|Tee and I had planned this particular long weekend in Vancouver for about 2 months. I had told Tee at the
beginning of the year that I would like to make it to a destination in the Pacific Northwest sometime this year.
Vancouver seemed a perfect choice in that I had never been before, Tee would be able to mix in some business while
we were there, and Tee could pay a visit to her Aunt Elsie who lives not far from the city. With the help of my sister
Heather and my cousin Carollynn, we were able to confidently hand over the kids for 3 1/2 days; not as much time
as we would like, but time enough to relax and enjoy Vancouver.
We left the house at 9:00 am on Thursday. After dropping Henry off at school and dropping Gwen off at Heather's
house, we headed off to the airport. The flight was smooth, taking less than two hours. By the time we had checked
into our room at the Hyatt in downtown Vancouver we were both anxious to get to lunch. We inquired at the
concierge desk and were directed just around the corner to the Joe Fortes restaurant on Thurlow Street. It was a
comfortable lunch spot specializing in seafood. Tee had the salmon with a glass of Chardonnay, while I had a half a
dozen Kumamoto oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, and a Bombay Gin martini. It was all very good, and I started to
feel I was officially on vacation.
Upon finishing lunch we decided to take advantage of the perfect weather (75 degrees and scattered clouds) to walk
westbound near the water. After several blocks we came to a nice art gallery called the BuschlenMowatt Gallery,
where we were shown around by a very friendly gallery assistant named Kevin. The main exhibition was featuring
works from the famous Canadian artist Sorel Etrog, while the other exhibition was a collection of works by various
award winning teenage artists from the Vancouver area. Most of the displayed works were fairly forgettable, but I
was impressed with several of the Etrog sculptures.
We continued westbound on Georgia St. until we came to a restaurant, Yoshi, at which we already had reservations
to eat dinner later that night. We took a brief look at the posted menu and continued up Denman Street. The area
appeared to be a mini Japan Town because it contained several sushi and izakaya style restaurants. We turned
back eastbound on Robson Street and continued to take in the sights of this particularly curious part of town. The
bulk of the west end businesses are an interesting mix of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese markets and restaurants,
and we spotted a couple of additional restaurants we thought we might try later during our stay.
We made a brief stop at our hotel and then continued our leisurely walk around the city by heading east. The city is
a relatively clean and robust place. People and business of all types fit comfortably together in an interesting
cosmopolitan mix. Retail clothing stores, hotels, office buildings, book shops, bars, and restaurants all play their
part in creating a fun, vibrant, diverse, and modern urban atmosphere (note: coffee shops outnumber any other
type of business in Vancouver!). The people of Vancouver are said to be the least friendly in Canada, but they are
still Canadian, and therefore seem naturally friendly and fun.
Once we had walked several blocks to the east of the hotel, we were ready to sit down and have a couple of beers.
We came upon a great spot to do just that when we spotted the busy outdoor patio section of the Cambie Pub. This
pub is a fairly large, no frills place that caters mostly to travelers (it also serves as a hostel), students, blue collar and
middle-class locals. The interior contains two separate bar areas, a jukebox, a couple of pool tables, a few TV
monitors, and several large picnic-style tables. The patio area has limited space, but still manages to comfortably
contain over a dozen tables of various sizes. The scene is very communal, with everyone sharing the tables and
making conversation with whomever one might find a seat next to. The whole atmosphere is relaxed and seems
authentically 'Vancouver.' After a couple of Kokanee (local British Columbian beer I happen to drink regularly in
Utah) we were still wishing to just continue sitting there taking in the perfect weather and the people watching.
But, we had our big dinner to get to, and it was getting close to the time of our reservation.
We took a taxi back out to Yoshi and arrived just after 7:30. We took two seats at the far end of the sushi bar in front
of Chef Kobayashi. I had done some research on the Internet before going to Vancouver in order to find a good sushi
restaurant. Trusting online reviews and online advertising about sushi is a very questionable endeavor, but I was
without any other additional knowledge as to the sushi scene in Vancouver, so I tried to decipher as best I could the
information turned up through a couple of Google searches. Yoshi showed up on a couple of different sites as a well
known and well liked sushi bar in the city. It also had a longer history in the city than many of the others.
According to their website, Yoshi is a full service Japanese restaurant, with a large sushi bar, and a reputation for
an impressive 'Kaiseki' (traditional set course) meal. We went ahead and did the full multi-course kaiseki, which
included an amazing amount and array of food. While the sushi was perhaps not the greatest, it was still good, and
the meal overall was wonderful. In fact, there was so much food included in the Omakase dinner that I couldn't
finish the last couple of courses, and Tee felt almost ill from having finished hers off completely!
The next morning started out relatively early due to our having to make our way to Victoria for Tee's 10:00 meeting
with a client there. Tee had found that the only truly efficient way to make our way to and from Victoria for the
meeting was to take one of the small seaplanes which fly between the two harbors. So we walked a couple of blocks
from the hotel down to the seaplane docks on the harbor and boarded the 8:30 flight to Victoria. The plane ride was
spectacular thanks to both the inherent beauty of the Vancouver area and the wonderful weather which enabled us
to have a great view of the city, the water, and all of the surrounding islands. The plane only held about 15
passengers, but was perfectly comfortable for a flight which only takes 35 minutes.
|Waiting to take the seaplane from
Vancouver to Victoria
|Tee coming off of the
seaplane in Victoria
|The scene as we landed in the harbor at Victoria was quite breathtaking. The combination of the beautiful town of
Victoria with it's grand examples of historic architecture clearly visible from the water, along with the spectacular
beauty of the mountains, waterways, greenery, and neighboring islands is a truly awe inspiring site; particularly on
a gorgeous summer day! The seaplane docks in Victoria are very centrally located at the heart of the Inner Harbor,
halfway between the shopping and dining districts of the downtown and the beautiful and historic attractions of the
James Bay area. Fortunately, Tee's meeting that day was at a downtown office building only a couple of blocks from
It was still early when we landed, and most of the shops had yet to open, but we bought some pastries and walked
several downtown blocks in what was a pleasantly peaceful time of the day. I saw Tee to the exterior of the office
building, agreed to meet her in an hour at a nearby street bench, and sent her off to her meeting. In the meantime
I headed straight back to the glorious Fairmont Empress Hotel.
The Empress Hotel is one of the main buildings which hold people's attention when first entering the Inner Harbor
section of Victoria. It is a beautifully historic hotel that does a very brisk business with not only it's guest rooms, but
with it's parade of tourists who seek to take the historic tours offered, shop in the upscale gift shops, dine in one of
the elegant dining areas, or merely snap a couple of photos (I apologize for not having any of my own!). The Empress
Hotel is also now owned by the same company (Fairmont Hotels) which also owns my one time employer, The
Chateau Lake Louise. I sat for several minutes on a couch on the 2nd floor of the lobby and read the Victoria
tourist guide. I spotted a picture of a very intriguing painting featured in an add for a nearby art gallery and
determined to go by to see it. I also read about a place with great potential as a lunch spot for the day, Spinnakers
Brew pub, and decieded to take Tee there after her meeting. I then wandered through the length of the hotel's front
hallway, and took in the unique and cultured atmosphere of the dining areas. I ended up in the beautiful garden
areas just to the south of the hotel where I sat on a bench for several minutes and observed a very busy spot for tour
buses to off-load it's passengers.
After asking the concierge at The Empress about the walking distance to Spinnakers, I walked back into the
downtown area and directly to The Moore Gallery to see the painting from the tourist guide. On the way to it I
spotted a large, nice looking pub called The Sticky Wicket. I had to laugh because "sticky wicket" is Tee's favorite
cricket verbiage. So I thought I might try and take her by there as well. As I entered the Moore Gallery I immediately
saw a painting which was very similar to the one I had seen in the guide. Straightaway I thought the painting was
particularly impressive. It was a painting by the same artist as the painting featured in the gallery's advertising. The
artist is Martin Budny, and is a resident of Vancouver although he is from a Polish background, was raised in Iraq,
is a musician and dancer, and continues to travel regularly to Europe and Latin America. I felt myself fall quickly for
the painting, and determined within a few minutes that we should purchase it if Tee would agree.
|"Crescent Moon Over the City"
-Martin Budny 2001
|Tee's meeting went over by 30 minutes, but I just continued to occupy myself by taking in the atmosphere of
downtown Victoria as I waited outside of the building. When she finally emerged she was able to report that the
meeting was a success and well worth the trip out. I immediately told her to follow my lead as I had several places to
show her. The Moore Gallery was only a block away, and I talked to her about the particular painting I had seen as I
walked her there. Fortunately Tee took all of about 30 seconds to approve the purchase of the painting once she had
seen it. Although the painting cost a good deal of money, I didn't hesitate for a moment to purchase it. It was the
kind of thing you see and automatically know you will never regret having bought. We arranged to have it shipped to
our home in Utah then walked down Douglas Street another block to the Sticky Wicket Pub.
Tee got a kick out of the name of the place as I knew she would. The interior of the place was quite large, bright, and
clean. I believe that the various sections are known by different names, with the main interior bar being the actual
Sticky Wicket Pub. Tee had a lemon-lime with bitters while I had a pint of local lager known as "Lighthouse Lager."
We enjoyed our drinks, discussed Tee's meeting, and watched the start of a of World Cup Soccer match with a few
I had read in the tourist guide that Spinnakers was a "local legend: handcrafted beers, exceptional food, friendly
atmosphere, and a waterfront location," and luckily that's exactly what we found. It took us almost 30 minutes to
walk to Spinnakers from downtown, but the walk was almost entirely up against the water and made for a great way
to view the harbor. We just missed out on getting the very best table in the place, but we were able to find another
nice spot on the second floor patio. I had the Read Island Oysters and the Mushroom Tart. Tee had the beef pot pie.
We each also had a couple of different beers, selecting from a list of about 7 or 8 house beers brewed on site. Food
and beer both were impressive, and the prices reasonable. Coupled with the stunning views and relaxed setting, it
was precisely the type of lunchtime experience I was hoping it would be.
From Spinnakers we took a cab back to the seaplane docks. We boarded a seaplane back to Vancouver and enjoyed
an absolutely amazing view over the waterways and smaller islands of the area. The views were even better than the
views we had coming into Victoria earlier that morning! The pilot (an Australian from Melbourne) was even kind
enough to divert from the flight path slightly so that he could give us all a view of a group of breaching whales. The
plane on the return trip was slightly different from the one we took over in that it was only a single engine, was
operated by a single pilot, and had much larger windows.
Tee was worn out and looking forward to a nap once we arrived back at our hotel, so while she settled in at the hotel I
went out to continue walking around the city. After a while I began thinking about how pleasant the patio of the
Cambie Pub had been the day before, so I began making my way over to the Cambie. I was fortunate to take a sit
with a great guy named Tim. Tim is a wood-worker, sculpture, and native of British Columbia. We had a great talk
about the city of Vancouver, his artwork, cactus (he collected them), and the Utah desert. We were soon joined by a
fun middle-aged local couple, John and Heather. The four of us had a great time talking and drinking for about an
hour. I called Tee at one point and told her it was her wakeup call and that I would be back in time to go out for
dinner. The time flew by, and although I felt I could spend at least another hour there at that table, I eventually
realized I needed to head back to the hotel. I was pretty shocked to find Tee still sleeping after more that 2 1/2 hours.
Eventually we made it out of the hotel room and onto bustling Robson Street. We wanted to go back to the area of
Robson St. we had seen the day before which was dominated by a variety of Asian restaurants and shops. We passed
what looked to be a great little izakya-style restaurant, but the place was full and there were people on benches out
front waiting to get in. Just a few doors west was a very authentic looking Korean restaurant. This restaurant had a
protruding patio area and it was easy to see the quality of the food as we passed. After walking further on for another
block or so we decided to turn around and go into the Korean restaurant with the patio. I can't remember the name
of the place (something like Hee Boo), but were glad we went. The place was quite big and very busy. The customers
were almost all Korean, along with a couple of tables of Japanese young people a maybe two other white people. The
service was poor (they even made the mistake of clearing away the entire meal of the couple next to us when they
went outside for a smoke break!), but luckily the food was very good and the prices much better than might be
expected. We each ate a Galbi BBQ set and neither of us could finish it. Along with a couple of Kokanee and a
selection of traditional side dishes, the whole dinner only set us back about $30 Canadian.
As we headed back eastbound on Robson, Tee had a couple of attempts to buy a desert foiled when the line moved
too slowly at the crepes place, and when they were sold out of the ice creame/yogurt at Tim Horton's. It was still
relatively early, but despite her nap, Tee wasn't up for doing much, and I was done for the day as well. The next
several hours were lazily spent hanging out in the hotel and eventually going to bed.
The next morning we got up a about 9:00 and went to rent a car at Avis. The Avis location is located just around the
corner from the Hyatt (and next door to the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel). We rented a Grand Prix (one of Tee's favorite
rental styles) and set off to meet Tee's aunt Elsie at Horseshoe Bay. Aunt Elsie is Tee's mother's elder sister and has
been a resident of the area for decades. It had been 10 years since Tee had last seen Elsie, and she was looking
forward to the meeting we had planned with her. Although we were already very much looking forward to our lunch
and visit with Elsie, I don't think either of us foresaw just how pleasant those couple of hours would turn out to be.
The drive from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay only took us about 30 minutes, and was scenic and easy to
navigate. Once again we had perfect weather. We arrived with just enough time to take in the scenery and snap a
couple of photos before Aunt Elsie arrived. Horseshoe Bay is beautiful; far more spectacular a spot than what I
initially imagined it to be. The combination of lush, pine-covered and snow peaked mountains along with the dark
blue of the northern Pacific waters made for a wonderfully soothing and refreshing scene. As I went off to secure a
patio table at the waterfront restaurant Troll's, Tee went to meet up with Elsie at the large ferry propeller that serves
as the central sculpture-type piece for the waterfront park. Elsie surprised us by bringing along two of Tee's other
aunts from British Columbia, Aunt Sue and Aunt Vicki (married to Tee's mother's brothers). They also had brought a
friend of theirs, Susan, from Ottawa. Tee was very excited to see everyone at once. Originally she had told Aunt Elsie
not to tell any other family members there in the Vancouver area that she was in town because she knew she
wouldn't have time to visit each of them.
We had a great lunch together at Troll's, and were even able to sit at the best table on the patio. At least 3 of our
group had the fish and chips, Troll's most famous dish. I had the shrimp salad sandwich and a cup of the roasted
vegetable soup. It was very good. Tee and I both had the Lindeman's BIN65 Chardonnay (a wine we have a very
particular history with), which seemed just the perfect thing to drink at lunch on this beautiful, sunny day. The
conversation was of family members, one another's children, the beautiful Vancouver area, and Tee's job. After lunch
we walked around the waterfront and out onto the pier. I couldn't have been more pleased with the company and the
surroundings. All of the ladies were great personalities. I really felt comfortable and connected to them quickly. I
loved that everyone had something to say and were prone to joking and laughing. Elsie went to board her ferry home
while the rest of us continued to visit on the pier for another 20 minutes. We then said our 'goodbyes' and headed
back into Vancouver.
|Tee at Horseshoe Bay
(with Aunt Elsie's ferry behind)
|Aunt Vicki, Aunt Sue, Me, Tee, and Aunt Elsie
|Tee visits with Aunt Elsie
|Once we were back to the city we returned the car and took a few minutes in the room deciding what to do that
afternoon. We made up our minds to visit Chinatown and to try and seek out one of the venues for the Vancouver
International Jazz Festival that was on that weekend. We took a cab to Cambie and West Hastings where we found
the Jazz Festival in full swing and a small park on that particular corner. Since we now knew where the Jazz
Festival was we decided to walk through Chinatown for an hour or so and then return to the Jazz Festival later. I
kept in mind what the lady, Heather, at the Cambie Pub had told me about the area between there and
Chinatown, and about it being a particularly dangerous and intimidating area. We weren't too concerned however,
given that it was the middle of the day and that we've been in our fair share of "bad" neighborhoods before. We
figured we would just walk quickly to Chinatown and be able to see the situation for ourselves. Well, we soon
discovered that what Heather had said about it being like a scene out of Dawn of the Dead was all too true.
Within a block walking east on W. Hastings there was a noticeable change in atmosphere. There were a large
number of vagrants, drug addicts, criminals, and "crazies." We kept our head down and continued to walk
eastbound. Within another block it had become apparent that we were well out of our element. It was also
becoming obvious that this scary and intimidating neighborhood was also quite large, continuing for at least a
couple more blocks. Although there were a good number of people out and about, not a single one of these people
looked "normal." It was truly a human cesspool. Everyone had a hungry, disparate, and drugged out look in their
eye. You didn't need a sign to tell you that the best thing to do would be to turn and run! We stuck out like a sore
thumb and were being eyed by every person within a block. The streetwalkers all were skinny, bruised, and
covered with track marks. The guys were just as bad, most being either equally drugged out looking as the hookers
or looking criminally insane. It was all extremely sobering. Tee and I have both been in some of the most well
known bad neighborhoods in some of the biggest cities around the world, but we both agreed that this scene in
downtown east Vancouver was the scariest, most surreal urban scene we had ever experienced. We walked one
more additional block, and seeing that the central part of Chinatown was still another couple of blocks away, uphill
and through the same sick and disparate neighborhood, we decided to make a 90 degree turn away from W.
Hastings and Chinatown and hope to make an escape.
Although we were forced to cross the street in order to avoid walking through a very frightening looking group of
gang-banger types, we soon found we had crossed into a much calmer area. And after walking back westbound, we
found that not only had we entered the funky historical district of Gas Town, but that there was another outdoor
venue for the Jazz Festival there.
Relieved to finally be out of "Zombie Land" (as I now affectionately call it), we didn't care that we were unable to
find a place to sit that allowed for us to see the band that was playing. We did however find a small table and chairs
at which to sit in front of a small deli and just off to the side of the stage. The music was quite good and the
people-watching was amazing. The crowd was an interesting mix of families and upper middle class urbanites
alongside a large number of 20 and 30 something hipsters and the very gritty and pathetic people of the areas we
had just escaped.
We sat for quite a long time after the music had ended and watched the crowd leisurely break up and walk around.
Eventually we walked westbound on the main brick and cobblestone street to the famous Gas Town Clock. Just
west of the clock we entered a cool looking design/furnature/interior retailer called Inform Interiors. I was
expecting it to be quite small, but once we began walking around, it revealed itself to be not only very extensive but
quite diverse. The theme is definitely modern/post-modern European, with the overwhelming majority of furniture
being from Italy. The inventory consisted of everything from dining sets, sofas, and chairs, to luggage, lighting
sculptures, and a large book section dedicated to art/design/furnature/fashion/photography/architecture. We
spent about 40 minutes walking throughout the store, and an additional 30 minutes browsing the books. I was
tempted to buy a few different books, but settled on one at the end, Total Living.
|Tee outside of the Vancouver International Jazz
Festival in Vancouver's Gas Town neighborhood.
|We began talking of our plans for dinner and decided to try and go back to the izakaya restaurant on Robson St.
we had seen the evening before. It was going to be quite a walk, but we felt we were up to it given we were still
enjoying perfect weather. We went by the HMV music store to take a look at some of the albums the young hipster
girls at the Cambie Pub had mentioned to us on our first day in Vancouver. They had recommended that we check
several local bands although I can now only remember the bands Death From Above 1979 and Black Mountain. We
listened to samples of most the bands they had mentioned, but didn't buy any of them. We did buy the album
"Apologies To The Queen Mary" by The Wolf Parade. They are contemporaries of The Arcade Fire (who we love),
both bands having emerged from the recent new music scene in Montreal.
We found our izakaya restaurant at just the right time. They had only been open about 20 minutes and we were
able to take some prime seats at the bar. The feeling was immediately authentic Japanese, although the name was
curious; Gyoza King. We perused the menu and quickly formulated a fairly extensive list of items to order. I can't
remember everything that was included, but there were some really stand out items such as shio sanma, miso
saba, mushrooms and scallops, taco (ocotopus) sashimi, and agedashi tofu. We drank Asahi Super Dry during the
meal and agari (hot green tea) at the end. The whole meal was exactly what we had hoped it would be; a traditional
and authentic izakaya style meal of diverse, quality menu items.
It felt good to walk the several blocks back to the hotel after our meal at Gyoza King. We each took a quick shower
and caught a cab to a well known Vancouver blues club, The Yale. The Yale was only a five minute cab ride from
the Hyatt, and we arrived at just the right time, about 20 minutes before the live music started. We took a great
seat near the front and off to the north wall (left hand side). The club is a very comfortable and cool venue. I don't
know it's history exactly, but I do know that it's famous amongst locals and has been there for a long time. There is
one large bar that services both the waitresses that work the front and central tables, as well as the "bar area" and
pool area at the back. I was impressed with the wait staff. Our particular waitress was very professional. She
checked in with us regularly, always knew what we were drinking, brought our orders quickly, and did it all with a
smile. Her quality service made the experience all the more enjoyable.
The featured musician for the night was Jim Byrnes. Jim Byrnes is a contemporary blues man who sings and
plays guitar. He's maybe about 60 years old, from St. Louis, and plays a distinctly authentic style of blues. The
music was great, and within 4 or 5 songs, the dance floor at the foot of the stage was packed. We enjoyed a great
couple of hours listening to the blues, drinking local beer, talking and people watching. It was about 12:30 when
we caught a taxi back to the hotel and turned in for the night.
The next morning was a lazy one as we woke up late, leisurely packed and straightened up the room, then headed
out to get a small morning snack. Although our flight back to Salt Lake was delayed about 30 minutes, we still
managed to be back to the house by 5:30 (just the time we had told Carollynn we would be home). Carollynn said
that everything had gone really well and that they had a great time visiting the zoo and spending an afternoon at
Carollynn's place in Spanish Fork. Both the kids and Carollynn herself seemed happy about how things had gone
in our absence, and once again we felt blessed to have someone as great as Carollynn to call upon in these
So, our trip to Vancouver was a success. In fact, it was so successful and satisfying as a "get-away" destination that
we are already talking about "the next time!" Can't wait!