01 August 2012

Vancouver Part 2

You might have noticed from the title that this is my second blog on Vancouver. I strongly recommend reading the previous entry first ... Trust me, it's the right thing to do!

This is the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus. We had quite an enjoyable morning here where we learned a whole lot about the Haida and other aboriginal people of the Northwest. The museum building itself is quite an experience - designed by a famous Vancouver architect called Arthur Erickson - to optimally display the museum's collection of totem poles and other incredible carvings.
Inside the museum there are about 30 totem poles. I have to say in Vancouver you see Totem poles all over the city.

Among other carvings and sculptures displayed in the Great Hall, is a canoe carved out of a single cedar tree trunk. It looked impressive.

Just outside the museum is a model Haida "village" with Haida buildings, longhouses, and more totem poles.

This modern sculpture is the museum's showpiece. It's called The Raven and the First Men and is displayed in a separate rotunda. The artist, Bill Reid, drew his inspiration from a Haida legend about the appearance of the first people on earth. The raven is coaxing the humans out of the clamshell.
This is Wreck Beach. After the museum we walked around campus in search of a pretty place to have our lunch (cherries and blueberries, of course). We saw a trailhead by a forest and got on it. Next thing we knew we were descending an endless flight of stairs. Four hundred steps later we found ourselves on an isolated clothing optional beach. A heron perched on a rock in the water stood guard while we munched our fruit. Notice the huge logs on the beach. Every beach has them. We gazed out across the peaceful bay. It felt like a whole world away from the city.

In the afternoon we returned to the downtown area and explored Chinatown. I was amazed at how shabby it was. The stores looked dull and uninviting. Not a place for lingering. The Dr. Sun Yat Sen park and garden brightened up the area, though.
I noticed a significant Asian population in Vancouver. People of many different cultures call this city home, giving it a truly cosmopolitan feel.

I saw this poem on a bus. Vancouver is special in so many ways. It was so easy to get around the city, with frequent buses, helpful drivers, and every so often, a poem to keep you going!

Two striking things about Vancouver come to mind. The people were extraordinarily friendly and goodnatured. They struck up conversations easily and were always offering to help. The other striking feature was how clean the city was. No graffiti, hardly any trash on the streets, strong recycling programs, and an acute awareness of environmental issues. Which just reminded me of a third striking feature: cycling. The downtown area had a well planned network of dedicated bicycle lanes away from car traffic. Many of the locals got around by bike.

On our last evening in Vancouver we had another memorable dinner.   Luck was on our side. We managed to get a table at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island. It was a Friday evening when they do a special buffet. Our three course meal was satisfying in every way. For the first course we had a selection of summer vegetables, each prepared in a uniquely inventive way. The main course was tofu in a light sauce with roast potato and steamed carrots. Two wine flights featuring superb British Columbia reds and rosés accompanied this fine meal. The dessert course was a whole experience unto itself. I could write an entire chapter on it - but I won't - lest I embarrass the person not writing this blog! Suffice it to say the dessert table heaved from the weight of around 15 utterly amazing desserts. Luckily they were all smallish - so multiple visits to the table weren't completely outrageous. In addition to the usual tarts, mousses, and cakes, there were several truffles and other chocolates. I enjoyed the crepe with flambéed peach, chantilly, and cream.

On our last morning we went to the Vancouver Art Gallery, another gorgeous building. I had both good luck and bad luck on this visit. There was a special Matisse exhibition on and I just relished the works on display. These were from the private collection of the Cone sisters who had donated these works to the Boston Museum. Matisse is one of my favorite artists and I was overjoyed to see so many of his paintings (all from the 1920's). Thinking I was getting my money's worth ($20 admission fee) I eagerly went up the escalators to take in the works of BC's most famous artist, Emily Carr. Imagine my disappointment when I saw only four of her works on display! I was gobsmacked. It practically wiped out my excitement from the Matisse exhibition. C'est la vie!

Our flight back home was late in the day so we decided to have an indulgent lunch. VIJ's is open only for dinner, but they have a casual cafe next door (Rangoli) which is open for lunch, dinner, and take out. We sat out on the terrace of Rangoli and enjoyed one last gourmet meal in this city. I can safely say that the spinach paneer dish I had was thé best I'd ever eaten.

Actually, that's the fourth striking feature about this city. The food scene. It's obvious all over the city that fine dining is a high priority.

And as we zipped up our bags and headed for the Canada line, we knew we'd be talking about our gourmet food experiences for a long time.

Au revoir, Vancouver.

Oh yes, a fifth striking feature. The prevalence of French.