I left London at lunchtime on 30th June 2012, flying out of Heathrow, and arrived in Vancouver mid-afternoon on 30th June, it was a great feeling to just wander down the escalator with a couple of small carry-on bags, through the customs and out into Canada!
I have a great view of English Bay from my window – oh I do love to be beside the seaside! Despite the grey (and mostly wet) weather, there’s something about the coast, any coast, that invigorates my spirit, I don’t know whether it’s something in the air or just the meeting of land and water that is affecting, but I love it!
Wandering down to Granville Island on Sunday morning it seems everyone’s out jogging or cycling, Vancouver must be one of the healthiest cities around!
Canada Day celebrations went on down by the water at Canada Place, the location of ‘Digital Orca’, a 2009 sculpture by one of my favourite authors, Douglas Coupland, it is also referred to as Lego Orca or Pixel Whale due to its appearance. His first novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, was published in 1991. He’s written a number of excellent novels and among my favourites are Girlfriend In A Coma and Generation A.
I only spent a few days in Vancouver and hadn’t quite got in sync with the time zone yet, but there was one advantage to being wide awake by 5am, gave me a chance to watch the Tour de France, which was shown live on Canadian tv, with a bit of brekkie.
I took a bus up to Lynn Canyon for a bit of a wander and to cross the suspension bridge, it rained most of the time, which I believe for this part of the world is not unusual…
I wandered round part of Stanley Park, the 3rd largest in North America, a huge space enjoyed by many of the locals. Back in town I visit the famous steam powered clock in Gastown and due to continuous drizzle have a few beers and a burger in a local pub…
There’s no booze sold in supermarkets here, it’s all from off-licences and it was noticeable that some of the less well off locals would gather outside waiting for the offy to open in the morning. Be rude not to partake in some of the local brew so I picked up some big fat cans of Molson – 710mls of chilled beer :-).
To travel from Vancouver to Seattle I visit the bus station to sort out a ticket for the following day. The journey was enjoyable and gave me good views of the country, I was disappointed to discover that the US border patrol bods are just as unsmiling on land crossings as they are in airports.. I fought the urge to tickle them to see if I could get a smile.. but it was relatively straight forward for us to pass through in half an hour or so.
Home for next three nights is the Inn at Queen Ann (3nghts, $281). Close to the Space Needle, Experience Music Project Museum and Key Arena, former home of the Seattle SuperSonics NBA team before they were relocated, in 2008, to Oklahoma City, and being renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Experience Music Project building is pretty spectacular, constructed of over 21,000 aluminium and stainless steel shingles and 280 steel ribs. When I visited there was an interesting AC/DC exhibition as well as stuff covering local musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.
Independence Day, the Seattle Mariners are playing at home, so I figure it’s worth wandering downtown to see if there are tickets available. I was surprised how empty the place was and got a decent seat to watch the game against the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle lost and are seen as perennial losers, one of only two teams never to have appeared in a World Series (the other being the Washington Nationals).
Safeco Field, home of the Mariners, is right next door to CenturyLink Field where the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and Seattle Sounders (MLS) play their home games. In the 2013/14 Superbowl winning season the Seahawks’ crowd twice broke the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd at an outdoor stadium.
Kerry Park is where you get the classic view of the Seattle skyline with the Space Needle, and occasionally Mount Ranier in the background. But wow! The climb up here is the steepest road I think I’ve ever walked, it felt steeper than any I came across in San Francisco. Whilst there a young couple were having some wedding photos taken with the skyline in the background, I’m sure it’s a regular spot for such photos.
A week into my trip and I’ve visited one of the most amazing art galleries/installations at Chihuly Garden & Glass, at the time I didn’t realise that it only opened on 21st May 2012. The indoor exhibitions using glass and artificial light are spectacular and lead through to a glasshouse containing among other sculptures some amazing glass chandeliers and make use of natural light to show them off. From the glasshouse the exhibition continues outside in the gardens with some monumental glass sculptures integrated with trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses and other plants.
Dale Chihuly, the glass sculptor responsible for the exhibition was born in 1941 in nearby Tacoma, WA, and is famous for, among other things, creating the glass flower sculpture that adorns the Bellagio lobby ceiling in Las Vegas.
After wandering round Chihuly Garden & Glass there was a bit of queuing for the lift up the Space Needle. It was worth the wait for the excellent views though.
I did some shopping at the wonderful REI store and picked up some quality clothing from the Columbia store downtown. My first ride was picked up from a downtown hotel and I spent the night at Marco Polo Motel (1nght, $76) on the outskirts of town before hitting the road in the morning.