Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Vancouver Lookout

This morning, I caught the sunrise at 8 am. I still can't believe the sky begins to light up around 7 am and by 4:30 pm it's already dark.

Soon, the sun rose into those clouds and it was dark again, but then, the clouds scattered and the day was spotless and sunny. My first and only thought was - Lookout (and books after I get back down).

The Vancouver Lookout is a 147 m tall observation tower with a rotating restaurant. Reminds me of Seattle's Space Needle. Underneath it is the Harbour Centre with Simon Fraser University's books and gift shop :D Today, they had a book clearance and I managed to get three awesome titles for a bargain price. I also bough a maple syrup lollipop and Canadian Moose Droppings which are actually milk chocolate almonds :))
Going Up

I love heights and I don't enjoy crowds. The lookout is situated nicely above the city and during my visit, there was barely anyone except the tour guide and security. At one point, a free tour was announced for the ones already on the observation deck, but I was the only one who showed up so the tour felt like a friendly discussion. I learned a few things about the sights visible from the Lookout today. First, what exactly was I looking at.

Mt Baker                                                                  Vancouver's industrial port

Canada Place (where cruise ships come)                 Stanley Park and North Vancouver

The Lions Gate Bridge is the bridge that connects Stanley Park to North Vancouver and its name comes from these two mountain peaks which look like two lions lying down.

Gastown is the oldest part of Vancouver. They say when Gassy Jack came to what would later becomeVancouver, back in 1867, he noticed there were no saloons for a drink. So he called to the people working at the nearby mill and in less than a day since his arrival, Gassy Jack had his saloon up and running. In Victorian times, 'to gas' meant to talk a lot, something for which Jack was famous, thus his nickname.

Seaplanes take tourists on a truly panoramic view of Vancouver and beyond. Also, if you'd like an alternative to cars, there are SeaBusses to take you to North Vancouver or Granville Island.

I love this view - like a gem hidden in the distance.


Friday, December 11, 2015

London Drugs

When I walked around Pacific Centre (one of the local malls), I kept on seeing London Drugs directions and signs and wondered why do these people have so many pharmacies! I was also surprised not to find any giant stores in which they sell anything like Carrefour or Auchan back in Bucharest. I really needed a frying pan and I noticed the grocery stores around here didn't sell any so I searched on the internet. I found an impressively diverse collection of pans - guess where... at London Drugs. They sell frying pans in the pharmacy? Hey, there's a post office in the pharmacy so I shouldn't be surprised. But that was when I saw the London Drugs website and I understood that it is the local Carrefour. It took me a week to find it - seriously, why the name? It's confusing. I avoid pharmacies by default. The story of London Drugs is an example of "Start Small. Dream Big". They began as a local, humble drug store in Vancouver in 1945 and they named themselves after George VI's home, London. At that time, George VI was the king of Canada. Today, apart from the heart of their business, the pharmacy, they also sell computers, TVs, furniture, cosmetics, appliances, toys, books, frying pans and pretty much anything you'd need.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sunny Day!

This is the first clear blue sky I've seen since arriving in Vancouver. As soon as one ray of light touched a glass building, the whole city seemed to have lightened up. The sun was everywhere and the light was bright because there are so many glass skyscrapers around.

I've always though tall mountains close to water make an impactful scene together. The peaks I can see from my bedroom are about 1,400 meters high and even if they're small compared to others, the fact that you're standing at their feet and looking straight up at their foreheads makes them feel much bigger than that. The skyscrapers in the North of the peninsula are built on lower ground than the building I am in. In the photo below you can see a glimpse of the Vancouver Lookout. During the night, it has red lights glowing on top like a Christmas tree.

Today I've explored the Public Library in detail. It has 7 levels with books sorted by topics. For instance, you get the Children's books on one level, Fantasy, Fiction and Mystery on another. In bookshops around Bucharest, amongst the local books and international best sellers, you sometimes see a few colorful covers belonging to fiction stories from overseas under the "Foreign Books" section. Those were the ones I was always looking for. When I entered the Fantasy and Fiction sections here :D [I need an emoticon for a really big grin] there were countless colorful covers beckoning to quench my endless thirst for exciting stories. I recognized some books from home and found other promising titles. Can't wait to get back there and read! The library - as in the building with the books - is surrounded by cafes and places to get a nice hot drink for you and your books.

This is not your ordinary library; you don't just borrow books here, this place takes its role seriously in the community and organizes many events and workshops for the people. There are many technical workshops which teach attendants how to use a computer, a tablet or the internet, but also more advanced technology such as video and sound editing. There is an actual recording studio for those workshops within the library. Then, there are workshops focussed on careers and finding a job. There are creative writing workshops for children, teens and adults and reading clubs. ( They're awesome. :)
The library also has a green roof. Here is a nice replica of the library displayed on the 7th floor near the special collections, close to the original copy of "A Christmas Carol".


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Second Trip Around Vancouver

Hello dear readers,

When I'm in a new place I can't stay put. I have to explore everything and walk everywhere. So after a week long cold and being held indoors, I'm all over Vancouver these days. Yesterday's "stroll" completed my jet lag recovery since I woke up at 8 am instead of 5 am. I had breakfast at Gutenberg's (Egg Benedict with turkey this time and a giant waffle) and went to apply for a Social Insurance Number.

Today, I had to go groceries shopping, but since I was quickly done with my visit to Service Canada, I decided to make a tiny detour by MacLeod's Books and The Paper Hound Books which happen to be very close to each other. Both shops have floor to ceiling large bookcases filled with books to the brim and a lot of piles of books everywhere. There are so many books that they form mazes around the shop. There are new books, old books, timeless books, rare books on pretty much any topic you could want.

After I accidentally found the exit and persuaded myself in getting out of the shops, I kept walking down Pender Street. It was still early to go grocery shopping in my view and I thought I could just have time for a brief stop at the cinema in The International Village Centre. But as I was walking I saw Opus down a street to the left and I couldn't resist. Opus Art Supplies holds my other weakness - notebooks and ink :D I rolled down the hill towards the shop and relaxed my eyes on the large variety of notebooks, papers, fountain pens, ink, pencils and other art supplies. With all the packing I've been preparing for my move to Canada, I had forgotten to take a few ink cartridges for my pen. I was reminded of this when my pen suddenly dried up while I was writing. I hate it when that happens because I'm usually writing something important with my pen and by the time I find a replacement I forget my idea.

After I unglued my eyes from the notebooks and got my ink cartridges, I went to see if the Vikings and Dragons shop was open in the International Village Centre. And it was! I browsed around and there were rune dictionaries and collectibles, jewelry and statues. I've never seen so many dragon statues in one place. At 1:15 pm I was up on the 3rd floor at the cinema and got a ticket for The Good Dinosaur just as it began. I haven't been to the cinema in a long while and the experience of the big screen was welcoming.

When the movie was done, I decided it was time to go groceries shopping. The shops closest to me are Urban Fare and Choices Market. They have fruit and vegetables, meats and cheese, a salad bar and a hot food bar. Also, you can find a few pet accessories and cleaning and cooking articles. And light bulbs. There is always a wellness area in each store which has supplements - not to be confused with a pharmacy. (You find post offices in pharmacies :)) At lest the one near me has.)

It's been raining all day with brief stops so I didn't take any pictures. Instead, I bought a new umbrella (from the pharmacy) and someone stopped me to ask where I had bought it which is odd because you can buy an umbrella here in nearly every spot where there is a cash register.

Well, that would be it for today. I'll return with more tales as I explore Vancouver.

See you.

Monday, December 7, 2015

My First Wandering Through Vancouver

It's December and I've just moved from Bucharest, RO to Vancouver, BC earlier this week. The 17h journey was fine and drafty and the huge Boeing 747 landed like a feather - really, that was the smoothest landing I've ever experienced. Of course, what better way to start the week in a new place than to catch a good cold and stay put when there's so much to explore. But today I felt much better so I went outside and what a fine day I chose, too. I got to see the Christmas parade on Robson Street!

Listen to Vancouver's Christmas Radio while reading this post. It adds to the mood. I grabbed breakfast at Gutenberg's Cafe near the Public Library. Got Eggs Benedict and fluffy buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup. I tasted maple syrup for the first time and it was less sweet than I expected. All the better - it means I can eat more of it without being sick.

Then the exploring began and I'll surely feel it tomorrow - there are many climbing streets in Vancouver.  I left home at 9 am and returned around 3 pm. I haven't counted the miles I made, but I've been to the public library, to the Pacific Centre, to Canada Place up at Vancouver Harbor, to the Transylvanian Bakery (it is an 8 year old Romanian family business which makes deserts) where I met the owner (I'm getting a Savarina tomorrow), to the International Village Centre where there is an incredible store called Vikings and Dragons! There are statues, T-shirts, carpets and whatnots - all with Celtic decorations and dragons! But it was closed...

Around 9 o'clock it's not yet fully light outside and there aren't many people on the streets, either. But the restaurants and cafés are packed. There was a nice queue waiting to get a table at Medina's. And for good reason - Medina is an amazing café with Belgian wafers and interesting dishes such as Avocado Toast (a thick layer of fluffy bread covered in avocado and tomato salsa served with sunny side eggs). The decorations are vintage and there is a cozy feeling about that place.

After more walking around identifying shops and heritage buildings I was walking down Georgia Street when I began seeing people gathering on the edge of the street. Also, a crowd of red clad elves hurried towards downtown. Then I read one of the red banners hanging from every light pole on the street - Vancouver Christmas Parade. I came to the Art Gallery at Robson Square where carols were sung and visitors could decorate their own gingerbread and snowflakes. At 1 o'clock the parade began and so did the downpour. My hands were numb on the umbrella holder and on the camera. Grinch was marching amongst the police officers :))

I'm tired now from my cold earlier this week, from the walking and from the remains of the jet lag. I'll be doing more exploration this week. Can't wait :D I can see the stadium from my bedroom window and tonight it's red. In the past days it's been green and blue. I wonder what color will it be tomorrow.