Vancouver Ventures – Part 1

Welcome to our first Vancouver post!  We will be here for May and June and selected Vancouver because of all the positive things we’ve heard and read about it.  It was also smart for us to choose another west coast location prior to heading back to the midwest and the east coast.

This post covers our first two weeks here – it’s flying already, and in particular these standout attractions:

Granville Island Public Market
Stanley Park
Museum of Archaeology (MOA)
Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park

On approach:

We arrived on Sun, May 1.  Our first matter of business was a late lunch/early dinner at the Devils Elbow, a local haunt.  Dave happened to ask the bartender if he knew what a Ramos Gin Fizz was (he knows of this drink through our friend Paul who is a classic cocktail afficiando.)  Next thing you know after our beer there’s an experimental drink to enjoy!

Granville Island Public Market – Tues 5/3
After wrapping up work mid-afternoon we walked over the Granville bridge over to the Granville Island Public Market.

En route:

The market is a few buildings full of a mind-boggling array of gourmet food across a variety of cuisines, including gourmet meat and sausages, fresh pasta, exotic fruits (I needed the labels!), monstrous strawberries, and fresh off-the-boat seafood.  A cook’s and eater’s dream!  We’ll be back!

Surrounded by water, city, and some mountain views – definitely a place to shop, dine, and take in the views:

We took the Water bus back home and enjoyed the sights – I imagine this is a daily commute for some locals – not bad!:

Outside of Rogers Arena:

Gas Town:  Very nice historic part of town, independent boutiques, galleries, and restaurants – very close to the cruise ships, Canada Place, and just a hop, skip, and a jump from our place!

Vancouver Art Gallery – Fri 5/6

After I finished work we checked out the Art Gallery, the 5th largest art museum in Canada, established in 1931, and which houses more than 11,000 pieces in its collection.

Our favorite exhibit was about the real-life story behind Dog Day Afternoon – the exhibit included a room of photos, news clippings, etc. about the actual Chase bank heist in Brooklyn that the movie was based on.  Then in the movie room they were showing clips of an interview with the main mastermind’s accomplices, John Wojtowicz.  It was pretty interesting and surreal to see him ‘relive’ the day for the cameras – and interestingly enough, he was kind of likable.

The museum did have a broad variety of pieces and mixed media – from the super modern displays on the 1st floor including digital, music, mechanics through to the classics of Haring, Warhol, and Rauschenberg, all the way to Picasso (another artist whose work lives on all over Chicago!) it definitely has a little something to offer everyone.  No deKoonings though – hmm

I wouldn’t revisit, especially not at those prices, but I found it to be more tolerable than some other modern art museums we’ve been to in our travels.  While I’ve enjoyed a variety of events at the Art Institute in Chicago (on my first visit I got to follow Kramer from Seinfeld around – seriously, it was pretty cool!), the modern art museum in Santa Fe was more about making political statements than it was about art, so I’m always a little hesitant.  In addition, some pieces just make me think that there’s little talent, that anyone could put together some of these odd pieces of work, charge a fortune, etc.  But I understand I’m simplifying this and I just don’t appreciate much modern art.

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Fri night dinner – Chinatown – Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie – fab!!  Chinatown is an area in need of revitalization – most businesses were closed, there were plenty of sketchy characters walking around, and doesn’t have the vibrance and life of San Francisco or Chicago’s Chinatowns.

Sat 5/7 – my birthday!

Started the day off right with a lobster benedict at the trendy Glowbal restaurant, then we ventured over to Stanley Park and its Seawall for exercise and scenery.  Then capped off the night with a tasty Italian dinner at Italian Kitchen.

Stanley Park
Let’s start by saying this park is a ‘must do’ when in Vancouver – imagine a natural oasis right next to a downtown metropolis and you can see the draw, the Vancouver equivalent of Chicago’s lakefront path, but with acres and acres of temperate rainforest 🙂 On this trip we focused on walking around the entire park with a quick venture into one of the interior rainforest trails.  Next time we will focus on hiking some of those trails, can’t wait to go back! In addition to hiking and biking, there are beaches, a pool, Canada’s largest aquarium, put put golf, restaurants, and more

East side of the park/peninsula with view of North Vancouver.

Our rainforest detour:

Rounding the north end of the peninsula

Siwash Rock, a 50 foot tall pinnacle that stands as a monument to ‘Skalsh the Unselfish’ as a reward for being unselfish.  Hmmm…  reward or punishment? 🙂  It looks cool!

Third Beach with West Vancouver in the distance:

Last leg of the Stanley Park seawall, leading us to English Bay Beach:

A-Maze-ing Laughter at English Bay Beach – The artist, Beijing-based Yuie Minjun modeled the faces after himself, and apparently he’s made a career out of his hysterical laughing face!  Wouldn’t it be funny to find out he was a mean and nasty guy?  Just kidding!

Dinner at Italian Kitchen – good service, weird wine pouring, learned about a new wine app, enjoyed If you See Kay!

Sun 5/8

Museum of Anthropology (MOA) – just a few words to describe this museum – holy totem poles!  Truly spectacular, and a must-do in Vancouver.  It’s a bit of a hike to get to, but sit back and enjoy the bus ride through some very nice parts of town, just south and west of the main downtown area.  There are very nice homes in the area,, some of which we’ve probably seen sold on the Property Brothers (hoping we run into them – ha ha!)

The Sky Train ride – driverless and very modern!

Some shots around University of British Columbia near the museum:

Great Hall – you could spend an hour simply exploring this large hall.  A few key highlights:

  • Totem poles served multiple purposes – sometimes used for interior host posts, providing support for enormous roof beams.  Poles also stood as dramatic sculptures depicting supernatural ancestors and histories of the tribe.
  • Bentwood boxes were masters of multi-tasking as these waterproof boxes were used for storage and to cook in.  The process to make them is both simple and ingenious – 3 grooves are carved into a single piece of cedar, the plank is softened with steam, and bent to form 3 corners. The fourth corner is pegged or sewn closed, a base attached, and a lid carved to fit.

Feasting and Display ‘dishes’: Carved “house dishes” are part of an ongoing practice of feasting and display by First Nation families on the Northwest Coast. Carved in the shape of an animal or a supernatural being, the dishes embody the history and wealth of their owners. The foods they held – fish, oil, seal meat, berries – signified the resources and territories claimed by the host.

The Footprint of the Crocodile Man traveling exhibit focuses on wood carving from villages on the Sepik River, which flows through Papua New Guinea.  This area is culturally diverse and home to more than 300 languages – surprising huh?  The artists are concerned about a mining operation being planned upriver from their homes and they are working with the company to make sure that their way of life isn’t disrupted.  They hope that exhibits such as this will help draw attention to their situation.

Multiversity Gallery – thousands of exotic items from all over the world!

Bill Reid Rotunda – The Raven and the First Men sculpture and other works in gold:


Koerner European Ceramics Gallery:

Beautiful grounds include 2 “Haida” houses and totem poles:

Sat 5/14 – Queen Elizabeth Park & Bloedel Conservatory

My first weekend flying solo while Dave was working in Phoenix.  I ventured out on the Canada line, then grabbed a bus just a few blocks and was dropped a short walk from this gorgeous little sanctuary just southeast of the main metropolis!  A short walk uphill was well-rewarded with these views – wow!:

The Bloedel Conservatory, located in the park, is the 2nd largest domed conservatory in the world, it maintains 3 simulated climates: tropical rainforest, sub-tropical forest, and desert, and .  After paying 6.75 Canadian for admission (a steal), you are provided with a detailed annotated map documenting all of the flora, fauna, and birds that call Bloedel home. You had to be careful of where you walked, because the little ones were everywhere – so cute!


Second lookout:

Around the park – focus on the Large Quarry Garden

Walking back to the ‘Sky Train’ station, admiring some landscaping along the way:

Sun 5/15 – Around town:  Coal Harbor, ___, Canada Place, Gastown

Today I had brunch on Joe Fortes’s rooftop – awesome!  Lobster benedict and a Bloody Mary, excuse me a Caesar – Canada’s answer to a Blood Mary – very similar but made with Clamato as opposed to tomato juice.

Then I shopped a bit, walked along the Seawall near Coal Harbor, checking out the watercraft and the floatplanes landing and taking off (Dave and I will take one up to Whistler next month!)

Onto Canada Place:

Then over to Gastown for more shopping.  While Dave is away the shopping is, shall we say, ON!  😉

Our place

We are renting a condo in a fabulous location in downtown Vancouver in the Yaletown neighborhood with restaurants, coffee shops, and public transportation right around the corner, all with a neighborhood feel.  Kind of feels like a blend of East Lakeview and Gold Coast.  Yaletown was once the western terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway (our train stop is called Roundhouse) – the area was revitalized in 1986 when Vancouver hosted the World’s Fair.

The building has a well-equipped gym – nicer equipment than what I had at the gym I paid for in Scottsdale and a rooftop area with a garden.  I was out there this afternoon picking some rosemary for dinner (fresh halibut from that amazing Public Market!) and a crow literally grazed my head!  I couldn’t believe it, I guess I was competition for his dinner!

The condo is small, comfortable, and very modern.  We have a small balcony, a den/office, tons of smart pocket doors, and a second den doubling as a guest room.  Seagulls regularly fly by and it’s cool to be looking down on them occasionally (I always wonder if one could fly in, since we don’t have screens on our balcony door 😉  Seagulls in Chicago stay by the lakefront – here they roam around the buildings.

Our view is centered around the Rogers Arena – they change the colors of the dome and windows nightly – it’s kind of cool.  In addition we have a view of what I think is Burnaby due east of us – it’s got a little skyline of its own and the reflection of the setting sun on the skyline is cool (not to mention the snow-capped mountains further east of Burnaby.)

Around town:

Our initial observations:

  • The people are so happy – it could be that we had unseasonably warm and sunny weather in early May – it was gorgeous!  In general people are very polite and courteous.  Love our neighbors to the North!  Also, the service is top notch!
  • Many of the homeless in the city are more aggressive and crazy than they are in Chicago or even NY (you may recall the – they are drug-addicted and directly approach you (against the law in Chicago) – they look and act so much more unstable than they are in the Windy City
  • Unfortunately smoking is pretty common around the city – I don’t think ‘vaping’ has caught on here yet.
  • No one jaywalks around here, except for me and Dave!  Makes me feel like a lawbreaker!
  • Many restaurants/bars will have Reserved signs on all of their tables, at say 2:30pm (it could be to stop the drug-addled homeless from camping out), it’s kind of weird!
  • Speaking of restaurants, the food is good – oysters and seafood are high quality and fresh.  However, we think the restaurants are much better in Chicago, Charleston, and at Il Caps in Sag Harbor 🙂  Our palettes are promised elsewhere!  Though Blue Water Café does ROCK!!!
  • We didn’t really know that Canada, in particular BC, produced a lot of wine – except for icewine!  We were wrong!  We are learning the Canadian ‘wine ropes’ – we won’t likely have time to visit the wineries, but we’re discovering some that we like, including Poplar Grove pinot gris, Inniskillin pinot blanc, and Averill Creek pinot grigio – more to come!

While Dave and I are both loving our traveling lifestyle, after each destination we reflect on what cities we like best and why, and how they compare to Chicago.  We have continued to conclude that Chicago is truly one of the best cities to live in – we may be biased because of our friends there – but really, it is true.  From food to livability to cultural events – it really has it all!  Though Charleston may edge it out for food, and of course many cities edge it out for weather 🙂  As long as you can escape for some (or most!) of the winter, the rest of the year is pretty top notch!  That’s just our humble opinion!  We are really looking forward to spending some time home in the Midwest in Chicago and visiting family in St Louis and NY!

Next stop – this weekend – we are visiting Victoria in Vancouver Island!  We keep calling the island ‘Victoria Island’, silly Americans!

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