On Saturday morning, June 18, we took a float plane (a DeHavilland DHC-III Turbine Otter, to be precise) from Victoria to Vancouver.
The weather was a bit iffy, and the pilot flew extra low, to stay below the chop. It was one of the neatest things I've done in a long time. I mean, really super duper fun.
We flew over the Gulf Islands, which are gorgeous, and which I am now very attached to. I am planning our retirement. :)
Bob was across the aisle (about three inches away) from Claire and me, and he and the woman in front of him saw an orca jumping in the water while we flew.
Here is a wee short video I took for you. It's not good, but you will get the general idea. :)
When we landed, some luggage was unloaded from the back of the plane, and our luggage wasn't there. Where was it? Surprise!
It was in plastic bags inside one of the floats. I had no idea. So clever.
Goodbye, float plane. I loved you.
We took a cab the short distance into the city, left our luggage with the nice concierge at the Sutton Place Hotel (it wasn't quite time to check in), and went and got lunch at Moxie's Classic Grill on Bute Street. Yum.
After lunch, we took a little tour around part of the city on a Big Bus. We were staying in the West End, which is one of the most densely populated areas in all of North America. It's an area less than one square mile (about .788), and contains 45.5 thousand people. That is 56.5 thousand people per square mile. Yikes!
Needless to say, there were lots of highrises.
The windows of The Bay (as in "Hudson's Bay Company") downtown had gotten smashed in three days earlier during the hockey rioting. They were covered with plywood, and the plywood was covered with notes from Vancouverites discussing their disgust, anger, disappointment, and sorrow about the riots, as well as their pride in their city and their love for the Canucks. They were pretty supportive of the police, too, which was nice to see.
See that big word "We" down there? The pieces of plywood that came after it said "find you all." As in, "we will find you all, rioters". Which they probably will. People took photos and videos, and sent them to the police during the riots. Since June 15th, 24 people have turned themselves in to the police. An Integrated Riot Investigation Team is in the process of sorting through 4,000 emails and have flagged 1700 which identify potential suspects involved in 120 separate incidents.
The Vancouver Police were worried (and continue to be concerned) that social media will be used to mete out vigilante justice. I hope this doesn't happen, because that would kind of be in the same spirit as the rioters themselves. We live in such interesting times. You can't just flip a car over, set it on fire, beat someone up, and skip off on your merry way. You'll end up on Facebook with a trazillion people seeing you within an hour.
Many Vancouverites got up the next morning, grabbed their brooms and dustpans, and hit the streets to help clean up the mess. It made me get tears in my eyes to see the news footage.
The city library is below. If you look closely, can you see some trees sticking out of the arches on the right? It has a living (green) roof. So do many of the roofs in Vancouver. The Vancouver Convention Center (which I didn't get an aerial shot of) has the most famous one ... six acres of wild grasses on top!
Green roofs filter pollutants out of the air, filter rainwater, and help insulate buildings, which reduces their heating and cooling costs and their noise levels. I was fascinated because I'd never seen so many before. They were everywhere, once I started looking up.
Something else we saw that I liked that first day on our hop-on, hop-off bus was the steam clock. It was built in 1977 as a tourist attraction in renovated Gastown. And tourists are, indeed, attracted to it! :) Gastown is a national historic site. It was Vancouver's first downtown area, and was founded by Gassy Jack Deighton. Yep. Gassy Jack. Gassy Jack was a seaman, steamboat captain, and barkeep. He showed up to open the area's first saloon in 1867. Good ol' Gassy Jack.
We also zoomed by Canada Place. Did I mention it was raining? This was the first day of the trip that we had rain. All the cruise ships berth at Canada Place, and the 2010 Winter Olympics flame holder thingy is there, too.
We were pretty tired, and went back to our hotel when we could check in. I was surprised to see that it was a suite! Yay. Claire was so excited to have her own room that she didn't want to leave the hotel again. :D
I have to admit, though, that the West End was kind of depressing to me. People are just so squashed into those highrises, and I watched a lady hanging her laundry out, and I kept wondering, is she alone, does she have somebody, what does she do? I probably wouldn't do too well living there in that particular part of the city, with the weather and the population density. I felt pretty claustrophobic.
Although there was, I kid you not, coffee for every single block. More coffee than anywhere I've ever been. That part was great. And Tim Hortons. :)
And. We had the best (BEST) waiters we have ever had at the restaurants we went to. I kid you not. I don't know if they were just bending over backwards to show us that Vancouver is actually a neat city, despite the riots, or if they are just naturally down-to-earth and friendly, but our service there was completely outstanding. We had dinner that first night at The Keg, and it was one of the best meals we've ever had on vacation, anywhere.
The next couple days were great, because we got out of the squashy part of the city and went out to enjoy nature, which there is a ton of around Vancouver. :) I like being outside best. I'll tell you about that next time.