What’s that aboot?

We spent the weekend in Vancouver, Canada. I need to make that distinction, because there is actually a Vancouver in Washington State. We discovered this as we sat in the car at 6:40am on Saturday morning, trying to input a Vancouver address into the GPS to no avail. We were due at 10am to claim a ‘prize’ we won at a recent travel show. The prize – a trip to Las Vegas for two, including flights and accommodation – comes with the catch that we must endure a 90 minute timeshare presentation. That’s it. We were both adamant we could sit still long enough to claim our prize, and then have the rest of the weekend to get out into a favorite city.

Back to the car at 6:40am on Saturday: the address didn’t compute because we are actually expected in Vancouver, Washington, three hours to the south. Vancouver, Canada is three hours to the north. Bugger! We laughed about it. I had gotten up at 5:45 to shower. So there we sat – do we drive down to Vancouver, Washington (probably not as enticing as the one to the north) to keep our appointment? Or head north where we had a hotel room booked, and the expectation of a fun weekend.

We headed north. And called the timeshare people from the road.

A treat when we arrived in Vancouver was blue skies and a mild sunny day – the first I have ever experienced there. I suggested we drive up to Grouse Mountain, about 20 minutes out of the city. The drive there took us through Stanley Park,
passenger view
and across the Lion Gate Bridge.
Lion Gate Bridge
It was a busy day at the base of the mountain, which was understandable considering there is skiing and snowboarding up there, and the weather was beautiful.
The cable car ride takes 6 minutes.
Up the mountain
Man and Mountain
At the top, we walked into the bistro just as it opened and claimed a table by the window. I had never seen Vancouver from this height, as the last time I had been up the mountain (last year with Lara), it had been cloudy and rainy – and dark!
Lara and me

But Saturday was perfect and we could see the city laid out before us.
View from our table
View from our table too

We ate a leisurely – and early – lunch of burgers, and chased it down with a delicious BC Pinot Blanc. We have tried this varietal a few times now, and it is well worth a sip – or two.

Back on flat ground, we checked into the Hyatt, mooched about for the afternoon – including a trip to the hotel gym – and then headed out for an early dinner at Wild Rice. Early lunch = early dinner. We loved the food there, except the spring rolls which were flavorless and oily. We sent them back. BUT the Kung Po chicken was inspired, the salt and pepper squid rivaled that which you can get in Sydney, and the hot and sour soup was hot – and sour! Delicious. We also enjoyed that all food was brought to the table in serving dishes, so we could serve ourselves. Overall, well worth a visit, and is a runner-up in the ‘Best Asian Dining’ 2008 in Food and Wine Magazine. But seriously, the spring rolls need attention.

Breakfast the next day was a special treat. We headed two blocks away to Caffe Artigiano, where I have previously had the best coffee EVER.
Breakfast
Muffins and a bowl of smooth, hot, creamy coffee. Heaven.
“You brought reading material,” commented Ben when returned to the table with our coffees. The coffees were huge, and I knew we’d be there a while. WIRED for him. SELF for me. We sat, we supped, we read, we smiled at each other across the table in silence while we enjoyed our breakfast. “That as so good, I kinda want another one.” I knew what he meant. We could easily have killed another hour with another cup, but we needed to check out of the Hyatt.

Our last outing for the day after checking out, was to head to the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Vancouver Art Museum
I know Ben loves contemporary exhibitions, and they also had a Canadian Impressionist exhibit I wanted to see. The Impressionists didn’t disappoint, and there were some extraordinary pieces, but the collection became somewhat repetitive. more interesting were the second and third floors, filled with contemporary pieces and installations.

I was struck by this:
Skull 2008
It is “Skull 2008” by Kristi Malakoff, and is 12 feet tall. It is constructed of 12,000 paper flowers, which are photographs she took, cut out and then assembled onto this wall.
Here is a detail:
Skull Detail
Those flowers are 2-dimensional, even though they do not look it. It was my favorite piece of the How Soon Is Now collection. There were many that left me cold, however. And wanted to ask, “Really?” One installation was 6 panes of glass lying on the floor. That’s it. So, in the spirit of ‘art is subjective’, I created some of my own. Here are three pieces inspired by simplicity.
Rontund(a)
ROTUND(a)

Going Down
GOING DOWN

Topsy Turvey Escalator
TOPSY TURVY ESCALATOR

Okay, maybe I am being a little facetious, but 6 panes of glass? Perhaps it was left there accidentally by construction workers.  Someone puts a rope around it, and it becomes art.

Outside the gallery is this:
Olympic Clock
It is the Olympic countdown clock. It should say at the top, ‘this clock will self-destruct in…’, because BC – like many Olympic sites before them – is going into massive debt – to the tune of about 8billion dollars – to meet their Olympic obligations next year. I realize that because the U.S. government is throwing around figures like 782billion, that 8billion doesn’t sound like much, but it is. I do suppose that if we are still living in Seattle this time next year, it is very likely we will do our bit to help refill the coffers.

Our trip back to the United States took a bit longer than our journey to Canada – by 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is the amount of time we waited at the border.
Two and a half hours
People got out, played some ball sports, and the atmosphere was generally more festive than any other delayed border crossing I have experienced. The North Americans are a little blase about the whole border thing, I have to say. It will get more strict in June when you need more than a Driver’s License to cross from one country to the other, but my experience of border delays is ‘stay in the car, and do not make a peep’. Not so yesterday…
Waiting...waiting...waiting...
Ben stretching his legs.

When we eventually got up to the border, expecting to contribute to the delay for those behind us, we were waved through after a cheeky border guard asked if I was trying to smuggle in Vegemite. I played the role of the charming Aussie girl, Ben the chuffed boyfriend, and we were on out way.

Because of this huge delay, I had resigned myself to the fact that we were going to miss the start of the Oscars – the part with the big song and dance number. I am such a Hugh Jackman fan too. But no. As if by magic, out of the 100 channels we subscribe to, our TV was set the right one (ABC), so when we walked in and turned it on – about 20 minutes after it started – we could ‘rewind’ to the beginning and watch it delayed. SIGH. It was a brilliant end to a brilliant weekend.

Thank you, as ever, to my best friend, Ben, who makes sitting home on the couch as fun as a trip to another country.

Oh, and the title of my post? Just a little nod to our friends to the north. That’s what that is aboot.

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