05.08.2014 - 12.08.2014 24 °C
It has been a while - I have been doing a lot of travelling. In my last post, I concluded with the six hour wait on the tarmac at Manila airport, while they cleared away the other flight which had mis-judged and ran off the runway. I have to say that the crew onboard my Philippines Air plane were exceptional - giving us a snack when it became clear we would not be leaving, sorting out dinner as soon as we levelled off and coping very well with the fact their shift was suddenly six hours longer than expected. I was thinking that if I had been on Air NZ or Qantas, pesky labour laws would have intervened and we'd need a crew change before leaving - I hope PAL suitably looked after our crew.
The plan had been to arrive in Vancouver at a civilised time but, thanks to the delay, it was close to midnight before I finally arrived at my hostel, where I received a cheerful welcome. Luckily it was just off the lively Davie Street, so there were plenty of options for a quiet beer and dinner: there were two burger bars virtually opposite each other, each boasting the best burgers in town but since Vera's was the only one actually open, it was definitely the best on the night. One thing I noticed pretty quickly as I wandered around that evening was the smell of weed - a guy I spoke to in a bar said they have a pretty relaxed attitude to it in Vancouver, and I saw several places advertising themselves as medicinal cannabis lounges, yet the same guy said that there is a zero tolerance attitude to a very kiwi experience, drinking beer at the beach. No smoking on beaches is tolerated either.
I spent a week in Vancouver, and enjoyed the city. My main reason for being downtown was to use the magnificent central library. It was so big, enclosed in a circular sheath, that I never got an adequate photo of it. The library itself was squared off, so with the resulting crescent, they made a six story atrium and put in a row of cafes and the like.
I occupied my days and evenings working, hunting for the best coffee shops and food and generally wandering about. In terms of the coffee hunt, oddly enough, my favourite was out at the University of British Columbia - a good strong brew. The campus was otherwise curiously lacking in interest - mainly modern low-rise buildings. I also found that there were many local brews of ginger ale, and while they tasted fairly similar to each other, one stood out for its label.
Each day, I would set off on a different street to get to my destination. Downtown Vancouver is on a small finger of land, a carbuncle if you like, between Vancouver Harbour and English Bay. The quadrant below the hostel was all proper downtown - skyscrapers, offices, department stores,
the library etc - but I spent little time there apart from to work and drink coffee: once I even had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend over a posh sandwich for lunch. I did enjoy Gastown - it is the oldest part of Vancouver, essentially between the train station and the water-front: It has had a checkered past - it bunrt down completely about 20 years after it was first built, they started again and it became the premier commercial district, but was hit hard by the depression so that it was just "cheap beer parlours, flophouse hotels, and loggers hiring halls" and just got worse through until the 1960's, when people started to think "something must be done", and it was. It has been re-vitalised with interesting shops, bars, cafes and food places.
They had something like 51 tap beers at the Lamplighter - I could only really do justice to one of them, and then proceeded down the street for some delicious BBQ brisket at Peckinpah.
The quadrant above the hostel was more residential, and I really enjoyed wandering through those streets - some of the houses were quite grand. At the very end of the finger is the enormous, wooded Stanley Park, which I did visit and I am sure I had photos, but I can't find them. That particular walk took me to the beginning of Denman Street, where I had been told there were good fish and chips. I found them
along with many more casual and cheerful eateries - it was a very pleasant street to walk along, and culminated in a complete surprise: English Bay. Lots of people were there, just hanging, watching each other or the boats or the various performers or the sculptures I now know to be called A-maze-ing Laughter, which are apparently portraits of the artist in states of hysterical laughter (and I just thought they were freaks!).
And then there is Vancouver Harbour - most days I would walk along its edge at some point, but on about the second day I was intrigued to find a very busy sea-plane port - there were always a couple lined up to land, another couple taking off and a couple moving about on the water. They did touristy flights which were quite expensive and limited in what I could do, but I found that over the weekend, they had special fares between Vancouver and various points - Nanaimo (home of the variant of the caramel slice) offered the cheapest option, so I signed on. Now, I hate things like ski-lifts and have been known to have minor panic attacks at the tops of hills, so I wondered how I would react to a tiny 14 seater plane taking off in water: it was absolutely fine.
The last three are of the main street in Nainamo, a hotel and the top of its courthouse. I have to say that I didn't really give it a fair shake of the stick, as I was feeling considerably under the weather - after a coffee and cursory look at the museum, I retreated to the sea-plane port to wait for my plane, then spent most of the afternoon, slumped in a chair in the hostel. Next day, I was fine again and ready for more adventures.