24 March 2014
We woke early this morning because the weather was supposed to be wonderful again and we wanted to beat the crowds to Stanley Park. We needn’t have worried — the weather was wonderful but still a bit cool and overcast, and it’s a Monday, so the park wasn’t crowded at all. Still, it was nice to give ourselves the extra time to explore, because Stanley Park is enormous, not quite as large and nowhere near as lose-yourself secluded as Portland’s Forest Park but huge and impressive nonetheless. We spent most of our time strolling along the lengthy walk around the seawall, enjoying gorgeous vistas of the downtown city skyline and the snow-dusted mountains beyond North Vancouver (and dodging cyclists who insisted on riding in the walking lanes). Near Brockton Point, we took a detour to see the totem poles, recent replicas of older replicas of much older originals, preserved here to honor the native First Nations peoples who used to live in what is now the park. The totem poles were fascinating and beautiful and very informatively presented — we learned a lot in our short visit here!
After a tempting turn through the gift shop, we returned to the seawall to find the Brockton Point lighthouse (we have a thing for lighthouses, developed on our trips to Prince Edward Island, but this one was fairly unimpressive) and the various quirky statues along the walk. Once we’d rounded the point, we made our way back into the park to find the miniature train (a disappointment, actually) and then to the Warren G. (the G stands for Gamaliel!) Harding memorial, which was a bizarre but ultimately pleasant (or at least informative) surprise. It was erected not only to honor Harding’s visit to Canada in 1923, the first by a sitting US President (it took that long!?!?) but also in memory of Harding, who died in San Francisco a week after his visit to Vancouver. Plus — I feel the need to repeat this — Harding’s middle name was Gamaliel! As Jennifer said, who knew we’d have to come to Canada to learn so much about a US President?
Frankly, Brockton Point is just a tiny thumb in the whole great fist that is Stanley Park, and I would love to revisit it someday for some serious hiking, but we had a lot of walking yet to do today, so we took the bus back out to West End, where we had excellent miso and ramen at Motomachi Shokudo, followed by a long walk through the West End — stately homes nestled among mid-century apartment complexes and towering, Soviet-looking concrete apartment towers. Eventually we found ourselves at the quaint little Barclay Heritage Square and the Roedde House Museum; the latter was closed, but it was nice to see nonetheless, and Jennifer in particular enjoyed the whole area. Then it was northwest through the gay community along Davie St., where we were looking for a guidebook-recommended coffeehouse called Melriches (“This is the kind of place where Morrisey would hang out on a wet Monday afternoon to check his emails”). It was fine, but crowded and hot and with a bored/rude barista, so not really what we were hoping for. Oh well.
We ended up at English Bay Beach, which was perfect for relaxing in the emerging sunshine and the cool sand while leaning against huge logs to watch a flotilla of cargo ships collected in the bay.
Nearby, we discovered a bizarre collection of bronze statues, huge grinning behemoths making exaggerated gestures of laughter and glee. The sculptures, by Chinese artist Yue Minjun, were erected to “inspire laughter, playfulness and joy in all who experience it,” and sure enough, we both found ourselves cracking up as we imitated the statues for photos, and for me, it turned out to be the highlight of the day!
Still smiling, we headed back across West End along Denman to take the bus down Georgia into downtown, where we indulged in a little window-shopping along Granville before walking back toward home. Along the way, we stopped for dinner at Japadog, a weird but hugely popular little dive (they also have food carts scattered everywhere in the city) where they serve hotdogs prepared with Japanese toppings and seasonings — I had a veggie dog with seaweed, fried onions, Japanese mayo, and teriyaki sauce, and it was delicious; Jennifer’s, a pork brat with grated radish and cabbage, was also good but a bit much in flavor. We also had fries cooked in butter that were amazing.
Tired (and overwhelmed by the Japadog flavors), we retreated to the apartment for a bit of gin rummy before venturing out for coffee and donuts (and free wifi) at Tim Horton’s, then it was back to the apartment for a stint in the sauna and hot tub. Another round of gin rummy (Jennifer won both games) and we were more than ready for bed. Fortunately, tomorrow is a bit less dependent on time, so we’ll get to sleep in a bit, something I’m very much looking forward to!