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Monday 24th July 2006

The Best Cheesecake in Vancouver?

I ate allegedly "The Best Cheesecake in Vancouver" at a cafe at the harbour end of Granville St. Having walked past the sign several times, I felt I had to give it a try. It was fine. Determining whether it is "the best" would require further research.

Harbour Centre

After putting off visiting the Harbour Centre, mainly due to planning to eat in the revolving restaurant, I decided to stump up the $11 for access to the viewing area. And... It was well worth it. The view was excellent, and I should really have made it my first stop for orientation purposes. The location is more central than The Empire Landmark, so gives a better view of downtown, Gas Town and the tourist heart of Vancouver.

Final Sushi

So, for my last meal in Vancouver, what else could I have but Sushi. Stopping off at a random place on Robson St, I studied the menu for a while before deciding to leave the exact choice in the hands of the chef, and go for the "Delux Sashimi and Sushi Platter". Wow! It had quite a few things which I don't normally go for, such as octopus and fish eggs. Still, in for a penny, in for a pound (or whatever the dollar equivalent is). The best bits were the rolls with eel(?) in batter and avacardo. The Salmon roe was fine too, less weird than the flying fish roe anyway, but I think I'll avoid the more chewy sea creatures in future smile

Airport Statues

Bill Reid seems to have the local first nation art market sown up, and Vancouver Airport has a very nice sculpture called the Jade Boat.

Sunday 23rd July 2006

Fabric

Interesting film from the 1970's featuring dancers in knitted costumes reminiscent of sea creatures. Also, a space for living knitted out of recycled jumpers.

A piece knitted out of video tape, with a television inside, joined to an engrossed figure joined to it by tunnel of videotape. Also, audio cassettes with the tape pulled out and knitted into a variety of shapes - animals, hearts, planes and many more.

Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery

Very close to my hotel on Granville, is the Contemporary Art Gallery. Outside, in the windows, a display of the temporary signs used to direct film crews to sites in the city. Each has a brightly coloured arrow and bears an obscure word relating to whatever it is that was being shot. I think they were stolen!

Inside, two rooms of photographs by Hans-Peter Feldmann who is very well known, curated by Roy Arden, another Vancouver artist who seems to get everywhere!

The pictures I found most moving were those of people from the ages of 8 weeks to 100 years, one photo per year. I've a feeling I saw these briefly in Munich (?) last year, but here, completely on my own, in an empty gallery space, they took on a life and meaning which I had previously missed. First, I walked round, looking at each picture in turn, occasionally gazing back to take in a decade or two. Next, I walked through them, remembering what was happening in my life at each year. Then, I got to the point where I didn't know what would happen, and I could only imagine the future.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at Deer Lake Park

I toyed with the idea of seeing a 2nd Shakespeare in the Park production, as The Winters Tale has such good reviews, but I decided to stay true to the philosophy a friend taught me at Glastonbury - never walk the same way twice - I set off for Deer Lake Park.

The one thing I haven't found for Vancouver is a bus map. This is a major ommision as it means I have to find a stop with a map in order to plan a journey. This time I misjudged the distances and also chose the wrong Sky Train station to get off at, so I walked for nearly 3/4 of an hour before I got to where the concert was taking place. However, this did take me through a near deserted Deer Lake Park on a series of paths and boardwalks across marshland, with the sound of classical music occasionally drifting across the water.

Arriving at the concert ground, I found it packed. Really packed, though I'd guess there were far fewer people than attend the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra fireworks events in Cannon Hill Park. The music, a series of short popular classics seemed to go down well.

Hiatus...

There's a bit of a gap here as I attend a conference and have little time for (i) going out and (ii) blogging smile

Saturday 16th July

A History of Sidewalks

This artist led walk was an offsite project for the ArtSpeak gallery.

Meeting at the corner of Robson and Granville, a group of around 15 of us caught a bus west to the area around Maple and (somewhere). Neil Wedman gave a wonderfully warm and interesting talk as he encouraged up to look down at the history beneath our feet. Many of the sidewalks here are made of concrete, and some have dates, street names and or makers marks inscribed on the corners. We also saw preserved footprints from the 1920's.

Later on the tour, we passed the I.Am temple, built for some strange 1930's cult the Assendant Masters (1,2,3,4 )

Charcoal rubbings of the dates were also produced during the journey and distributed to participants.

  • Date on Sidewalk:
    Date on Sidewalk

  • I.AM Temple
    V74iamtemple.jpg

Music and Madness at Blim

Down to Blim again to see the _Legion of Flying Monkeys (Horn Orchestra)_, Mit Funf , Chrisariffic and another solo performer.

LFM gave us a nice call and (audience) response story song, with added commentary to start, then some spoken word with horn accompanyment. After this, we all joined the Legion of Flying Monkeys Cult by reciting their oath.

After a short break, we had puppet theatre from Mit Funf. Nicely designed sets formed the background to an episode from a humourous finger puppet soap opera.

Finally we had Chrisariffic, who played and sang his own touching songs with a wacky but lovely stage presence. Recordings / Myspace are on the way.

  • Blim Poster:
    Blim Poster

  • Legion of Flying Monkeys (Horn Orchestra):
    Legion of Flying Monkeys (Horn Orchestra)

  • Destroy All Monsters Diorama (Blim Window):
    Destroy All Monsters Diorama

Friday 14th July 2006

Stanley Park Aquarium

Another rainy day, so headed off to the aquarium at Stanley Park. It turned out to be much more rainy than I'd expected, so I spent longer there than I planned.

The best bit is the underwater beluga viewing - big white whales swimming round and doing the occasional trick. They really are massive, and the males look a bit like a giant deflated balloon (oe a sumo wrestler after a crash diet), while the females are more streamlined and dolphin-like.

  • Baluga Whale:
    Baluga Whale

  • Baluga Whale:
    Baluga Whale

Stanley Park

Once the weather cleared up, I took the free bus round the island, stopping off at Prospect point where I saw my first racoon. Although there are lots of notices telling you not to feed them, I saw them being given crisps and ice cream. Like, how stupid are some people! I also saw one woman get scratched by one for refusing to hand over food!

  • Racoon:
    Racoon

  • V70_no_feeding.jpg:
    V70_no_feeding.jpg

Music and Visuals at Blim

A friend showed me the programme for Blim yesterday and it looked good, so I headed down (#3 bus down main to 17th Ave) to see Ocean Falls play with live visuals from Ian Campbell. They played warm, meditative electronic music, with the occasional intrusion of more angular sounds. The visuals were created live on stage using a close up video camera and a number of strange devices made from clock mechanisms. Most of these had what looked like miniture symbals mounted on them, with one central one rotating and moving the others. Some rotated led lights instead. The effect was of a strange world, shifting, moving, with an almost animation like quality due to the jerky movement. I liked the whole thing!

Blim was also home to the best dressed people I've seen in Vancouver with retro clothes and hand painted shoes in evidence. I was also told that the area is good for "thrift shops" (what we call "charity shops" in the uk).

Thursday 13th July 2006

Granville Island

Good wander round the markets and galleries of Granville Island, with a trip round the micro brewery. They make a very nice limited edition raspberry wheat beer.

  • Stencil Scavenger Hunt:
    Stencil Scavenger Hunt

  • Raspberry Beer:
    Raspberry Beer

Weds 12th July 2006

Water St and Storyeum

It's a wet day today, so after drying off with a BIG breakfast of pancakes, blueberries and whipped cream, I bought an umbrella and headed off to Storyeum on Water St. On the way I popped into a number of commercial galleries (Jade, indigenous arts and reproduction old masters). There's quite a lot in that area. Then to Storyeum, to see an all singing history of Vancouver. At first, I was a bit worried that it might be too heavy on the expressive dance and too light on the history but it actually managed to blend the two well. It really is a show, with a lot of musical numbers and good scenery. I did feel a bit sorry for the actors, as ours seemed to be a particularly quiet audience. No cheering or joining in from us I'm afraid!

Blake's Cafe

Popped into Blake's café on Carrall St. It's the nicest café I've visited in Vancouver, with gig posters in the window, free internet (though I has problems and use fatport) plus vegan food! Also had the best dressed people I've seen here, with guys who look like they're probably graphic designers, having meetings and working on their macs.

Artspeak

Artspeak is a independent, artist-led(?) space on Carrall St, currently showing a film by Cao Fei where young asian people in fantastic costumes reminiscent of computer game or animi characters chase each other through an urban landscape, only to return eventually to laze in their normal (but bare / old fashioned) homes.

There are also a number of offsite projects - one on soil transfer (from around the world to here) and a series of... artist-led walks. Yep, the walk is in, wherever in the world you happen to be. So, I hope to enjoy some perculiar perambulatory practice later in the week.

Centre A

Billed as focusing on contemporary asian art, Centre A is the current host for the Emergency Biennale in Chechnya, a travelling exhibition in which artists contribute 2 copies of a work. One to be shipped around the world as part of this exhibition in a suitcase, the other goes to Chechnya for display. Lots and lots of work here by many different artists.

See also: Emergency Biennale website

Bands at the Lamplighter

Saw a couple of bands at the Lamplighter, the first, Make the Lion, brought all their friends, but were a little too early in their career for me smile plus, their style of guitar rock wasn't really up my street. Next (after half an hour of shifting equipment and soundchecking) were Big Red Sun who were much tighter. They played to a very small audience, friends of the lions having departed or gone to play pool, but they weren't bad. Strangely, as an all male, three guitar band, they did quite a nice cover of The Eurhythmics song Here Comes the Rain Again.

Tuesday 11th July

Grouse Mountain

Off across to North Vancouver again on the seabus to visit Grouse Mountain. Again, the public transport system was great and got me there very easily and quickly.

Grouse Mountain is accessed by cable car, or by a 1 or 2 hour walk up the mountain. I opted for the cable car.

At the top, there are great views over Vancouver, a couple of rescued grizzly bears, a lumberjack show and lots of places to eat - ranging from fix prix menu at $99 to pizza slices.

I also went on an "eco tour" which was more of a brief first nation history tour, but good for all that.

  • Vancouver has a kind of bear statue festival at the moment...:
    Vancouver has a kind of bear statue festival at the moment...

  • Bear carved out of a tree:
    Bear carved out of a tree

  • Finally, a real bear!:
    Finally, a real bear!

  • Don't give cigarettes to the bears.:
    Don't give cigarettes to the bears.

  • Careful with that axe, Eugene!:
    Careful with that axe, Eugene!

  • (fake) longhouse:
    (fake) longhouse

Bard in the Park - Measure for Measure

Each year, Vancouver has an outdoor Shakespeare festival. This years plays include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Measure for Measure . It's not a completely outdoor performance , the weather isn't reliable enough for that, but tented with the back of the stage open to show the mountains in the distance.

The performance was good, clearly presented with a nice mix of comic and serious lines - though I think there were many comic ones underplayed, but the interleaving in the writing makes it hard to do this switch.

As a European, I was quite shocked by the use of Nazi uniforms for many of the main characters. I'd imagine a small furore if this was done at a UK theatre - not a condemnation, but using such a strong signal seems to imply that a statement is being made, and that didn't seem to be the case here.

The more I hear Shakespeare, the more I notice his influence on other writers. There was one set of lines (I forget them now) which I remembered as echoed in Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

Monday 10th July 2006

Vancouver City Art Museum

Had a wander around the 1st floor of this - the native (or should I say first nation, aboriginal or indigenous peoples ) art section. Again, it's a mix of work from different times: quite a lot of modern stuff (post 1960's) but also one piece from as far back as 1500. There was also more explaination of the supression of native culture, the removal of children to state schools to be "civilized", the banning of celebratory/informational meetings known as "potlatch" and supression of traditional totems and symbols. No photos in this gallery I'm afraid.

Kaiten at Tsunami Sushi

I'm a sushi fan and Kaiten is such fun! This one had a little moat with boats circulating, each carrying two or three dishes. It's a relaxing way to eat, watching the boats bobbing along, reaching out and taking what you fancy.

By the way, there's no fat people in Vancouver. Well, maybe the occasional slightly plump one, but nothing like the levels you see in many parts of the States or back home in Birmingham.

I have my own theory on this... Your body tells you to eat or drink because it's missing something: maybe calories, maybe protein, maybe liquid. If you eat the wrong thing, your body will still tell you "I need something". Now, our bodies and brains have evolved so that we have some idea what to eat when we need a certain nutrient. How often have you felt thirsty and decided to eat a bag of salted peanuts rather than drink some water?

However, we now live in a world full of "fake food", food which has been artificially constructed to appeal, but doesn't necessarily meet the nutritional needs your body expects.

My theory is that the high fish diet of the Vancouverites provides them with the omega three fatty acids that their bodies need, while the "high McDonald's" diets of other regions don't. I.e. You eat the burger, you still need nutrition, your body says eat more...

Seabus

Vancouver has a seabus! It's like a bus service, but over the sea. We don't have one in Brum frown I'm quite excited! smile It takes you across from Vancouver to North Vancouver, and you can use your standard day ticket.

  • Sunset from the Seabus:
    Sunset from the Seabus

Lynn Valley Canyon

Hopping on the 228 bus from the sea bus terminus, it's a 20 minute ride to Lynn Valley Canyon and suspension bridge. It's free and it's beautiful.

  • Beware the Bear...:
    Beware the Bear...

  • Drunk traps are installed in this park...:
    Drunk traps are installed in this park...

  • Wilderness:
    Wilderness

Sunday 9th July 2006

Anthropological Museum at UBC

Full of totem poles and other large wooden artifacts, the guided tour (though a bit slow) is a must as it explains some of the meanings behind the objects. How to read the symbols, in terms of matrilineal geneology (descent from a transforming bird or animal) and males marrying in to the family.

Some of the weirdest items were gigantic bowls in the shape of birds and animals used as part of potlach feasts.

Overall, not as big as I'd expected but worth a visit.

Sat 8th July

Sky Train

On the recommendation of one of my fellow bus passengers (Yesterday), I got a day ticket for public transport for only 8 dollars. Then I took the "Sky Train" into central Vancouver where I will stay at the YWCA for the next week or so.

Nice view from elevated track. Vancouver has beautiful sea and mountains surrounding it. I also noticed that Circus de Solei are in town, so I might check them out later in the week. They also reminded me of the SouthPark episode where "the children" see CdS.

On the subject of SouthPark, my illusions have been shattered. Apparently it's not a documentary after all! Cadandians don't have big flappy mouths or say "buddy" all the time. They do however have a penchant for very tiny dogs...

YWCA

The YWCA is a former hotel, open to men as well as women, and relatively cheap. My room is clean and good quality, with TV and (pay for) WIFI access. Bathrooms are down the hall, but again seem clean and good. The only downside is that due to my late booking, I have to change rooms a couple of times during my stay.

It's very close to the Skytrain and there are frequent buses nearby. The only thing it lacks is a bar - there is a very small coffee shop, where it was the manager's birthday today. When I went in, his friends were waiting for him, with a cake and photos of the guy (in a kilt / chainmail) stuck up around the place!

Dodgy Town...

I wandered up to find the Chinese Arts Festival in Dr (something) park but ended up in the "bad part of town" (Gastown), with drunks and homeless people with shopping carts wandering the streets - just like you see in US TV programmes. However, no-one approaches me, no-one asks for money, unlike if I'd covered a similar distance in Birmingham.

I am, however, glad to be able to pop into the police museum to check my map, where I also discover that most Canadian police hats were like those of the English police, and see some very gross preserved organs of murder victims and cancer patients! Never mind, there is a sense of humour. The morgue fridge units are labelled: Kenny McCormack, Guildenstern, Laura Palmer, Dorian Grey etc.

Chinese Arts Festival

After consulting the map, I work out my way to the Chinese Cultural / Arts festival. Wandering through China Town, past shops displaying piles and piles of dried fish (big and small), roots, mushrooms, fruit, and something which smells really awful (maybe durian fruit??), I locate Dr Sun Yat Sen garden.

It's a performance festival, with Chinese music and dance. The dance is illustrative of various different ethnic groups, complete with costumes, and some of it is very good. One piece, we're told, won several prizes both in Canada and the US.

I also get a cool almond milk drink (it's 27 degrees and sunny) with black perls in it and an extra wide straw to suck them through!

What do they make the perls out of? You get them in some of the drinks at CafeSoya too...

1st Sushi

So, Vancouver's fabled sushi. I pick up a couple of pieces from a place next to the Grecian styled public library (I'll try get a picture later - of the library that is, not the sushi), and sat on the steps outside, where a couple were having their wedding photos taken. Very nice! (the sushi, not the couple) though I think I might try go vegi for a while. Van' is very heavy on the salmon.

But isn't this all a bit anal?

There's a bit on the Kate Goes... Myspace which says "Kate Goes... and decides to write a very anal blog", and this feels a bit like this, but hey! I'm here on my own, and I wrote this over dinner rather than rushing it. Which brings me to...

Revolving Restarant at the Empire Landmark Hotel

I went for dinner at the revolving restaurant on the 38th floor of the Empire Landmark Hotel. Did I go for the food? No. I went because revolving restaurants are the coolest thing ever invented! However, they do benefit from a good view, and the view from here is amazing! Flying boats, cruise liners, snow capped mountains, a wonderful sea and sky - I can kind of see why we didn't get one at the top of the rotunda.

My first encounter was in Berlin, drinking Berliner Rot and gazing down on the museum island and comunist era statues.

The food was fine, chowder and (more) salmon, with Canadian wine not something I've tried before, but very nice ("nice" is one of the words I over use, along with the punctuation "-" and "..." and of course brackets smile )

My waiter tells me there are three revolving restaurants here, so lets see if I can eat in all of them...

  • Rotating Restaurant at Empire Landmark:
    Rotating Restaurant at Empire Landmark
  • Sea view from Empire Landmark:
    Sea view from Empire Landmark

  • Shadow of rotating restaurant:
    Shadow of rotating restaurant

  • View over Robson St:
    View over Robson St

  • Great Sky!:
    Great Sky!

  • Mmmmh... Rotating Cheesecake:
    Mmmmh... Rotating Cheesecake

7th July 2006

Arriving in Vancouver

I survived the 11 hours or so it took to fly here (anybody smell CO2 overload) and arrived in Vancouver about 5pm. The airport bus took me downtown, then I had to get 2 other buses to my hotel for the night. So far, I found the Vancouverites very friendly and helpful. The bus driver didn't recognise the hotel I'm staying in (Ramada Suites) so he asked the passengers over his intercom in the style of a quiz show host! It worked and lots of people gave help and advice.

After checking in, I went for a wander up and down Kingsway in search of some food. What amazed me was the mix of different cultures. I'd read that vancouver had more than 300 Sushi restaurants, and I probably saw 15 in 2 blocks. In addition there were Korean, Italian, Indian, Filipeano and lots of Chinese places. Looks like Vancouver isa pretty multi cultural city.

6th July 2006

Quote of the day

John Prescot, being pressed on the today programme about whether he's had other affairs: "People should judge me on my performance on the job". Quite.

2nd July 2006

Campaign Against Cactus Cruelty.

I'm always amazed by people who are cruel to their cacti. I've seen them, in homes and offices, dry and shrivelled (the cacti that is) as their owners don't think they need water.

When it's hot and sunny, cacti love water. Try watering yours, give them enough for the pot to feel heavy just once and you should see them swell, look healthier and perhaps even flower (you've seen those films of the desert after the rain, right?). If it's a good hot summer, and they're on a sunny windowsill you can water them every 2 weeks or so.

Help prevent Cactus Cruelty - water yours today!

1st July 2006

Misty's Big Adventure and Kate Goes...

Spent the day at a wonderfully sunny Cotteridge Festival to see Misty's Big Adventure and Kate Goes....

It's the 6th time that Misty's have played the festival, and, as they didn't exist last year, the first time for Kate Goes...

  • Kate Goes... Elderly:
    Kate Goes... Elderly

  • The dancing starts...:
    The dancing starts...

  • Misty's plus young fans:
    Misty's plus young fans

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