Category Archives: Vancouver

Posts written in Vancouver

New York New York

Arrived in NYC around 9.30pm – first thing on the agenda was find some dinner! We had massive bags with us of course but hey, needs must. We ended up going to an Italian place called pizza village or something like that, cuz it was right outside the Port Authority bus station. Was a little intimidating arriving at night because there were hundreds of people out on the streets and we didn’t have a clue where we were going, also some weird Eastern European looking people were staring at me when I went inside the restaurant and some Brazilian guy (I think) started shouting at someone else for looking at him.. I dunno. You get the picture.

After dinner caught a cab to Phil’s place as couldn’t be assed to try and navigate the 17 blocks or so to his house (although turns out it really wasn’t that far away – every 10 blocks North/South is equivalent to 1 mile). Phil had already gone out with his housemates when I arrived but left a note and I was in bad need of a shower anyway! I found the bar they’d gone to in Greenwich Village after a couple of phonecalls. I tried to get some directions from some girls who looked straight out of sex and the city but they said, “sorry darling we can’t help you”. By the time I got to the bar though everyone was getting ready to move on. I guess it was already around 12.30 at that time and we were out celebrating someone’s birthday, apparently. Of course though the queues outside the clubs were ridiculous so we sacked off 2 places before eventually getting in somewhere. Sadly we had to go somewhere outside the ‘meatpackers’ district’, which I’d been told was the place to go, but we had no choice.. Drinks prices were ridiculously expensive – 2 drinks cost me $26 on my credit card with their automatic 20% gratuity.. Bugger. Phil’s friends were cool tho (although a lot of ppl left early), but one girl thought I was from Boston and started telling me all about how nice London is. Ha.

Next day we went to the Empire State building, pretty nice views and some cool historical info about what the city used to look like (lots of historical info dotted around the place). Took lots of photos, as ever. Then we went exploring around time square and ended up getting our picture put up on the massive screens outside one of the buildings!!! Bit of a claim to fame I reckon – check out pic. Visited a few interesting looking shops and decided to go get dinner at Red Lobster. I’ve always been intrigued to see what it’s like after the mention in Happy Gilmore! (the guy Shooter gets to put off Happy suggests they go for dinner there ;) It turned out to be pretty good, although rather more expensive than we were hoping, oops. Learnt our lesson after that and spent progressively less on each meal!

Nightmare

Spent an awesome last day in Vancouver. As usual I left the packing as late as possible so was still going around 3.30am and was making phonecalls pretty much up to when I got on the plane!

As I said I was flying into Chicago (via Calgary) out of Vancouver, well this would have been all well and good but our plane needed a replacement oil cap on one of the engines. Air Canada spent a while trying to find a replacement part but eventually gave up and we had to all get off and get on a different plane.. This meant that my flight time was delayed 2 hours, resulting in me missing my connection to Chicago. On the plane the staff said that there were agents on the ground in Calgary who would be able to direct us appropriately, but on arrival of course there was no-one to be seen.

I headed down to the baggage reclaim but was told that my bag probably went somewhere else cuz I was going on to the US, so after a while, and getting bounced around different people, I eventually was sorted out by an amazingly helpful lady working for United Airlines (thank you whoever you were!) who found my bag in US customs then booked me on the next available flight, even though technically I should have been sorted out by Air Canada (but they have some kind of partnership). It did mean though that I had to fly via Denver, wait for a while, then catch another plane to Chicago, arriving at 12.15am. What a nightmare. To add insult to injury, I was singled out by US immigration for their terrorist style treatment, as they have to select a passenger at random to conduct a fuller search, so I had to put my shoes through the x-ray, open my bag, jump through hoops, etc. Great.

I finally made it into Chicago centre around 12.45am, and was supposed to be going out for someone’s birthday with Suni so spent approximately 10 minutes in the house then straight out again! Crazy day.

Sleepy In Seattle

I suppose I should write this now while it’s a) fresh in my mind and b) I have a moment to spare!
Well I arrived a respectable 10 minutes late at the aforementioned rendezvous point. We got to rent a Pontiac Sunfire – the same revvy piece of shit that I had the first time we rented a car – and after declining to wait while they vacced it out we set off at approximately 8.30.

I’d written some directions for us, but they only started from I-5 (Interstate 5 I guess) once we were over the border. It didn’t even cross my mind that it would be a problem navigating highway 99 out of Vancouver, but around 20 minutes later we were asking a Chinese guy with a fishing rod for directions down by some lake or other. He didn’t speak Eengrish though. Fortunately we found another lady walking down the side of the road who informed us that we had to take Steveston Highway past the airport. Why of course.

Anyway the journey after that continued without incident, apart from the fact that we had to queue for 40 minutes to get to the American border, then had to wait 30 minutes in their immigration office or whatever it is, fill out some forms, have our picture taken, give our index finger prints, and pay $6…

On arrival in Seattle we headed straight for the space needle, figuring it was best to go first before we checked in and had to park the car up. We ate lunch in the central building of this big kind of amusement place that surrounds the space needle, inside which there was a big dancefloor cleared and lots of geriatrics dancing around. It was kind of bizarre.

We were quite fortunate because the clouds had cleared away offering us magnificent views of the city and across Puget Sound – a huge body of water that eventually connects with the Pacific Ocean. There are suburbs stretching out in every direction and the skyline REALLY looks like Sim City because of all the hills and lakes and stuff – like someone’s been messing around terraforming an interesting landscape :) we could also see Mt. Baker in the background which looked way more impressive than it does from Vancouver, although you could also see the Cascade range, which starts immediately North of Vancouver, in the distance shrouded by clouds.

After that we thought we would have a quick wander round the city and park the car up. First of all we went to a 7-11 where there was a height gauge on the inside of the door, obviously to better identify people who steal from the store with the camera image, then drove along underneath the monorail toward downtown. Checking in proved a little more problematic than expected due to the fact it was rush hour and there’s a lot of one way streets in the city centre, still after about 4 circuits we eventually found the car park we were after and went in to dump our bags. On getting to the room I was shattered so I closed my eyes for 30 minutes while Pete checked out the local papers for the night’s entertainments. Pete was quite keen on going to watch the NFL preseason game – Seahawks v Cowboys – but it would have been a mad rush so we ruled it out. We would have gone to see a baseball game the following day but they were playing away – how inconsiderate.

For dinner we headed out to a sports bar & grill as I thought it would be nice to sample the American lifestyle – drink beer & eat meat while watching sports. We ended up in a place called the Fox Sports Grill. Had I known Fox Sports was owned by Rupert Murdoch maybe I would have insisted we go elsewhere but hey. After our attempts at humour fell on deaf ears with the hostesses, we sat down at a table and ordered a beer. After a few sips though my stomach decided to start giving me serious grief again which continued for the next 3 hours, nowhere near as bad as before but still not ideal when we were trying to enjoy a nice sit down meal.

Back at the hostel we wandered down to the common room type thing with our bottle of Absolut Mandarin (cheers Gurpal :)) and sprite figuring there might be some other people up for going out. The paper had turned out to be pretty much a dead loss – seems Seattle’s Monday is to Vancouver’s Tuesday, i.e. nothing goes on. We were pointed in the direction of a place called Cowgirls Inc. by the waitress in Fox Sports, which sounded kinda like Coyote Ugly, but then when we walked into common room I spotted a couple of guys who I was sure I recognized from uni. I went over to say hello and they were indeed on the same course as me. How bizarre. I’d spoken to them both before at uni but we did all the introductions and usual catchup thing. There was also a Dutch guy there who barged into the conversation then started a competition with Pete over how many places they’d both been to.

Once we’d finished the vodka it was already about 11.45pm so we ended up going to the nearest pub possible with John & Chris and their friend Kirsty (or something like that!) which turned out to be an Irish seafood restaurant? Not something I’d necessarily put together but I think that’s what they were going for. After we left there we went looking for a pizzeria or something but there was NOWHERE open for food. Sucks. In fact, compared to Vancouver the city centre definitely lacked life – there were nowhere near as many people around and nowhere near as many places open after hours. So we took some pictures and went home to pillage the 6 ribs that Pete had kept from his monster portion earlier. Everyone in the hostel wanted a piece of them so I had to guard Pete’s half while he went for a smoke.

Our hostel was called the Green Tortoise, we had to book there cuz the HI was full – and seems that in Seattle there is a choice of only two hostels! It was pretty basic – two bunks and a sink with not much room to spare, very loud as we were facing the street, and very hot even though we had a fan running. Still I had a very good night’s sleep due to being shattered, and I guess a little tipsy. After the first day in Seattle though I wasn’t that taken with the place given what we’d seen – a similar amount of homeless and crazy people as Van but with a lot less life. On the second day though we found some more interesting places – in the morning we walked around the fish market, inadvertently walked past the first ever Starbucks, walked round the old part of town (which has cobbled streets and is very leafy and 50s gold rush looking), checked out the stadiums (which are HUGE and very impressive), and ended up in international village (next to Chinatown) by accident. It was actually really nice around there and looked like a pretty rich part of town. There’s a lot of high tech companies in Seattle apparently, there’s a whole suburb which has sprung up around it about 10kms from downtown and in the distance you could make out Redmond, home of M$, from the top of the space needle.

In the afternoon we walked along the seafront back to the fish market then walked around the shopping district so Pete could buy some trainers and some Gap jeans which turned out to be exactly the same as the pair he’s already got! After that we headed over to what is supposed to be the hip part of town, and this was TOTALLY different to the downtown area – a very cool and classy kind of looking place called Capitol Hill, so that kinda improved both our opinions on the place as a whole. Then we drove up a big hill so that we could get the picture postcard shot of the space needle in front of the skyscrapers, went back to Capitol Hill to eat in a cool Creole style restaurant, then returned to the lookout to photo the skyline again in the dark. All very nice.

Heading back on the “freeway” it became apparent that Americans can’t drive for shit. Everyone undertaking in whatever lane they like and people sitting in the fast lane even though the rest of the lanes were empty, even when you drive right up behind them! I tried to educate them as best we could by signalling where they should move to after going past them, and we got a few to move over :) but man. So bad. About half way back our petrol gauge started going up instead of down so thinking that was a bit odd we pulled off to get some “gas”. The first place we arrived at was absolutely surounded by nothing and it was very dark and spooky looking with a very old looking “mini mart & gas” sign… It was empty anyway so we headed to the next available place. That looked a bit more hopeful as it was a shell garage, had a couple cars outside, and was well lit. After I filled up the tank though this van kind of thing pulls up, a couple of hillbilly looking peeps got out the front, opened up the boot and about 6 more hillbillies jumped out of the back! I’m pretty sure they’d all been drinking considering how adamant they were that they hadn’t. All of them had ripped up dirty clothes on & mullets and shit. Weird. Fortunately by the time I’d been to the “restroom” they’d all cleared out though.

Re-entry into Canada was a mite more simple – the guy asked us a few questions about what we’d been doing then waved us through without even asking to see our passports! Mind you if you’re already coming from America I guess they don’t have too much to worry about though given the rigmarole they put you through :) we almost got lost again as apparently re-tracing the same route doesn’t work and we ended up at a dead end (lol) but it was only a minute or two lost.. I dumped the car in the car park next to the hire place as I didn’t fancy getting up at 7 again and trudged home – man we walked a long way that day.
So Seattle was interesting but surprisingly different. I have to say it had a lot more of an industrial feel to it and I guess less charm. One thing different is that there were a hell of a lots more black people around – for some reason there’s hardly any in Van! The American money is crap too. Also, this is probably the last of these essays you’ll have to read as from now on it’s gonna be pretty busy ’til I get home :) shame. Got rid of my board and lots of clothes today but still have to pack everything tomorrow to leave on Friday.. Fun.

Whistler Revisited

Went back up to Whistler on Sunday for a day. Actually we were supposed to be going on Saturday but after going to bed at 4.15am making the 8am bus wasn’t looking hopeful and unsurprisingly I/we slept through the alarms. We dragged ourselves down to the downtown bus stop for the Greyhound anyway at 9.30am but there were literally no seats so we thought sod it we’ll go tomorrow instead. As a consequence, my sleep pattern is in ruins because of the late nights and early mornings and I still feel like I’m recovering from the beer poisoning incident, but hopefully that’ll have sorted itself out before I leave on Friday…

So yes, on Sunday we got up at 6.30am and headed down to the bus depot to be sure of a seat. 2 hours later we were back in tourist paradise where it was rather windier than I would have liked – good job I took a jumper. Bumped into my friend Jess almost straight away and spent a while catching up before heading over to the gondola station to go check out the summer views for comparison. It was actually pretty weird being there with absolutely no snow – the vibe was definitely different and to be honest within a short time I was ready to leave again! I’m very happy with my decision to move on for the summer, but then for me it was never really a consideration to stick around after the season finished…

We were told that our staff passes were still good to go summer sightseeing so we got to ride up for free, bonus. Well, I say that but actually my pass had been hotlisted – probably the final insult from the dickheads in charge – but there was a reasonable person working at the Springs Building (admin centre) who sorted that out for me :) so THEN we got to ride up for free.
A huge bike park has been constructed in Whistler for the summer mountain biking (which I have to say did look pretty awesome) and there were plenty of serious looking people about with full face helmets and bling bling full suspension bikes. If we’d been staying around longer I would have looked into hiring one and reliving my youth :)

At the top it was a touch chilly – the board said it was only 7 degrees but I don’t believe them. The good old roundhouse was still open but I refused to go into the restaurant because I know there’s at least one person there who I don’t want to see! So instead we rode the peak chair right to the top of the mountain. The views from up there were pretty spectacular – there’s still quite a few glaciers around with snow on so I got some good pics and they’ve just put up a big abstract stone statue of a man which apparently is there for the olympics.

After going back down I met with Beth & Lave to see what they’d been up to and we got attacked by wasps as we dined on the patio, then we headed over to Lost Lake to see what it was like as I never made it over when I was around before. Unfortunately they operate a shuttle bus there in the summer so there were a lot more people around than there would have been previously, but oh well at least I’ve seen it now! After that we went walking round the shops for a while before it was time to take the bus home.
There’s something I definitely didn’t like about the whole place, especially in the shops, I think because the whole town is just so false. I mean I know the people who run the place want everyone to be super friendly but I for one can do without having enthusiasm shoved down my throat :) plus you know that all the cool kids probably resent the fact that there’s so many tourists around. Plus the fact that everyone there is pretty much a lazy bum :p anyway, that lifestyle, as you may have gathered, is not for me. I don’t know how the hell the guys that are still there have managed to stick around for so long without going nuts…

When we got home it was about 9.15pm, actually we went to the bus depot on the way home as they’d overcharged Yuki for her ticket by $3, and spoke to this moron on the desk who was very unhelpful and said basically they can’t help unless you still have the travel ticket, which you have to give to the driver to travel, great. I called him useless and we left – really we should write a letter of complaint just on principle. Anyway when we got home I started trying to sort out transport for Seattle the next day. We were going to take the greyhound at 6.15am, but getting up at 4.45am didn’t sound like the best prospect! So instead we’ve decided to hire a car from a company called “rent-a-wreck” :) Avis have a clause whereby you have to be over 25 to rent… How ridiculous. So, 8am at rent-a-wreck it is. Seattle here we come!

Beer Poisoning

Had a particularly unpleasant experience the past couple days after having the liquid equivalent of food poisoning :/ actually it was nowhere near as bad as when I had food poisoning at uni but violently throwing up and feeling like shit for most of the day isn’t high on my list of “fun things to do”.

Anyway, I’ve finished my jobs now so I’m waiting to get paid (still), was a little bit worried when the guy I’m working for suddenly decided he wanted to integrate a new system for their shopping cart so meant I had to spend some time learning more new things, but all’s well.

I’ve changed my trip plans a bit so now I’m going from here to Chicago – it seemed a bit of a waste of time spending $110 and 19 hours on a bus to go to Banff for barely 24 hours (plus paying for a night’s accommodation and another $50 to get to Calgary airport the next morning). I had to pay an extra $80 to alter the flight but hey, I still save overall and it was going to be a bit rushed next week as we’re going to Whistler tomorrow (after missing the bus this morning) then I’m heading down to Seattle with Pete for a night on Monday.

I felt kinda bad about spending only a couple hours with Yuki next week before I leave too seeing as we’ve spent most of the past 7 months together! We might be meeting up in New York and/or Toronto briefly though as turns out one of her friends is staying in New York right now too!

Am looking forward to my “holiday” – it’s gonna be hectic spending only a couple days in each place and covering large distances in between but will be wicked to see some new places :) I’ll be very sad to leave Vancouver but hey, I can always come back :p

I went second hand book shopping today and bought ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ – need something new to dig into whilst travelling after finishing J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’, which I thought was quite good although it kind of picks up and leaves off without really giving much away :) the second hand book store was, unsurprisingly, full of books and had a very cool atmosphere in a very antiquated kind of way. Certainly had more character than Chapters anyway (with the requisite Starbucks inside) and the store lady let me off without paying tax cuz she saw my UK driving license :p
I didn’t realise books were so damn expensive though. Perhaps this is the first time I’ve ever bought a book that’s not a textbook :)

Anyway, gonna take off for a brief walk along the sea wall while there’s still a bit of light – my days are numbered and the nights are closing in…