Vancouver’s Siren Song

Modern photography has  forever changed my travel memory process. Is anyone else  out there  old enough to remember being invited to your friends’ and relatives’ homes to sit   in their darkened living rooms to see  their slides of the Grand Canyon? Or, when Polaroids came into vogue,  to see eighteen envelopes of newly developed pictures from the beach? Well, I  certainly remember those times. When I was growing up  it seemed that our family  would have  one endless  evening of viewing  either our own travel pictures or those of our relatives, and then we never saw the pictures again.

Today, thanks to technology,  we can see our pictures as often as we want to. And we can  delete the awful ones so that no one is subjected to seeing blurred photo after blurred photo while smiling  and agreeing that yes, the Smokies are breathtaking at this time of year. Having such easy access to my photos lets me savor  my memories over and over again. While looking at my photos, what happened months ago seems to have occurred only yesterday.  Since I will be traveling to Amsterdam at the end of this week I  thought you might like to look back with me  on the  last day  of my trip to  Vancouver in June.

For those not numbered among my thousands of regular readers, I will say that I have posted about Vancouver several times before. To bring you up to date, after we had been in Vancouver for  a few days we had seen many of the “must sees” for first time visitors. But I was anxious  to do at least a tiny bit of exploring off the beaten path. At the last minute, I found the Vancouver blog I wish I had known about earlier, Miss 604. If you go to Vancouver, check out her blog! It is full of daily events in the Vancouver area. Anyway, scrolling through the  blog I found a listing of Vancouver’s hidden gems. And there it was: the Punjabi Market. That was the perfect outing for our last day!

We reached the Punjabi  Market by bus, crossing over into Kitsilano,  going straight down Main Street. As we passed through shopping districts in the drizzly rain, I was kind enough to point out to my husband the many inviting  thrift stores we passed. He did seem relieved when I said what a shame it was we wouldn’t have time to go to them. Maybe next time?

As soon as we arrived in the market area, my companion and I parted ways, he to find a place where he could sit and read, and I to find and capture shiny objects of beauty. I walked up and down the street a few times, looking at the variety of stores. Which ones should I visit? Stores which sold food and large kitchen items were just not practical; this gal does not check bags on an airplane.  And saris? I love them, but a red haired woman in the sari store was going to be a bit conspicuous. Ah, here was a store that  could accommodate my needs!

This may have been the place. Source: vancouver.about.com

I don’t know the name of the place, but it was narrow, and filled with shiny glittering bracelets and other bibelots seemingly designed for the magpie in me. The gracious  shopkeeper, seeing  I was about to have the vapors from the effects of all the delicious shininess, allowed me to look at my leisure and did not object to my taking pictures. When I wanted some of the hanging pretties ( I don’t know how else to describe them) , she agreed to my climbing a step ladder and trying to release said pretties from their perches on the ceiling. She asked where I  was from, and I told her, but she did not seem to have heard of it. When I am striking up a conversation while out of the United States, and the person I am speaking with has not heard of Elvis Presley, I give up and say, ” I’m not from these parts.”

How was I going to decide what to buy from all these treats?Be still, my heart!So I had to have some bangles, and I had to have some of the hanging pretties. Then there were the shoes. I bought two pair, but wish I had bought ten, because these lovely shoes OWN me. I wear them everywhere.They match whatever I plan to wear. If they want to go to the swimming pool I take them. If they want to go to dinner I take them. You would do the same if you had these shoes. May they last long and delight me for years.

Here they are hanging out by the pool.

Seriously shiny!

These too!

About the time I left that store was the time at which I had agreed to meet  with my companion. I found that he had conveniently parked himself at a bar which served  local draft beer. I wound my way up the street and joined him. After a beer, I  suggested we investigate the clothing store opposite the bar. I felt somewhat timid about taking pictures in the store, so my companion approached the lady behind the counter on my behalf.  He  asked her if I might take pictures; he thought  she replied affirmatively. However, after I took one shot she began to exclaim that I must NOT take pictures! Yikes! At least I got one!

These delicacies will have to wait until next time.

It seemed to be time to move on. We caught a bus and went into Gastown. Both of us were sad that our lovely trip was coming to an end. In Gastown we stopped for dinner at the Black Frog Pub.

Hey! Who’s that woman in there with my man?

After dinner we took one last long walk back to our hotel. When we arrived back at  our suite, we were rewarded with a lovely sunset view from our living room window. As we packed we reflected upon the way we had been welcomed in Vancouver at every turn. Surely the city was encouraging us to at least return some future  day if we could not extend our visit today. It was too soon to leave, but we have heard the siren song. We shall return!

Don’t Say, Just Cool

One of travel’s most lasting gifts  is the permission it gives us  to depart from our accustomed  routines. In our daily lives we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of not  doing laundry or not driving the carpool or  not having the tires rotated.  And no matter how much we may love the people who benefit from our daily chores, these jobs take time and energy. Consistency and routine are important to the ordered life, but in my mind, order needs to be balanced out from time to time with a little adventure.

In my household my long suffering husband does the majority of the  quotidian chores: mowing the grass ( I’m allergic), paying the bills ( I may not remember), checking the swimming pool water ( I don’t like science), and taking care of the vehicles.( It wouldn’t occur to me, except to put in gas.) He keeps himself so busy that I have to go look for him if I want talk to him about something, and usually find him diligently performing some thankless task. And right after that he will have another very important task which must be done only by him.

Of course I  have my own designated  chores such as cooking, gardening, organizing, and supervising. Supervising takes lots of time. But by now we’ve worked out who is the most natural person say, to dust. Don’t ask my husband to do that unless we find out the President will arrive  at our home in thirty minutes, and even then he’ll try to convince  me that if he  were to strategically arrange our coffee table books, no one will notice the fur growing on top of the furniture.

With our various responsibilities we often spend the bulk of the weekend days completing our tasks alone, There never seems to be enough time set aside for the “we” of us, for the couple. That is why I so savor our vacations as well as  the memories of them. It’s nice to set aside the time for ourselves, and  even nicer to reflect on how we spent our time together after we’re back and again caught up in the demands of the real world.

I have shared some of our  June 2012 Vancouver pictures here in previous posts, and today we’ll see pictures of two more play days there. The first play day is the Sea to Sky train, and the second is bicycling Stanley Park.

Neither of us had been to Vancouver before, so whatever we did there was a first for us. When reading about activities we had to choose among the many “must do” recommendations to try to see what seemed the most important to us. We both agreed we could not miss the train ride from Vancouver to Whistler.

If you go to Vancouver, know that the railroad offers various trips, but we only had time for the up and back day trip.  The ticket price includes a bus ride to the terminal. We had read that the railroad workers were on strike, but the only sign of that was a group of picketers we passed on our way in. We  were welcomed cordially onto the train as a kilted man played the bagpipes in the railroad yard.

All aboard!

Once in transit, a festive atmosphere ensued as the passengers tried to eat the ice cold, brickbat  Indian bread called bannock which was included in the breakfast.  A German tour group was in our car, and though I don’t know the language,  facial expressions are the same in any language.   For  the next three and a  half hours  the train chugged  in a leisurely fashion  up the mountains to Whistler.  Guides let the passengers know when good photo opportunities were  approaching. We were free to then rush into the observation car, wrapped in blankets they provided, to crowd up to the edge of the  open car for a photo. Adults and energetic children made their way up and down the aisles to be on time for some beautiful view we were about to pass. Others followed, because they didn’t want to miss anything.

Something very beautiful is on the other side of this window.

Now. The route is gorgeous, offering stunning views of the Howe Sound, the Cheakamus River and the general environs.  The train is  clean and well appointed also, and in the United States we don’t get to ride on too many luxurious trains. Plus we love to ride trains. So for us it was a win all around, except that it was hard to get good pictures from the moving train. Now you will know why I took so many pictures of the side of the train!

We were dropped at our destination with instructions as to what time to be back for the return trip. Whistler is a ski town, but we weren’t planning to ski, and it was too cold to do the other fun outdoor activities they had to offer. After our boxed breakfast, lunch was our first priority. Then, fueled by a good lunch and draft beer, we tended to the second issue: I was freezing to death.

My husband had worn  a heavy sweater but I had only a thin shirt and thinner sweater. All morning in the observation car the wind had pierced through cracks in my blanket armor. I was not going to go back through three more hours of that. I have to have the right equipment when I travel. I just do. Luckily the Whistler ski shops had all manner of cold weather accoutrements available to wear in June. We fitted ourselves out proudly  with Whistler hoodies to erase all doubt as whether we were tourists. I can assure you I do not spend many afternoons with my spouse  inside retail stores, so this was a real treat.

The return three and a half hours was much more subdued. I didn’t see many people in the observation cars. Some folks were snoozing. I wanted to sleep too, but four older ladies behind me who each occupied  an entire seat of her own, carried on a loud, uninhibited conversation about new grandchildren. So we snuggled, bundled in our sweatshirts, full, warm, and grateful, and eavesdropped for all we were worth.

I loved this purple plant growing on the rocks.

See how much warmer I am in my hoodie?

The next day was the day for Stanley Park. For various reasons it had previously  never worked out for us to rent bikes and ride when we have traveled,  but this  day we scored! Stanley Park  was just a short but brisk walk from out hotel. Renting bikes was easy at one of the many bike rental stores that surround the park. After I finally mastered the art of getting on the bike, a skill only acquired after I jumped on it the wrong way and fell on my tailbone in front of a group of people, we rode all through the park – in the woods, up hills, down hills,  on the seawall, around the marinas. For long stretches we could ride as fast as we wanted, just as I remember doing as a child,  with  the sun and wind on our faces.

About halfway through the park, we found the Stanley Park Teahouse, where we ate the hearty lunch we deserved after all our exertions. We deserved a beer as well.  I would have loved to eat dinner there because the Teahouse location, an officer’s mess during World War II,  has been voted the best sunset in Vancouver. Maybe next time!

We got to the edge of the park and went down a street to see if there was anything else we had missed. And what did we find?  The Lawn Bowling Club! I saw a sign that said “Open to the Public” so we wheeled right on in. A game was in progress. I don’t know lawn bowling etiquette, but we thought total silence on our part was the most respectful stance. Doesn’t this look like fun?

Alas, no one asked us to play. Probably I didn’t have on the right shoes anyway. I didn’t want to call a lot of attention to myself, but I had to get a few pictures of this cuteness. Somehow the combination of the pristine British expat- seeming lawn, the adorable elderly bowlers, the lush gardens, and the ships in the harbor in the background just thrilled me to pieces. I might need to retire here and join the Club.

Can you see the ships in the harbor across the street?

I did a double take when I saw this bed; it looks almost exactly like my back flower bed at home.

After returning the bicycles, we trudged back up the hill we had merrily hopped down earlier that morning  on our way to the park. Tired but happy, we saw just the sign that expressed everything  we felt:

You said it, honey!

That’s right. Don’t say, just cool! Just have an adventure together!  Whether close to home or far from home, it matters not. At the end of the day you will have new memories and stories to enjoy forever.

Vancouver Memories

Honey, I’m home!  I’ve escaped to the mountains with my sister  and returned to eerily decent weather, with  temperatures in the 60s in the mornings, and highs in the 80s, with breezes and no humidity. With this weather I could just about stand to live here! I know you are all eager to get my mountain report but today I’m going back to the beginning of the summer , to the last place where I felt such pleasant temeperatures: Vancouver.

Actually it was  cooler  in Vancouver than it is here now, but  the coolness was a welcome treat for me. Looking back  at the pictures it is hard to believe that only a few months ago I was someplace where I couldn’t walk down the street without a scarf wrapped around my neck. If someone tried that fashion trick around here they would be asked by old ladies in kindly voices, “Honey, did you hurt your neck?” Anyway, time for a look at Day Two in Vancouver!

Goals for Day Two in Vancouver were simple. Hit the Granville Island Farmers Market early, when it would be less crowded, followed by the Museum of Vancouver, to get a feel for the history of the city. From our location in Davies Village it was a short downhill walk to the place where we could catch a a little tug boat to Granville Island. These tugs come every twenty minutes, so we bought an all day ticket so we could come and go as we pleased.  On the short ride over we envisioned a leisurely walk through the various vendor stalls, occasionally stopping to sample goodies or order a strong aromatic cup of coffee. We were two cosmopolitan empty nesters, out on the kind of cool  Sunday morning adventure that cosmopolitan empty nesters have earned. EARNED.

Oops! We didn’t realize  that Granville Island was the location of The International Children’s Festival, and that very Sunday was the grand finale!   We  gamely toured the covered parts of the market, wending our way through the crowds, and admiring goodies as we had hoped.

Don’t even try to mess with her.

But the density of people was much worse outside. We quickly found we would need to scratch the relaxing plan and go with the survival plan. Apparently people can drive their cars to Granville Island, so everywhere we turned we were dodging Volvos crowded with kiddies either coming or going from the festivities. I  wonder if some of those poor people are still bumper to bumper on the Island, circling until they find a parking place?

All around us were face painters, organ grinding music, kiddie performances  and the like. Surely this is a worthwhile event, but what were we doing here? After looking unsuccessfully for a peaceful sanctuary, we came upon a helpful maintenance man, perhaps fleeing himself, who pointed out a hotel at the end of the island where we might find respite. We made a dash for the Dockside Restaurant  and were grateful to be seated on an outdoor patio, facing  the opposite  direction of the festival.

We hadn’t planned on a brunch, but the salmon burger was delicious, and the live jazz soon made us forget the cacophony at the other end of the island.Yes. These people are covering themselves with blankets.

Next we got back onboard the tug to head for the Museum of Vancouver. Aah! We virtually had the place to ourselves.  A word about Vancouver museums: there aren’t very many. Unlike other large cities, Vancouver seems to be young in its  municipal museum life.

This cozy little museum has some permanent exhibits about life in the area since white settlers came in, up to the present day. ( There is another museum that tells the story of the   indigenous tribes.)The town that became Vancouver grew very quickly after  it was named to be the final stop on the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1884.  Many ethnic minorities came in to help build the town and the railway and formed their own communities. Suburbs and roads were developed. The town was swept into the World Wars and embraced life’s modern conveniences in the post war boom.

Shoes from the Japanese part of town.

One of the two special exhibits was Art Deco Chic, a study of art deco influence on fashion. I  Ioved, loved, these dresses. And would love to wear them. This exhibit really whetted my appetite to learn more about the history of fashion. It is an interesting lens through which to view history.

This dress from the 1920s was influenced by recent archaelogical finds in Egypt.

This dress was made in Vancouver by the Aurora company.

Robin Hood-inspired accessories.

The second special exhibit was of neon signs from the city. As Vancouver has grown it has faced issues similar to other big cities: zoning, infrastructure, commerce. At one point it outlawed large neon signs. Many were destroyed, others left to languish in junkyards. The exhibit asks if the signs are an eyesore, or  art in themselves? You will have to decide for yourself.

But I think you know which way a magpie would lean on the subject.

After the calm of the museum we were ready to brave the Island again, this time to buy some goodies for dinner. The place was still bustling but at a somewhat lower decibel level. This time we actually went in a few shops, and stopped for a much needed cup of coffee.

After making a few dinner purchases we boarded the blue tug for our final ride. Our heads were filled with the vivid sounds, smells and sights of the day. We looked to forward to having a dinner of market goodies in our room and watching the sun set behind the mountains. And we did.