Ventures in VancouverOctober 7, 2017 in Canada
On arriving in to Vancouver we were greeted by the sight of a homeless guy rooting through a bin and the smell of weed. Perhaps the stories we had heard about Vancouver were true! We took the SkyTrain to our hostel and dumped our bags in our private room with a delightful urine aroma. A good start! First stop, the liquor store! Hugo was pleased at the price of beer and handed over his two pieces of ID at the checkout. The guy took a look at Hugo's photo on his driving licence and commented 'that was a totally different stage in your life’. Then upon seeing his name, added that he should be in a band, at which point 'Hugo and the Swifts’ was born.
After recovering from the previous night’s sleep on the train, we ventured through town to Granville Island, a place known for its market and art district. A poster advertised the upcoming 'turkey run’ on Thanksgiving. We wandered around the food stalls and purchased a Chinese meal which we ate in the square overlooking false creek while enduring the singing of a busker. We shared a homemade 'lemon square’ (hopefully we can recreate using the ingredients listed on the packet!). Feeling as though we were in need of some vitamins, we selected a box of blueberries and raspberries, however were shocked to hear '18 dollars’ (£12!) at the checkout - you wouldn't even pay that in Waitrose! After browsing the ceramic shops we made our way on foot to Queen Elizabeth park, although stopped at the Cactus Cafe for happy hour drinks. Having just missed the biodome, we looked out over the city from the park gardens and then caught a bus over to the University of British Columbia (UBC). The campus was extensive and we eventually found ourselves at its museum of anthropology. Fortunately we visited on Thursday when admission prices are reduced. Good job as we whizzed round the vast displays of masks, totem poles and first nations costumes in less than an hour. Whilst extensive, the archives were clearly intended for people with a prior knowledge of anthropology!
Next day was devoted to pampering Hugo. First up, a haircut at one of the many hipster barbers, this one named 'the man cave’. No less than ten minutes later and he was a transformed traveller. We found ourselves in a French cafe and struck upon some day old pastries reduced to half price - winner! We then walked back up through the trendy red-brick Yaletown with industrial style buildings now inhabited by boutiques and bars and hit the shops on Robson Street, although not before grabbing a slice of pizza and seeing adverts for Thanksgiving poutine. Hugo purchased a bargain pair of Hollister jeans to replace his current ones that have an increasingly large hole in an unfortunate place. I was amused by 'the face shop’, clearly a lesser-known sister of the body shop. Following the successful shopping session we decided to explore the Gastown district of the city, popular for its cafes and shops lining the historic streets. As we walked through the district, the usual crowd of tourists and locals slowly morphed into an unfamiliar gathering of homeless dwellers, and then the realisation came that we were on East Hastings Street, the one place we had been told to avoid. We have not seen poverty in the developed world like it - drugs being injected in broad daylight, people slumped next to trolleys of cardboard that they would later use to sleep on. It was the land of zombies. We later heard stories of the people sleeping on the kerbside vents from the underground, and of them flogging their prescriptions on buses in exchange for money for drugs. If nothing else this was an illuminating insight into the darker side of Vancouver that most people tend to avoid. A couple of streets below and we were in Gastown, yet miles apart in terms of atmosphere and wealth. We passed by the famous steam clock and had a nosy around a maple syrup shop before moving on to explore Chinatown. The history of the area was interesting to read about on the wall plaques, however we made tracks after a dodgy cafe toilet situation - two arguing locals rushed into the toilet before I could, clearly after having procured some dodgy package, so I thought better of using it. Back in the relative comfort of the hostel, the Liverpudlian guy working there invited us to join the meal they were preparing for guests. We chatted with others in the common room and before long a huge 'shepherds’ pie arrived. It was actually beef mince so a cottage pie, but the Canadians didn't distinguish the two. It was also slightly different in that it was deconstructed, wherein you poured on your own gravy. Along with people from New Zealand, Germany, Belgium and the UK (two of which were from Harrogate and one shared a Spanish class with Heather at sixth form), we learnt how to play 'mushroom’ (basically balancing cards on a wine bottle rim) and then went to The Railway, a live music venue around the corner from the hostel. Inside, Hugo was approached by a gay guy who kept commenting to me 'he’s so beautiful’. Hugo asked him what he did and the guy repeated the same few words to start his response without actually finishing his sentence which was very frustrating. After a few attempts to continue the conversation, Hugo told him he was a piece of work and we wandered off. At 2am we all went back to the hostel, Hugo mourning the lack of chicken wings. In the early hours we were woken by a scurrying sound across the floorboards - the shreds of silver foil were a giveaway as to our company!
With Hugo feeling slightly worse for wear the following day, we walked a few steps up the street to Gojira Ramen, a Japanese noodle cafe. We had been eyeing it up over the past few days and could tell it was a reliable place to eat by the number of Japanese eating there. After queueing for a short while we sat down at the table. I ordered a spicy ramen soup with pork, and Hugo opted for a plainer soup with fried chicken. We were glad we only went for the standard size as the large bowls looked like they could feed a family of four! A group of snapchat-obsessed girls were tucking into a bowl each that they couldn't possibly have finished. Hugo couldn't even stomach his bowl so he had it packaged up to take away. A recommendation if you find yourselves in Vancouver! To get some fresh air we walked along the waterfront, passing a pixelated orca sculpture, an island fuelling station for boats, and watching seaplanes take off and land. In the harbour we remarked about the cute boats built in the shape of houses on a deck, and spotted two seals in the water. We walked along the seawall that surrounds Stanley Park, passing totem poles and sculptures to reach Lion’s Gate bridge that crosses the ocean to North Vancouver. Short on time, we then detoured inland to Beaver Lake, and although there were no beavers in sight, we did see many colourful mandarin ducks. We then found the Lost Lagoon and continued on to English Bay beach, which looked beautiful as the sun shone on the autumnal coloured trees and the droplets of rain produced a rainbow. Locals sat on benches and Canada geese waddled along the grass. At 5.30pm we navigated our way through a marijuana market to Rogers arena in anticipation of the first ice hockey game of the season, which we had tickets to. As we collected our free alcoholic drink - a ploy to increase spectator numbers - we came across the couple from Wakefield that we had met on the train! With 20 minutes of happy hour left we purchased two hot dogs and found our seats. A dramatic intro video played, introducing the Canucks. The players then made their way on to the ice and began stretching and warming up, involving a lot of frog-like poses which was a sight in itself. An operatic voice started up the national anthem, although he only sang a few words before letting the crowd do the rest of the work. After the first 20 minutes we were still trying to figure out the rules. The Canadian guys next to us gave us a brief explanation of the game during one of the many intervals. As part of the Canadian experience Hugo bought some popcorn and we laughed as a guy stuck out his tongue as his partner went to kiss him during kiss cam. Like the baseball, there were various prizes for ridiculous games such as guessing the smoothie flavour etc. A fight broke out in the final third, causing the crowd to descend into applause and jeering. The home crowd cheered the Canucks to success against the Edmonton Oilers and we ambled along the streets along with hundreds of other fans back to the city.Read more