Friday, August 1, 2008

Back from Vancouver, BC

Great trip. Had a blast.

Vancouver is gorgeous. Trees bigger & older than I've ever seen in my life. Mountains. Ocean. Streams. Wildlife. If you've got an ounce of Tree Hugger in you, this place is the Third Heaven.

Let's start with Stanley Park. It is 6 miles around the park with trees older than Shakespeare, so large around that they couldn't fit in my living room, & unbelievably tall. There is a garden there that employees 10 full time gardeners with another 30 seasonal staff. I've never seen roses that big. The rose garden was started as a service project by the Kiwanis Club in 1920 & has become a tourist attraction to rival any I've ever seen. Of course, there are bike paths & hiking trails all through the park & a bike path on the roadway around the park.

Naturally I did take in a soccer game. The Whitecaps took down the Carolina Rail Hawks 1-nil in an ugly game but the MLS expansion hopeful crowd knows how to have some fun. There was an ABBA impersonation group playing before the game & at halftime. I guess Elvis never made it to Vancouver.

Yes, I did have to work a bit. Had a delightful afternoon with one professor from a Wesleyan college in the North East, & several dinners with some folks who teach/have taught English as a second language to the Chinese.

For the most part, Canadians are very friendly. They are environmentally conscience & love their coffee. There is a coffee shop on every corner, sometimes 2 or 3. The food is good & I got a few ideas to try. You can imagine that fish is a mainstay for dinner menus but I betcha never would have imagined that soup & sandwich is the lunch meal of choice. Every place had a dozen or so sandwich choices & a handful of soup options, with a few other meals thrown in to fill up the menu page.

Weather defines a location & that is never more true than in Vancouver. Contrary to most Southerners perception, it is not that cold, even in winter, though Czaress TBAR would disagree. We were told the summers range from 55 - 83 or so. But you can bet that cool breeze reminded me of a GA seasonal change to Fall: it had a bite to it. Overcast & cool & everyone was wearing sweatshirts/jackets & then the sun is out & it is 80 degrees. An hour later it is back to being cool again. Felt great. Czaress TBAR is glad she brought a jacket. T-shirt & shorts were fine for me, except when we went up on Grouse Mountain. In 10 minutes the temp dropped 40 degrees atop the mountain. The grizzlies & wolfs loved it I'm sure (pics on those to come). They told us the winter rarely gets below freezing & only a couple of inches of snow each year as the ocean keeps the temps moderate. Of course, they didn't mention the wind so based on what I felt in the summer, I'm betting the winter wind is like a knife.

Saw two eagles & one eagle nest, the latter of which is amazingly large.

The most fun I had was driving up to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be in Vancouver so there is a lot of road construction turning the 2 lane road into something more palatable for the gas guzzling folks. We went up late Monday in hopes the Pemberton Music Festival crowd of 40,000 people would all be cleared off the highway & over their hangovers by 3PM. And I guessed wrong on both accounts. It only took 2 hours up to Whistler but it took almost 5 hours to get back to Vancouver. Oh, & thank goodness I decided to drive up on Monday since there was a rock slide on Wednesday whereby a side of a mountain crashed down over the road, narrowly escaped by a tour bus. The news paper said the rocks were a big as houses & will take 5 days to clear.

It is certainly more expensive there than I was expecting. Breakfast for two was a minimum of $20 for just muffins & juice. Lunch broke a $50 easy. Dinner was $100 depending on what you got with it, though it was cheaper outside the city proper. I will admit that I had a Bison burger that was the single best burger I've ever had in my life, though I'm not sure it was worth $15 --- & that did not count the fries & drink.

The whole place is ecologically friendly. There are recycle bins everywhere. Bike paths galore. Good public transportation. There was a special on the TV & some residents claimed to ride their bikes 50 miles a day to & fro work. A day. A DAY. As in 24 hours. No trash on the sidewalks or parks. There just wasn't any. I'm sure they had lots of maintenance folks but I never saw them. No one trashed the place. Any place. They just didn't.

I think much of the "no littering" is because of the population itself. See, you don't rent an apartment in Vancouver. There are no rentals. You buy into a Co-op. You sign the agreements & become a shareholder. That means 35% down to live in the city & the average 1 bedroom is $500,000. The shareholder agreement lays out upkeep, conduct, etc., while also stipulating no kids. That's right: no kids. You get prego & you have to moveo. The other shareholders can effectively force you to sell out so there is no option on this one. But the areas outside Vancouver are really nice & accommodating to kids; expensive, but accommodating.

My biggest complaint is that the parking spaces are about a foot more narrow than what I'm used to but the locals had, mostly, very small cars so it didn't bother them. Then again, with gas there equal to about $6 a gallon, no wonder they drive small cars --- or ride bikes &/or walk.

Yeah, I wanna go back. If heaven ever existed on earth, the doorway was in Vancouver.

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