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Trip to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, July 28-31, 2019

by Jenny and Charlie Plesums


Intro

Why did we go to Vancouver in 2019? As you may have heard, Texas is warm - no, HOT - in the summer. So we like to take a quick trip to someplace cool for a few days. Austin doesn't just note days over 100°F, it counts how many in a row. And for those who speak Celsius, that is about 40°C

Getting there

We left early Sunday Morning July 28, from Austin to DFW, then connected on a non-stop flight to Vancouver, landing about 1130. It took 3½ hours to get through immigration, and that was after we were taken to the head of the line by someone who liked my gray hair. Further grousing about the airport below.

Sunday July 28

As we flew in, there is no question that we were going over the Rocky Mountains, still snow covered in late July

Yet not far away, between the hills, were flat irrigated farmlands.

We checked into our hotel downtown, next to the Rogers sports arena. After a brief nap (we got up to leave home at 2 am Vancouver time) we explored the area.

One of the unexplained attractions outside the arena was a series of 4 bronze statues of athlete(s), each with an artificial right leg. I later learned that this is national hero Terry Fox. As a high school and college athlete in 1977 (at age 19) he was diagnosed with bone cancer of the right knee, and his leg was amputated. He was walking with an artificial leg 3 months after surgery, but had watched fellow patients suffer and die during his 16 months of chemotherapy. After treatment ended, he focused on helping others find courage, such as being on a three times national wheelchair basketball champion team, and training to run a marathon (26.22 miles, despite the artificial leg designed for walking).

On April 12, 1980, he began the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research. Starting in Newfoundland, he ran the equivalent of a full marathon each day on a 5,000 mile route. On September 1 he was forced to seek medical attention - the cancer had spread to his lungs - and was forced to end the run after 143 days and 3,339 miles. Ultimately he raised $23.4 million. He died in June 1981, but countless groups all over the world are continuing his legacy.

When his leg was amputated in 1977, he was given a 50% chance of survival, but only a few years earlier the chances would only have been 15%. In 2013 a specialist in that type of cancer noted that most patients get limb-sparing surgery, and the cure rate is up to 80% in younger patients - a remarkable turn around in a couple decades, partly attributable to the millions raised for research by Terry Fox.

The tiny red "hotel" next to the arena is our hotel. Yaletown is a section of town nearby, loaded with restaurants. However we just had a simple dinner on Sunday night.

Monday July 29

A beautiful sunny cool day so we strolled through Yaletown and along the waterfront parks.

Across the "false creek" we could see the huge sign for the market. How do you get there? The high bridge in the picture above that goes across the creek will certainly take us there.

Look at the map above. From the waterfront parks we had to walk several blocks "uphill" to get on the bridge. Then ... look closely at the map ... the bridge goes over the market and well beyond Granville island.

Once off the bridge, there were no signs. As a woman, Jenny is allowed to ask directions, instead of wandering as any man would. The first person she asked rolled his eyes and said "I can't give you directions. I am going close to there, just come with me."

The kind gentleman dropped us off in sight of this entrance, as he turned to go to a friend's home. (It was daytime, so no lights; I didn't think to take my own picture).

If you wanted a fresh food market, this was it, in red on the map, but it was so much more. Near the entrance was a kids market and playground (light green). Scattered throughout were crafts being made and sold (purple), from T-Shirts and embroidery to violins. The big blue 11 at the top is a cement plant - still active but probably left by history. And several entertainment sections (dark green).

As we were relaxing, looking at the river (oops, False Creek) this bird posed for me repeatedly until I took his picture, then he left.

There were lots of pleasure boats in all directions. The commercial harbor was elsewhere.

Among the many boats were swarms of water taxi, when we left it cost C$3 each for a ride to Yaletown, saving a too long walk.

Dinner was at "The Greek Yaletown," which claims to be the best Greek Food in the City. I strongly recommend you avoid them. We had Feta and Olives with Pita bread for an appetizer, but the Pita bread (baked on site) had no pocket - it had been baked at a far too low temperature, so was gummy on the inside rather than an air pocket. Jenny's Moussaka was ample, but my Rabbit was a tiny portion. The waitress suggested I order Rice and Potatoes to go with it. The menu said courses would be served as ready, as traditional in Greece. But the rice and potatoes came out immediately so they could be stone cold by the time the main course arrived. Not what I expect for a C$100 dinner.

Tuesday July 30

The temperature was pleasant but less sunny so we decided to explore the highly recommended Museum of Anthropology.

There were numerous "totem poles" on display

Another totem pole. Unfortunately I didn't keep notes to help me remember what was unique about each.

A very attractive native-made boat.

Traditionally the chief provides a gift to each person attending the occasional conclaves. Someone had made a collection of carved spoons that had been given over the years.

Not all totem poles are tree-like

The motorcycle is not functional but displays their basket-like weaving skills.

A puppet maker was set up to show how familiar puppets were constructed - but not while we were there.

Among other skills, he made caricatures of famous people

Dinner was at the Italian restaurant, Robba Da Matti. Far better than the Greek dinner last night.

July 31 - return to Austin

Departed at 8:15 local time for a flight to Phoenix, then a tight connection Non Stop to Austin. We actually legally entered the United States (Immigration and Customs) before our flight left Vancouver.

Rant about the Vancouver Airport (skip if you wish)

Like most international flights, on arrival we were directed upstairs towards immigration to avoid the departure gates on the "middle" floor. Okay, after getting to the central area (where I expected to see immigration) there were dividers creating a zig-zag waiting line, like an amusement park. Okay, immigration must be around the corner. 90 minutes later we came to an escalator two flights down. But once we went down the escalator to the lower floor, there was another ocean of zig-zag lines. After we had waited over 3 hours, somebody took pity on the grey hair guy and his wife, and escorted us to the head of the line, saving at least another 30 minutes.

The excuse was that the computers were down. We were given forms to fill out; while the zig-zag went through the lines of user terminals, we played with them and found that it collected the same information that was on the forms, but could not communicate with the central computer. When we got to an officer, he only spent a few seconds reviewing the form, asked us if it really was a pleasure trip, and did we bring any pot with us. Jenny burst out laughing, and thanked him for thinking we were young enough to be of the pot smoking generation. If the computers had been working I doubt if his interview could have been any faster. Therefore "computers down" did not seem like a legitimate excuse for the horrible wait.

In the hotel the next day we asked someone checking in how the airport experience had been. No longer than expected. But when we left, we could see all the zig zag barriers neatly set up on the floors above and below departures. Obviously they were expecting to need the barriers regularly.

What would we do differently? The metro from the airport to center city is $9 per person, total $18, and still had to walk quite a few blocks to our hotel. When we departed, the taxi was $35 with tip, door to door. Taxi to and from a museum were $35 each way. Uber should be allowed in Vancouver by Fall 2019. The subway system was not "everywhere" like many cities, so I would rent a car (Transit cost was over $120 in 3 days), and we could have stayed in a less expensive hotel out of center city. In fact, I would consider renting a car in Seattle for the scenic drive and to avoid the Vancouver airport.


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