Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh, Canada!

Lion fish, tiger sharks, and bears, oh my! This weekend my dad's sweetheart, Mimi, and I took some girls' time in Vancouver, BC. Although I only live about 3 hours away, I'd never been to this international hub and I had been toying with the idea of driving up to visit the state-of-the-art aquarium there alone. As it turned out, Mimi is quite familiar with the city and was a willing travel companion, so we threw a couple of bags into her Subaru Forester and headed north.

Once inside the city, our first stop was at Pekoe Tea, a small shop where you can buy a variety of loose teas, specially blended and then dubbed fanciful names like Jasmine Dragon Pearl, Caramel Cup, Festivus, and Shitty Weather.

The best part is that a large rack of tins, each with a different tea blend, is available for your sniffing pleasure. That way, you don't get all the way home and into your first kettle before discovering you aren't as into Tiramisu Tea as you thought you'd be. You can also just order a little pot of tea, plus a cookie or scone and sit in the cafe portion of the shop.

Next we navigated the tiny parking garage of the Robsonstrasse Hotel (no idea why the name of the hotel is German--no other traces of Deutschland in the whole place) and checked in. This lamp was the only notable thing about the hotel room:

As soon as we could, Mimi and I hit the streets to get in some quality tourism time before dinner. We stopped at a bookstore and a candy store, saw the Vancouver art gallery and were handed some free limes, courtesy of Corona. Check out the critters made from caramel apples on the top shelf:

And why have I not already invented the combination of gummy bears, caramel and apple?

We also stopped for coffee and salad at a cafe that turned out to be trendy, with chic wall art.

After a lot more walking, a remarkable number of shoe stores, and many more shops, our stomachs urged us to find a restaurant. Always wanting to made the more informed choice, I made us wander the city for about 20 minutes before returning to the first place we'd looked at. Chau Kitchen, a Vietnamese restaurant decorated in sleek red and black, served us some excellent pho, fried spring rolls and a steamy rice dish. The waitress, however, was less than helpful about the presence of glutenous ingredients in the dishes; fortunately I love pho, and it's gluten free!

I slept quite soundly at the Robsonstrasse after staying out late chatting at Chau. We woke up early to embark on our Vancouver Aquarium excursion, and asked the oddly uninformed receptionist how to get there. Most of the questions we posed to the front desk staff at the Robsonstrasse Hotel went unanswered.

A chill hovered in the air and the overcast sky didn't bode well for our plans, but Stanley Park is beautiful, even when your teeth are chattering.

Helpful signs directed us through the park to the aquarium, where we found we weren't the only ones who decided to visit the premiere Northwest aquarium that day. If you think my photography skills have been dismal up until this point, you'll be sorry to know they didn't improve in time to get any good shots at the aquarium, so even though the while place was engaging, educational and visually appealing, my photos are not. Here are the best of them:

Dreamy moon jellies:

A sealion at a feeding we were lucky enough to get front-row seats to:

The children's area of the aquarium was adorable, complete with a pretend seal rescue station.

We watched a beluga whale presentation from an underwater viewing area.

A temporary Amazon exhibit that rivaled any permanent Amazon display I've seen had been constructed in the aquarium's lower level.

Scarlet ibis are always stunning.

Hyacinth macaws are the largest species of parrot in the world.

This tiny tucanet put on a show by taking a bath in a water fall.

A two-toed sloth hanging out with an ibis.

This frog is channeling Buddha.

Once we'd seen every animal there was to see in the aquarium, we went back into Stanley Park, and were pleased to see the sun breaking through.

Before enjoying a lunch of leftover Vietnamese food in our hotel room, Mimi and I stopped by the site of the Olympic torch.

Nearby an artist had erected a giant pixelated orca whale, representing how things need to be digitalized to get people's attention. He reminded me of legos.

Mimi is a Native American art enthusiast to an extent rivaled only by my dad. Both of them are extremely knowledgeable about the various mediums, styles, and artists, so much so that I feel certain they will be receiving offers from museums hoping to buy their collections soon. Vancouver is home to a number of Native American art galleries, thanks to its proximity to First Nation peoples. So of course, we visited a couple galleries where I was entranced by the art, though somehow it felt voyeuristic to photograph the pieces.

As evening descended, I once again made us wander the city too long trying to decide where to eat, but finally we chose Fogg N' Suds, a restaurant and bar based on the theme "Around the World in 80 Days." Though I could not sample the much-touted beer selection, I did have a fruity martini and a fresh spinach and goat cheese salad with dried cranberries and walnuts. Not only was the food excellent, but the atmosphere was pleasant, the view of the street was entertaining and the waitstaff were friendly and helpful. We ate well, returned to the hotel and slept well.

Sunday morning we packed up, checked out of the Robsonstrasse Hotel and drove to Granville Island, the venue for Vancouver's public market and independent shopping district. The market reminded me of Seattle's Pike Place Market, on a smaller scale, with vendors selling everything from New York sausage to fresh flowers to knitted baby hats with bear ears.

Our last stop before making the trek back to Seattle was the Lattimer Gallery, an inviting little gallery with a genial young man well-versed in First Nation art standing behind the display cases.

I hope to visit this lively, welcoming city again soon!

Bye, Vancouver!


  1. Very cool. Also, I think that artist's explanation is bullshit. I think he just wanted to build a giant Lego whale.

  2. Also, I find a site where you can buy tucanets as pets:

    Not that I'm saying, "Suzanne, I want a tucanet for my birthday." But, you know, I'm not not saying it, either.

  3. Who wouldn't want to build a giant Lego whale? Lola would love a companion tucanet, I'm sure...