I'm feeling tried out still from the trip down from Vancouver yesterday. We started off the morning feeling mostly rested, chatted with the flat owner, wrapped up our packing and the remaining dishes, then packed up the rental car. Our plan was to park the car, walk in Grandview Park one last time, have some brunch, and pick up some treats to take home.
Upon entering Grandview Park we discovered that we were stumbling on one of Vancouver's two Pride festivals. Although there is a large festival in August there is also an "Eastside Pride" held at the end of June. The vendors were just setting up so we headed on to have brunch and figured we'd go back through after we finished.
We had thought to try Cafe du Soleil which is right by the co-op bookstore, we had hoped that the sandwich board outside showing the "vegan soup of the day" meant that there would be good brunch options for vegans. Unfortunately the choice was another tofu scramble and not much else. Since we wanted to pick up some halva to take home we opted to have the tofu scramble at Sweet Cherubim instead. Again, the experience wasn't disappointing. If you're ever planning a visit to The Drive, check out Sweet Cherubim, everything we tried on any day was delicious!
After brunch we purchased our halva to take home and wandered through the Eastside Pride festival. We even managed to get some questions answered about Zip Cars and will keep them in mind for future trips, especially when we fly into a city and only need a car for a day or so. We were pleased to see that there was a tent doing outreach for new foster families. Then we climbed into the rental and headed east.
It took longer than expected to get over the border, especially since we crossed back into the U.S. via the Blaine border crossing. We had headed east out of the city in Canada highway 1 but lacking a printout of the exact route back to Lynden, Washington we allowed ourselves to be tempted by the signs reading "U.S. Border Crossing" and followed them. We soon found ourselves in a line up promising to be at least 50 minutes, although we ended up there for a bit longer than that.
Once at the guard station we were told our information was incorrect on the documentation needed, however, since the Canadians had let us in we could re-enter the U.S. after being handed a printout that told us what we should have done. We didn't get asked what we'd purchased or anything much beyond where we'd each been born and what we'd been doing in B.C.
By the time we were hitting Seattle it was about 4PM; we were tired and hungry. We thought to try to hunt down a vegan place I'd eaten at while doing basic yoga teacher training in April 2006. Around Everett I'd suggested we could also pop off in a business area and hope for a Thai place. In going to turn about to try the other one-way street for the vegan place I spotted a sign for Araya's Vegetarian Thai! We turned around the car, found parking, and went inside.
The inside was welcoming, spacious and they'd just turned on the A/C (it was in the 90s outside). We found out that all dishes were vegan, the only non-vegan thing was that you could choose to have cow milk in a Thai tea or coffee. We ordered vegan Thai tea and were delighted to discover it was served with coconut milk -- delicious. We had just missed the buffet, which is very well reviewed, so for a meal we ordered the green papaya salad and orange tofu. The salad was exactly what I wanted -- refreshing and citrus-y. The orange tofu was rich, but the citrus note kept it from becoming cloying. It was served with steamed brown and red rice.
Eventually we got home at 8PM, got the rental car unpacked and turned in. AM, CK & I made our way over to an old favorite, Vita Cafe, for tempeh BLTs, salads, tortilla soup, french fries, and drinks. Somehow, despite the exhaustion of the long, long day in the car, I didn't get to sleep until past midnight.
Today a phone call woke me up around 8AM. I was groggy and had slept a little fitfully. I sat out on the deck with AM and Bodhi writing until around 10AM before going over to the community center to teach my Sunday yoga class. Only three students today so a quiet class. I was very gratified that a new student had practiced the thing he'd found difficult during the first class; sitting.
After that AM and I went over to SE Portland to pick up a 94 pound bag of concrete that he'd found on Freecycle. While driving over towards Trader Joe's we went past a Bike Gallery shop on Woodstock. AM, CK & I have all been talking about a bicycle for me. I haven't been in over 12 years, especially after my lowest disc in my back herniated. It is both difficult for me to have pressure on my tailbone and sit bones, but leaning forward is also hard. Despite all of this we have all thought there might be bikes that would work for me. Knowing all of this AM pulled over and we went in. I ended up trying out a 2009 Trek 7000. AM said that within moments of figuring out my balance again I had an enormous smile on my face.
Then a bit of shopping and home to meet with some people coming here to pick up an old dog house and planting shelves AM had listed on Freecycle. CK came over later for dinner and we all were able to enjoy a beautiful lightening storm while eating on the deck. Afterwards she and I walked up to the rose garden in Penninsula Park with Bodhi who is learning how not to pull my arm out of the socket when on a lead. The roses, all either in full bloom or just passing full, were headily scented and so vibrant. We discovered that the parks district is rebuilding the sunken entrance to the garden to include some ramps. It will be great to see this beautiful garden made more accessible even if it does mean changing the original construction.
I rose earlier than CK and wrote some blog entries. I was happy to see the sun shining warmly after the chill and damp the day before. I sat on the sofa in the flat and wrote while CK continued to rest. Just as she was coming down the hall a small, gray & black stripped tabby nosed around our patio. I felt a pang of homesickness, missing our respective cats being cared for at home.
Friday was our official "down" day before the long trip home on Saturday. I had picked a neighborhood that was vibrant, full of little shops and lots of good food for us to stay in. We had determined that we would spend our last full day in Vancouver exploring our own neighborhood more.
We had already discovered that there were several good markets featuring good produce, bulk foods, vegetarian/vegan items, nut & seed butters -- all things we cook with and had searched for during the week to make dinner, breakfast, etc. We also had poked our heads into Womyn's Ware and were visiting Sweet Cherubim regularly. Friday would be the day for buying gifts and a night market later.
We started at Paranada, a store featuring hemp goods, trinkets, jewelry, t-shirts, etc. I picked up some shirts, a great recycled silk hat (too warm for summer, but good for hikes in the autumn), some earrings, and CK found some excellent hand-made incense. Many things were on sale, which made for economical purchases, and everyone in the store was attentive & friendly without being pushing at all.
We poked our heads in a few more shops, making our way down to Cafe deux Soliels. We found that it suffered from the trait of being very heavy on egg and dairy for the menu choices -- something we've seen in a lot of vegetarian places. We settled on a chai for CK, a latte for me
, and chatted while enjoying the artwork. The cafe boasts a stage, used for open mikes, speakers, and music, that is entirely done with chalkboard paint. The step up, the entire floor surface, and to about waist high along the back wall is chalkboard. During the daytime the stage is filled with energetic, dusty children enjoying the space. Each time we passed Cafe deux Soliels in the evening people would be spilling out onto the sidewalk.
We made our way through some more shops and then onto Harambe for lunch. For the past 8 years or so I've enjoyed Ethiopian food on Commercial Drive. Usually each time I'm in the city I, or my fellow travelers, will "re-find" the restaurant again. I believe, given the location, that it is Harambe although it might actually be Addis Cafe a couple of blocks up the street. Either way CK & enjoyed a very good, quick, reasonable lunch at Harambe. We settled on the vegetarian combo and were quickly brought a plate of spicy lentils, savory lentils, mild split peas, cabbage, green beans, carrots, spinach, and salad on injera with another plate of injera as well. CK ordered a Stella to offset the impending spice level and I ordered some fresh mango juice (really a delicious smoothie of fresh mango pureed with ice). Everything was delicious, the atmosphere was nice, and we enjoyed it throughly.
By the time we'd looped around the north end of The Drive we were a bit worn out from looking at exotic imports, lovely textiles, eco-conscious products, etc. We made a point to pop into Dutch Girl Chocolates which had been recommended in the Lonely Planet guide. It smelled wonderful in the shop and we were immediately impressed with the beautiful detail on the obviously handmade confections. The proprietor pointed out the dairy-free chocolates to us; I chose a pistachio creme in a dark chocolate cup and CK asked for a piece of the almond bark. Each of us found our respective treats to be very tasty.
We then went back to the flat and rested for a while. We had read about the night market in nearby Richmond, however, on public transportation it would take us quite a while to get there. The Richmond market has gone through some owner changes recently but still boasts thousands of people in attendance. That figure and the long transit time led us to decide to visit the much smaller, closer night market in Chinatown instead.
When we headed out from the flat to the transit center on Broadway we observed several bikes out. The number of bicyclists, accompanied by motorcycle police, quickly identified this as Vancouver's Critical Mass rides. As we strolled south down Commercial we eventually hit the full mass of riders waiting at Commercial and Broadway. We stood on the sidewalk and watched them all ride past before boarding the train into downtown. Later we'd see the same group ride past the night market.
We got off at the Stadium-Chinatown station and walked over to the market. It was a great evening for a walk and we generally followed the steady stream of people all headed in the same direction. The Chinatown night market is small but still manages to boast numerous vendors selling clothing, knock-off sneakers, handbags, toys, jewelry, knives, bamboo, art work, rugs, etc. We wandered up and down checking out all of the stalls. CK found a ring and picked out some bracelets. We also eventually settled on a jacket for me and a robe for her.
There were also several food vendors -- CK & I even found a vendor who was selling among other very non-vegan things fried tofu and roasted corn. The tofu was tasty although it was served with a sauce that seemed to be a fermented black bean base that was a little strange. The roasted corn was delicious of course, we even picked the ear we wanted right off of the hibachi grill!
After that snack I purchased a coconut for us. So refreshing -- just the top cracked open and a couple of straws inside. These coconuts are very young and mostly filled with water. I had been surprised at just how much we got to drink out of one coconut. Inside the flesh is thin and watery, not at all like the thick, hard fruit that comes from a more brown fruit. We tucked it in a plastic back and brought it back to the flat with us later. We got out spoons and enjoyed every last bit of this treat before heading to bed for the last night in Vancouver.
We had stayed up a bit late the night before and slept in later before getting up on Thursday. After the stunning, sunny Wednesday we awoke to drizzle, overcast skies, and decided cooler weather. We both were feeling fatigued and my back was hurting a lot. Since we had gone to UBC the day before it meant that Thursday was dedicated to going to Stanley Park. CK & I both were very excited to visit the aquarium there.
We got ourselves slowly together and onto the bus downtown. Within a couple of minutes we were able to catch the bus to Stanley Park and fairly easily found the aquarium. We hoped that by starting inside that the weather might clear/warm a little. There were the expected groups of people all making their way to the aquarium, but when we rounded the corner we could see that “throngs” was a more accurate word. The line to get in stretched alongside the entire building! Screaming children ran to and fro. Hordes of middle-school aged pre-teens giggled, shrieked, and tried to look cool.
We thought to ourselves, “right, let’s have a snack now and maybe it will calm.”. We were unsurprised to find that everything “veggie” at the snack shack contained animal ingredients (cheese, egg whites) and settled for the food we’d brought ourselves. We picked a table a little away from the crowds of people and enjoyed watching the crows beg for snacks; one even hopped directly onto our table for a moment! We also saw a beautiful, black squirrel!
The queue did not get any smaller so with a sigh of resignation we made our way to the end to wait. We were immediately joined by what appeared to be a very stylish grandma, grandpa and their bored teenage granddaughter—from Texas. The granddaughter sent text messages to friends back home that she was standing lin line. The grandpa yelled at her for misusing her phone. Grandma talked business deals on her phone and ignored the two of them. Oh, and the only sideways glance CK & I have received (the “are those lesbians hugging in PUBLIC?“) was from the Texans…
Once we got in to pay we discovered part of the reason it had taken so long. Although there was a line requiring about a 15-minute wait and the potential to have 4 cash registers issue tickets, only two registers were being worked by bored, late-teens on summer job. We got through and into the body of the aquarium. The throngs outside all captured inside made for tremendous noise. We decided to start with the tropics area and joined the flow of people going that way.
What struck both of us pretty immediately was how poorly the aquarium did at providing information. We’d wait through the crowding to get a good look into a tank only to discover that often the species inside were not identified by signs. Some cases had no signs at all. Some had fewer signs than species displayed. No cases had any information behind the name of the species you looked at (e.g., where exactly they were found, the habitat, predators, prey, etc.). There were several obviously expensive, large signs with very compelling quotes from biologists who had studied a species or place, but nothing educational! This led both of us to find the aquarium rather underwhelming given the cost ($19.95/adult) and the huge crowds. Were this part of the aquarium better done that the cost and crowds would have been mitigated entirely.
Not to say that we didn’t enjoy what we saw. The seahorses were fascinating to watch (would have liked to know more about them). Watching a sea turtle swim in an enormous tank of sharks and rays is always enjoyable (again, no way to know what we were seeing exactly). The butterflies were very fun to watch as were the scarlet ibis (yes, one of the better parts did not have any aquatic creatures); but again no butterflies were identified with signs.
We also saw dolphins being fed. Unfortunately we were just underwhelmed and overwhelmed by the whole experience. Later, back in Portland we'd reflect that there were so many "messages" telling us to do something besides go to the aquarium, but we persisted in going as we were each convinced the other wanted so much to go there!
So much so that after catching the bus downtown we decided to forgo any visit to Granville Island (which we had discussed while watching the crows -- taking a sea bus) or pubs. We figured out where the train station was, got ourselves quickly back to our neighborhood, and fell into an exhausted nap at the flat. Upon waking up we weren’t up for making much food and picked up some take away at Sweet Cherubim. I finally made cupcakes, we played a couple rounds of Spite & Malice, and went back to bed.
Wednesday found us spending the day at the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus. On the list were the botanical gardens and the museum of anthropology. We walked up to the transit area on Broadway and caught a bus out to the campus, through the Kitsalano neighborhood.
A quick note on transit. Portland has pretty good mass transit. Vancouver’s transit is fantastic. We’ve never waited more that 7 minutes for a bus or train. Usually we get to a transfer point and the bus or train is moments away. The transit has also been very direct. In some cases two transfers are recommended on the TransLink website, but that just is to give the option of not walking to a transit center. Usually we’ve walked to the transit point and caught either a single bus to our destination (e.g., UBC) or caught the Sky Train then a bus. For $2.50 you get a 90 minute window in which you can use any bus, train or sea bus (mini-ferries) to get around the city. Or you can pick up a book of 10 tickets for $19 at any 7-11, etc. We haven’t used the rental car once since arriving here! All told, using public transport the entire time we visited, we spent a total of $35 on transportation and made our way all over the city.
The ride out to UBC from The Drive took about 35-40 minutes, but since we had seats we just enjoyed looking at the people traveling with us and the changes to the neighborhoods. It isn’t though Vancouver is without big chains (e.g., Starbucks, MacDonalds, etc.), there just seem to be fewer of them. Many more independent shops, cafes, etc. Once again we were struck by how international the city is. We’ve heard many different languages here.
Once we got to the campus it was an easy stroll to the museum. The short walk took us past a really beautiful library, down wide avenues lined with big trees, through a charming rose garden, and to the museum. Nice people even took a picture of CK and I for free in the rose garden (**the $4 picture from Gastown did turn out pretty nice although we were totally hustled for that money).
The Museum of Anthropology at UBC houses an impressive collection of totem pole carvings from the First Nations tribes of this area. I was especially impressed a the display of these massive pieces; many are situated so a person in a wheel chair would easily be able to roll up to the very edge to appreciate the whole piece. These massive wooden carvings are housed predominately in the “Great Hall”, a soaring, glass fronted structure that looks out over the ocean and city.
The glass also lets you see the carvings in natural light as well as overlooking an outdoor installation of a family house, mortuary building, and more totem poles. In several cases they’ve positioned the pieces so the viewer is able to tell how they were used. Some poles were just that, poles outside of a house or village. However, many pole pieces were the internal or external supports for a building. The outdoor installation is particularly beneficial in seeing the poles for how were used.
The museum also has an amazing sculpture by late First Nations artist Bill Reid. There is a rotunda dedicated to this Haida artist’s work. There are small silver and stone pieces and great information noting how Reid’s work changed from these smaller pieces, done in the tradition of his grandfather and uncles, to the larger pieces after he had been diagnosed with Parkinsons. The centerpiece of the rotunda is the truly magnificent carving of Raven and the First Men. We circled around this amazing, massive carving for quite some time just taking in the tremendous details.
This image now appears on the Canadian $20 bill.
After we finished up with the museum we were a bit hungry and decided to go down to the seashore to eat our lunch. We found the trail head down to Wreck Beach and decided to go for it anyway despite what looked to be many, many, many stairs and the note that the beach is “clothing optional”. We were right, there were a whole lot of stairs and on the way down we wondered if we made the right choice since we’d have to climb back up them. But we pressed on and were rewarded with an amazing view of the city, cargo ships being towed into port, and very few naked people! We enjoyed our lunch we’d packed that morning and watched ships go by.
During the climb back up all those stairs we decided that going through the gardens would be too much for that day. We opted instead to stroll along campus, by the Japanese garden and the Asian Centre.
We made our way then to the very large bookstore where we picked up a few things, then back to the bus.
We decided to check out Womyns Ware, a women owned/run adult “toy” shop, which is towards the north end of The Drive. During our stroll around the neighborhood on Monday night we’d spotted it and thought it would be fun to pop in. Amidst the impressive collection of toys for sale there is a good selection of books. This shop also rotates the art on display in the shop as a way to give local women artists another venue to show and sell work. I picked up a small, charming print entitled Lotus Shadow by the current artist, Michelle Kuen Suet Fung.
We then strolled back up, stopping in at one of the several co-op markets. Had a nice chat with the people in the shop, wandered up to the liquor store to pick up some beer, and then made our way back to the flat to make dinner. My cupcake baking plans were foiled again when I realized I didn’t actually have the oil that had been measured out in Portland. We opted to go back down to Sweet Cherubim and got treats (chocolate dipped halva bar [how can we get dozens of these back to Portland], a Bliss Ball [cocoa, almonds, and fruit juice made into a ball then dipped in chocolate], and a cocoa almond bar [nice, like a less sweet Larabar]).
We eventually made our way out of the flat to find hot beverages. We decided we would check into Sweet Cherubim for coffee and chai. Upon entering we were drawn to the enormous dessert case filled with an array of cookies, raw pies, truffle like things (called such names as "bliss ball"), bars, chocolate dipped things (mostly all vegan) then around the corner to the hot food case¿filled with mostly Indian dishes. Everything is vegetarian. They use some dairy in a couple of curries and samoas, but otherwise no dairy or eggs in anything. Some dishes use honey so are not strictly vegan. The coffee was strong, not bitter, and the soy milk had a great foam on it. We had to wait a bit for the chai CK had ordered, but it turned out to be entirely worth it since it was fresh made and not sweetened at all.
Then down The Drive to the Sky Train station on Broadway. We caught the train directly down to the Science World on main and spent the afternoon playing with puzzles, reaction games, light experiments (on an IR camera you can tell I'm just colder), sound and water experiments. Overall reminding me much of OMSI in Portland, only much larger. The building is also really fantastic (featuring a distinctive "Bucky Ball" as the top half of the building). We sat down and enjoyed a late lunch there of some of the hummus CK had made, the sunseed & avocado pate I'd made, bread, carrots, and nuts. There is an awesome view of the waterfront and city from the cafe area.
We made our way from the waterfront to Chinatown. We didn't spend as much time here, mostly just strolled through admiring some of the buildings, banners, and the generally lovely day.
On recommendation from the Lonely Planet guide (which made mention of "wind up robots" **didn't see any) we popped into Funhauser and had a look around. Maybe becuase we have Finnegan's in Portland and I make semi-regular purchases from Archie McPhee's I felt a little underwhelmed.
It seemed a good time to find a beer and we made our way on across West Hastings (pan handlers, drug addicts, etc. - fine to walk through during the day, but I don't think I'd recommend at night) to Gastown. What can I say...
In the back of my mind I recalled dimly that Gastown was something of a tourist draw. The retired guys with camcorders, shiny-happy-themed "pubs", and tourist shops hawking stuff for the 2010 winter Olympics were everywhere. CK noted later that she should have realized after the third place selling authentic Canadian maple syrup-based treats that we had gone to a part of town we'd rather not be in. It was only reinforced when I went to take CK's picture at the steam clock and the nice man who offered to take our picture together then hustled us for two toonies (roughly $4 USD). By the time we made it up this gauntlet to what Lonely Planet described as a real brewpub, then only to find it was yet another sanitized-for-the-masses establishment we decided to head into downtown towards the library.
We consulted Lonely Planet again and decided to give the Railway Club a try and a possible refuge from all the tourists in Gastown. This time we were not disappointed in this very Brit-style pub. Lots of wood, a good bar, nice selection on tap, and various signed memorabilia from Canadian musicians on the wall. A couple of pints and very tasty cajun fries later we departed for the library.
Why the library? First of all it is a gorgeous building. Imposing, but still inviting. 7 stories of books in many languages, periodicals, computers, etc. Oh and free transit maps! We picked up an assortment of transit maps and were delighted to discover that we were mere blocks from a Sky Train station. We walked around a bit more, went up to the top to look down the open atrium at books on carts far below, and then on to the station.
Another panhandler didn't hustle us and gave us great information on the train. We gave him some of our change, our thanks, and made our way down, down, down to the platform. We were several more stops along, but the train really speeds along at great speeds. In very quick time we were back to The Drive, picked up some take out from Sweet Cherubim (oh, the tikka!) and collapsed at the flat around 10PM!
Long day, long drive.
I had my usual pre/during-travel anxiety in high gear. Knowing I’d forgotten important things (most of which can be replaced in Vancouver anyway). This feels so hard to pin down, nothing concrete in memory to attach to and go, "ah-ha, that's why..." Maybe it is just the uncertainty of leaving the safety of my routine.
Avis failed to hold our reserved car (G6), tried to put us in something of a similar size (Eclipse) and ended us up in a rather large and surprisingly dirty, but mostly comfortable Grand Prix. We were on the road at about 8AM and headed up towards Seattle. The issue about the car was annoying because we were expecting to get to use a line in to the stereo for our iPods! We ended up getting transmitters (yes, have tried two at this point) which will be returned at home.
I was pleased that I was able to recall how to get to the Sunlight Cafe, a vegetarian place on the outside edge of the University District. I’d eaten there when doing my yoga teacher training and recalled it was at least vegan-friendly. I was still feeling the anxiety pretty much and my blood sugar was dropping rapidly when we got to the restaurant so it was hard not to feel a little cranky that the navy bean soup somehow had been made with dairy (why?)! I finally settled, with some prompting from CK, to order the tostada. I was gratified that the option to sub “avocado” (by which they mean: guacamole, which IS tasty but is certainly not the same as slices of avocado-y goodness on a dish). The Red Zinger iced tea was refreshing. CK enjoyed her lemonade as well as her very tasty tofu sandwich.
We continued up I5 towards B.C. The day was lovely, cloudy but not raining, and it was nice enjoying the trees rushing past our windows. We listened to a couple of stories from Miranda July’s collection of short stories, “No One Belongs Here More Than You” (which she reads), some music, the sounds of our voices, and the sound of the road rushing by beneath us.
At the suggestion of a co-worker we crossed into B.C. outside of Lynden, Washington. It is a much smaller crossing than the Peace Arch and we were over in under 15 minutes. I noted that the U.S. side was also pretty quiet too, although we’ll be returning on Saturday so it might be a bit busier. We hit some rush hour traffic outside of Burnaby and crawled our way along Canada Hwy 1 for a while (broken down car) until it cleared up outside of Vancouver. We quickly made our way to the 1st Avenue Exit, followed that down to Commercial Drive, and finally arrived at the one-bedroom flat we’d rented on Kitchener Street.
We went to The Charlatan for a couple of pints, did a little shopping for breakfast, and went to Yogi’s for dinner.
The Charlatan is pretty trendy and boasts a menu dripping cheese & butter, heavy in meat, and seafood. Needless to say, we each had a pint and enjoyed sitting on their patio watching the folks of “The Drive” bustle through the evening. I mentioned to our waitperson that we had said no to dinner options because CK & I are vegan. She nodded and commented to me that we could find a better dinner elsewhere anyway! I mentioned that we were thinking of trying out Yogi’s and she encouraged us to go, mentioning she’d eaten there several times.
Yogi’s was very tasty! Kind of a more modern approach than the usual curry walla. We were able to order a pint and settled on a marinated bean salad served atop a papadum, which was very tasty. We split the Punjabi Stew entree along with a whole wheat naan. The stew, a rich spinach (saag) with potatoes was very tasty and was accompanied by basmati rice steamed with cumin seeds. We have discussed returning for the cauliflower/potato dish (a twist on aloo gobi) is later in the week.
We then settled into our truly lovely suite and fell pretty much instantly asleep!
The suite is located on Kitchner Street, half a block off of Commercial Drive. The owner lives in the house above, the suite being a refinished, basement one-bedroom. It is very conveniently located with numerous restaurants, shops, markets, and easy public transport nearby and within walking distance. We were very pleased with the space, finding it immediately comfortable. The owner was happy to loan us her measuring spoon set so I would be able to bake some birthday cupcakes and offered some of her recommendations for places to eat. We will certainly visit this suite again, it really makes staying in Vancouver a treat.