Got back from my trip to Vancouver, BC yesterday. Everyone told me that they think it's like San Francisco, moreso than Victoria. I can see why they might see a resemblance because of the way the streets are laid out and how they look. But the shopping I found to be more like maybe New York or Boston. Very trendy, not much in the way of what I call "cool stores", which are stores that cater to people who like dragons/beads/hemp items/tarot cards/pentacles/locally made jewelry & crafts/antiques/crystals/tie dyes/batik/incense, etc. So in that respect, Vancouver is nothing like what I was expecting, except for the locally made jewelry. It is, however, under a great deal of construction, or as I like to say, suffering from an "ediface complex". There are so many steel & glass buildings going up that it could be nicknamed Cranetown. Then I realized that the city is getting ready for the 2010 Winter Olympics, as evidenced by the vast amount of Olympics souvenirs already being sold; they are getting a lot of mileage out of showcasing the First Nations' Inukshuk figure. Well I have a newsflash for them, they need to spend more money sweeping up the vast quantities of cigaret butts all over the streets and sidewalks. It's not as clean a city like Victoria.
I'd scored a room at the Westin Bayshore Resort for $75 a night on Priceline. Wicked nice hotel, right on Coal Harbour and at the entrance to Stanley Park. My room was obviously not the best in the place for that price, but it was very comfortable and I had a partial city view. I used the outdoor pool one day but it was much colder than it looked. And of course the most important thing, one of the cable stations showed "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" at 5 pm so I still got my Vincent fixes. I had great meals up there, but I found that I had to seek them out because I'm not very adventurous when it comes to ethnic food, am allergic to shellfish and don't like seafood. The best meal I had was at Bojangle's Cafe - a fantastic salad and quiche.
North Vancouver was definitely the best part of the trip. I'd had very cloudy weather the first two days I was in the city, and I was unable to see the mountains to the north. But I woke up to clear blue skies on Friday, with temps in the high 60's to mid 70's. I believe the first words out of my mouth were "Whoo Hoo!" as I leapt out of bed and threw open the drapes!! I drove over to N. Van. to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge which was so amazing that words can't even describe it. Or describe the feeling of being on a swaying bridge that high over a gorge! But I felt totally safe. It's very sturdy and anchored. When you get to the other side, there is "Treetops Adventure", which are more suspension bridges built up in the trees, about 100 feet off the ground. The way they are constructed is very eco-friendly, with no harm to the trees at all. Truly a sacred place....and I'm glad I got there at 9 a.m. while it was still quiet enough to enjoy the peaceful setting.
I next drove up to the foot of Grouse Mountain, and took the Skyride up to the top. Man alive!The view was incredible. I was hiking on a trail, came around a corner and my jaw dropped when I saw Mt. Baker in Washington State right there on the horizon. I expected that I'd see it, but it still took me by surprise because I forgot how big it is. It's not a mountain that we see regularly, like we do Rainier, because it's way up north, so we forget that the other volcanoes are extremely large as well. I could have stayed on the summit all day long, but as it was a Friday, I wanted to get across the Lions Gate Bridge back to downtown before traffic got too heavy (and I'd read that Critical Mass had another "event" planned to screw up rush hour traffic). The helicopter rides were all booked so I was unable to do that. Oh well!
The only thing that infuriated me was on one of the trails, I came upon a bench in the woods, and next to the bench were 2 discarded coffee cups. I could not believe it, and the first thing that came into my mind was, "probably left by an American." I don't understand how people can just discard their trash on the ground like that. So I carried them out and tossed them in a trash can. Reminded me of the time we went to Yosemite with my parents in 1992, and Brian & I picked up trash as we hiked along the trails. Pop cans, fries boxes, napkins.....what the hell is wrong with people? What must their homes be like?! How can they have absolutely NO respect for the earth?
I shopped in Gastown, which was quaint, but every single store was a tourist trap. So from that standpoint I was disappointed. The really great shopping was on Granville Island. I bought 3 pairs of earrings made by different local artists. I saw A LOT of stuff I wanted to buy, but our house is already pushing maximum density when it comes to knick knacks, candles, glass, window crystals, posters, memorabilia and other bric-a-brac, so alas, I returned home from 3 days in Vancouver with a tshirt, a ton of postcards, the earrings, and a cute stuffed toy Husky dog dressed like an RCMP officer (I named him Diefenbaker). Chinatown was sketchy....I wanted to see the Sam Kee Building which is the narrowest building in the world. But most of the buildings were boarded up and there were some hinky looking people walking around so I hoofed it back to Gastown. I mean, I have a giant purse, a back pack and a camera. No, that doesn't scream "tourist" at all.
Had no problem with the border crossings. They didn't even look at my ID going into Canada, just asked me where I was staying and what my plans were. Coming home they at least looked at my drivers license, asked what I bought and sent me on my way. Of course I didn't mention the Cuban cigar or the hemp-related, but entirely legal, novelty items I brought back for the hubby.....
I'm glad I got Vancouver out of my system, but I don't see myself returning there any time soon. I will return to Victoria in a heartbeat though; hopefully next summer. Victoria is more my kind of city and there's still so much to do and see there and on Vancouver Island. Victoria is familiar, and I feel about Victoria the way I do about San Francisco: It's my home away from home.
I'll try to post some pictures I shot on my blog later on, once they are developed. I shot 7 rolls of film, but no digital. I stuck with what I know best.