and he’s not enjoying being out of his element as I am. He pulls out an i-Pad and starts to scroll some pages and I sip my pinot noir and idly watch some hotdogging snowmobilers on the sports channel above the bar.
The man utters an audible sigh of pleasure and I turn to see him beaming at the little screen, on which is a tiny new baby with a tuft of black hair. His demeanour seems to indicate a welcome of eavesdropping, so I ask, “Is that your grandchild?”
Of course it is and she’s only two weeks old. He said he’d emailed his daughter asking for the photos, and she responded with some beautiful, quite artistic shots. He scrolls through them, sharing each with me; I “ooh and ahh” and he beams longingly.
Again the man complains about having to be out here, away from this new little queen adjusting to life on earth back home. After a moment it seems clear he’s forgotten I exist, and my food has arrived, so I finish my wine, thank him for sharing and turn to go back to my room.
As I glance back at the man gazing at the i-Pad propped in front of him on the bar, with the wide windows revealing the magnificent Rocky Mountains behind him, I’m thinking those mountains could be paltry anthills a million miles away for all he cares. But I’m sure those mountains are about as big as his heart is feeling.