02 September 2006

Getting Acquainted with Vancouver

It was a great, if a bit warm, day. An unusual heat wave is affecting Vancouver at this time, and temperatures are above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, when they should be struggling to hit 70. (Of course, here in Canada, everyone uses Celsius, so I'm just converting.)

After a sleepless night, my day began with a longer-than-expected walk to the SkyTrain station, where I took the train to the last stop at Waterfront. I immediately climbed the Vancouver Lookout to get my bearings, locating such landmarks as Stanley Park, Canada Place, Grouse Mountain, Granville Island, Telus World of Science, and GM Arena. The Lookout isn't too tall though, so the views were not as great as I hoped; also, promotional material regarding Vancouver's bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games were way outdated, since Vancouver has won the bid years ago. The Lookout will close at the end of the year for a 2-month renovation.

I then proceeded to Water Street in nearby Gastown to visit Storyeum, a live production of British Columbia's history. As I waited for the show to begin, I took in two surprises - the steam clock (which shouldn't have been a surprise) and an antique car show (which WAS a surprise). There were many strange cars represented, including an Auto Union (now Audi), a Tatra, a very early Honda that was practically a 4-wheeled motorcycle, and more; I figured that it would be impossible to import many of these cars into the United States, and this show was possible only because this was Canada.

Finally, the show began at Storyeum. It touched up on the native inhabitants' creation story first, moving on to George Vancouver's visit to the area (hence the city's name, as well as Vancouver, Washington, just north of Portland), British Columbia's decision to join a new Canada - instead of joining the US or staying with the UK - to get the railroad, women's and Chinese civil rights, and World War II era boom. Because the shows were spread out over six stages, and I had to change stages every 10 minutes, I could stay awake and enjoy the show, despite being tired. I even got to play the role of a turn-of-the-century suffragette, shouting "Sisters Unite!" and waving a sign. (I'm highly doubtful that those suffragettes wore miniskirt suits and double-female necklaces, like I did.)

Next up: Vancouver Art Museum. With space for four special exhibitions, but no permanent exhibits, it was a bit of a dud. Nevertheless, I enjoyed exhibits showing the First People art - as well as the white, Christian Canadians' attempts to suppress their culture - not to mention exhibits on architecture, including designs by Vancouver area architect Arthur Erickson, whose works include the Canadian embassy to the United States and many others.

It was a short walk over to Robson Street, where I got to do some window shopping and people-watching. I brainstormed some ideas, to put them to use later in the day back in Burnaby at Metrotown.

My final sightseeing stop today was the Sun Yat-sen Chinese Garden. It was a tiny plot of land, but with an elderly docent explaining everything, it was still very informative. The Daoist concept of yin and yang contrasting with each other was the key here, whether it was a maple tree (Canada) with a gingko biloba tree (China), or the progression of stone patterns. As I stopped at the gift shop, I was pleasantly surprised to know that the Buddhist figure of Kwan Yin (the favorite deity of DiAnne Grieser back in Seattle, btw) started out as a male, but eventually was portrayed as a female. Kwan Yin as a transwoman, what a thought!

My toes hurt badly, so I returned to the hotel, changed into something more comfortable, then after some rest, set out again - for the gigantic Metropolis mall at Metrotown. I wasn't too happy with the overwhelming size of the mall, and certainly the Hudson Bay Company's department stores (The Bay, Zellers) were cut-rate. I window-shopped mainly Canadian stores, but in the end, I ended up buying two tunics and a belt from a familiar American name, Old Navy. It was one of the few affordable stores anyway, as well as one with prices similar to US prices (other stores with presence in both Canada and US, such as Bebe, charge much more here in Canada, once the unfavorable exchange rates are factored in).

It was a hard and expensive day, but a wonderful one. I am very glad to be here in Vancouver.

Finally, some pictures as proof of today's activities...

Canada Place, with a cruise ship docked there.
The brown skyscraper in front has an air traffic control tower there, making it the tallest control tower in the world. It manages seaplane traffic on the water.

Stanley Park. Lord Stanley is also remembered through NHL's Stanley Cup.

Stanley Park was originally the site of a 1860s fortress to guard against a possible US invasion, but when that invasion turned unlikely, it became a huge park. Today, the only US invasion to worry about is one of disgruntled progressives fleeing the W rule.

The steam-powered clock in Gastown spews steam to mark 10:00 AM.

Antique car show on Water Street. This example is a 1930s Tatra.

Not part of the car show, but noteworthy anyway, is this VW Beetle on Robson Street.

The pond at the Chinese garden. You may find a pair of turtles sunbathing on the waterlily leaves. There used to be hundreds here, but all except a few were shipped off one day, according to the docent.