Thursday, July 22, 2021

Vancouver finale

Our last day in Vancouver, the kids had their afternoon hour-playing-in-the-pool-because-they-can't-hide-in-the-room-all-day-like-mushrooms and even tried to skim a bit off that.  When Terry came back from work, he and I had our plans set.  We borrowed a pair of bikes from the hotel and set off to circumnavigate Stanley Park. The hotel was right around the corner and the Park is a Vancouver highlight.  The hotel estimates that it takes about an hour to bike around (including the stops) and they were spot on.  First stop: the series of totem poles - I had no idea they are unique to the coastal Pacific Northwest, ranging from Washington up through British Columbia and a bit into Alaska. We watched a seaplane gain altitude.  We caught the statues of the "girl in  wetsuit" and Harry Jerome (Canada's fastest sprinter) and the replica ship's figurehead of a dragon.  The sun glinted off the sea, the mountains were hazy in the distance.  We appreciated the tenacity of a tree growing ontop a large boulder.  We passed Third Beach, then Second Beach (where I had dragged the kids all of three days previously).  We traveled leisurely, stopping often to enjoy the views.

Thus refreshed, we dined our last night on Terry's "must do" food event, hand pulled noodles.  (Mine had been the sushi)  The server was definitely skeptical of our choices and tried to steer us towards the house specialties.  We ignored her.  Zoltan took our advice and was not the Barry.  We ordered too much and ate too much and thoroughly appreciated the meal.  We stopped by a 24 hour bakery to choose baked goods for the morning's breakfast, as we weren't sure about the time we needed to get ready, finish packing etc and get to the airport.

We should not have worried. In typical fashion, we were ready to go early.  With a sad "adieu" we promised to return, having only barely scratched the surface of Vancouver's excellence.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Vancouver Part II

On Wednesday the day started the same. Because I knew in advance the kids weren't doing much in the afternoon, I didn't mind when a call went over my stated end-of-workday.  And the call of course led to more work.  Another call was scheduled for a time that happened to coincide with pool time, so I took the call outside.  All in all it was an almost-full-day at work.

After work we met Terry at a highly-touted Vancouver adventure: Fly Over Canada.  The advertising for it is very alarmist about motion sickness. Given that I only learned a couple of years ago that the sick feeling I get on roller coasters is actually motion sickness, it made me nervous. Oh goodness, it's a lot of over-hype!  The experience is a lot of fun - you swoop along beautiful vistas all over the Canadian landscape as though you are riding a drone.  You're strapped into seats like a gentle roller coaster, because it does move a bit with the direction of swooping. There's water sprays when you pass snow and a few scent sprays.  All in all, totally worthwhile and a fun way to spend half an hour.

We finished the night at a Vietnamese restaurant.  We recommended to the kids the lemongrass chicken/pork/beef with rice.  Zoltan opted for a dish that turned out to be beef in a broth with carrots and radish. Needless to say, he did not enjoy the dish and it was delicious and Terry and I ended up eating most of it.  There's a TV show we're watching as a family and in a relatively recent episode a kid in the TV family goes against parental wisdom and orders a meal that is ridiculous for the venue, is expectedly not-delicious, and earns him derision from the family.  So now Zoltan has been warned to "Not be a Barry" in future ordering decisions.

We couldn't get a reservation for dinner at the highly recommended sushi restaurant we wanted to try so we settled on lunch.  That was Thursday.  We discovered when we arrived that, as I had been playing around with different days and times, and with tables for two or four, that I had made a reservation for two.  They had no tables for four available.  Um .......  Well, the kids had maps in their phones, didn't want fish anyway, and still had a fridge of meats and cheeses at the hotel.  We sent them back and stayed ourselves to enjoy the meal.  And everyone was happy.  On my way back to the hotel I checked out a pastry place and brought back treats for everyone - so even more happiness.

In the evening we headed toward Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.  This time we took the SeaBus (not at all the same thing as the AquaBus) and were able to catch some lovely views of Vancouver from the viewing platform.  Terry and I ate fish and chips that rivaled the ridiculously delicious chips place in Haydon Bridge while the kids ate burgers from the vendor next door.  We took a walk to spur our appetites, then got Earnest Ice Cream.  It had been recommended and I had no idea they had such a variety of vegan flavors. Even better, the vegan flavors were DELICIOUS (this is absolutely not always the case).  We ate the ice cream on a bench outside, where we could see a produce vendor that looked like it was starting to pack up. As we were out of fruit, we ran over and thusly brought home a second stash of goods.  Sadly they were not quite as good as the first - Four Season Farms at Granville Market for the win.

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Vancouver Part I

[Disclaimer: Anything you think of to do in Vancouver, we probably didn't do it.  Terry was working, I was working, we didn't have a car, and many things were still closed. All reasons for a return trip!]

The border between B.C and Alberta opened just days before Terry's TDY (temporary work trip) to Vancouver. Having never been before, the kids and I tagged along.

We flew out on July 5, which was not a holiday in Canada so we were able to do some sightseeing. Being who we are, after dropping off our bags at the hotel we hopped an AquaBus to Granville Island where we ate our own weight and brought some home. In Alberta we're always pining over British Columbia fruit, so a visit to the produce vendor was in order. We followed the crowds walking around with bright yellow Lee's Donuts boxes and decided to splurge on a dozen.Oh. My. I had no idea donuts could be like that. We sincerely regretted buying so few and discussed going back.  We also got recommendations of other vendors to visit and decided that in addition to berries, we would stuff our mini-hotel-fridge with sliced meats and cheeses. They also make lovely lunches for the three of us spending our mornings in the hotel room* - Lynne working, kids frying their brains on TV shows and video games. 

* Note: Because of Marriott status, our regular room was upgraded in a larger room with an actual desk - critical feature for the one working half days from the hotel room.

The heat was nearly unbearable even with the help of gelato (around 75F ... we are so ruined for living anywhere else in the world), so after our shopping we were wilting and ready to hang at the hotel for a bit.  With the relaxation of COVID restrictions, the need to book certain times for the outdoor pool ended the day we checked in so kids and I headed off to the pool to cool off.

After a bit of Googling, we settled for dinner on a yakitori place not too far from the hotel.  It's been more than 20 years since Terry lived in Japan, so with our assuredly altered palates we deemed it not only delicious (it was) but authentic (it definitely seemed so). 

The next morning breakfast at the hotel consisted of eggs Benedict, bacon for Terry and smoked salmon for me.  And the eggs had the darkest most orange yolks I have ever seen, and we've been buying our eggs straight from a farm.  Thus fortified, Terry headed out to the Consulate and I to my desk.

Not gonna lie, working off a small laptop with sticky keys and no mouse is not as productive as working off my home setup.

I had grand plans for the afternoons but the kids defeated me.  I did make them accompany me across Stanley Island to Second Beach - one of Vancouver's many inner city beaches and recommended as one of the nicer.  They boycotted the water, opting instead to read under a tree just beyond the sandy area. I gave up and we headed back, although we did take the long way and linger a while by Lost Lagoon ("look, we found it!"). All future afternoons were spent by the kids inside reading or outside by the pool.  

We finished the day with a delicious dinner at Joe Fortes and began my streak of eating fish daily while in Vancouver. Mmmmmmmm.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The birdfeeder

Amazing Terry made a bird feeder from old pallet wood scraps and the plastic siding of Costco cashews.  It hangs from a tree in the front yard and my view of it sits perfectly between the two monitors on my desk.  This morning, a poor squirrel - beautifully acrobatic but sadly unknowing that the feeder is empty - has been trying to get to it.  The first attempt I only caught out of the corner of my eye as the creature went flinging back to the earth. For the she second attempt I watched it ready itself from the steps, spring into action, and cling for a few pregnant seconds onto the wooden roof/top before falling back.

I desperately wish I had caught that on video.  It seems to  have moved on now.

I take that back.  Squirrel just tried again. And apparently managed to knock a few grains off, as it has been nibbling in the ground under the feeder these last few minutes. Wandered off again. Will it return?

Sunday, July 11, 2021


When all our beautiful B.C. dreams fell through because the border was not in fact open the way we thought, we cast about for something else to do over the long weekend.  Still having never visited the province's capitol, we decide to use some of the Marriott points burning a hole in our pocket and head up for a weekend.

The kids begged for a trip to Canada's largest shopping mall, the West Edmonton Mall - home of stores, of course, but also an indoor amusement park, an aquarium, and a water park. Having visited an amusement park the previous day, we settled on the water park. And it was a delight! We took no photos so this will have to do.  By the time we ended our day and checked into the hotel we were beat.

Next day was what Terry and I had wanted to see in Edmonton - Elk Island National Park.  To try to draw the kids in, we downloaded the geocaching app and found a couple of caches ... but the kids were not into it. Oh well. We also had planned to go in the water at the beach, but it was super silty/dirty and cold so that was also a bit of a bust.

On the wildlife side, though, it was a spectacular home run win.

First up: bison.  The bison are a main attraction at the park, with a particular roadway known as the Bison Loop. From the parking lot within the Loop we could walk over to where there was a herd (about 50+ bison) of all mamas and babies. We kept a generously wide berth though, so didn't see much detail about what they were doing. And the babies were just little dark blobs.  As we continued on the loop, just after we had gotten into the car, we also saw a bull (male bison) who was just off the roadway. We watch him run a distance and who knew they run so awkwardly!  It was like a mix between a hop and a gallop.

We then found a picnic table where the kids could hang out and read while Terry and I took a little stroll to a lake ... that didn't actually have any water.  We went on a different path where the butterflies were continually taunting us with being really pretty but never stopping long enough to focus the camera lens. I guess they eventually got tired of that because a few did stop and let us take the pictures.

Last stop in the park (which by the way is not an island) was the beach. It reminded me a lot of the beach club near our cabin and was only slightly larger. Zoltan went in for about 5 minutes, Terry and I stood ankle deep for longer, chatting and feeling the sand and pebbles under our feet.  Then we decided to go for a wander, taking a few different trails and again leaving the kids behind to their own devices (but not electronic devices).

We watched ducks and their babies paddle about. Terry even caught a photo of a duck feeding its baby a delicious leech (ick!) We heeded one of the park signs to sit on a bench and listen to the wind and the lap of the waves.  We noted the number of fallen trees with telltale beaver gnawing signs and the number of lodges, from cozy to swanky.  We read a sign about beavers being most active at dusk and dawn and just as I finish saying "Well we're obviously not going to see anything at 2pm" we watch a young beaver swim by right in front of us!  We watched it go around a corner and it disappeared.  We continued our walk, and on the way back swung by the same spot where now the little guy was swimming in a different direction, going around a different corner, but clearly pushing a little stick. (obviously, it could have been two different beavers. But it was a pretty small one so it could have been practicing for when it's big enough to help build the lodge).

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Vancouver = Mushroom Town???

 In a conversation about how awful we are as parents for forcing her to go on vacation, Alex gave an example of a small town where there is nothing to see or do but a few mushrooms.  I told her that in 20 years I will remind her she compared Vancouver to a small mushroom town and she will apologize and buy us drinks.