Thursday, 31 October 2013

Do you like Thai? (Sweet Basil Restaurant, North Vancouver)

Today is Halloween and since it is also getting dark outside earlier, I dug out some old lithium batteries and some 12V neon tubes I had bought on eBay years ago, and jazzed up Le Velo ;-!

With the weather turning colder, my body is telling me to feed it some hot spicy food.

After some searching and asking, I finally found the Sweet Basil Restaurant on Marine Drive in North Van.  Hint:  It's situated on one edge of the Save-on-Foods parking lot, and not actually on Marine Drive, as Google Maps would have you believe.
I get my first good impression, when the waitress (probably owner) asks me at 4:52 pm whether I would like to order from the lunch special menu or would like something bigger. No up-selling pressure here!
Wine is not on the menu (definitely no white wine, and after the lady had thought for 30 seconds about whether they have red wine, I had mercy and asked her what kinds of beer they sell ;-)
I ordered a green curry Basa (real fish,not the cheap mixed seafood) from the lunch special menu and while I am typing this i am sipping from a glass containing Singha beer. (After the list of beers had commenced with 'we have the local beers: Kokanee ... and Thai beer' I instantly requested a Thai beer and I am glad I did ;-)

The food arrives and looks great, except for the Broccoli in the curry bowl, which looks a bit odd.  The curry is very yummy but I suspect that it is westernized with more coconut milk and fewer spices. But that is my head talking, my stomach is perfectly happy ;-)

And I just figured out that Broccoli is a perfect conveyor of curry sauce.  Lots of sauce gets stuck in the top branches! Try that with a carrot ;-)

Since the weather will only getting colder and darker, I'm sure to be back here soon ;-)

The 'other side' of Vancouver (or Go West, middle-aged man!)

View from the WEST
And I'm not talking about something sinister (we'll leave that for another post ;-), but about the part of Vancouver situated west of Lions Gate Bridge, in particular West Vancouver.  Census Canada lists it as the richest community or postal code in all of Canada (The poorest is right across the bridge: The Downtown East-side).

If you ever GO WEST (Caution: Link to Village People ;-) along Marine Drive and somewhere west of Dundarave take a road up the hill looking for Highway 1 (you won't find it), you will get lost in a maze of streets.  If you get lost on the right streets, you will see houses like you've never seen before.  The words posh & decadent are much too weak to describe these mansions. You will also see quite a lot of women presumably from the Philippines standing at bus stops. In this regard, West Vancouver is very much like Hong Kong.  They seem to like their household staff to be from low-wage countries.

But there is another side.

When I went to Different Bikes on Ambleside (read posh!) to purchase one replacement hex bolt for the bike, I was looking at a racing bike for $12k (actually 'only' $11,999, and it looked VERY FAST) at one moment, but wasn't charged for 2 bolts the next moment. Thank you, Different Bikes !

Another nice thing about West Vancouver is that it is WEST of all the traffic. Given that the predominant winds in Vancouver come from the WEST, that means that West Vancouver only gets a fraction of the pollution that the rest of the city is inundated by (But given the STOOPID, slower-than-pedestrian-speed traffic jam that can be seen in Park Royal on a daily basis, West Vancouver deserves more of it ;-)

AND:  West Van has a pretty waterfront and nice views!

I could handle waking up to this view ;-)
View from the 11th floor; not my picture
Coincidentally, there was an apartment for rent in those numerous towers populated by tenants with numerous accumulated age years that provided exactly this view, but from the 11th floor instead of from sea level.  Even though the price for a 1 BR apartment was rather exorbitant, the Craigslist ad only lasted one day before it vanished. Lucky new tenant!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Capilano River (or smart seagulls again?)

On another one of my bicycle shopping trips (The butcher shop at the western end of old Park Royal has Leberkaese), I cycled over a bridge over the Capilano River and noticed something confusing out of the corner of my eyes.  I wasn't sure whether I had seen seagulls or rocks lining the river bed.

When I came to a stop and looked again, it turned out that it was both !

Could they be patiently waiting for freshly hatched salmon babies that are trying to make it to the ocean?


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Another Tour de Vancouver (or Byrne Creek Trail)

On today's agenda was a bike ride across Stanley Park, a Skytrain ride avec velo from Burrard Station to Edmonds Skytrain Station and a walk along the Byrne Creek Trail area in Burnaby with Chantal and my pseudo-nephew Mika.

Le Velo on Lions Gate Bridge

A fountain on the way downtown:  Seagulls like it !

Burrard Skytrain sation

Very close to Edmonds Skytrain station

Byrne Creek

These leaves on the ground ....

proved an irresistible temptation for Mika 

But using his mother as a helicopter pad was much more fun
On the way back, I took the Skytrain to 29th Ave station and then rode the bike from there back to North Vancouver.

Le Velo a Vancouver (or Thank you Nigel)

When I arrived back in Vancouver on October 4th, the bike had survived the airplane trip mostly undamaged.  I can't really blame Air Transat baggage handling facilities because the minor damage to a ball bearing in the steering head could have been prevented by packaging the bike differently in England.  Live and learn ;-(
But that damage wasn't the big issue. The big issue was that I still didn't have the bolt to re-attach my crank.  No bolt, no crank, no pedal, no bike !

All this changed Wednesday morning when Grandma phoned to tell me I had mail from England !  My mood instantly changed and I skipped breakfast to check out the package.  And indeed, it was the bolt I had been waiting for ! (Imagine the disappointment if the long-awaited package had contained the WRONG bolt). Half an hour later and the bike was ready to go for a test pedal up the hill and Grandma was there to watch.
Two pedal or no two pedal?

She seemed moderately impressed but after I showed her some of the bike's parts (battery, motor, brakes, etc etc) she only said 'Our generation was soo undemanding in our days'.   I refrained from pointing out that a) there were no e-bikes around at the time she was thinking of (1950, when she probably last rode a bicycle) and b) that her only mode of transportation at the age of 47 had an internal combustion engine, the use of which I will be able to eliminate with this bike on quite a few occasions, because for quite a while now I haven't seen bikes as exercise equipment that one carries to the area of deployment  by a car, but as a mode of transport in itself (which in a city proves to be superior to a car, no less).
A few days later in West Vancouver (2 pedals ;-)

And this last point was proved by semi-extreme measures on Friday night.  After a quick bike trip over Lions Gate Bridge and the outside road around Stanley Park had not tired me out but actually had woken me up more, I started at 9 pm on a 'wee' bike ride all along the North Shore to Second Narrows Bridge, over that bridge into East Vancouver, through downtown Vancouver to Lions Gate Bridge, and over Lions Gate back to North Vancouver. Google Maps says that was 26 kms.   After that trip I had no problems sleeping ;-)
Beach in West Van and UBC in the background

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A fall day (Vancouver looking pretty )

Fall is here.
At first I though this street in East Vancouver was the scene of a movie shoot, there were so many people with cameras standing on the street. But it turned out it was just passers-by stopping to take a pic of the foliage.
oh Canada ...
 In the afternoon, I was SO SICK of maneuvering my car through Vancouver nightmare traffic that I just dropped the car at the motel and switched for the bicycle. This decision was greatly influenced that the bloody fog had retreated a bit. Plus, not only would have the grocery shopping trip to West Vancouver taken at least twice the time in the car, I also would have not taken the scenic route and would have no pictures to show for it ;-)

Despite appearances,  I was sweating in my hoodie

Is that Lions Gate Bridge or Vikings out there ?

The roads are packed. The beaches are empty.  CRAZY CITY!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


For days now the weather forecast has called for sunny skies.  That in itself is a nice thing in Vancouver in October, when everyone waits for the winter monsoon to arrive.  Unfortunately 'Sunny skies' seems a bit like an exaggeration when one has been living in fog for days.  

This is actually 'good' because one can 'see' the sun

There also hasn't been any noticeable wind in Vancouver for days, so the fog is most likely not just pure water vapour but has some extra ingredients mixed into it ;-(

Since the whole experience reminds me a lot of the time before I got my reading glasses (Now not only the letters on a page are fuzzy, but the whole world has become a rather swampy mess without sharp contours), I decided to relocate temporarily to a fog-less part of Vancouver and get some sun at the same time.

And the plan worked better than expected. After some scratching my head why half of Vancouver drivers (in their mostly GREY cars) drive on a highway in dense fog without head or tail lights, I take the exit to Cypress Bowl and when I have gained about 50 meters altitude, the fog parts like a curtain and reveals blue skies and sunshine.

North Vancouver & Burnaby mountain peeking out


Saturday, 12 October 2013

A garden and a wee ride in a park

Contrary to what one may glean from previous posts, Vancouver is not all cars and roads. There are a few gorgeous spots, which is not to say that from those gorgeous spots one can't see, hear, and smell multitudes of cars. Careful! Thinking about how beautiful these spots could be in the absence of those sightings , sounds, and smells is a depressing activity.

A LARGE and SCULPTED vegetable (!) garden close to Hastings and Renfrew.

After living for a month on French breakfasts, it is not easy going back to regular fare.  But fortunately a Safeway in West Vancouver, which famously used to sell one (1) potato wrapped in plastic foil ready for the microwave for more than $3, has closed. In its place opened a store called Fresh Street Market.  The food is MUCH better and the prices are civilized (not only for West Vancouver ;-).  And a morning bike ride to pick up fresh bread is nothing to sneeze at either.

Especially if the following sights await along the bike route ;-)

Friday, 11 October 2013

Good old Correos de Cuba

Two postcards reached Germany a month ago.  Apparently I am the sender.  The postcards are from Cuba.
One postcard reached Vancouver today.   Again I am the sender.  The postcard is from Cuba.

Before anyone gets the idea that I am spending my days in sunnier climes: Those postcards were written and entrusted to the hotel by me in January 2013.

Delivery or Nothing ! (Sorry Che ;-)

p.s.:  Still no sign of the cards mailed in March of 2012, though ;-(

Monday, 7 October 2013

DIY (or how to deal with an annoying X61 CPU fan)

Sometime in the spring, I bought a used, refurbished (?) laptop from a private source in Vancouver.  The price was definitely right. The little beauty below, with a matching docking station, and with Windows 7 Pro & Microsoft Office 2007 installed cost me $340 without having to add taxes to that.

not my picture

Then this laptop accompanied me on this summer's bike & foot tour through Ireland, Germany & France, and again on the trip through England, sometimes in a backpack, sometimes in a saddle bag, but never treated like a sensitive piece of high-tech equipment should be treated.

Either some French bread crumbs found their way into the fan cage or some of France's bike routes were a bit too shaky, because at some point the cooling fan in the computer started making noises.  Not just regular noises, but noises that a fan would make if it was subjected to water-boarding in Guantanamo !  This fan sounded like it was suffering !  And it was getting worse over time.  For a while now I had planned to take it into a shop to have them do something about the fan, but other things always claimed priority.

But today I finally made some time to go to a computer store (Frontier PC) and have the fan replaced.  Firstly I have 3 computers on my motel desk and secondly, I have a rather large translation to do, which could benefit from a quiet fan ;-)

The very polite and empathizing service employee informed me that once the warranty had expired (no warranty for me having bought it used) the part (ordered directly from IBM) would be $200 and the cost of the labour to install it would be $85. Add taxes to that and you're over $300.  WOW.
not my picture
Since I only paid that much for the entire laptop WITH software installed, I respectfully declined their offer and took my laptop with me.  Not expecting much luck, I caught up with my usual routine of checking Ebay before visiting any brick-and-mortar store.  And what do I find? A fan for my laptop, of course.  Shipping free. Cost of fan:  $4.32.   I just saved $195.68 + tax !  Next step:  A Google search for "X61 fan". There is two Youtube videos on how to replace the fan, but I prefer THIS step-by-step picture instruction page.  Since I'm quite good with my fingers and a screwdriver (+ Reading Glasses lately), I just saved another $85 + tax.   

At least in theory. The practical part will have to wait until after I burn all my relevant and important files to DVD (in particular the pictures of my travels on which this laptop accompanied me)

This post will be updated from time to time on how this newest project of mine proceeds.

October 8:  A new fan has been ordered on EBay.
October 31:  A package containing the new fan arrived from Singapore.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Vancouver is AMAZING (read the small print and between the lines)

and the smallprint is: on a drizzly Saturday morning at 6 am.

The air seems fresh, the sky is not obscured by clouds of exhaust fumes, the roads are EMPTY of cars and people, no honking or swearing is to be heard, one's mind does not have to work overtime in order to avoid ignant drivers and one actually gets to where one wants to go extremely quickly, Superstore is OPEN at 6 am, and there is ZERO wait at the one open cashier isle.

not my picture
A very nice change from yesterday afternoon, when my plane landed on time at 2:20 pm at YVR. The airport experience was a bit odd:   I got through passport control within 1 minute of reaching the end of the queue (unheard of), despite having FOLDED the CUSTOMS DECLARATION form, despite the EXPLICIT warning 'DO NOT FOLD'.  Has anyone else noticed that countries all over the world have managed to publish these stupid forms in a format that easily FITS INTO a PASSPORT, thus eliminating the constant irritation of FORM FOLDERS like me?  I mean, come on guys and gals, clue in.  People are coming out of a plane with their hands full of luggage and still manage to show their passport. So where the heck are they supposed to carry the LARGE FORM unfolded?  In their mouth?

I had to pay for the rapid passport control by waiting a not exorbitant amount of time for my bicycle and my saddle bags.  Customs did not chose to drive me 3/4 of the way to insanity with cunning trip- or trick questions that would not fool my 5.5 year old pseudo-nephew Mika.  But the lovely young lady that did that to me last year was actually one of the two people deciding on whom they should pick on today.  You can imagine how delighted I was to see her again.

not my picture
Anyhoo, my rather large bicycle box was sitting sideways on my luggage trolley, because otherwise it would fall down down in the front.  Some Giant of Gray Matter at Customs had decided to narrow the permanently installed guide-posted way passing customs using these lovely silvery posts with the tape between them. Now, the permanently installed guide posts would have presented no problem for me and my bicycle.  But the added cattle coral fencing did.  So I pointed out politely to the two customs amazons the obvious:  "I don't think I'll fit through there!"  Without a smile or word customs lady (the other one) moves one of the poles.  Now I fit through this former tight spot but not through the one that is formed by the next cattle fencing pole. And this was rather obvious.  For a split second I thought about inquiring with the guardian of our country again whether she would move the other pole as well, but she seemed rather occupied with giving the people behind me a visual third degree, so I just used my cart as a bulldozer and cleared the last pole out of the path.  Welcome to Canada !

I cleared the terminal building at almost exactly 3 pm. When one leaves the arrival area there is a person with a whistle directing taxi & pedestrian traffic right.  I had often regarded these people with a skeptical look, especially the ones that use the whistle like a symphony orchestra director uses his baton.  But today I was surprised: The whistle blower on duty today saw me approaching with my loaded cart and grasped two things immediately:  1) I would not fit through the cattle gates erected for other prospective taxi customers and 2) that a regular-size taxi probably would not do on account of the size of the bicycle box. So he immediately instructed me to wait at the mail box (smokers know where the mail box is: RIGHT OUTSIDE the sliding doors ;-) and with much whistling directed an oversize taxi cab to me.  THANK YOU !!  Someone was thinking !!!   Now why does this guy not work for Canada Customs ?   I think it is because directing the traffic is a much more important job and his one-person actions probably save more lives and prevent more injuries than of those of all the customs people inside the airport combined.

not my picture
Vancouver traffic at 3 pm was astonishing.  I had thought that as soon as tourist season was over things would quiet down again.  Boy was I wrong !  Even directing the cab driver along some of my 'sneaky' routes did not help and we got stuck a few times.  In honour of cab drivers: It is not only their fault that a taxi ride that used to cost $25 20 years ago now costs $80.  There is a lot of traffic that drastically slows them down!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Le Velo is flying (and It's hard work not to be greedy)

I escaped the abyss of Greed that is called the Marriott Hotel (more on that further downh), took a shuttle bus to the terminal (the bus didn't have a low-level luggage compartment, so I had to drag the bike into the actual passenger area), found the Air Transat counter, where the box was weighed (Considering the fact that it is an electric bike, it is very surprising that at 27.5 kg it came in well below the allowed 32 kg), paid for the conveyance of the bike (the 20 pounds I paid is slightly more than the CDN$ 30 advertised by Air Transat on their website), and then watched in horror as the box and my saddle bags were swallowed by the wide-open mouth of the X-ray machine at the over-sized luggage counter.

My original peevement of seeing another Air Transat customer actually riding his bike to the airport and after deflating his tires and turning his handlebar sideways being handed an oversize plastic bag by Air Transat staff abated at the oversize luggage counter, when Mr. Shortcut was instructed to remove his wheels etc etc, while I just shoved the box on the conveyor.  But something to keep in mind, that would save another two cab/shuttle fees.

Coming back to the subject of Greed and the Marriott:  What I paid for the room in a major hotel chain right at the terminal, I thought that it was suspiciously cheap:  73 pounds (not cheap, but it is a 10 minute walk from the terminal; just not with a boxed bike).  When I entered the room I was greeted by a bottle of water and a sign :
Drink Me for 3.50 Pounds (Tell the receptionist if you don't drink me)
This actually backfired for them, me thinks. It put me in I'm-being-ripped-off mode.  Paying 12.99 pounds for 24 hours of internet didn't help matters much (I refused the offer to get internet AND access to ALL their porn movies on TV for 26 pounds).  It also made me reconsider having breakfast at the Marriot. The room did not include breakfast and they want 15 pounds for a continental breakfast.  Good thing I thought ahead. I am writing this post while sitting at a Whetherspoon pub at the airport, having just consumed an American Breakfast INCLUDING a glass of white wine (at 8:30 am ;-) for 11 pounds.   I must point out though that the staff at the Marriott was a shining example of helpfulness, kindness, and wit (The first thing the receptionist asked me this morning after he had stored the bike for me in a conference room yesterday was "Good Morning Sir. So did you see you cycle on E-Bay last night?)  More power to the Marriott employees, and good luck dealing with all that bad Karma to the management.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Plage du Sillon ( a visual ode to a beach)

It has taken forever to compose this post.  I only spent 3 days in St Malo this time, but there are 100s of gorgeous pictures and it was not easy to come up with a selection (still way too many pics).  I'll be adding some pictures while whittling away others. But it was time to post this. The winter rains are approaching ;-( 

On every day spent in St Malo, I go for walks along the beach as often as I can ;-) These pictures were taken on three (or four?) walks.

Just looking out of the window causes my feet to salivate for a taste of that sand and that water between their toes.
the view out the window at dawn

almost there ;-)

This walk starts with MERDE. Merde du chien, to be precise.  Someone insisted on taking their dog on this beach and did not clean up after said dog.  Taking off one's sandals so one's toes can touch sand only to find out that one's sandals, which one carries under one's arm, let off a whiff of MERDE DU CHIEN, is not a good way to start a beach walk.  With much haste, I deposit the sandals on a wave-breaker post and hurry to the water's edge to SCRUB my arm and my T-shirt with salt-water and sea-sand as scouring pad.  Gotta get rid of that smell!
The above combo does leave one's skin bright red, but it does an amazing job of removing any trace of dog ;-)

these poles were not here in July !

OLD tree trunks rammed in the sand to break the waves

by the time I come back my shoes are almost afloat

The shadows are pointing North-East, so this must be noonish to early afternoon


Shadows pointing East: Evening

Again I left my sandals on one of the wave-breaking posts close to my hotel. This time the tide was further out, so I knew I had more time to walk before my shoes would become prey of the sea (or rather a victim of my stupidity;-)
comin' to get ya !

Now if I had held the camera straight ....

the moment is gone 


vive la France

tidal pool just before the wall (artificial; there is a concrete wall to the right of this ;-)

water everywhere?


Add caption

ce mouette ne parle que breton !

Even in the evening there are not many people on this beach

Different morning, same beach.  I could do this every day.  I REALLY WANT to do this EVERY DAY !

Has become a tradition: no shoes on the beach

It's getting crowded !

Just imagine the accompanying sound

Where's me other leg?  I swear I 'ad 2 of them yesterday !

Found it. It was still asleep.

Just kidding!

Something lives under the sand and 'excretes' these sand turds !

Didn't we see that guy without shoes yesterday?

Again: imagine the soundscape

Freak sunrise with building shadows

Does she see the Light?

The same ray of light from the hotel window

Does this person see the Light?

And later that afternoon:

I just can't get enough of these COLOURS !

Mika's Pirate Ship