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Saturday, February 01, 2014

A bit of Vancouver

“Beautiful British Columbia” – who’s to disagree? After five years in Canada, I finally got the chance to experience a bit of summer in a really green city. I love the evergreen hedges, the multicultural shopping centres, and the UBC (U. of British Columbia) campus. Rush hour traffic downtown was also bearable. As I was at UBC for a two-day conference, I only had a day to see Vancouver Aquarium and Stanley Park, and another day to ride the buses and Sky Train (and meet a friend I hadn’t seen in about 20 years). Nevertheless, the experience whetted my appetite to come back for more.

I’ve been to equally impressive aquariums, but Vancouver Aquarium has the biggest jellyfish I’ve ever seen. I was also glad to see the beluga whales, and the otters that either frolicked in the cool water with beach balls (to everyone’s delight) or floated idly as if having a siesta. In the Tropic Zone, I liked the mingling of the birds and butterflies. It was also my first time to see sloths and blue frogs.

After my aquarium tour, I joined the horse-drawn tour of Stanley Park. Other passengers were from all over the US, and we all agreed that the day’s sunshine and cool breeze were perfect for our tour. Our guide was a funny lady who not only knew all pertinent historical dates and events and the ages of the trees but also the right humour at the right time. She also introduced us to the horses and made sure that they had enough stops to rest, especially after going uphill at one point. The tour not only focused on the features of Stanley Park but also on the details of the city’s history as we passed by downtown Vancouver’s buildings and bridges viewed from the park. The best points of interest for me were the Totem Poles by the First Nations and the Rose Garden with its hundreds of rose varieties. As I didn’t have time to enjoy the garden further, I promised myself that I’d do so next time around. Of course, our awesome guide deserved a big tip.

Three days in Walter Gage Residence on UBC campus was very convenient as taxi and bus stations are nearby, and Shoppers is on the next block. Our breakfast buffet was very impressive, with its wide variety of healthy (and not-so-healthy) choices: oatmeal, assorted bread, pancakes, fried eggs, sausages, bacon, cereals, fresh fruit, pastry, hot and cold drinks, and many more. Although I would only get a piece of bread, one egg, two pieces of sausage or bacon, fruit and hot chocolate drink, I felt bloated every morning and just wanted to go back to bed. One morning, while taking pictures of the flowers in front of the Gage Towers, I heard one seminar participant yelling behind me, “Lots of bacon! Lots of bacon!” I thought for a while that she was announcing to the terribly bored, smoking taxi drivers the breakfast treat. Not really. She was yelling at her roommate who was looking out the window several floors up. Dinner for three nights was also easy after getting a loaf of whole wheat bread, canned tuna and ice cream at Shoppers. (Hence, my breakfast before checking out on day 4 was ice cream sandwich. Yum!) A stroll several blocks from the Residence, before and after the sessions, was my only exercise. I did include UBC museums in my itinerary, but there was not enough time to go elsewhere at the end of each day. Now I have another reason to go back, eh?

Ah, Vancouver! That’s where I’d be (with my ice cream sandwich) in summer.

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