The past few days have mainly revolved around walking. Lots and lots of walking. Mostly to places; some were touristy, sightsee-y sorts of places, but mostly it was walking towards one form of eatery or another, so we’ve been toeing the line between mass amounts of healthy walking, coupled with excessive amounts of food. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first day here was our “find our bearings” day. We had our central spot, our current HQ and temporary centre to our universe, in our hotel. With this base camp firmly fixed we were able to wander around its surrounding areas, aware of where we would need to go back to and, importantly, HOW to get back there if, and when, we needed to. This lead to a lot of free exploration, with the majority of Friday taken up with sightseeing the more obvious spots within Downtown Vancouver, once we had eaten like royalty at the delicious Templeton. The Big Ass Breakfast was exactly that, and set us up perfectly for the rest of the day; turkey sausage, 3 eggs (scrambled for me), toast, a choice of banana/blueberry pancakes or cinnamon/raison french toast (yes, please), and breakfast potatoes, all for $12 = bargain Canadian awesomeness.
Fed and watered, we had discussed the places we wanted to look around over the course of the day: Downtown, Granville, Gastown, and China Town were some of the places we decided to loop around, going so far as to the Rogers Arena, just so we had an idea of how to get to the arena for the next days hockey goodness. Being so unfamiliar with Vancouver, we were able to bear witness to a lot of captivating sights, from the interesting differences a 10 minute walk up Granville Street, to traversing way too far down Water Street, along Gastown way, and ending up on, what can only be described as: the wrong side of town.
I could feel Thea’s hand squeeze mine a little tighter as we made our way towards, what we thought, was Vancouver’s China Town, but instead ended up in Vancouver’s vagrant station. A mixture of unfortunate souls inhabited these streets, shuffling uncomfortably and staring with sad eyes; one lady even approached Thea with a direct request for money, followed up with a plea that she buy her some food. Thea, perhaps somewhat naively, responded to the homeless lady that we “don’t even have enough for ourselves.” Perhaps a poor choice of words, but thankfully said as the lights turned, so we were able to get away from the awkward situation as quickly as we had somehow found ourselves within it.
Turns out we weren’t on our way to China Town, but that the long street we had followed had skirted around the back of it. So, as a friendly note to those reading who are contemplating visiting Vancouver: do not go around the back of China Town. Just don’t. Instead, why not go directly TO China Town which, in itself, is a pretty expansive and impressive area, filled with markets and a wonderfully genuine hustle and bustle that reminded me of where I grew up.
Tensions were temporarily high between Thea and myself after the walk through the unfortunate street of Vancouver’s lost brothers and sisters, and we ended up having a minor argument in China Town as I tried to explain to her how American/Canadian street signs worked. The concept, I argued, is simple; simpler, thanks to the block system, than the streets in ol’ Blighty, by any rate. Her argument, at least at first, was that the way they label the streets doesn’t make sense; she felt the street sign facing you meant that that was the street you were on, as opposed to indicating the street you were coming up to. Even after she grasped the concept, there was still a slightly sour tone due to there being such an unnecessary tiff at all. Still, we can easily chalk that one up to a mixture of tiredness and tension and we were soon over it after a quick walk through China Town’s free garden (a lovely, quiet area, with plenty of beautiful coy in the water).
The rest of day one wasn’t so eventful as our journey towards China Town. Gastown was a pretty cool area, and the Gastown Steam Clock was pretty awesome, although it’s not like you can spend hours looking at it, and it’s certainly not a “MUST TRAVEL AROUND TO SEE” attraction. More a “hey, you’re already here, so why not?” kind’ve thing.
We even squeezed in some unplanned activities, namely the Vancouver Lookout (a 360 degree observation tower that allows you a pretty amazing few around Vancouver). At around $16, I thought the price of admission was pretty high, though the few on this day was particularly beautiful, crisp, and clear; the trees and mountain ranges were stunning, and the city of Vancouver itself is a wonderful thing. As a self confessed City Boy (though now, truly, more Suburban Guy), I’ve always had an affinity for any sort of big city, and Vancouver was no different on this day.
The day ended with Japadog, an interesting concept of East meets West. Juicy, flavourful, hot dogs, topped with Japanese inspired toppings: seaweed, teriyaki, yaki soba noodles, etc, etc. An odd fusion that worked so much better than you may initially think (unless you are an open minded, non-prejudiced person, such as myself – imagine for a moment the response a person could have: “You wanna put WHAT on my hot dog, boy? If it ain’t mustard, or ketchup, then it sure as hell ain’t Red, White, and Blue, you goddamn terrorist!”, but I digress), at a reasonable cost that won’t break the bank for a meal that hits the spot. We weren’t after anything massive, still being relatively full of Big Ass (Breakfast, that is), so the Japadog hit the spot – sating hunger, without filling us up. The only issue with the Japadog experience being Thea’s insistence to order a meal that was virtually identical to the “must eat” dog that I wanted, coupled with the staffs loose grasp of pronunciation. I enjoyed the hot dog, though I wasn’t entirely sure if it was even the one that I wanted in the first place. “Must eat”, but I’m not sure if I actually did.
Day one in Vancouver was a success. Healthy walking (and walking, and walking), coupled with delicious food at great prices and casual strolls through a number of Vancouver’s high spots, and a few power walks with heightened awareness, through its lower spots.
Like any city, there will be poorer areas, but I can’t lie: I was surprised at how many homeless there are in Vancouver. Along most streets, or hovering on numerous street corners, there will be one, or a number, of homeless people, waiting to ask politely (they ARE still Canadian, of course) for spare change, which can make going into any number of stores (7-11, Tim Horton’s, etc) an almost awkward experience, knowing full well that you’ll be queried as soon as you leave the store for “spare” change. An interesting concept in and of itself, “spare” change, but that’s another discussion entirely.