Yes…..I admit it. I’m that girl who woke up one morning in London to the sound of the Tardis. For a split second, my imagination ran away with me and I practically fell out of bed clamoring to the window wondering if I would really see The Doctor, preferably the David Tennant incarnation, standing out on the lawn leaning against his bigger on the inside blue box, waiting for me to join him in a madcap exploration of time and space. Sadly, the street below was empty, but I did hear Tennant’s voice. That’s when I realized that the sound of the Tardis I heard had just been my friend’s husband watching the episode of Doctor Who that he had recorded the night before. Now, of course I know the Doctor isn’t real, but as I joined Ryan in the living room, completely comfortable with my blanket and cup of tea, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of a thrill at watching this particular episode of Doctor Who. Did it end up being my favorite of all time? No. Not even close, but it was the episode that I saw in London, on British soil!! There is just something so special about seeing your fantasy world, whether real or make believe, come to life. Its happened to me on several occasions, besides the aforementioned day. Every time I go to Tombstone, Arizona, I can’t help but feel a shiver go down my spine, knowing that I’m “walking where they fell”, as the city’s tagline says. Then, there was the pilgrimage to Concord, Massachusetts to visit the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott. I remember standing there in front of Louisa’s desk, able to see her so clearly, sitting there, pen in hand, hoping that by some freak chance I might absorb some of her talent just by being in a room that she had once been in. Well, that didn’t happen. But I’ll tell you what did. I felt inspired. I gained inspiration, some of the same inspiration that I got from travelling to Storybrooke, Maine. Oh, wait…..sorry. Storybrooke, Maine doesn’t exist. Well, it does, but it doesn’t. You see, the village of Steveston, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, is each week transformed for television into the town of Storybrooke, Maine, where for the purposes of the show, Once Upon a Time, the characters that we have come to know and love from our fairy tales have been stripped of their memories and banished as punishment from the Evil Queen from Snow White. I laugh to myself now as I think about it. What better place could there be for a person who’s imagination runs wild? Better yet, what a great place for someone who needs their imagination awakened!
So realizing that I would be in Vancouver, a mere ten minutes from this little corner of the world that might not mean much to anyone else, I knew I just had to go. Remembering my Doctor Who fantasy, I’m sure you can only guess how excited I was of the prospect of actually getting to walk through this make believe town…..the home of Snow White, Prince Charming, Captain Hook, Rumplestiltskin, just to name a few. Things got even more real when I realized that they would be filming during the time that we would be there. In a word…..epic.
Driving into Steveston was a treat in itself. The area is peppered with lots of country roads with farmers selling fresh produce and other wares, definitely giving a small town feel although you are a mere stone’s throw from downtown Vancouver. If it wasn’t for the tan large, 2 story building, which was vacant and for sale at the time that we were there, which doubles as Storybrooke’s clock tower, I would not have recognized Steveston’s main street as being the same main street as Storybrooke. Why? It looked extremely inviting and cheerful. For Once Upon a Time, the beautiful pots of spring flowers are taken away and the signs changed over to darker colors to give the town a more bleak, dejected feel.
Where does one go for breakfast when you first arrive in Storybrooke? Well, Granny’s Diner, of course! Yes, that would be Granny, as in Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, who runs this local gathering place in Storybrooke, famous for its cinnamon hot chocolate and lasagna.
In the real world, Granny’s Diner is known as The Cannery Cafe and very different from eatery that we see in the world of Storybrooke. The outside is the only part of this quaint restaurant that is used for the show. The interior is a rather plain, ordinary, typical North American diner specializing in breakfast staples such as bacon, eggs and waffles, staying open through lunchtime. The best part was sitting by the window, watching the crew set up for filming with a view of the large “Storybrooke” sign that has become a permanent fixture in the restaurant courtyard.
It’s so fun to see the entire town, not annoyed by the extra tourists, traffic or crews in the street, but rather embracing the fairy tale spirit and connecting with their own prince, princess or even evil queen. 😉
Adding even more to its charm is the fact that Steveston sits right on the sea, as does its fictional counterpart, Storybrooke. Steveston is home to a large salmon cannery and boasts some of the area’s finest seafood with sweeping views to match.
It was hard for me to say goodbye and goodnight. While most people would have came and saw within just a few hours, I got lost in this town for the better part of an entire day. But perhaps it was more my imagination that I got lost in. I went back to the hotel that night with nothing short of forty stories bouncing around in my head.
To anyone else, Steveston would appear to be just a sleepy seaside tourist town with your predictable boutique shops, gorgeous food and typical fish and chips. But for me it was a thing of dreams, just like that ordinary morning in London was turned extraordinary simply with one, little sound. You must find it……wherever on earth it might be…..that special place that peaks the curiosity, engages your brain, enchants your imagination and inspires your creativity.