(This post originally appeared as part of a blog tour at TiffyFit’s Reading Corner, March 4, 2014.)
When writers set out to put words to page, among the first decisions that must be made is with regard to setting. WHERE will my story take place? If you’re a fan of Stephen King, you know that his stories happen in the lovely state of Maine. Stephenie Meyer put the little-known Washington hamlet of Forks on the map when her Twilight Saga took up residence. When I set the primary location for my stories, I can’t pick a place I’ve never been to—it would be silly for me to set an entire story in Fargo, North Dakota, or Daytona Beach, Florida, when I’ve never been to either spot. That doesn’t mean my characters won’t end up there eventually, but that’s what YouTube and Facebook friends are for! Research!
Both Mr. Gordon and I happen to be pretty versed in the Pacific Northwest—I was born in Portland, Oregon; Mr. Gordon (remember, Eliza Gordon is two people!) was born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; we met and married in Los Angeles, California; eighteen months later, we relocated to the suburbs of Vancouver, BC. Needless to say, we’ve got this West Coast thing down.
In Must Love Otters, our darling Hollie Porter is a Rose City (Portland) native. When our story really gets going, she finds herself in the (fictional) paradise of Revelation Cove, British Columbia. It’s appropriate, then, that we invite you to come north and have a look at what our adopted hometown of Vancouver, BC, has to offer.
1) Vancouver Aquarium (http://www.vanaqua.org/):
You can guess based on our book’s title that we’re going to start somewhere with lots of water critters. The Vancouver Aquarium is a great place for kids and adults alike. Innovative, educational exhibits are plentiful throughout. In addition to the Aquarium’s resident otters—Elfin, Tanu, Katmai, and Wally—the Aquarium boasts a grand display of flora and fauna found along the Pacific Northwestern coast, as well as belugas, penguins, sea lions, and Spinnaker and friends. The Vancouver Aquarium’s mandate dictates that they care for and rehabilitate injured and/or orphaned animals that would otherwise perish if left in the wild. An excellent article about their nonprofit activities is found on the Aqua Blog (http://www.aquablog.ca/2014/02/an-open-letter-on-cetaceans-in-our-care/). And don’t forget to stop in the gift shop and pick up your very own otter!
2) Stanley Park:
A gorgeous venue! The Vancouver Aquarium is settled in the heart of Stanley Park, so once you’re done saying hello to Elfin and friends, take the family for a picnic! Lots of walking trails, access to a number of beaches, a seawall that wraps around the entire park with a gorgeous view of English Bay, public swimming pools, and often the location of summertime concerts and festivals, you’re guaranteed to find something to satisfy everyone’s agenda. The pathways along the seawall are paved—excellent for biking, rollerblading, skateboarding (and strollers for the parents in the group!). A few restaurants dot the expansive park, so if you don’t have your picnic basket handy, you won’t starve. Check out the link to plan your day: http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/what-to-do.aspx
3) Whistler Blackcomb:
One of the host mountains of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Whistler Blackcomb is known for its stunning vistas year-round and world-class skiing during late fall and winter. Whistler Village has lots of cute souvenir shops, boutiques, and restaurants to enjoy. Whistler’s Olympic Plaza is in the center of the village, surrounded by shops and a lush park. During the winter months, both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain are open for those who love to partake of winter’s best sports—come ski, snowboard, sled, or toboggan. If you prefer to strap blades instead of boards to your feet, part of Whistler Plaza is converted into an outdoor ice rink. Their website: http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/.
4) Vancouver Art Gallery:
For the art enthusiast, the Vancouver Art Gallery is a great place to get lost. Exhibiting modern and classic art, there is always something new to learn about and enjoy. The Gallery does an excellent job showcasing art from Canadian and foreign artists alike—test your artistic acumen against the offerings inside! Check out their website at www.vanartgallery.bc.ca for info about current exhibits and for specific details about hours, parking, and public transportation to and from the venue.
5) The Telus World of Science (aka Science World):
A fan favorite! The big silver geodesic orb waits along the downtown Vancouver seawall. This location is fantastic family entertainment—you’ll find something for every age. The best part? No one realizes they’re learning while having fun! With captivating interactive exhibits and live stage shows, there is always something to explore. Pay a visit to the OMNIMAX Theater, the largest movie theatre in Western Canada, and find yourself transported to a different world via their daily offering of fascinating science documentaries. http://www.scienceworld.ca/
6) Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia:
This museum could easily gobble up hours of your day with its vast display of both local and international artifacts. Heavy emphasis has been laid on the rich First Nations history of British Columbia, but in our time spent there, we learned so much about South American, Asian, and Greek history and culture. Fantastic! Take your time so you don’t miss a thing. More info here: http://moa.ubc.ca/.
7) Britannia Mine Museum:
Located on the Sea-to-Sky Highway north out of Vancouver, en route to Whistler, the award-winning Britannia Mine Museum is a national historic site that offers hands-on exhibits, fascinating displays, and even a ride into the mountain! Historical mining machinery and other permanent exhibits share information about the story behind the Britannia Mines. Explore heritage buildings, learn about ore carts and mucking machines, and take an underground tour to get a feel for life in the mines. When you’re done there, try your hand at gold panning—if you find it, you keep it! Open seven days a week—and make sure to dress for the weather. http://www.britanniaminemuseum.ca/
8) Rogers Arena and BC Place:
If you’re a hockey fan, nothing beats catching a live hockey game—and with 19,000 other screaming fans, even if you’re not rooting for the home team (the Vancouver Canucks: http://canucks.nhl.com/), you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience. If football is more your thing and you’re lamenting the fact that the NFL is asleep during the summer months, the Canadian Football League has the salve for your wounds. The schedule runs June through November, and BC is represented by the BC Lions (http://www.bclions.com/schedule/list/team/1/). Throw on some black and orange and find yourself in the stands!
9) Granville Island:
Such a fun area of greater Vancouver. Tucked at the tail end of Granville Street right along the water, Granville Island is an eclectic mix of food, art, entertainment, and shops. They sell themselves best:
“If you’re reading this, you clearly have an appetite for living. So welcome. You’ve come to the right place. Maybe it’s your first time to the island. Maybe you’re curious after some time away. Or maybe you want to show the place off to out-of-towners. Whether you have a specific agenda or are happy to just go with the flow, the island is luring you in. That’s OK. It doesn’t need to be explained. It’s different for everyone. It’s different each time. And it’s yours to re-discover.”
Pop by their website at http://granvilleisland.com/ to check events and hours and to download your own Visitors’ Guide.
10) Victoria Inner Harbour:
Hop a ferry from Tsawwassen (outside of Vancouver) and then grab a cab or bus from the Swartz Bay (Sidney) terminal to find yourself in downtown Victoria. Take high tea at the Empress, explore the downtown boutique shops, walk the grounds of Parliament, book a floatplane excursion, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride. From museums to shops to seasonal outdoor vendors, Victoria’s Inner Harbour is as quaint and historic as it is modern and vibrant. Have a look-see to plan your day: http://www.explorevancouverisland.com/Victoria_Inner_Harbour_Vancouver_Island_BC.htm
As per usual, we LOVE to hear from readers. If you find yourself north of the 49th parallel, take a photo and drop it on our Facebook page. Happy travels!