Thursday, May 23, 2013

Vancouver, British Columbia

Today, we flew Alaska Airlines 327 from San Jose, California to Seattle, Washington. From there, we rented our car from Alamo - a red Nissan Altima - and drove to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

When we landed in Seattle, we learned that a section of the bridge over the Skagit River (I-5) collapsed. Luckily, we were not on the bridge when it collapsed. Many of the cars driving over the bridge ended up in the cold water of Skagit River.

We were not sure how long it would take for us to route around the bridge. Luckily, there was not much traffic on I-5 and we checked in La Grande Residence at Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver at around 1:30am. The hotel room was nice with a great view of Vancouver's downtown. The view from the balcony was nice.

Friday, May 24, 2013

After waking up, we decided to get breakfast at Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe in Vancouver. Thierry Cafe had wonderful, freshly baked croissants, which we ordered along with cappuccinos. This is our favorite Vancouver shop for pastries, cakes, London Fogs, and cappuccinos. All of the pastries and desserts look amazing - like we were back in Paris.

Since the weather was sunny and warm, we decided to rent bicycles and ride around Stanley Park. Inna wanted to try an electric bike, but Ezee Riders Bike shop did not have any full size electrics to rent. We ended up renting two mountain bicycles with helmets. My bike had a nice basket for storing miscellaneous items (ie. bike locks).

We rode all over Stanley Park, stopping to take photos and enjoying the wonderful, sunny weather all around.

We saw some beautiful Totem Poles from the First Peoples of North America.

The beautiful Lions Gate Bridge was nearby. We rode underneath it.

There is a beautiful bronze statue of a mermaid on the trail.

As it was approaching lunch time, we decided to eat lunch at the Teahouse at Stanley Park.

After lunch, we explored the nearby beach. We saw a few people swimming in the cold water!

After the beach, we headed for Beaver Lake, following biking/walking trails.  There were many trails and we had to stop and review our map, to make sure we did not take the wrong trail.

We finally arrived at the beautiful Beaver Lake.

The ride to Beaver Lake was quite scenic (through beautiful trails in Stanley Park) and I recorded a small portion for fun.

Beaver Lake was covered with green plants (it didn't look like a lake at first). As Inna wanted to visit the Stanley Park Aquarium, we headed there. However, the Aquarium closes at 5:30pm and we decided to postpone it, as it was 4:30pm and a bit too late. We returned  to the Ezee Riders Bike shop, dropping off our bikes, and headed to explore the waterfront.

We also stopped by at the Rose Gardens, but the roses were not blooming yet.

Vancouver's Coal Harbor Waterfront had a few cruise ships departing.

At the waterfront, we saw a few seaplanes taking off and then stopped by at Bella Gelateria, to try out the best gelato in North America.

We tried a couple of flavors we also make at home - Hazelnut, Vanilla, and Matcha Green Tea.

We also met the owner, James Coleridge, who talked about his experience with Bella Gelateria. James was against using egg yolks in gelato and used none in Bella Gelateria's recipes. He used guar - instead of egg yolks - to stabilize the mixture. James does not like the extra calories and cholesterol that comes from egg yolks. In terms of flavor, we could not say that Bella's recipes or our own, based on Ciao Bella's Cookbook, were superior. Both tasted equally delicious to us and had the same creaminess.

Using guar gum simplifies gelato production and removes the need to for buying lots of eggs. Some people feel that using guar is inferior and was mainly done to reduce production cost (see the Italian Snow Job).

After sampling a few more flavors of Gelato - especially the Chocolate sorbetto, we decided to explore nearby Gastown neighborhood. Gastown has a lot of interesting lamps and a steam powered clock. As we had dinner reservations in Chinatown, we headed there next.

Chinatown was quite busy and we eventually found our restaurant - Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. It was noisy and crowded inside, but the food was interesting/unique and delicious.

We especially enjoyed the Humboldt Squid and the Steamed Prawns.

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, stopping by at nearby Chapters Bookstore, to browse the latest  books. Chapters is far superior to Barnes & Noble and it was nice to browse a well stocked store. Plus, the nearby Starbucks had free Wifi, so that I was able to get all of my email updates.

Chapters had some nice ereaders on display - their Kobo line. I liked the Kobo readers but they were a bit more expensive than the Kindles I've been using.

The night time view of Vancouver (from the balcony of our Sutton Place Hotel) was fantastic.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

After another mandatory stop at Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe, we decided to explore the shops at Granville Island while it was raining and head to Capilano Suspension Bridge afterwards.

Granville Island is a public market with many shops, restaurants, and art galleries. There is a a lot of fresh produce and we sampled a few local cookies and other delicacies.

After coffee there, we drove to Capilano Suspension Bridge, north of Vancouver. We walked over the bridge and explored the beautiful cedars and other trees.

Afterwards, we headed back to the Vancouver waterfront for more gelato and the Bella Gelateria, followed by dinner at West Restaurant. West is fairly upscale fusion restaurant. We liked all of the food and the exceptional service.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

We drove to Tsawwassen ferry terminal and took the 9:00am BC Ferry to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. We spent the day in Butchart Gardens and Victoria.

Monday, May 27, 2013

We drove from Sidney to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and took the 9:00pm BC Ferry to Tsawwassen, near Vancouver.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

After breakfast at Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe, we headed to Bill Reid Museum. Although Bill Reid Museum was closed, we were allowed in for a small donation. We saw lost of interesting carvings and totem poles.

Although it was raining, we decided to see Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

After visiting the Chinese Garden, we took the Skytrain back to Burrard Ave and did some window shopping on Robson St, in downtown Vancouver.

We stopped by for lunch at Bellagio Cafe, where we both enjoyed delicious salads.

Afterwards, we stopped for some cappuccinos at Cafe Artigiano, next door - Inna's favorite coffee shop.

Then, we picked up our car and drove to Seattle, Washington, for our return flight home.