Sunday, 23 June 2013

Greek Day

Today was action-packed, adventure-filled, and the perfect end to a busy weekend. On Friday night after my first week at work, we walked from Vancouver General Hospital down to Stamps Landing, on False Creek, to the Wicklow pub at the marina. Perfection, and on our way, we passed a room full of kittens! I had a very tall and refreshing glass of soda with my new colleagues as the sun finally came out from behind the clouds.

When I got home, I discovered a care package from one of my very best besties in Melbourne (thank you Tess!), which was pretty much the most heartwarming way to end the week.

Matthew and I made a quick turnaround and headed for Martina and Stu's, where we enjoyed an outdoor barbeque in their new backyard to celebrate the longest day of the year. It was also, fyi Southern Hemisphere Dwellers, apparently 'the first day of summer'... um, I have considered it summer since the first of June. My bad. After the sun went down, we took the party inside and even sang some karaoke. I'm afraid one of Martina and Stu's friends was filming us the whole time, so there may be incriminating evidence of our shenanigans on the internet for all we know.

On Saturday morning we had a mega sleep-in (because we didn't crawl in from the party until after 1am). Once we got presentable, we drove to Metrotown (shopping mall so big it constitutes a suburb) to renew Matthew's driver's license. For our pains (and they were great; the line up at the licensing agency is always about 40 people, and snakes out the door and down the mall) we were rewarded with front row view of ... yet another window of kittens! Six perfect gingers.
I could only get four of them in the shot. Pile of ginger kitten! *happiness*

We then went to Gramma's, and the rest is explained in yesterday's post.

Today, Matthew and I made good on our promise to run around our neighbourhood. We ran up Heather St to the BC CHildren's Hospital, and cut down 33rd Avenue to Queen Elizabeth Park (also known as 'Little Mountain'). We jogged half the perimeter of Little Mountain and then continued down Ontario Street until we hit 14th Avenue. We saw three cats and three miniature ponies. It was a good run.

When we got home, we dutifully did some chores and then I went out to book club at Green College at UBC (Katie was hosting). The ladies and I actually did a good job of discussing our pick, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (creative response to Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, from Hadley Richardson's point of view). I recommend, because there's nothing more satisfying than a well-executed unhappy ending. We were rather over-supplied with strawberries. I think everyone had the same bright idea.

Book club wrapped up at about 5ish, and I squeezed onto the 99 bus (hell) and came home to collect Matthew before marching back to MacDonald St for the Greek Day festival. It had thinned out a bit by the time we got there (6:30ish), for which we were grateful. There was a main stage with Greek dancing, and the dancers were of all ages, but all the boys and men were wearing mustaches, even the children.

Woman on stilts

The Hollywood is only open special occasions: My Big Fat Greek Wedding, obvs.

Balloon artist clown enthralling children (and us, let's be honest)

Greek Dancing!

Lamb. Enough said.

Multiculturalism: Tim Horton's is a Canadian donut chain. It was duly decorated in Greek bunting.

Epic line-up for dinner.

This, and other local Greek stores, is why the street festival was in this neck of the woods. That said, we discovered another Greek festival coming up next week in East Vancouver...

We kept walking until we had tried a little bit of everything:

1. Souvlaki
2. Spanakopita
3. Saganaki
4. Dolmades
5. Baklava

Actually, the baklava we popped in a paper bag and walked home, and as I type this, I am pausing to sticky-finger bits of it. Mmm.

Kali spera!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The 9 To 5

Monday was the first official day of my new full time job. I realise I left this blog with a vague and unpromising 'progress report' indicating my eternal unemployability. But the truth is that after weeks of radio silence, my phone and inbox suddenly exploded with opportunities. I feel like I chose the best opportunity, but that means a commitment to change.

This is the new me.

The Pros:
1. It's in higher education administration, which I have decided after a mere decade (!!) of working and studying in the sector, is my career of choice.
2. The people are very friendly and welcoming so far.
3. It's walking distance from home (I'm not sure whether I've mentioned this before, and perhaps it is a post for another day, but I strongly disbelieve in commuting).

The Cons:
1. Haven't finished my Master of Arts yet. Like, not even close. *sigh*2. Full time work. What is this. I have to go there every day. And I have to stay there all day. Like, what. A lifestyle adjustment, to be sure.

Consequently, Matthew and I have been busy as bees this week. This evening we went for a walk in the late evening sunshine, got some vegetables from Sunshine Market, and are now drinking chamomile tea at the table. Party on, friends.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Charlie Chaplin, Darth Vader, and the Nude Cyclists Horde

At the risk of giving it all away in the title, we had great fun this weekend.

On Friday evening we met Laura and Mike at Hastings Race Course. Far away in East Van (beside the PNE Playland site), the view of the mountains is considerably changed. We watched the sun setting in the clearest most beautiful sky, and then we went into the gaudy casino for dinner. When we came out, there was a rich twilight over the mountains. It was stunning.

Laura shared her policy of betting on 'the crazy looking ones', I tell you, with great success. All of us came away winners.

Saturday morning we walked downtown across the Granville St Bridge.

Our destination was the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Grand Hotels exhibition. It was interesting, but also flawed. The writing accompanying the exhibits was turgid; lots of 'liminal' and 'cultural production' and 'quintessential', etc. Funnily enough, Matthew and I consider ourselves definitely not 'hotel people'. When we go on holiday, we always try to pick the most conveniently located and cheap&cheerfullest hotel, because we would rather be out exploring.

We also saw the 17th Century Flemish Masters exhibition which had just opened that day. One room was pastoral landscapes, the next room was really creepy still lifes, the next was portraits, and finally some seascapes. What I learned: that lace collars and cuffs were way in fashion, but that they were beyond difficult to paint. There existed many techniques for rendering fine lace accurately. Also, that portraits were collaboratively painted, with the credited artists responsible for the face of the sitter, and the artists' apprentices responsible for clothing and background details. What else I learned: that 17th Century Dutch still lifes are the creepiest flower pictures ever, with flies, spiders and other insects infesting dying bouquets, and backgrounds always stolid, morbid, black.

Of course, after the exhibition we just had to lunch on the Art Gallery Cafe terrace, not because we particularly appreciate the food, but just because it's the prettiest garden patio in the city.

Walking to the Art Gallery past the French cinema on Howe St, we saw a Charlie Chaplin impersonator (the was a CC film playing there). I didn't get a picture. Later, after the Art Gallery, we saw Darth Vader (pictured) walking down Granville Street, and also dozens of naked (mostly male) cyclists stopping traffic with a Nude Bike Ride (not pictured, dammit).
Oh, Granville Street, bless you for keeping things interesting.

Last night we had a well-earned Quiet Night In. We watched Silver Linings Playbook which was simplistic, unevenly paced, extremely sexist, and poor all round. Booo, SLP. Booo. But we did have some nice cheese and olives, and the sunset was gorgeous, so the evening was not all bad.

Today Matthew hustled us down to Heirloom for vegetarian brunch:
 On our way out to get vegetables in the afternoon, we saw this precious sign hanging in front of a local mansion.
 And if you look closely at the photo, you can see an actual Blue Jay! Score for Wildlife Bingo!
Happy weekend, all.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Photopost: Kath in Vancouver

On the weekend my mum Kath and I went for a bit of mother-daughter adventuring in downtown Vancouver. We started at Stanley Park at around Second Beach. There was a festival of some sort setting up, so there were empty tents everywhere, and also the tide was waaaaayyy out. The afternoon was breezy and grey, and the whole scene felt a bit ghostly.

In Stanley Park, looking out over English Bay

On the Sea Wall. Last time I was here, the water was lapping the Wall.

Looking towards Prospect Point

Looking towards Downtown West End

I swear this goose actually drooled. He was watching a man feed his fellow goose (top left).

When we got to English Bay Beach, we walked up Denman St in search of things and lunch. We came across the most beautiful nut shop. I mean, chandeliers

Heaven is a nut shop on Denman Street.

When we got to Robson, we had decided on a game plan for lunch, so we would be rewarded when we finally got to the top of the interminable Robson Street hill. 

No, this was not our lunch. Tempting, though, no?

A free community Art Class happening on Robson Street.

Okay, so our destination was the Urban Tea Merchant on Alberni Street (ironically right next door to Thierry where Helen and I latte'd last week. Mum and I actually visited this place last year. Our lunch/afternoon tea was ...a bit strange. Mum is, in the picture below, displaying the square-shaped "egg", made out of chopped up and re-shaped hard-boiled egg, presumably.

We were a bit mystified.

I probably should have warned you about the next two pictures, but by not warning you, you can simulate the feeling we experienced when we were vintage shopping above street level on Robson Street after lunch. The Horror! The Horror!

This is very real.

I'm weeping a bit.
 There was also a zebra skin. It didn't have a face, but the mane was still attached.

After the trauma (made more acute by the fact that we had ignorantly and joyously browsed for about 20 minutes before even noticing these beasts on the floor), we retreated hastily back to Stanley Park to collect the car. We saw this beautiful dragon kite on English Bay Beach on our way back.

We also saw a rat, which I took a picture of, but I thought that wasn't quite the right note on which to end this post.

On Sunday night the entire extended family gathered in New Westminster for a birthday (Aunty Lorraine) and a farewell (my mum). I feel like mum's stay was a bit brief. But I'm sure I'll see her again soon. Soonish.

Thank you for a lovely day out, Mum. I miss you already.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Helen's Adventures Continued

So when last I blogged, we were relaxing post-dinner on Monday night, getting ready for the rest of the week's adventures. Although I think we slowed our place slightly as the week went on, we still managed to do some interesting and quintessentially Vancouver activities. Here's what went on:

Tuesday: East Van, Commercial Drive, French Food

Sadly Matthew had to work, but we hitched a ride with him at 7am to Hillcrest (swimming pool complex), and while I hit the gym, Helen did a lap of Queen Elizabeth Park in the glorious morning sunshine. We rendezvoused poolside at 8am and admired the view of the mountains through the floor-to-ceiling windows, from our position in the spa. It was very civilised. We then got a chai latte, ran into our friend Martina on the bus home, and got properly ready for a Nice Day Out.

My mum (also in town currently) came over and all three of us ladies piled in the rent-a-car (and got thoroughly lost on the way) to Trout Lake, in East Vancouver. We walked a lap, admired the view (the mountains look radically different from East Van than they do from our place on the West side of town).
Sadly we did not see any leaping trout (once about a year ago I actually did see a leaping trout here). But it was lovely regardless.

Mum, Helen and I then went to Commercial Drive for a spot of Greek lunch and window shopping. It was a new experience for all of us, since Mum had not been to Commercial Drive since like 1970, and I had never been North of about 4th Ave. It was amazingly full of cafes, restaurants, and the best vintage shop EVER. There was a giant scarf bin, and we just stood around it for a quarter of an hour, picking up the scarves, laughing at their ugliness, cooing at their loveliness, and trying them on. I came away with two pink floral numbers, and Mum with three others. Helen, sensible woman, refrained.

It was about 4ish by the time we got into Gastown. We wandered the cobbled streets in the dappled sunshine with the flower baskets hanging around us.
The Fluevog shop is a bit of an institution

De riguere tourist shot in front of Steam Clock

We squeezed in a latte before driving home to meet Matthew. Then all four of us walked down to 7th Ave to Salade de fruits, a cute and tiny restaurant in the French language/cultural learning centre. It was AMAZING. And surprisingly economical, for French food. My mum was very generously treating us to dinner. Thank you mum!

Baked Alaska!!

Wednesday: Robson Street, Seasons in the Park

Again, Matthew was at work, so Helen and I leisurely breakfasted, then set out for downtown. We didn't really have a game plan, but the buses were late, so we started our adventure with a windy walk across the Granville Street Bridge. It was hot, sunscreeny weather. We made it to the centre of town and had quiche on the Art Gallery terrace. We then proceeded to Sephora, where we bought EVERYTHING *so poor now* and thence to Robson Street for more of the same: shopping shopping shopping shopping.

We paused in the middle of the afternoon for a cup of coffee so strong it put hairs on our chests, and a macaron.

In the evening Matthew, Helen and I went up to Seasons in the Park at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park (also known as Little Mountain) and watched the sun set over the city from the terrace. It was perfect.

The next morning ,  Helen hopped on a plane back to Melbourne, after a whole year of travel, study, friendship and excitement. Thank you, Helen, for a wonderful week of exploring Vancouver in the early summer. Vancouver was at its very prettiest, and I hope you had a good time. We really enjoyed having you stay, and after your amazing year of world travels, we hope you are welcomed back into Melbourne life. We will miss you.

(Photo credits: half Helen, half my mum)