The Vacation That Wasn’t

Since we’ve moved to BC, I’ve often writ­ten of the new adven­tures and dis­cov­er­ies we’ve come across in our new home and back­yard. I’m afraid that those expe­ri­ences aren’t always that pos­i­tive, for one rea­son or another.

We decid­ed to take our first dri­ve-out-of-town vaca­tion to the Har­ri­son Hot Springs Resort on the East­er hol­i­day week­end. That was prob­a­bly the first and biggest mis­take we made. Rather than take the Trans Cana­da High­way (Route 1), we decid­ed to take the more scenic Route 7, also known out­side of town as the Lougheed High­way. We’ve been on that road many times before, usu­al­ly going to IKEA or some oth­er store to the east of us. We weren’t in a hur­ry, and the rental car, a bright blue Toy­ota Yaris, seemed to be com­fort­able enough and it was­n’t nec­es­sary to get to our des­ti­na­tion in record time. When we left at about 12:30 The weath­er start­ed out grey, and the fur­ther we went, the worse it got. We stopped for lunch at the Mile­stones in Coquit­lam, and by the time we were nav­i­gat­ing some of the more haz­ardous look­ing turns amongst the moun­tains in Mis­sion and Agga­siz, it was pouring.

We arrived at Har­ri­son Hot Springs at about 4:00 PM. There was a long line of cars that looped around the dri­ve­way to the front entrance, and fol­lowed on at the back of the line. After about 15 min­utes or so, we final­ly got up to the over­hang, and a bell­man cheer­ful­ly unloaded our clothes and oth­er valu­ables on to a hotel cart. It sat there, near the edge of the over­hang (but most­ly out of the rain), while we got on the line to the front desk. I parked the car (about a 5 minute walk away), and returned to the line with Pam. We got to the front in about an hour (We checked to be sure). Pam remarked that it felt like we were in an airport.

The lady at the front desk had all of our par­tic­u­lars, but was sur­prised to see that although we were signed up with the ‘East­er Pack­age’, and had cer­tifi­cates for sev­er­al meals, none of our reser­va­tions for seat­ings of those meals had been made. This meant that we had to see essen­tial­ly the concierge. We wait­ed anoth­er 15 min­utes or so while she dealt with anoth­er cus­tomer. She helped us as we tried to get spots in the meals we had in our pack­age: an ‘Ital­ian Buf­fet’ that evening and an East­er Brunch on Sun­day. The spot left for the Buf­fet was fine (8 PM, a time at which we are used to eat­ing) but the brunch was set for 1:30 PM, which was already 2 hours lat­er than our car was due back at the rental agency back in Van­cou­ver. I con­tem­plat­ed call­ing to extend the rental but did­n’t do so at the time (which was, in ret­ro­spect, a good thing).

We final­ly went up to our room, which was com­fort­able enough, except for it being very cold. Our lug­gage had been deliv­ered, and we would have glad­ly tipped who­ev­er did it, but they were long gone. I turned on a heater to get things a bit warmer and after a short rest, joined Pam, who was scout­ing around the resort.

The place was a zoo. Not only was it very crowd­ed, but most of the crowds were fam­i­lies with chil­dren. Now, I’m not a per­son who nor­mal­ly has a prob­lem with that (being a cou­ple with­out chil­dren, we’re fre­quent­ly among oth­ers who have their off­spring along with them in social sit­u­a­tions; that’s to be expect­ed). In fact, I usu­al­ly get along real­ly well with kids — maybe even bet­ter than a lot of beleagured par­ents. How­ev­er, con­sid­er what it’s like to be in a restau­rant with a table that has a scream­ing child or two. Now mul­ti­ply that by 300. This may give you an idea of what we faced for near­ly every moment that we left our room (for­tu­nate­ly, the walls were thick enough that we weren’t kept awake by the squeals all night). We could­n’t get near the hot springs (which were real­ly just hot swim­ming pools) as they were so full of peo­ple at near­ly every hour that one fre­quent­ly could­n’t find a place to get in the water. We walked over to the the ‘Heal­ing Spa’, where by this point I hoped that a mas­sage, or per­haps some hot rocks, a ‘detox’ or even some mud treat­ment would make up for our frayed nerves. Too late, we were told. Every­thing was booked up for every hour of the next day. Sun­day was near­ly always booked up too.

We retreat­ed back to our room and changed for din­ner. I antic­i­pat­ed that there would be might be a wait again for our table, so we to the ‘Lake­view Cafe’ a lit­tle before 8:00 PM. We indeed wait­ed again, for about 25 min­utes. I not­ed that our wait time (with reser­va­tions) was only 10 min­utes less than what the peo­ple with­out reser­va­tions were told they’d have. The buf­fet was not bad, although I had to dodge chil­dren right and left as I brought my plate back to our table. Most of the meal was once again spent wait­ing on line, try­ing to get near some large­ly deplet­ed plat­ter of veg­eta­bles, fish or pasta.

The next morn­ing, we got up, show­ered and looked out on the lake (we had splurged on a nice room with a view). The rain appeared to have stopped. We head­ed up back to the Lake­view Cafe for some break­fast. It was at the point when we were told that there would again be anoth­er wait that I realised that things weren’t going to get any bet­ter. I told Pam it was time to cut our loss­es and head back home. We’d still have half of the week­end left to us, and try­ing to make the best of the sit­u­a­tion just was­n’t some­thing I want­ed to do any more. We went to the front desk, and the woman there (who had actu­al­ly checked us in) was some­what under­stand­ing. She went to a back room and talked to her man­ag­er. ‘It’s amaz­ing what you can get when you get down on your knees’, she said. She offered to refund us about a third of our reser­va­tion and I did­n’t think we were going to get any more at that point. We head­ed back to the Café, wait­ed some more, and final­ly got some breakfast.

It looked as if the sun was going to show for a bit, and we peeked out­side. It was indeed taunt­ing us with a nicer day, but it was also very cold (I’d esti­mate around 4° or 5° C). We took a few pho­tos before we left. We did some shop­ping at Linens and Things and IKEA before return­ing home. After a deli­cious and unruly-tot-free din­ner at the Dock­side Restau­rant (with some mar­velous Jamaican-style Fruit Beer scent­ed with Hibis­cus brewed in their brew­ery) in near­by Granville Island, and final­ly some gro­cery shop­ping and we col­lapsed grate­ful­ly into our own bed.

Today I’ve had a lit­tle time to think about our out­ing and looked at the Web site for the resort once more. I was look­ing for peace, qui­et, and per­haps even a bit lit­tle of a roman­tic get­away. I main­tain that they gave no inkling that instead, we’d be stay­ing at a Dis­ney­land-style fam­i­ly resort. You can bet I’ll be writ­ing them about what I feel is false adver­tis­ing, but in the mean­time, I’m get­ting ready for a work of week with some new sheets and tow­els, but not much of a renewed body and mind.

4 Replies to “The Vacation That Wasn’t”

  1. David,
    You should have prob­a­bly been there about 25 years ago. It now lives on the hype of the past. It real­ly used to be a great spot. You could get into the hot springs at any time, 24 hours a day, and there were not many peo­ple. But as it has changed own­er­ship and been ren­o­vat­ed all the charm is gone. You might have passed the Sasquatch Inn around Har­ri­son Mills. Now that place is old, sort of unkept, but it is local and had the charm of being unique. But with the advent of progress, some­body has prob­a­bly ren­o­vat­ed it and it is lost.

  2. Pete (Alois) — Um, what’s this all about? Are you a troll, or am I miss­ing the joke?

    Gene -
    I got the feel­ing that a lot of the resort was an expe­ri­ence that was past its prime. Many peo­ple I’ve talked to since remem­ber going there when they were kids. Oh well, next time we’ll do a bit more research.

  3. David–

    I guess it depends on what you call a troll.

    You know, don’t you, that you’re some­thing of a leg­end? Many of us peons still slav­ing away in Bu$Hitler’s AmeriKKKa read you near­ly every day–to get our fill of a won­drous world of tea par­ties, casu­al dress, art muse­ums, and IKEA shop­ping. Down here in Bu$Hitler’s AmeriKKKa, we’re in the mid­dle of a war for the sur­vival of civilization.

    It’s kin­da like step­ping into a par­al­lel uni­verse or something…

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