November 10, 2008

O Canada

We spent a lovely weekend in Vancouver British Columbia. Between visiting family (both sides) and friends, attending a bar mitzvah, and eating ourselves silly, it was great to be in Canada again.

We ate Shabbat dinner with Rik's aunt and uncle in Richmond and arrived at the hotel around 9:30 PM. On this visit we stayed at the Granville Island Hotel, a charming (and pet-friendly) inn on trendy Granville Island. The room was small but the bed was comfy, and you can't beat the location.

The bar mitzvah took place at Ahavat Olam Synagogue, which meets in the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture. This congregation has written it's own prayerbook based on the one used by the Reconstructionist movement. Since Rik was raised in a Reconstructionist congregation in Montreal, it felt more familiar to him. Aside from the rabbi and president of the shul, we appeared to be the only people wearing a tallit. This of course drew the attention of the rabbi. We sat together at lunch and it turns out he studied with my former boss, Rabbi Bob Saks. What a small world it is when you play Jewish geography!

The service seemed geared to the more than half of those present who were not Jewish. The rabbi offered much explanation and commentary. His pacing of the service was also very slow compared to what we are used to. The service lasted for three hours -- even longer than at our Beth Shalom!

L, the bar mitzvah boy, son of our close friends S and I, did a wonderful job. A year ago he didn't know aleph from bet but he said he wanted to have a bar mitzvah. Given that he is the child of an unaffiliated Jewish mother and a secular father, and not raised with any particular religion, his request took everyone by surprise. L studied hard, learned a lot, attended services regularly, and has made a Jewish home for himself in this congregation.

During the afternoon we walked around Granville Island and relaxed at the hotel. For dinner I really wanted to have poutine, that yummy Quebecois dish I learned to love while in Montreal a couple of years ago which is hard to find in the USA. It's not kosher, but boy is it delicious if you like salt and fat! Imagine skinny, Belgian, ultra crisp fried potatoes covered in cheese curds and brown gravy. So good!

We ate at Crave on Main, a tiny (14 tables; we counted), trendy (30 minute wait) neighborhood place. After dinner we visited with the bar mitzvah boy and his family.

On Sunday we met my cousins on Granville Island for brunch and a walk through the market. It's a lot like Seattle's Pike Place market, but enclosed under one roof. Fresh produce vendors, meat and cheese purveyors, bakeries, and any number of places to eat or drink sit cheek-by-jowl with a few crafts vendors. (The rest of Granville Island is filled with art galleries.) Rik brought home four dozen Montreal-style bagels from Siegel's, we each had a fabulous chocolate truffle, and then we got in the car to go home.

We waited 2.5 hours to get through the border (oy!). Going to Canada is fun; coming home, not so much sometimes.

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