|Vacationing in Vancouver
5th July 2011
So, here we go again – another morning flight out of the country – and making sure the fridge and freezer are empty (some interesting meal combinations last seven days) before switching them off – such good eco-friendly people we are!
The security checks are the usual pain – shoes off or not? – belt off or not? Why can’t they have a universal procedure? And the staff are so rude! Do they get special pills to do the job – or is it a frontal lobotomy?
Still, the plane leaves on time and we are whisked away to Amsterdam – Yes, please stop singing “Tulips from Amsterdam” – your voice is not good!
There we have a brief stop-over which gives enough time to wander a bit, buy some goodies and have a nice drink (just Sparkling Wine – not the real thing!) in the “Crown Lounge” – yes, Business Class does indeed have it’s advantages – before boarding for the flight to Vancouver (scheduled at 9hr 40 mins).
But we take off late, but the info says we should arrive early – now I know what it’s like to be a Time Lord! We are supposed to depart at 13.20 and fly for 9hr 40min, but then arrive at 14.00! Fantastic!
And the flight is very pleasant – nice drinks, good food, a wee snooze and then more food and drink – maybe that’s how a new born baby feels! So, in essence – you are born, travel in Business class, and then you die – finito!
However, back in the real world – we arrive at Vancouver International airport and things go well – the glaring Immigration lets us in! Our bags arrive (though sadly Carolyn’s strap has gone missing) and we get a taxi without a wait!
Only $40 from the airport to the hotel and it is called the Executive Vintage Hotel, located on Howe St, and is very close to the seafront walkway.
Given that we have been sitting for hours, we execute a quick change and head out for a walk to English Bay which only takes 30 mins. Then back to the hotel for this evenings “wine tasting”.
Now folks, those that know Carolyn well will understand that “tasting” wine is not the point of having a glass in your hand! It’s about having a good “swally”! and sadly the wine we are given is a tad on the meagre side – however, we do get another whilst we chat to a fellow Scot – Kirsty Murray, who now lives in Sydney, yes the Australian one. Even stranger is that Kirsty taught for a while at James Gillespie’s High School where Carolyn teaches now and they might even have been teaching there at the same time! Yes, folks the world is indeed a small place!
Neither of us feel much like dining out – as it is effectively 3.00am for us – so we trot down to the 7/11 and buy some nibbly things and essential provisions from the local Liquor store, sup a few Gins on the 9th floor patio and then that’s us for the night.
6th July 2011
Neil wakes early and has a walk around the local environs and fails to spy a nice outside eatery selling Eggs Benedict, so instead opts for a “greasy spoon” café offering Eggs, Bacon, etc – yes tres healthy!
Later this morning we walk to Stanley Park (check out the 18 hole Pitch & Putt, but decide that it looks like a 1.5 to 2 hour round, so we pass) then all the way round the pretty perimeter of the park to Canada Place Terminal and a nice lunch on the terrace at the newly opened Bellagio restaurant – nice in the sun and HOT.
Back at the hotel another chance at the wine tasting evening – and again this time we manage to get a small second glass – barely touches the sides!
The late evening sun gets us up onto the 9th Floor patio again – most pleasant as no one else seems interested in using it.
Thursday 7th July 2011
Neil is up for a walk early and still looking for the nice outside terrace for brekkie – but no luck again. So it’s into the hotel dining room for food and I order Eggs Benedict – and I think it’s a little pricey at $14.99 – however what arrives is a HUGE plateful – three half muffins one topped with Smoked Salmon, one with Spinach and one with ham – and of course they all have an eggy and Hollandaise Sauce on top – and a large portion of Hash Browns on the side. Well stuffed is Neil after all that!! (Meanwhile, Carolyn is in bed with her coffee and yoghurt!)
It has been overcast all morning but just as we decide to go out for a walk the rain starts and looks pretty set for a while – but it passes quickly and we set out for a walk around False Harbor to Granville Island - 2 hrs in total – and then drinks in the Sandbar (recommended) – and lunch and more drinks and then the short expensive ferry home ($3.25 each for a 2 minute trip- outrageous!)
Yet again another wine tasting at the hotel – but only one small glass this time (maybe they have twigged that we turn up every night – it has been a different host each time though – and in the late evening sun more drinks on the (now classed as our own private) terrace and then a nice Tapas meal at La Bodega – lovely! All the nicer for being only 100 metres away from the hotel.
Friday 8th July 2011
Dry but windy when we wake up – but no morning run – instead a trip to the Launderette to drop off our washing for a Service Wash.
Breakfast for Neil was, again a Greasy spoon affair – still not bad value at $8.00 including tip – What price a heart attack I hear you ask!
We go to collect the washing at 10.30 and almost have that Heart Attack then! The cost is a massive $50.00 for half a carrier bagful – WHAT! – But the guy explains that it’s cheaper than the hotel would have cost! Golly all I was expecting was a simple Coin Operated Laundry service wash – like $15.00- not executive hand washing and pressing- Lesson learnt I think!
Our check out time is “before 12” and our shuttle to the Cruise Dock is at 1.15 – so after we pack up we take a wee walk along the front. And as we still have some wine and nibbles left – we take turns as ‘alcos’ and swig from the bottle as we sit on a park bench – Ah Class!
Albert - very camp – is our driver to the Dock and we get a running commentary on the dress sense or otherwise of the local gals – most amusing!
At the dock it’s all very organised – your bags are tagged and taken from you – and you hope they will arrive at your cabin/stateroom in due course.
Then the fun begins – first a security check, as at the airport, belts off but not shoes, through the metal detector – then US Immigration, and this is slow because their computer system went down and there is a back log, so we are marshalled and given seats to sit and wait. Then eventually we are queued “Disney Style” to await being called forward. Now like good people we completed our US forms on line (back in Edinburgh) and they are called ESTA’s (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which is like the old Visa Waiver Program.
However, when we get called, a problem arises in that Carolyn still has a 10 year US Visa in her passport and this means that we should have completed a different White Form for her! Now, I did the ESTA’s on line and at no point did it ask – “Do you have a 10 year Visa?” – and even then her Passport number should have flagged up that she had one – What on earth are they checking when the ESTA is completed?
And all the port officials asked in Non-US? Yes. Do you have an ESTA? Yes! In that queue then.
However, the guy behind the desk had a Scottish Grandfather – Does everyone in America have Scottish Roots? Then he gives Carolyn a form to fill in and does not send us back to the end of the line – and finally we are given permission to enter the “good old US of A”.
And then we still have to check in to the cruise ship – Oh and a Health form to fill in – Could that have not been given whilst we waited! Then there’s another problem with Carolyn’s passport – which will not scan properly and the details have to be typed in – and then we’re asked where was the passport issued – Now at this point Neil says in his best “Manager voice” – ‘As it says on the passport, United Kingdom – Grrrrr!’
So, we eventually are given our plastic cards – which do everything , open our door, charge drinks, charge anything trips or excursions, etc – just a wonder – but don’t lose it!
Neil and Carolyn Tough
Copyright Neil Tough@2011