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Vancouver

 
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:19 am    Post subject: Vancouver  Reply with quote

Book ended the trip with the first four days and the last four days in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Always wanted to go, not just to the city but deeper into British Columbia amongst the rivers, forests and valleys. The latter will have to be a later trip but for now a pure city exploration sufficed very nicely.

Vancouver is massive but the Downtown Area is where we spent most of the time. It's a peninsular stick out from the mainland like a crooked finger pointing out to the West. Consequently it has an island feel although it is only surrounded by water on three sides. This does however give some spectacular topography with blue still water reflecting faraway snow covered mountains to the North and South that span out Westward towards the Pacific Ocean. If the City didn't have any other things going for it then that alone would be enough. Flying tours are popular around the city on numerous sea planes that take off from Canada Place but given the price and the tremendous views already had from our aeroplane coming in we didn't bother.  You can comfortably walk the breadth of the area South to North  and around the tip of the downtown peninsular to the West that has been preserved as a huge national park semi wilderness (Stanley Park). Takes about 90 minutes to walk around but there's a  lot to see around the coastal walk alone including a mega rose garden and a perfect English style boat house.

Architecturally, The city itself isn't that spectacular, quite ordinary in fact, typically North American where pragmatism trumps preservation and beauty every time. That's not to say there aren't splatters of old style grandeur and history dotted around the place and the modern structures do have an imposing modernity about them but I would say the geography of the surrounding area the waterside locations and the general  convivial Canadianness of the place is where the real charm of the pace lay. By Canadianess I mean a great mix of American and British culture with the added virtue of a massive Chinese influence in Vancouver.

The South waterside, English Bay is a little less frenetic than everywhere else and also the place to soak in the stunning sunsets especially in one of the few restaurants or bars along the strip. Stroll along this bay to the East and a bridge or water taxi takes you across the bay to Granville island. Not technically an island more a little peninsular but packed with boutique shops. bars, cafes, craft stalls, markets, the job lot including a splendid brewery that has its own Tap outlet. A lovely place to stroll around calling in hither and tither for a jar or two. It's also home to the gayest looking Concrete factory ever with its high mixing towers draped in Rainbow colours in a decent effort to cover the ugliness of it. You can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear though as anyone who used to go to the Amsterdam drag nights on Firth St. in the '70s will testify.

As ever MrsD picked us two fantastic BnBs to stay. Both old Colonial prairie style wooden houses decked out in sumptuous Victorian splendour. The first one , Oh Canada House was the actual place the writer of the Canadian National Anthem (Oh Canada) composed it. The breakfasts were works of art with different egg based concoctions accompanied by Sausage bacon and fruit every day. Set you up for the day if you weren't so greedy (ahem) in the afternoon. Both were communal in that there was one big table where all the guests sat and had breakfast. In Britain this is my worst nightmare but in the States and Canada it's a different kettle of fish altogether. People are so much more open and friendly. Here, such communal seating is stifled by crushing British reserve and putrefying social prejudices but over there we had ace chats with great American people interesting and genuinely interested in you. You almost become best friends over breakfast. Great hospitality showed by the owners too. They left a bottle of sherry out for the guests and I possibly over indulged on the night of the election celebrating our noble defeat.

The main entertainment areas of the city are Gastown and Yaletown. Gastown is a bit kitsch, done up to be olde but not without its charm. Loads of Bars and eating places, lively and named after a Yorkshireman Gassy Jack from Hull. Yaletown is an old warehouse area renovated with the usual Eating n Drinking establishments. There's good bars in both areas and great beer

The North side of downtown is Canada place. A modern complex that has renovated the old Dockyards like so many other Waterside cities. It's a nice place to stroll along especially for the sensational views across the water to the North over North Vancouver and the mountains. There is still a huge Working Dockyard presence though further to the East which gives the whole city a reality feel rather than a purpose made leisure town .

One thing I've got to add and no report on the place can ignore it is the number of homeless people wandering and gathering around. Back in the eighties when I first started travelling around the States people used to call this group Bums or Crazies. It's got way beyond that now.  Strolling on the outskirts' of China town which is the start of East town on the first day I saw this figure approaching pushing what looked like a supermarket trolley. He was swaying but walking fast. Hs head was also swaying but in a different tempo to his body. Spittle splattered from his mouth as he past cursing and muttering. Then we saw another like him, then another and pretty soon dozens. It was like a scene from the Road. Maybe a hundred congregated outside the station near a church mission sad  dirty and looked utterly defeated. Sadly this was to be normal for the place and indeed worse in Portland but not so much Seattle although the place wasn't without. The people weren't looking for change or anything not even a sympathetic  look and acknowledgement let alone a smile. They were completely beyond that. Just human shadows existing alongside  other people in a different metaphysical zone. Incredibly sad and to be honest it put a bit of a dampener on MrsD throughput the holiday.

I must be made of harsher stuff because I love the food n Drink of North America. All that Man V Food suff aint very healthy but chuff me its tasty and satisfying. You can't weave your life style around it (well I suppose you can if want) but there is no point going there and not indulging is how I look at it. Vancouver like any pacific coast place specialises in Salmon, sea food and Asian cuisine as well as American classics. Every place we went in was great except the one place we arranged to meet MrsD's bessy mate who coincidentally was also in Vancouver. It was in Yale Town, a place called the Flying Pig. Decent lively place but the Trio of Salmon was bland and tasteless. Classic case of style over substance. As I've said though, everywhere else was superb. We normally avoid chains but the best place all round for food and atmosphere was a branch of Cactus Club on English bay overlooking the water and sunsets. Succulent meaty burgers oozing with beefy indulgence. Great crispy Fries, salt n pepper spare ribs and fresh lively slaw n salad. Couple of big cool IPAs and an absolute smorgasbord of petite dark haired beautiful waitresses hugged in little black dresses who had clearly completed some sinister interview process involving a walk through body profile board and a Donald Trump type assessment process. Can't be legal surely but no one seemed to be complaining.

Other great places were the old spaghetti house, lamplighters, Steamworks. 33 acres Brew Co, Off the Rail Brew Co, Green Leaf Brew Co and Timber Brew Co. Can't go anywhere without a curry these days and Salem Bombay was superb. Pride of place goes to Zefferellis where I had the best sea food spaghetti I've ever had and I've had a few.

Travelling around the city is easy as well. Cheap uncomplicated buses and ferries with great value day passes. One rainy day saw us venture  South West to the University district and the museum of Anthropology. Possibly the most interesting museum I've ever been to. Certainly the most interesting Anthropological one anyway. Packed stuffed and positively rammed with artefacts, displays and  historical treasures from the pacific rim. Fascinating and immensely rewarding.

Nowhere captures the true underlying spirit of a place more than the local race track and Vancouver's is a beauty. Set quite a way out East of the City it's a long but easy bus ride through the rougher East Vancouver until you get to the smarter Eastern Suburbs. The track itself is oval in front of a typical Race track stand and paddock but the panoramic mountain views across the other side of the course were stunning. Here ordinary working class Vancouver enjoyed a casual day at the races. Some dressed up, most didn't but all mingled in the same areas. No track side bookies, you placed your bets at numerous counters staffed by ace friendly and helpful mainly middle aged women. A great trio played country and Western based rock music between races in a tent to the right and food stalls served delicious hot dogs burgers and not too shabby local beer. Under the stands lay a cavern of slot machines and little booths where solitary intense men and women fed machines and studied form not even venturing out into the open air. A little cheerless  if you ask me but who am I to judge, they seemed to be enjoying it. What a great day made even better by MrsD picking us a 14-1 winner on the penultimate race to break exactly even on our betting money (it was free admission). She's a good girl, yes she is *pats her head*

The ride back into town was quite entertaining. The bus was full but one lad behind us had his bag on the seat preventing anyone sitting next to him whilst the people standing just looked at him to no avail. We gets into East Down town and this skinny junky looking women gets on and raced behind us shouting "Get your freaking bag of the seat" and threw it at the lad before sitting down. "Jeez is there something wrong with you" she shouted before the lad replied something incoherent as there was "something wrong with him". The rest of the journey was taken in complete silence  

Possibly the best day out was a trip across the water to North Vancouver and a bus East to a place called Deep Cove. It's a, well, a cove set deep into the surrounding mountains towering over a large sea inlet with a great hike up to quarry rock that has immense high views down to the pretty lakeside village and beyond to the surrounding mountains.  Had a very fresh n tasty Indian Dhaal wrap in one of the cafes as well.

Nowt like a bit of culture on a rainy day is there. We had the full mixed bag throughout the trip. Mainly overcast moderate interspersed with glorious sunshine and a full day or two's rain. Typically a heat wave entered the entire North West region on our last day and stayed for a two weeks. Just in time for Yorkshire's to end as we got back, ho hum. Anyway, we discovered an artist called Bill Reid in the anthropological museum. Half Indian on his mother's side his wooden sculptures and jewellery pieces are distinctive and instantly evoke a sense of Indigenous Canadian culture. There is a little museum featuring his works in downtown Vancouver well worth a visit although not a patch on the Anthropological museum mentioned earlier.

South of the City lay Queen Elizabeth Park. We were going to a street festival in the area so included a trip to the park and its botanical conservatory as part of it. Stunning park landscaped beautifully like a huge Chelsea flower show garden leading up to the conservatory. It was packed with exotic tropical plants and multi coloured birds speckled around occasionally zipping past your eye line. Spectacular, we're not the usual zoo type tourists but to get so close to such exotic uncaged birds was awesome.

Another great thing about North America are the street festivals and this one was no exception. 21 blocks of Main St cordoned off for food stalls craft stalls, music and festivity. The rain didn't put thousands of people off from attending and it was a great vibe all along. Capped off for me by a terrific blues guitar duo playing live outside Neptoons Record Shop. I could have stayed in that one place all afternoon but some great beer beckoned further down towards downtown at 330acrec brew co where we saw out the rest of the late afternoon.

Eight terrific days in the place finished off in the heat and sunshine of  a final trip to Granville Island and the Cactus Club on English bay. I would say prices are akin to City prices here. A pint of 7-8 % IPA is about five pounds but its good quality stuff. Buses cheap about 1.50 a trip no matter how far you go and food prices are average. There is no sense of danger or hostility despite the huge numbers of homeless wanderers. The people are straight up pretension free and friendly including the city after work crowd. Would certainly go again but next time we'd combine it with a trip deeper north into British Columbia and possibly Alaska.

Next stop, plane south across the border to Portland Oregon.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A place I'd love to go.

I can remember as a kid my dad coming home and saying he had been offered a job as the general manager (non playing) of their then up and comning football team.

The reaction from my mother was to the point 'I don't think so'.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another great report young man, taken there as per usual.

Such a crying shame regarding the homeless, another cost over humanity decision no doubt.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An excellent write up as usual.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My daughter is off there in October. I shall forward this to her!!


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