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To and Across Canada

Seattle, Victoria, and Vancouver

Copyright © 2003 by David E. Ross

From Oak Park to Seattle

The second segment of our adventure found Evelyn and I touring three major cities of the Pacific Northwest.

More 26 July

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I have sleep apnea, which means that I stop breathing while I am asleep. To compensate, I sleep with a machine — a continuous positive air-pressure (CPAP) device — that forces me to breathe.

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We finally checked in at the Hotel Vintage Park at about 2:15am. We were so tired that I left my CPAP in the trunk of the taxi cab. We just did not see its gray bag against the gray lining of the cab's trunk. I slept very poorly.

After an excellent (but expensive) breakfast in the hotel, we toured Seattle. Our first stop was the temporary location of the city's main library. (A striking new library is under construction.) I wanted to use the Internet to check my mutual fund accounts because my lump-sum pension benefit was not yet transferred into my mutual fund IRA when we started our trip. However, the library's PC access did not allow me to execute the necessary decryption of my password and spreadsheet files.

photo of ferry boat in Puget Sound On Evelyn's whim, we went into the Seattle Art Museum. Good choice!! They have excellent collections of art from India, China, Japan, Korea, Africa, and the Pacific Northwest.

While wandering around, we passed a Sharper Image store. In the window, they had a Vespa motor scooter on display. I had one over 40 years ago, while I was a student at UCLA. I want another one now!

Eventually, we wandered down to Pioneer Square and its cobblestone plaza. In the Glasshouse Studio, we watched a glassblower make a beautiful vase. Then we rode an old streetcar along the waterfront.

I had reported my missing CPAP to the hotel's front desk as soon as I discovered it missing (before going to bed early this morning). Just as we were preparing for dinner, the desk notified me that it was found. For their delivery of my machine, I had to pay the cab company twice what our fare was from the train station to the hotel.

Dinner was also in the hotel. While I ate lox ravioli with a lemon-cream sauce and fresh asparagus, Evelyn had clams with linguini. For Evelyn, this was an adventure — the first time she ever ate clams that were served still in their shells. She enjoyed it very much.

27 July photo of Seattle from 'Victoria Clipper 4'
We checked in at Pier 69 before 8:00am for the "Victoria Clipper 4" hovercraft, for our trip to Victoria, British Columbia. Since the night before, Evelyn was wearing a scopolamine patch behind one ear because of her concern about seasickness across Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Our fare included a light breakfast with a split of champagne for each of us; I saved the "bubbly" for later in our trip. The hovercraft traveled much of the way at less than full speed because of fog. Evelyn napped much of the way. However, the fog lifted as we approached the harbor at Victoria, giving us a very nice view of the city.

We docked just a short distance from our hotel — the Hotel Grand Pacific — which sent a van to bring us from Customs and Immigration to the hotel. (Yes, we were now in a foreign country.) The staff at the hotel was exceptionally accommodating. The concierge even allowed me to use his PC to check my mutual funds. (Nope, my pension benefit had not yet been received.)

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Victoria is on Vancouver Island. The Canadian city of Vancouver is on the mainland of British Columbia, across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver Island (not on the island). Neither the island nor the Canadian city are connected with the city of Vancouver in Washington state (except for the name). For some, this is confusing.

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photo of dinosaur in Victoria's Royal British Columbia Museum Next door to the hotel are the British Columbia Houses of Parliament, a beautiful building for a provincial capitol. Just beyond that is the Royal British Columbia Museum. Inside, we saw a very extensive exhibit of dinosaurs, including many fossils from China. There was an interesting multi-media presentation called "Open Oceans Exhibit" focused primarily on the coastal and near-coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest. photo of Netherlands Centennial Carillon

After leaving the museum, we sat in the sun and listened to a bell concert from the Netherlands Centennial Carillon. (Evelyn began to feel ill, however, and returned to the hotel, insisting that I continue touring the area.) While the carillon played, I wandered into a sunken garden adjacent to the museum and behind the carillon tower. There, I could still hear the bells but without the traffic noises from the thoroughfare.

photo of blue macaw From the carillon, I walked past the famous (but very pricy) Empress Hotel to the Crystal Garden. This is a conservatory built over a former public swimming pool. Besides tropical plants, the conservatory included a butterfly area, colorful birds wandering among the plants, and some small animals in glassed enclosures.

photo of a busker on the waterfront Leaving the Crystal Garden, I walked to the waterfront and then along it to return to the hotel. The promenade along the waterfront was busy with buskers (some very entertaining) and vendors.

In the hotel, Evelyn told me she had been vomiting and did not want dinner. She just wanted to rest and asked me to get myself some dinner. After dinner, I discovered she was still vomiting; now it was the "dry heaves" as her stomach was quite empty. I asked at the front desk about medical care. This was now Sunday evening, and the only care available would be at a hospital emergency room. The hotel's van took us to Royal Jubilee Hospital, where Evelyn had to stay over night.

28 July
In the morning, the hotel's van took me back to the hospital to get Evelyn. I took my camera, hoping to get a picture of her as they rolled her out in a wheelchair. No luck! She was standing outside the building, looking quite chipper. The doctor suspected migrane. Evelyn had become so dehydrated from vomiting that she required four units of intravenous fluids. The doctor did not order her to rest but did order her to stick to a bland diet for the rest of the day.

photo of Butchart Gardens Since Evelyn was now well rested and feeling quite well, we decided to visit Butchart Gardens. This required a bus trip of about a half hour, well beyond the urban area of Victoria. The gardens were developed in an old limestone quarry by Jennie Butchart, whose husband Robert owned and mined the quarry. (The family still owns these private gardens.) Leaving the excavation unfilled created a place with exceptional views. In the rose garden, I found five of the 13 varieties of roses that I have in my own garden. A large pond sits in a low point of the quarry. In the pond, the Burcharts' grandson Robert Ross had a fountain installed — the Ross Fountain. (No, I am not a relative.) As we wandered towards the exit, an entertainment was begining. A small acting group presented a musical farce based on a mixture of Gilbert and Sulivan operettas. Evelyn enjoyed it until I started singing along.

We ate dinner at our hotel and then walked a very short distance to the waterfront to watch the buskers. Then we strolled up Government St, a main shopping thoroughfare. Although the day started with her in a hospital emergency room receiving fluids intravenously, Evelyn had a great time without becoming overly exhausted.

29 July photo of a passing ferry
We took a short walk after breakfast and then returned to the hotel to pack and check-out. The van took us to the bus terminal, where we boarded a bus to Vancouver. After driving north awhile, the bus arrived at a ferry terminal. The bus, many cars, and even quite a few tractor-trailer rigs drove onto the "Queen of Saanich" ferry. Once all traffic stopped, we left the bus and went up stairs to the passenger areas. What a view of the many small islands just east of Vancouver Island and then the Strait of Georgia.

The Marriott Vancouver Pinnacle Hotel in Vancouver had a tub and separate stall shower. The drawers in the dresser were miniscule, but the closet was quite large. We unpacked everything. We planned (successfully) to repack everything at the end of our stay in a way that would allow us to check one large bag and have only one in our bedroom on the train. This hotel had abundant electrical outlets around the room.

After dinner, we discovered a station for the Sky Train (commuter rail transit) not far from our hotel. They had all kinds of information about local buses.

Like the Hotel Grand Pacific, the Vancouver Pinnacle Hotel used a comforter instead of a blanket. It was warm but very heavy.

30 July
I retired one month ago today!

photo of a porpoise After breakfast, we took a bus to the Vancouver Aquarium. While we waited on the sidewalk with several other tourists, the first bus passed our stop without even slowing although the bus number matched the number for our stop. Finally, a bus did stop and we reached Vancouver's huge Stanley Park.

Like the Crystal Garden in Victoria, the Vancouver Aquarium has a butterfly garden. We saw porpoise and beluga shows. The exhibits feature sea life indigenous to the Pacific adjacent to Canada. After the aquarium, we rode a free shuttle around the entire park, seeing views of the various channels and straits that surround Vancouver. We also explored the rose garden within the park.

After dinner, we walked to Sunset Beach Park, where False Creek opens into English Bay. On the beach, we sat on a large log facing the water. Another couple our age was also using the log as a seat, and we struck up a conversation with them for a few hours. They live in Victoria but visit Vancouver so frequently that they have a small condominium in the city. Finally, at 10:00pm, the reason for our being at the beach began. We did not know until after we arrived in Vancouver that the end of July and beginning of August is when the city hosts an annual international fireworks competition. For a half hour, we enjoyed watching the Czech Republic's entry in the 2003 "Celebration of Light". (This year's winning entry from China was presented a few days after we left Vancouver.)

31 July
I went alone to see the Capilano Bridge. This is a large suspension footbridge across the Capilano Gorge in North Vancouver (across the Burrard Inlet from the city of Vancouver). I almost had Evelyn convinced to go with me until I read her the blurb from the Vancouver visitors' guide.

230 feet above the rushing waters of Capilano River swings 450 feet of pure, unadulterated unsteadiness. Make your way to its midpoint and take in the spectacular, vertigo inducing view. Then totter over to the other side and find yourself among ancient evergreens and authentic west coast totem poles. Capilano Suspension Bridge a nerve-wracking way to get close to nature since 1889.

photo of Capilano Bridge For a single fare, I took a Seabus (a catamaran that is part of the Sky Train transit system) across the inlet and transferred to a regular bus, which stopped right in front of the entrance to Capilano Bridge Park. Maybe it was for the best that Evelyn stayed at the hotel. The bridge sways and wiggles, very much like the worst of our Amtrak ride. I can picture the need for two rescue workers using crowbars to pry Evelyn's hands loose from the bridge railing and then carrying her (screaming) back onto solid ground. Across the bridge were some spectacular trails, some on boardwalks elevated well above the ground. The trails go through a forest of fir, hemlock, and spruce. Exiting the park, of course, required crossing the bridge again.

photo of statue of steam clock Late that afternoon, we walked through Gastown, the area of Vancouver's original settlement. We reached the Steam Clock just in time for it to mark 5:00pm with steam whistles playing the traditional Westminster "chimes". What a hoot (pun intended)! Evelyn laughed so hard that I thought she might have an asthma attack when I suggested converting the grandfather clock at home to steam.

photo of racing scull in Coal Harbor While waiting to be served dinner at a sidewalk Greek restaurant in Gastown, I noticed a couple at an adjacent table. For two people, they had three cell phones. Pathetic! I am so glad that I am not chained to a phone.

After dinner, we walked along the waterfront on the Coal Harbor Seawalk.

1 August
Before packing, I called Heather in Saskatoon and warned her to check with VIA Rail before going to meet us at the Saskatoon station. I did not want her standing there in the middle of the night waiting for a late train. (We were scheduled to arrive about half-past midnight on 3 August.) photo of Dragon zodiac sign

We then packed, putting those things we would need on the train in our suitcase and everything else in our large hanging bag. We checked out of our hotel but checked our luggage in the lobby. Then we went to Chinatown. Entering through the Millennium Gate, we saw the Jack Chow Building, the world's narrowest commercial structure (only slightly wider than the windows at the end).

We spent much time visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park with its large pond that has both koi and large turtles. Then we went next door to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, which was created with a strict adherence to ancient Chinese gardening practices.

Touring in Chinatown was very slow because Evelyn wanted to write down the name of every street and store. In the plaza in front of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park, she recorded the name of every zodiac sign that was in the large mosaic (even though most encyclopedias already list them).

Finally, we reclaimed our luggage and took a taxi to the VIA Rail station. VIA Rail service in Canada was quite different from Amtrak in the U.S. We were requested to check both of our large bags, designating which one was to be placed in our bedroom. Then we were directed to our boarding lounge. For Silver and Blue Class (first class), we had a separate lounge, which was a covered outdoor patio where we had free refreshments and entertainment by a guitar player who sang. When we boarded the train, we indeed found the bag we requested already in our bedroom. (We discovered later that the service from Toronto to Montréal was not as good.)

From Vancouver to Montréal

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