Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vancouver: Day Four

A day bounded by poor food and bad chai, in the middle it was excellent!

We started the day with breakfast at The White Spot which appeared to be very nicely decorated, but the food was a slight step above Denny's. Disappointed, we ate quickly and moved on to the adventuring.

We drove down to Stanley Park (where even the plants surrounding the parking lot were large, lush and beautiful!):

Don't know what this is, but it smelled great!
Giant Allium.
Giant allium with bees.
and took the horse-drawn carriage ride which was a great way to see a bit of the park. It lasted an hour and was drawn by a Percheron: Bear and a Clydesdale: Diamond.
This is Bear.
Bear and Diamond.
We saw the city skyline,

That's a Canada Place in the distance, with the "sails".
the totem poles of the First People (My first potty break!),

Crazy tourists with video cameras! He's practicing, for twinnage.

the Girl in a Wet Suit,

Canada geese...IN Canada! Simply amazing!
piles of sulfur,

Gardens we never walked in, because I needed to save my energy and eat!

and learned that the park repeatedly was going to be used by developers for different reasons: coal mining (Whoops! Coal was of too poor a quality, so they nixed that idea.), logging (Whoops! The wood they pulled was rotten, so they nixed that idea.) until Lord Stanley (also of the Stanley Cup fame) decided to turn it into a massive park.

While the guided tour was nice, the lunch in the middle was the best part. Well, Eric had lunch. I had tea at The Fish House.
It was awesome!

We walked to the restaurant after parking the car, passing the tennis courts which were ringed by large trees. From the trees came the strangest noises - almost a creaking or squeaking sound. Rather like a train, actually, but it turned out that the trees were filled with the giant nests of herons! They've apparently been nesting there the last 5 years and have found it a very nice spot. They were fun to listen to, although I didn't take any pictures of them. Without my long lens they would have just looked like grey blobs through the leaves. At The Fish House, we were 30 minutes too early for tea, so Eric ordered his lunch plus an appetizer that we split. In the meantime, I drank a "Mountain Berry" tea that had hibiscus in it and noshed on mussels until it was tea time and my order was placed. The timing worked out very well, and my tea service showed up just as Eric's salmon salad arrived.

"Tea me up!" I said to Eric with a grin after 2pm arrived and I knew my order was going in.
It was, in a word, fabulous.
A current scone, with clotted cream and blueberry compote/jam; little crustless sandwiches of egg salad, deviled ham, smoked salmon and goat cheese with cucumber; a tiny slice of Linzer torte, chocolate mousse, baby biscotti, a single white chocolate with coconut truffle and a tiny lemon tart with a blackberry on top made up my three tiered plates. Yum! I had about 6 cups of tea and waddled out of there with a huge grin on my face. I even shared my scone, mousse and truffle with Eric. I'm a generous person, I am! His salad looked pretty good, but I think he missed out by choosing to have lunch over tea. We watched the tennis players out of the window and watched the herons launch themselves from the trees and take swirling, swooping flights overhead.

Since we opted out of a visit to Victoria (3 hours away by ferry, one way!), I needed to find an alternative botanical garden experience and found it in the VanDusen Botanical Garden. It was fantastic! I had to walk it, but I loved it. Right out of the entrance there was a walkway flanked by pink flowering dogwoods.

Off to the right was a pond in which was a fun little chair that had the back and sides made up of large palm leaves and the seat was made of echeverias.
I love this chair! Click for larger image.
Then we were off, hiking along the VanDusen High Points trail (1-2 hours for people moving at a normal speed) and enjoying the scent and the sounds of the garden around us.
Smelled great! Never saw a sign.
Large expanses of water. And beautiful Japanese maples.
Hungry fish that thought we looked like their meal ticket. They were so wrong!
Giant gunnera on the right - aka Dinosaur Food, for a good reason.
This is what I'd like my yard to look like, only that would be me on the bench instead of a stranger....
Showing off their ability to grow Hakonechloa and Huechera side by side in an unshaded garden. Phooey!
Requisite waterfall. I remember trying to not think about peeing here.
The monkey puzzle tree at the center of the hedge maze. I took us down a different path that wasn't following Eric's plan and got us to the middle. Yay me! Then he got us out. And to a restroom. Hiking through a maze with a pregnant woman is filled with more tension than you might have thought, isn't it?
Yet another water feature. Ahhhh!
Long Echeveria trough. I want one! Too bad they don't over winter here. They cost a fair amount each at The Mecca. Maybe one day....

This trough - this - I can do! I can get sempervivums (Hens and chicks to you non-plant-latin folks), sedum, phlox subulata and a few rocks together! Might even try to sell something like that next year at Market. Whee!
At one point, when I had reached critical mass and a desperate need for a restroom, I heard a strange trill coming from the tree above me on my way to the restroom. I stopped long enough to pinpoint the sound and found that it was a hummingbird. Yay! They may still not be visiting my yard, but at least I found one here.

On the way back past this tree, I noticed there were now two hummers. One was sitting calmly in the tree as the other flew up and zipped around in a giant loop. A mating dance! I squealed excitedly at Eric and we stayed to watch the male perform his incredible act of airborne acrobatics and enjoyed the moment. He would chatter at the female - sitting so nonchalantly on the top branch of the pine tree - fly way up high above her head and then loop back around behind her in a giant arc and then zoooooom! right past her with a little noise (couldn't tell if he made the noise just by the speed of his passing or if it was another call) and then stop abruptly right above her head and chatter at her again.

I translated the chatter thusly:
"Did you see that? Did you? Aren't I fantastic? You and me, baby! We'd make fabulous babies! Wanna see it again?" Vertical flight, biiiiiig arc, then zooooom! past her and stop to hover in mid-air. "Whaddaya think? Do I have style or what? I've got class, sweetheart, class!"

We stayed to watch, enchanted, for about 5 or 6 circuits and then continued on. There was a maze, a waterfall, and a rhododendron walk to see and yet another bathroom calling my name. There was also, as it turned out, a series of signs directing the "crew" to the "set". Apparently someone was filming something there. We've no idea who or what, so if you want to know, do some research for me and let me know.

It was a wonderful visit.

Then we went to find dinner, a little more reasonable than the last couple of nights. We tried to get in at an Indian restaurant called Vij's, but were told the wait would be an hour, so we went next door to Vij's other restaurant, a stripped down version. Their chai was very weak and watery and I was very disappointed. I feared that this boded ill for the dinner ahead but it turned out that I was wrong. Maybe the Canadians just like their chai weak? I don't know, but give me Royal Peacock chai in Boulder any day! Dinner was OK but not mind-boggling. Quite literally nothing to write home about. Then we went off to find the other supposedly fab coffee shop that Eric had read about - Elysian. We found it, alrighty, and the cappuccino was apparently great but my second backup chai was just as miserable, if for different reasons. Disappointed in the chai, I tried their Bumbleberry pie, which was nice, but not fabulous.

Finally, returning to the hotel, I sent Eric on a mission of mercy. Get the Hatchet a good chai latte from Caffe Artigiano and make it good! And that, my chickens, is what I am drinking right now.

It was a good day. Touring without walking, a little local history, a fabulous tea service, interesting wildlife, a hummingbird mating dance, plants plants plants and chai. Ahhhh!

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