Days 25 / 26
We arrived in Vancouver safely and went through customs quite quickly. We quickly located our hostel 100 yards from the station and were allowed to check in early. Not the best place we've stayed in so far, in fact it may be contending for worst place, it had no air con and was in the same building as a nightclub.
We went for a mooch around and discovered once again we were right next to Chinatown so we soaked up the atmosphere, did a little shopping and headed into the Chinese Supermarket for some groceries. What an experience!! For a start everything was (surprisingly, not) labelled in Chinese with miniature English descriptions underneath and they had some peculiar shelf items such as jellyfish, which made me feel a little queasy just looking at it. The fish section had large fish tanks filled with fresh living produce, not just crabs and lobsters, which we've seen before but oysters, actual fish, shrimps etc. I have to say it did put me off sea food a little seeing the little things alive and stored so poorly. It's not like you go to the market place and say "I'll have a leg of lamb please" and they take a cute little lamb and hack a leg off is it?!
Anyway, we bought some food and headed back to the hostel to cook and we ended up watching a movie in the room (one of few perks) before falling into a very light sleep with dead, humid air and a throbbing bass beat coming from below.
Saturday started overcast and gradually the sun broke through and it became warmer and then moderately hot. It struck me when we arrived yesterday that Van is much warmer than Seattle, which surprised me a little as it is quite a bit further North. Anyway, we set about finding the travel agents we had booked our Rockies trip with to make the final payment before tomorrow and then we headed towards the waterfront. We had been advised not to waste anytime in the city as there isn't much to see, especially downtown and this was very accurate and duly noted as we walked through the streets towards our destination. We found False Creek and walked along the seawall to English Bay and then Sunset Bay. The beaches are lovely, with long logs scattered around for you to perch or lean on. When we reached Stanley Park we hired bikes and set off along the sea wall again. This was a lovely way to see the Park and explore as we covered a much greater area and enjoyed the breeze at the same time (hot tip though, if you have a shoulder bag, make sure you change shoulders otherwise you end up with interesting tan lines!) After cycling most of the coast trail we headed into the Park along a couple of paths towards Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon Lake. The trails are gorgeous, very peaceful and quiet, with not many other people using them and you almost feel as if you have the whole park to yourself. The lakes were beautiful, with Beaver almost fully occupied by plants and lilies nearly set to explode into bloom. There was lots of wildlife too; ducks, dragonflies, fishes, and a beaver dam.
After a couple of hours we returned the bikes and took the bus back to our hostel to cook dinner. We stopped off at the Chinese Supermarket again (this time knowing what to expect) for additional supplies to compliment yesterday's leftovers and discovered that a chunky sirloin steak was 3$ whereas yesterday's chicken was over 5$! So we had lovely steak stir fry!
Straight after dinner we headed back down to English Bay to check out the final fireworks to celebrate the Festival of Light. We stopped at an off license so Dan could get a couple of beers and then we went and found a good spot to watch the festivities. It was starting to get quite cold so I decided to go and get a hot chocolate (still not quite there with the coffee thing!) so I left Dan in our spot, duly noting exactly where he was and went in search of a warm drink. BIG MISTAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For a start, the queue for Starbucks was half a block long, and not much shorter for the local stores. As we had an hour before the fireworks were due to commence I decided to wait it out and 45 minutes later I collected my drink and exited the shop. It was dark, and about 50,000 people had arrived in the interim. "That's OK" I said to myself, "I can find Dan in a field of 100,000 people at Glastonbury, I can find him here" and off I went. I walked down the street to the edge of the bay and came across a none-moving group of people queuing to get onto the beach. I'm quite good at squeezing past people and moving through crowds, it's how I get to the stage at gigs, but I was not moving here at all. "Don't panic, people are coming out so there is space to move in" and eventually I gained access to the beach.... through the wrong entrance. I've now got ten minutes to find my husband. It's dark and he is wearing a black shirt!!! ***************!!!!!!
Fortunately I left him on the pavement at the very back of the area I had just entered so all I had to do was walk along the pavement until I came to him. That's all very well in theory. Because I had entered through the wrong entrance I was too far East, so I walked to where I thought I had left him, no Dan. I carried on walking until I came to the next entrance (unbeknown to me the CORRECT entrance) "Hmmm, he's definitely not down here, I must have passed him" turned round, snaking my way past people again, this time shouting his name. I returned back to where I started. There's now 5 minutes to go. I pull out my phone and text him "Where are you?" two minutes later nothing. By now I've walked down a third time practically screaming his name. One guy said "Have you lost someone?" and I answered that I had indeed lost my husband. His response was "I don't know if that is a good thing or not" BA BOOM!! Not very helpful is it. I then tried to call him "We cannot connect your call at this time". So I stood on a bench, couldn't see him. Then the fireworks started.
About two minutes later I receive six messages from him so the network was obviously jammed. They started off by saying "How are you doing? Have you got your drink yet? xx" and then"Hurry up babe or you'll miss them xx" and finally "Where are you???" Eventually he told me he was under the second palm tree, I look behind me and saw a lovely long line of palm trees as far as my eye could see. I realised he meant second palm tree from the entrance. I said "I'M RIGHT NEXT TO THE SECOND PALM TREE!!!" Anyway, about 20 more text messages past between us (amazing all clean!) and I resounded myself to watch the pretty awesome display on my own. After they had finished we both stood on the nearest bench and waited for the crowd to disperse and saw each other very quickly and I immediately realised how I had gone wrong but in my defence with thousands of people in front of you and a long wall of fences in the dark it is very difficult to get your bearings.
Getting back to the hostel was a nightmare and to be honest it put London's Tube network into good light as it would have been much quicker to get a larger volume of people out of Wembley than it was to exit the waterfront. When we eventually got to the bus stop we waited 45 minutes and seven buses before we eventually got one that didn't even remotely take us anywhere near where we wanted to be so after that we gave in and walked back to the hostel!
I hope our next experience of Vancouver is more pleasant and less dramatic in ten days time!