Tag Archive | Whistler

A Wonderful “Canada Day” in Vancouver

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.

Until tomorrow…

Touring Whistler: 2010 Winter Olympics Site

Thursday, June 30, 2016: Whistler, British Columbia

Touring the Winter Olympics Site of 2010

We awoke well refreshed and ready to hit the road again on our little adventure in Canada’s beautiful British Columbia. We showered, packed, and made our way down to the lobby to pick up the free airport shuttle that got us to the airport so that we could pick up the Budget car that we had rented for the next 24 hours. It was a painless process to get there and get our car organized and within an hour, we were browsing around the Designer Outlets that were very handily located right at the airport so that Llew could pick up a few clothes for the day ahead as he was still in the ones in which he had traveled. Banana Republic made it really easy and since there were special Canada Day sales, he really did get some good stuff for very little money. Now, in the event (God Forbid) that his bag has not arrived by the end of today, he will have some clothes to wear—he will be reimbursed by American Airlines upon submission of receipts.

We then hit the road from Vancouver to Whistler, the little ski resort in the north that catapulted to fame in 2010 when it was chosen as the site for the Winter Olympics. With Llew at the wheel of a Toyota Corolla and with me navigating (yes, using an old fashioned map as we did not have a GPS and did not wish to use pricey data roaming in Canada), we were off. We did not realize that we would have to go through two crowded, busy downtown areas (Vancouver Island and West Vancouver) before we hit the 99 North highway that took us directly to Whistler. Still, I was not complaining. We had no agenda, no deadlines, no urgency to get anywhere and, meanwhile, we had the leisurely chance to admire the beautiful city that is Vancouver with its many islands, bridges, quaint old neighborhoods and snazzy new skyscrapers.

And once we did hit the highway, the Pacific Coast road was simply spectacular and reminded us a lot of the travels we had undertaken, a few years ago, in the Canadian Rockies. In fact, the Whistler mountain range is merely an extension of the Rockies—so the scenery was similar. Except that here instead of just mountains, you also have the splendor of the ocean which the road hugs all the way to the north. The sea is punctuated by glacial islands that broke off many millennia ago from the northern ice-caps that comprise Alaska so that fjords and islands dot the sea. We saw many sea craft in the water including a couple of small cruise ships—so we know what lies in store for us tomorrow as we pull out of Vancouver Island and make our way on the cruise liner to Alaska. It is little wonder that this drive is considered one of the most beautiful in the world and we savored every second of it. We stopped once for Brunch in a very exclusive community–that reminded us of Malibu in California–where we picked up lobster rolls and chicken salad in a local Safeway (supermarket) which we ate while on the road.

Exploring Whistler:

I had not found the time to read up on Whistler before leaving home—so everything about the town was news to us. Apart from knowing that it is pretty and situated in the mountains, I knew little. What we found out is that it is essentially an Olympics Athletes Village that has been converted into a residential and touristic community. The Athletes Quarters are now private condos, the ground floors of which are bars, restaurants and souvenirs shops. We parked our car in one of the public parking lots and began our exploration of the two villages—there is an Upper Village and Whistler Village–on foot—which is the only way to go. We saw skiers making their way up the mountains but as there was no snow in sight, I have no idea where they were headed! A stop at the Visitors Center equipped us with a map and using it we negotiated our way around the little maze of cute streets—all of which look pretty much the same!

There is a Sea to Sky Gondola that you could ride to be whisked up to the top of the mountain but having done this in Telluride, Colorado, only last year, we did not feel tempted to do it again. Instead we continued strolling about at random. The place was crowded, it was unusually hot and dry and, before long, we gravitated to an ice-cream parlor called Cows to get sundaes that we ate in the shade of a few trees. A bit more strolling took us to the landmark five Olympic Rings where we posed for the mandatory picture before we went in search of the Library—hoping to find an internet connection which did not work—and to the local Museum. There we watched a short film on Whistler’s development in only a century from a nondescript farming community to the pricey mountain resort it has become with million dollar housing.

We stopped for a really reasonably priced lunch at a place called El Furniture Warehouse where we had burgers with salad and fries and then more ice-cream before we got into our car to drive further north to the little settlement of Pemberton where, away from the tourist rush, the snow-capped mountains of the West spoke directly to us. As soon as we entered the Pemberton Hotel, we found that Llew’s bag had arrived (much to our relief—well done, American Airlines)—but when we attempted to settle our bill, Llew discovered that he had left his credit card behind in the restaurant. Well, back into the car we piled to get to Whistler where his card was held safely for him and retrieved, with much relief, before we headed back to the Pemberton Hotel in what was once a tiny mining town. As both of us were jetlagged and sorely missing sleep, we had a very early night.

We realized that Whistler is like all the other ski resorts we have visited—such as Telluride and Stowe, Vermont: busy in the winter, pretty in the summer, but really not distinctive in any way.

Until tomorrow…