A Travellerspoint blog

Day 28

Coal Harbour, Stanley Park Totem Poles and Brockton Point Lighthouse.

sunny 4 °C
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You couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to head out for a walk. It rained yesterday and cleared to fog overnight for the New Years Eve celebrations here in Vancouver. From our lodgings it was a quiet NYE. Outside was quiet also.

Today Paul and I got a leave pass to spend a morning by ourselves and we decided to walk to Stanley Park to admire the totem poles. It is about a 10 kilometre round trip as we are going via the Coal Harbour Seawall and Canada Place. Given the late sun rising, we didn't hit the sidewalk until 9am. The streets were pretty much deserted and it felt like most of Vancouver was still in bed sleeping off the effects of the NYE celebrations. This usually tidy city had rubbish everywhere and the streets looked as though they were "hungover".

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Our seaside walk pretty much commenced when we reached Canada Place. Canada Place is also a remnant Expo 86 building that draws parallels to the Sydney Opera House due to it's white sails. There is no comparison if you ask me, but it's appointment on the harbour and the lovely snow covered mountains on the North Shore in the background, do lend a great aesthetic to it. In the plaza, the cauldron from the 2010 Olympic Games now stands as a fountain. I have seen a few cauldrons in my travels and I really liked this one.

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The Seawall from here continues around the shoreline with little development except for the seaplane airport (docks really), a few restaurants and what seems to be one huge marina but it is actually a couple of marinas that make up Coal Harbour. So as we walk towards Stanley Park we have Burrard Inlet to our right and highrise high density housing with stellar views and manicured surrounds to our left. Very swish and very nice. Lots of the locals are out like us enjoying the day with the exception they are in their sportswear carrying a coffee or dog lead, while we are dressed for a Shackleton Expedition. This is a very ritzy neighbourhood and the boats moored in this part of the harbour accentuate that. Paul doesn't quite know where to look. As we move further on, the marina boats change until when we are almost at the threshold of Stanley Park we reach what would be best explained as the "working man's" realm. Here the boats are older and smaller and some even work for a living. I am most interested in the rows of floating sheds that house them. We couldn't have those back home with the cyclone threat we have.

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Here we meet the Devonian Harbour Park and the Vancouver Rowing Club where we walked last weekend on the way to the aquarium. Today with a clear sky the park looks very inviting and all of a sudden a mass of people seems to appear out of nowhere and like us they are heading into the park. It is at this point I should talk about the paths in Vancouver. They are divided by a centreline. On the right is all foot traffic going in either direction and in the left lane is any traffic on wheels. So that is bicycles, skates, etc. And if you forget which you side you should be using, there are signs every so often to remind you.

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Our path now has the downtown city to our right. The view of the skyline is a complete contrast to the tall cedar, fir and hemlock trees of the park. We cross a small bridge that is signed at a salmon crossing. It is amazing to think that amongst this urban jungle, nature continues it's cycle.

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About ten minutes after entering the park the signs show us the way and tell us that we are close. We round a corner and in the distance you can see the poles facing out towards the inlet. I feel like I have butterflies in my stomach as I have been looking forward to seeing these for quite sometime. The poles we see here today are not the original poles. The original totem poles were brought from Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands here in British Columbia, and date back to the 1880s. They are now housed in museums. The poles I stand before today are authentic replicas that were carved by native artists and raised in the 1980's and 90's. Each pole represents real or mythical stories from Pacific Northwest First Nations peoples or symbolise a crest telling their family or tribe’s history. Once a pole is raised it stands unattended or maintained to return to the earth from where it was borne.

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I read somewhere that the totem poles are the most visited attraction in all of British Columbia. We spent about an hour wandering around them, taking photo's and reading the signage which describes the story of the totem pole, the artist amongst other things. Thankfully it was early enough for there not to be too much of a crowd. Next door is a small interpretive centre and gift shop. I visited both. After seeing the totems being carved on Granville Island, I had very much looked forward to coming here and it certainly didn't disappoint.

Before turning around and heading home we made the ten minute walk from the totem poles out to the end of Brockton Point. For me a trip to see the little light is a must. Brockton Point also has a cricket ground that when Don Bradman visited in 1932, he proclaimed it to be the "most beautiful cricket ground in the world". As I am no cricket ground buff, I just concentrated on getting to the lighthouse. For me it was my first visit to a Canadian Light so it was a day of firsts.

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After a short stop and look around we kept walking around the seawall and back to the hotel. We passed the 9 O'clock Gun, which is a cannon that is fired each day at 9pm. I must say what is the use of having a cannon if your not going to use it? If you click on the link you will see that the gun has a history with the University of British Columbia Engineering students. Bless them! We unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to see the cannon in action.

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Just as we were leaving the park we came upon a tree beside the path that just didn't look right. It took a moment to realise that someone had painted some of the leaves different colours. On closer inspection I could see that the painted leaves where plastic and tied in onto the tree. After I took photo's a few other couples stopped and took snaps also. This tree reminds me alot of Canada and in turn Canada like Australia. Both are melting pots are far as the make-up of their population. People from all over the globe have made Canada home and like Australia, it has made it a more interesting place.

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It took us another hour to walk to our hotel, so we were home by 1pm. We spent a quiet afternoon doing not much at all and resting for the most part. Tomorrow we are going on a tour of the Vancouver North Shore and back to the snow. Hoping that the sun comes out again!

Posted by petty1912 07.01.2013 18:53 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 27

Vancouver - Science World at Telus World of Science.

rain 4 °C
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Today is kids day. Fun for the boys and fun for the child within. We are staying in Yaletown and across False Creek is Science World at Telus World of Science.

Between us and Science World is the BC Place Stadium. Every evening from our bedroom window you can see the blue iridescent lighting on the outside of the stadium. So today we got to have a quick walk around the complex on our way across the creek. We entered from Robson Street and was greeted by a series of statues as a memorial to the Canadian cancer research activist and athlete Terry Fox in the area that is named Terry Fox Plaza. My boys had never heard of Terry Fox, so this was a great opportunity to explain his journey and why they are celebrating his life in such a way.

BC Place Stadium has had a few incarnations since it was first opened in 1983. First it was used during Expo 86. During 2010 it underwent a renovation and was used in during the XXI Olympic Winter Games and X Paralympic Winter Games. Sam now knows this is where Taylor Swift will be holding a concert in June and wants to come back. It is also home the the BC Sportsman Hall of Fame. Rogers Arena, home to the Vancouver Canucks (ice hockey team) is across the road. This would then make this area the sporting mecca for for the locals.

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The drizzling rain drove us onwards. It was a 10 minute walk around the False Creek Basin to Science World. It took us 20 minutes as we had to stop at a small rocky beach so the boys could throw rocks into False Creek. It is an impossibility for us go past any body of water without throwing something into it. Today was no exception.

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The Science World building is quite distinctive. Most of you would recognise this memorable dome building as the Expo Centre during Expo 86. I wasn't sure what to expect when lined up to enter Science World.

There were a lot of families lined up with us. Most of the children were under 10 years of age so I assumed this meant my boys would be in for a treat. The building comprises of 2 floors and an omnimax theatre in the dome of the structure. Each floor has about 4 different galleries and laboratories. Today none of the laboratories were open.

I could write pages about how fantastic this place was and still not do it justice. It was fabulous to say the least. Everyone, old and young alike was exploring and challenging themselves with the puzzles and devices on exhibit. We particularly enjoyed Eureka! the Mitchell Odyssey Foundation Gallery that had lots of hands on physics exhibits with the themes of light, sound and kinetics. We spent an hour in that gallery alone.

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Paul and I like the boys tried every gadget, experiment and exhibit. We were having a great time. I can't remember the last time I had fun constructing building block dams, shooting plastic balls into water fountains and mucking around with sound waves. It was great!

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Our other favourite spot was the Search: The Sara Stern Gallery. This gallery contained rock samples, fossils, live animals and insects (such as cockroaches, stick insects, a guinea pig, a tortoise, snakes and many other little critters) along with exotic plants. There were dinosaur models. The Tyrannosaurus Rex being the showpiece. Pat was spellbound. He worked out that the T-Rex could fit about 8 to 10 of him in his belly.

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We spent 4 hours here at Science World which was too short. As it was New Years Eve, the building was closing 2 hours earlier than usual. This is a place that if you were a local you would have membership to enjoy it all year round. I loved being able to show my boys a real human brain and heart. They were fascinated.

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Every gallery was interesting and you learnt something. The message often simple, but not always recognisable at first glance. This was engineering and science for all.

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I was sad we had to leave. We could have easily spent another 2 hours here. During the walk home we spoke continuously of our time there and recounted the funny and interesting moments. I decided there just isn't enough of these "science worlds" and we need more. What a great day we had. It will be hard to match tomorrow, so there is no point in trying.

Happy New Year everyone! Good wishes for a great year in 2013.

Posted by petty1912 31.12.2012 21:35 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 26

Vancouver - Gastown and Chinatown.

semi-overcast 4 °C

We woke to blue skies and you could even see Grosse Mountain above the skyline of the city. Usually the sun doesn't rise until 8.05am and sets not long after 4pm. I have found that this late rising and early setting sun has played havoc with us "Early bird Petersen's". We live by the sun at home. We have a ritual of watching the sun rise and as such all this darkness has our body clocks all over the place. The boys have been sleeping until 8 am which is unheard of. I have been also. Now all this sun seems to have awoken our desire to get out and explore.

It was very inviting and fresh when we walked out onto the street and headed north to the Vancouver Lookout on West Hastings Street. It is not a particularly attractive building, but we aren't going there to look at it rather to enjoy the view of the city and the surrounds. With all the rain of the last few days we have had to postpone this jaunt twice.

Along the way we could hear the sound of pealing church bells getting closer and closer. It wasn't long before we came upon the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church calling it's congregation to Sunday Mass. The balls rang for 10 minutes. It was really lovely to hear.

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From the Cathedral we got our first view of the Tower.

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As we walked the last block or so the streets became very quiet with little foot or vehicular traffic. The building seemed to be mostly community group offices. It was here that we passed a wonderful antique bookstore that was closed. It was jam packed with old hardcovers. The shelves contents were spilling out onto the floor. I couldn't believe it was CLOSED!

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Before we knew it we had arrived at the tower which has a viewing deck and a separate revolving restaurant. Today we were only interested in getting to the viewing deck of the lookout. The restaurant would have to wait for another time.

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After a short elevator ride we arrived to the viewing floor and commenced what turned out to be quite a few walks around the viewing floor. The walls have signs with photographs and information about the different landmarks and history of the city. Today was indeed the perfect time to go and see this sight. There was only about 20 of us on the floor at the same time, making it very enjoyable.

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From this vantage point we got a birds eye view of where we would be wandering today, Gastown and Chinatown.

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I know what your thinking, there's a lot of towns in Vancouver. Yep, but these will be the last ones on our list. Gastown is right next door to the lookout tower and bordered on one side by the port/waterfront which was the reason that this area was established in 1867. A character of a man called John "Gassy Jack" Deighton set up a saloon here and the rest is history.

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Today it is very attractive in every sense of the word. The architecture and street scape is very old world and you really do feel as though you've walked back in time as you stand in Water Street. The buildings are beautiful (historic and old) and now house trendy shops, restaurants and galleries. Some affordable and others at the higher and highest end of the scale.

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A famous landmark here in Gastown is the Steam Clock. A plume of steam floating in the air is a dead giveaway of it's location. It's a very attractive clock and I think it must have a permanent crowd of admirers around it. It is something that appeals to everyone at any age and it very much did it for me. The steam aspect was a bonus.

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The shops finally wore us down (even Paul walked into a few and browsed. No, I didn't get any photographic evidence of that!)and we stopped to pick out some keepsakes of our visit. We stopped at a very nice native gallery and fell in love with a totem pole that cost $11, 000. Suffice to say the love was fleeting and it still stands in the store. First big lotto win and I'll be back to get it!

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Since we were in Banff, my eldest son Sam has had a hankering to have a meal at The Old Spaghetti Factory. It wasn't long after we arrived in Vancouver that he saw an ad for it on the television and learned that there was a restaurant here in Vancouver. As fate would have it, we stumbled upon it halfway up Water Street. You'll never guess where we all had lunch!

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This was a great family restaurant with a wonderful atmosphere and decor. We had the biggest lunch meal we have had on the trip with the exception of Christmas Day and it was very scrumptious and cheap. Cheap as in better than reasonably priced. Sam was very pleased and the rest of us happy to rest our weary legs. After that monstrous carbo load, we set off towards Chinatown which happens to only be a few streets away.

As we crossed the border of the two precincts we came upon a street market. Street being the operative word. This appeared to be a market on the street for those without a permanent address and without too many worldly possessions.

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Since we have arrived in Vancouver we had only seen a handful of the homeless. In the US, it feels like a epidemic. Today, just then, we came upon a melting pot of this part of the society. Everyone seemed to have something to swap from the unusual to the mundane. The market seemed very well organised and everyone seemed to be respectful of each other. It wasn't until we left this market behind that we came upon the "others". The drug addicts, the prostitutes, etc sitting and watching the activities and socialising. It was uncomfortable, and the boys could tell that something was amiss and thankfully were too young to know what and why. We kept walking without any bother (a few asked for money and food) and turned into East Pender Street and into Chinatown.

Like that of San Francisco this village has it's own identity and heartbeat. This Chinatown doesn't seem to be as big at the Californian one, but it is much the same. The distinctive buildings, paint colours, stores and murals are all interesting on the eye and the smells of the cuisine is everywhere.

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A major reason we came to visit Chinatown today was to visit and admire the Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Garden. This was the first Ming Dynasty Scholars Garden built outside of China. It provides visitors with perspectives on culture, architecture and horticulture during the Ming Dynasty. When you think that this is all located next to highrise developments, it is a oasis amongst the concrete jungle.

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We walked around the gardens for about an hour. Again there was only about 20 people along with us in the garden at the same time. It was quiet so you could hear the water trickling and flowing over the waterfalls and rocks. It was peaceful and relaxing but most of all beautiful. I can only imagine this is more so in Spring or Summer.

Afterwards we headed back up the hill for the twenty minute walk to our hotel. It was late afternoon and in under an hour it would be dark. We have covered a lot of ground today and all by foot. Our only rest was lunchtime and the sights obviously kept us occupied the rest of the time. By early afternoon the dark clouds had moved in and also the threat of rain. Thankfully, the rain never came. For us it was a very rewarding and interesting day. We will definitely be visiting Gastown again this week. As for what we will be doing tomorrow...well we are yet to decide. Hopefully not so much walking and pasta.

Posted by petty1912 31.12.2012 00:03 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 25

Vancouver - Robson Street and The Vancouver Aquarium

rain 5 °C

It's raining. It's drizzling, but it is not pouring. So we're all good for a walk from our hotel down Robson Street and onto the Vancouver Aquarium at Stanley Park.

We are staying on Robson Street which is the main shopping street in downtown Vancouver. Along this street you will find "high street fashion" and the more affordable labels side by side and thrown in for good measure are restaurants and coffee shops galore. All the post Christmas sales are on and when we started walking down the street at 10am (when the stores here and the US open) they were practically deserted. In fact for a Saturday it was damn right quiet.

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I was window shopping so I didn't buy anything, but I will go back tomorrow or the day after for a better look. Locals were out having their breakfast in the many cafes and others were picking up a coffee before heading up to the slopes of Whistler (lots of cars with skiis and snowboards parked out front with the engines running). We all stopped for a hot chocolate at Blenz as we have a policy of not walking into a Starbucks. Like the US, there is a Starbucks on every second block if not every block.

Three quarters down Robson Street the street slopes down and you can see the forest of Stanley Park quickly approaching. The trendy shops have stopped a block ago and now there are only restaurants, hotels and food markets to look at. The side streets have lots of apartments and the avenues are leafy. This is a change to where we are staying at the other end of Robson Street.

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As soon as we turn onto Denman Street we are met with bicycle rental stores. We are definitely on the right track.

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Stanley Park is an urban park bordered by downtown Vancouver and transected by Route 99, which is the road to Whistler. The park is huge. It is comprised of almost 405 hectares and is 10% larger than Central Park in New York. A statue of Lord Stanley greets you as you enter the park and from then on you are surrounded by nature and marvellous gardens.

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Due to the inclement weather we are only going to explore the famous Aquarium which is located on the western edge of the park, closest to the city. The Vancouver Aquarium is famous for it's Beluga Whales and the fact that it concentrates more on research, conservation and education rather than entertainment. It consists of 10 different galleries/exhibits. We were engrossed with the BC Coast/Pacific Canada gallery which showcases the local wildlife. These cool water creatures are very different to what we are used to.

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The belugas were beautiful, the dolphins playful to the crowds and the sea otter very aware of us and happy to climb up the glass barrier to say hello.

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I was taken by the jellyfish as they are much more attractive than the Box Jellyfish of home. I could have watched them for hours.

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We also really enjoyed the Amazon Rainforest. The sight of the huge Anaconda submerged in his/her tank sent shivers down my spine, hence the blurry picture. Sorry! I have a huge snake phobia. My camera fogged up constantly and butterflies buzzed by you constantly.

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After almost four hours we decided that we had seen enough. It seemed as though all of Vancouver had decided that the aquarium was an excellent wet weather activity. The rain had stopped for a while but rather than visit the nearby totem poles we headed home. Tomorrow the weathermen have predicted that the rain will clear. It so we'll be back. If not, it will be up to vote. Should be exciting either way!

Posted by petty1912 29.12.2012 21:16 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 24

Vancouver - Yaletown and Granville Island.

rain 5 °C

Today we braved the drizzly rain and headed to the neighbourhood next door Yaletown. We are staying downtown on Robson Street which is the main shopping street.
Yaletown is south west from where we are based. We have decided to go and explore the public market at Granville Island, so a walk through Yaletown down to catch the False Creek ferry at David Lam Park/ Dock is the plan.

Yaletown can be best described by the following:

  • Full of 20 - 40ish yuppies walking their dogs
  • Gorgeous modern condos with amazing views
  • An urban renewal project successfully executed and
  • Wall to wall bars and restaurants.

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While I liked it, it didn't appear to be overly family friendly as we didn't see any. That said, within two blocks I saw two child care centres, so I am definitely not correct in my assumption. While the condo's for the most part are new, some along with the bars and restaurants are old industrial buildings that have been converted. These look great and to lend a lot to the "yuppy" vibe of this precinct. We made our way to the dock and after a wait and three full ferries passing us, we manged to make our way to Granville Island.

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The ferry ride itself was very relaxing. It is only about a 5 - 10 minute ride to the Granville Island dock. The Public Market is right next to where we disembarked, so that's where we headed. For the Aussie's reading this, it is very much the same as the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne or to you other's, the Farmers Market in Los Angeles.

There was amazing food and produce, flowers and crafts. We looked at everything and were amazed by the freshness and quality. We watched the locals do their shopping and sampled what we could. I was in love. Pat was impressed by the gigantic Canadian apples.

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Once we had explored this building, to appease the children we made the 5 minute walk from the public market down to the kids market. Here the children enter via a child sized entrance to a building full of shops catering to the little people in our lives. We enjoyed the strolling amongst the shelves here as much as the boys did.

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From here we then did a entire circuit of the island and browsed all the artisan shops. We were amazed by the workshop at Ocean Artworks. We got to see native totem poles in different states of completion. From the bare poles to the almost complete and unpainted totems. Gosh I would love to take one home.

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The island is also home to the Emily Carr University. Here you can study design, fine arts and media arts. With all the artisans next door it is a great place to indulge the creative part of your personality. We stopped and watched a lady hand make/sew a straw broom at the Granville Island Broom Company. It takes about 20 minutes to fashion one with a straight dowel handle ($70) and a hour or more with a naturally twisted one ($120+). They are beautiful! Check out the link as I was too shy to ask if I could take photo's.

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As soon as the boys got restless we made our way back to the ferry. I had noticed that today, a majority of the ferrymen were young girls. Early 20's in age and very friendly. I found myself quite envious of them. They made it seem like they had the best job in the world. I would have loved to have been a ferry skipper when I was their age.

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Canadians are so polite it wears off onto you. I just wish it would be permanent. It took about 25 minutes to get back home, which in the rain was just long enough. Tomorrow the weather forecast is for a fine day. We look to explore Stanley Park, but that may change. So far we are having a great time here in BC.

Posted by petty1912 28.12.2012 21:33 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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