Vancouver - Gastown and Chinatown.
30.12.2012 - 30.12.2012 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.
From the Cathedral we got our first view of the Tower.
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!
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.
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.
From this vantage point we got a birds eye view of where we would be wandering today, Gastown and Chinatown.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.