Friday 9 Nov 2007 (continued)
Our hotel is a faded beauty, originally built in the late 1800s and rebuilt twice, latterly in 1906. A lot of Art Deco trimmings, with some reversion to opulent decoration of the late Victorian era. Heaps of acanthus relief carvings, Indian heads in rosettes. It's very comfortable and centrally placed.
Vancouver has turned out to be a delightful city, one of those where rounding each corner reveals something new.
The waterfront and business areas are abuzz with new construction, including an expansion of the Convention Centre which, when complete, will be absolutely massive.
[Right - Glass and alloy in the
business centre of Vancouver]
There's so much glass and alloy that reflective ignition is probably a danger to passers-by in the summer!
There's a lot of high quality public sculpture throughout the city's business area. We first ran across a textured wood carving in a park down at the waterfront and then kept finding more and more public art wherever we went.
In the afternoon Margaret found a laundry, while I needed to have a rest. It gave Margaret an opportunity to have a look around, and she identified an area where there were a number of restaurants. This knowledge came in handy when we decided to have dinner later in the evening.
We walked down past a park where the bare trees had been strewn with Christmas lights in huge swirls which swept from tree to tree. It was spectacular at night, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get a photograph which did it justice.
The shops stayed open late on Friday, and as we later discovered, also on Saturday and Sunday.
We finally decided to have dinner in a little Thai restaurant, distinguished by both its simplicity of menu and decoration. It turned out to be an inspired choice.
The food was great and to Margaret's displeasure, because she hates me reading at the table and I know I shouldn't do it, I was able to browse through some of the Buddhist literature there.
Saturday 10 November 2007
After breakfast we walked down to the waterfront, through the park which borders the water's edge and down to the Information Centre.
There were a lot of people using the public areas, many of them walking dogs, jogging and generally enjoying the space and time. It was a bit brisk, but not so cold as to detract from our enjoyment of the day.
Following our usual practice, and in order to see as much as we could in the time available, we bought tickets for the sightseeing bus tour and after a short wait, boarded the bus.
We must be getting jaded or something, because there were a number of times when neither of us were able to identify the building/landmark/point of interest being pointed out by the tour tape.
From our perspective the standout was Stanley Park, which covers some 1,000 acres.
Just as there are still some maples in protected locations in the city with marvellous autumn plumage, there are deciduous trees in the park which still wear their fall colours to wonderful effect.
In contrast to the beauty of the parks and buildings, there are many beggars and homeless people in the city. From our bedroom window we could see one man sleeping in the open on the footpath directly in front of the Vancouver Hilton.
Neither of us is sure what the phenomenon actually means, and we are aware that while homelessness is a fact in Australia, there don't seem to be as many as in north America.
Is it a specific failure of the capitalist system, or is it related to an inability to adequately deal with the mentally ill? Our own experience with veterans (and I just heard a news article forecasting that by 2010 25% of the homeless in the US would be Gulf/Iraq/Afghanistan veterans) is that the vast majority of those who are homeless choose to be homeless. That's not to say that the choice is rational, just that it is a conscious choice.
I really don't know what governments should be doing to address the problem, and that disturbs me. Obviously a large proportion of those begging and panhandling aren't capable of holding down a job.
[Right - autumn foliage in
The public Library is an impressive building that looks as if it has been there forever, but actually dates from 1993. It's circular, with an additional wing that gives the impression that has been "unrolled" from the circular central building.
That evening we ate an an Indian restaurant in Dickson Street where we were the previous evening. Nice food, well presented, but much too much of it for us.
The evening was marred by having to advise a man at the table next to ours that while his conversation might be important to him, we really didn't want to share it, and would appreciate his speaking in a normal tone.
I was annoyed that I should have to even do this, and it was aggravated by the fact that he was big-noting himself (for our non-Australian friends, this means that he was inflating his own importance).
[Right - Fairmont Vancouver Hotel with copper roof, behind Christ Church Cathedral, Burrard Street, Vancouver]
Sunday 11 November 2007
We went for a bit of a walk in the morning but for the most part had some down-time while we waited for the shuttle we had to catch a bit before 1:00pm. It enabled us to read a little and have a little siesta, which was good.
The rigmarole of going through the security checks has in no way diminished. We had to remove Margaret's boots from her suitcase in order to reduce the weight, then went through the screening process: only one bag; coat, hat, shoes; glasses and watch taken off, placed in plastic tray and through x-ray; laptop removed from carrier and x-rayed; no liquids or gels greater than 100ml and displayed in a plastic bag.
The good news was that we also went through the entry process for the US, which was actually a continuation of our previous entry on this trip. It means that we only had to fill in the customs declaration and wouldn't have to do it in Hawaii.
The plane was on time, but it was a long, long six hour flight on the 767 in cattle class with our knees up around our ears. I Iove Canada, but every trip on Air Canada only serves to make me hate the airline more.
Ah well, we only have to go through the screening process three more times.