Thursday 18 August 2022 – The disembarkation from Silver Muse was a smooth and well-organised process. We’d expected to be able to disembark at 0945, but actually it was just before 9am when we emerged blinking into the Vancouver cruise terminal. We picked up our bags and (probably jay-)walked across the road to the Fairmont Waterfront where, as expected, our room wasn’t ready for us yet. However, quelle surprise!, the application of a few dollars to upgrade got us immediately installed in a nice double aspect room, with one window looking out at the port and the other at Coal Harbour. The receptionist, François, gave us a lunchtime recommendation, a place called Cardero’s, and generally was very nice, as he should be, having scored a few extra dollars for the hotel.
After a certain amount of sitting around and drawing breath (me) and organising confirmations for our entertainments tomorrow and the day after (Jane), we got the hotel to book us a late lunch at this Cardero’s place and then did what we always do under these circumstances, which is to get out and blunder around the local streets to get a feel for the place. And by and large, Vancouver has a nice vibe to it.
The first objective was Gastown, the original settlement that became the core of the city of Vancouver, named for “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. He was famous for his habit of talking at length (or “gassing”), and the area was designated a national historic site in 2009. It is a mix of “hip” contemporary fashion and interior furnishing boutiques, tourist-oriented businesses (generally restricted to Water Street), restaurants, nightclubs and newly upscale housing.
It has statues, like this Angel of Victory, dedicated to the men who perished in the two world wars,
the justly famous Gastown Steam Clock,
(who knew there were so many musical genres?) and its own Flatiron building
which seems to me to have a multiple snarl on its “face”. There is also poverty –
this is a public washroom; a couple of police officers we met later suggested that we should have avoided the area, actually. We also saw some homeless people and others who were clearly not well off. But overall, like all of the areas of Vancouver we wandered through, it’s a pleasant area.
Vancouver has a significant Chinatown, with an impressive gateway
but a useless abacus, as you couldn’t move the counters; and it has real, electric trolleybuses of the sort which were phased out in the UK just before people realised what a good idea they are.
There’s no shortage of interesting buildings
and other notable sights, such as this mosaic referring to the great Vancouver fire of 1886.
We saw one unusual window cleaning exercise in progress
and visited a cathedral (Holy Rosary, Batman!)
and, as we left it, we caught sight of the Lookout Tower
which gave us an idea.
It costs a bit to go up, but the view is great. For example, you can see from on high how cramped that cathedral is.
Having wandered around the Lookout level, we thought we’d try it on and went up to the revolving restaurant on the level above, to see if they would give us coffee. We were in luck! They were feeling charitable and so we sat whilst we watched Vancouver wag by for an hour. This is how it looks if you compress that to 45 seconds.
It was then getting towards the time we’d decided on for lunch so we walked along the waterfront to Cardero’s. It’s a nice walk along the waterfront, past an interesting water feature/fountain thingy,
an art installation called The Drop,
the flight harbour
(the novelty of seeing float planes taking off and landing wears off pretty swiftly here) and the marina at Coal Harbour
which is where you can find Cardero’s.
We were initially served by Ricky Gervais, who is moonlighting over here and has pretty much perfected his Canadian accent.
He is operating under the alias “Travis” but we saw through him.
Seriously, he did a splendid job of making us feel welcome and then handed us over to a colleague, Katy, who also did a fine job. The food was excellent, as was the general ambience. I really commend the place to anyone seeking lunch or dinner. (Our table was booked at 4pm, which is a late lunch for us; by local standards, though, it counts as an early dinner.)
We pottered (tottered?) back to the hotel afterwards, pretty much retracing our steps. The route has a walkway and segregated cycle track, which is a great idea. We saw some people on one-wheel electric scooters of some kind,
a bush that had grown into a Thing that might have come from the Muppets stable,
and a bizarre shack on stilts.
Who knows what the story is behind that? It may be an art installation, which would certainly fit in with the generally gentrified vibe of Coal Harbour.
We didn’t exactly retrace our footsteps, because Jane wanted to see the Olympic Cauldron by the convention centre.
It became clear that Something Was Going On there as everyone was dressed in white.
and it was obviously popular as there was a queue,
We discovered later that this was a Diner En Blanc event, the first one staged in Vancouver since 2019. At the last minute, a secret location is revealed to thousands of people who have all been patiently waiting to learn where “Dîner en Blanc” will take place. Thousands of people then meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space. It had a lovely atmosphere.
We got back to the hotel where the delight of finding a kettle in the room was somewhat countered by the horror of discovering that there were no cups. Jane whistled up room service and asked for large mugs, and milk, so we could have tea, and the nice chap who was helping us brought us some absolutely huge cups – probably normally used for soup, but more than adequate for the job of getting some Twinings Earl Grey into us in suitable quantity,
And that was it for our amble round Vancouver. Tomorrow will be more structured, as we’ll be carted around in a coach so that we can Do Tourist Things. Exactly what, you’ll have to come back and find out.