The Sea and the Sky

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 15, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hill. Doom. You get it.

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday was Labour Day here (Labor Day in the USA, because they can't spell, as we've previously discussed). Canada has the Toronto Typographical Union to thank for the holiday here, since their protest in 1872 (at a 58 hour working week - wusses) prompted the government at the time to bring it in. People supposedly have picnics and fireworks and see it as the last long weekend of the summer, but it was drizzling, depressing rain here all day, so that put paid to that.

On Sunday my bike and I headed off to Stanley Park (first time for the bike, second time for me) to see the Aquarium. Since it's a public park and all traffic - but pedestrians - goes anticlockwise, you'd imagine it'd be easy to find your way to the Aquarium. But. The Aquarium is in the middle of the forest, and if you're not a car, there are no signposts. I cycled too far around the seawall, and would have either had to keep going the whole way around until I got back to the road, or get off the bike and wheel it back the way I came. So it was backwards we went. I thought I was being very clever and I went to the far side of the road (a very underused path, judging by its condition) and into the forest, but I ended up getting a bit lost and a lot out of breath. :P Wheeling a bike is no fun, especially uphill. Through a forest. Luckily, there was a signpost in the middle of nowhere, and I wasn't too far at all, and it wasn't long before children with melting ice-creams and fathers with ridiculously large and noisy cars appeared out of the trees. The website had advertised its abundance of bike racks (here are the exact words: "Follow the green signs leading into Stanley Park on the north side of Georgia Street or walk/bike along the Seawall. If you are biking, be sure to lock your bike. Bike racks are available close to our main entrance."), but it took me another five minutes blundering through chains of children and stupid, stupid parents to find the rack. WHY would you walk your children in a chain?! Noah had a point with the whole two-by-two thing.

The good news is that it was totally worth it. It's a fabulous aquarium. Maybe going to see it in the afternoon on a long weekend at the end of summer was not the best idea, but it's still amazing. They had fish and sea life everywhere, but a few of the stand-out things were the Amazon Room (a heated area with Amazonian creatures, including a huge sturgeon, parrots, butterflies and marmosets), a jellyfish room (amaaaazing displays of different types, sizes, ages and colours of jellyfish), the Frog Exhibition (self explanatory - I had this music running through my head the whole evening) and, my favourite, the Belugas and the Dolphins.

One of their dolphins was rescued from a fishing net in Japan, and transferred to Vancouver later. He has scars all down the right side of his body, and I think his eye was gone, but he was beautiful swimming under the water, and so graceful. And the belugas! Oh my goodness, but I love the belugas! They were blowing BUBBLE RINGS! Just by themselves, for the fun of it! None of my pictures came out, but if you click here, you can see a dolphin doing the same thing (or a freakier Japanese version with belugas here). I happened to be just in time for the Beluga show (after eating my sustainable eco-conscious Halibut & Chips), where the trainers walked out and got the belugas to do some tricks in response to whistles and hand signals. I was sitting in a so-called "Splash Zone", but it didn't get that exciting. And the woman talking wasn't telling us what they were going to do next, so I didn't really get any action pictures, but they did some pretty cool stuff for such large, heavy creatures. The lump on the top of their head is called the 'melon' and they can wiggle it to make different sounds for communication. It's very amusing to watch though. And I got the feeling that they got a kick out of the audience too. They're so gorgeous. You can actually watch their webcam here, if you want. They're the ghostly white things that appear sometimes. :)

The aquarium also had a 4D Theatre, and I didn't have any other plans, so I headed on in. They were showing a part of the BBC Life on Earth series, and we had to wear glasses to see in 3D, but I didn't really grasp the 4D aspect until a whale squirted water at me and I got wet. Then a shoal of fish blew bubbles at us, some seahorses in coral made the chairs vibrate, a helicopter view of the ocean blew wind in our faces and - worst of all - a snake stabbed us in the back. It was terrifying. I couldn't sit back again for fear of it. It was creepy enough watching all these swimming snakes on screen and having the light under your feet change to match them without having one attack you from behind! Snakes should be on the ground, where you can run away from them. Not zooming through the ocean at top speed and attacking you in your chair!

Anyhoo, that was a nice way to pass a Sunday. Monday sucked weatherwise, but I got my ticket home booked and started sorting my belongings and catching up on "Lost". I'm nearly finished season two now, and I will murder anyone who tells me ANYTHING about the rest of it!

Today started off looking cloudy and horrible, but I decided to risk it and head for Grouse Mountain anyway. I had to get the Skytrain to the transfer station, another Skytrain to Waterfront, the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay, the #236 Bus to Grouse Mountain, a Cable Car to the resort and a Ski Lift to the peak. So, I've travelled in almost everything today but a car. And to top it all off (heh heh heh) I took a lift up to the top of a windmill on the top of the mountain. :D Highest point in Vancouver. Not BC, but Vancouver. And it didn't stay cloudy and horrible for long either! I also took in a Bird Show, which was very entertaining when the trainer made the birds fly over the audience (put your Where's Wally skills to use in some of my pictures there); a Ranger Talk, where I watched two enormous bears, called Grinder and Coola, that they've rescued and keep for study, while a girl talked about conservation, deer attacks being worse than bear attacks, bears not really hibernating, and more webcams; and a Lumberjack Show. Which was LOL.

Lumberjacks used to have to sail down the river with the logs that were cut for the timber industry, and their job was to get as many of the logs as possible down the river intact. They lived in a hut that was strapped onto some of the logs, and they had to stop logs getting blocked or trapped on the banks or on stones by shoving them out of the way with a bargepole. If that didn't work, they blew them up with dynamite. Yay! Explosives! So our two Lumberjacks divided the audience in two (I was supporting Johnny Nelson from the Green River logging camp) and competed in the Underfoot Cut (splitting a log you're standing in in two with an axe - Johnny won!); Axe Hurl (I'm making up the name, but basically it's hurling a double sided axe at a painted target and aiming for the bullseye - Johnny wasn't too good at this); Sawing (using a big ol' saw to cut a circle off a log - Johnny cheated and Willie McGee won instead); Chainsaw Carving (Johnny carved a rabbit. A roadkill rabbit. Willie carved a rabbit head, knocked off the ears and ended up with a tiny chair, which he gave to a baby in the audience); Tree Climb (which was so freakin' fast I only had time to film Johnny winning and falling 60 feet back to the ground); and Log Rolling (which was a log in the water that they each had to knock the other off. And which somehow ended up with Willie being thrown into a well and exploded with dynamite). It was a very entertaining show.

After that I headed up in the ski lift (they actually ski here in the winter), and ended up in the same chair as a Mexican man who was here on business. We had a nice chat, but had to keep twisting our necks around to get pictures of the amazing views of the Lower Mainland. Vancouver looks deceptively flat from up high. DON'T BELIEVE IT. At the top of the peak, hey have this giant windmill, promoting "responsible energy", but the wind wasn't strong enough to make the blades spin today. There's a "one of a kind" viewing pod at the top for tourists, and it was an extra $25 plus tax (=$28), but you got a $10 gift card for the souvenir shop. And how many people can say they've been up at the top of a giant windmill, eh? There were more cool views up there, including those from the glass floor, and it was very warm when the sun shone through the windows. I made friends with the (I was going to say "innkeeper" for some reason) girl working up there, who was Rebecca from New Zealand and we had a chat about how expensive and deluding Vancouver really is. Beautiful place, but not easy to live here. She knew a girl in the same position as me that had been here for three years and only worked on one commercial, despite her large background in indie (i.e. unpaid) filming. Rebecca was enjoying herself, but looking forward to ski season again, as having the summer in August was messing with her brain.

There was only one thing left to do after the windmill (unfortunately the Ziplines were closed, and they had been what I was really looking forward to), so back down to the Theatre in the Sky it was. At the ski lift, Paul put me in my own chair and said "How're ya now?". He turned out to be from Dublin (the culchie in them shines through when they're in a real city). I didn't know what Theatre in the Sky was, but I followed two people into a room, and a girl put a video on some TVs for us which was basically a promotion for Grouse Mountain Resort.

"Jaysus" said the man.
"Where're ye from?" said I.
"Dublin. Wha' 'bout you?" said the girl.
"Galway." said I.

We had a great conversation through the entire length of promo, and then the woman came back and herded us into an actual theatre, where we watched what was basically another promo, disguised as a bald eagle's flight over Vancouver. When that was over, we bade each other farewell, and I headed up the steps and they headed out the door. Two minutes later, we met back at the cable car.

"Jaysus, Mary." said the man.

We were wedged into the car, but it claimed to be able to hold 100 (+1), and that seemed to be true. I made friends with a baby that kept giving me biscuits, and discovered that the Dublin girl and her father (and mother and sister) were over to visit her older sister who's living here now. She's an actress. But makes her money by childminding. In three years here, she's also been on only one commercial (I wonder if it's the same person or the same commercial as Rebecca's friend?), despite having loads of (unpaid) theatre work in her background. The girl herself was a newly postgraduated Primary Teacher, but wasn't keen on getting a job just yet. As evidenced by her presence in Vancouver in September. :D

When the cable car got to the parking lot (not the bottom of the mountain, by any means) they couldn't find the mother and other sister anywhere. I had lost the bus stop too, so we spent a few minutes wandering in circles before I found the way out and their family.

"Jaysus, Mary and bleedin' Joseph!" said the man.

We bade farewell again, for real this time, and I headed back down in the bus, to the boat, to the train, to the Hill of Doom.

Car. Sweet car. How I long to see your smiling grille.

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Bernie on

I'd like to go to Grouse Mountain too!

Romy on

The views are fabulous, Mary.
Did you write to the Sun yet??

marymc21 on

@Bernie - I have a feeling Grouse Mountain is your kind of thing Bernie. Clearly we're related!

@Romy - The views WERE fabulous, Romy. My poor camera couldn't do them justice!

@Mary - YES, YOU KNOW! Lumberjacks were high-sterical. :D

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