Son Brian traveled from France to present a paper in Vancouver, June 21 to 27, Saturday to Friday. We had often talked about seeing Vancouver sometime. What a perfect opportunity. We went. We ate.
Orientation: Downtown Vancouver is a peninsula between Vancouver Harbour to the north and False Creek to the south. Stanley Park occupies the west end. Brian stayed in his convention hotel, the Westin Bayshore (W) at the west end of Georgia Street — Vancouver’s main drag — Carol and I stayed in the Sandman Hotel (S) at the east end of Georgia. Westin = resort hotel, Sandman = Canadian chain hotel, catering to European tour groups. We hung at the Weston and slept at Sandman.
Here, I recount a walking tour and our last few days of dining in Vancouver. As with most of our unfamiliar big city experiences, there were highs and there were lows; the highs were very high, the lows were merely ordinary. This installment takes us Tuesday through Friday.
Rosie’s on Robson
Even though Moxie’s is a good value, for a change o’ pace, we breakfasted at Rosie’s on Robson, a few blocks from Sandman. Pretty good. We shared the BIG BREAKFAST. Carol took the bacon, eggs and toast; I took the potatoes, sausage and beans. Perfecto.
Our BIG BUS ticket expired, so Carol picked a “loop walk” out of our guidebook. It took us down the Granville Mall — a quasi-pedestrian street that just now is having a subway built down its center.
The Canada Center is at the end, featuring big fiberglass sails projecting into the water. Interesting, as an Alaska cruise ship terminal and for conventioneers, I suppose, but not for your thrill seeking pedestrian tourist. More interesting is the Convention Center expansion next door, planned to open for Vancouver’s Winter Olympics.
Canada Center … Convention Center
Across the street, we turned up Burrard, a broad street marching through the heart of downtown from Vancouver Harbour to False Creek. Within two blocks, I spied the Marine Building, recalling its spiel on the BIG BUS: “Vancouver is prospering and we need a building like the Chrysler Building in New York to show that we belong!” We went in and admired the beautiful inlayed Art Deco lobby with arched wooden coffered ceiling. Lovely. Strong. Powerful. Not exactly the Chrysler Building, but then V ain’t NYC.
Imperial Chinese Seafood
Marine Building, Burrard Street
At one end of the lobby we found Imperial Chinese Seafood featuring dim sum from 11 to 3. Good chance for a pick-me-up.
BBQ Plate with Chicken, Duck, Pork
It was sunny and warm with big puffy clouds accenting the blue sky and bouncing off shiny glass buildings. At Burrard and Robson we sat by a hot dog vendor to reconnoiter. C wants to shop on Robson, M wants to walk to English Harbour. We can do that! I’ve wanted to take that walk since BIG BUS showed me the way. I continued south on Burrard and took a right on Davie, a smaller street lined with small, mostly nondescript shops. This is the heart of the gay community, BIG BUS told us.
(note the Canadian Mountie costume featured lower left)
Davie Street to English Harbour
After a few blocks, Davie drops down a long hill to English Harbour. Pretty. As Davie approaches the harbour, shops get a little bigger and markedly nicer. At the end, I found The Calling Public House on the corner of Denman, facing the beach. I sat at a high, round table with a glass of Granville Pale Ale; absorbed the scene, and most welcome, rested my feet.
The Calling Public House
The six blocks of Denman Street to Georgia, recommended for restaurants by Brian’s concierge, was indeed chock-a-block with shops and restaurants, but only one or two that would cut it on Polk Street. I caught the bus to the other end of Georgia and our Sandman.
Again, Brian was partaking in official functions, so Carol and I walked down to Yaletown, and selected Cioppino’s Grill for dinner. Finally, the real deal. We were seated on the terrace at a round table-for-two under the twilit Vancouver sky. It was just a delightful setting and just where we wanted to be (not Asian).
Our waiter was extremely Italian and extremely charming. I asked for Campari, but he suggested a Negrone to fit alongside Carol’s Manhattan and accompany Jamon Serrano. Oh boy.
Carol ordered the Pappardelle with Veal Cheeks, which she proclaimed wonderful (looked just like the Pappardelle with beef cheeks that I made).
I ordered Crab Ravioli with Lobster Sauce. And at a place like this, one must have dessert, espresso and grappa.
My dessert was the Soft Heart Chocolate Cake. Oh my. Carol’s Panna Cotta was not as picturesque, but equally fine.
Cioppino’s had a lot going for it: 1 — Perfect presentation 2 — perfect portions 3 — exquisite taste and texture 4 — professional and friendly service 5 — we were surrounded by beautiful people on a beautiful night enjoying beautiful food. A definite high.
Sticky Wicket Pub
Brian had the day off so it was perfect to take the bus-ferry-bus to Victoria, “the most British of Canadian cities.” We quickly found the Sticky Wicket Pub where a semi-final EuroCup match was projected on several large screens: Germany 3 v. Turkey 2. Folks in the US don’t pay much attention to the EuroCup, but to folks here, it’s a big deal. The Bangers n Mashed, Fish n Chips and Cheeseburger were good enough. Victoria was okay, but the shopping was straight out of Sacramento: Gap, Levi’s, Ann Taylor, even a Christmas Store in June. The ferry ride, twisting between harbour islands was spectacular.
Ferry to Victoria
Brian got off the bus with us at Sandman and we walked down to Cactus Club in Yaletown for dinner. We waited in the bar for a table to become available on the terrace. Brian described it so well, “a trendy chop shoppe (call-brand martini – no cocktail onions or it woulda been a Gibson), surf, turf, hot waitress (by Canadian standards).”
The day started with a 7 Eleven coffee and the musical question, “What’ll we do today,” our last full day in Vancouver. Previous days had been pre-planned.
Carol showered, I got caught up with stuff, and we were ready to walk out the door about 11. The loose plan was to have lunch at Salt Tasting in Gas Town and look in on the Spain v Russia EuroCup match at some point. Futbol match at 11:30, Salt opens at noon. We had heard about Salt and considered it a destination.
We walked to Gas Town and popped into the Lamplighter Pub. Soccer was on the big screen — and every other screen — and the big screen is BIG. A tall slender hostess/waitress welcomed us and said that all the Carlsburg goodies on the tables were free for the taking. There were glasses, an Espana scarf, caps, tee shirts and the like. I helped myself to the scarf and slung it around my neck. Nice way to get in the mood, before the game even started.
The place was nearing full as the game began, and there was a definite buzz in the room. I must say, that on the big screen, and with boisterous fans around, soccer can be exciting, especially when it’s being played by the best. I was drinking a Pale Ale, and needed some food, but alas, the waitress said, “we don’t have food.” Odd, but neither does Green’s Sports Bar in SF.
I made a proposal to Carol, “Please get a sandwich and we’ll go to Salt after for lunch, the game’s only 90 minutes real time.” She wasn’t totally with that idea, but after checking out Salt (empty) and Subway, she got the sandwiches and returned to enjoy (really!) the game.
First half was scoreless, but Spain seemed to always be on the attack. A few minutes into the second half, Spain was advancing on the right side and I remarked, “Spain always seems to attack from the right wing,” just as there was a pass to the middle, then to the left, then across the box, then GOAL!! That was pretty.
From that point on, the outcome was never in doubt. Russia hardly threatened and Spain went on to score twice more. Spain v Germany in the final. That’s Sunday, I’ll be home, shall I go to Greens?
Blood Alley, Gas Town
Blood Alley, Gas Town
Blood Alley runs behind Lamplighter and Salt is the only commercial entry off of that clean, but utilitarian alley, half way down the block. Salt is a concept place; no kitchen, they procure cheese and charcuterie and pair it with wine. 1 plate = $15 = three portions of meat or cheese or a combination. 1 flight of wine = 3 glasses paired with the food = $15. Simple.
After letting us struggle for a while with the lists on the Big Blackboard, our hostess said that she would be glad to select food and wine for us. (There was one other couple in the place.) We gladly accepted.
The wines, ranging from sherry to cava were arranged on a strip of brown paper, alongside their names. A basket of thin sliced sweet baguette, olive bread, and white baguette toast was provided. The food portions, accompanied by condiments, were brought and arranged with their identifying paper strips from Stilton cheese with honey to Beef Bacon with cornichones, and aligned with the appropriate wines. All we had to do was eat.
Somehow we managed. The charcuterie was shaved and the cheese sliced thin, so I imagine we had about 4 ounces of food, but my, it was rich and filling and savory and just right.
I had an espresso to settle the senses and walked it off on streets I hadn’t yet walked, back toward Sandman. Carol shopped.
Now that was a nice, serendipitous day.
Dinner was unremarkable. Brian called to say that he was going to a banquet, that his talk went well (only one guy was outraged), and we should get together tomorrow at one.
Getaway day, but a late getaway, flight is not until 6:30.
I got the usual coffee from 7 Eleven and enjoyed a nice morning walk. (Starbucks is on every corner, but I like 7 Eleven coffee better.) We were both packed by 9:30. Now what? Sandman is not a good place to hang out, so we went for a long breakfast at Moxie’s, got our act totally together and took a taxi to Brian’s Westin. The lobby there is hangoutable.
Brian called at one. We walked to Kintaro, a Japanese Raman restaurant on Denman. It was full of Japanese people and had a waiting line, while three nearby Japanese restaurants were sparsely occupied, Brian bragged (another feather for his concierge). It was worth the wait. Carol and Brain had the rich broth with lean pork, while I had the medium broth with fat pork, Raman noodles, bean sprouts, scallion, what more could one ask.
What a spectacular day. Perfect sun and temperature, the water sparkled and the black Cascades with their white tops loomed. We spent a little time with Brian, and then we were off to the airport.
Friday afternoon traffic was bad, oops, never thought of that in the planning. The lines through customs were long, but we were there in plenty of time to check in. Then our flight was delayed for an hour, and then some more, all flights to SFO were delayed, forest fires in California are smoking up the visibility. Oddly, nobody was outraged.
The airplane was full, but Carol and I were each lucky to sit next to young lovers, so we weren’t crowded at all. And get this; both couples were heterosexual, flying into San Francisco on Gay Pride weekend.
We were home by 10pm. Good.