Shields

I awoke without any plans today and ended up spending most of the day that way. After getting to bed later than usual and getting up for a late breakfast, I set out with a vague intention to check off the final sight I had looked into before leaving: Stanley Park. A surprisingly large park that runs right beside the downtown area, its seafront and green space make it a big drawcard for locals looking to exercise or just relax.

The park is ringed on three sides by the water, and has a famous walking and cycle track that circles the outside for about eight kilometres. I spent about three hours making my away around it at a leisurely pace, stopping at scenic views and ducking into the heart of the park to eat lunch at a restaurant. It was surprisingly chilly thanks to the breeze coming off the water, but the sun and clear skies made it pleasant overall.

Interesting note: rollerblading never went out of fashion here. It's common even in the city centre. And not just because Stanley Park is adjacent to the gay district. As I watched all the various characters run, walk and roll by, I was reminded of something a guy called Spence once drunkenly confessed to me back home. It was just nice to see people here able to be themselves without fear of repercussions.

As my slow walk came to an end, I passed, to my surprise, a few small beaches. Marijuana here is not legal, but generally tolerated and unprosecuted. As a result, the beaches, which were covered in washed up tree logs and other flotsam, were also home to groups of people huddling in the sand with a joint. The last stretch took me back into the city, but I must confess that I am strugging with orientation here more than just about any city previously. The streets run at diagonals to the compass bearings, so you're never just walking, say, east or west. Plus, there's water to the north and south, which ruins that as a navigations aid. Just a tricky city for some reason.

I headed out again for dinner with Kate, which turned out to be a hugely underwhelming pizza. I thought I'd opted for an easy margherita, but it was ruined by a liberal drizzling of balsamic vinegar. Vinegar! Dominated everything with that sickly, bittersweet tang on a warm, but not hot, cheese base. Really disappointing. Still a good night, of course, but a pity that they got such a simple classic so wrong. At least tomorrow is another day, and one I'm looking forward to.