Storybrooke- How I Got There

Inception: 19 February 2016

I have been wanting to visit Storybrooke almost since I began watching Once. It is, after all, just across the border.  And I’ve been to Vancouver many times. I love that city and if I wasn’t here, I think Vancouver would be my next choice of places to live. This won’t even be my first trip to Vancouver for the express purpose of visiting filming locations. I went to Vancouver a few trips ago when it was called Caprica in my mind. A friend and I went together and we spent a few days exploring, imagining, taking pictures and pretending. Like recess all over again, but the playground of my mind encompassed a city and then some instead of just a rainy school yard in the tiny town where I grew up. The trip was magical.

(Of note, at the time of writing this, the title is an accountability lever, I haven’t left yet. But I WILL.) (Second parenthetical note: I will not post any spoiler pictures of any filming I might happen to see. Spoilers suck.) 

For the past year or so I have spoken to my friends about a potential trip to Storybrooke but the perfect solution for the trip did not emerge from imagination into reality. The timing was wrong, not everyone could get off work, our interests didn’t align sufficiently.

My mother and I were robbed of a mother/daughter adventure we had planned together the summer I was hurt. During the time we would have been traveling that summer, I was in therapy (all the kinds) five days a week and sleeping most of the rest of the time, when I wasn’t crying. Five years later, now that I have begun to travel again, with limitations, we have begun to revisit the idea of our lost mother/daughter adventure. I hooked her on Once this fall and Once has been her very first experience with binge watching. She loves it too.

I suggested we explore British Columbia outside Vancouver. I never have, there are many places there she hasn’t been either and we have family in Vancouver. A good opportunity to visit Storybrooke. But here again I have found a lack of alignment. Mother isn’t interested in watching filming or wandering off to find that one scene, she would be satisfied with a day spent seeing a few places and then moving on. No resentment here on my part, our priorities are simply different.

After our most recent conversation about this summer I realized that what I really wanted, wanted more than anything else out of my trip to Storybrooke, was to go by myself.

I used to travel alone and I loved it. I am a writer who finds that life gets in the way of my ideas, my dreams, that it presents and infinity of destructive distractions from which I seemingly cannot escape, if I intend to pay the rent and put food on the table. Stuff like that. My birds enjoy regular meals and so do I, after all.

I need two things: to regain something that has been lost to me for five years, and to make this writer’s journey what I need it to be. Ok three things: I need to make this happen for myself, without a babysitter.

I have begun telling people that I am going to Storybrooke. I have begun telling them because I need to hear it for it to be real, for this trip to step out of the realm of daydream and into the light of day. I spend my walking time thinking about which scenes to research for their locations, about all the little details I will need to plan for myself to keep myself safe and how to make this possible for me as I am now, a disabled woman.

Earlier this week I got on Steveston’s website and began poking around. I know the basics, but wanted to start looking at the site from outside the distant vantage of someday and instead from the here and now. I chose tentative dates which I won’t reveal on the internet because I do not want to have unwelcome visitors arrive at my home and scare my birds while I am not here. Likewise, I won’t be posting pictures until after my return.

But these baby steps I took and I found myself giggling in anticipation. I spoke with a coworker, who happens to be Canadian, about particulars I have forgotten. Given my current condition I am approaching this with an admitted trepidation. I have significant limitations and situational challenges which give me definite pause: poor memory, sensitivity to noise and flashing lights, fatigue, balance etc…

How will I manage? By managing.

Planning: 21 February 2016

Today I began managing in earnest. I signed up for AirBnB and scouted a few places I might stay. Surprisingly, meeting my needs is going to be cheaper than I thought. And more available than I thought. Next step: Uber.

Because I cannot drive and riding public transit is VERY hard on me, I rely on Uber for trips that are further than I want to go by either my own two feet or by bus. Out of paranoia I researched to make sure that Vancouver is indeed on the list of Uber cities, it must be, right? Wrong. Vancouver threw Uber out on its ass due to entrenched taxi tycoons, near as I can figure from the few articles I read. How dreadful!

What would have been a fairly easy trip just turned into something MUCH harder and likely made somethings impossible.

To be honest, I almost gave up right then. Taxis are expensive, inconvenient, smelly, dirty, gross, bad drivers, often smoked in and just generally speaking not a way any fragile person wants to get around. I learned this from being forced into taxis for transit to and from therapies.

I put down my research and pushed play on my audiobook because I just couldn’t deal with it right then. An hour later I finished the audiobook and rented the movie- a disappointment and a lost opportunity to do justice to a unique story, I think. (The Time Traveler’s Wife)

And now is now. I decided, listening to a tale about time and how important living life really is, that I don’t care that this trip just got harder. I am not giving up.

It doesn’t matter how hard it is, or how long it takes, I am determined. Roughly paraphrased from Laura Roslin, a personal hero. Whom I will think about while I am in Caprica/Storybrooke.

What I have to do now is plan more carefully than I had originally intended. I now have to map out each location I want to visit and determine how to bus it there. If I can bus it there. I will have to figure out how to get a disabled pass and make sure that I can always get a seat so that I don’t fall while the bus is moving. And I have to plan where it is I will rest when I get there, wherever there is. I searched for an app that would let me put pins in a map so I can keep track of all the locations I have in mind. Which day for which places. What are the bus schedules?

I am doing it anyway.

I can. I will. I am.

I am holding myself capable. I am also capable of not giving in to the easy path, which would be to give up because this will be hard. I am choosing to do the hard thing because I am not going to sit at home and just forget about my dreams. This is just one more problem to solve, one more street to cross. It was many months after my injury before I was able to cross the street alone, but I did it because I wanted something. My freedom. Freedom happened to be in the form of grapes, I had run out and that was the tipping point. I was determined that my woes would not stand between me and my grapes. Here I am, determined again, not to let bus riding stand between me and getting back what was once mine. Travel. Fork over the grapes universe, I’m in the mood to munch.

Time to defy gravity. And be sure to bring enough ziplocks to defy bus-sickness or at least contain it.

The plan:

Spend about a week away from home. So far AirBnB appears to have what I need in good order. Better than a youth hostel by far and comparable price-wise last I checked (admittedly, years ago).

What to do:

Walk: as much as possible = pleasurable PT

Eat good food: Le Gavroche (WHAT!!!??? NO! It can’t be. This is a tragedy of the first order!!!) and whatever else I can get my hands on for good dinners, pursue excellent seafood

Photography: I haven’t decided which camera to take, carrying heavy things is a problem.

Write: begin spec for a TV series, journal, blog articles for Once = WAY more than a week’s worth of work.

Theatre/Show: find a play/opera/show and go to it, preferably at the Orpheum since I failed to go there on my Caprica trip.

Sit and Soak: find a interesting places and absorb them, notice stuff and think about it, write about it.

Watch Filming: if I am really lucky and they happen to be filming the week I’m there. It could happen! But I’m not banking on it.

Find new suits for work: Canadians actually carry clothes for tiny adults like me. One of my favorite suit jackets came from downtown Vancouver.

Where to do it:

Filming locations: as many as possible

  1. Mr. Gold’s Shop- found
  2. Storybrooke ParkTime Portal in Storybrooke Park
  3. Granny’s- found
  4. Docks/ Cannery- found
  5. Storybrooke beaches and waterfront, Henry’s Castle etc. -many found
  6. Storybrooke CemeteryMills Mausoleum
  7. Mr. Gold’s house- fat chance finding this one- and yet! Found.
  8. Wooded park where they shoot the Enchanted Forest and the Storybrooke WellThe Well Once Season 4
  9. Zelena’s farm house

Van Dusen Botanical Gardens: I love this garden and will visit on every trip I take if possible.

Queen Elizabeth Park: Also cool garden will visit if possible and convenient.

UBC Rose Garden: Another traditional haunt of mine, campus is gorgeous, also Japanese gardens available.

Coffee Shops for rain and/or cold: preferably at/near filming locations-how long will they let me sit in Granny’s if I keep ordering food?

Stanley Park: haven’t explored the western part of the park yet.

One new park I don’t yet know about: where will this be? Adventure!

To Do List:

Request time off work

Book AirBnB

Book train/bus to Vancouver

Decide which points of interest to visit

Plan transit to all points of interest

Packing List:


Ziplock bags- at least 5 because I’m busing it even if I’m barfing.

Device chargers

Warm clothes

Tin Whistle- not hauling the ukulele, but I wish.

Walking shoes

I am going to blog this trip all the way through, though updates will be delayed while I’m actually there. I am hoping that other fans will chime in with places they found, their experiences and recommendations. I’ll also delightedly crowd source my Google efforts to find filming locations I haven’t yet stumbled across.

If this was your trip, where would you go? Did you go some places and find it neat? Please share with me its address or real life name so I can find it. Please do comment below so I can keep track of all your wonderful suggestions.

22 February 2016: Whack-a-Mole

Now that it’s real, I have to get to work.

I woke up this morning anxious and have remained so more or less all day. I am vacillating between giddy excitement and agitation. It seems that this trip will be an exercise in managing not only the nuts and bolts of travel for a disabled person, but also that person’s concerns about her own abilities.

I can do this, that’s not in question. But that reality does little to stop the what-if game. Of course the what-if game is an evolutionary advantage and among the reasons we humans are so successful as a species. For me that means addressing each what-if as it crops up like a game of whack-a-mole.

I have requested the time off work- a two week chunk because I don’t know exactly when I’m going yet. My boss was fine with that, he’s a good guy. Step the next, figure out how to get there. The train is my preference, but it turns out that I probably can’t catch a train coming home as early as it leaves due to lack of Uber. I can certainly take an early train on the way there through, no problem. I guess I’ll have to bus it back. But that will be ok because Uber will take me home from the station. Whack.

Next: how am I going to get around the city? Here I have a disabled pass which ensures that I get a seat and can ride safely. But what is the likelihood of a bus full of commuters in Vancouver giving a thirty something well-dressed lady a seat before the bus takes off and I fall? I depend on my little card to keep me safe here, I may have to time my travel to stay away from commute o’clock. My previous bus riding experiences weren’t overly crowded in Vancouver. Then there’s the whole Sky Train thing. Do I dare try to use their light rail system? I haven’t even tried it here.

Maybe that’s an experiment worth making before I leave. Light rail is dicey because some systems don’t even have drivers. The doors open and close quickly and the train takes off, seated disabled person or not. At least, I’ve never looked to see if there’s some kind of gimp button that would allow extra time for someone like me to get seated.

Whack! I emailed the Vancouver transit folks to ask for suggestions.

The good news is that I am not so bad as to fall instantly on a moving object like I used to. I used to do PT on docks with a gait belt and my PT to improve this problem. So I can hang on and beg, as long as I can get to a rail. Most people, historically, have responded well to panic and tears. Yes, I’ve been there, done that.

Thus is the world of being disabled without said disability being obvious to the untrained observer. When it is obvious that someone needs help, most people help because most people are nice. Or at least not mean. But if someone thinks you’re after a hand-out or special treatment you don’t really need, boy-howdy, the fangs come out and people can be really awful.

But enough of that already. I’ve made some excellent progress today. I’ve scouted my transportation situation, requested the time off and have a lead on when they wrap up filming in the spring. If I am a good girl, I can get the entire trip planned and booked this week. That will take care of the planning anxiety: whack ’em dead, Barbara!

I think I’m going to engage in some PT between now and then to acclimate as best I can to buses and light rail and carrying heavy things. Whack! I’ve got time and I know PT helps.

I can.

27 February 2016

I am!

Today I booked. And then I giggled and bounced up and down on my chair. After nearly five years of being trapped by this damned injury, I’m fleeing the country, breaking out, skipping town. I’m outta here.

Jail Break

I don’t know what I did to deserve a nickel in up-state Gimp-Penitentiary, but I’m leaving that behind, disabilities or not. I can do this. I can prepare for this and I can go and have a really great time. I can figure out what I need one step at a time and I am doing it.

I’ve got my passport. Check. I’ve got a place to stay in Steveston. Check. I’m booked on a train there and back. Check. I even figured out and entered my in-Vancouver transit plans into a spreadsheet. Yes, I have to write down everything, times and dates included so that I know I can get from one place to the next and know I won’t forget at an inopportune moment. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this work.

Now I get to do the fun stuff: research and plan all the filming locations I want to visit and pick which days to do them. I’ll get the bus routes down and everything before I go. I’ve already started my packing list. Onward! Sometimes adulting is rewarding.

While you’re here, come check out my Once projects:

Before you go, you can check out my research project! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!

Fan-art in the making! I’m in the midst of a Once-themed Gratitude Project. Take a look at my progress!


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