Thursday, June 23 – Vancouver City Bus Tour

Today was our first serious day of sightseeing, and as is our tradition for a new city, we took the Hop-On Hop-off city bus tour. Tony & Greta Mostardo and Sten & Pat Bjernefalt are with us too, and first we all headed for breakfast at Breka Downtown, which was OK but the

Breakfast at Breka Downtown

Breakfast at Breka Downtown

quiche was too  dry. But the interesting thing was that at the checkout register the amount showing on the screen was $19.43. When she thought I was going to pay by cash she rounded it up, asking me for $19.45. It’s the first place I’ve heard of that doesn’t deal in pennies, and I thought it was great, and I told her so. The credit card bill was still $19.43.

We headed for the bus in a drizzle, and while the sides and top were transparent, as advertised, it was floppy plastic and the visibility was pretty poor. The good thing was that it was an English-only tour, and so

"Transparent" roof

“Transparent” roof

there was no need to use multi-language earphones. We soon went through Stanley Park which is billed as the largest urban park in the world. They have a world renowned Rose Garden but in view of the weather we didn’t see a rose. I wanted to get off at the aquarium to see the beluga whales and other sea creatures, but I got voted down. It was just as well, because the choice getting off in Chinatown worked out much better. Along the way we were told about the “story poles”, or totems, which were carved by the “first nation” of natives. We also saw replica of the Little Mermaid, duplicating the one in Copenhagen.

Vancouver has no freeways, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way, because the residents don’t want to see ribbons of concrete displacing what they have right now. We crossed over the Lion’s Gate Bridge built by the Guinness family make their personal travels through the city easier. They have since given the bridge to Vancouver.

I began to wonder how the recorded messages were timed so well to our locations. Was it the bus driver pressing a button to advance to the next segment, or what? The answer is that the message is controlled by bus location as determined by GPS. And sure enough, when we made a loop that caused us to go through the same point again, we heard the same message again! At one point there was a stop that included a Planetarium, Maritime Museum, and a History Museum, which seemed like a good choice, but nobody seemed inclined to get off, so on we went. We went through Yaletown which, at one point was a rough working-class neighborhood and now has become highly gentrified. Now they have Orpheum Theater which houses their orchestra, and the Vogue Theater which is the main venue for  big-name live entertainment.
In a storefront along the way I was surprised to see a full-size locomotive, just sitting in the window. It was Engine 374 which pulled the first train from East to the city, and marked a new phase in the development of Vancouver. I wish I had been fast enough with my camera.

We passed the Vancouver Library where



there was a “sculpture” which consisted of an illuminated sign: “THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE”. It’s not too clear what the message is, but it’s something to think about. (The picture is not too clear either. You’ll have to trust me,)

Vancouver history: In 1867 there wasn’t much here, but John Dayton built a saloon here anyway, with zero-pauroll labor because he paid them in booze. It was totally successful, and “Gassy Jack” (because he talked so much) became a local hero and the city developed from that point on. In 1886, of fire burned the city to the ground. Nothing was left. But the people immediately rebuilt the town.

We got off the bus at the Chinatown stop and headed immediately to the Flying Pig for

The Flying Pig

The Flying Pig

lunch. Sten had heard that it was a great place to eat, and so it was. Since nobody was displaying any symptoms  we had tastes all around, and everything was delicious. My lobster and prawn risotto was especially wonderful. I tried the local seasonal beer, their “Tricycle Rattler”. They told me it was grapefruit flavored, and so it was, and it was the most delicious beer I have ever tasted. A little sweet and not so sharp as regular beer. We all liked it, even Teresa, who has never liked beer,

The Steam Powered Clock

The Steam Powered Clock

We then rushed off just in time to see the 3 PM operation of Vancouver’s Steam Clock. Sure enough on the dot, steam began to come out of the top of the clock, and it began playing the big Ben notes like a deep throated calliope. The other evidence of steam was that there was a small single-cylinder steam engine in the lower portion presumably powering the clockworks.

By then it was time to board the bus and head for home. This time the bus had a roof that was actual glass and we could see clearly through it. (Of course it might have been because it was a bright and sunshiny day by now.) The side windows were still plastic but much clearer.Three PM in Vancouver. That’s a little steam engine,, powering the clock.

Our true glass roofed bus

Our true glass roofed bus

Since the bus ran only from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM I wondered how they could advertise themselves as a “24-Hour Tour”. The answer was that at whatever time you boarded the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus on the first day, you could board the bus up until the same time the next day, giving you a 24 hour window to board, even though the bus only runs from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. The next puzzle was that the tickets that we were given don’t show the boarding time! How could they verify our initial boarding time? The answer is that there is a QR code on the ticket and scanning the ticket with her machine gave her our boarding time as 11:22 AM, which was correct. She wasn’t scanning anybody’s ticket, though.

For Rent: The Olympic Cauldron

For Rent: The Olympic Cauldron

On the way home we passed by the four legged 2010 Winter Olympics torch. If you want to have an outdoor party around the torch you can rent it for four hours for $5000. I decided we would pass on that. Tony and Greta got off one stop early to do some shopping, while we headed home.

We had intended take a nap but instead we went for a swim and relaxed in the spa. We had a pleasant time with a lady from a city in northern Germany and her 14 year old who were here for two weeks in Vancouver, and were then headed for the Calgary Stampede. The spa was great too, 102° F, for sure, and strong jets.

Our 25th Anniversary at the Forage

Our 25th Anniversary at the Forage

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary, and we decided to dress up a little and Sten made 8 o’clock reservations for us at the nearby Forage restaurant, a place they had been to before. As much as possible, their food is locally sourced.  In Forage the dishes are served in turn, to be shared by all. We started with mushrooms, then a salad, followed by their specialty honey-flavored bread,, a bison entrée, and finally a duck entrée. It was all absolutely delicious. We decided to forgo the desserts though, and headed for D’oro, right across the street from the hotel, for gelato. Among us, the most popular flavor was rum raisin.

Robson Street

Robson Street

The Bjernefalts invited us up to their 19th floor room to see the view, which was spectacular. We stayed a while and then headed to bed.

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