A Wonderful “Canada Day” in Vancouver
Friday, July 1, 2016: Pemberton-Vancouver
Awaking in our hotel in Pemberton, we showered and got ready quickly as we were supposed to return our car to Budget by 10.00 am. Bluebird Bakery was just opposite our hotel and there we picked up coffee with almond croissants and pain au chocolat and were off. The day was cool and drizzly and the mountains were shrouded with rain clouds that hung low upon them. As we zipped back down the mountains, we enjoyed the repeat journey that seemed much different as it turned out that we were in Canada on their national holiday—Canada Day—when the locals were enjoying a lie-in. This made it super easy for us to drive through the two downtown areas that had been chocobloc the previous day. We returned our car to Budget, took the shuttle bus to the Travelodge where we had another night’s booking and once we stashed our baggage safely in their store room, took the shuttle to the Skytrain station to begin our day long exploration of Vancouver.
Skytrain to Canada Place:
The Skytrain is one of the most convenient ways by which to get around Vancouver. It is new, clean, speedy and cheap. We took the Canada Line intending to get off at the Waterfront stop—which is Canada Place, a huge convention center–and the spot from where cruise ships take off. Well, on the train itself we got an idea of the patriotic spirit of the Canadians. We have never seen more red and white in our lives. Seas of people made their way to the spot and once we got there, we realized why. There was a stage set and live music was being offered. The Convention Center is the setting for the Citizenship Swearing Ceremony and loads of people who had taken the oath earlier that morning were on the pier taking pictures, their garb sporting their patriotic enthusiasm and their faces painted with Canadian flags! It was amazing. Absorbing all the energy around us, to see the rainbow hues that comprise the Canadian populace today, to imbibe their spirit—made it simply infectious.
We walked to the north end of the pier intending to look at the possibility of taking in Vancouver’s newest attraction, Fly Over Canada—a virtual show that is 4-D (it offers movement, sights, sounds, smells) as you fly across the country from the West coast to the east for approximately 25 minutes and $25. However, since the wait for the next show was about an hour, we decided to pass on it and move on. Instead, we feasted our eyes on a unique exhibition of Canadian war vehicles that were assembled in the main hall of the Convention Center for children to pose on. It was poignant as today is the 100th the anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, one of the battles of the Somme, at which about 700 ‘Newfies’ (Newfoundlanders) lost their lives. It is a Memorial Day of mourning in the province.
Lunch in Chinatown:
Walking, through the use of a map that we found at the Visitors’ Center, we made our way to Chinatown to get away from the chaos of downtown Vancouver on their holiday. As expected Chinatown was tranquil and offered some relief. Since it was lunch time, we asked a local for a recommendation and they directed us to Our Town which CNN’s Food Critic says is a “Must-Visit”. The place was full of locals which is a safe bet that the food would be good. As most of these places are, it was a little hole in the wall but packed to the gills. As recommended by Lonely Planet, we ordered the spicy pork steamed bun which we split—very delicious—followed by the Shrimp Dumplings—served dim sum style, four in a little steamer basket. They too were very good. Our main was a Shrimp Mongolian Hot Pot which had the most shrimp we have ever seen in a lunch order—good job we shared it as we had at least a dozen large shrimp each. And because I actually found it on the menu, loved it when I had last had it in Manilla in the Philippines in January and had adored it then, I ordered a Halo-Halo that we also split. You will remember that this is a very filling dessert served in a glass. It is layers of sweet red azuki beans, preserved fruit such as jackfruit (in this case), preserved coconut, a variety of noodles, loads of ice-cold milk and a big dollop of vanilla ice-cream. Of course, Llew loved it too and we realized that we would be skipping dinner after what had been a really inexpensive and most scrumptious meal.
Visit to Sun Yat Sen Garden:
We ended our visit to Chinatown by making a quick pop into Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens, one of the best classical Chinese gardens in North America. There usually is a steep entry fee that includes a guided tour, but since it was Canada Day, there was no fee and we had a lovely stroll around which brought us memories of the time we had visited this place on a previous trip to Vancouver. We were also able to see a really superb Chinese opera show in the adjoining Museum where the costumes and the makeup were simply spectacular and reminded us very much of our time studying about Noh Theater when we were in Kyoto, Japan, a few years ago.
By this time, both Llew and I were showing the effects of jetlag and an overlarge lunch! It was time to find the Skytrain station to take us back to the Waterfront and from there on the Canada Line again to get to the Airport from where we caught the shuttle bus to get us to our hotel. We checked in, picked up our stored baggage and made our way up to our room. It was still only about 6 pm, so we spent the rest of the evening catching up with world news on TV and watching a couple of TV shows. It was a very relaxed evening to a rather full day.
It was time to call it a night after checking email one last time through Wifi. And then it was time for bed. Tomorrow, we board our cruise ship to Alaska—we will make our way once more time to Canada Place. It has been a good start to our travels and we are very excited.