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Day Zero Vancouver is, well, wonderful

sunny 80 °F

I have been to Vancouver many times and each time I marvel at what a wonderful city it is for an American tourist. It is a mere thirty miles north of the Canadian-U.S. border situated off the Pacific Ocean via the Salish Sea to the Haro Strait to the Strait of Georgia to the Burrard Inlet beneath the Lions Gate Bridge and past the wonderful Stanley Park. By water, you pass the U.S. San Juan Islands and Victoria, Canada, just north of Seattle on your way to the ocean.large_ef883a30-8df0-11e8-bb63-8d9d18bdc66f.png

The city is home to 650,000 or so but the metropolitan area makes the place much larger: 2.5 million of the most dense and diverse population you can imagine. More than half of the people who live here have a language other than English as their “first language.” Consistently marked in the top five cities in the world for livability and quality of life, the place got started back in 1867 as a logging center. A natural seaport, it became and remains a shipping trade link to East Asia and beyond and ranks as the third-largest port by tonnage in the Americas.

Forestry rules the economy but, interestingly, tourism is second. It is home to a great deal of film production. In the last couple of years, Deadpool 2, Overboard, Skyscraper, The Mountain Between Us, The Fifty Shades of Grey movies, Okja, Pirates of the Caribbean and Tully were all shot here alongside too many TV series to list.

The beautiful Stanley Park is over 1000 acres and is surrounded on three sides by water. A bicycle ride here is a treat. This is one of Canada’s warmest cities in the winter and one of the wettest as well. This time of year (July) the high temperatures are in the low seventies and rarely climb over the mid-eighties. Snow falls here nine days a year and doesn’t stay on the ground for long before melting away. The downtown streets, most alternating as alternating one-ways, much like New York City, are laid out on a strict grid pattern running NE to SW and NW to SE on the peninsula bending into more standard N to S and E to W in the remainder of the city.

There are seemingly endless high-rise buildings in the downtown portion of the city, each one blocking the view of the harbor, if not the surrounding mountains, from those a block behind. Our hotel, the Four Seasons, is about 1,000 yards--eight blocks--SW of the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal on Howe Street. Our room on the 23rd floor, however, reveals that we are denied a beautiful view because we are tucked away. There is a zoning rule here about the "view cone" but the city council appears to have just approved a high rise plan that will "block part of city's protected view of mountains." Alas.

Vancouver is a very expensive city in which to live and Forbes Magazine claims it to be the tenth cleanest city in the world. It is wonderful at night when the lights twinkle and even more wonderful, I recall from my first visit here decades ago, from restaurants across Vancouver Harbor in North Vancouver. A comparison would be dining in Hoboken, New Jersey, with a view across the Hudson to Manhattan.

Architects must think of this place as a playground; Moshe Safdie designed the Vancouver Library Square before creating Kansas City’s beautiful Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Little here is boring or routine. Raymond Burr, Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Oh and Seth Rogan are among the many famous Vancouverites. You younger readers don't know who Raymond Burr was? Google him.

The first time I came here, probably 35 or 40 years ago on a consulting/training assignment, I was struck by finding packaged chicken feet in the supermarkets. I’ve been back many times and now take chicken feet in my stride.

Up early, I went for a long early morning walk. Up to the waterfront, around the cruise ship pier where three ships have come in to drop off their Alaskan Cruise Passengers: The Island Princess, The Holland America Volendam and the Seven Seas Mariner. There are hundreds of cruisers towing their baggage here and there, all seeking to get to their Vancouver hotel or to the Vancouver Airport. I am delighted to understand, correctly I hope, that tomorrow there will be only one ship in port. That will be ours; there will be no crowds. In this port where 900,000 depart or arrive each year there will be but 382 of us. Fun Fact: This is one of only three cruise ship ports in the world where visiting ships plug into the city's electrical grid rather than running their generators for electric power and, thereby, virtually eliminating emissions and engine noise.

Our travel companions for this cruise vacation, Fred and Jami, arrived here yesterday several hours earlier than we did. They came in from their second home in Phoenix where the high temperature yesterday was 114 degrees. When we landed last night after them, around 10:00pm and powered up our iPhones, there was a text from them wishing us "good night" with a reminder to meet in the lobby of the Four Seasons at 9:15 for a city tour that she has pre-arranged with Land Sea Tours & Adventures. Robin is our driver/guide.

Into his SUV, we absorbed highlights like historic Gastown, Chinatown, scenic English Bay and the picturesque Vancouver Harbour. Stops in Stanley Park featured First Nations totem poles, as well as spectacular views from Prospect Point including a unique vantage point looking across the Lionsgate bridge (under which we will tomorrow sail). large_21230970-905e-11e8-9b88-558cc1e3de90.JPGThe totem poles in Stanley Park are all replicas, the originals having been destroyed by the British a century and a half ago in the false belief that they were representational of idols to be worshipped. Instead, for a people with no written language, they were three dimensional history books. Carved from western red cedar trees, each one tells the story of a real or even mythical event. Oft occurring symbols include the eagle denoting the kingdom of the air, the whale denoting the lordship of the sea, the wolf representing the genius of the land and the frog being the transitional link between land and sea. large_12d366d0-905e-11e8-9b88-558cc1e3de90.JPG

Afterward, we visited the charming farmer’s market at Granville Island where virtually anything and everything you might want to eat was on offer alongside locally made items ranging from apparel to knickknacks. B4 could become forever lost in here as shiny object after shiny object interrupt ones path.

Then we were off to Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, nestled across the narrow waterway from Granville Island and beneath the wildly creative Vancouver House, under construction nearby. large_43ffeda0-908b-11e8-84c3-2b8a16339592.jpgThis is a seriously twisted building that, when complete, will be I think iconic. Here's a rendering of what it will be. The food at Ancora was fine but the service was lackadaisically delivered by a very personable young woman and her new hire shadow. Hint to owner: use your best most customer oriented and solicitous server as your trainer; not this friendly but inefficient young person.large_03786eb0-905e-11e8-9b88-558cc1e3de90.JPG

Back at the Four Seasons, we settled in for a rest before we leave--in three hours--for dinner.

Friends Ron and Chris, over dinner in Kansas City a few nights ago, recommended that we dine at the Bacchus Restaurant at the Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver. I checked with Fred and Jami, and they agreed that sounded good for them. Ron and Chris are accustomed to fine dining and, from our few outings with them in the past, are not only great company they are knowledgable about cuisine.

Bacchus is an old-world fine-dining establishment to be sure. At the venerable Wedgewood Hotel, a seven minute stroll SW from the Four Seasons, we are greeted there by velvet banquettes, dark mahogany carved woodwork, white tablecloths, fine patterned china, a pianist; the works. Tim, our server is animated but not overly so, quick to recommend a dish unlike many servers of no opinion who say that, "either dish is a good choice." Tim, for the first time in my memory, recommends the chicken. Always the least expensive entree, no server recommends it for selfish reasons as 20% of $25 is less than 20% of $30 but Tim says, "This chicken is special." I have it and he is correct. large_Bacchus.JPG

Great conversation about the book that B4 just finished and that I am half way through (Red Notice by Bill Browder), our impending embarkation, the weather in Phoenix, the state of customer service in the world and much more decorates our evening at Bacchus. Thank you, Ron and Chris; you were correct. After a walk home through a downtown pocket park where the outdoor movie screen is set up for a dusk screening of "Oceans 11" for the 200 of so people there gathered, we are back to the hotel and ready to write this and call it quits.

We agree to meet at 1:45 in the lower lobby for a transfer to the ship. It was a fine day in Vancouver.

Posted by paulej4 21:21 Archived in Canada Tagged restaurant vancouver ancora bacchus

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