Vancouver

We have had a couple of very nice days in Vancouver. The last time that we were here (ten years ago) it seemed to us to be a very comfortable city and this feeling still continues. That’s probably because Vancouver competes with Melbourne each year as one of the world’s most liveable cities. The downtown area is on a small peninsula and is very compact – about 1 mile wide and a bit further in its length with Stanley Park at one end and Chinatown at the other. It’s very easy to walk around. The only distraction that we found is the relatively large number of homeless people on the streets who are begging for a handout. We noticed them on our previous trip and they certainly stand out again for us on this visit.

On our first day here, we took it very easy. After our long flight from Australia, we didn’t wake up until about 9.30 am and by the time that we got going, it was nearly 11.00 am. We started the day with a coffee and a bun at the Starbucks cafe in the hotel lobby and then navigated our way to Stanley Park. This huge park, at the western end of the city is a very popular place for locals. There are many separate areas for different activities with local people all out on a nice day picnicking, cycling, walking, rowing, jogging and engaging in a whole heap of outdoor activities. We were surprised that we didn’t see any squirrels, but we did come across large flocks of Canada Geese.

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We found some really scenic views looking across to the city and in one area, we found a collection of totem poles that represented a number of ‘First Nations’ legends (as the Canadians call their indigenous people. We navigated the outer driveway (anti-clockwise only) for a second loop to get to a nice cafe near the Lion’s Head bridge for a late lunch.

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After lunch, we drove down to Chinatown to see the formal and quite spectacular Chinese Garden. After dropping our car back at the hotel, we walked down to the Harbour Centre Building which has a 360 degree lookout on the top floor and this gave us a great view over the entire area. Vancouver is a little like Sydney and Seattle. All these cities are built around a very scenic harbour and while obviously different, they all have a background of harbour views and a very nice ambience. On the way back to our hotel, we decided that it was late enough for dinner, so we stopped off at a restaurant called The Keg. This was a very nice steakhouse and nothing like the old chain of Keg restaurants that we once had in Australia.

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Today, our second day here, we had a quick breakfast and then walked down to the old area of the city known as Gastown. It is famous for its old steam clock and as in our previous visit, the streets were decorated with very nice. hanging baskets of bright flowers on every lamp post. This area has had some significant development since our last visit and now contains  a much larger number of interesting boutique stores in most of the old buildings along the streets.

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Just out of Vancouver is a mountain that has a ski field and many interesting activities. It is reached by a large Gondola – Grouse Mountain. It has been clouded over for the last two days, but today the weather was clear and the peak was visible.

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We decided that this was the day for a visit, so after lunch, we picked up our car from the hotel and headed off on the short drive to the base of the mountain. There were some excellent views from the peak and there was still a large number of snow drifts around that had not yet melted. One of the attractions at the peak is an enclosure in which a couple of grizzly bears are kept. These were abandoned as cubs and now live a leisurely and protected life being gawked at by tourists. I was able to grab a number of photos and by carefully selecting the background, made them look as if they had been photographed in the wild.

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It’s always interesting how travel creates coincidences. The host in the restaurant at the hotel tonight was a young woman whose accent I had difficulty determining. It turned out that she was Russian and from Ekaterinburg, of all places. We ended up having quite a chat about the places that I remember seeing from my Trans Siberian Railway Journery as we had stopped in Ekaterinburg for a couple of days. She was quite amazed that anyone had been to Ekaterinburg.

This wasn’t quite as much of the coincidence we experienced in the Qantas Club in Melbourne as we were waiting to board our flight. We were sitting at a table next to another couple and both of us looked at each other as if we knew each other. It turned out that it was John, the same man with whom we had shared a taxi to our overnight hotel in Los Angeles on our last trip when we both missed our connection to Australia after a very delayed flight from Boston. Small World!

Tomorrow, we leave Vancouver and head east to a little town called Osoyoos in the Kanagen Valley wine growing area.