Thursday, January 15, 2009

Vancouver, eh?

On to the downtown customs office... Located at 333 Dunsmuir Street, or halfway to being ominous. It rained in Vancouver on Tuesday, so umbrella or not, I was a little wet by the time I got there. Juan called to say she was running late because of the rain - I didn't bother asking why, but another 10 minutes passed, and she arrived. I had my precious Carnet de Passage and we had a Canadian customs agent to speak with, who was a little excited because he hadn't done a carnet import in a while. And then he proceeded to stamp the carnet in all the right places, talk to some people, write a few things, and promptly hand the carnet back to me along with a sheet of instructions for how to pick up the car... I mean, really? I was all geared up for this to be harder somehow. Well, no complaints, but we are not there yet - have to call the lot to schedule the pickup. I call, speak to a frienly lady named Gloria and she tells me... that the two snowstorms, Vancouver has just had, dumped more snow than they know how to deal with, so my car us buried in their lot and will not be available until Friday. But, but, I need the car before then? Can I come by your lot and help you shovel the snow? Please? No, you may not. Well, it was clearly going to be too easy if I could just go and get the car, so I, all of a sudden, had two extra days to go sight seeing in Vancouver.

Early January isn't exactly peak tourist season in Vancouver, so my hostel (seemingly populated exclusively by the Aussies and the Irish) had no trouble letting me stay a couple more nights. Wednesday was your standard dreary, cold, depressing January day in the Pacific Northwest, so I grabbed my umbrella and headed off to play tourist at nearby Granville Island

Where I wondered through the market

And took a tour of the Granville brewery... which ended with a few beers, of course. (the lager they brew with White Chocolate is really good by the way)

Then I headed off to a bar nearby to watch a Duke basketball game... and have a couple more drinks. And in the evening, it was off on a pub crawl, courtesy of my hostel, with my newly found Irish and Aussie friends. Considering that I had ended Monday night with a pub crawl as well and Tuesday night at Yuk Yuk's, a comedy club (very funny, by the way - I recommend!), which also served drinks, I was starting to think Vancouver was turning me into a lush. Perhaps this explained why there were so many Aussies and Irish here... On a side note, I don't want to say Vancouver is seedy... but, well, the area around Davie St. where I was staying, is a little seedy. Well, not quite Sydney's King's Cross, Paris' Monmartre, Tokyo's Roppongi, or Bangkok's anywhere seedy, but let's put it this way: if the Guinness book of records has a category for most shops dealing in lingerie, exotic toys, and erotic videos per city block, this area of Vancouver would win hands down!

Thursday rolled around. Snow was clearly melting in the city - I tried calling Gloria in hopes of some confirmation that the car would, in fact, be released tomorrow. She didn't pick up the phone. Without much of anything else to do, I headed of for Stanley Park to play tourist for another day, figuring it might also be wise to stay away from pubs for a day. Arriving in Stanley Park held an unexpected surprise for me: it was still bitterly windy and cold, but not only was it not raining, the skies were actually considering clearing up:

Mountains still hiding behind a mist of clouds

A rather dramatic background behind a lighthouse at the corner of the park

One of the major attractions of Stanley Park is the collection of totem poles, coming from the native Indian tribes of British Columbia. I liked this one best...

Escaping from the bitterly cold open spaces of Stanley Park, I made my way further into town towards Canada Place. The weather turned downright pleasant as the day went on - my umbrella was actually starting to just become a nuisance...

North Vancouver, flanked by snowy mounntains across the bay. Whistler's in that direction too.

And the sails are part of Canada Place - a convention center (I believe) built for a World Expo hosted by Vancouver in 1986.

A port's a port - a bit reminiscent of Vladivostok, Russia and Yokohama, Japan, both on the other side of the Pacific.

Not far from Canada Place is the gaslamp district, which houses this steam-powered clock. Shhh... it's not actually steam-powered anymore... but it was at one point... and didn't keep time very well when it was...

Vancouver is, of course, set to host the 2010 winter Olympics, so I clearly have a knack for visiting cities prior to them hosting an Olympic event, as I've been to Athens in 2002 and Beijing just this past June. The Olympics bring a lot of construction going on full bore all over the city in each case. Combine that with Rome gearing up for the millenium celebrations when I was there in the summer of '99 and I've seen a lot of landmarks under construction. In Vancouver, it wasn't so much the landmarks under construction, as lots of brand new, shiny, glassy buildings going up all over the city:

I found this row of gleaming new towers oddly reminiscent of the ones Lott and I saw in the Berzengi district of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan last summer... Moving on...

I duly declined the invitations to go out for a few more drinks that evening and went to bed relatively early. A little before 7 Friday morning I was to be up and navigating my way along Vancouver's public transportation network towards the customs lot holding the mini hostage, in hopes of rescuing her and heading back down to Seattle!


b mathew said...

Can't wait to see the pic of the car. Or better, the car in person in Seattle!

Alex said...

Well, I apologize for the piece-meal nature of the posts, but there were a lot of pictures I wanted to post and didn't want to make one gigantic post, but now, there's a bunch of pictures of the mini all over the Pacific Northwest on here, and if you want to see her in person, you'll have to find Tina's house on the Eastside (and get into her garage... you should probably call Tina first...)