For Part 1, go past the washroom and then click here!
For Part 2, spend $18 on a six-pack of beer, sit back, relax, and click here!
Day 5: I was slow to get out of the hotel on this day, for three reasons: one, the homesickness described in Part 2, and the gargantuan amount of work-related e-mails to address (this was a work-trip, after all!), and the fact that it was raining. BOO! Who the heck would ever plan for it to rain in the Pacific Northwest? Certainly not I, who didn’t even pack an umbrella!
My original plan for this day, my second-to-last, was to make my way up to Grouse Mountain, the heavily-advertised, tourist-friendly “Peak of Vancouver.” Unfortunately, to take the high-falootin’ “aerial tramway” system (North America’s largest!…that’s what she said) would cost $40. $40? Please, I am broke, and I was not gonna spend $40 to ride in a densely-packed sky-ride. What to do, what to do…
My co-workers, some of whom had been to Vancouver before, whispered things about something called “The Grouse Grind,” which was a way to save $30 on the cost of the Skyride (you pay $10 to ride down). Ooh, the bargain-hunter in me became immediately interested. Save 75%, you say! Why, sign me up!
“The Grind looked really hard,” said Rachael, who’d been to Grouse before and had witnessed the poor souls who’d made it to the top of the mountain without being mauled to death by bears or drowned fording the maple syrup river. “People who looked like they hiked for a living seemed to have a really hard time with it.”
Now, this warning should have given me some concern. The Grind is a 2.9km hike up the side of Grouse; hikers climb 2,800 feet as they go up the trail, which is colloquially referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” Some TripAdvisor reviews say of the Grind, “Not for the faint of heart!” and “NOT for novice hikers.”
Though I am skinny, I am not in the greatest of shape (ex.: I ate half a large pizza…a Papa John’s pizza!…last night. For shame!) I have not intentionally exercised since March, and purposefully avoid going to the pool/beach so I won’t have to witness any super-buff jocks making me feel bad about myself and indirectly motivating me to go to the gym.
Still, the thought of saving $30 just really appealed to me…that, and if there’s any part of me that is hetero, it’s that “bull-headed, stubborn man” part. Let’s do this, Grouse Grind!
But, heck no, I’m not climbing a mountain in the rain. Sooo, my big plan for the day was effectively dashed. I had to find an alternative and find it fast–it was 11am by the time I got out of the hotel and I couldn’t let the day go to waste.
I pulled out my Lonely Planet city guide and settled on the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, which was located like 8 million miles (or one public transit transfer) away from my hotel, just past the super-cute Kitsilano neighborhood. LP called it the best museum in Vancouver, and I’m a nerd, so it sounded like a good fit.
During my ride to the MOA, I picked up a Vancouver Metro, and saw this headline:
Only in Canada would bear spray and lumber be involved in a brawl. Aww, ya crazy Canucks!
After a tad bit of difficulty in finding the museum from the bus depot (it seems like all of UBC, which is gorgeously lush in a way Philly schools could never even comprehend, is in the middle of a dozen massive construction projects), I finally made it around 12:30. A specially-made totem pole greeted me at the entrance:
For the sake of decency, Tami had to stand in front of the more revealing and…generously-proportioned aspects of this totem.
One thing I found out here is that a lot of totems featured at the museum (and all totems from this area) are less than 100 years old. Duh, they’re made of wood and exist in an incredibly moist environment, but apparently this fact really bums out visitors who assume the totems are, like, thousands of years old since, you know, they’re in a museum.
This was a really fantastic museum with artifacts from First Nations’ cultures all over the world. Highly recommended if you’re ever in the area; at $16 a ticket, it’s a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.
Oh, and here’s a (cloudy) view of the UBC rose garden. Um, why can I have one of these, university employer??
Alright, back to downtown for some souvenir shopping!
Now, I don’t buy a lot of souvenirs, a habit that was very hard to break. I just had to wise up one day and admit to myself that I never actually used most of the stuff I would buy on trips. That’s when I made a New Rule (thanks, Bill Maher!): only buy souvenirs with practical uses. For example: magnets, mugs, and similar things of that nature. I also try to keep ticket stubs and other “free” souvenirs, though they tend to go into a drawer instead of actually being used.
We also make a joke while souvenir-shopping that, for whatever reason, “Lance” is just too strange of a name to show up on those personalized Disney keychains; you’ll more often find a Landry and a Logan than a Lance (like the great Itchy & Scratchy Land/Bort episode of “The Simpsons”). Well, no longer!
Though Lance explicitly forbid me to buy him this zipper pull, I felt a sense of victory that day…
I did run into the Pacific Place Mall in downtown Van-city, where I saw this beauty in a Bath & Body Works, probably Lance’s favorite store ever (I promise, guys, I’m trying to get him to write a series of candle/scented body product reviews called “Bath & Body Work It, Girl.” He has yet to take me up on my offer).
Later that day, on my way home from some exhausting shopping (and several meals at Tim Horton’s), I stopped by the Richmond, BC Night Market, which was right across the street from my hotel and is apparently the largest night market in all of North America. (When did these night markets become such a big deal?)
I’d heard a lot about the new-ish night markets all over Philly, where a lot of our (admittedly fabulous) food trucks represent, so I wanted to check it out and see what one of these things really looked like. Here’s what I got:
Nearly every non-food stand at the market sold cell phone cases and imported samurai movies. I mean, you know, if that’s what the market demands, then go with it, I guess. I just figured that there’d be more craftsman-like people hawking their wares. Alas. The only saving grace were the unusual clay figurines sold at this shop:
Alright, back to my super-comfy Westin bed!
I had nearly a full day in Vancouver; my flight left at 11:15pm that night. I was still committed to doing the Grouse Grind. Only one problem: I had to check out of my hotel room by 12noon, and there was not way I was going to be able to do the Grind and get back in time to take a shower before check-out time.
What to do, what to do…?
You know where this is headed:
It was rainy this last day as well, but I wasn’t not going to do the Grind. I don’t know why I felt so compelled to do it, especially since I would be a stinky, sweaty mess afterwards; I must’ve just lost my ability to think rationally.
Annnd, finally done! I didn’t time myself, but I’m wagering it took me about 70 minutes to get up to the top (I’m so stubborn that I didn’t stop to take a break either).
Of course, since it’s the summertime, this happened:
So, here’s Grouse Mountain’s biggest scam: just not to freeze my butt off at the top of this mountain, where the temperature was at least 20-degrees Fahrenheit cooler than at the base, I had to buy a $27 t-shirt.
Capitalism at its finest!
Grouse has a habitat up at the top of the mountain for these two grizzes, who were apparently found abandoned by their mama bear when they were wee lil’ cubs.
They also had trademarked Beaver Tails (which used to be at the Canada pavilion in Epcot, I recently found out), which were elephant years, only smaller and $3 more expensive:
There was a lot of tourist kitsch-y stuff at the top of the mountain, like a lumberjack show, which I avoided mostly because showtimes weren’t ideal and I was freezing my butt off in just a t-shirt (I wasn’t going to spend another $50 on a sweatshirt, though.) So, I just walked around some more and took pics of the great view:
The Grouse Grind (much more than the mountaintop nonsense itself) was definitely the most fulfilling experience of my trip. Sure, it was difficult, but the natural beauty was just overwhelming. Really glad I did this.
After I got back down to sea level, I headed back to the beach near the West End, which was actually warm enough for people to sunbathe. I took a seat on one of the logs scattered along the sand and just soaked it all in.
The last photo I took before my camera battery died was of the Inukshuk, a common image across many First Nation cultures all along northern North America (you’d also recognize it as the logo from the 2010 Winter Olympics, held in Vancouver). Capping off my trip to Vancouver with this image fresh in my mind was a real treat, and truly captures the essence of my time in Vancouver: an odd, but welcoming and unique, mixture of metropolis, nature, and a myriad of cultures.