Sunday, 24 March 2013

Take a hike! (Cliff Park in Roberts Creek)

Having breakfast at 9am and wanting to have lunch before a ferry to Vancouver at 12:20 left us about one hour to go walking through Cliff Park. I had never been there and it was a pleasant surprise! A selection (not sure whether I was not awake, the camera was not awake, or if it was simply too dark to take sharp pictures):

The ferry back to Vancouver was uneventful. However, I was surprised at the number of walk-on passengers. And no, I could not resist the offer of the fabulous BC Ferries cake with Strawberry Sauce. It is the Strawberry sauce that always gets me ;-)  The previously ignored intercom message about Malaspina Coach bus tickets for sale for 10 minutes moved me to the counter, where the fact that they were $10 compared to the $2.75 from BC
Transit at first made me decline. When I had my cake and strawberries in hand in the cafeteria, I realized that I did not ask about their schedule and neither did I know the schedule of the BC Transit Express bus to Park Royal.  The information provided when I returned to the counter, namely that the bus was taking the same ferry that I was taking, i.e. the bus was 2 floors below me, made me happily pay the extra $7.25, since there would be no wait at all!  From Park Royal it was a 14 minute walk back to my motel.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

OMG! DO NOT miss this experience! (Floatplane to Sechelt)

All good things are three, the saying goes, and after the flight was postponed twice, it finally happened today.  I had had a gut feeling that spending an extra $60 for a plane instead of taking the ferry would somehow be a wise investment by producing beneficial results. Little did I know!  Regarding the monetary aspect, Denise reminded me after arriving in Roberts Creek that due to the "only pay one way" ticket system, the ferry back to Vancouver would be free ;-)

The bus over Lions Gate Bridge and the Skytrain to Vancouver Airport were still pretty routine. Even though I got the driver's seat in the driver-less Skytrain and instantly understood why Londoners refer to their Underground as the tube'.


Things started changing when I
boarded the Shuttle bus to the South Terminal.  The driver was young, but was 'old-school' Vancouver: calm, down to earth, and pleasant to talk to.  The Flying Beaver Pub at the Richmond Seaplane Terminal (i.e. the river) was a very pleasant surprise as well. The fabulous view and surroundings on can expect when sitting on a stilted structure at the banks of a river.  But a fabulous dish of mussels in chorizo/coconut sauce at a very very decent price were another surprise.

The security check was non-existing, a relief after I had told one of the security people at the main terminal once, after he used the words "It's OK, Sir" to try to guide me through those pylon&tape people-directing corridors with the words "No, it's not OK. I am not cattle!"

A certain amount of limberness is required
One of the hopes I had had when booking a flight to Sechelt was that it would be in a small plane, smaller than the 18 seater with two window and one middle seat per row that I had taken to Victoria around 10 years ago.
Grandpa would have loved this!
The young bearded  person guiding us along the pier to the floatplanes was another 'old-school' example. No hype, no iPhone juggling, no nonsense ;-)  Only split seconds before I put my finger in the air and screamed 'Me, Me!' in answer to the question of who would want to sit in the front next to him, did it dawn on me that this was the pilot. The first time I saw a cockpit was when I was travelling with my grandfather to Canada in a Jumbo Jet as they were called then at age 15. My grandfather went to the cockpit to ask whether I would be permitted to have a look inside. The request was granted. Hard to imagine these days!

While the other two passengers in the back were left to protect their hearing with supplied earplugs, I donned the offered pair of headphones hanging on the wall. Being the old-school type, they very effectively kept out the plane's noise and as an added bonus I got to listen in to the air-traffic control channel communicating with our and other pilots. After puttering along the river for a few minutes, we took off heading West.

I instantly was reminded of the joys and odd side effects of 'real' flying.  In the cattle transports of commercial airlines all the passenger experiences is up, down, left turn, right turn, and some turbulence of hard to guess direction if one is unlucky.  In these little things, your butt or your gut tells you that you're going straight ahead but the plane is rotating about an axis extending vertically through your upper body. I'm sure there is a professional term for this (yaw?) but I don't experience it often enough to remember. Now imagine the above translation and rotation movements in all 3(6?) possible axes and directions.  Within small limits it actually is fun. Add to that views you can't get from the ground and you can't get from a commercial passenger plane. A selection:

Yes, that is how some digital cameras render propellers

The Red Baron cometh

The pilot pointed out two white islands just before Sechelt, one of which apparently is a popular hang-out for sea lions. It did not look like any were in attendance today, but when we came closer we saw that about 20 of them were present; just a bit hard to see because they were dry and thus a light colour. And I finally overcame another ESL hurdle: Every sea lion is a seal (pinniped), but not every seal is a sea lion ;-)

The landing in Purpoise Bay in Sechelt was one of those soft landings that you'd never think seaplanes are capable of. Hans, half of the owners of Stevens Creek Guest House (opening SOON) in Roberts Creek, was already waiting at the pier to pick me up.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Tour de Cherry II (Freeze-out)

It being sunny, I decided to check how much the cherry blossoms in East Vancouver had developed.  Short summary:  Cherry blossoms haven't done anything and a freezing NorthWest wind reminds me that I should have taken my cycling gloves.  At Knight and 54th I cut the trip short and cycle all the way to Burrard and West Georgia (mostly downhill ;-)  My fingers are still semi-frozen, so here are a few visual impressions of that trip with few words:

Finally! Someone who does not own a noisy lawnmower.

memories of childhood

Remnants of a once beautiful city


What is it saying?

But tell me, where do the children play? (actually a photo shoot ;-)

Can't afford a condo?  We have enough bridges!
Parasols in the land of shadows

.... and to life in eternal darkness I condemn thee!

There's a man with a gun over there; telling me I've got to beware

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Happy New Year (or Spring is here)

Spring arrived at 4am this morning (Grandma apparently was awake to welcome it) and with it came the Persian New Year.  When I walked the 200 meters to lunch at Pho Japolo, I got the feeling that Persians know something that most of the rest of us do not. Even though according to the hourly forecast I should have been walking through rain, it really felt like a different year and walking in shorts and a T-shirt I greedily soaked up the warm sunshine. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Morning exercise (or Fernweh or die Bruecke ruft)

There really is no excuse not to do this every morning on non-torrential days:  Lions-Gate Bridge is right at my door step, and judging by the huffing and puffing displayed on my way up the span, I can use the exercise.  It also is a very scenic spot (visually that is, I could live without the bridge shake and noise caused by private transport automobiles.

This way to Hiroshima

But another reason that keeps driving me up the bridge is Fernweh, or the yearning for far-away places (There are some feelings that the German language is perfect for). Horizons and ships passing under the bridge heading to unknown destinations usually re-awaken that feeling.  A snap-decision airline-ticket purchase can't be far away ;-)

Catch a ride to China?

Bon Apetite (If you're close to Renfrew & 1st in Vancouver)

Google Maps says it's called '1st Avenue Cafe' but I seem to remember differently from their door. I will check again next time I am there.  This is one of the restaurants I actually go out of my way for to eat here.
Not sure when they open, but they close early, probably around 2 or 3 pm.

This is the chicken curry with vegetables dish. In contrast to other restaurants, the word vegetables here actually comprises more than onions and green peppers, which must be the cheapest. Here you not only get the veggies; I love their incarnation of curry. Add to that the fact that the friendly Asian owner remembered me after my second visit, and I know I found another good one.

Two doors the street is a store. Well, maybe it's a store, I'm not really sure. It has a window and stuff inside, but I've never seen a human being inside. Neither does it have posted opening hours. Just one of life's mysteries ;-) 

Not sure whether this is Buddha or Joda, or the fine product of their unholy union ;-)

Monday, 18 March 2013

Ever over-cracked your nuts? (or The right tool for the right job)

Grandma's kitchen, being the kitchen of a 'proper' home, contains a device for any imaginable job. Her eyebrows raise every time I drink wine from a water glass, because she has crystal glasses for white wine, glasses for red wine, glasses for Sherry, glasses for champagne, etc etc. It does not stop there, there are escargot forks, fish knives and a lot of stuff I have no idea what it's for.  An ironic moment came when I took her to Lonsdale Quai Market where we discovered that a well-known and rather expensive European glass manufacturer now sells glasses for Chardonnay and different glasses for Pinot Gris (Spare me the Grigio, it's just Italian for the same grape!).  When I pointed this out, Grandma was rightfully outraged at the greed of the manufacturer and the gullibility of the consumer, without even thinking about her kitchen menagerie. In my humble opinion, manufacturer's greed or gullible consumers are far outdone by the nouveau riche attitude of showing off one's wealth with mindless trinkets.  Of course this only works with people that do not have a different glass for everything.  And not even with yours truly, who carries around a Ballard Power Systems advertising mug for everything ;-)
After this long rant, we come to the crux of the matter. The domestic Nut Cracker (And I don't mean a certain type of partner).  It doesn't even matter which fancy design is present in your kitchen, all of them have failed me over the decades. Ever crack a walnut and then carefully pick out small edible nut fragments from small painful shell fragments?  Then you know what I'm talking about.  The picture below shows a nut cracker that is present in almost every house, and which does not suffer from nut-pulverizing rage, due to the adjustable jaw width (I find one setting works for all walnuts). I used this for half a year now, and tiny-pieces nuts were a problem only on the first day when I was trying to find the right setting.
The right tool for the job!

And yes: If Chris ever gets a fixed home again, this will be found in one of the kitchen drawers ;-)

Tour de Cherry Blossom (Location Scouting)

It was supposed to be more than location scouting, but the cherry blossoms around ~55th between Cambie and Victoria are either a different species from the ones on Comox Street downtown or the climate up there is noticeably colder, because a total of 5 to 7  trees were in bloom, while the remaining ones are only getting ready.
Having obtained a list of cherishable streets from the internet, I took the bike on the bus over Lions Gate Bridge, the Skytrain to 49th and Cambie and headed East. A note on the Skytrain Station on 49th Avenue.  Why didn't anyone send the person(s) who came up with the elevator layout, which requires a handicapped, post-pregnant, or cycling passenger to take three (3!) elevators to get to street level, back to undergraduate studies?
The first highlight was close by.  Quite a lot of trees that were not in bloom yet should make this a very nice spot in a couple of weeks. The sky view unfailingly reminds me of God's hand reaching down to Adam in the Sistine Chapel.

My stomach reported back not long after.  This is where I went. The $9.99 Goat Biryani was fabulous and was much larger than it photographed and even though the brewers of this Cola apparently can't spell, they brew great Cola.

The next spot showed its potential for the coming weeks.  A couple of blocks further, these smaller trees caught my attention.  Looking at the stem morphology , these might actually be cherries! Just how they survived the winter unmolested by birds is beyond me.

Then it went on to Fraserview Park. This is where Vancouver still feels like Vancouver!  At the intersection of Stirling and Bonnyvale I finally realized what had been troubling me. That noise, or better the absence thereof.  I listened for 2 minutes and could not hear a single car, not even from far away. Try that anywhere else in Vancouver!  Fraserview Park boasts very fancy German-made exercise machines.  Fancy looking that is.

When I tried one out, I realized that they must have been ordered by fat office slobs, who couldn't be bothered to see whether they are actually useable (the machines that is, not the slobs. Slobs are never useable).  The gentle back-and-forth swinging of one's feet in the contraption would only be called exercise by seniors, but unfortunately the steps are so high that seniors probably will have a very hard time getting up there. Or is that the intended exercise?  Thankfully, close by a cherry tree close to full bloom reminded me of the purpose of this trip.
And this is also the area where it is supposed to be happening. Duff Street runs South-North between Brigadoon and 54th Avenue and from the two ends one can see either Richmond/Fraser or the North Shore mountains framed by ~ 5 blocks of pink, if one arrives at the right time. We shall see.

 I cycled downhill from Gladstone and 54th Avenue to Renfrew and 1st, where renewed stomach activity necessitated spending $3.11 at MacDonald's (unfortunately no Burger King in sight), and then the Millenium and Expo lines of the Skytrain delivered me back to Burrard (It is always a joy to enter a skytrain when the crowds are flocking to a Hockey Game. If a Hockey Hero would enter, they'd lick even the most calloused toe, but if someone actually exercising tries to get a bicycle into a half-full skytrain, they can't even move a cheek by 20 cms without grimacing. Go figure!) Back on the bus to North Vancouver, I finally witnessed the first other human beside myself that has realized and was using the convenience of bicycles on buses.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Drop everything you are doing (Cherry Blossoms are here)

 FLASH UPDATE: 2 days of sun!  Cherry blossoms are out!  Get your bike, get your feet, and go cherish!
This website lists quite a few of promising target streets in Vancouver. END UPDATE.

Two days ago I was driving down Nanaimo Street, when something seemed not to compute. Something about the trees just was not right.  After first realizing what it was, I had to double check:  there were small pink flower buds on some trees.  Cherry Blossoms!  These tiny things have managed again to announce that the days of the inhuman Vancouver winter weather are numbered (at least for this year).
Just a few more days!

Until two years ago I never realized why Japanese people go cookoo about these.  Until I cycled down a street with cherry trees in full bloom and stopped looking at the road and looked up instead and let the white-painted branches pass in front of a dark blue sky.  Try that!  Not necessarily on a bicycle, walking may work, but try it.  A life-changing experience ;-)   Others say that standing in a blizzard of white petals is a thing one should experience in one's lifetime.  This year, Vancouver will have to do for cherry blossoms, but at some point I hope to attend Cherry Blossom Festival in Hiroshima, which somehow seems to me a fitting place to experience it.

This panorama was pilfered from Wikipedia and yes, that domy structure just left of centre is the ONLY structure in that other picture we all wish we never had to see.

I hope to get some nice cherry blossom pictures in the following weeks, which will appear in following posts. The ones included here are from somewhere around Comox Street (I always get lost in the West End) from March 16th.
And I'm learning my lesson again. These buggers are fiendishly hard to photograph! Gotta learn quickly, cause they'll be gone soon.

2 out of 15?

The Empire-Cherry Blossom- Landmark

I stole the picture below from Idham Ssi's blog and I believe that is her in the picture. I believe she is from Indonesia and encountered these cherry blossoms in South Korea, but I am not sure of all that because I do not speak the language used in the blog.