July 31, 2010

Vancouver: Day Three

Friday, we went to the west end to see Stanley Park. We wanted to grab a bite first but most places didn't open until 11 o'clock. We stopped and had cappuccino and a treat to pass the time. The pb & chocolate square was as dry as a bone.

Finally, Mediterranean Grill had opened it was Frank's choice for shawarma, I had souvlaki. Neither were particularly good, it was a disappointment.

But now we had energy for a bike ride. We rented for a place on Denman, rates were cheap only $5/hour. I got a basket for my camera bag and we were on our way. The park is very large, the bike trails take you all around on the sea wall. It was an enjoyable ride and the sight were lovely.

Check out the jetskis for the scale of this sucker, it was huge!

Ever since we arrived in Vancouver the locals talked about the weather, mentioning how warm it was, and they wanted to hit the beach. I thought they were making small talk, but I suppose they were genuine. It was beach weather to them, the temp was 70. Kids were playing at the splash pad and water park, too. How funny is that they have splash pads, but Nicky doesn't in Chicago - poor kid. I've never see tankers at the beach that was a wild sight.

We stopped at the concession stand near the heated pool for a drink. I gotta kick out of the daily info.

Also, spotted this sign there. There were a lot of smokers in Vancouver, more than I've seen in a long time. I imagine the ban will have some up in arms.

After the ride through Stanley Park we returned the bikes. We worked up a bit of a hunger, but more than anything we were disappointed by our last meal so we stopped in Banana Leaf for a bite. It is a Malaysian restaurant with great reviews. They deserve them, too. We had "the perfect lunch for two" and it was... we started we Rotai Canai, followed by Cod in ginger soy sauce, Sayer Lamak, and Renden beef. We like the beef the least, the other dishes were out of this world.

After lunch we wandered a bit down the street and came across Cupcakes, we couldn't help but stop. Frank got a red velvet cupcake and I got a variety of minis. They looked great in the case, but once we opened them up they looked a bit dry and they were. We only had a couple bites they were pretty bad.

We had our fun and we were pretty beat so we went back to the hotel to recoup.

A few hours later we headed Queen Elizabeth via the Sky Train. It sits on the top of a hill so you have great views of downtown, but the gardens there are beautiful.

After taking in all scenery, we hopped on the bus and headed back to the west end. We decided on Japanese for dinner at Guu.

Guu was hopping we had to wait twenty minutes for a table. Once we got seated we looked over the menu, it's tapas style, Frank knew he wanted duck, but left the rest up to me. Aigamo or duck was in miso, it was tender and delicious. Next, we had pork, tofu, kimchi soup, it was also great. Then, we shared pan fried noodles and veggies. Yum! Lastly, we had crab cake and rice patty with puffed egg. Again, so good! I wish these photos turned out better.

Once again our bellies were full and happy. We walked down Robson Street. It's filled with shops, very American, I could've been in any city in the states with high-end stores. We walked back to Granville.

Again, we looked for a place to grab a drink but the bars were all bumping. Most had covers. Not happening. We stopped at the liquor store and picked up a 6-pack of Kronenbourg. I about died at the price $18.95. We're not in Kansas anymore... We went up to the roof top of the hotel and drank our beers in peace while watching the world go by. Best bar in the city. Eventually security kicked us out they wanted to lock up for night. It was nice while it lasted. We crashed not long after.

July 30, 2010

Vancouver: Day Two

Thursday, we got our day started by catching a bus to Granville Island. We were headed to the Public Market.

Lobster Man was the first place we came upon, they had fresh lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams, mussells and scallops for sale.

It was the first I saw scallops sold in their shell.

Next door was seafood deli and small grocer. I can't recall the name. They had these beautiful terrines.

We passed on those, and opted to sample their salmon jerkey and halibut eggplant curry wrap. Both were quite tasty, the wrap was unique.

We walked through a couple galleries and check out the wares being sold at the tents outside the market before stumbling on La Baguette et L'Echalote Bakery.

We were just going to share a sandwich, but they had a lunch special for two. Twist our arm. We had brie and avocado and taste of Italy sandwiches. Completely different flavors, but both were delicious. Dessert was an apple strudel and chocolate and almond croissant. Oh my goodness, they were heavenly.

By now the clouds broke and the sun was shining through. It was warming up (well, nearly 70), it made for a great picnic lunch on the pier.

Next, we headed inside the Public Market. Food was everywhere! We mostly drooled as we walked by each place. We did stop for cookies at Stewart's bakery, I was skeptical, I thought they looked dry, and they were. But Frank wanted to try. They were better dipped in cappucino. Then, we had to try the French Onion soup at A La Mode.

The soup wasn't as rich as your usual French onion, but it had a nice oniony flavor. It was very good. Gooey cheese and flakey pastry crust. Yum!

We could not eat anymore so we just wandered about the rest of the way through the market.

We walked down to the docks to inquire about a harbor tour. The tour company wasn't booking any tours since it's guide was on vacation. We ended up taking a mini-tour on Aqua Bus, which is the water taxi.

Water levels from the tides have huge swings. Some of the largest I've witnessed.

Every single highrise seen in these photos are residential. Units run upwards of a million or more. Frank and I couldn't help but wonder what people do for work. There is no financial district. We only saw three professional buildings downtown. There is a hospital and all the hospitality jobs, but I doubt those provide enough for million dollar apartments, boats and yachts. All we could figure is people are independently wealthy, work from home or are retired.

This sculpture was very neat, it moves with the tides and it has solar panels that allow it to light up at night. Vegas seriously needs to get on the ball with our solar technology, with 360 days of sunshine we shouldn't be outdone by Vancouver (only July-August is known to be sunny).

We hopped off the boat at Olympic Village to have a look around. There is a neat little habit restoration happening, it home to lots of geese. If you're in Canada, you can just say geese, right?

Science World

Olympic Village, this is where all the athletes stayed during the olympics. Unit are now selling from one million.

After seeing the sights we were taken back to Granville Island. We walked around a bit more before catching the bus back to the hotel. We rested up for the second half of our day.

Our hotel offered a free shuttle to various downtown locations, we just had to call and reserve it. We booked it to take us to Chinatown. We thought we'd grab dinner. It was odd, though, when searching yelp not many places were coming up with reviews. The driver asked us why we were headed to Chinatown, food! He then gave us the scoop Chinatown isn't where you go, it's Richmond.

Today, Chinatown is most active during the day, around 5 or so, everything starts to close down. It's mainly elderly Chinese that remain, those that are younger have moved out to Richmond which is modeled after Hong Kong. He went on to explain that the homeless and drug addicts frequent the area. Insite, known to be highly controversial, it is a clinic that provides a clean place for injection drug use. Not all addicts use it, but they do congregate around the blocks surrounding it. He took us down East Hastings so we could see for ourselves.

I have been by the projects in Chicago, lower wacker drive, D Street, old Naked City, and North Las Vegas, I see people whacked out on drugs often at intersections at Sahara/Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana/Valley View. Crack heads, meth heads... I thought I had seen it all. But no, nothing prepared me for what we saw. The sidewalks were filled with homeless, most were absolutely out of their minds. There were dozens of working girls, these couldn't even be called escorts. He told us to stay out of the alleys, it's a favorite place for shooting up... used needles line the streets. He showed us the police station right next to the huge crowd of zombies in a drugged stupor. It was unreal. What's worse is these people are all given money monthly, there is no excuse for being homeless. These people choose to live on the streets to support their drug habit. I've heard all about it, but actually seeing it with my own eyes was mind blowing. He said it has actually improved since the Olympics came. I cannot wrap my mind around what it was like when it was bad. Seriously, unreal.

Most people would've probably turned away, but it was the second largest Chinatown in North America we had to experience it. The driver dropped us off at the arch, just two blocks away from the original skid row (home to the highest per capita heroin-related deaths, the highest rate of HIV and Hepatitis C infection in North America).

We walked down Pender until we came upon Dr. Sun Yet-Sen Garden.

The garden was lovely. It would have been serene if I was not completely on edge. About mid-way through I was quickly reminded where we were, when a homeless man with rolling suitcase passed us to leave the gardens. Not an unusual sight, that is until I noticed the tourniquet still tied around his leg from his latest injection. My skin was crawling. You have to understand needles are one of my largest fears. I have nightmares about being injected. The anxiety was building. I took a deep breath and did my best to not let it get to me. Ironically, enough just then I get a glimpse of this view.

"Everything is going to be alright" well, if the building says so it must be true. I took another deep breath and kept shooting... photos.

We left the gardens and continued up Pender.

As we passed alleys you couldn't help but look down them, and sure enough it is where shady business goes down. My anxiety was getting worse and worse. I said to Frank "I hope there are no mosquitos around here". He laughed, but I was dead serious. This is just one of the crazy thoughts that is running through my mind... that I would be bitten by a mosquito and I'd get aids. Not quite rational, I realize this. Anyway, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to go. Even if we found a place open, I doubt I could relax and enjoy the meal. We go to the bus stop. Along the way we see a used condom, fantastic. At the stop, I occupy my mind by watching a broken down van. I could tell the driver and passenger are waiting for someone. A guy likely in his 30's pulls up to assist. He parks the car behind the van only he never puts it in park. He turns the car off, gets out and the car starts rolling. He realizes and tries to stop the car, fortunately it hits more level ground slowing it down before it could ram into the van. Just then the bus arrives and we are on our way OUT of Chinatown. But we had no idea where we were headed. We got off at near the Sky Train Station. We took that to Waterfront. Finally, we were back to familiar territory. We boarded the Sky Train to to Richmond (this route travels mainly underground). We got to Richmond and I saw a sign for Kirin Seafood. I recalled the name, and per Yelp it was supposed to be very good. We walked around the shopping center and found the entrance. It was busy but we were able to snag a table, early diners had wrapped up.

Just the walk through the dining room had our mouths watering, everything looked amazing! We heard little english and we were the only non-Asians, it had to be good.

Frank had wonton soup to start and I had crab claw with minced prawns. Both were great and well executed.

Then for our entrees we had sweet and sour chicken and peking duck. The duck is served in two courses, I was intrigued. The first was crispy skin and crepes, and the second was lettuce wraps. I adored this preparation. There was no fat to work around, you just got to enjoy all the best parts. Frank enjoyed his chicken, it's the best we've had since leaving Chicago.

We stuffed ourselves silly. Dinner was fabulous. We hopped back on the Sky Train and stopped at the station connected to River Rock Casino. We went in to have a look. It was really nice, Vegasy, even. They had a nice race & sports book. Table limits were $10 and slots were just like home. The poker room was odd, it was located across the street in a small building beneath the parking garage. It was very busy, though.

We took the train back toward the hotel getting off at Yaletown. We walked around looking for a bar, finally settling on G Bar on Granville St. We liked the vibe at first, but then the music changed to *thump, thump, thump* we just wanted a pub like place, but most of the bars liked to bump. We had a drink and bailed, then, we called it a night.