Hockey Hockey Hockey!
14.01.2012 - 15.01.2012 35 °C
January 14, 2012
First trip to Vancouver!
We started the trip this morning driving from Bellevue, WA up to Vancouver, BC thru the Pacific Highway border crossing. Luckily wait times were very short being the middle of winter and in the middle of the day. We lost cellphone service here since it is $$ once you’re in Canada and it’s amazing how much you realize you use your phone for random things such as directions, reviews, etc. “Going blind” felt a little adventurous and a little frustrating at the same time but it all worked out- it just took a little longer.
Rolling into the city we planned to stop at Granville Island but without navigation/map it was tricky to get to even after stopping at a gas station and asking for directions. So we continued on the main bridge into the city, realized how hungry we were, and pulled into a little alley that turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip- Yaletown!
This hip, trendy little neighborhood is lined with restaurants, boutiques and galleries and seemed to be a popular area for stylish, successful, urban professionals. The design in most of the restaurants was the exposed red brick which I love and the neat thing we learned is that it used to be a 19th century rail yard, having now converted the loading dock into the patios of the restaurants and the warehouses into modern high-rise condos.
We quickly learned that it comes with a price (metered parking being $4 an hour), but we came to realize that overall it is an expensive city and to truly experience it you need to pay the price.
Our first stop was:
1111 Mainland Street
Since we didn’t have any Canadian $ to feed the meter, we were just going to try to exchange American for Canadian coins, but after popping in we realized it was just what we were looking for. A sports bar atmosphere (San Francisco 49ers were facing off against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs) with flat screen TV’s a central bar area, pool tables and a traditional burger/sandwich menu with local beer on tap.
I ordered the Chicken Burger which was two grilled chicken thighs on a bun, which I thought was pretty unique, and Jason had the Backyard Burger (standard hamburger) and then we shared a beer.
Unfortunately the Saints lost to the 49ers 32-36, but the service was great and the bartender was awesome. He was originally from Toronto and was very friendly and provided some great tips on things to do and what to check out while we were in the city.
After we were refueled, our next stop was to check into our hotel, which is when the real entertainment began. Our hotel was:
900 Seymour Street
A friend had recommended we go on Priceline.com to get the best hotel at the best rate and we followed his advice, which is how we ended up where we did. You can’t control which hotel you get, so it is definitely a gamble and can turn into a real experience...
Parking was tricky so Jason ran into the lobby and checked in. They then directly us to the parking garage across the street which was $14/day so we parked and walked back across the street to find our little surprise.
The tiny 150 square foot room held double beds, a small desk, a small flat screen TV mounted on the wall and a white cabinet in the corner to hang clothes in. They had basically taken an old hotel and are attempting to modernize it with a “hip and historic European inspired” feel with a red, white and black color scheme, graffiti wall murals and dark, old refurbished wood floors. The pros: convenient location, unbeatable price, free wireless, friendly staff. The cons: small room, hard bed, extremely loud.
We realized that if the floor was carpeted, it would’ve been a great experience. The wood floors looked trendy, but they created additional noise and there between the hallway, bathroom and neighbors every sound was exaggerated. Jason had even set his oranges on the desk and they slid right off the other side cuz the room was slightly slanted. But the staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful and being able to look up our next destination with the wireless and having a convenient location where we could easily walk to between neighborhoods was great. So overall it was fine and we knew we could handle it for one night.
Setting off on foot, we had an hour until the Denver Broncos v. New England Patriots football game was on TV so we decided to scope out the sports bar scene. Walking up and down Granville and Seymour streets, we stopped in at a couple of places but nothing that caught our eye. This neighborhood is considered the entertainment district, but it is pretty rundown and mostly consists of bars, porn shops and nightclubs.
With Starbucks in hand we browsed some shops on Robson Street and finally ended up back at our hotel which had a sports bar right next door at street level called:
Red Card Sports Bar
900 Seymour Street
Great, trendy atmosphere with large flatscreen TVs and the same red brick industrial décor with the same red, white and black hip European flair our hotel had. We each ordered a beer and watched the first half of the football game and we could even still pick up our hotel’s wireless to look some things up.
For the second half, we decided to go find some dinner. Walking back thru the Yaletown district, we came across:
1109 Hamilton Street
Warm lighting, a fireplace, comfy booths and a large flatscreen in the bar area made it a very welcoming steakhouse. It is an upscale chain restaurant in the higher price zone, but we treated ourselves for Jason’s birthday dinner and we felt comfortable wearing jeans in.
We ordered Milestones Famous Hot Spinach and Artichoke dip which was a delicious appetizer and then I ordered the 9 oz. Grilled Top Sirloin and Jason ordered the 14 oz. AAA Prime Rib. Both were super tender and juicy with the perfect seasoning and were served with delicious garlic mashed potatoes and seasoned vegetables. It was an incredible meal with an incredible price tag but definitely worth every penny. The only negative note of the night was that the Broncos ended their “Tebow crazed” hot streak and their playoff run ended with a 45-10 loss to the Patriots.
With snowflakes falling we briskly walked back to the hotel and I grabbed a quick power nap before “rallying” and we caught a cab to:
750 Pacific Boulevard
Located right on the downtown Vancouver waterfront, the casino is one of the smaller ones in size I’ve been to but it is definitely not on the small scale of winnings.
Right away Jason searched out the Wheel of Fortune machines he always finds luck with and in a matter of 30 minutes he had hit the 1,000 quarter jackpot. Not only that, but after he switched machines to the only other Wheel of Fortune machine in the casino, within 15 minutes he had hit the 1,000 quarter jackpot on the second machine. Next it was my turn to hit up the roulette table and after a few bets I cashed in with $50 in winnings. After 45 minutes and $450 in winnings, we left the casino and headed back to the hotel to call it a night after and awesome first day being welcomed to Vancouver.
January 15, 2012
Our last day in Vancouver started with a bundled up morning of hats, gloves and Starbucks as we took a stroll thru the Yaletown district and down to the waterfront at David Lam Park. It was a beautiful, chilly morning but the sun was shining and the skies were clear and we decided to take full advantage of it by heading over the Granville Island.
We decided to catch a ride across the False Creek on an Aquabus, which was the cutest little tug boat. It holds about 10 passengers and takes approximately five minutes to cross from the park over to Granville Island. Our captain was very friendly and once we landed he directed us where the highlights were of the island.
Once an industrial area, they have done a wonderful job converting it to a popular “escape” from the city with amenities such as a large public market, an extensive marina, various performing arts theaters, fine arts galleries and variety of shopping boutiques
After strolling thru the boutiques and galleries, we entered:
Granville Island Public Market
1689 Johnston St
The market is amazing and features a farmers market, day vendors, and artists offering a variety of local Vancouver foods and crafts. Everything is so neat and clean and colorful. If we hadn’t already eaten it would’ve been a great place for a morning latte and breakfast. But since we had and since it was not the busy tourist season, it was nice just to browse thru the big market and see everything they had do offer without the busy crowds.
After the market, we hopped back on the Aquabus and travelled back over to David Lam Park. On the way there was gentleman in half of a wetsuit that was paddle boarding behind us in all the way- and it was only 30 degrees outside!
When we got back to the hotel, we packed up and checked out and headed off for our next destination:
Capilano Suspension Bridge
3735 Capilano Road
North Vancouver, BC
I had researched the attraction and thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing that neither of us had done or would do so I surprised Jason by driving up to the forested area and he had no idea even thru purchasing our tickets and entering the park gate. For $30 each, you are given access to the area which includes a suspension bridge, a cliffwalk and a walk in the treetops adventure.
First we set off on the “Cliffwalk” which just opened last summer. This takes you on a Cliffside journey thru rainforest on extremely narrow suspended wood plank walkways with glass sides that juts out from the granite rock face above the Capilano River. It was so neat and it’s amazing how much you trust the structure. I got a lot of great pictures and we zipped thru it in no time with no worries.
Next stop was the main attraction of the park: the suspension bridge. Apparently in 1888 there was a hemp bridge made to connect the forest on either side of the Capilano River. Then in 1903 the hemp was replaced by a wire cable bridge and finally it was completely redone a third time in 1956 and this time had the ends reinforced in 13 tons of concrete. Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Vancouver area.
The bridge wasn’t scary either- you really rely on it and trust it and it feels very safe. It stretches 450 feet across and it hangs 230 feet above the Capilano River. As you are walking over it, it's pretty bouncy with all the traffic but nothing that’s too alarming. It’s neat to stop in the middle and realize what you are really doing and how much a part of history it is where millions have crossed.
When you get to the other side of the bridge, they have constructed a “Treetop Adventure” which gives a squirrel’s eye view of the forest and consists of seven elevated suspension bridges reaching as high as 100 feet above the ground that connect massive Douglas fir trees. It was so neat and the trees were so large- definitely a unique experience and very worthwhile.
Heading back light snowflakes began to fall and I was able to take so many pictures throughout the park. It was absolutely beautiful and the weather was a bit chilly but turned out to be absolutely perfectly because it scared away the crowds a bit. Overall a great attraction and we were so glad we fit it in.
After the park, we headed back down towards Vancouver and decided that we had some time to spare so we stopped in and got a workout in at:
Steve Nash Fitness World
1989 Marine Drive
North Vancouver, BC
Overall the gym was pretty run down. We had pretty high expectations since Steve Nash (NBA player) put his name on the fitness club chain, but apparently that doesn’t mean anything. It definitely needs a lot of work and it is pretty dirty and old, but we were just there for a little over an hour and were able to get in a quick workout and freshen up so it all worked out.
Our final and main stop of the trip was quickly approaching so we stopped in for some dinner and a drink first at:
Shark Club Bar & Grill
180 West Georgia Street
The place was packed because the playoff NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants was on, but luckily we only had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. Once again the negative part of the night was that the team I was rooting for (Packers) lost, but the venue was great. Large flatscreens lined the walls and it was a very spacious bar. They had boards going and raffle tickets being sold, getting everyone in the place that much more involved in the game and making it a pretty loud, rowdy crowd.
I ordered the Clubhouse Chicken Sandwich and Jason ordered the Cajun Chicken Sandwich. Both were good and before we knew it, it was time to walk over to the arena.
Just as the doors were opening, we arrived at:
800 Griffiths Way
The arena was built in 1995 and it was originally called General Motors Place until just this past year. When you walk in the doors, you actually walk in at the 300 level and then we went walked down the stairwell to our seats in Section 110. Stocking up on our team merchandise first, we then went and scoped out our seats in the main arena. Our seats were perfect- in the corner about 20 rows up from the ice- so we could see everything in the arena.
Warm-ups started and Gene Simmons (from the band KISS) and his wife and daughter were there as celebrity guests and they watched from the penalty box which was kinda neat so see.
The lights finally went down and it was time for the game: The Vancouver Canucks versus the Anaheim Ducks! The intro started and it was the most amazing one I have ever seen. Thin, white, transparent linens came down in the four corners of the arena and suddenly the sound of rain and thunder pounded throughout the arena and the images were projected onto those sheets- the illusion was spot on for an indoor thunderstorm. Then the players faces began projecting on the screen as rock music played in the background and it was so memorable it was amazing. Finishing up the intro, the Canadian maple leafs were projected around the arena in red lights as a male trio sang “O Canada” (the Canadian anthem) which I love and did an incredible job.
When the lights came back up, the arena was jammed packed and it was a sight to see. Another sellout crowd of 18,890 which they have been doing every game since 2002. A great accomplishment and one you feel you are so lucky to be a part of. The only unfortunate part of the night is that the Canucks forgot to show up to play and ended up losing the game to the Ducks 4-1. The game was so fun tho and we had a great time despite the loss.
Immediately after the game we jumped in our car and took off down the road for home. The entire Vancouver trip was such a success and we were so glad we got a chance to go and see everything we did. Three hours in the car (this time thru the Peace Arch Border crossing) and we were back home in Seattle- just before midnight and just before the snowstorm hit.
Vancouver- check! Much more to see but we will mark those off when we go back for part 2 of the trip in March. Thank you Vancouver for a great weekend!