Monday, October 12, 2009

Sleepless in Vancouver

I came to Vancouver for a concert at the Orpheum Theater and for practical purposes I chose the Moda Hotel because it is right across the street. Walking in, I was impressed by the friendliness and efficiency of the front desk. The lobby is nothing much to look at and getting on the tiny elevator I noticed the carpet was dirty and the metal on the walls had not been wiped down. Based upon my initial impression, the room was a pleasant surprise. I love the decor, minimalistic, red wall, black and white art, nice big picture window, flat screen TV, wireless internet. However, there was so much noise from the street and the late night carousing outside I couldn't fall asleep at all. I should have gotten a clue from the sleep mask and earplugs on the bed when I first walked in. In addition, the walls seem to be thin as paper because I could hear the man in the next room clearing his throat all night long.

The area around the hotel is not very upscale. In general things seem a little run down. I was surprised at the amount of litter on the street and the number of homeless camped out on the steps of public buildings and on every street corner.

The historic Orpheum theater was restored in 1977 and was beautiful on the inside. The concert, "Music of the Night", starring Eric Kunze and directed by Bramwell Tovey was fabulous both nights and I heard everyone raving about how much they enjoyed as we were walking out. The music featured was a compilation of songs from Broadway shows such as West Side Story, Phantom, Miss Saigon, Superstar, Evita, and Les Miserables. Bramwell Tovey, the conductor of the Vancouver Symphony is really funny and made a lot of side jokes and background information about the music. He actually played the organ with a mask on (a la Phantom) then walked up behind the head violinist and startled her with it. He was replacing Erich Kunzel, who was originally supposed to be the guest conductor and tragically passed away last month. Maestro Tovey joked that Erich was the only conductor he knew that insisted upon a case of beer in his dressing room. Tovey said, there must be budget cuts, because he did not get the same courtesy. They did a tribute to Erich Kunzel at the end of the concert.

Saturday was a perfect day to take a ferry to Granville Island. First, I just started walking wherever my nose led me. I found my way quite by accident to Gastown. I took lots of pics of the quaint and restored architecture. Had breakfast/lunch at Jules, a French bistro, which took me right back to our trip to France in May. The mussels were to die for. They were locally grown and fresh harvested today. Very plump, moist and garlicky. The manager chatted with me and he told me they had been filming the sequel to Twilight across the street the day before.

We also discussed the homeless situation. I must say that has been one of the most disconcerting things to me on this trip. There are people sleeping on the sidewalks on almost every street corner and every nook and cranny. There seems to be a cottage industry of collecting bottles in shopping carts. From my room at night I could hear the clink clink clink of bottles being transferred from one cart to another. There was a man standing outside my hotel window shouting "F___! F___!" literally all night long. According to local news, there are 1200 homeless people sleeping outdoors. The city is frantically trying to deal with the situation before the 2010 Winter Olympics. My question is, why not, for the Olympics? Why have they not done it before for the sake of the city and its inhabitants?

After lunch, I found the Granville Island ferry, a tiny little boat that runs every 15 minutes from different stops. I took the one that stops near the Science Center. It was $6 one way or $10 two ways. Found out later than I was to exit at the Aquarium stop and that would have been cheaper. I gave my extra tickets to a student on board.

Granville Island was very charming and definitely worth the trip. I didn't even explore the whole island due to time restrictions, but my first stop was the Granville Island Market. Took a ton of photos. Food is so colorful and beautiful! The rest of the island is filled with shops and restaurants. There is a beautiful playground for kids and a pond. The autumn colors were at their peak. Ran across an Indian wedding and got a great shot of the bride and her bridesmaids.

Day three: Another beautiful crisp fall day. I walked from my hotel down Robson street to the water, rented a bike from Spokes Bike Rental ($18 for two hours) and rode around Stanley Park. There were many people there, walking, jogging, roller blading, bike riding. There was a group of people stopped in a clearing, so I stopped and we watched eight racoons cavorting around. I made clicking sounds like I do with my cats and they came right over to me (a little too close for comfort, actually) standing on their hinds legs and begging. They were extremely tame so they must be accustomed to people feeding them - not a good idea.

Had lunch at Tsunami Sushi on Robson. I was amused at the concept. You can sit at a circular bar and the sushi floats by you on boats in a river. You remove what you want as it floats by. There was a family next to me whose little kids were enthusiastic about being there. I complimented them on their sophistication. I have a hard time getting my five year old grandson to eat macaroni!

Decided to eat dinner in and walked a few doors down from the Moda hotel to Nesters Market where they have a good selection of freshly prepared foods. I'm making it an early night as I have a flight in the morning. I was very impressed with Vancouver in general and everyone who lives here seems to love it. It will be interesting to see how the city handles the Olympics in February of 2010 and fun for me to recognize all the places I visited during this weekend.
Read more about Eric Kunze at his fansite:

1 comment:

Anita said...

Maggi--You are a natural at travel-writing. You really are.