Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – again

It’s always a given that whatever city you stay in unless it’s overnight, you go on a tour and see the sights.

Even when you’re staying a short distance from the city, you may go to the effort of catching a train or bus, then get on the hop on hop off tour.  There’s always one in just about every city you visit.

Vancouver was no exception.


We arrived in the rain, went to sleep while the rain came down, woke up to the rain, and a heavy dose of jet lag, or perhaps it was more than we had spent 24 and a half hours traveling from Brisbane to Vancouver vis Shanghai.

We had an excellent view out the window of our room looking towards the shopping mall, and the steady fall of rain.

 I felt sorry watching the construction workers on the building site that was the main vista we had to look at.

It could have been worst.  Endless mountains with snow on them.

What to do.  Venture out in the rain and go on the tour, on pop over to the shopping mall and pick up a few boxing day bargains, no, sorry, boxing week bargains.

We have had some experience going on ha op on hop off tours in open-top buses in the rain.  And the last time was not a pleasant experience, even though we learned a valuable lesson, not to stand in front of c as mons and yell ‘fire’.  Apparently, that’s how Admiral Nelson lost his arm.


The shopping mall won.

We’d wait and see if the weather improved.  Hang on, isn’t Vancouver near Seattle, and doesn’t it rain the 300 days of the year?

Not holding my breath.

I feel sorry for the construction workers again.  Still raining, still cold, and still no reason to get out of bed.

Day 2 in Vancouver turned out to be the same as day 1.

Hang on, there’s a development.

We’re on the 16th floor and up at those lofty heights, we can see not only the rain but intermingled with it a few flakes of snow.

Whilst we procrastinate about what we’re going to do, the snowflakes increase into small flurries.

Yep, we’re off to the mall again and go for a walk in the snow.

On the way back we drop into the Boston Pizza, which has a sports bar and there you can sit, drink, eat, and watch the ice hockey, or whatever sort is going at the time.

Today it’s a junior ice hockey tournament, but Canada was not playing.  Just the same, a long cold beer and ice hockey?

I can now cross that off the bucket list.

Day 3, we’re going on a great rail journey, well, we are going to get the train to the city and collect the rental car, on the booking form, supposedly a Jeep Grand Cherokee or similar.

Of course, ‘or similar’ are the words to be feared here because in truth the rental company can throw anything at you, so long as it matches the brief, three people and three large suitcases.

And, you guessed it…

The ‘or similar’ got us a Fort Flex

Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada

Staying at Hampton Inn and Suites downtown, whatever that means because it looks like we are in the middle of nowhere.

But, judging by the crowd in the breakfast room, it’s a popular hotel.  Of course, it is Sunday morning so this could be the weekend escape people.
Two things I remember about staying in Hampton Inns is firstly the waffles and whipped butter.  It’s been five years but nothing has changed, they are as delicious as ever.  The other, its where I discovered vanilla flavored milk for coffee, and it, too, is addictive.

They also used to have flat burgers that were made out of sausage meat which was delicious, but on the first day, they were not on the menu.
Nevertheless, it was still a very yummy breakfast.

After some research into where we might find this pixmi unicorn, it appears that it is available at a ‘toys are us’ store in one of the suburbs of Vancouver.  So, resuming the quest, we took a taxi to West Broadway, the street the store is located.

A quick search of the store finds where the toys we’re looking for are, after asking one of the sales staff, and we find there are at least a dozen of them.  Apparently, they are not as popular in Canada as the might be in America.  Cheaper too, because the exchange rate for Canadian dollars is much better than for American dollars.  Still, 70 dollars for a stuffed toy is a lot of money.
We also get some slime, stuff that our middle granddaughter seems to like playing with.

After shopping we set off down WestBroadway, the way we had come, looking for a taxi to return us to the hotel.  There’s no question of walking back to the hotel.

A few hours later we walk to the observation tower, which was not very far from the hotel,

a place where we could get a 360-degree view of the city of Vancouver although it was very difficult to see any of the old buildings because they were hidden by the newer buildings, nor could we see the distant mountains because of the haze.

After leaving the tower we walked down Water Street to see the steam clock and the old world charm of a cobbled street and old buildings

We stopped at the Spaghetti Factory Italian restaurant for dinner and is so popular that we have to wait, 10 minutes to start with.  It doesn’t take all that long to order and have the food delivered to the table.  Inside the restaurant, there is an actual cable car but we didn’t get to sit in it.

I have steak, rare, mushrooms, and spaghetti with marinara sauce.  No, marinara doesn’t mean seafood sauce but a very tasty tomato-based sauce.  The steak was absolutely delicious and extremely tender which made it more difficult to cut with a steak knife.

The write up for the marinara sauce is, ‘it tastes so fresh because it is made directly from vine-ripened tomatoes, not from concentrate, packed within 6 hours of harvest.  We combine them with fresh, high-quality ingredients such as caramelised onions, roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil’.

Oh, and did I mention they have a streetcar right there in the middle of the restaurant

I’m definitely going to try and make this when we get home.

After dinner, we return to the observation tower,  the ticket allowing us to go back more than once, and see the sights at night time.  I can’t say it was all that spectacular.

Another day has gone, we are heading home tomorrow.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise, Canada

The Fairmont at Lake Louise, in Canada, is noted for its ice castle in winter.  This has been created by the ice sculptor, Lee Ross since 2007, using about 150 blocks of ice, each weighing roughly 300 pounds.

When I first saw it, from a distance, looked like it was made out of plastic  It’s not.  Venturing out into the very, very cold, a close inspection showed it was made of ice.
And, it’s not likely to melt in a hurry given the temperature when I went down to look at it was hovering around minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
And that was the warmest part of the day.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise, Canada

We survived the first night and woke the next morning to look at the sun rising, and the fact everyone else was not lingering in bed when there was ice, snow, skating, skiing, and walking on (perhaps) thin ice to be done.

I was the first to brave the elements, it was about mins 10 still, or maybe a little colder, but I had come prepared with a hat, gloves, multiple layers of clothing and a (maybe) windproof jacket.

Of course, there was no wind, just cold.

Stepping out of the warm inside of the hotel to the cold outside was a shock, but after a minute or so to get used to it, I still didn’t think I’d be out too long.

First, a photo of the hotel, it was immense, and it explained why there were so many people about.

Then it was the partly frozen trees.  I suspect there had been a little thawing of the snow on the branches

Then of the frozen lake, and it is quite a large lake, and incredible one so large could completely freeze.  I’d like to see it in summer.

Then the brave adventurers who, in summer would be rowing to the end of the lake, who now were taking a hike, and praying no doubt, there was no thin ice

Were they trying to get a close look at this mountain, or considering climbing it.  Yes, there were actual mountain climbers staying at the hotel, and though we didn’t know it till later, there was a frozen waterfall which proved the most adventurous with an interesting challenge

More of course, on a unique feature at this hotel, the ice castle.

Back again for an evening of little athletics

The nights are cool, now, as we head towards summer where we’re expecting it to be a lot warmer. But, for now, the conditions are much easier than if it was in the morning.

My granddaughters favourite event is the high jump. It is by and large the most interesting of all, where where the 19 competitors each take three turns to achieve a height, and as it goes up, the numbers get less.

It starts at about 75 cms, and goes up in 5 cm increments. It can, and sometimes does. The last time the highest jump was 115 cm, and my granddaughter reached 110 cm, and only just missed 115 cm. Next time.

Her second favourite event is the hurdles, perhaps because it’s jumping, and is quite good at it, not knocking over any hurdles. There’s the 70 meters, 80 meters, and 100 meters. She did the 80 meters in under 19 seconds which is a personal best. I imagine she’ll get faster.

Next in line is the long jump, and yes, it’s jumping, but there’s a trick to it, you have to get your foot inside the board, not over it m and she has trouble not overstepping. But, she had three jumps, and got it right on the final attempt

Then we have the discus. It’s an interesting event, and there are so many different styles. Some do it really well, most probably need a lot more training, but get a throw out there. Several this time sprayed it, and every time there’s a few near misses. We all know now to keep your your eyes on it. We have two outside the white line, and one good throw, and it’s a personal best.

In between events we get to a little stargazing, and usually watch the moon rising, and then use an app called Sky Map to locate the planets. And then, since I’ve just updated my smartphone to a Galaxy 20 note, just the average one, so I can try and take some better night photos, and one is at the top of this post.

There was an 800 meter event, and she did well, even though so early in the season fitness is an issue and in such an event it takes a toll. Previously she has done a 1,500 meter race and that was a trial more than an event, and it was good in a sense that it highlighted the fact she needs to do some training.

It ends this week at a reasonable hour, and we all go home.

Next week is another week, and the opportunity to improve. What I like about this for of competition is that the focus is not on who came first or last, but the fact you may have improved, ie, a new personal best.

It’s a great concept that gets rids of the winners and losers, and makes the athletes all winners, and know that getting better is within their grasp.

Another photograph from the inspiration stockpile

For those who are wondering what this is a photograph of, it is a tree bordered stream that runs along a long valley that runs from outside Canungra, in Queensland, to the Lamington National Park.

It’s near a place we like to stay for a few days when we want to get away from everything, and I mean everything. There is no television, and cell phone reception is awful if not non existent.

So, you can see the benefits.

Sitting at the table on the veranda overlooking the fields, and this stream, you have time to just think, or not, about what it might have been like before the settlers came.

What is was like when the explorers we seeking new places to live, and they chanced upon this valley. It it was me back then, I would have followed the stream.

But, as for a story…

I have read a great many stories for the explorers of this country, and the hazardous nature of their treks.

What seemed to be the most common theme was crossing from south to north, that is from Melbourne to the Northern most tip of Queensland, or from Adelaide to the Northern Territory. In both cases they would have to traverse a very dry, very hot outback where the sight of a stream, or river, like above, would have been very welcome.

For some, it became an impossible quest, and stuck in the desert, they eventually perished. That in itself, the trials and tribulations of an early explorer would make a great story.

Australia is a very fertile country around the coastal regions, but one you start venturing inland, it is dry, dusty and almost uninhabitable. Unless there’s water from rivers, streams, or underground, or mining settlements, there is very little else to see.

The exceptions to this are Uluru and Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory, Shark Bay and The Pinnacles in Western Australia, MacKenzie Falls in Victoria, The Simpson Desert, the Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, and the Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland, to name a few.

One day I might get to see them.

Another photograph from the inspiration stockpile

I found this:

The innocuous explanation for this photo is that I took it at my grand daughter’s little athletics competition, now most sensibly being held on Friday evenings.

For those who don’t know how the weather can be in Brisbane, Queensland, it is generally hot, particularly from November when temperatures are between 35 and 40 degrees centigrade.

But not only is it hot but humidity, the real problem, is around 100 percent.

So at the moment we have reasonably cool evenings, ideal conditions for the young athletes.

But, where a photo could be innocuous there can a more interesting, if not sinister description.

Lurking in the back of my mind, and perhaps a lot of others, that there might be an unidentified flying object somewhere in the sky.

Of course, there might not be any, but it doesn’t mean that we stop looking, or assume, sometimes that a moving light in the sky isn’t a UFO.

And its been said that humans are quite arrogant in thinking that we are the only people in the universe.

Personally, I don’t think we are, and I keep an eye on the sky every time I’m out at night, perhaps the most likely time we might see one.

The only issue I might have is that if I am that lucky to see one, or that it lands nearby, what I would do when confronted by an alien.

And, yes, there’s definitely a story in that.

It’s raining, it’s pouring…

Yes, and it’s supposed to be a lot warmer, leading into summer.

I guess that’s about all we can expect from being midway through Spring.

Outside, its been overcast most of the day, but I have to go out so I’m sure we’re going to get rain.

It’s been threatening for the last few days, and the meterology department, who rarely get the weather right, have been telling us there’s big storm movements coming our way.

The other night we got a hint of it with a few short sharp heavy falls, but then nothing.

So, half past two in the afternoon and I’m off on the grand child pickup run, one from the school up the road, and one from the railway stations some distance away.

Sitting in the car, I’m watching the dark clouds gather, whilst in the other direction the sky is blue. A rather fascinating contrast. Then, suddenly, as it hit 3 pm, time to collect the child, you guessed it, it began to rain.

Not five minutes before, not=r five minutes after, but just as I stopped at the slot for her to get in.

One wet child in the back.

We then head for the railway station, about three km away, and half way there, stuck in a traffic jam, the rain stops. I get a call from the child on the train, just to make sure I have remembered to pick her up.

The clouds are black and low, but there’s no rain.

Instead we have a lightning display, and sit in the car counting the seconds after the bright lightning strike. Younger grand daughter is trying to be brave, but the cracking thunder scares the both of us.

The train is arriving, and, you guessed it, the rain suddenly becomes torrential, and poor elder grand daughter gets drenched in the short distances from the train to the car.

A few minutes later it stops.

Weather is unpredictable, and sometimes a complete pain. At least I didn’t have to get out of the car, but the damp children, that will live on for a day or so as all wet material does, and for some reason seems to be worse in cars.

Let’s see if the weather can be kinder to us tomorrow.

Oh, and something else, we need the rain, specially for my garden. It’s the first rain for at least four or five months.