Our North American Trip - August and September 2006.
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Trip Report for Alaska, Canada & USA Trip – Week 5:    16 – 21 Sep 06
Randle - Vancouver

(This will be updated as and when the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could be a bit disorganised at times!!)

Saturday, 16 September 2006
Rain initially then cloudy and fine for the rest of the day – temp for today got up to 20 deg C today. 

After breakfast at the B&B we and the two other couples (Shaws and the Dearsleys) all departed our separate ways now that the Rotary Exchange visit has finished. 

As we drove from Randall to Tacoma to view the Tacoma Narrows Bridge we stopped at Elbe when we noticed some old railway carriages and steam engines not realising a steam train was also due to arrive soon.  It was the Mt Rainer Scenic Railway – we watched them change the engine from one end to the other so it could go in the other direction – it was neat to come across this area and got some great photos of the train steaming up getting ready to go again.

Further down the road was a fruit stall so we stopped and bought some yellow and white flesh nectarines – yummy. 

We joined highway 5, then turned off toward Tacoma to view the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge - some time before we approached there was continuous road works as a new motorway extension was under construction - we soon realised why - they are also in the process of building a new bridge alongside the existing Narrows Bridge and new toll booths.  As we started to drive over the bridge A had her camera clicking non stop – Graham being an engineer has a passion for how large bridges have been constructed – this one was a great example.  Once across the bridge we called into historic Gig Harbour – a pretty little place with a harbour inlet.

Early afternoon we called into The Boeing Museum of Flight (situated in amongst Boeing plants and airfields) – walked over the road to where several large aeroplanes were and had a walk through the inside of a British Airways Concorde – very narrow inside with two seats either side.  The space for crew to work was very limited.  Also had walk through the first Air Force One, a 707 that Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon used to use – much more roomy inside – it had heaps of room with special room for sending communications, a bed, plenty of spacious seating and very roomy seats for crew.   We also saw many older planes, American fighters and bombers, first space shuttle, etc.  It was a very interesting place to visit and glad we had the time to visit.

We left the Museum of Flight soon after 4pm and drove Back onto highway 5 to navigate our way through Seattle with lots of concentration, even though we had ‘Wendy’ our GPS – what a huge city (evidently it doesn’t have any rail transport system, hence all the motorways everywhere).  We struck quite a few crawling pace areas on the motorway north so it took longer than anticipated to get to Anacortes – arrived at 6pm.  We were met by Dick and Tammy who we are staying with for the next two nights.  Anacortes is a very pretty city of approx 14,000 is on Fidalgo Island half way between Seattle and Vancouver. 

Tammy cooked a lovely meal and we were pleased to be off to bed slightly earlier than we have been for the last two weeks.


Sunday, 17 September
Cloudy all day with the odd light shower – temp up to 15 deg C.

We had a slower start to the day today – had a good lie in and caught up on photos, diary and washing 

Dick took us for a tour of Anacortes, showed us the ‘ugly house’, and managed to get into a gallery to view some of Tammy’s coloured glass artwork - she makes wonderful layered coloured glass plates and lampshades – her work is outstanding.  We then drove through and stopped at a view point in Washington Park (dead tree above harbour), drove to Deception Pass and over the two bridges (these two bridges are joined by an island in the middle – these bridges are the only access to and from Whidby Island) – we stopped and walked over one of the two bridges, then drove to La Connor – a delightful small village that has lots of people in the weekends, hence the shops cater for this type of crowd eg, quite a few galleries, woodwork shops, art / craft shops, jewellery shops etc – the merchandise was of a very high standard which was impressive.

As we drove back we drove up to the lookout on Mt Erie (an Anacortes City Park) to get a view to the south/east then a view to the north/west out toward Washington Park.

In the evening we had a lovely meal out with Dick, Tammy and Steve (Tammy’s son).   


Monday, 18 September
Rain for most of the day with some fine intervals – temp up to 15 deg C.

After breakfast we packed up and departed Tammy and Dick’s place at Anacortes for Vancouver – we initially drove up the Chuckanut Drive (pretty scenery alongside the coast) – went through some road works that had a ‘Pilot Car follow me” taking every vehicle individually past the road works, before joining Highway 5 again.  Had to wait approx 30 minutes at the Canadian boarder and had no problem getting through – while waiting we had some fruit for lunch.

When we arrived in Vancouver we drove over the 3 lane “Lions Gate Bridge” to North Vancouver to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge – what an amazing place.  Learnt quickly that the bridge rocked best closer to each end – many people had difficulty walking across as it rocked.  While there we also walked around the Treetop Adventure walkway (suspended between many large Douglas Fir Trees) and the Cliff Hanger Walk (a boardwalk on the edge high above the river below).  I was very impressed with the delightful bush area in these tree shaded garden area.

We then drove up to Grouse Mountain to see if it was worth going up in the gondola, but unfortunately the mountain was covered in cloud so we didn’t take the ride today.  Near one of the gondola car parks there were four wolves pacing around a fenced off area – I kept my distance but Graham took some photos of them.  We then drove and found Sheena’s shop - it was really neat being able to have a look around her “At Home” shop after having so many comments made to us by the other Slow Travel people when we met for lunch three weeks ago.

While in the area we found a supermarket, bought some necessary items and some food for dinner (Italian sausages, chopped tomatoes with oregano, basil and garlic and some asparagus – we also managed to find some nice grain wholemeal bread – and it was delicious), we then drove back to the main part of Vancouver to check into our accommodation at the Sunset Inn & Suites – great to also have free lock up parking for the car.

It’s been great to catch up on several necessary e-mails and not have to go out and hunt for a restaurant for dinner.


Tuesday, 19 September
Fine cloudy day today - temp around 18 deg C.

After cereal and fruit at the apartment hotel we walked to the Robson and Georgia Street location (downtown Vancouver), into the Pacific Centre to find out how one could travel on the Sky Train system – no problem at all, just needed to use the automated ticket system.  We stopped for a coffee in Tim Horton (coffee shop similar to Starbucks) – to us it wasn’t brilliant.  While walking through one of the stores close by we noticed some of the plastic “Crocs” sandals that many Canadian and USA folk have been wearing - they swear by them and say they are very comfortable, but to us they look awful!

Walked down to “Canada Place” (Convention & Exhibition Centre) on the waterfront to get a great view of the harbour, then back into the main station area, purchased a sky train ticket – inserted a $5 dollar note and hey presto out came a ticket and some change.  Walked down to the “Gastown” area to see the Steam Clock – really interesting, then back to catch the sky train out to the Patterson Station where Janie (one of our Slow Travel friends in Vancouver) had arranged to collect us and take us to a chocolateir and lunch. 

As we got off the Sky Train Graham noticed the trains didn’t have a driver and they ran every 2-3 minutes, so the service was very good.  Janie met us and drove us to Vancouver north to the Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates and Patisserie for lunch.  Lunch was so delicious – we had some super sandwiches, iced mochachino & lattes followed by desert – yummy, so nice.  G had a Chocolate Raspberry desert and A had a Lemon Lemon tart & Janie had a pear, nectarine & grape pastry – they weren’t sweet so were very enjoyable.  Many $ were also spent on chocolates.  G asked for a hot chocolate and was asked if he wanted 62% or 72% chocolate – yep he had 72% and it was so chocolaty without being sweet – he’s never had such a lovely hot chocolate ever before.  A asked if she could take a photo of the chocolates from behind the counter and if she could take a photo of Thomas Hass (the chocolate maker owner) as well – they were all so obliging and helpful. 

28,000 calories later ... we left Thomas Haas and Janie dropped us off at Lonsdale Quay to have a look at the market and then catch the Seabus across the harbour to the waterfront station at downtown Vancouver, then walked back to the Sunset Inn & Suites passing some really nice older homes, caught up on diary info and downloaded our photos for the day.  We had one of our most enjoyable afternoons on the trip.

Early evening we walked down to Sunset Beach Park then walked along the Seawall Promenade to English Bay to find a restaurant that had been highly recommended to us, as we approached English Bay we noticed up on top of a tall apartment tower there was a large tree growing – amazing stuff.  By the time we found the restaurant in Denman Street it was fully booked, so went across the road to the Pacific Crab Co Oyster Bar and Grill and between us we had oysters, seafood chowder and half a lobster, and a glass of Californian Zinfandel each.  The view from the restaurant out across the harbour was delightful as there were several large ships anchored out there. Before we left we went back to the RaincCity Grill to make a booking for tomorrow night. 

After dinner we bought Gelatos then walked back to our accommodation.


Wednesday, 20 September
Rained all day with some very low cloud - temp around 11 deg C.

After cereal and fruit at the apartment hotel G updated our website, we then walked in the rain down to Pacific Boulevard to catch the Hop-on Hop-off bus.  We stayed on the bus for a full circle around Vancouver city then got off at Granville Island to find the Dockside Restaurant to have lunch, as we had both gradually got colder and colder sitting on the bus for 2 hrs.  Lunch was great – A had a red curry of muscles, clams and tofu while G had Halibut cheeks, coleslaw and chips. 

After lunch we walked along to the fresh market – A had heaps of withdrawal symptoms with not being able to purchase any of the superb looking fresh fruit, fish and whole salmon, meat, bread, olives and flowers etc.

Late afternoon we caught one of the tiny False Creek ferries back to Sunset Beach so we could walk through the park and up the road to our accommodation.

Early evening we walked in the rain to the “Raincity Grill” at 1193 Denman Street, English Bay as we had made a booking to have dinner there tonight, as we had been recommended it by Andy Perdue of Kennewick as he’s a local wine expert.  Well the restaurant was truly up to it’s recommendation – the meal tonight would be the best meal we have had on our trip so far.  We shared a starter:  Duck proscuitto, pickled sea asparagus, and ‘Tiger Blue’ cheese.  We both had the same main of Med/rare duck breast with apricot and ricotta tart, green beans and marjoram preserved apricot and apricot jus – it was divine.  We each also had a glass of Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir.  Simon – for your info their website is:  www.raincitygrill.com.

 After dinner we hopped on a bus at English Bay to get back to our accommodation – the driver kindly suggested (wink wink) we keep hunting for the correct change and if we didn’t manage to find it before we needed to get off then don't worry about it!!  Ooops we understood where he was coming from. 

Here’s hoping it will be fine tomorrow as it’s our last day in Vancouver, before we go to Vancouver Island. 


Thursday, 21 September
Fine cloudy day in Vancouver - temp around 14 deg C.

After breakfast we drove to Grouse Mountain and caught the Skyride (can carry 100 people) up to the top, had a coffee and something to eat (would be one of the only morning coffees we have had on the trip!).  Unfortunately the cloud was still quite low on the mountain so we missed out on getting any overall views from it of Vancouver city, but up top it cleared from time to time allowing us to walk around on some of the tracks to view the Grizzly Bears at the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife (we were able to get very close to them so watched them for ages as they had just been fed) and the Blue Grouse Lake – it had some wonderful reflections. 

On the way back down the mountain we noticed a helicopter and another skyride gondola, both hovering in one place for some time, eventually the helicopter landed in the upper car park.  Once back on the ground Graham went over to where many large trucks were and was told that they were filming a Bank of Scotland advert which involved a Vulture terrorising passengers trapped in a gondola – they were using a trained Vulture for the bird shots and the helicopter was providing the view as seen by the vulture – would be good to see the advert sometime!

We then drove across the Lion Gate Bridge (just noticed it has a lion at each side at the entrance onto the bridge – the bridge was built in the 1930’s by the Guinness (of beer fame) family and turned off to drive through part of Stanley Park, stopped at Prospect Point, then at English Bay (where we had dinner last night).  We then drove back to our accommodation, parked the car and made lunch in our apartment. 

After lunch we walked to downtown Vancouver to take the elevator up on the outside of the Harbour City Tower to get to the Vancouver Lookout – the views around the city were great and Graham did exceptionally well to stay up the top for as long as he did.  The glass at the top slopes outward so people are not able to so easily feel they are looking down a sheer drop, the slope of the glass also made it easy to take good photos from up there as well (we also noticed they periodically go round and clean the inside of the windows).

We walked to the Yaletown area, passing the city Library (two buildings with curved walls that complement each other), but didn’t find Yaletown particularly impressive so walked to Davie Street nearby our apartment hotel and had a meal at Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Tavern (we have watched the back of this with fascination during the last three days as heaps of people seem to come and go – crowds of people wait outside it each evening to eat there and it also appeared full when we walked passed it this afternoon around 2pm).  We arrived around 5.20pm and had to join a small queue to get in – when we left the queue was really long.  Their meals are quite large and most meals appear to have rice with them – quite a number of Asian people seem to eat there.  After our meal we walked along the road to a Gelato shop and had gelato each – Belgium Chocolate for G (what else would you expect) and Fruits of the Forest for A – yummy!

We have thoroughly enjoyed the Vancouver landscape with its harbour and mountain close by and that we have stayed in one place for four continuous days, as that’s made it more relaxing for us; and we have walked a lot around the city.  We have found Vancouver very easy to drive through and find our way around; the people have been very friendly and helpful.  We have been fascinated with the amount of shrubs and trees growing on different outer levels and top floors of many apartment and other city buildings, also lots of trees on the sides of busy central city streets.

Home to pack to leave Vancouver for Vancouver Island on one of the vehicular ferries in the morning.