Saturday, September 06, 2008

Vancouver or Van Coeverden?

Where do I start? Let's start with a little nice fact. Where did Vancouver get its name from? Of course; from an English captain whose last name was Vancouver.
But I quote "Captain George Vancouver, the first European to explore the inner waters of Burrard Inlet, was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, on June 22, 1757. He was of Dutch ancestry, descended from the titled Van Coeverden family, whose castle at Coeverden was long an important fortress on the eastern frontier with Germany."

You read it. Captain George Vancouver was from Dutch ancestry. Our golden age is already past us, and with it we left our mark on the whole world. Practically Vancouver is thus a dutch colony. Just like New York, which used to be New Amsterdam (before we sold it to the english for 10 guilders). But let's get away from my patriotism (a rare sighting), and back to my vacation.

My plane lands in Vancouver and the first thing I see is an airport-hanger with "UPS" on it in those big letters. Even on one's holiday one cannot escape from work. The first thing I had to do was to walk through the customs (exciting hey?). They looked like a bunch of bored teenagers, asking me a number of strange questions in an icy tone, and letting me pass. Then I went to the information desk, a girl is there, and she talks to me in exactly the same was as one of my friends I am visiting. At that point I already knew that this trip was going to be a great experience.

So I picked up the airport bus and got dropped of in downtown Vancouver. I had to walk a few blocks to get to my hotel: The YWCA. Yes, I know, normally it is only for women, but this one in Vancouver was for all genders. I had a beautiful double bed and the room had a nice view over the main streets. One thing I immediately noticed was the size of the cars; they are a lot bigger than our European/Japanese tin toys. Especially those Ford trucks are gigantic (Monstertrucks!).

It was raining this first night, but that did not keep me from exploring the direct block, and going to a local korean restaurant to get some korean food there. And it tasted good. But it will never be as good as the dinners I had in korea. Still, I immediately noticed that a fulfilling meal can be death-cheap in Canada.

The next morning it was raining even harder, and I decided to go to the look-out tower and take a walk around the city. The look-out tower was not that exciting with all the rain; the visibility was quite poor. But they had a solution for that: The ticket you buy is valid throughout the whole day. So I returned later in the evening, and then the views were a lot better. As you can see in the picture below.

Then I decided to start walking. From the Telus word of science museum, past the bay, past granville island, past the beautiful condo's, onwards to Stanley park. Did I mention it was raining? ANd that it even started to rain heavier has I was walking on the wall around Stanley Park? The advantage of this was that the park was deserted, which enabled me t enjoy some peace and quiet. The disadvantage was that I was getting completely soaked and tired, and that my summer jacket was not rainproof. Just like my little bag. I already took this into account, so I brought a plastic bag with me, so everything electronical was save in there. While walking along the wall, I could see that Stanley park had been hit quite heavily by a strom, not that long ago. Everywhere there were trees de-rooted and lying on the ground. This gave the place a very wild look, almost like a tropical forest. A tropical forest in the middle of the city.

I took a little hike towards the middle of the park, and there I stumbled on the aquirium. They had dolfins, otters and the famous white balugo whales. The place was incredibly crowded, but the excibits were nice. I took some nice pictures of the dolphins and a seagull who was looking to snatch some fish out of the air.

The next day I went to the musuem of Anthropology on the south island of Vancouver. It was situated in the middle of the campus of the University of British Columbia. They have got a nice campus, but not that impressive as the one I saw in Korea. At the musuem a lot of information was provided about the first nation people. In europe these are better known as "Indians" or "Eskimo's", but those two names have been kicked out of Canada's history books. The totem-poles, boats and other traditional items that wer eon excibit were extremely interesting. They also found a solution for their lack of exhibit-space. They had about a hunderd cabinets, each containing 6 drawers, full of artifacts from all over the world.

After getting to know Canada's history, I travelled all across the city, with the ferry, to North Vancouver. There I took a trip to Grouse Mountain and its park that is beautifully located near the top. At the top, I saw some grizzly bears, a show with birds of prey and some stunning views of Vancouver and the mountains lying behind the city. You also had the option to make a steep climb to the absolute top of the mountain. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am just like a daisy-bug: I always want to climb to the top, if there is a top to climb. On the top, again great views, but the greatest thing append to me when I went back down.

A close encounter of the..second kind? I almost walked into a wild deer grazing on some grass. Instead of running away it just stood there. Obviously he was trained to do this, right? Just look at him, looking over the town of Vancouver. Canada's next top model.

In the evening I went to a small Japanese restaurant (on Robson street) to get some great noodles. I know, again an asian place. I tried to find some typically Canadian food, but besides the buffalo steaks, there wasn`t really anything unique (and affordable) to find.

Later that evening I was lucky enough to catch a bit of the yearly festival of light. It was China's turn this night, and they did a great show from a boat lying the middle of the bay. The amount of people that gathered for this show was absolutely amazing. It seemed like the whole of Vancouver walked out to see this, in an atmosphere that was just so good and mellow. The fireworks were great. For half an hour it banged and banged. To the left you can see a little example.

The next morning it was time to go to the Vancouver art gallery (yup, it was again raining a bit, so this time I decided to find my entertainment inside instead of outside. Here they had four expositions. The first one was called "KRAZY!", an exposition about graphic novels. This was for me the most interesting exposition. People always see "comics" as a lower form of art, but some of the stuff I saw here was simply amazing, and really made you think. I almost bought one book from the musuem shop, but it was just a bit too expensive. And I could probably also buy it at home.

Another exposition focused on the art of Zhang Huan. He is a chinese man who does artbody-based performances, and captures these performances in photographs. For instance: He finds himself the dirtiest public toilet in Bejing andtakes off all his clothes. Then he covers himself with a sweet substance and gets surrounded by flies, while sitting, naked, on the toilet. A guy takes pictures of it, and it has a certain symbolic meaning (certainly endurance is one of them). A fascinating exposition, although I am wondering how much of is appraisal he gets for being Chinese (a communist country, where creativity like this would normally be surpressed).

Then there was an exhibition of Rebecca Belmore. The main topic in her art was the liberation of women. To me, her art seemed a bit "frustrated", as if there was something bothering her and she expressed it through her works. Finally there were a selected number of paintings from Emily Carr and other female Canadian painters. Especially the paintings from ms. Carr impressed me, and I even bought a little magnet with one of her works on it (Above the Gravel Pit, 1936-1937).

After this four hour visit to this art gallery, I was a bit tired, but still decided to go to Granville island, the cities market place. Sadly this wasn`t that interesting, moslty due to the bad weather which just made everything look so grey. I then decided to end the day with a hike through the cities most famous neigbourhoods: Gastown, Chinatown, Davy Street and of course Robson street. I bought some souvenirs, and after this I was all set to leave for my next destination: Jasper.