When you have only a month in a city, you don't have any time to waste finding living quarters. We made a half-dozen or so phone calls following ads Cherry blossom springtime! in the newspaper. Luck was definitely on our side, because the person who first responded showed us two places; our major problem was deciding which one we preferred! Both are in the downtown part of the city, close to Stanley Park and the water, high up in older buildings. Vancouver has suffered a recent building boom, and "leaky condos" are literally true. Some, built too fast out of cheap wood, have since been demolished. All the buildings, costly or cheap, have plentiful growths of moss on the roofs!
From our window we see English Bay, Kitsilano, skyscrapers, and hills. We can watch the freighters anchored in the harbor, along with the occasional pleasure boat, motor or sail. It's still too early in the Spring for most of the boaters, but the fishing boats go out at the crack of dawn. During the day we can watch ant-people walking and hear cars honking, with the occasional fire engine or ambulance. At night we have a spectacular light-show from all of the downtown buildings. Seagulls chase each other right past the window, crying. Our apartment view (no kidding!) There's a little balcony with an iron railing, where we got a feeling of floating on air.
Knowing that we'd be spending a full day moving in, we took our first sightseeing trip, to the Vancouver Museum, less than ten years old. We passed on the planetarium / space museum, which looks like a terrific place to bring children. Instead we strolled through the historical part, where we were greeted by a collection of modern reminiscences, both happy and sad, of today's Vancouver citizens. Often the museum had found photographs to illustrate the memories.
British Columbia is a young province; the history of Vancouver doesn't go back that far. The museum documents the early history, with trappers and trading posts and the railroad and the elegant turn-of-the-century homes; but other than the display of reminiscences there is nothing after about 1920.
We finished our day with a shopping trip to a mall in suburban Surrey. There we found (of course) a good small bookstore with an excellent collection Crab sculpture at the museum of local materials. Now we have so much to read and study we won't be able to go sightseeing!
We walked across the street to a Chinese restaurant, for variety. No lunch buffets in this town; instead we tried sweet and sour chicken and a meat dish.
The next day we moved in to our new apartment. Every person we met (usually in the elevator) greeted us and struck up a conversation. Many were what the agent called "mature." Ms. Buckley across the hall had just returned from Tunisia, via Rome; at the other end of our floor is an ex-wife of a former geology professor at Louisiana State University. There are 162 apartments in the building, according to Ted, the manager. We started counting down how many more tenants there were left to meet, but lost count when it got down to 149!
After the third neighborly comment about how the bad guys would smash open car windows, even if the glove compartment was left open to show there was nothing of value, we talked to Ted. Sure enough, Ted was friends with Ray and Barbara in the next building, who rented us a space in an underground garage with card key access for an additional $35 a month. Problem solved.
A block away we found a Japanese restaurant where we ran into Ray and Barbara and joined them for lunch. This part of Vancouver is a small town in the middle of a big city!
It had to happen sooner or later: the next day it rained, and we expect Modern art gallery more rain for the next few days. In fact partly cloudy with showers is the canonical Vancouver weather. But it wasn't raining hard, so we set out on foot.
The first stop was an elementary school, where they were having recess (have you noticed that elementary schools are always having recess?) In one corner of the play yard was a five-foot tall hill, covered with pine trees and shrubs, but also covered with dirt trails that kids could follow, snaking around the tree trunks. Lots better than a flat yard!
Next we came to a small enclosed mall, where we sheltered from the rain and found a wonderful salmon store and an oyster market and all sorts of food delicacies.
Then we went up Georgia Street, lined with tall modern offices, hotels, and high-rise apartments. We enjoyed a large wall of water next to the sidewalk, then went up the hill and strolled through the lobby of the posh old Vancouver Hotel. The first two hotels on this site were Canadian Pacific RR hotels, but this one is a Fairmont.
We continued up Georgia to the Post Office, a full city block. We got some package mailing supplies and went across the street to the new public library. It was designed by Moshe Safdie, the architect of Habitat. It's a stunning building, beautifully laid out for library use as well as attracting attention by its exterior colosseum-like curves and arches. Inside, escalators provide easy transport to the five upper floors, with their specialized Public Library collections. Childrens' and Technical Services are in the basement. The study areas are spacious and well-lit, the furniture is sturdy and handsome, the library staff have capacious desks near their stacks. Unlike the San Francisco Library, this one is both beautiful and functional for patrons and staff.
After yet another Japanese lunch we found a clothing store and a stamp store and then walked back to our apartment along Robson Street, filled with upscale shops. All the while we enjoyed watching the passing parade. Many languages were heard, not all of them recognizable, but English predominates.
The Denman Street neighborhood, near our apartment, is full of fine dining in various nationalities, including one exclusive restaurant that featured tapas; when we looked at the menu the food seemed exquisitely tortured. Meanwhile, the crews are busy sawing grooves in Denman Street; we guess that they're laying fibre optic, but we may never know the answer.
We were nicely exercised by our walk and felt good, as if we were back in Europe, riding the rails and hoofing the streets of the towns.