Thursday, June 30, 2005

Toronto: cities within a city

On Monday, I walked the short distance to Dundas Square and Eaton Centre to see if I could get a hold of a map. Dundas Square has fountains built into the ground that shoot up into the unsuspecting tourist's crotch if one is not careful.

While there, I stepped foot into the monster shopping mall that is Eaton Centre, home of an equally monstrous air conditioning system. I mused to myself that Torontonians escape here in the summer to get away from the heat and escape here in the winter to get away from the cold. Why WOULDN'T this mall be busy? It's a retailer's delight!

I took my newly-acquired map down to the food court level to mull over my game plan and partake of some West Indian food. I'm taking advantage of my current location to indulge in roti and curried chicken. Vancouver (and, needless to say, Pennsylvania) doesn't have a sizeable West Indian population, so there's a dearth of this type of cuisine. There's The Reef on Main Street, but there aren't many restaurants like it. I grew up in Winnipeg, which is frigidly cold in the winter, but curiously boasts a much West Indian community. Anyway, for $3.99 I got my lunchtime fix. Mmmmm-m-m-m, ahhhh...

I love maps. I've learned to love them, because I used to claim to have zero sense of direction, and found this made for some potentially disastrous consequences. Through sheer necessity, I have become quite adept at orienting myself in a place I'm not familiar with, so I am living proof that one CAN learn these things. You just have to dangle the right kind of carrot, or get a whiff of danger. When travelling, I don't get TOO concerned if I don't know where I am, if I have a map. If it's in a country where people don't speak English (trust me, get off the beaten track, and you'd be surprised how unhelpful English is), at least holding a map with something they MIGHT be able to recognise is a huge relief to the lost.

Toronto's version of Times SquareDundas Streetbrick beautyNo Wal-Martpedal powerlove on the sidewalk

Of course, Toronto is NOT off the beaten track, and one can most certainly survive without a map here and just a smidge of English. It's a cosmopolitan metropolis, where you'll find a sense of urbane order, and every culture, every language spoken, every political bent, and then some.... but English is the lingua franca. Where a map WILL be of much assistance here is to point out the little pockets of places like Little Portugal, Chinatown (East and Westside!), Greektown, etc., to find the all-important RESTAURANTS.

This wasn't my quest on Monday, but I made mental notes of where I'd like to return to, for future reference. I walked west on Dundas Street to find the place where I booked us into for this weekend -- to make sure it wasn't a "dive" (this being a relative term, of course). According to the map, it was within walking distance. Of course, maps don't factor in things that slow one's pace such as the sun beating down on one's head, or cold drinks stops, or stopping to take photographs. This could easily double the walking time. I could've taken the subway or trolley car or whatever form of public transportation that was available, but I wanted to gauge how long the walk would be. Of course, I had to pick the hottest day of the week to do it.

street vendors in Chinatown West
By the time I passed Spadina, made it past all the Asian shops without stopping for a browse or a snack, and up Augusta, I was more than ready for some quality time with an air conditioner. I managed to get us in for Thursday, which I couldn't do over the phone the week before, and I inquired about seeing one of the rooms. The guy at the desk was more than mildly insulted by my request:

"This place would not be full if it wasn't clean!" he said irritably, turning the computer screen towards me so I could see for myself. I really didn't mean it as a personal slight, but I figured he'd get over it somehow. To placate him, and because I don't trust verbal confirmations, I paid for the first night and then asked the million-dollar question:

"Do you have wi-fi?"

Oh YES! There were two terminals in the lobby, but I didn't know if they'd have wi-fi, too. They do! I took out my computer, he read out the login and password, and his mood changed instantly from sour to impressed when he saw the power of the PowerBook firsthand.

"That's very fast," he said, shaking his head. I sat down on the couch and proceeded to upload all 110 Pride Parade photos in full signal strength. Yay!

Sergio picked me up in the car afterwards, and after dropping off our stuff at the apartment, we went for a walk around the city centre. Apparently I left a little too quickly, though -- I left the memory card for the camera in the camera reader! So, no photos of city hall and the stages for the Jazz Festival. FOOEY.

Chris, Sergio's roommate arrived not long after midnight and we chatted for a while. Must've been more than a while, because next thing we knew, Chris was looking on TV for when
Phantom of the Opera came on pay-TV, and the next showing was 3am. I've never seen the movie OR the play, but I had a good idea of the story and the music.

Chris fell asleep.

I made it through most of the film, then he came down at 5:30am to turn off the TV. I'd fallen asleep, too. So I can still say I haven't seen Phantom of the Opera!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Toronto: Yonge Street

Am posting on the fly, here, so just a couple of photos from the other day. Haven't uploaded yesterday's photos yet.

You might've heard of Yonge St. It's the longest street in the world, at 1,887 kms or something like that.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Toronto: Pride Parade 2005

Toronto Pride Parade 2005
Toronto Pride Parade 2005

I arrived in Toronto just in time to catch the Pride Parade, which I used to watch in Vancouver from my balcony.

The full Flickr set is here:

Toronto Pride Parade 2005

Toronto: wi-fi saga, lovely views, and lovely people

I'm melting here in Toronto. It's Monday and a scorcher: 31C with 43% humidity! Yesterday it was just as hot, and I stood for few hours watching the Pride Parade go by. (Did I think of putting on sunscreen? Noooooo.... silly Gail. Now there's a distinct line where my hair goes across my forehead. And my face has uneven shading, making me look UNWASHED.)

I thought the parade was just on Yonge Street, but conveniently for me, it turns and passes directly in front of Serg's building! I only figured this out from all the commotion coming from the street below, which prompted me to look wayyyyy down and see the barricades and people gathering alongside.

I had a good vantage point, and of course I took umpteen photos. In fact, I'm uploading them now -- 110 just of the parade AFTER culling the total -- as this is my first real opportunity to get a full, clear wi-fi signal.

*saga alert*

Oh, mercy mercy me... this was NOT easy. My friend isn't an internet addict like me and has no connectivity. No landline, either, just a mobile. So after the parade I ventured up Yonge Street, and found that Second Cup (coffee company) has a Rogers hotspot, which is partnered with the other mobility carriers like Fido, Bell, and Telus to provide wi-fi. I was able to use the browser to get into the Telus site, which was blazingly fast, so I checked the hotspot rates. Pretty reasonable. So I try to sign up. Wouldn't let me. Tried all my credit cards, and every conceivable variable of syntax at the vague fields such as "Bank issuing credit card" -- I tried CIBC for my visa, BMO and Bank of Montreal for my Mastercard, Amex and Amex Bank of Canada for my AmEx card. Error messages, all. What's the deal? I phone the technical support number. Closed. Figures.

I wrote down a few places off the 'free wi-fi in Toronto' lists, and I ended up at the Duke of Gloucester pub, further up on Yonge Street. Am hungry and thirsty, too, so this stone would kill a couple of birds, as the saying goes. Pub guy confirms wi-fi. I order a tall, cool cider and some good ol' Eastern Canadian cuisine -- fish and chips -- and settle into a comfy seat near a socket. Signal not strong, but OK. Five minutes pass. I e-mail David, upload four photos to Flickr. Signal drops. Sigh. This is pretty much how it goes for the rest of the evening -- weak signal, signal drops, weak signal, signal drops. I tell pub guy, he restarts modem and router, to no avail. Oh well, the cider was good, I felt like I was back in the UK again thanks to Strongbow and malt vinegar. I phone David, we discuss the possibility of him flying the Tri-Pacer once I tell him that Toronto City airport is located just south of the shoreline. I also told him that I was informed there's a ferry between Rochester, NY, and Toronto, so that's a possibility, too. So, suffice to say we have yet to decide just how David's going to get here. But he'll get here!

Back to Saturday night:

I arrived in Toronto a few minutes early, about 10 minutes to midnight, but that was negated by an inefficiency with the baggage handling. In (the new) Terminal 1, the baggage area is a vast white warehouse-like space, with at least 8 carousels that I could see. (There's a giant dividing wall, too.) Flight 152 from Vancouver arrived earlier, and there were people gathered 'round Carousel 4 to collect their bags. I was in the first row on the plane, so I arrived at the baggage claim before most everyone. 'Good!'-- I thought, 'I can get out of here before the big rush!' No information for AC1234. Where are our bags??

After much waiting, there was an announcement. Where do they send our bags? Carousel 4. So hundreds of people jostle each other for space, searching for their bags, when the rest of the carousels lie empty. See why I avoid Air Canada? I'm only using them for reward flights.

It all worked out in the end, because Serg was still on his way to the airport. We went back to the apartment, dumped my stuff, and chatted with his roommate, Chris, before getting some cravings at some strange hour. We went out for pizza and ended up having roti. (I grew up with West Indian food in Winnipeg.) Must've been the red wine. Reminds me of the time Serg showed up at my place in Vancouver from Seattle with a gallon of Costco wine, which we ended up finishing by dawn. Then I flew to London. Ouch!

I didn't quite feel an OUCH yesterday morning, but I did sleep a lot, making up for the deficit left over from the previous night, when I rummaged through all my stuff in Vancouver, trying to figure out what to take with me that wouldn't tip the scales at check-in. Yay for sleep!

More pics here.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Enroute: Vancouver to Toronto

departing Vancouver airport
departing Vancouver airport
departing Vancouver airport
37,000 ft

Ahhh, executive class.... space... lots of space... hot towels... linens, glass, and real cutlery... not a piece of plastic in sight other than the knives*. I never want to go back to coach class! I'm too cheap to pay for an upgrade, but I've been upgraded for free in the past, from Chicago and Glasgow. David gets upgraded all the time, so maybe his luck will rub off on me!

Mmmm-m-m-m ahhhhh, good food: appetisers of smoked salmon, prawns, and vegetables, followed by a baked salmon dinner, followed by warm cookies and ice cream -- which I had to turn away because I was just too full! It's a good thing I don't get airsick! After a glass of white wine, I was SO DONE. Sated, and ready for a snooze, actually. But I thought I'd catch up on some writing and half-watch, half-listen to "Hitch", the Will Smith vehicle about the wonderful world of dating. The dialogue gets cheesier than Cheez Whiz (by the minute!) and no less contrived, but the characters are easier on the eyes and kinder to the palate.

Food aside, I'd say the best thing about business class is the space. The PowerBook isn't squeezed to death like it was during the US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Seattle last month, when the guy in front of me reclined hard, catching the LCD panel with the corner of the seat where the tray is stored. I pushed it forward before the bezel got twisted, then he pushed back even harder because he thought I was being a jerk. (That's about the only time I ever thought I should've bought a 12" PowerBook instead. A fleeting moment.)

Not today. I'm sitting by the window behind the bulkhead (row 1), so I can come and go without disturbing my seatmate, with room to spare. It was definitely worth it to use the extra Aeroplan miles to upgrade to business. After all, if Aeroplan is going to gouge me 37,500 points to fly in July instead of the usual 25,000 for the low season, what's another 2,500 in the grand scheme of things?

I guess you could call this a birthday present to myself. I wanted to see David again, but I can't cross the border without the fiancee visa in my hand (I am, however, one step CLOSER to getting it as of last Wednesday!!! Yippee!!!). I was initially thinking of flying to Montreal, but then we thought David could fly up in the Tri-Pacer and we could take a spin around Niagara Falls. Thing is, we'd still have to rent a car so David could get to and from the general aviation airport, and around the region. I'll be in Toronto for a couple of weeks, but he's only here for the holiday weekend. I mean, whose cockamamie idea was it to call one day off a "long weekend"?!? Additionally, I wanted to send stuff back with David in the car -- part of my bid to transfer all my stuff to Pennsylvania. Poor guy schlepped two heavy suitcases filled with my bric-a-brac from Vancouver to New York four weeks ago, but there's a lot more left to go. Call me a sentimental fool, I don't care, but I just can't seem to part with anything given to me! Birthdays, Christmas, bribes -- I want to keep it all!

You know, the only way this flight could be better is if I had wi-fi. Can't somebody get on this? What are they doing cloning sheep and genetically modifying food when they should be finding a way for people to connect to the internet in-flight? Sheesh...

Anyways, like I said, this flight is an opportunity for me to catch up a little bit. As you can tell by my mildewing site, I've been away from Blogger for an extended period of time. Hey, it's summer! I've been out nearly every day, and at the moment my arms, hands, and face are a completely different shade of brown from the rest of my body because I've been neglecting the sunscreen lately, too. But I'm taking in as much as I can because my time in Vancouver is limited.

I go on photowalks with the Vandigicam group at least once or twice a week, and join whoever else is game to head outdoors with a camera, other times I go on my own. I carry my Canon A80 everywhere and I've taken to carrying three sets of batteries and three flashcards (512MB, 256MBs x 2) so I never run short of memory or power. Flickr has a 2GB upload limit for Pro users, and I've reached a record 31% for June already. Do the math -- that's a lot of shooting! My camera's counter reset itself because I passed the 10,000 image mark last week. I bought the camera in April of last year, just before I went to Europe. It was already in the repair shop once, a few months ago. Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'...

When I return from Toronto, the plan is to find a wedding dress. I've put this off for far too long, mostly because this isn't my favourite kind of shopping. Send me to the Apple store or IKEA, but not anywhere that has clothing! Ugh! Unfortunately, it has to be done. Not looking forward it, but I'm taking Eliza the fashion guru along as my consultant. Heaven knows I need a second opinion! Speaking of Eliza, the fashionista is also enroute and eating well. While I dine on smoked salmon with lemon, she's probably having caviar or lobster on her cruise to Alaska. We both left Vancouver today, but she'll return before I do. Here's to living large! *clink*

* Can someone explain to me how a metal fork can be any less dangerous than a metal butter knife???

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I'm 33 today

I actually took this last December, but forgot to upload it to Flickr.

More than a week behind in blog posts, so this is a placeholder, of sorts.

Would like to mention, though, by sheer serendipity early this morning I came across the very talented singer/songwriter, Amy Correia. I have Jann Arden to thank for this delightful discovery -- one of Correia's songs is in Arden's playlist on Apple Canada's iTunes Music Store. I immediately downloaded Correia's new album, Lakeville, from iTunes just so I could listen to her voice over and over this morning. She has a vocal quality that's like aural therapy for me. Preview some of the songs ('Beautiful/Ugly', 'Lakeville'), and maybe you'll see what I mean.

Filmgoerjuan Dines with Blognoscenti

Or, BlogFandom.

Too funny...

A fellow Vandigicammer, Filmgoerjuan, had dinner with Heather and Jon Armstrong.

I Could Have Dooced All Night (And Still Have Begged For More)
It's All Downhill From Here

That is probably gobbledygook to most people. I expect him to regale us with a story or two at the next Vandigicam. I will always credit him with the politically correct phrase "...suitable for 'all activity levels?'*".

ADDITION: Sun, Jun 19

The verdict: Vangroovooroo

* ©2005 filmgoerjuan

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Chicago Photobloggers

When Hendrik and I were chatting in Chinatown, he mentioned he just got back from Chicago, where he attended another Flickr meetup.

He described this shot to me, and I found both versions uploaded by Whateverland, who let me blog them here. Thanks, man!

What a great perspective!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Vandigicam Goes to Chinatown

The catch-up continues! I managed to get as close as one week behind, then I fell... behind. Now I'm more like a week and a half out-of-date. Here goes...

Thursday, June 2

Vandigicam is really growing! My first outing with this group that formed in Flickr was the trip to Jericho Beach last month, and a week after the Flickr farewell party we ventured out en masse again, this time in Chinatown. I thought there were a lot of people at Jericho (15 or so?), but there were even more people gathered outside Starbucks in Tinseltown to go shooting, maybe 18 in total, give or take a few. We agreed to meet back at the same spot at 8:30, and figure out where to eat from there.

Chinatown shuts down fairly early on a weekday, we discovered. Most of the shops closed around 6 o'clock, and there wasn't much activity by the time we started roaming. As a big group we stuck out like a sore thumb, wandering the streets and resembling a tour group with cameras in tow.

More on Vancouver's Chinatown district:

I was walking with Hendrik and Ciao, and saw this sign for something called Murmur. Being the curious type, I phoned the number to see what the murmuring was about, but I only reached silence after dialling the code at the bottom of the sign. I thought maybe it was a tourist info service like the audio tours you can take at museums, but I'll try it again later, and see if it's that or a commercial enterprise.

The three of us were shooting graffiti in an alley when two guys asked Hendrik where Science World was, and if it was alright if they could take OUR photos. A visitor from Austria taking English courses (his friend was from Belgium), he explained that he was interested in photography, but was short on people pictures.

"You picked a good night to be here," I said, "there's a horde of photographers wandering around that you can follow!"

He said he put his stuff on, so I launched into this spiel about Flickr, and how this group formed there. Evidently this was exciting news, because he had me write it down! Am I a Flickr spokesperson, or what?

While Hendrik experimented with his new Canon Digital Rebel XT and I futzed about with my little Canon A80, I tried my best to recall some of the history I learned of Chinatown from previous outings with Hostelling International volunteers on fam(iliarisation) trips. Practically the only tidbit I could remember was that Vancouver was the LAST Chinatown in North America (the world?) to erect a gate (2003?). The other tidbit I have yet to verify -- my memory fails me on this one -- was that some of the old buildings are built as half-storeys to avoid paying full property tax. If you take a look at buildings like these, you'll see what I mean. I did a quick Google search on it for an article to link to, but looks like I'll have to keep digging.

Something we did see was apartments with half-numbers like this one. 224 and 1/2? We looked around for 224, but couldn't find it. The numbers went from 222 to 226.

While we were meandering around, shooting rats (I spotted a big one, but it was too quick for me), graffiti, memorials, and whatnot, we were shooting each other. Chinatown is probably the most colourful place around town to shoot, the photo ops are limitless, really.
By the time 8:30 rolled around, people were hungry, but we ended up going on a bit of a wild goose chase, trying to find a restaurant that was open. Earlier, a bunch of us passed by Hon's and noted that it closed at 9, but that applied to nearly every place we tried to get into. We tried the Brickyard on Main, too, but they didn't serve food. We voted to walk back to Tinseltown, and on the way we found the Floata Seafood Restaurant on Keefer St., which was open until 10. Hallelujah!

Hallelujah, indeed! After waiting a few minutes for the restaurant to prepare our tables, we picked up another person for dinner (he works with a couple of the Vandigicammers), and were ushered past the enormous ballroom where a Chinese Christian organisation was having a function. People were dressed up like it was an awards show.

To our surprise, we were given our very own room, which was a larger room with moveable walls. Kris took it upon himself to act as our negotiator, boldly telling the manager we weren't going to order off the menu. Instead, he said we'd pay $10 each plus tax and tip, and they would just bring out food for us that equalled that amount. The manager agreed, and platters of food and pots of tea arrived shortly after. Leave it to Kris!

We had two tables, and the other table shot video of themselves using the lazy susan. Dandy! I want to try it sometime! Check out the results here, courtesy of icathing:

Friday, June 10, 2005

Vandigicam Goes to Stanley Park

Vandigicam last night was too fun for words, so I'll just post this for now and the rest later.

We encountered a meter monkey and this super-friendly squirrel in Stanley Park. Watch him in his first feature film:

Stanley Park squirrel,
brought to you by Vandigicam

Coming soon to a park near you.

Addition: Jun 24

People were humming and hawing a bit about where to go on Thursday. Laura, the original Vandigicam organiser, needed a break from the co-ordinating, so I stepped up to the plate and said we were going to meet in Coal Harbour, take the seawall to Stanley Park, and shoot the bridge. Nobody objected, so that's what we did! The forecast was dodgy, so I wasn't sure if we'd get as far as the Lions Gate Bridge, but we'd try.

At least 16 showed up at Bojangles Cafe, and we set off from there. With a group of this size, mobility is pretty slow -- especially since everyone has a camera and is on alert for photo ops. We meandered along the newer seawall at Coal Harbour, and I gawked at what's been constructed since I've been away: another pier, another restaurant. With all this building, people will be able to fly into Coal Harbour, have dinner, and fly out without even hitting a street!

While most of the group headed north along Pipeline Road, Laura, her husband Michael, and TizBarb decided to shoot around Lost Lagoon. There was a bit of confusion getting to Pipeline Road, but MimsyBee led the way and we cut over to the Rose Garden. The sky began to darken and I wasn't holding out much hope for getting decent shots of the bridge, so I took a few shots in the garden and that's where we encountered the Super Friendly Stanley Park Squirrel (see above). This little thing was so fearless, I couldn't help but take video! Imagine being a squirrel, surrounded on all sides by people pointing cameras, and NOBODY offers food... eventually the squirrel scampered off -- probably in disgust...

From Pipeline Road we reached the seawall and continued along under the bridge, but the clouds refused to part, making for unpromising, gray photos. It was getting late by then, so we turned back to meet with the others at Bread Garden on Denman Street. Along the way, filmgoerjuan hit on a very diplomatic way to describe people who were too unfit to hike: "... suitable for... all activity levels." It doesn't sound funny now, but just the way he said it then -- with a politically correct pause -- was comical.

At Bread Garden I took a little poll to see if people were interested in weekend photowalks, then we moved on to the Comox Bar and Grill around the corner and took over a couple of tables there. Boy, that place was cheap -- nachos for less than $7??? Meetups during the week definitely has its advantages.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

David's Weekend in Vancouver: Speedboating!

Here we are, 10 days later, and I'm finally writing my last post about David's weekend in Vancouver. I'm about a week behind -- how I know is that I have to leave shortly for Vandigicam in Coal Harbour/Stanley Park, and I haven't posted the photos from last week's photowalk around Chinatown. But, first things first:

Monday, May 30

I saved the best for last -- it was David's birthday on Monday, and he was leaving the next day. So, as a surprise I rented a speedboat from Granville Island, the same outfit I rented from last year when Heather, Krisanne, Karl, and I went boating.

Dave's Logbook: My Buoyant Birthday

David's photos
My photos
(or click on images)

The best part about boating on a Monday is avoiding the weekend warrior traffic. We were informed that it was crazy-busy out in the water and the previous day a drunken yahoo rammed his boat into five other boats, so we were glad to have avoided all that. We had the run of the place, so to speak. The day was very calm and overcast, which meant we were spared from heatstroke, too. To boot (to boat?), the rental guy gave us the larger 17-footer for a discount once we told him we wanted to cross under the bridges. He said we'd have a much smoother ride when tackling the currents and this one had a new motor. We were sold on the idea, and by all accounts it made an enormous difference.

I remember on previous speedboating outings hanging on for dear life when we hit big waves out in the open ocean, especially in '03 when the Chickens and I rented a boat in Horseshoe Bay. There were four of us and I had distinct memories of the boat -- which was the same size as this one, I think -- threatening to capsize when we got into open water. The boat we rented last year from Granville Island was bone-rattling at full throttle, threatening to come apart at the seams every time we hit a wave head-on. Or maybe that was Krisanne's driving... anyway, I remember Heather and I were holding the window when it started to separate from the pane. Those rental boats take some serious abuse!

By contrast, this boat was in fine condition, the motor purring so softly in idle it was as if we'd stalled. But when David gave it gas, it was a tiger, and so smooth! The rental guy wasn't exaggerating -- it handled the waves beautifully, very stable and responsive. What a difference!

After a slow cruise past English Bay and under the Lions Gate Bridge, we dallied around Coal Harbour, watching the floatplanes take off and land. I love floatplanes; I could watch them all day. There were cruise ships docked at Canada Place -- floating cities of tourists travelling up to Alaska, both a mark of ostentatiousness and the human desire to explore the earth while dragging along all the comforts of home.

We were one of the only pleasure boats in Burrard Inlet, passing maybe two or three other speedboats and the occasional fishing boat on our way to Deep Cove and up Indian Arm. The water was calmer than I'd ever seen it, a West Coast paradise of mountains, forest, ocean, and abundant wildlife. We spotted many seals, who waited until we got our cameras out to duck under the water. David's camera has a 10x zoom and managed to get a couple of shots, but they were still rather far and out-of-focus. The eagles that flew overhead weren't co-operative, either! The city was only a short distance away, but without a map there was nothing to indicate we were anywhere near civilisation.

We passed by the spooky Buntzen Power Station, its BC Hydro "Danger!" signs more than a bit off-putting. We killed the engine and drew closer, my mind conjuring images of Grade B horror movies. David wanted to dock the boat, but I was half-expecting people to jump out of the woods and... well, let's say I have a fertile imagination. No, I really wanted to get all the way up to the top of Indian Arm, something I'd tried to do in a canoe with a friend some years ago, but we didn't keep track of how far we'd gone and once we spotted a family of bears on the shore we high-tailed it back to Deep Cove!!

Since that canoe trip, I'd been wanting to reach the top of Indian Arm. We passed by the first set of waterfalls I'd recognised from that trip, some islands, then Granite Falls before reaching the campground and the Wigwam Inn. It's supposed to be 18kms from Deep Cove to the Wigwam Inn, but we covered the distance by speedboat in no time at all. We saw more seals and watched the gorgeous scenery as we cruised back to Deep Cove, where we bought some gas lest we got stranded in open waters.

David ended up doing all the driving while I took photographs, but it worked out fine this way. He looked like he was enjoying himself immensely, and I wanted to give him the rare opportunity of piloting a boat rather than an airplane. Pennsylvania has plenty of lakes, but even in sizeable Lake Wallenpaupack, it can get crowded at the height of summer when the New Yorkers take their boats out, I'm told. (Pennsylvanians blame New Yorkers for everything, don't they?) Here, at least, David could cut loose at top speed without worrying about crashing into anyone.

We whirled around the waters between West Vancouver and UBC, marvelling at the size of the giant cargo ships. I used to see them all the time from my apartment, but up close they are truly behemoths. Then my phone rang -- it was the rental company, asking when we were coming back! It was nearly 7 o'clock, so we headed back to Granville Island. Once there, though, they said we had time to cruise around False Creek, so we took in the sights around Concord Pacific Development, Science World, the seawall and the marina. We were passed by rowers practising for the annual Alcan Dragonboat Festival that takes place mid-June, and water taxis ferrying people between points around False Creek.

By the time we returned the speedboat, we'd been out in the water more than five hours, and even with a mostly overcast day and a hat, David's nose got sunburned and our arms and hands turned a completely different shade than the rest of our bodies! But the time flew by -- which it always seems to when I'm on a boat -- and it whet our appetites for future boat trips.

For David's last night in Vancouver, I'd made a reservation at the Sylvia Hotel in English Bay, a place I'd definitely recommend for anyone wanting to get away from the big hotel chains. It's one of Vancouver's rare heritage buildings, built as apartments in 1912 and well-located by Stanley Park and the beach. We checked in late and tired, but not too tired to take advantage of Mondo Gelato's free birthday ice cream and tapas-style eating at Denman Freehouse. All in all, a very good way to spend one's birthday, even if one had to leave town the next day.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Fast Food Delivery System Explained

"You may or may not have tried to get a fast food outlet to deliver to your home/office/hideout. You may or may not have been successful. You may or may not have gotten what you actually ordered..."

Click on the photo for the rest of the story.

Written by the talented and witty Dale, a fellow expat who hankers for a Timbit now and again. Except he's in Barbados. I'm a little closer to the timbits, in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

David's Weekend in Vancouver: The Handyman

Poor David was put to work while he was here on vacation. He fixed Socar's leaky toilet, put up a towel rack, and corrected some things on her computer that we'd futzed with when we tried to install an extra drive. David also investigated Eliza's door and helped her re-install some curtain rods in the hallway.

I'm marrying the Ultimate Handyman (TM). Not only can he fix plumbing, he does woodwork, painting, tree trimming, landscaping, gardening, auto mechanics, designs wedding rings, graphic artwork, classical artwork (drawing), network administration, knows his way around an airplane engine, and FLIES!

It sounds like one of those ads on a late-night shopping channel -- "Can Work WONDERS!" -- but I can tell you firsthand he's all that, and more.

Over the winter in Pennsylvania when the air was really dry, I started hanging laundry inside on one of those wooden indoor racks so we could benefit from the humidity. You can buy these things almost anywhere, but they're pretty flimsy, and you can't put much on them before they buckle under the strain or just fall over.

"I can custom build a laundry rack for you," he said. Oooh, good answer!

We went off to the hardware store and bought all the materials for The Mother of All Laundry Racks (TM). It's a beaut! (Amazingly, I have no photos.) Holds jeans, sheets, more than a load of laundry. While I've been away he's renovated the kitchen, and when I go back, we'll work on the cabinets.

Have I mentioned I'm marrying this guy? How lucky am I!

Addition: Wed, Jun 8

David took a photo of the Mother of All Laundry Racks. (Cursor over the photo for notes.)

Addition: Sat, Jun 11

David elaborated on his handyman skills over at his blog. I'd forgotten to mention that he also designs and builds model airplanes!

Monday, June 06, 2005

David's Weekend in Vancouver: Joint Birthday Bash

Uploaded by gailontheweb.
Sunday, May 29

On Sunday morning, David and Dad and I went over to Allan and Cheryl's house to celebrate Allan and David's joint birthday. It's actually the next day, on May 30, but Sunday was the best time for everyone to meet. We picked up a couple of cakes and goodies from Safeway en route, knowing full well that one cake wouldn't last long between five adults and five little kids.

Birthday Bash pics

We even had a very RARE Uncle Alvin sighting. He lives in Victoria, but he only rolls into town maybe twice a year or so. This was the first time he'd met David.

I kept telling Melissa: "Go wake up Uncle Alvin! Go on! Get him to take you out on your bikes!"

After we ate our fill, the cakes made their appearance amidst much fanfare. As you can see here, the cakes were stalked from the moment they arrived. Michael put the cake lid on his head, and Maddy followed suit. Once the lids were off, Michael and Maddy hovered nearby like a couple of vultures and Maddy stuck her fork in the side of one cake while waiting for her slice.

Like a true fiddler, Allan spent some time checking out his gift from David -- a cordless power drill. I think the only difference between toys for men and boys is voltage. Michael was fascinated by the drill, since he was given a plastic toolbox kit when he turned three (long since disappeared, I think).


We had to leave after a short while because my dad had to go to work, but the kids showed David their new swingset and gave him the very important job of Designated Swing Pusher. He was kept busy pushing them while talking to the rest of us, stopping now and again to point out a plane flying overhead.

Methinks Uncle David is going to be asked to build a Playground of Mammoth Proportions in our backyard for when the kids come to visit. Yesterday Melissa asked me if they could come and visit us in Pennsylvania. "Sure!" I said, but I imagine the kids would spend all their time chasing Hugh around the house if we don't find other ways to amuse them. I could put them to work painting... ha!

Dave's Logbook: Heat, Drink, and Be Merry!

The sky brightened up considerably during our long bus/Skytrain/bus trip from Langley to Vancouver. We deposited our stuff back at the apartment, and hung out with Socar and the rats until it was time for dinner with Mike, Tosca, Erich, and Caroline at Thai House off Burrard. I hadn't seen Caroline and Erich since they got married in August, and Tosca and Mike since January, so we had lots of catching up to do. I had David recant some of our flying stories -- just read the blog, people! haha! -- while we noshed on Thai food.

Alas, not everyone is on holiday, and it was Sunday night, so the others made their journey back to the North Shore, and we returned to the apartment to hang out with Socar until we felt like calling it a night after some Katamari Damacy.

David's Weekend in Vancouver: Around Town

Saturday, May 28

David woke up early Saturday and wandered the streets of Vancouver before the heat of day set in. It was scorching on Friday, and Saturday was looking like the same kind of weather by the time I finally roused myself. By that time David had sauntered down Davie and Granville streets, working up blisters so big he'd popped them and started to go barefoot (!). Me, I hadn't even taken a shower yet!

The first order of the day -- for me, at least, after a shower -- was food. Eliza booked a table for us at Kirin in City Square, a place we used to frequent with some regularity, but it had been a while. We like to go for dim sum, which is predictably busy on the weekends, but it's worth the crowds for the quality of food and service. It isn't the average roll-out-the-cart fare, it's high-end table service with steaming cloths and men in suits pouring water every 10 minutes. I showed David a part of the menu that lists a soup for $600... yes, that's right, $600! I think it was called 'Dragon's Nest' or some such thing. Why 600 bucks? Does it have eggs from rare birds flown in from the deep jungle by helicopter??

Vancouver, by LRT

I decided before the weekend that we'd NOT rent a car since David drives all the time, and the only place we'd be going that was out of the public transit area was Allan and Cheryl's place. Consequently, we spent a lot of time on the Skytrain going back and forth between Surrey and Vancouver, and the rest of the time bussing about or walking. Vancouver is very walkable, and we were in no hurry.

After dim sum, we found a shoe repair kiosk near the entrance of City Square and David was good to go for a while longer. We crossed over to City Hall and north on Cambie Street over the bridge to the downtown peninsula, stopping for pics over False Creek.

False Creek from Cambie Bridge False Creek False Creek False Creek False Creek

David's feet still registered OK after the minor shoe mods, so we headed further west and stopped for a drink before going back to the apartment. We were supposed to go to my dad's place for the evening, but they were still picnicking at Peace Arch park, so we had time for dinner at La Bodega before going east again. La Bodega was my favourite tapas and sangria local before I moved, a place where everything's been the same for years (a rarity in Vancouver) and the food consistently good. And, like in Spain, they're open late and the atmosphere is always a nice hum of conversation or a full-on buzz. We had calamari AGAIN! Our third in 24 hours! Greek, Chinese, then Spanish. We're on a roll! No stone left unturned, no squid left uneaten!

Friday, June 03, 2005

David's Weekend in Vancouver: Happy Birthday George!

George and Lana
Happy Birthday!

Well, it's only taken me a week to post this, but life has a way of getting in the way of writing about it! It's my own fault for getting into this whole photo/video thing when I could just do it the quick way and post a few paragraphs. But seeing as I'm getting older myself (can you tell my birthday's approaching?), I appreciate returning to this site to try and remember how time manages to pass by so quickly. At least I can account for it in some way by documenting it in words and images.

Friday, May 27

David and I mananged to find The Mad Greek Restaurant in Richmond with only a minimal amount of wandering after getting off the 98. We arrived to find platters of appetisers -- plenty of calamari and octopus and other delectables -- and lots of white wine. David mentioned in his blog that the calamari was the first of four different kinds we'd end up sampling over the weekend (Greek, Chinese, Spanish, and Thai). It sounds like overkill, but they were all prepared differently! And they were all very good! David had lamb, recommended by George, and I had -- of course -- moussaka. Whenever I try a new Greek restaurant, I order their moussaka because I consider it my benchmark for Greek food. Everything was great, but we went a little overboard on the appetisers and had to pace ourselves on the mains.

Instead of a cake, George blew out a candle on a dessert that I can't remember the name of... I tried Googling for Greek desserts, but I think I got lost (and hungry) trying to find it. (Help, Lana!) It was so good that David and I decided to order one for ourselves instead of baklava. It was DELICIOUS, and once I get the name of it, I'm going to go have another one...!

George and John went out onto the patio for some Greek dancing, and I shot a bit of video. Check it out here:


John just celebrated his 70th birthday, so there you have it -- dancing keeps you young!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

David's Weekend in Vancouver: Kids and Bubbles


Friday, May 27

We stayed at my dad's place for the remainder of Thursday night, and in the morning Cheryl brought the kids over on her way to an appointment with the twins.

David packed a raft of kids' summer toys from Pennsylvania, including a mega-container of bubble wands and solution, so we set about amusing the kids with that. Michael and Melissa immediately recalled the bubble shows we'd seen at Science World, and we even showed Uncle Dave how to "catch" bubbles by putting some solution on your hand. Good clean fun, as David says.

Click on the thumbnails image above or view the whole set here: The Bubble Factory

After Cheryl left, we took the kids to the mall next door, a source for plenty of amusement and a food court so there would be no trashing Gumpa's apartment. While we were there, I had the good fortune of spotting my friend Karen walking by with her dad. I only ever seem to see Karen once a year, during our birthdays in June which are close together, because of that psychological divide called the Fraser River*. I was glad to bump into her and introduce her to David.

And what trip to the mall with small children would be complete without fighting over mechanical rides like horses and kids cartoon characters? It's just not the same! If you've ever tried putting a kid on one, you'll know what it's like to try and pry them off again. Try pulling gum off the bottom of a chair sometime. Of course, I have photographic evidence.


We also took them to the pet shop for some animal terrorisation. (I kid, parents-of-aforementioned-children.) I shot a bit of video, too, of the shop iguana. Oh, the footage he'd get from his side of the glass if armed with a camera. I can just imagine.


On the way back, Michael and Melissa and Maddy all took turns getting Uncle Dave to put them on his shoulders. Being the good sport that he is, he indulged them, even though it was hot enough outside to fry eggs on the sidewalk, let alone cover one's neck with 50 lbs of child.

Cheryl arrived at Dad's with good reports about the twins' trip to see the doctor, and we played with them for a while before they headed out en masse again. We packed up some of my stuff into one of the suitcases David brought empty from Pennsylvania, and we Skytrained into Vancouver to unload our stuff before our evening in Richmond, the first of many transit trips we'd take over the weekend.

* Whenever someone lives across a bridge -- ANY bridge -- they might as well be in the next province. There are two bridges to the North Shore, three between the downtown peninsula to the rest of the city, two south of Vancouver to Richmond, then the Queensborough, Patullo, Skytrain, Alex Fraser, and Port Mann bridges further east. Mention any one of them, and they immediately conjure images of traffic, accidents, rubbernecking, and congestion. It's a part of life in the GVRD.