“ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert
This was my first time ever to visit Canada. I had to think about this when asked, because I know I have wanted to for a long time. I remember I did a country report on Canada in the 5th grade. I have never met a Canadian that I didn't like. They don't have the "ugly American" stereotype that we do. I know I'm generalizing., but my short trip there only confirmed my preconceived ideas. Nice people, great urban planning, community-oriented.
One of the best things about Vancouver is their public transportation system, especially the Sky Train. I don't know if this is what is planned for Oahu, but if it is, I'm looking forward to it. I paid 9.75 for a day pass every day and that was so convenient as you could use this on the buses and trolleys too. I think it also covers the sea buses, but I never tried it, so I am not sure. What a convenience not to have to worry about having the correct change every time you want to get on a bus. You may be tempted not to pay for the Sky Train, as it seems to be on an honor system, but I wouldn't if I were you. It IS breaking the law to ride without paying and IF you should be caught, I imagine the fees would be painful.
Since I was there for a writing for animation class. I really only had 3 days as a tourist, and I know there was so much more to see and do that I didn't have time for. Trip Advisor helped me narrow down my choices.
On my first day, I went to Stanley Park. One of the reviews said this was like New York's Central Park, but on the waterfront.
When I looked at a map and where I had gone, I think I only covered 1/10 th of the park. Since I am a walker, I did not get a trolley ride that would have taken me around the park with narration, and I may do that if I ever have a chance. But my walk was lovely. The leaves were just beginning to turn color, and the evergreens made my walk smell like Christmas.
Though there were many parts of this park, I knew I had to see the totem poles. Here was my introduction to the First Nations of the area. Who hasn't heard of totem poles, but there's something about having large physical representations of the indigenous people, who still live and breathe in the area, that make you connect to and respect the place you are visiting.
I was trying to find my way to another tourist spot from here, but instead found myself on Robson Street, which I remember from Trip Advisor, was a good shopping street. It was about 4:00, and I was attracted to a Malaysian Restaurant, the Banana Leaf, because of their photos of their food displayed on the sidewalk. To my good fortune, it was happy hour and some items on their menu were half off. It was a delicious meal, lettuce wraps, papaya mango kerabu, and ginger beer.
On my second day, I went to Granville Island, which I thought was going to be like going to another Island, but it was really very close. You don't even realize you're on another island.
By the way, I paid for an extra data plan so I could use my google maps in Canada. I am glad I did. I think I would have been okay because Starbucks was everywhere, but it was always good to have reassurance that I was going in the right direction, or to turn around when I realized I was going in the wrong direction. I learned that you have to turn off all your apps except the google when you are doing this though, they suck up your data even when you don't use them.
This was a fun, colorful, clean, and diverse market place. I found myself spending a lot of time (and money) at the Ten Thousand Villages store, even though that store, that supports craftspeople in third world countries, is not exclusive to Vancouver.
I really enjoyed the entertainment, though I was bugged when one of the singers felt a need to remind us tourists that they only work for tips.
This is a great place for soup. I had oyster soup. The next day, I made it back for a beef stew pot pie. I guess I forgot to take a picture.
While I was waiting for the bus to Granville Island, I read a huge sign advertising Word Vancouver, a festival of WORDS, which was to be held on Sunday, my last day there. I went home and looked it up on the internet, and found out it was a weeklong festival, with daily events. I found out there was to be a panel discussion by the Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre Company at a place called the Historic Joy Kogawa House. So, after my class on Friday, I made it over to this place, which took a sky train and 2 bus transfers. I will write more about this on another post.
My last day in Vancouver was on Sunday, and though I had a list of places I wanted to see, I realized that I had to narrow it down after it took me so long to get to each place. I did make it to the Museum of Anthropology.
On the way there, I stopped at a restaurant called Waffles Gone Wild, and had a delicious waffle with some Japanese touches on it. It was a nice blend of sweet and savory, with a poached egg on top for my morning protein.
Getting to the Anthropology Museum was quite an ordeal, as Google wasn't too helpful on this huge campus, the University of British Columbia. I guess I should've asked more questions of real people. Note to self: ASK real people for directions. But I eventually made it by NOT listening to the Google Maps directions and just trying to follow maps. Google wanted me to take a bus, and I couldn't find the bus stop to go to (there are several bays all over the campus), so I just started to walk in the direction I thought it was. Turned out to be a good thing, as the campus was pretty and there was a great look-out that I would have missed if I had taken a bus.
Once inside, I tagged along a group tour that had already started, and listened in on the guide's explanations of the totem poles, and the importance of the potlatch in the First Nations cultures, and how and why it was banned by the Canadian government. I don't want to simplify the explanation, but the gist of it is that the potlatch was a way of bonding for the people, sharing of resources, communicating stories and events, and establishing social order. The Canadian government, as it was with all colonizing powers, wanted them to assimilate, and it became illegal to hold potlatches. Only recently has that ban been lifted.
This museum not only had artifacts from the past, but there were contributions from native people who are living today. There is a controversy about whether or not they belong in a museum, as they are very sacred. The guide said she could not tell the stories that were carried in the totems because they are only to be shared among their own people. Those who felt that the museum would be a place of preservation, contributed their work for display. Here is a piece that is covered, in an attempt to reconcile the conflict, to educate the public that not everything is meant to be seen.
The museum had artifacts from native people from all over the world. Much of the collection was in drawers that you could pull out to explore. But the museum also had modern exhibits, such as one of Afro-Cuban art, and of indigenous youth art from different countries.
One of the highlights of the museum is the Bill Reid Rotunda, which has as its centerpiece a large sculpture, the Raven and the First Men by this beloved Canadian artist. The guide was able to tell us this story, as she was given permission by Bill Reid to share this origin story of his people. The first people are seen inside the clam shell and the story goes that the Raven encouraged them to come out.
On the grounds there are more totems, and a house.
From here, I made it to the tail end of Word Vancouver at the Vancouver Public Library. I caught this act, a rapper/poet duo, Kalvonix and Big Love, with positive messages to share. You can see on the banner that it says: A Free Festival of Reading and Writing. There was so much here: poetry readings on a bus, calligraphy, book sales, chapbook readings, drama. What a great event to end my stay in Vancouver and I found it by chance - by READING a sign at a bus stop.
I went to the Gastown District for my last meal. I settled on this Peruvian restaurant, and then went to Trees Organic cafe right next door, which advertised having the best cheesecake in Vancouver. By chance, I came across the Gastown Steam Clock, which I found out later, was a tourist attraction.
At this point, I had spent all the Canadian money I had converted, and only had coins left. I used my credit card most of the time here. There were beggars and musicians using the streets to make a living, and I decided I would give my change to musicians. The first one I found was this violinist, playing beautifully near Robson Street, AND he had a dog. I wish I had given him all of my change, in retrospect, because I did not find many after that. Next time I come, I will have dollar coins in my pockets, and give to them whenever I come across ones that I like.
And that was Vancouver. This was a very nice city with great public transportation, parks, scenery, very multi-cultural. Of course I would love a city that has a festival celebrating Words! I hope to be back soon.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.