Out and About in Vancouver

It has been a while since we’ve spent any time in Vancouver. The last time we were here we had the trailer and found it difficult to make our way around, so chose to just pass through. This time we had a list of places that we wanted to visit.

We started with a ferry trip to Bowen Island. The tutor for the Ecole Chocolat course I took back in 2006 has a shop there, and the last time we visited she was away. There weren’t too many walk-on passengers on the ferry, but we ended up chatting with a retired prof from Carleton (Architecture and Industrial Design, which like Jeffrey’s program are ones that are in the School of Engineering but aren’t engineering) who had done his graduate work at Waterloo, and spend a number of years in China doing research. It gave us lots of things in common to talk about as we made our way from Horseshoe Bay to the Island. He and a number of retired profs from Simon Fraser were going over to hike. They invited us to join them, but we had chocolate on our minds!

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After a 30 minute sail we arrived. A long line of cars was waiting to board the ferry back to the mainland as we walked up the steep incline to Artisan Square where Joanne has her shop, Cocoa West Chocolatier. We remembered that there was a shortcut up a back trail to the square and decided to take that. As we got about halfway up we noticed a deer munching on some tender shoots in someone’s back garden. Then as we rounded the municipal building we came eye-to-eye with another deer. After a bit of a stare-down and some loud shuffling our our feet on the gravel path, it slowly moved off the path and let us pass.

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We each picked out a few items and sampled them on the little patio outside the shop (more about the chocolate in another post Chocolate Tasting – Vancouver – Cocoa West Chocolatier). A ginger cat decided that we looked like we might share what we had, so made herself at home on our table. Brad overheard someone say “Oh, it looks like the cat has found some new victims!” We didn’t share our chocolate, but she stayed with us until we went back in to buy a box of treats to take with us.

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We clamoured back down the hill and arrived at the dock just as the next ferry was pulling in. It started to spit rain a little bit as we boarded, but not enough to keep us off the upper deck as we sailed out.

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Back on the mainland we decided to drive along Marine Drive to see if we could find a local place to get a good lunch. We stopped in the Dundarave area and wandered up and back the short downtown until we found the Dundarave BakeHouse. We had a wonderful lunch … sandwiches with tender meat piled high on freshly baked multigrain bread. Turns out the bakery is one of the favourites of the actors (like Cobie Smulders) who find themselves in Vancouver for movie shoots. The servings were so big, we each ended up taking half of our meal home for supper.

From there we continued along the water until we got to the Lions Gate Bridge where we joined the backup of cars waiting to cross into downtown Vancouver. It wasn’t too long until we were driving along the beach strip toward UBC. We stopped a couple of times, first to wander down to the water, and later at our favourite spot to watch small tugboats towing logs into booms to ship down river.

From there we headed to our home away from home for the next few days and waited for the arrival of Brad’s sister and her husband.

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Crossing the Border

After yesterday’s crazy drive up the scenic bypass we headed back to the super slab and headed north into Washington. The drive up past Olympia and into Seattle was uneventful. The traffic was pretty bad in Seattle but because there were three of us we were able to use the HOV lanes to bypass all the stop-and-go traffic. What an amazing way to zip through the city quickly.

We had intended on staying in the States one more night, but decided since we’d made such good time that we’d drive right through to Vancouver. We gassed up just before we headed to the Peace Arch crossing at Blaine. The wait wasn’t too long and was fun to watch people hopping out of their cars to take pictures of the arch, the beautiful Peace Arch park, and the small stone border markings.

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Source: NW Pacific Real Estate

We had a new young custom’s officer who carefully watched our eyes as we answered his questions before sending us on our way. Not sure where we were going to stay for the night, we headed to New Westminster. We got caught up in the evening rush hour so pulled off to see if we could get a room in one of the hotels in North Vancouver that we’ve used before. We got the last room … good thing we called, because otherwise we’d probably have been driving around for a while looking for a place.

We picked up a pizza at the little shop around the corner and settled in for a quiet evening.

Off to the Pacific

It was another beautiful morning as we headed toward the coast. We followed the two-lane road as it meandered through the coastal mountains. It wasn’t too long before the Pacific Ocean was in our sights.

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We stopped in the small town of Newport, Oregon so we could wander down to the water. It’s a family tradition to mark our arrival at the ocean by sticking either a hand or foot in the ocean … this time it was our hands. For me it’s also a ‘requirement’ to walk through the sand in bare feet … it means that I’ve arrived. The tide had just gone out so we explored the clicking clam beds for anemones and other aquatic creatures.

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We didn’t spend too much time there before we moving on to De Poe, one of the next little tourist towns on the scenic byway heading north. We walked along the main street, wandering in and out of the shops. We watched as tourists piled into whale watching dingys and headed out to see what they could find. We noticed a little cluster of boats in one area and think we saw a small whale breach. Apparently there had already been one sighting from the dock that day.

After stopping for lunch we got caught in a massive traffic jam caused by a “wreck” on the highway. We, and all the other RVs, trailers, cars and trucks, were diverted through the narrow and winding lanes of an area just north of De Poe. It took almost an hour until we were back on our way.

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The afternoon took us past a number of Oregon’s famous sea stacks. These large rock formations are peppered along the coast just off shore. We stopped at a few of the viewpoints along the way to take a closer look.

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We stopped for the night in Seaside, Oregon, a lovely little ocean-side community. Our hotel was right downtown and only a few blocks from the shore. Before we headed down to the water to watch the sunset, we had chowder and fish and chips at Norma’s, one of the town’s best-known secrets. Everyone seemed to want to eat there that night and we waited about half an hour to get in. The decor was nothing special, but the food was good.

Most of the people staying town seemed to be on the beach to watch the beautiful sunset. A kid’s baseball team was tossing around a football, families were finishing up picnic suppers, and teenagers were starting bonfires for their evening gatherings. A nice way to end a long travel day!

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From Desert to Forests

As we continued our trek north the high desert turned to lush green forests. We made our way up the eastern edge of Northern California along tree covered, winding roads toward Oregon. Along the way we could see Mount Shasta in the distance. One of my favourite spots to visit, we had to leave it off the itinerary this trip, but hopefully we’ll be back soon!

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We stopped for lunch in Klamath Falls, Oregon, a small but bustling community frequented by outdoorsy types. The day we were there the lakes were quite choppy changing them from their normal blue-green colour to a muddy brown. The waves seemed to be keeping most people on shore.

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We continued on our way along tree-lined road to Eugene, the destination for the day. We stopped at a hotel fully equipped with a row of Tesla charging stations … not something we see everyday at home. Another long day and one-third of the drive to Vancouver done.

Desolation – Desert Style

Heading north, we found the excitement and vitality of Vegas fades quickly as you drive into the high desert. Mile after mile of grey rock surrounded by fields of scrubby sage and cactus. Beautiful in its simplicity, I can’t imagine making a home in this desolate part of the world. The intense heat seemed to be keeping those who do inside … even too hot for the locals to go about their business. We were certainly appreciative of the air-conditioned car.

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We stopped for lunch in one of the few and far between little towns. It seemed like anyone who was passing through stopped, so the place was buzzing … everything from big rigs to bikes. We’ve noticed along the way that a lot of the bikers have stuffed animals strapped onto their bikes. We’re not sure why, but think maybe its to distinguish between those who ride bikes and “bikers”??

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We arrived in Reno to rodeo weekend. We didn’t see a lot of cowboys, but it certainly made it difficult to find a place to stay for the night. We finally settled in to a room in Sparks, a little town just east of Reno. After a quick Mexican meal, we called it a day.

Vegas a la Electric Daisy Carnival

So it seemed that we arrived in Vegas just before 100,000+ 20-somethings converged on the city for this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). Similar to Burning Man, this event brings together kids who love loud, electronica music. The main events were on the weekend, but by Friday night the Strip was bursting at the seams with their influx.

It wasn’t hard to figure out who was there for EDC and who was a “regular” tourist. They were flamboyantly dressed to say the least. The guys seemed to be mostly draped in flags, but the girls were very skimpily clad (the show girls looked like they were wearing Victorian clothes compared to some of these girls) in brightly coloured tutus covering minuscule bathing suits … seemed more appropriate for the beach than the sidewalk, but maybe that’s my age showing! By about 9 o’clock most had disappeared to various venues around town, and Vegas seemed back to normal.

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We wandered through the crowds, staying mostly indoors this time because of the intense heat. We decided to have supper by the ‘Trevi Fountain’ inside Caesar’s Forum. They sure can do amazing things with lighting inside these places.

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After dinner we came upon Fall of Atlantis show, a fountain that turned into a show complete with water, fire, and huge animatronics. Although it was hard to hear most of the narration, it seemed to be a struggle between a brother and sister about who would inherit Atlantis from their father. We’re not really sure who won, but the show ended with a huge dragon breathing fire toward the kids. Maybe that explains why there is no Atlantis.

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After that we wandered back over to the Bellagio, this time looking for its chocolate shop, Jean Philippe Patisserie. We finally found it nestled in the very back corner, in one of the little halls that runs off to the side of the Conservatory. It has one of the biggest chocolate fountains that streamed white, milk and dark chocolate from ceiling to floor. It was quite beautiful. We did our traditional tasting … more on that in the Chocolate Tasting – Vegas – Jean Philippe Patisserie later.

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Source: Dusty Us Diaries

We made our way outside just in time to catch the full Bellagio fountain show. It really is quite amazing what they can do with water and a little electronics!

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With our fill (for now) of the colour, sights, and sounds of the Strip we headed back to the hotel. Not sure when we’ll be back to Vegas, but I’m sure it won’t be too long.

Fremont Street

After a leisurely start to the day, we headed out to find a pair of shorts for Brad. He had forgotten to bring any, and the 40+ degree temperatures were starting to get to him. We found some shorts and also picked up a pre-emptive fan after a rather warm overnight in our un-air-conditioned cabin outside Flagstaff.

We found ourselves close to Fremont Street so decided to see what it was like in the morning, before the hustle and bustle of the late afternoon and evening. It certainly was quiet! Many of the kiosks were just opening up, and most of the casinos, although open, seemed pretty quiet. The last time we were here it was the 4th of July and the place was just buzzing. It was wall-to-wall people watching zip-liners zoom over their heads, and a wonderful montage to Don McLean’s American Pie played on the two-block long rooftop screen. Nothing like this visit at all. We walked the whole length and back in less than an hour. Given the choice, visit the Fremont Experience much later in the day!

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Before visiting a new place, most people check into any special events, tourist attractions, or things to do while they’re there. I leave that to Brad and instead make a point of finding out whether there are any chocolatiers … not just candy stores, but chocolatiers who take pride in their craft. That research took us to a little gem-of-a-place that I’m sure not many visitors to Vegas every discover. The Downtown Container Park, about four blocks east of the Fremont Experience (and guarded by a huge metallic preying mantis sculpture that shoots fire out its antennae), is a lovely three storey mews of shipping containers filled with small shops and cafes that surround a large courtyard that hosts live music on the weekends.

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Source: Shipped.com blog

After a very enjoyable visit to JinJu Chocolates (more about that in the Chocolate Tasting – Vegas – JinJu Chocolates posting) we headed off to Chef Rubber, the place where “all of the Vegas pastry chefs and chocolatiers” get their supplies. Brad and Jeffrey waited patiently as I searched through hundreds of professional chocolate moulds that I can only get online at home. I got a few that will let me make a few different things for next year’s Art Walk.

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The 48 degree temperatures forced us back to our cool room to pass away the hot part of the afternoon in comfort. As we got back to the hotel Brad noticed that the extremely hot roads had taken their toll on the tires. Fine when we left home, the tread was all but gone on the front tires. We headed out to get them rotated, but ended up getting all four replaced. Not something you expect to have to do in the middle of a vacation!