Vancouver Sights and Northern Lights (day 3)
RAINDROPS KEEP falling on my head…
This morning I stare out the lobby door to leaden skies and a steady drizzle. Street lights reflect off the puddles. A small dog avoids the worst of them and does his business on the sidewalk. The owner sees me staring vacantly out, and pulls a poo bag from his pocket. Well done. A cab takes me to Waterfront Station, where I meet up with Bonnie Todd, co-owner of ‘Off the Eaten Track’. I am told that brunching is a growing tradition in the city, particularly around the East Village neighbourhood. To get there, Bonnie drives me through ’Skid Row’, the rundown, depressing, grey underbelly of an otherwise green metropolis, where hobos linger in doorways, hooded, bored and scruffy. This is a sudden reality check, wedged between the glitz of China Town and the tourism magnet that is Gastown. I am told that Skid Row is slowly on the up, but it will clearly take time to sweep away the druggies and the detritus, and replace them with the trendy bars and restaurants. Until then, I fear this zone will remain off the tourist’s tick list for some time to come. We park up in a suburban side street and head off to sample delicacies from five venues, our last stop being at the smallest tea shop in Vancouver, squeezed inside the entrance of a supermarket. We head back to Waterfront Station, and I walk around the corner to Canada House on the scenic waterfront, where I experience a virtual flight ride across the USA and Canada, courtesy of FlyOver Canada. It is a unique experience. I spend the afternoon on a pleasant cycle ride around the perimeter of Stanley Park. The sun is shining, a cool breeze ripples through the trees, and fellow cyclists, joggers and pretty girls on roller blades enjoy the freedom that only a Saturday afternoon can bring in this wonderfully diverse and multi-cultural city. At 1700 hrs I am inside Tojo’s Restaurant, an undeniably upmarket Japanese eatery which attracts high rollers in their private planes and A-list celebrities. Without a hint of arrogance, the owner tells me he is one of the top ten chefs in the world, and then proves it by serving up beautifully presented delicacies which are nothing short of exquisite on the palate. This is a demonstration in perfection. I head to the airport for my 2100 hrs flight to Whitehorse. I am seated next to a pleasant lady en route from Newfoundland to her home at Marsh Lake, about an hour’s drive north of the capital of the Yukon. Having consumed a salad, she then proceeds to open a bag of crisps, which promptly explodes, showering us in the contents, as if someone had fired a cannon of confetti in our direction. Having picked a select few from my hair, I place them in my empty polystyrene cup. Stepping off the plane, I am greeted with a temperature of -13 degrees. The last time I stayed at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse, over breakfast, when asked what he would like to drink, my travelling companion asked if the waitress could bring him a latte. “We’ve got coffee, brown or black,” she retorted, without a hint of humour. I recall he then asked for a cup of tea instead. Priceless. I get to bed at 0030 hrs, the walls of my room vibrating to the sounds of a disco directly underneath Tomorrow I will be snowshoeing over a frozen lake to try my hand at ice fishing, and later in the day racing across the tundra on a snowmobile. We will catch up then.