Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Vancouver is Gorgeous!

Many years ago - back in the early 1980's - I was attending a national sales meeting held by my employer. We were given the assignment to prepare a short speech about something not related to work. It was an exercise to improve our public speaking skills. One of my co-workers was from Vancouver BC and her speech was about that lovely city and why we should one day plan to visit.

Well, I remembered that speech, her photos of the city, the superlatives she used in describing it. I vowed that one day I would visit that city.

2016 was finally going to be the year. Rock n Roll Marathon Series holds a race in that city every October. Finally, now that my 50 States quest was complete, I could make plans to go to Vancouver to run in that race. I booked the race months in advance, reserved a room at the Hyatt Regency, and then, this past summer, went ahead and booked my flight. This was finally going to happen!

My flight out of Houston departed at 5:30 PM and arrived in Vancouver at 8:00 PM. My very pleasant cab driver got me to my hotel at around 9:30 PM, too late to grab a Starbucks, but plenty early enough to grab a light nosh and a glass of wine at their lovely bar, before returning to my room and getting a needed good night's sleep after a long travel day.

Vancouver convention center

Saturday morning I had breakfast at the hotel and then walked down to the harbor and to the fabulous convention center to get my race packet.
Antique totems preserved in the convention center lobby

Entrance to the fitness expo
race packet pickup at the expo

Afterward, I walked along the sea wall, taking photos of the beautiful mountains wreathed in light clouds across the harbor, and of the city skyline. It was an overcast cool day, just perfect light jacket weather and a welcome change.

Across the harbor to the north shore

Boardwalk along the seawall at the convention center

Vancouver harbor with a seaplane just taking off
Vancouver skyline from the port pier
As I walked back along the convention center pier toward the street, I decided spur of the moment to buy a ticket for the attraction, FlyOver Canada, which is next to the convention center. It was the best $20 CAD I've ever spent! For just $14.99 US, I took a virtual tour flying across beautiful Canada from East to West. It was spectacular! And it was fun, because it had a Halloween theme just for the month of October. I stood in line with a woman and her 9 year old granddaughter and we struck up a conversation and sat together on the "ride." The girl was so engaging and friendly! She never left my side the entire time.

Afterward, I continued on toward the historic Gastown district of the city. I found the unique, landmark steam clock and watched it for a bit, waiting for it to strike the 3/4 hour, playing Westminster chimes which is powered by steam, and sounded like a calliope.

Steam-driven clock in Gastown
Closer view of the steam clock

Quaint streets in Gastown

I stepped into a gift shop and bought some postcards for the grand-kids, a magnet for my fridge, and a package of delicious maple cookies then stepped into a nearby Starbucks and bought a cappuccino to enjoy as I walked back toward the hotel.

Returning to the hotel, I had a late lunch in the hotel bar cafe and then plopped onto the bed in my room to watch the rest of the Aggie football game on TV. It was a good opportunity to start laying out the things I'd need for the race the next morning.  I ordered room service that evening and got to bed fairly early. My body was still on CDT, two hours ahead, so 8:30 PM felt very much the 10:30 PM it was, according to my body. Just as well that I get to bed early, since I had an early wake-up the next morning.

Earlier in the week I'd received an email from the race organizers letting me know that my start corral will be given a 1/2 hour early start, ahead of all of the other corrals, due to road closure issues late in the race. I loved this news! It meant I'd get to start at 7:45 AM. The normal race start time was 8:15 AM and with my #16 corral assignment, meant I wouldn't have the usual nearly 1 hour wait before my corral crossed the start line. Awesome news!!

I left the hotel at 7:30 AM on race day, walked the short two blocks to the start line and squeezed my way into the corral to wait for the start. All of the other corrals were being staged one block west of the start line, and would be brought up to the start line after our corral was released. Again....awesome!!

It was still dark when we took off across the start line, and in the first mile we ran through Gastown, which was magical! The twinkling lights wrapped around the tree trunks, the old three-globe gas lamps softly glowing in the night...it was beautiful! The next three miles were through the harbor district and Chinatown district and then we ran for the next 3 miles along the north shore of False Creek, which was gorgeous! Beautiful greenscape along the edge of the water, and beautiful architecture - pricey condos and townhomes - on our right as we made our way along.

Then the last 5 miles were run in the absolutely gorgeous Stanley park, through old-growth rain forest canopies of Western Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Hemlock trees. The hardwoods were in full fall color and it was breathtaking! We ran past park features that I definitely wanted to get back to see the next day - the totem poles, rose garden, lighthouse. So much to see and so hard to see it when zipping past in a race.
Fabulous race route! Data from my Garmin GPS watch

The finish line was wonderful, with lots of cheering spectators, but I was pretty much ready to just head back to the hotel. I didn't even go in search of the tent where I could collect my World Rocker medal - earned by running a Rock n Roll race in both the US and another country in the same year. I already have one from last year's Montreal race. Not worth the extra effort to find that tent. So I headed back to the hotel, a 1.3 mile walk. It wasn't so bad, and before I knew it, I was turning onto Burrard St with just one block to go to get to the hotel.

Vancouver finisher medal

I stopped at the Starbucks in the lobby, bought myself a cappuccino and some cake pops and headed for my room. I was very pleased with my finish time for this race, given how hilly it was. But the overcast skies and cool temps really helped, after dealing with heat and humidity for so many months.

Sushi was on my radar screen for post-race food, so I did a little research and found a place just a couple of blocks from the hotel, so that's where I headed after getting showered and dressed. But when I got there, they were just closing up. So I walked back to the hotel and asked the concierge for a recommendation. She confirmed that, unfortunately, most of the Asian restaurants closed at 2:00-2:30 for a few hours, but she did recommend a place that she knew would be open a few blocks away. The idea of doing more walking was plenty distasteful, but the sushi craving won out over the physical discomfort. It was a very good menu and I placed my order to go, bringing it back to my room to enjoy.

Now I had the race behind me, got my sushi fix, a night's sleep, and had a whole day ahead of me - Monday - to see the city! Still waking up too early - darned time zone change! - I got up early enough to catch the first Hop On-Hop Off trolley tour, which stopped at the hotel at 9:20 AM. I went downstairs, bought a Starbucks, and bought a ticket from the concierge, then had just a short wait for the trolley to arrive.

The trolley makes a large, 2 1/2 hour circle through the city, duplicating a lot of what I'd run the day before in the half marathon. By getting it at the hotel, I would be able to skip the eastern half of the route and get off at the totems in Stanley Park, then hop onto the next trolley and continue on.

I had about 30 minutes to spend at the totems, taking photos, browsing the gift shop, and just enjoyin the spectacular views across the harbor to the city skyline.

I walked beyond the gift shop, through some of the park to the other side of the little peninsula to get a view of the harbor light and the coast beyond.

Pretty Stanley Park

view of Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park

Brockton light on the harbor
While I waited for the next trolley to come along, I enjoyed this horse-drawn trolley as it came through and stopped to let off its passengers.

The next Hop On-Hop Off trolley came along and I enjoyed the views as we took the road along the seawall road through the park. At one point the driver slowed down to give us a view of the Lions Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge built across the Burrard Inlet and guarded by two concrete lions, a nod to the two mountain peaks referred to as "the lions" north of the city.

Lions gate bridge
I hopped off at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre stop, where I caught the little ferry over to Granville Island. This was my lunch destination and the Market Place on Granville Island is just the ticket for something fresh and different.

The little ferry was so cute, getting me and just a couple of other passengers over to Granville Island. I immediately headed for the Market Place and browsed all of the luscious fresh fruit and produce, yummy pastries, before settling on a soup vendor for a steamy bowl of salmon risotto soup with a big hunk of fresh rosemary bread to go with.

Some wonderfully different soup choices from this vendor, The Stock Market

I stopped at a patisserie vendor and bought a half-dozen delicate little cookies to take back to the hotel for later. Then browsed a bit more, taking photos of all the great produce vendors. It was a feast for the eyes and hard not to buy, buy, buy!!

Interesting arrangement of carrots.

The biggest pomegranates I've ever seen!

Yummy pastries!

look at all of those luscious berries!!
Done having a light snack of soup and done browsing the Market Place, I wandered a bit outside, looking at some of the other shops on the island, and then headed back to the ferry landing to return to the other side of False Creek and to head back to the hotel.

Public Market on Granville Island

Granville Island in the rearview mirror...heading back to the city
It was a pleasant 1 mile walk back up Burrard Street to the hotel. I didn't mind and actually enjoyed stretching my legs a bit. I stopped in at the hotel bar and ordered a late lunch and then went to the hotel Starbucks for another cappuccino to bring back to my room.

My visit to this lovely city is nearly over! I started packing my things on my last evening in Vancouver, wishing I could stay a few more days. So much to do, so little time!

Early Tuesday morning, I took a taxi to the airport, passed through the nearly empty passport control area, and then enjoyed my last Canadian Starbucks while waiting for my flight. My return trip was not non-stop; it connects through Seattle. The plane to get from Vancouver to Seattle was a prop jet, something I'd not flown on for years and years!! But all went smoothly, my connection in Seattle went without a hitch, and I was back in Houston by 8:00 PM and pulling into my own driveway just a little after 9:00 PM.

Now I'm home for a few weeks, in rehearsals for our next CountryPlace Players production of Murder In the Heir.


  1. Wow you got to see a lot of sights in Vancouver. I haven't been there for over 15 years, but didn't get to do many touristy things at the time. You've made me want to go back one day.

  2. Have never seen Vancouver! Looks amazing, thanks for the share!