Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens

"Refreshment for the Heart" a beautiful tranquil spot in the middle of Vancouver's bustling Chinatown.

 The garden is  not large, but is constructed to present a series of unfolding vistas which unfurl like a scroll painting and contains all the elements of a classical scholar's garden - buildings, rocks, water, plants and words.  A very tranquil way to spend a few hours in a busy city, before heading out into the bustle of Chinatown.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Finally a day that didn't promise rain for the first time in over a week, so decided to take the early bus up to Capilano. It is a free service, which is just great and picks up at a number of spots in town and drops off at the park. The main attraction of the park is the suspension bridge first constructed in 1889,  but there is lots more to see and do once there.
I went early as usually there are a lot less people and I like to enjoy a lot of these experiences as if the only one there, which I managed most of the time yesterday. It was still quite cool an there was a mist, so it gave much more ambience to the trees and the rainforest.
The suspension bridge spans the Capilano river and is quite amazing - check out it's stats on line - and like all good suspension bridges gets quite a movement up when there are people on it, which is fun. Once over there are a number of different paths to follow. One is a walk around the lower canopy of the rainforest on a built walkway, the other is a treetop walk on a walk built up in the canopy. Both walks provided lots of information about the rainforest, and being the only one on the walks most of the time, it was lovely to just be able to be with the trees.

The last part of the adventure is a cliff top walk, where an amazing walkway has been constructed on the side of the cliff with a semicircular section seeming to float over absolutely nothing. It was damp and misty, but very beautiful.

The whole park is beautifully cared for, with staff everywhere ensuring that the paths are cleared and the only thing to disturb the serenity was the sound of a chainsaw as they cleared and tidied. Apparently they had quite a spectacular light display there for the 2 weeks over the Christmas period and were full to capacity every night, I can imagine it is also filled to capacity in summer as there are interactive displays for the children and lots to see and do.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Walking the Streets

Vancouver is a very easy city to negotiate, particularly when on foot. It is laid out in regular blocks on a regular grid and best of all it is relatively flat, so up until now I have been walking everywhere. That means I get to see things, but I am usually pretty tired by the end of the day. I do have a book of transport tickets, so I must start using them.
Yesterday dawned pretty fine, that is with no signs of black clouds and drizzly rain. As it turned out it got to a balmy 12C - I felt quite at home actually, and was stripping layers off in the shops. So I hit the track and headed downtown to check some sights.
Started the morning at the Vancouver library, a pretty stunning building with a facade resembling the Colosseum  in Rome, with light filled glassed areas and filling a full city block.Believe it or not, when I asked there is not one piece of printed material available at the library with information about the construction etc, I was directed to the Wikipedia  page!!!!

As the weather was still holding I headed off to the observation tower to check out the city views, and from the top the views were pretty good, although not entirely clear.

From there down into Gastown a well know tourist area of the city, with it's old cobblestone streets and gaslamps and the beautiful old steam driven clock, the most photographed item in Vancouver I am told. I was lucky enough to be there when the whistle blew it's tune and the steam belched out everywhere. Apparently this has just been repaired - so doubly lucky.

It was then a case of just keep walking, this time along the waterfront to Canada Place, where the large cruise liners dock in summer and much of the Olympic opening events of 2010 took place. The large cauldron for the Olympic flame is there and the "Leggo" Orca and great views over to the North shore and the mountains.

Then continued walking to check out the famous Robson  St shopping strip and of course the 2nd biggest Victoria's Secret shop - you just gotta' when you are here. It is amazing, just like all the adds you see, with all this amazing underwear everywhere. Lucky me, it was the last day of their sale and already marked down goodies were another 50% reduced. I came out with a bag of 3 things, only one of which is a present for my niece - the rest for me, and all for a price less than the cheapest item . What fun!
By the time I staggered back to the apartment - with exhaustion, not the weight of purchases, I don't have room for any more rocks in my case! it was all I could do to walk the dog, but in an apartment, these things have to be done.

Decided that as it is misty, moisty again today, a day to catch up is a good idea, and I need to wait for the credit card to tick over to the next cycle - been giving it a bit of a hard time lately.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dogs in Downtown Yaletown

Lisa mentioned on our meeting and intro dog walk that you see more dogs than kids in Yaletown and after a week I believe her. Since I have been walking Brubin around the neighbourhood this past week I have seen very few children but lots and lots of dogs.
The interesting thing is that very few dog walkers make any sort of eye contact - everyone just walks along with their head down - no smile, no hi, no nothing, not at all like our social event of walking a dog. I see lots of the same people and dogs as they need regular breaks from apartments - thank goodness for a back yard and an open door, and I quite enjoy walking around the neighbourhood checking it all out, but I guess when you are out 3 or 4 times a day on the same block you loose a little enthusiasm. On the early morning walk I often see people in their pyjamas with a hat and coat and the last walk of the evening produces some interesting looks also - me included. I must admit I really don't feel like doing the block at, having to coat and boot up and carry the umbrella, but off we go every night.These are my 2 charges, Aran the cat and Brubin the long haired Schnauzer.

But I really do miss this boy, my lovely Mac, who loves nothing better than an off lead walk or a romp on the beach.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Vancouver Apartments

I don't know if it is the case for all of Vancouver, but in Yaletown a very clever strategy was employed when building the apartment blocks. All the land was originally an old part of town and apparently was purchased by a a Chinese gentleman, who then set about developing. I am sure there is a long story there,  but they have been very clever with the high rise development and virtually every high rise apartment gets some sort of views. The apartments may be small but the views spectacular.
This is my tower block with it's accompanying condos.

With each apartment block the lower area and along the street level, condominiums of several stories are built to accompany each tower. This means that there are a number of low level buildings and between each tower, so that the towers are separated and  none overshadow a neighbour, thus allowing all in the tower blocks to have a view. The condos on street level are much more expensive, and have no view, but they have a lot more room. This apartment may be the penthouse level, but there are 5 apartments on this level and it certainly is "petite",  but I could sit and look out the window s all day. Problem you really have to keep the blinds closed to keep the heat in and the cold out. Sort of defeats the purpose for me.
The great thing about it is the proximity to everything, I can virtually walk everywhere, and it is flat all the way, and if I can't walk there, the public transport is fantastic.
If it ever stops raining I shall have a ball,  but I am anyway.

This is the neighbouring apartment block with mine behind, the two take a whole street block between them.


I have been here almost a week and no time for posts, somehow the time just flies by.
We finally arrived late Sunday afternoon, tired and grumpy after a very long 2 days. Made it to the hotel and after a hissy fit , we decided we couldn't cope with dinner, I hit the bath for a good soak and relax and then hit the bed for a good long sleep. I think Lynn also tried the spa bath, but I was out to it all.
As we had virtually missed 2 days in Vancouver, I was to meet my "home owners" and check everything out, so Lynn headed to the Aquarium for the afternoon and we met again for dinner.
The apartment was only 2 blocks from the hotel, so I just pushed the case around the block and headed up to the 24th floor to meet Lisa and the animals, Brubin the long haired  miniature Schnauzer and Aran the rather eccentric cat. The apartment is "petite" but the views are just magnificent, if the rain clears enough to see them that is. That's it at the very top, the middle balcony and the 2 windows either side.
Lynn and I had out last dinner together that evening as my home owners were to leave very early in the morning so I stayed there that evening.
I am hoping Lynn made it safely home to Elora, as we had received news that the weather on that side of the country was turning very nasty yet again. I am guessing she slept for a couple of days to get over it all.

The Saga of VIA - Canadian Rail

The day started off ever so well, a lovely fall of snow overnight left everything looking crisp and white and fresh. The niggling doubts started after breakfast when I spoke to the Bell Captain about the train and checking the departure time - he just laughed a little and immediately extended our checkout time to 1.00pm, saying he would call after 12. to give us an update. Hmmmmm.
Spent the morning packing - yet again and wandering around through the nice fresh snow and down to the Lake where a group of 8 Bull Elks had come in, quite an unusual sight as the males don't usually travel together.


Then the wheels fell off the train, so to speak, The bell captain rang and said the train was running very late, and by that I mean it had been 24 hours late leaving Toronto, and had been loosing time ever since. We were told that VIA would pay for our accommodation that night, but not where we were and only at one hotel in town. He said this with a sort of dread in his voice and offered us transport into town. Our journey back to real life started. We arrived at the hotel - pretty basic and just over the road from the station to be told that we had to obtain a voucher from Via, so over we all trudged, picked up the voucher and back to the hotel to check in. Then Lynn and I went to explore the town and spend money.
Later in the afternoon we went back to the station to check progress, only to be told with some delight by the clerk that we had cancelled our booking and had "leaked out of the system". We insisted we hadn't done any such thing and got a little "techy", he insisted he could fix it??? Interestingly enough when I said I had ordered special food he could find that in the system under my name, obviously that part of me hadn't "leaked out."
Back at the hotel came another little surprise when we received a message saying that as we had cancelled our booking we now would have to pay for our room. NOT HAPPY JAN! So I called the Canadian providers of our tour and got them working and within a couple of hours the rail clerk got back to us a little subdued, saying the service manager had us on his Blackberry, so we had a compartment.
We had a lovely dinner and then the next day it all started again. Off to the station, where a very efficient lady ticketed us and got it all sorted, no probs,. but all day the misinformation continued, first we were leaving at 5, then 8.30 etc, etc. The rail manager gave us all vouchers for a lovely restaurant for dinner, then many disgruntled people sat around the station until finally the train arrived at 1.00am, by that time a mere 36 hours late. needless to say it was straight into bed.

The journey itself was rather pleasant as tired as everyone was, although we missed the best views of the highest point in the Rockies,  but we did get to see vistas that the train travellers don't usually see.
Via handed out letters of apology offering 100% of any rail journey within the next 12 months, minus accommodation - I would just hate to think how much they loose every year if this is the way they operate.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


The last of the "luxury" stops on the trip, and it certainly turned out that way.
We had arrived at the Jasper Park Lodge in the dark, a pretty tired, so it had been hard to get an idea of the place really until the next day. It is very different to the hotels we had been staying in. It really is or was a hunting lodge. The guest accommodations are cabins scattered in groups of about 4 to each block, and cover enormous grounds along the lake and spreading back about 6 rows. The lodge is a few kms out of town,and so really quite isolated. All the main action is in one central building, the lodge itself where all the admin etc, the obligatory shops, restaurants and an enormous lounge area where everyone congregates and sits around in groups, eating,drinking, talking, playing games etc, which gives it a very homey type atmosphere.

Lynn was feeling quite unwell on the day, so I explored the grounds and surrounds, it was lovely just to wander and to spend time in the lounge just catching up.
That evening it started to get colder and we were booked on a canyon walk to the bottom of the Maligne Canyon. Lynn decided it wasn't for her, so off I went with a small group. It had started snowing by this stage, but still wasn't too cold. So we booted and crampon'd up and headed up to the canyon. The walk took us up for o view down into the canyon before we descended to the canyon floor. There were lots of lovely ice formations from the water seeping out and down the walks. It was a 2 hour walk and the snow continued all through, but was fun.

Monday, January 06, 2014


A very important subject on this trip. My "eating" choices are pretty limited, so it wasn't just a case of picking up a quick sandwich or piza along the way, so we have been eating mainly at our hotels, and that "ain't cheap". Lynn managed to sneak off for some cheaper options, but I am afraid I cost her a fortune.
On the whole the food was great, if expensive. There were a few disasters and then there was the $26 hamburger at the Jasper Lodge. Lynn wasn't feeling well and when I went on the Maligne canyon walk that night she decided on room service. The cost for delivery to the room was to be $5, so she decided to walk over and pick up. A very basic hamburger and fries - $26, she was not impressed.
I will write a post on our train saga, but the food was good, one of the best things about it. More on all that later.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Lake Louise to Jasper

Probably one of the most spectacular drives in the Rockies. The Icefields Parkway travels past several lakes and some massive glaciers, including the Columbia Icefield which covers an area of about 325 sq kms. We were able to see pasrts of it as it hadn't snowed for a while and the ice was visible

The mountains were majestic and towered over everything, the road very icy and slippery, although everyone travels along st a rate of knots, and as it was a 3 hour journey it was just on dark as we arrived into Jasper to the Fairmont Jasper Lodge.

The waterfalls and ice formations were amazing and we spent the whole journey mesmerised. 

Thursday, January 02, 2014

New Year at Lake Louise

After a short bus ride we arrived at the beautiful Lake Louise, and like Banff, packed with people. Being New Year's Eve I guess that is not surprising. Again we stayed at the Fairmount and  again it was all that the adds make it appear, just magnificent. Room was a little on the small size and the bathroom just minute, but the beds are great and we were comfortable.

Than it was off for a sleigh ride along the side of the lake, a magnificent way to enjot the magnificent setting. Lake Louise was more like I had imagined the Rockies to be. Imposing mountains and lots more snow on the ground, the picture postcard scene, with people skating on the lake around the magnificent ice castle and the crispy white snow.

We had a lovely dinner that evening, but didn't quite make it through to the party and the New Year. All this traveling and the fresh air makes you pretty tired - that's my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it. But it was a lovely day and a greaaat way to end 2013.