We regretted leaving Savona’s beautiful inn, and had to take a few more photos of this lovely place. Then it was off to Vancouver. The weather was warm with a few clouds, but Margaret told it would get much hotter later.
Leaving Savona on Highway 1 yesterday turned out to be a wise choice (Roger’s of course!) as we later learned there had been a major accident on Highway 5, the motorway route to Vancouver, which shut it until 7.00 pm in the evening. We wondered why there was so much traffic coming the other way….
We were too late to stop at a fascinating looking ‘Ghost Town’, an old town left as it would have been in the time of the Gold Rush, (or perhaps a re-creation of one, we didn’t have time to tell) by the time we had spotted it we were past it, it might have had one of the original covered wagons I was longing to see.
Scenery here was very much parched earth and scrub, none of the greenery and tall fir trees we had become used to. The hills were lower and rounded, a very difference landscape.
The first place we stopped at was Boston Bar, we had lunch in the appropriately named ‘Pigs Ear Saloon’! Food was okay, we shared a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a turkey sandwich, which was very dry, grateful for the salad that went with it. Already really hot, you would not want to break down in this arid place.
As we drove along, it was really upsetting to see forest fires breaking out all across the area to our left, too many to count. the plumes of smoke looked like little geysers, if only they had been! There were signs to report if you saw a fire, it would have cost us a lot of money to do so, and the road was busy, so we assumed that lots of other people would be reporting it.
Less than an hour after leaviing Boston Bar, we came to a sign for Hells Gate, and a car park. This seemed to ring a bell with something Margaret had mentioned, so we stopped and went to investigate. There was a cable car taking you down to the floor of the Fraser River valley, which we took. This is the narrowest point of the who river, and water rushes through here at greater force than over Niagara. Because of the pressure, the water is a muddy grey with all the silt.
At the bottom was a museum telling the story of the building of the railroad through the valley, the many Chinese labourers who were brought over to build it, and how a lot of them had ost their lives. There was also a ‘haunted range’ a cooker that was used by an expert Chinese cook, who went missing. Other cooks were drafted in but the range failed to light for any of them. Eventually a seach party was sent out to find the original cook, and rescued him. The range lit as soon as he first tried it. Apparently on the anniversary of his death, the range gets slightly warm every year. A lovely story but as it was blazing hot weather, I leant my hand on the metal, and it was certainly more than ‘slightly warm’ today!
Margaret had told us to look out for the fish ladders. Apparently when the Canadian Pacific railway was being built, the works created a rock fall into the river, already at its narrowest point. The force of the water was now such that the salmon could not get up to their spawning grounds above. The fish ladders were an ingenious way of slowing the rush by creating small side channels for the fish, and they have learnt to use them to continue upriver. Such a romantic tale for the salmon Rog thinks, all that effort, just to spawn and then die a day later!
Back up the cable car and on our way again, the desert like landscape now becoming fresher and greener, with even a snow capped mountain in the distance. No, not Mount Robson – at least I hope not, that should be many miles behind us!
The heat and rumble of the tyres on the road made me very drowsy, and I started to nod off. I still hadn’t seen my covered wagon that I was hoping to spot, or any ghost town, but Rog was saying right, we are not stopping again! Then we came to a place called Yale. Not the famous university town in the States, this was a little collection of houses on each side of the road, with a museum. Crossing the busy road was not a problem, even the big trucks seemed keen to pause and let us pass.
The museum was an excellent representation of life at the time of the gold rush, and in the garden was a ‘tented village’ set up as the travellers would have had it on the move, with living accommodation, bathroon (with tin bath!) shop, bar, doctors and dentist’s surgery and a separate tent for the Chinese workers (in hard bunks instead of beds, I am ashamed to say!)
There was also a panning experience set up in the garden, with water flowing over troughs filled with gravel, and pans so you could have a go at panning for gold. The gravel had the odd tiny sparkle in it, so I had a try, but nothing was visible. However in the next trough up I saw a fractionally bigger glint, and discarding the pan, picked up the pinch of gravel surrounding it and laid it out on the edge. There indeed, was a tiny speck of gold. Nor much more than 2 mm across, but gold nonetheless! Excitedly I tried to show my find to Rog, but he had wandered off to look at the historic church, where a First Nations lady had been educated, and married a railway worker, devoting her later life to caring to looking after the old church and providing a school for local children. We tried to take a photo of my ‘nugget’ but the cameras weren’t really up to it!
Back on the road again, I dozed on and off, that awful feeling of your head suddenly dropping forward waking you up, then nodding off for a few more minutes.
The scenery flattened out now, and the roads got busier. The Satnav took us to the address we had as our accommodation, but there was no sign of the Robson Suites, despite walking up and down Bidwell Street. In some desperation, we were very tired and hungry by this point, I loaded up the other Satnav app on my phone, and it took us round a couple of blocks and there we were. Seemed they had built a small park across the middle of Bidwell Street, and we were on the wrong side!
We checked in, which enabled us to get the key to open the gates to the underground car park. Next we dumped all the suitcases in the suite, and went to find somewhere to eat. Not far away was Caio Italia, a typical Italian small restaurant, with typical eccentric Italian staff! We were warmly welcomed, and seated at a lovely table not far from the piano player tinkling the ivories of a baby grand piano, very romantic!
We ordered cheesy garlic bread as we were starving, not realising that a large basket of homemade bread would appear anyway! I settled for the shrimp ravioli with lobster sauce, Rog had the salmon al limone, and asked the waiter what he advised to go with it. ‘Don’t ask me, I am an Italian’ he laughed, and the dish arrived with a large helping of pasta with tomato sauce. He said they were both tasty, but he would never have put them together, it just didn’t work. Perhaps he has been watching too much MasterChef!
One hiccup for the morning – the trip to the Buchart gardens that I had booked. I had thought the pick-up point was the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver, not far from our hotel, but when I enquired at Reception about the free shuttle service, the nice lady sadly pointed out that pick up was to be from the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, a two hour ferry ride and then a bus service away! There was no way that we would be able to get over there in time for the trip, which started at 11.00 am the following day. She even checked the float plane service (serious money!) but that was fully booked. Checking the tickets, they were refundable or changeable, so not a disaster. Would ring the company in the morning…..
We unpacked and looked round the suite. We had a large hallway, little office room with desk and chest of drawers, decent kitchen with huge fridge freezer and cooker, microwave, double sink, and all the equipment needed to fix a basic meal.
The living room had air con going full blast, there was a dining table and three chairs, sofa, tub chair, couple of coffee tables, and a door to what I can only describe as a ‘solarium’. It was like a tiny glassed in patio, and the heat in there was amazing, we quickly retreated! The bed was the usual 3′ divans zipped together to make one king size bed, and although there was no air con unit in there, there was a large, quiet fan. Views from the window were of the large Safeway supermarket opposite, which was a godsend when we just wanted to dash over for orange juice and croissants for the morning.
I eventually located the washing machine, with tumble dryer above, in a cupboard off the hall, behind mirrored doors – novel! There were three hanging wardrobes, so plenty of space. The bathroom had large bath and shower, and everything you could expect, including lots of fluffy white towels.
Having done all we could to settle in, we slept well.
Our eldest granddaughter is 10 years old today, Happy Birthday!
We sorted the Butchart tour with a phone call to the company, CVS Tours, We will now get picked up at 7.30 am on Monday from a hotel two blocks away. Early start, but at least we won’t miss it.
Having done that we took a break from exploring this morning, having a rest, catching up on the blog, two loads of washing done. There was a Celtic shop on the other side of town which was supposed to be 15 mins away, so at lunchtime we set out. The satnav got us within 100 yards, but I had to ask at the Petrol Station where the shop was. They hadn’t heard of it, but helpfully Googled it on their phone, and we were fascinated by all the English, Scottish, and Irish items that we would take for granted to be in every English supermarket, here as delicacies!
Roger’s eyes were drawn to a cabinet of frozen home made pies, and I could see he was drooling, so we settled on a steak and mushroom.
We had a reason for going, which I shall reveal later, but the helpful staff were telling us what not to miss in Vancouver, and the first thing they came up with was Stanley Park, also No 1 on Tripadvisor. We had better go then!
Safeways provided us with hot soup and sandwiches, olives for Roger (he gets withdrawal symptoms if he doesn’t get his olives several times a week!) and mini chocolate Grand Marnier cakes for pudding after the pie.
Stanley Park is not far from the Robson Suites, so off we went on foot. I had packed a fold away mac in my handbag, as the sky was overcast. Rog thought I was mad, and indeed the weather forecast said no chance of rain, but we had barely gone 50 yards when the rain came down. Not heavy, but enough to justify my mac, though not heavy enough to actually use it.
The Celtic shop staff had recommended the horse drawn carriages as a good way to see Stanley Park, and they are easy to find. Apparently there is only one trip left, the 5.00 pm one, so we have a bit of a wait, but the wagon has a tarpaulin room, so we stay dry. There are two grey horses in harness to pull it, apparently named Doc and Dan. They seem fairly affectionate to each other, rubbing noses and necks, and indeed I am later told by the coachman that Doc will just scream if parted from Dan. Made us think of the bond between our two Siamese sisters now so sadly broken, (see Who are We) must find out how Suay is getting on, but not by texting the poor cat lady at 5.00 am like last time!
Another carriage arrives, this is a beautiful white one presumably used for weddings (yes, brides in the park today having their photos taken) and Doc whinnies a loud greeting to the other horse. We then set off, I think the horses know this is their last trip of the day, and they are reluctant to stop at viewpoints.
After seeing well known landmarks like the Royal Yacht Club, and the view across the bay, we stop to take pictures of the First Nations totem poles, both modern carvings and replicas of old ones. This site often appears on Vancouver postcards. We don’t have long enough to read about each one, we are back on the carriage and Doc and Dan carry on up the road. We see the Lion Gate Bridge, named after the lions in Trafalgar Square because the mountains behind resemble them, so we are told.
The tour finishes in a different place to the start so the horses can go home without having to complete another circuit of the one way road. We walk down the hill and come across a large statue. Thinking this must be Mr Stanley, founder of the park, it turns out to be Robert Burns, and very handsome he looks too!
Back to the Robson Suite to heat up that pie. Very good, very filling, and the chocolate cakes go uneaten, we are too full!
Time to relax (Rog on his computer word game, he is rattling up the points) and me to do the ironing and blog!
See Butchart Gardens page for 29th June fun and frolics!
30th June and also our last full day in Canada. We will really be sad to leave this beautiful country, with its scenery, climate, friendly and helpful people, its clean and efficient transport systems and the complete absence of litter or graffiti.
On every holiday we go on, I am permitted one shopping day, and this was to be it. I may have mentioned Laura/Laura Petites as one of my favourite shops, having found the chain in Toronto 10 years ago. Coming back to Canada meant I had to track one down, and so we set off on the No 5 bus and then the SkyTrain to Metrotown at the Metropolis, which is a very large shopping mall, with a Laura shop in it.
Rog somewhat naively said he would leave me to it and be back in 25 minutes, that was never going to be long enough! A very kind assistant took clothes off me as soon as I picked anything out, and hung them in my designated changing room. By the time Rog returned I was just finishing scouring the shop, so he departed for a further half hour. After a prolonged trying on session, when I was trying to work out what I could afford, and could possible get into already overloaded suitcases, I emerged with a jacket, trousers and four tops, sadly leaving the rest behind.
We grabbed lunch in the Food Court, home made mushroom soup and a lobster tail sub, shared between us. Rog had found details of a market he wanted to look round, at Lonsdale Quay, on the waterfront, so off we went on the SkyTrain again. The market also had a mini brewery at the side, the Green Leaf Brewery, which did sampler platter for four different beers. We sat down to try this out, and of the four very difference beers in front of us, it was fortunate that I liked two, and Rog the other two, more hoppy ones!
We also toured the food market, though didn’t buy anything more than a punnet of raspberries as we were leaving Canada tomorrow, and could not take anything to the USA with us.
Next we decided to explore Grouse Mountain, in North Vancouver. We got there by taking the SeaBus, a very large water taxi. It has lifeboat space for 450, so that will give you an idea of how many people it could take on board! We crossed over to North Vancouver, and took a 236 bus up the hill to the cable car to the top of Grouse Mountain.
There were several different ticket options to get up the mountain, and the queue for tickets just wasn’t moving, there was only one window to sell tickets. After 20 minutes we were getting frustrated by the large Asian Indian family ahead, who could not make up their minds which tour they wanted. The dithering continued, and those waiting behind us were beginning to mutter. At long last they paid up and moved on.
We now queued for the next cable car, the large family were still discussing options just past the pay point, and didn’t board the car!
Views going up in the car were truly awe-inspiring, this time of the city spread out before us, rather than the green forests of the Rockies cable cars. We could see Mount Washington in the distance, heavily covered wtih snow. Since the trip back on the CVS coach yesterday, when the driver had pointed out Mount Washington and we had failed to get a photo, it was becoming a ‘Mount Robson’ moment, and I am not sure we have any even now, it was so far away,
At the top we were treated to a raptor flying display, with eagles and a large Great Horned Owl, which was still really a baby, a couple of years old. The bords were swooping low over our heads, and the owl truly did fly silently. As a baby, however, he hadn’t learnt how to hoot, or indeed to be quiet, chirping constantly for reassurance to his handler.
After the birds in motion display we went over to look at the grizzly bear enclosure. The bears were being very obliging, coming right up close to the fence, and even looking at us with mild interest, perhaps wondering if one of the children would make a nice snack?
After wondering on arrival in Canada if we would be lucky to catch a glimpse of a grizzly, to that first sighting in Banff, seeing several together from the viewpoint of a chair lift, and now up so close, was an amazing experience. I must have used up a lot of video on these wonderful creatures, but can’t upload it unless I get a faster internet connection.
Our next part of the tour was a chair lift up to the peak, and we saw Mount Washington again on our right going up. Heads and cameras clashed as we again tried to capture it on camera, but not with any success.
At the top, we walked down to the ‘Eye of the Wind’, a very tall wind turbine with a viewing platform at the top. We hadn’t paid extra for this as at this height, we didn’t think 200′ extra would make a lot of difference. We also passed the zipline, with a terrifying drop beneath you. Neither of us had had the courage to book this either, and as we approached, one poor chap all kitted out bottled it at the last moment and couldn’t face it. It didn’t seem fair to watch his distress, so I will never know if he did actually do it.
Views from the bottom of the ‘Eye’ were a 360 degrees mix of vancouver and forests, and my camera battery finally gave out.
We had a meal in the cafe, not much choice, burger and fries for me, and chicken strips and fries for Roger, but it rounded off the day.
You can read more about Grouse Mountain here.
1st July 2015
Today we leave Canada, we have come to love this country, the beautiful scenery, the friendliness of the people, the cleanliness (no litter or graffiti anywhere!) the efficiency of the transport systems, and the way just about everything works, the way you hope it would do in the UK, but it never does!
That said, there is one person we might like to strangle.
We thought today being Canada Day, we would like to join in the celebrations in Granville Island. Trip Advisor, (to which we occasionally contribute, but not yet on our fabulous hoilday), suggested parking the car and taking a short hop across the water to Granville Island from Hornby Street.
We decided to check this out with the young lady on the front desk as we checked out of the Robson Suites. Her advice was that we would be fine to drive to Granville Island direct and would have no trouble parking. Even on Canada Day, we asked? Oh yes, she said …. so off we went.
This bit is being written up by Rog who, as everyone knows, prefers maps to satnavs. First snag was that, having nominated a destination on the island, the satnav directed us only to the bridge flying over it, proudly announcing that we would reach our destination in 400 yards. Nearly true, except that 50 of those yards were vertically downwards!
Happily (we thought) Mapman had read about going under the bridge to reach the island, and technically we achieved that in 10 minutes or so. Then we joined a jam of “Watford Ring Road at worst rush hour” proportions, inching around for the best part of an hour without finding anywhere to park. We could see people having fun, food stalls, costumed performers, lots of Canadian red and maple leaf clothes, flags and buntings around. Also a warning that traffic would be restricted (seriously?!) from 1-2 p.m. for the parade. O.K., so we didn’t need to return the car until about 4 p.m at YVR airport, but this dire warning was too much. Slowly, but not as slowly as trying to get in, we drove disappointely away.
As compensation, we thought we would head west to the sea, and maybe find a lunch-time restaurant with a view. We found Marine Drive, which follows the coast round for several miles, but only one unspectacular viewpoint and no restaurants. We also made a futile attempt to find the Botanic Gardens of UBC (University of British Columbia}. Giving up on the seaside idea, we headed up W41st Avenue looking for somewhere to eat. To our surprise we came across a small place entitled “Cafe & Crepes”. The chef was chinese, as were most of the diners, but the lady taking our orders addressed us in a mixture of English and French. Now that is one of the combos we are both ok with!
So, for our last lunch in Canada we had buckwheat galettes – egg, spinach, gruyere, tomato for Roz, and salmon, spinach and gruyere for Rog – washed down with Orangina, oo-la-la. Vancouver really is cosmopolian, so maybe this was a fair enough way to end our stay.
It didn’t take long to get to YVR, and we reurned the car about 3 p.m., a good hour earlier than intended or necessary. Rog initially tried to hand our Avis rental car back to Hertz, but they were having none of that.
Inside the capacious terminal building we asked directions to the Alaska Airline check-in. It had to be the longest walk available, and took about 15 minutes. At check-in we were told our flight was delayed by 30 minutes, so Roz would have plenty of time for airside shopping. Security was as annoying as ever, but courteously carried out by the Canadians.
Our US Border Officer was what we might have expected, and not at all intersted in our exciting reason for flying to Portland, with the words please and thank you remarkably absent. (Roz back from shopping and taking back the reins!)
Off to catch flight now, texts with Katie exchanged, excitement mounting on both sides we think.
Photos to follow when I get a chance!