Tour 2006 - Canada in November

Sun Yat-Sen Garden, maple leaf on paving
Hornby Street, Vancouver

Here we are, 75 meters above the streets of Vancouver, thinking in metric because it is the custom and law, if not the practice of the local populance. We know we are in the Pacific Northwest because it is raining. Droplets pelt the windows of our 24th-floor condo suite as the night gives way to a grayness that becomes opaque somewhere short of the tops of buildings taller than ours.

On our breakfast quest, we trudge through sole-wicking puddles and leap over raging ripples that cascade over curbs as streams merge. We cower under store awnings until the traffic lights change and then dash across defiantly in front of taxis whose drivers are safely coccooned from the periodic deluges. The locals glory in the rain, which ends an unseasonably dry summer and fall, but apologize to us for the inconvenience. But, the weather system promises to tire of us in three or four days, so we plan our activities accordingly.

To our delight, we discover the Body Worlds exhibit is in town, which keeps us indoors for an hour or so, by which time the rain abates. So, after a late lunch, we embark on a walking tour of the city. Somewhere on the way back to our lodging, it dawns on us that we are on holiday at last.

Burrard Bridge,
from Granville IslandTuesday, we start early again, walking the opposite way and taking a very small ferry to Granville Island, where we munch on pastries while window-shopping before the stores open. Once around the island, we hike up to the Kitsilano district the catch the shops there before returning to Granville for lunch and to catch the tour trolley to Chinatown. We spend a relaxing afternoon at the Sun Yat-Sen Garden, a representation of a classical Chinese scholar's estate built entirely of materials shipped from China, including the trees and the pebbles in the mosaic paving.

Sun Yat-Sen Garden

We then walk through Skid Row, against the advice of the tourist brochures, but the homeless are the same everywhere. After watching the Gastown steam clock perform, we head uptown and back to our condo.

Steam Clock, Gastown, Vancouver
Vancouver skyline,
from North Vancouver

The next morning, the holiday involves "wearing someone else's commute." We are up and out with the morning rush. Vancouver is a city of walkers, bikers, and public transit riders. We walk downhill to the harbor, not sure of where to go A reconnaisance from the convention center points us to the Seabus terminal and an encounter with the transit fare vending system. A ferry ride across the harbor brings back memories of Seattle commuter days; we settle in, explore a bit before the shops open, then head back to the city for a go at the bus system.

Seabus, Vancouver

Navigating the buses in a strange city is always an adventure; we choose one with the proper marque, with no idea of the route--but, we enjoy the ride through a new part of the city, ending at the University Campus in time for lunch. Then, a chilly walk to the Museum of Anthropology and an afternoon absorbing the cultures of the first peoples of the coast before hiking back to the bus stop. We get off near our condo and end the day early, content to watch the evening commute from our lofty perch, while keeping an eye on the mid-term election results from back home.

Thursday, Grouse Mountain is still hidden in cloud above North Vancouver, so we, now seasoned commuters, hit the transit vending machine for a bus trip to Queen Elizabeth Park, a tour of the domed tropical gardens of the Bloedel Conservatory, lunch at the hilltop restaurant, then back to the city to try out the light rail commute to the suburbs, returning in time to pick up groceries for the evening.

Friday is a repeat of Monday, with heavy downpour, so we splash downtown to spend the day at the Craft Expo, the highlight of which is an afternoon of glass-blowing demonstrations. We work our way back to our lodgings through the downtown underground shopping centers: in the morning, we will retrieve our car and head south to the border, and more heavy weather before we get home.

Koi, Sun Yat-Sen Garden

Saturday, we rise early, pack up and head for the border, planning to spend some time in Bellingham before showing up at Mark's new house in Carnation later in the afternoon. We forget it is Remembrance Day, many Canadians are headed for the U.S., where the stores do not close for most holidays. We haven't driven all week, and were low on gas, hoping to fill up across the border, where petrol is 0.79CDN/l or less. instead of 0.89/l or more, as it is in Vancouver. After more than two hours of start the car, move forward one car length, shut down, and wait, we finally cross the border and head for the nearest gas station: $2.69/gallon is pricey, but cheaper than a tow. The 0.10/l. price difference was not worth worrying about stalling in line. We stop for lunch in Fairhaven, at a Mexican restaurant Judy remembered from when she lived in Bellingham in the 1970s, then tour down scenic Chuckanut drive before continuing on the freeway to Everett, then jog over to Monroe and down to Carnation, where we find the new address just as darkness falls.

house, Carnation, WA
Snoqualmie Falls in mist

Sunday, we head for home the long way, as the passes are treacherous with ice and snow. Passing Snoqualmie Falls, here hidden in mist as the storm water roars over the cataract, we head south in the rain toward Vancouver, Washington, turning up the Columbia River at dark, spashing through the gorge, arriving at the Tri-Cities for the night, then on home with a stiff tailwind the next day. Fortunately, the Idaho-Montana passes are relatively clear, so we don't have to detour through the Cabinet Gorge along the lower Clark Fork River, and arrive home in snow flurries.