Sunday, 28 June 2009

Vancouver "Holiday" still.. 22/06/09-28/06/09

This week was mostly cruisy well in some respect. We had a few relaxing days but the few days we did do things were quite tough.

Monday we headed to Yaletown to have a look. Yaletown is an old brick-warehouse district in Vancouver which has been changed into apartments, swanky bars and cafes, and boutiques. This is where people come to be seen, especially at night when bars are often packed with designers and visiting celebs. It still shows some of its industrial past with railway lines remaining on the roads. Today was a bit of a cloudy and threatening to rain day which was a bit cooler so we stopped off in one of Yaletowns cafes for a coffee and waited to try and spot some celebrities. Unfortunately none were out this day. One day I keep telling myself, one day. I will continue to wave at all limousines that drive past me in the hope that one day Robin Williams will stop and jump out to say Hello. After a little walk through Yaletown which isn't that big we headed for a walk along False Creek not to do anything in particular other than to walk, we did however spot a seal in the water, it took us a while to be convinced it was one as no one else seemed to take notice, after a while of watching an waiting for him to pop up again we finally got photographic evidence.

This evening we went for a walk just around the road to an extremely rich area. It is a hugh one way round about street filled with really old mansions. Most only seemed to have one or two people in them and a small light on in one small part of the house, seems like such a waste that would be awesome for a family.

Tuesday was a tough day. We decided to head to North Vancouver and do the Grouse Grind. Now for sain people you can catch the gondola up the mountain but we decided to walk/hike, along with many other people that day, and to add to the amount of people who have already done it. I have climbed a few mountains or hills before and have done the Tongariro crossing but this hike it truly tough. Its a 3km walk which no doesn't sound far but make that 3km walk climbing 853 metres at an average grade of 30 degrees and it now appears much harder. I think if I had read that before hand I may have thought twice about it hehe. It took us 1 hour 40 mins which I thought was a good effort considering they say it takes about 2 hours for a novice hiker, not just walker but hiker. The fastest official times were set in 2007 for both men and women in the official Grind mountain run event, but the overall unofficial record was set in 2004 by Jonathan Wyatt a New Zealander, his time was 24 mins 22 secs. Now I have no idea how this is possible, stuff that.

Now half way up you think why the heck am I doing this and once you get to the top you get to find out why, the view from up here was amazing, unfortunately a bit of a hazy day but still beautiful. A little tip from normally one of the most prepared people I know remember to take a jersey as even though you are freakin hot when you get up there, it soon gets extremely cold, especially when there are still small amounts ice/snow up the top (in the middle of summer might I add) and you are 1128m high.

While up Grouse mountain there are also many things to do and see, once again we opted for the free options which were actually really good. We watched a lumberjacks show which had the former fastest tree climber in it, quite humorous. Then we watched the birds of prey show featuring eagle, turkey vulture, owl and the famous peregrine falcon. This show even had a touch of Kiwi in saying the turkey vulture and the kiwi were the only 2 birds that use there sense of smell to find foods (this is debated however). Then we visited the bear enclosure which has 2 grizzly bears. There are also chair lifts up higher, helicopter rides, zip lines across mountain tops and tandem parachuting but all of these cost money so maybe another time. After we had finished up here we headed back down on the sky ride to the bottom for only $5 compared to $25 if you don't do the grouse grind so I guess another positive for the climb.

Wednesday was another work day for me as I headed into the hospital to sort out my roster for end of September through October. Also a buy some scrubs day. All around not a very interesting day but necessary.

Thursday was a yuck cold and rainy day so we decided to hang around at home. Nothing else to report really.

Friday I headed to the HR office to fill out some forms for work before we headed out for the afternoon to the Police museum and for the 'Sins of the City' tour. The police museum was very interesting, showing some old police uniforms, signal boxes, and boards talking about the history of police in Vancouver. It also had sections on drugs found through Vancouver, counterfeit money, guns and various home made weapons confiscated from civilians some of these were really gruesome looking, its amazing what people come up with. Then you went thought to the old morgue and autopsy room which was very interesting, a little disturbing and a bit yuck/gruesome. Built back in 1932 this building was built as the Coroner's Court and City Analyst's Laboratory. The coroners facility was moved in 1980 to Vancouver general hospital and this became a film location between 1980-1986. The analysts lab was last used in 1995 at this site. The morgue area had actual stories in Vancouver about robberies, murders and a family killing. Some of these cases were solved but some weren't, I can't believe they actually had real photos from the houses where the killings took place it was a bit airy and weird.

Then for the even weirder part: The autopsy room which was equipped with silver body beds, tools that used to be used for autopsies, and then there were the body parts that had been inspected during an autopsy being preserved. These had descriptions next to them of what they show, this was a bit yuck but also very interesting.

After this we headed out on our 'Sins of the city tour' this is a tour around the oldest parts of Vancouver. Check out the sins of the city link to see a video on the tour. There were only 3 of us on this particular tour so made it very intimate. We learned about the prostitution, alcohol and drug history of the city. Along with this we were told about the general idea of how Vancouver came about and the racial and labour tension, particularly against the Japanese and Chinese for different reasons. I found this particular tour very interesting, we walked across one of the bad street here a couple of times. The guide told us that sometimes he has homeless people that come up and ask if they are talking about them, he tells them no I'm talking about the history of the city, sometimes he said they stick around to listen as they find it interesting. I would recommend this tour to others if you come to visit.

This mosaic was put here to commererate the racism and riots in 1907 against the Chinese and Japanese. It is depicting a stick breaking windows which happened in "Japtown" and Chinatown in 1907. This mosaic is on Alexander Street in Vancouver. It says Noodle House on it.

Today (Saturday) was an opening day of one of the completed sections/stops of the new Canada line (train from Vancouver airport to the city), due to open early September and for the Olympics. This was at Oakridge center, we headed down to the new train to have a walk on it, got free juice, walked around the mall there, and sat down to listen to music. Then after this we headed to central park to have a walk around, through the forest and around a couple of small lakes. We then caught the sky train home for dinner. After this we went out for another dessert at a different just dessert and coffee shop. Apparently the death by chocolate restaurant franchise was developed in New Zealand in 1991. Unfortunately I wasn't too impressed with mine and had better at the cheesecake shop down the road, but Cam liked his. May just have to try something different, my expectations for Baked Alaska were quite high as I have tried some nice ones back in NZ, thought this would compare if not be better considering we are close to Alaska hehe.

Sunday was another relaxing day of rest to end the week.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Vancouver "Holiday": 15/06/09-21/06/09

Monday we ventured back to Granville Island to find our way around and learn about the place without the crowds, turns out its a bigger area than I thought. There are some really cool shops around here, ideal for gifts and souvenirs. Also ideal if you would like to spend $55,000 on a rock sculpture, this was the most expensive however for a bargain you could get a smaller one. Its very green in this city, we stopped for a cold drink and most things you find are organic, also our smoothies were served in a cup with a straw made out of corn, which I thought was quite interesting, making them both biodegradable. Keep and eye out in most places you go for recycle bins. Granville Island also tends to have many buskers, the guy today could do a particularly cool trick of putting a partially blown up animal balloon down his nose and out his mouth, actually quite yuck if you ask me.

Tuesday was yet another park visit, this time to Queen Elizabeth Park, we had been told you could get beautiful views of the city from here, apparently that is correct. This park has 2 quarry gardens whatever that means, one bigger than the other. We walked around admiring the gardens, bridges and water feature before taking some nice pictures of the city, unfortunately today was a bit overcast and hazy therefore the photos aren't as good as they could be. After this we headed to the golf course for a little pitch and putt, I remember now why I haven't played that often, its really hard to get a pitching wedge to actually pitch, so I decided to putt from the rough. Cam however didn't seem to find this as difficult. Plus you can only do 18 holes so can get frustrating if your not very good, still fun though.

Wednesday was a quiet day can't really remember what happened this day, I know I did some baking, boring really.

Thursday was quite exciting really, we decided to go on another walk, this time to Seymour Conservation Reserve, there were just bears at this place apparently. This is out near Lynn Valley one of our other walks however slightly further, and once again another park you could not explore in one day. I think the furthest you could walk was about 12kms one way and that was from one end to the other. Not including all the side trails you could do. We walked about 13kms this day, to view our walk click here.

After stopping by the trout fishing lake (where they periodically release new catchable trout into the lake from the hatchery up the road), we headed on our walk along a traffic like road, however no cars drive on this. It is only for walkers, cyclists, strollers and roller bladers. It was really quiet and weird, an empty road winding through the forest with random people on it every now and then. This road kept going for about another 6kms and we had already walked 6kms so if we went all the way we would have had to walk 24kms, we decided 12kms would be enough for today. We headed off on another path and back along the Seymour River to the start.

We spend over a week in LA and don't see anything even slightly related to stardom, and then we go walking way out in the bush in Vancouver and stumble across filming on one of the public tracks. We're yet to figure out what they were filming for, apparently they were filming US coastguard (this is what they tell us) but we have googled that and can't find it anywhere, so who knows. We'll keep you posted. They even asked us to hang out with them until they had shot a small section and showed us what they were doing on their screens. It was all very exciting, however a little bit of a blur now. I guess they call it North Hollywood for a reason. It appears they have shot a few things out there such as X-files, MacGyver and RV just to name a few.

After our brush with fame we stumbled across an amazing view where we stopped for a snack, why would they not want to film movies here. This area was also where the film base was, unfortunately we didn't see anyone famous we knew. We headed along the river in the bushes and then finished off our walk with an extremely steep climb for about 1km, I think probably the steepest you could go without stairs, I guess we had, had it easy the rest of the walk. Overall a really nice day and walk.

Friday was a cruisy day really, we had a well earned sleep in and then headed into town to visit Gastown. Quite a well known tourist area in Vancouver, not sure why it took us this long to get here, I think it may have had something to do with the fact it is right next to the dodgy area and not being familiar with the area we didn't want to venture near it. Turns out Gastown and Chinatown are near the dodgy area but if you stay away from Hastings street and visit them in the day you will be fine. Gastown became the first "town" area, after the arrival of alcohol bought here by "Gassy Jack", well this is the short story, to see more click the link above. The main attraction in this area is the steam clock. Built by Raymond Saunders, steam winds the weights and blows the whistlers. For more information on this click here (too hard for me to write it all here).

After this we went for another walk through the city, this time to a new area along Denman street and up Davie Street, this area is the west end and has a substantial gay population living in this area. One particular pub had a guy wearing a cowboy hat and then I noticed that there were actually only guys in this pub. Seems like a nice area though, friendly people and really busy. We had been recommended the Cambie pub by Sarah so decided to check it out, I must admit we saw the place from the outside and were just about to leave, it just looked a little dodgy and not quite the place I would like to go. I don't think I would have ever considered it, if it hadn't been recommended. Apparently first impressions aren't always correct it was like a real mans pub inside and did seem a little rough but the place definitely grew on us. Loud music, pool, TV's with sport on everywhere and a lively feel to the place. Think we will prob go back here at some point.

A few drinks later we headed home for dinner, however the first dinner I made was crap and I think the first time I have ever thrown a dinner out. So we had second dinner which was so much better. After this it was time for Cheesecake, there is an awesome shop down the road that just sells homemade cheesecake, hot drinks and cold drinks called cheesecake etc., and its non baked cheesecake, even better! (something for you Jacki). Its a really cute little shop that only opens late at night, its purely candle lit (except for the fridge) and they have music playing. I think live music normally as they have a piano there but no one played for us this night. I'm sure we will be back though. Finally we talk a walk along Granville Bridge to take a photo of the city at night, it looks really beautiful with all the lights and water around.

We couldn't decide what to do today, tossed up between the Scandinavian day or dragon boat racing, however ended up buying tickets to the Canadians (Vancouver) baseball game against the Everett Aquasox from Washington for that night instead. We decided to give these other 2 things a miss and do boring grocery shopping instead. For those of you who have done grocery shopping and then had to carry all your bags on the bus home, its a bitch and I think we have now found out you don't do this on a Saturday. May have to get one of those nanna bags that you pull along on wheels but just don't know if I can bring myself to use one hehe. Unfortunately our nearest grocery store is 4 normal blocks North and 2 Tobi blocks East (about 4-5 large blocks normal people size). From the bus to our apartment is about the only time I wish I have a car.

Anyway enough boring grocery talk and on to the exciting stuff. Our FIRST Baseball game at Nat Bailey Stadium, and to make it better it turned out to be a sold out game and the first of the season. The stadium holds 5182 people, it is a smaller than others as the Vancouver team is in the minor league, but still just as fun and just like the movies. There was a brass band playing outside, people in the isles offering beer and hotdogs, mascots, singing of the national anthems by a 5 year old (which we didn't know), and chants through the crowd. Half way through the mascot and some kids stood on the side of the field and made the crowd get up and sing the Baseball game song and do exercises it was funny, but the crowd participation was amazing just about everyone got involved. Unfortunately the Canadians didn't win this day but did win the other 2 games against the Everett Aquasox. Still a very fun evening for us. Oh also being the first game of the season they had fireworks at the end, turns out they do this every Saturday game. They were very good but after Disneyland not quite the same, as this time we had a streaker who ran across the field with the fireworks in the background and did a running dive across the plate, it was awesome!! Definately think I could become a fan of this sport, very entertaining.

Sunday was a cruisy day walking down the street for Greek Day. Another blocking of the street from cars and enjoying music, shopping and the most of all food. It was a shame we had already had lunch this day as the food looked and smelt beautiful. Basically chicken and beef on sticks, bread and these dough balls deep fried and drizzled with honey and cinnamon called loukoumades (they looked good). Really good turn out here also, was hard to make your way through the crowds. We entered in a draw to win a trip to Greece but unfortunately didn't win, oh well maybe next competition. Anyway weather was getting a bit crap, yes our first cold day here which actually looked like it was going to rain, so we headed home for hot chocolates and a movie marathon. Nothing like watching several movies in a row on a crap day and going to bed at 2am on a Sunday night has you have no work tomorrow. Sorry guys I'll be working soon so won't be able to gloat. The end of another action packed week in Vancouver.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Our Vancouver "Holiday" Continues 8/6/2009-14/6/2009

We took a small break from our holiday on Monday. Rach had a visit to her new job and I spend a couple of hours applying for jobs. We were like normal people for a bit.

On Tuesday we went to the Vancouver Aquarium. It was a well timed visit because they had a Beluga baby born on Sunday. Unfortunately this also meant that they weren't letting people to close to their environment so they can bond. We got a few photos from the side but we need to go back so we can see from the underwater viewing area. The Aquarium was good, we were a little disappointed with the outside areas. They were smaller than we expected and really only three animals. They made up for it with their indoor exhibits. They had a nice range of animals and good informative displays - its all about education!

Wednesday was a quiet one. We went in to town to do a few things and I applied for another job or two.

Thursday we walked MILES. We headed down to False Creek with plans to head round to Kits Beach. We go to Kits and thought we've "come this far, so thought we might as well keep on going'. So we ended up at Jericho Beach, all 10kms of walking. It was really nice there and we'll we were there we noticed a bald eagle circling above - we'd learned about them on Tuesday at the Aquarium.

On Friday we needed a rest. We laxed around home and did a few jobs then headed to the pub, it was a Friday night after all. We started at the Frog and Firken, it was great, we sat at the bar and had a couple of drinks while watching the Stanley Cup final. After that we wandered down the Earls for a nice dinner, the place was packed because of the Stanley Cup final. It was a nice meal so we might have to go back there next time we feel rich. After dinner we headed into town hoping to find some live music... we wandered Granville Street and tried a few places, nothing had what we wanted so we headed home. We've done more research since then so we'll try a few more places next time.

Luckily we didn't have enough to drink Friday night so we weren't hungover on Saturday so headed to Lighthouse Park. It's a nice small park with some beautiful post card Canadian coastline. Its amazing how far from the city we seem to be able to get on a city bus.

Sunday was a great day so we headed to the Main St Car Free Day. It's exactly what it sounds like, its a day on main st when cars are blocked off. There was a great turn out and the weather was perfect. We spent a couple of hours wandering the street visiting the stalls. Vancouver is great for always having something on to see and do - this is a great example.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Vancouver 1/06/09-7/06/09

Our first week in Vancouver continued with beautiful and hot weather contradictory to what we had heard about Vancouver. Aparently they were having a particularly hot spell at the moment. Along with this came our first sighting of a squirrel, right outside our apartment.

Monday Bob (the guy who organised the apartment etc) picked us up and took us to get our social insurance number (equivillent to IRD number) and to get a bank account. He also took us for a tour around our area, showed us some tourist things in town and showed us what areas were dodgy in town including where we had been the day before. After this he drove us around Stanley Park, across the Lions Gate bridge and some way up Mt Cypress to look at the view over the city. Unfortunately I had my camera with me, but the battery was still in the charger from the night before, gutted. Oh well I'm sure we will be back up there again.

Tuesday was a rest day and then we were back into the tourist scene again on Wednesday. Today we hired a tandem bike and rode around Stanley Park. It was a bit of a shaky start but by about a third of the way around we had it under control. Its so weird being on a bike and not being able to steer, also weird not really being able to see where you are going when you have someone in front of you, scary to begin with. Cam drove all the way, well actually I tried steering about half way around however we nearly ended up in the bush so decided that Cam would continue.
Anyway we started our trip visiting the totem poles. These are the mosted visited tourist attraction in British Columbia. The totem was the British Columbia Indians coat of arms, they are unique to the North West Coast of British Columbia and Lower Alaska. Each carving tells of a real or mythical event and each carving on each pole has a meaning. After this we headed along the seawall past the Lions gate bridge and lighthouse, past third beach and second beach to the lost lagoon, the lagoon used to fill with water from Coal Harbour in the early 1900's, then a causeway was built causing the lagoon to be constant fresh water pond.

We returned our bikes and then went back to Stanley park to walk around a little. We ended up finding Brockton Oval where they play cricket and rugby with a beautiful view, yeah who knew. I'm told it doesn't get used too often. We walked down some of the other tracks around the park and then headed home. Have to save the rest of Stanley Park for another day, it is such a huge area, hard to believe it is right by the city.

Thursday we decided to be people that actually lived in the city and headed to the movies. We went to see UP 3D. This is a good movie, however quite sad, think I cried about 3-4 times, more than The Lion King and Finding Nemo. It was awesome in 3D, this was the first movie I had ever seen 3D. We also ended up getting free tickets for another movie as the lights came on and the sound stopped for about 5 mins, we did end up missing this part of the movie but it was made worth while at the end. After this we jumped on one of the sky trains to have a look around.

Friday was another park walking day. We caught the seabus across to North Vancouver and then the bus to Lynn Canyon. Lynn Canyon is a rainforest area surrounding Lynn Creek. It has a suspension bridge and is 250 hectares. So after reading the warning signs about bears and cougars in the area we headed off for our walk. We crossed the suspension bridge, unfortunately the signs said you couldn't jump or run on the bridge, luckily there were too many visitors to tempt us. We headed down to Twin Falls and back to the start, after a stop for lunch and walk around the ecology centre where we found a pamphlet on what to do if you come across a bear (purhaps something we should of had before hand), we were off again on another walk. This time we stayed on this side of the creek and headed toward pipeline bridge. Named this as it had a pipeline running beside it, the bridge was nothing to rave about but was extremely high above the creek. We headed across it anyway and down some more tracks to 30 foot pool, I'm guessing it was called this as at one point it was 30 feet?? Not to sure but there were silly people jumping off the rock into a small area of water. The surrounding area wasn't that deep and it definately wasn't that wide. Finally we headed back and across the suspension bridge again, this time not so crowded so we had some time to take some photos. A really nice setting once again, and the water is so clear. This evening we ended up at the Crepe Cafe for a second dinner as leftovers weren't quite enough, this is yum food and reasonably priced think we'll have to go back here again.

Saturday was a cruisy day at Granville Island. Granville Island is underneith the Granville Bridge, and no its not actually an Island, it connects to the land and is mostly surrounded by false creek. Is used to be an industrial penninsular but is now full with restaurants, bars, theatres and artisan businesses. Along with this is the public market full with stalls selling, cheese, bakery stuff, meat, vegies and many other specialty foods. It appears on the weekends in summer it is really busy, we faught our way through the crowds to get out fruit and veges for the next couple of weeks and then attempted to look around, after a while of carrying heavy bags we hung around looking for a table to sit at to eat lunch, this turned out to be quite difficult, but we got one in the end. We decided to come back here another day for a better look around with less people so we knew where to go when it was busy again.

Sunday was another cruisy day, we headed to Metrotown on the sky train. Metrotown is a huge shopping complex, I will definately have to come back here once I get paid and have plenty of money to do some shopping. This place is huge, about the size of silvia park but 2 stores of it. We just wondered round being tourists dreaming about the things we would like to buy, and actually looking for a hair cutter for Cam, what a mission this turned out to be, it was very frustrating, turns out you find them at the London drug store, yes thats right who would have thought. It surprises me how many shops here have drug in there title, like shoppers drug mart, and you can find all sorts of things in these shops. Anyway nothing much else to say about this day.