Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Killing Time at YVR

His name's Quatchi.
He's a Sasquatch.
He has been living in the discount aisle of a drugstore in downtown Vancouver for several months now.
He's Wynn's new best friend.
And he's providing the entertainment at the airport as we get ready to head home.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Accent is on "Eh"

Another busy day in Vancouver, starting off on a different trolley line and heading to the magnificent Stanley Park. The park is named after the same fellow that the Stanley Cup honors, it's that big a deal.

Stanley Park is to Vancouver as Central Park is to New York, except with beaches, mountains, its original plants and animals, and a lot more room.
One of Earth's most perfect spots. I shot a whole panorama from here, but we're only permitted to show you a little bit. The entire city is set out before you.

A significant chunk of the park is dedicated to teaching visitors about Native (or as they say here, Aboriginal) culture. The tribes are still a big part of local culture and their members are part of everyday society here.

Ginormous cedar trees that are hundreds of years old, and ferns as big as a sofa. The leaves on the maple trees are bigger than dinner plates.
The outer point of the park marks the deep water and passage out to the Pacific. Back toward Downtown, sheltered coves sport sandy, sunny beaches and even hardy palm trees.

We keep finding little urban treasures as we snoop around the neighborhood, like a Korean grocery store just a block from the hotel, and ample supplies everywhere of "coffee milk" just like they had in Japan. We ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop just under the Korean grocery, and there are at least a dozen other little cafes in a three-block stretch that we can see from our window that we'd love to try out.

Alas, our time here is drawing to a close, at least for this trip. We're already figuring out where we'd stay and what we'd see the next time we come to British Columbia - and how soon we can make it happen.

We're glad we stopped in Portland first, as the Weather Channel says it's in the mid-90s there right now. Here it's still been in the 70s with the heat due to kick in just after our airplane takes off!

Monday, July 5, 2010

11,391 Steps

Our Day, Pedometer-Measured for Accuracy ...

Walked to Canada Place to Check It Out

Had a Picnic in a Super-Huge Lawn Chair in Front
of the Olympic Torch

Hopped on a Trolley for a Kitschy Yet Informative Tour of the City

Got Off Trolley and Humored Wynn by Letting Her Play
at a Bus Stop that She Found Strangely Fascinating

Laughed at How Smug She Gets When She's Setting the Agenda

Lunched and Shopped on Granville Island.
(Crowded but Fabulous)

Got off the Trolley Again in Gastown.
Boosted Canadian Economy via T-Shirt Purchases.

Grabbed Some Dinner at Japadog.
Why Don't We Have These at Home?!

Swam in Hotel Pool

Rode to the Top of Vancouver Lookout to Take in the View

Watched Wynn Fall in Love with the Vending Machine at the Lookout
You Give it Money, and it Gives you Candy.

And Scott Did All THAT on THIS Foot.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

First Photos from Canada

Mind you, I shot most of these amidst agonizing pain. The rest, the pain was only mildly dreadful.
Classic mid-50's architecture right outside our window, beautifully contrasting with the Maple Leaf.
Gastown, the founding neighborhood of the city at the bottom of the hill from here. The clock is steam-powered and performs a tune at each hour.

The gate to Chinatown, the neighborhood just south of Gastown and just east of our hotel.

Apparently, there's a terra touristica non-grata in the couple blocks between Gastown and Chinatown - where the druggies and homeless populate. Kinda like Portland, between Pioneer Courthouse Square and the Greyhound station... well, that's the easiest grade back uphill. We went through it without realizing...

After we got back to the hotel, finally got our room, and I'd had a few quality hours with the ice pack, the three of us went downstairs to look around our own block. There's an IGA supermarket on the ground floor, and a number of excellent hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants all within a stone's throw. Looks like we're going to have some more good eating!

Our room is equipped with a full kitchen, so we picked up some basics to make our own breakfasts. We love to snoop around grocery stores wherever we go; especially moreso when outside the country.

Hey, isn't that New Brighton's own Old Dutch Potato Chips? Why yes, they're a leading brand in Canada!
You have to appreciate the honesty of a country that tells kids and parents exactly what the deal is with their breakfast cereal. No sugar-coating the truth here; erm, well, yes, precisely. Sugar-coating it is. We Americans can't handle the historical truth of what this cereal came from and what it stood for!
And to those English-only proponents, what are you afraid of? After all, General Petraeus is in charge of the NATO brigade in Afghanistan; shouldn't the Cap'n know how to talk with our allies as well? Frankly, I think it'd be a better cereal-eating experience if it were packaged in French back in the States! C'est crounchifique!

The Walking Wounded

We arrived safely in Vancouver around lunchtime, found our way to the train, and got ourselves to our hotel. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we checked our bags and went for a stroll down to the Gastown historic district.

On the way there, Scott stepped in a hole in the sidewalk and twisted his ankle. Luckily, he didn't fall (He was carrying Wynn in the backpack.) He yelped but kept on going, and eventually we found a lovely cafe called Brioche, where he put his foot up for a bit and enjoyed a meatloaf and bacon sandwich, claiming that protein would help cure him.

We strolled around a bit more (Well, Scott hobbled, and I strolled.) We got back to the hotel, and our room still wasn't ready. They have a nice private lounge area, so we went a sat there until they could bring us our keys. Wynn danced around the lounge, Scott winced from time to time, and I sat there and wondered When will our room be ready, already?!

Finally, they came and gave us our keys. The room was worth waiting for - it's fantastic; we have a full kitchen that's much more stylish than ours at home - and our own washer and dryer. And we're next door to a really nice grocery store. All good.

Scott took off his shoe and sock, swallowed massive amounts of Advil, and put an ice pack on his ankle. It's about the size of a softball. We're hopeful that an evening of rest will fix him up, because a foot injury sure throws a wrench in the spokes of our "walk 10,000 steps a day" vacation.

There are bus and trolley tours of the city available, so we may end up doing that tomorrow. For now it's rest, ice, and cable TV.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
(By the way, it's 66 degrees here today and totally gorgeous.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our Last Night in Portland

We had dinner last night at The Original, a retro-fusion-local diner/restaurant a few blocks north of our hotel. It was good. We ended up there again tonight (... thanks to the $120 restaurant gift card our hotel gave us - Thanks, The Nines. We appreciated it.) We ordered completely different stuff, and it was still very good.

They have very fresh, very good food in this town, cooked creatively. Love the restaurants, love the dozens of food carts all over the downtown core.

After dinner, we walked the couple blocks to where we could see the front of Voodoo Doughnut. Jinkies, the line was even *longer* than it was at lunchtime. Meh, forget the doughnuts. We had NikeTown to explore!

Two floors of mostly empty space and dramatically-used catwalks.

Nike is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon, the suburb off to the west, so this is the "flagship" of their retail spaces. Well, it was very dramatic. And it had a lot of architectural elements going on.

We could be forgiven for thinking maybe there'd be something more interactive than trying to find the staircase to the second floor. Like a place to shoot hoops or try out the yoga gear or kick a soccer ball. Or somewhere to test new designs, or create your own apparel. And maybe it could have been bigger. Like a LOT bigger.

Maybe we're jaded with having the Mall of America at home - or having seen how retail is done when you mean it, like in Tokyo. I think the Nike people have been to those places, too. This was a Foot Locker with a much higher rent per square foot.

1. Wynn didn't want to look at anything in whatever spot we happened to be standing, rather she kept pointing at some distant place, urging me to take here "there."
2. We didn't buy anything. Not inspired...

We walked down to the river to try to see Mt. Hood, but the clouds were still not fully dispersed off to the east. Big points to the city for the redevelopment along the river, though. Clever floating walkways along the eastern shore - attached to pilings so they can float in place regardless of how high the water is. Lots of people jogging, biking, walking their dogs. No mountain view, though.

After Wynn had gone to bed, I went to the drugstore for a bottle of milk and then to the business center to check our tickets for tomorrow morning. This is the view from the front windows of our hotel. Imagine if you will a large volcanic mountain covered in fir trees behind this office building.

Maybe we'll catch a glimpse on our way to the airport...

Portland: come back again? Yes, but we'll set up base in a different neighborhood and rent a car for the next time.

Saturday Like the Locals

The Portland Saturday Market takes place year-round under the Burnside Bridge on the east end of Downtown. We walked over this morning when it opened at 10:00 and enjoyed browsing the 150+ vendors and food carts. Wynn got a hat that looks like a dragon's head, and Ann picked up a nice necklace.

We walked west a couple blocks to the famous Voodoo Doughnut - following our noses - and saw that the line stretched all the way around the corner. Yeah, no. Wynn was tired and a bit cranky - and strapped to my back; we weren't going to subject her to an hour standing in the sun. They're open 24 hours though, maybe after dinner tonight we'll try again?

After some more shopping and browsing in the Chinatown and Pearl neighborhoods, we ended up back at Pioneer Courthouse Square, having hot dogs from one of the food carts, listening to live music, and watching the people.

With some food in her, Wynn's mood picked up, and we goofed around at one of the many fountains in the square.
Taking a little mid-afternoon nap break before further adventures. The weather is really clearing up, and I see mountains out the hotel room window, so we'll need to try to find a place we can try to see Mt Hood!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Shout to our Wells Fargo Followers

Before dinner we walked to the south side of downtown to the Wells Fargo tower, where we read we'd find a museum showing some of that company's early history. We told Wynn we'd show her where her "Molly" pony worked.

Inside the main lobby we found a very nicely curated exhibit featuring a stagecoach used by the company in the mid-1800s, artifacts and reproductions of items used in the Gold Rush and Pony Express, and a re-creation of an early office, with a working telegraph.

Wynn liked riding the stagecoach:
She also got to try out a saddle, and took a touchscreen quiz about riders for the Pony Express. (She can spot a touchscreen from a mile away, as we talked about in May's visit to the Shedd Aquarium...) We didn't see Molly, but we learned about another pony, Lightning.

Finally at bedtime, the sun decided it would make an appearance. Figured we should post a few shots of what Downtown looks like properly lit:

Exploring Portland Neighborhoods

The rain was coming down in buckets this morning after breakfast (not what the forecast had said,) but instead of trying to tough it out in the hotel room, we borrowed a couple umbrellas and jumped on the MAX and Portland Streetcar up to the Pearl neighborhood to the northwest of Downtown, home of the mighty Powell's Books. Wynn figured out there had to be a kids' section and soon we were picking books to read while the rain kept up its beat.
By 10:30 our tummies (still not on Pacific time) were telling us to find food, so we hiked east about seven blocks to the Chinatown neighborhood.
And had lunch at Ping, where we had absolutely delicious pork bao, grilled chicken skewers, rice, and toast with coconut jelly. We ordered seconds on the bao...

Wynn getting her groove on to some old-school James Brown
After lunch we spent time at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, built 10 years ago in cooperation with artisans from Suzhou, China. It is said to be the most authentic Chinese garden overseas. It takes up an entire city block and is utterly gorgeous.
Can NOT get Wynn to pose for a nice, proper picture anymore.

We are taking a breather now before heading back out for some afternoon adventuring. The clouds are beginning to break up, and there's still much to see.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

First Class All the Way

Today we flew to Portland, OR for the first stop on our west coast summer vacation. Thanks to the fine folks at Delta, we were upgraded to first class, so Wynn is now officially spoiled in yet another way. She has already announced to Scott that she "... really likes sitting up front." The best part for us was the legroom (and the never-ending stream of snacks and meals that kept coming our way), but Wynn was mostly in love with the fact that she got her own great big breakfast tray. I think she spent about an hour proudly pouring the milk on her cereal, smearing butter on a bagel, and eating an entire container of cream cheese by licking it off her fingers. I don't know that she ate very much of the meal, but it sure kept her quietly occupied for a nice long time.

Scott and I both encouraged her to cuddle with her blanket and take a nap on the plane. No dice. She was well-behaved but definitely awake for the whole ride. The nap finally arrived as we rode the light rail from the airport to downtown.

We've gotten out and seen a bit of downtown Portland today. After having been in Chicago, we tend to look at a city map and see things as bigger than they are; our experience so far in Portland has been that everything we want to see is easily walkable from our hotel. That said, my pedometer did register about 10,600 steps today, so we've gotten our fair share of exercise.

There's a lot of public art to be seen in downtown Portland, and Wynn is charmed by all the fountains. Scott gave her a penny to toss in one and explained the concept of making a wish. Her wish was for a hug from Shadow. Her favorite artworks are the bronze animal statues across the street from our hotel. She jumped up and down with glee and giggled as she saw each one.

For dinner tonight we somehow managed to step back in time and found an old-school Chinese restaurant; seriously, it was straight out of the 60's. It had that funky old decor, and the dishes themselves looked like antique store finds. It was in an older building that you could tell had been something else at some point, but we're guessing this part of it has been a Chinese restaurant for at least fifty years. The food was quite good (as Scott calls it "Chinese-Chinese, not American-Chinese").

Wynn, who is going through a picky phase, rejected all but the outside of the dumplings and the noodles from my soup. The fortune cookie was, of course, to her liking.