Searching for locations: New York to Vancouver

The flight from Newark via Air Canada to Vancouver is about 5:30pm so we are slated to be picked up by the limousine about 2:30.

We have to be out of our room by 11am so we decided the day before that on our last day in New York we’d go to the Times Square red lobster.
It gives us about three hours to get there, eat, and get back.

It’s always fun packing bags the day you leave, so most of the hard work was done earlier. This time it’s particularly a trial because we have so much stuff to fit into a small space, and weight considerations are always paramount because of the 23kg limit.

Outside is has gone from minus four to minus two in the two hours before we leave the hotel at 11:30, but that’s not so much of a problem because we have a long walk from 56th street to 41st street to warm us up.

At least today it’s not so cold, as it has been previously.

At Red Lobster it’s not difficult to make a decision on what to have, the mix and match special, with Lobster alfredo, filet mignon, and parrot island coconut shrimp, with walts special, though what that will remain a surprise until it is served.

To drink, it was the Blue moon beer, wheat type.

For appetizers, we had scones that are supposedly bread but to me are dipped in garlic butter and baked like a scone. Australian style. They are absolutely delicious.

There is an expression a one drink screamer and we’ve got one, but the truth is the drinks are very lethal. Pure alcohol and ice with a touch of soda.

The meals at this Red Lobster are definitely better than those we had in Vancouver, except for the pasta with lobster I had which was little more than a tasteless congealed mess after it reached the table. This did not detract from the deliciously cooked and served seafood that accompanied it.

All in all, after such a great lunch and the thought of having to walk ten blocks the decision was unanimous to get a cab which took us back to the hotel by a rather interesting, if not exactly the most direct, route. I think the driver guessed we were tourists.

We are picked up at the hotel by a driver in a large Toyota which had enough space for 3 passengers and all our bags. The driver was chatty and being foreign, preferred soccer to the other traditional American sport. Don’t ask me how the conversation turned to sports, but we may have mentioned we went to the ice hockey.

At Newark airport, all I have room for is a glass of burned beer, whatever that means, though it has an odd taste, and a Samuel Adams 76 special which was rather tasty.

Today we are flying in a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with a maximum of 298 passengers in three classes.

It looks very new even though it is about 6 months old. It has seating of 3 x 3 x 3, and we are in row 19, just behind the premium economy cabin, and the closest to the front of the plane of all the Air Canada flights.

Engine startup is loud at the lower revolutions with the vibration going through the airframe. Like all planes, the flaps being extended, it is very noisy. All of the vibrations go away when the engines are up to speed. On take off the engines at max are not as noisy and other planes and relatively quiet. It will be interesting to see what the landing is like.

In flight when not experiencing turbulence the ride is very smooth and reasonably quiet which is better than the other planes with seeming continuous engine whining and the flow of air past the fuselage.

The seats are comfortable but still just a little small and the middle passenger can be tightly squeezed in if the two on either side are larger than normal. The seats fully recline but the seatback is not completely in your face, and bearable when you recline your own seat.

There are several seats by the toilets that would be terrible on a long-distance flight because the passenger inevitably comes very close to the seat when entering and leaving. As for the toilets, they are larger than any of the other airplanes, and so too, coincidentally, are the windows.

The plane also makes the same amount of noise when it lands so I’m failing to see what’s so good about it. I’ve also been in an Airbus A350 and those planes are nothing to write home about either.

I suspect the only advantage of having planes is for airlines. Fewer costs and more sardined passengers.

It’s something else I can write off my bucket list.

When we arrive back in Vancouver it’s the same reasonably simple process to get through immigration.

Outside our driver is waiting and this time we have an Escalade picking us up. A very large SUV that fits us all and our luggage.

But…

We were lucky because we were supposed to be picked up in a sedan and the baggage would not have fitted which would have involved one of us taking a cab with the extra luggage.

He was in the neighborhood and picked up the call. His advice, called the service and request a bigger car and pay the difference. We did. It was going to cost another 20 dollars.

As for the hotel, what is it with hotels and late-night arrivals? We get in, the check-in was smooth, we get to the room. Very large with a separate bedroom. But only a sofa bed.

It was not a desirable option, not before 24 hours in relatively squashed plane seats, so it necessitated a change of rooms to one a bit smaller, but a corner room with a reasonable view, and two proper beds.

Late night, need rest, but we have free breakfast so there will be no tarrying next morning. We have to be down by 9am being Sunday.

Besides, we have a mission. There is a toys-are-us nearby and it does have the toy we want. All we need to find is a cab.

Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – 4

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 West Broadway, 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: Vancouver, Canada – 4

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 West Broadway, 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: Vancouver, Canada – 3

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 make the effort to catch 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.

Except…

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 that we had spent 24 and a half hours traveling from Brisbane to Vancouver via Shanghai.

We had an excellent view out the window of our room looking towards the shopping mall, and the steady falling 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 worse.  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 hop 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 a cannon and yell ‘fire’.  Apparently, that’s how Admiral Nelson lost his arm.

But…

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 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? How close to heaven is that?

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, a car on the booking form that was 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.

Sounded like some place where exhausted soldiers were fending of the Indians in a last ditch battle.

Perhaps one or two too many American movies I think.

Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – 3

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 make the effort to catch 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.

Except…

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 that we had spent 24 and a half hours traveling from Brisbane to Vancouver via Shanghai.

We had an excellent view out the window of our room looking towards the shopping mall, and the steady falling 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 worse.  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 hop 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 a cannon and yell ‘fire’.  Apparently, that’s how Admiral Nelson lost his arm.

But…

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 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? How close to heaven is that?

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, a car on the booking form that was 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.

Sounded like some place where exhausted soldiers were fending of the Indians in a last ditch battle.

Perhaps one or two too many American movies I think.

Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – 2

This morning we wake up to rain.  Or so we thought.  Taking a closer look out the window of our room on the 16th floor, we notice the rain is speckled with snowflakes.  As the morning progressed the snow got harder until there were flurries.

 Later we discover this is called wet snow by the local Vancouverians, and whilst they winge a lot over the endless rain, to them rain is infinitely better than snow.

To us, by the afternoon, it was almost blizzard conditions, with lots of snow.  Then the only thing is that it does not accumulate on most of the ground so there are no drifts to play in.

Because the weather is so dismal we decided not to go into Vancouver to do some sightseeing because the clouds were down to the ground and then the snow set in.

Another interesting fact is that construction workers do not go off the job if it’s raining, or worse when it is snowing.  Our room overlooks a new apartment complex under construction and the workers battled on through what seemed like appalling conditions.

At four in the afternoon, the Maple Leafs are playing the Ohio Blue Jackets, in Ohio.  It is a game we expect they will win.  Sparks is the goalkeeper, not Anderson, they’re playing back to back games and Anderson’s starting tomorrow.

They win, four goals to two.  

Just before darkness falls, about four thirty, the snow stops and there is a little rain, which melts the snow.

Time to go up to the executive lounge to get some snacks and coffee, then sleep because the next day we’re taking on the Trans Canada highway from Vancouver to Kamloops.

The forecast is for snow, more snow, and just for a change, more snow.

Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – 2

This morning we wake up to rain.  Or so we thought.  Taking a closer look out the window of our room on the 16th floor, we notice the rain is speckled with snowflakes.  As the morning progressed the snow got harder until there were flurries.

 Later we discover this is called wet snow by the local Vancouverians, and whilst they winge a lot over the endless rain, to them rain is infinitely better than snow.

To us, by the afternoon, it was almost blizzard conditions, with lots of snow.  Then the only thing is that it does not accumulate on most of the ground so there are no drifts to play in.

Because the weather is so dismal we decided not to go into Vancouver to do some sightseeing because the clouds were down to the ground and then the snow set in.

Another interesting fact is that construction workers do not go off the job if it’s raining, or worse when it is snowing.  Our room overlooks a new apartment complex under construction and the workers battled on through what seemed like appalling conditions.

At four in the afternoon, the Maple Leafs are playing the Ohio Blue Jackets, in Ohio.  It is a game we expect they will win.  Sparks is the goalkeeper, not Anderson, they’re playing back to back games and Anderson’s starting tomorrow.

They win, four goals to two.  

Just before darkness falls, about four thirty, the snow stops and there is a little rain, which melts the snow.

Time to go up to the executive lounge to get some snacks and coffee, then sleep because the next day we’re taking on the Trans Canada highway from Vancouver to Kamloops.

The forecast is for snow, more snow, and just for a change, more snow.

Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – 1

It’s raining.  There should be no surprise there.  And cold.  It’s late December and well into winter.

Perhaps not as cold as it could be, somewhere between three and four degrees.

We are staying at the Hilton Metrotown, at Burnaby.  Metrotown is also the largest shopping mall in British Columbia.  I agree that it is large and found it a great way to get some exercise after being in and off planes for the previous 24 hours.

The first discovery for the day was a trolley bus, something that I thought didn’t exist anymore. 

The second was to discover so many global brands, but how different the products are to what we can get back in Australia.  This is particularly so for cars where we discover that GM-based vehicles and Mazdas are so much better than what is available for us.

The third was to discover it seems we are almost in the heart of Chinatown, where going out an exit on the second floor takes you to a Chinese food court, with all manner of food types, and, it seems, tea bars.  It also explained why, in one supermarket we went in, signs were in both Chinese and English.

Being still tired from the travel, we don’t venture further than the mall where we have lunch, for me, the Canadian version of KFC, which seems to defeat the purpose of trying local food.  It seems most of the food that I can see in the food shops does not seem that appetizing.

Later we go out and find a Boston Pizza with a sports bar where we indulge in a 21 ounce Molton on tap, and a lime mojito, while watching the ice hockey on the big and surrounding small screens.  The ice hockey is some world junior championship (but mostly north hemisphere hockey playing nations) and seems as ferocious as the NHL.

But it does raise a question, why isn’t there a female NHL?  I guess this wasn’t the time to canvass opinions in the bar.

Something else we discover is that alcohol is relatively cheap, and get a case of Molten Canadian ale, Bacardi Black label, and maple flavored whiskey, for about a third of what it would cost at home.  Of course, it must be cheaper than firewood in keeping Canadians warm in the dead of winter.

We didn’t try the pizza, which kind of defeated the purpose of going there.

Meanwhile back at the room, we find the local ice hockey channel, and then to make sure we get to see the Maple Leafs, plug in the computer so that we can test it.  Good to go.  

That’s tomorrow, tonight we watching the Vancouver Canucks.

Searching for locations: – Lake Louise, Canada, ice, snow, and cold

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 to Toronto, via Calgary

All the worries we thought we might have in getting from Lake Louise to Calgary, in the end, it was just like driving to work, only a little longer.

When we left the Fairmont, the car had two frozen bottles of water and a frozen donut, left in the car for the two days we were there, so hiding in the garage might not be a good idea.

At the garage where we refueled, it was so cold I could barely clean the windows and glad to get back into the warmth inside the car.

Thankfully as we got closer to Calgary, it got warmer.

We bypass the city going to the airport, but, as it turns out, we would not have had much time to look around anyway.It’s nice to go to an airport and actually find the car rental returns first go with adequate signing to get there.

Returning the car took a few extra minutes because we were at the end of a dozen or so others who turned up at the same time.  All good, they remembered giving us a half full petrol tank.

At the check-in, it is very smooth sailing, the kiosk working and once the booking reference was entered, it spat out the desired number of boarding passes and baggage tags.

Then to baggage drop, through customs where I managed to lose my jacket, which is amazing that you would be allowed to leave anything behind.

So…

We have an hour and a half to kill, so a long soda and two long island teas settle the pre-flight nerves if we had any to start with.

Time to consider the vagaries of the flight.

Today we’re on an Airbus a320, and we are seated in the very last row, row 33.  It’s always a bad thing to look up planes on seatguru.com, because it has painted them as the worst on the plane.

What’s the downside, sometimes the seat pitch is less than further up the plane, the seats don’t recline and you get the seat in front in your face, and you get the constant flushing of the toilets.  And my major bugbear there’s no overhead luggage space.

What’s the reality?

To begin with, the seats recline, but not very much.  We’ll wait till the plane is cruising before judging how far the seats recline in front of us.

The seat pitch is good and it doesn’t feel like were cramped into a small space, but again this is relative to what happens with the seat in front.

Overhead baggage space, none whatsoever, so if you don’t get on first you are basically screwed.  We were almost first to the rear of the plane so I suspect others also know about the lack of overhead bin space.

Being at the read most part of the plane affords you a view of how the baggage handlers treat your baggage, and it’s interesting, to say the least.  They smile a lot, so I suspect that a few bags might get the ‘treatment’.

Enough already.

We’re now backing out of the bay ready to leave.

We’re getting endless announcements in foreign languages so when next I fly with Air Canada I should at least learn French.

Or not…

Ah, the smell of kerosene floods our end of the plane.  So much for air quality, which so it happens is being covered in the safety video at the exact same time.

But as it turned out, the flight was uneventful.