Vancouver Day 2: Stanley Park, the West End, and Downtown

Thursday started off on the right foot with some complimentary orange juice and tasty (whole grain?) toast served in my hotel.

Or, I suppose I could focus on the negative: that the hotel's computer with internet was occupied throughout the time I was awake and so I couldn't look up the addresses I desired. This didn't turn out to be a serious problem then or throughout the rest of the trip. Indeed, I found the lack of internet on the whole trip quite refreshing; the inconvenience caused by not knowing some addresses, hours of operations, or phone numbers caused only minor alterations in my plans and no problems so memorable that I can recall them now.

After breakfast I explored a small unremarkable underground mall near my hotel, then headed off to Stanley Park. I thought I'd wander through downtown as I walked to the park but quickly realized if I was going to spend hours walking around the park itself, it'd be easier to hop a bus. And so I did.

This route map shows my combined walking and bus route for the day.

These pictures also accompany the day's tales. In fact, they're the primary source of my observations -- the rest of this blog entry is simply a motley assortment of high level observations along with niggling remarks on unphotographable items.

Stanley Park is Vancouver's answer to big city parks like Golden Gate Park or Central Park. As the photographs demonstrate, it's a huge peninsular park with verdant greenery inland and many miles of beautiful shoreline and beaches. It has a nice free park bus that drives the perimeter (where nearly everything interesting is). After briefly wandering around the inside of the park (see route map), I hiked the six mile perimeter counter-clockwise, occasionally grabbing the bus when the distance between sights I wanted to see was large.

It was a nice peaceful hike, especially when I left the main trail and all the people behind and hiked through a deep forest along the coast on the way to Siwash Rock on the west side of the park. It was just me, crashing waves, and my ipod, carrying intellectual public radio discussion programs.

After hiking past many nice beaches, I managed to leave the park in time for a late lunch. I wandered briefly up and down Denman Street and was greatly impressed by its diversity of restaurants, further supporting my similar reaction from a different part of Vancouver on the previous day. Within six blocks I counted: two Ukrainian places, two Irish ones, four Greek ones, a Russian one, a Mongolian BBQ joint, four gelato places, and an African fusion place, not to mention many standard cuisines like Japanese and Italian. (The only notable lack was Mexican. This street only had one place: Canada's Original Steamed Burrito. I'd see this chain later elsewhere in Vancouver but still generally observed a dearth of Mexican food.) And again, a few steps from these dense commercial areas were leafy residential streets.

In fact, as it was nearly two pm, I didn't ponder the restaurant selection problem for long and instead chose one with a name I recognized from my research: a sushi place called Yoshi's. Here's my review.

After lunch I took a winding route through the West End, the part of Vancouver I was in. I spotted many rainbow flags along Davie, giving me an additional idea of what kind of district it is. Heading north on Jervis, I found many single family homes, a surprise appearance in the heart of a city.

Nearby, I explored Barclay Heritage Square and picked up a wonderfully detailed pamphlet describing the history of each of the more than a dozen century-old houses there. After much work (no thanks to Google), I found Barclay Heritage Square's official web page, which has a broken link that ought to lead to the brochure I acquired. Other than that, the best I can offer is this web page which merely has pictures of some of houses but no history.

In downtown proper, I have a few comments that don't appear in picture captions.
* Robson Street has lots of Asian stuff (clothing stores, boutiques, etc.). It also has everything you'd want, from timeless fashion to trendy: Banana Republic, Armani Exchange, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, ... . They were all having big sales; I wonder if it's because of all the tourists in town for the fireworks.
* The Vancouver Art Museum has a gourmet restaurant with a lovely outdoor balcony. It would have been very pleasant to dine there.
* I was amused to see many full-sized statues of bears in costumes throughout downtown (e.g., "darth bear"). After seeing a few, none of which I photographed, I regretted my choice, thinking it be really nice to have a gallery of all the bears I spotted. Happily, the bears in the city exhibit, apparently a combo tourist attraction, art showcase, and auction for charity, has an online gallery displaying every bear. There's a lot! I must've only seen a fraction.
* Somewhere in downtown I was handed a free sample bag of Chris & Larry's Cookies and Clods. It was good enough that I'm mentioning it here.

Cananda Place, a combined cruise ship terminal and convention center, had many interesting plaques about Vancouver's history. Two I found worth writing down:
* One plaque discussed the history of the cannon in Stanley Park (that I took photo of) that is now fired to indicate 9:00pm. It noted that one should use the flash, not the sound, of the cannon to set one's clock. This actually made a difference (30 seconds) to ships far away.
* Two mountains were renamed after a judge said they looked like lions. How odd. Here's a brief explanation of the story (search for "Coast Mountains").

Eventually I wandered to Chambar, a Belgian beer and food joint. Here's my review.

After dinner, I returned to my hotel. It had been a nice day with lots of walking. I must've walked for about eight hours, judging by how many radio programs that I'd downloaded to my ipod I devoured during the day. The walking must've made me tired, as I slept ten hours that night.

No comments: