Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Storm the (Sea)Wall!

Today we took advantage of the mild weather and weekday by exploring Stanley Park via bicycles. We rented bikes for the boys downtown near the convention centre, then took the terrific city path (part of the Trans Canada Trail) to the world-famous seawall around Stanley Park. It's a perfect place for a family expedition, as the seawall is pretty much pancake flat and well-protected along the entire 10 km path. To the left, the boys are storming the seawall with their climbing skills, even though there are perfectly good stairs 5 feet away. When I was at UBC, one of the famous intramural sports events each spring was "Storm the Wall." 5-member relay teams did a 400 m sprint, 300 m swim, 1 km run, 4 km bike (ME!), then everybody had to get over a 12-foot wall set up in front of the student union building. The event took over the whole campus for two weeks every March, which explained(?) why I missed a lot of lectures!

On the left is the lighthouse at Brockton Oval, with the North Shore behind. Our first house in Canada was in North Vancouver, about at the far left of this picture. The entire past seven weeks we've been here, it seems there's been a perpetual dark cloud hanging over the North Shore mountains! On the right we are at the entrance to the seawall, with lots of expensive boats in the background.

The boys were doing pretty well remembering how to ride a bike, considering they haven't touched a bike in nearly two months. Zachary's first time with a "big" mountain bike with three chainrings up front too. There were lots of people renting bikes, especially tandems. Also lots of rollerbladers too. The seawall is mostly completely separated into a pedestrian path and a bike/blade path, although it can get a bit narrow in parts. Vancouver really does a wonderful job with bike paths and promoting cycling. Every Skytrain station has enclosed bike lockers for rent, and bike paths and corridors run throughout the city.

Here are two more for our "Handstands Around the World" collection. The one on the left is at the Olympic Torch in downtown Vancouver, right next to the Convention Centre and Canada Place cruiseship terminals. The North Shore mountains are beyond. On the right we are on the beach, with the "Girl in a Wetsuit" statue between the boys and Lions Gate bridge beyond.

More pics of our day on flickr!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Galiano Island

Upside down on Pebble Beach

The past four days, we went over to Galiano Island, one of the Gulf islands between the mainland of BC and Vancouver Island. It was about a 1h ferry ride from Tsawwassen, on the way to Swartz Bay and Victoria. We were invited there by Dr. Paul Harrison, my B.Sc. honours advisor from my UBC Oceanography days, and his wife Victoria. There are so many pictures that we've put 50 onto a flickr album that you can see here: Our Galiano Island Trip.

We spent three wonderful days getting away from the city life, the internet, phones, traffic, TV, radio, newspapers, everything! Nothing to do but to enjoy nature and the great outdoors. We were fortunate that nature cooperated with mostly excellent weather. Here we are atop "The Bluffs" park. Behind us is Active Pass, named for the strong currents. The island on the left is Mayne Island. A lot of ferries go through the pass, either on their way to and from Victoria or the other Gulf Islands. We did another hike up to Bodega Ridge, in the middle of island and the highest point too.

Paul and Victoria had a canoe at their cottage, and we borrowed it for a few trips in the morning when the waters were calm. We saw big caves of sandstone eroded into unusual patterns by the winds and waves. Some parts looked like honeycombs and others were very smooth and flat. Some of the rocks almost looked like lava, as they were very flowing and jagged too. Lots and lots of sea life in the intertidal zone, including starfish (who are the "lions" or top predators because they have no other predators), sea otters, jellyfish, barnacles, kelp, sea anenomes, crabs, and tiny fish in the tide pools.

We spent a lot of time beachcombing. Here Jacob is holding a giant crab pincher - don't poke your eye out kid! The beaches had lots of bull kelp, some so long that we could use it for a skipping rope. We went to Montague Beach to go geocaching, but we couldn't find the "Kids Cache" that was right out at the point.

Galiano had lots of wildlife. There were lots of deer all over the island, and they had no predators and were very comfortable with humans. At the cottage, there lived about four deers nearby. Each night and morning, they would come out very close to the house grazing. They were so calm that even our opening the door and talking didn't scare them, and this was taken right from the front deck. Other animals we saw a lot of included snakes, herons, turkey vultures, and lots and lots of eagles, and hummingbirds. We canoed to a nearby rookery on the cliffs where a lot of seagulls and other birds made their home.

As always happens at cottages, we played lots of games. The main game we played was "Bananagrams," a game like Scrabble where each of you try to make a crossword. It was a lot of fun. Here the boys decided to dress up like traditional Scots in their improvised kilts.

Check out our other pictures: Our Galiano Island Trip!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Father's Day Trek

This past Sunday, we went for a trek through downtown Vancouver. Daddy and YeYe ended up doing a Father/Son project of fixing the garage door together, so they and MaMa met us at Kirin restaurant later for dinner. We took the Skytrain to the Waterfront station, at the Canada Place behind us in this picture. This is where the cruise ships dock, and there were two there that day. This is also where the Seabus goes across to North Vancouver, so we took a quick trip over.

 The Seabus goes over to Lonsdale Quay, and it's about a 10-15 min ride across the water. The Quay is now quite developed, with lots of shops. There was a seafood shop there where we found this big octopus.

Back on the Vancouver side, on the left picture is the Olympic torch for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It has four large pillars coming out of the ground at an angle, with a fountain underneath. The cauldron itself is at the top of the pillars, and flames can also come out of each pillar. Around the pillars are sections of frosted glass. On the right is a big blue drop sculpture along the waterfront near Canada Place.

Walking through downtown, we came across a film crew making a Kia car commercial. Behind us in the picture is a Mercedes car with a camera on a big crane. The crane allows the camera to move smoothly along the road or around the car. The camera car and the cranes were painted completely black. I think that is so it doesn't reflect in case it gets into any of the video by mistake. We saw one of the Kia cars with a camera in the front filming itself as it drove along too.

After Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, there was rioting and looting downtown, with lots of of windows broken, cars burnt, and people robbing from stores. The next day, someone came down and wrote out the message on the right, on one of the wooden boards covering the broken windows outside the Hudson's Bay store. After that, thousands of other people started writing notes on the boards too to say sorry and to show the better side of Vancouver. Thousands came and helped in the cleanup too over the next week.

After our big trek, we walked across the Cambie Street bridge to the Kirin restaurant for dinner. We were pretty hungry by then! MaMa, YeYe, and Daddy met us there and we had a nice dinner. We had a roasted chicken, a seafood and vermicelli hot pot, a spicy beef, and a duck with lots of veggies. Daddy and YeYe even got special Father's Day pens from the restaurant.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Our Uncle Darth Maul

The past 2+ weeks, our Uncle Ken (aka Uncle Crabby) has been out to Vancouver visiting with us. As is tradition, we did a big Lego project together. He brought with him a big Lego 1,800 piece Darth Maul kit. This is our third project together. We've done a full-size Yoda together in Calgary, a Jawa Sandcrawler in Niagara, and now here we are in Vancouver doing Darth Maul. This picture was taken at Stanley Park with Lion's Gate Bridge behind us. Too bad there won't be a Stanley Cup parade through Stanley Park!

On the left is the front of the instruction manual, which is about 76 pages long! It's of his head and shoulders, and is hollow inside. Daddy keeps saying we should make a jello mould with Darth Maul's skull and eat his jello brain! Our friend Ryan's book says the whole thing weighs about 8-9 pounds! The biggest Lego Star Wars set is actually the Millenium Falcon, with 5,195 pieces and a 311 page instruction manual!

Here's all of us in front of MaMa/YeYe's house before Uncle Ken left for the airport. He and MaMa also came out to watch us at the Circus School, and Daddy borrowed his Canucks jersey for the seventh game.

While Daddy was in Kelowna, Uncle Ken and us went sightseeing around Vancouver for a day. On the left is a picture of us in Stanley Park with the "Mermaid in a Wetsuit" statue on the rock behind us. The mermaid has been dressed up with a Canucks jersey. On the right we are in False Creek in downtown Vancouver. This was the site of the Expo 86, which Mommy came out to see and Daddy spent that summer in the army.

This is the dragon boat races in False Creek, where there was a large tournament. Dragon boat racing is like a big canoe only with a lot of people in the boat. It's called dragon boat racing because the original boats usually had a dragon on the front and a big drum to keep everyone rowing in the right rhythm. It was a huge tournament, with over 140 teams.

The morning of Game 6, we went down to Roger's Arena to catch the scene and excitement. The Canucks Store was doing great business, with jerseys and other memorabilia flying off the shelves. One cool thing was Canucks USB memory drives, with it looking like a hockey player and the head being the cap that you pull off.

We watched Game 7 at Burnaby Metrotown on the big outdoor screen. It was a fun and peaceful party there, unlike what happened in downtown Vancouver after the Canucks lost.  We were very sad to see the riot happen downtown, and Daddy and Mommy are both furious at the idiots who did the damage and also the people who stood around and watched. However, it has been good to see how the people of Vancouver came together to clean up the mess, find the people responsible, and show that the city is a better place than what we saw last Wednesday night.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Nature Pic of the Day

When we are walking and hiking we see many of these black slugs (bottom left) ranging in size from 1" to 6 or 7" long. They are the European Black Slug and are an invasive species in British Columbia. The native species is seen on the right and middle and it is mottled black and brown looking like an over-ripe banana. It is a local species but seems to be less prolific where we are. As you can see from the comparison to Zachary's foot they can grow very large. They produce a slime when they are wet so raccoons which like to eat them will roll them in dirt first to make them produce less slime.

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Monday, 13 June 2011

Hello Kelowna!

I'm spending a quick trip up in Kelowna to visit with my colleague Dr. Phil Ainslie at University of British Columbia - Okanagan. His research interest is primarily in cerebral blood flow control, both at rest and exercise. We co-supervised a Ph.D. student, Shawnda Morrison, together when both were at University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, but had actually never met until last fall at a conference. We've been talking about ideas on using thermal manipulation to study brain blood flow.

Shockingly, despite growing up in Vancouver, I've never actually visited Kelowna before! As an added bonus, my racing buddy from my Vancouver and Squeaky Wheelers days, Mark Fleming, moved up here in 1996 and this was our first chance to reconnect personally since then. We went for a long and hilly 110 km ride together today (Sunday), catching up after so many years. Here we are halfway up Knox Mountain overlooking Kelowna and Lake Okanagan.

Reminiscent of the Slave Lake, Alberta, forest fires in May of this year, Kelowna was ravaged by heavy forest fires back in 2003, and evidence of this remains easily visible. Here is a view from Mark's neighbourhood showing just how close the fires came. Mark's family was evacuated for 2 weeks while the firefighting was happening, and lots of the area look like this still.

Lots of beautiful vineyard and farm scenery out here. Just like Niagara, only hilly! The other difference is that it's a very dry heat here, to the point where you don't even realize you're getting dehydrated because you're not dripping in sweat. Anyway, speaking of moisture, here's a nice scene of Lake Okanagan north of Kelowna. We had a nice cafe stop right nearby.

Some of the local residents, looking like a raccoon crossed with a poodle and llama! Mamma Llama wasn't too impressed with our getting too close to the babies.

Mark on one of the endless climbs. It was great getting to ride together again! He and Brenda have two girls - Clare is 13 and Lucy 11, and both are very good dancers. We spent the afternoon at his place eating and playing road hockey, and will cheer on the Canucks together tomorrow evening.

Here's the view from outside my hotel room right now!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Hair-Raising Canuckleheads!

A caption or any explanation is pretty much redundant here.. Go Canucks Go!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Walking Tour of New Westminster, British Columbia

Wednesday afternoon while the boys were at Circus School, I went on a short Walking tour of New Westminster - named the first capital of the colony of British Columbia in 1859 although it lost out to Victoria as capitol when BC and Vancouver Island amalgamated. To the right you see the 1899-built Canadian Pacific Railway station, looking like a hobbit could live there. Now it has been turned into a Keg Restaurant.

Over a foot bridge you reach the boardwalk along the Fraser River, the River Market (housing Vancouver Circus School) and the Discovery Centre. There is an imposing bust of Simon Fraser marking his 1808 river voyage of discovery through the heart of B.C. The Fraser River is still an active thoroughfare with working boats and floating flocks of logs.

Back along the boardwalk is this 32foot, 5 ton world's largest tin soldier which marks the spot where the region's first attachment of British Royal Engineers arrived on shore is 1859. They stayed for 4 years developing the infrastructure of the colonial area.  Past the tin soldier, you see the Discovery Centre and then continue along Antique Alley which now has mostly storefronts in disrepair but was a bustling 2035 Chicago street in the movie, I-Robot with Will Smith.

1911 Bank of Commerce Building
Along Columbia Street, which was known as BC's Miracle Mile, you pass the 1911 Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, the Burr Theatre (named for Raymond Burr of Ironside fame - you have to be older to get that one),  the Queen's Hotel and the Burr block. The latter 2 buildings are the only downtown structures that survived the 1898 fire that destroyed much of the downtown.

Queen's Hotel (1887)
Burr Block (1892)

Up a steep hill from Columbia Street is the Anglican Holy Trinity Church established in 1859

 The City Hall sits on Royal Ave on property that was set aside for  the Provincial government. It is "guarded" by a pair of field howitzers brought from the UK aboard the HMS Sparrowhawk, in case of attack. 

The tour ends at the clapboard, Gothic-style Irving House. Build in 1865, it's New West's oldest building and was built for the Scottish-born riverboat trader William Irving and his family. It now serves at BC's oldest museum.