FREE OLYMPICS – DAY 2

20100213_ItalyHouse2
The Italy House, located at the Yaletown Roundhouse Community Centre. Nothing much to do unfortunately. But I liked these funky chairs and some ski equipment that were on display. I doubt it was free, but there was a section for wine tasting too.

20100213_HeinekenHouseFull
4:30pm, the Netherlands’ famous Heineken House was already full. Lots of disappointed people had to be turned away to look for other things to do instead. And I just heard on CTV News that in the evening you needed your Dutch passport to get in! :s It will be difficult to get in what some call the biggest party place of the Games (4,000 people capacity). Oh and one word of advice: if the weather is so-so, bring an umbrella with a flat top with you. My huge, pointy umbrella had to be put aside as I entered the O Zone. Luckily, the rain held off while I was there.

20100213_RobsonCTV2
Watching the Olympics at the CTV booth on Robson St., cheering freestyle mogul skier Jennifer Heil on. She won a silver medal. :)

The overwhelming trend of the day is that the fun free things to do require you to stand in line for a long time and if there are no lineups, expect a boring experience. :s

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ILLUMINATE YALETOWN

Martinis On Ice
Martinis on the rocks on Cactus Club Cafe‘s patio

The first Illuminate Yaletown event launched at sunset (5:29PM) last night, for an evening “featuring contemporary light installations designed to inspire and impress.”  Maybe dusk would have been a better bet, as there was still plenty of “leftover” sunlight at that time.

Color Grid #2
“Louver Towers”, by Vivid Lighting Solutions

Glowing Balls
“Light Flow”, by Render Light and Planning (people spun the spheres around from time to time, like here)

Although there definitely were a few funky, creative displays around, I was somewhat disappointed because it wasn’t quite what I expected: after looking at the photos on the official website (see above link), I thought I’d experience some big street-wide light show, but in the end it was just a bunch of mostly small, individual stations that varied greatly in “fun” factor.  Maybe I should have read the description more carefully…

Other than the stations shown in the pictures you see here, some other interesting moments were: the music coming from the doorsteps of Section 3 and all the ice sculptures, especially the CIBC warming station, which I found very creative: you could see hot chocolate and coffee trickle down the inside of the ice sculpture, its run ending in your cup.

Photographers were out in full force at this event.  It was funny to see the non-photographers look at me as if I was an alien with my tripod, though.  One woman in particular had seen one too many of them when she noticed me, I guess, and couldn’t help exclaim: “My God!  They’re everywhere!”  It’s all about avoiding camera shake on those long exposure shots, lady. ;)

It’s too bad I missed out on the fire dancers routine, even though I walked around the block almost twice in the end (once for the event, and once to find a cheap place to eat).  Apparently, this was the best part of the evening.

Laser Beams

“Immersion”, by Aspect Media (3 second exposure)

Light Graffiti #2
Shaw TV also liked the spot I picked to take this picture of “Light-Graffiti”, by EOS Lightmedia

All in all, although many stations fell flat, the evening was enjoyable enough to warrant a second try next year.

2008 JAZZ FEST – SLIDING HAMMERS

Yaletown Splash
Once in a while they open some fire hydrant valves that shoot up in the sky and give us a spectacular show!

Last weekend Gastown was the stage for the free shows and this past weekend it was Yaletown’s turn.  The weather was perfect.  Well, maybe a little too hot?  on Saturday, me and my friends tried to find a spot in the shade with a decent view on the stage, but of course, they were all taken…

 Too Hot to Handle
The shade was our best friend this weekend — it was HOT!!!

Free Jazz at David Lam Park
The David Lam Park in Yaletown.  That ice cream vendor is sure to make a buck sooner than later! ;)

After roasting in the Sun for about 30 minutes, we decided to head to the indoor stage.  A show was already on and, since spots away from the Sun were on high demand, I only managed to sneak way back in the room, with a wooden pillar right in my face. :s  The band Sliding Hammers was playing:

Sliding Hammers
Swedish sisters Mimmi Pettersson Hammar and Karin Hammar

Sliding Hammers
A fine piano solo just ended

I especially liked Ronnie Gardiner, the drummer, from which you could feel a deep sense of joy through his playing (not that the others weren’t having fun — they were; it was just most apparent in him).  He was all smiles and sooo relaxed behind his drum set whether it was a mellow song or playing through a solo.  Going to live shows is so much fun when you can feel that energy emanating from the band/artist.  It was a very enjoyable show with great music and good laughs listening to the comments the sisters had for us in-between songs.

Official Website

HOW SWEET IT IS!

(2008-06-10) My girlfriend and I have a thing for desserts and we’re always on the lookout for “sweet spots.” After trying a few, we’ve been most impressed with the excellent, Parisian inspired Ganache Patisserie in Yaletown. Personally, I’d have their “Caramel-Chocolat” dessert every day if my system could handle it. That caramel topping and subtle crunch in every bite of chocolate/caramel mousse is to die for! :D

(2009-05-12) More recently, we’ve been impressed with their “Mango-Chocolat” also. Lighter taste than the “Caramel-Chocolat”, but just as flavorful.

Anytime we need to buy a cake for someone this is the place we go to — it’s just that good. :)

In a nutshell:

Name Ganache Patisserie
Address 1262 Homer St. (Yaletown), Vancouver
Phone 604-899-1098
Food *****
Service N/A (at the counter… They do bring the desserts to you in a jiffy though :) )
Ambiance Nice. Casual. Relaxed. Modern.
Price Varies greatly, depending if you’re going only for an individual dessert (about 6$) or a humongous wedding cake ($$$$)

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Directions:

A WEEKEND IN VANCOUVER – DAY 2

***** This article takes much longer to write down than I expected (I like to blog about my city, but I’m pretty busy, and a perfectionist too)… I’m putting out this “BETA” version in the meantime, for someone. ;) Forgive the “bugs” and I hope the pictures are enough to get you excited about visiting Vancouver anyway! *****

I have created separate posts for each attraction as I feel they should be able to stand on their own also. This article will nevertheless remain, as some people may of course need ideas for a fun weekend in Vancouver.


9:16AM – SEABUS RIDE TO NORTH VANCOUVER

[Check the SeaBus schedule to make sure that the times have not changed since the writing of this article]

Wherever you are, head for the Waterfront SkyTrain station 10 minutes prior to the SeaBus’ scheduled departure. The SeaBus runs every 30 minutes around that time and you don’t want to miss it… You’ll need to purchase your fare first and you can do so from one of the automated teller machines located in every SkyTrain station. Buying an all-day pass is recommended as we’ll use the bus at some other point during the day and the fact that you don’t have to worry about transit fare for the rest of the day is nice too.

OK, back to business… Our first stop is an appetizer of sorts: the 12 minute SeaBus ride across Burrard Inlet is a fun and inexpensive way to get great views of Canada Place and Stanley Park on the way to “North Van” (as people call it here). And once you exit the SeaBus terminal, you can enjoy postcard-like views of the city and its skyline from a variety of vantage points:

Vancouver Cityscape
After exiting the SeaBus terminal, turn right and this is the view that you’re going to get

Q Sunset Silouhettes
Same location, different time, different viewpoint

Vancouver, from Burrard Pier
About a 5 minute walk from the terminal — still to the right (East) — is this interesting viewpoint: Burrard Pier.

I haven’t explored North Van that much myself, but there doesn’t seem to be many options in the immediate surroundings, from a tourist’s point of view, except enjoying the view. Once you see the SeaBus closing in on the North Van side again, this will be your cue to get ready to head back to the terminal for your return trip downtown.

10:15AM – GASTOWN

Gastown
Gastown is a tourist hot spot

Our short SeaBus round-trip over, exit the terminal by following the “Buses” signs. These will lead you to Waterfront Station’s main entrance — on Cordova St. — where we’ll officially start today’s tour. Our first stop will be the cradle of Vancouver — Gastown. For a brief history of Gastown, click here. As we head to our left immediately after exiting Waterfront Station, Gastown quickly comes into view.

Gastown is where Vancouver all started, back in 1867 (for more details on Gastown’s history, click here). Its core area is pretty much all contained within four blocks of Water St., between Richards St. and Carrall St. Trendy boutiques and galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops line up the cobblestoned pavement of this historic landmark. Gastown is also the setting for a few noteworthy events such as the Jazz Festival (free shows) and the “Tour de Gastown” bike race.

Festival Banner in Gastown
Gastown is the setting for some free shows during Vancouver’s International Jazz Festival

Gastown’s pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the Steam Clock. This may very well be the most photographed item in all of Vancouver. Every 15 minutes it belches out steam from its musical pipes, delighting the hords of tourists that surround it.

Leaving the commotion behind, we head one block further East, to Carrall Street, to spend a moment watching Gassy Jack’s statue overlooking the oddly shaped Europe Hotel, which is now an affordable housing complex.

Gastown B & W

Our short visit of Gastown over, we stay on Carrall Street, going South three blocks, just past Pender St., to your left, for the next stop in our tour: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden.

11:00AM – DR. SUN YAT-SEN’S CLASSICAL CHINESE GARDEN

Water Lilly

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden is a small, but beautiful and authentic garden that is incredibly rich in tradition and history.

Make sure you take the guided tour. Knowing all the intricate details that went behind the building of this garden will make you appreciate it so much more, and makes the admission fee (10$ for adults) worth it.

BUT… Be warned that not all guided tours are created equal. I’ve been to the classical garden twice, and as much as my first experience was fantastic, the following one was utterly atrocious (both times the guide was a volunteer). While my first experience was 90 minutes of sheer fun and interesting facts and stories about the making of the garden, my second time around was nothing but stumbling embarassment (maybe it was her first presentation ever?). So much so, that I convinced my parents — who were visiting me at that time — to bail out and wait for the next one. The following tour was definitely better, but although our guide (a trained staff member this time) was dynamic, it was obvious he kept only to the script and added nothing more to the tour. I was stunned to learn this second time around that the tours are apparently supposed to last 45 minutes only.

Intricate Carvings
Intricate carvings

See-Through Drawing
Double-sided see-through Silk drawings

I’m not sure if my amazing first guide still volunteers there, but I can tell you I stumbled upon her on a Sunday morning (11AM presentation) last Spring. The guide can definitely make or break ANY attraction…

P.S.: You can visit the free Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park right next door also. It’s actually bigger than the classical garden, but less refined — still a nice walk in the park:

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

12:00PM – LUNCH AT “WILD GINGER” (TINSELTOWN)

Continue South for half a block and turn right on Keefer Pl. until you reach the Tinseltown building. There is a food court there and also a few more elaborate restaurants. Among those, I like Wild Ginger. It’s good, very affordable Chinese cuisine.

Once you’re done eating, walk South on Abbott St. until you reach Expo Blvd. and wait for the Westbound C21 Beach “community” bus — an odd mini school-bus type of bus — at bus stop #60777. About 3 minutes later, drop off at the corner of Pacific Blvd. and Cambie St. (bus stop #59914) and walk a few blocks toward the Yaletown Marina. Here is the map for your convenience.

On the map:

* A = Tinseltown
* B = C21 Beach stop # 60777
* C = C21 Beach stop # 59914
* D = Yaletown Marina

You can always walk too…  It’s 15-20 minutes walking distance from Tinseltown to the Yaletown Marina.

13:30PM – AQUABUS RIDE TO GRANVILLE ISLAND

Yaletown Marina
No, this is not the AquaBus, unfortunately… It’s just nestled beside the AquaBus’ waiting area at the Yaletown Marina.

The AquaBus runs a mini-cruise which, at 6$ per adult and 4$ per children/senior, is an inexpensive way to enjoy the wonderful sights surrounding False Creek. Note that the official web site mentions that this mini-cruise starts at Granville Island — our destination — every 15 minutes. I didn’t know about that when I did mine and I didn’t feel like I’d been “robbed” of a few bucks for the shorter cruise at all. The Yaletown marina is, in my opinion, the most interesting AquaBus “station” and I saw the same things that the longer cruise would have offered me anyway: Science World, BC Place and the Edgewater Casino, Yaletown (the condos and the marina), Granville Island, the mountains in the distance, etc.

Science World

Science World

Downtown/Yaletown Condos
Modern, expensive condos line up the seawall on the North side of False Creek

In case you’re a little confused about how this modified mini-cruise works, let me tell you how mine went: at Yaletown marina’s waiting area for the AquaBus, I simply asked the first AquaBus skipper I saw if it was possible to stay for more than one stop in order to enjoy the sights from False Creek a little longer. He said yes, but that I would have to wait maybe 10 minutes for the one doing the longer tour. No problem. Two AquaBuses later, the “touring” one arrived and my cruise consisted of three stops: first, Science World, then I came back to the Yaletown marina, and we finally headed for Granville Island. About 15 minutes of nice sightseeing.

15:00PM – GRANVILLE ISLAND

Taiko Drummers
Taiko drummers

[More to come on this topic, soon, I hope]

Shoot me! Shoot me!
The playground area offers lots of fun for kids

Mini-Venice
I call this area of Granville Island “Mini-Venice”… Cool — but surely expensive — place!

18:00PM – ENJOYING DINNER OVER SUNSET AT ENGLISH BAY

Solar Clock at Sunset

Sunsets at English Bay are spectacular!!! The best way to experience the sunset, in my opinion, is over a romantic dinner — or with the kids :p — in one of the few waterfront restaurants near the corner of Denman St. and Beach Av. If you’re on a budget, picnicking alongside the sandy beach works too. :) And if that doesn’t inspire you, Denman St. has tons of dining opportunities for you to choose from — take your pick. ;)

Silhouettes

Inukshuk at Sunset

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