Friday, July 17, 2015

Day 1 Canada, 21/06, Melbourne to Vancouver via Hong Kong

7.40 in the morning doesn't sound like a bad time to fly, until you think about the time lines. We are always early and early we were. We arose at 3.30 to catch a cab to the airport at 5am. We were already packed. The taxi ride was not memorable, so that means it was fine. It is pity we can't remember the cab ride very well as the deal between us was for one to pay for the cab to the airport and the other will pay for the cab home after our holiday. Once home, we could not remember who paid for the cab to the airport. By flying with Cathay Pacific via its home base of Hong Kong, we avoided the notorious Los Angeles airport and US border control and flew direct to Vancouver.

We had chosen our plane seats on the Airbus 330 to Honk Kong and after an hour or so in HK, we continued our journey on a Boeing Later edit: 737 777. The Airbus has seats across 2,4,2, so of course we sat together, unfortunately a bit too close to the bassinet area, that is the crying baby area. R always likes an aisle seat and so we left the window seat on the Boeing to someone else. We bought some duty free liquor in HK and here is traveller tip number one, which we remembered after we paid. When you use your card to buy duty free in a foreign country you are sometimes offered the choice of paying in the local currency or your own. We chose to pay with Australian dollars whereas we should have selected HK dollars. Pay with AU$ and you pay the store conversion rate. Pay with HK$ and you get the more favourable bank conversion rate by your own bank back home.

We were met at Vancouver airport and shown to a hire car and we were soon at our hotel, the Marriot Pinnacle in West Hastings Street. The Sunday afternoon car traffic was very heavy. We showered and changed our clothes and made it for the 6pm trip briefing where we met our travel group who we would spend quite some time with over the next couple of weeks. I suppose the briefing took an hour and we then headed out for a wander and dinner on our own.

Mountains, mist, humidity, heat and tall buildings can be seen from HK airport. Yes you can see the humidity.


Vancouver airport was not monstrous and we painlessly passed through.


At the briefing someone gave us a good tip. Join the hotel club and you will get free wi fi. We did so. I had planned to buy a data card for my phone to use it as a modem for our internet but we managed quite well without our own connection in Canada.


Our room was very comfortable. North America does not seem to have rooms configured with one double bed and one single. Every place we stayed had two large beds. One single would have given us a little more room, but then that means you spread more stuff out.


Plumbing in North America is very different to our own and can be quite complex. The shower is usually over a bath so first you turn the taps on and then adjust the diverter to send water to the shower head. The plug can be a repeat push style or a lever or something to block the drain. The toilets can be rather alarming as they seem to use vacuum to flush.


No idea what these gold balls are.


There were some very nice drain covers.


A sculpture resembling a bed of nails.


Warm weather and the kiddies love to get wet.


Looking across Vancouver Harbour to the north. Geography lesson #1. Vancouver on Canada's west coast is the largest city in the Canadian province of British Columbia. We stayed on the southern, the main side of Vancouver Harbour. Greater Vancouver has a population of around 2.5 million.


We found a nice pizza restaurant, Bellaggio, for our evening meal and had our first experience of tipping. We wanted to pay with a card and the machine was brought to our table and it had the facility to add the tip. R dealt with the money on this holiday so I didn't get to use the machines but R said they were all slightly different and quite confusing. 15% seems to be the standard tip, but more on that later. Still full of airline food, we shared a simple pizza with wine.

 

The post boxes did not seem solid or permanent, but they were widely spread through Canada. Let me tell you about the post box incident that wasn't. I left our hotel on my own to post some post cards and as I stepped onto the street a woman on the other side of the road was slowly strolling along. She was clearly a working girl and I did not want any interaction with her but I had to cross the street to post the cards. I stopped for a bit to let her get ahead of me but then she went into the doorway of a hotel, but only just inside to presumably quickly display her wares before being kicked out. Damn, she came out just as I was going to cross the street. Ever so slowly she strolled along with me on the other side of street strolling even more slowly. Eventually she moved on and I posted the cards. A five minute job had turned into a fifteen minute job.


The hotel was quite nice and well maintained. There were many hotels in the area, a prime place for tourists to stay.


My old travel note book was full so before leaving home I bought a new one at Daiso. Grace in Perth has had some unfortunate news so she may not be reading this but I thought the cover would appeal to her Francophile tendencies.


While we have Japanese maples in Australia, they are often fritzed by our hot summer sun. Not so in Vancouver. They were stunning.



I think we slept quite well as we had been awake for something like thirty hours.

24 comments:

  1. Excellent travel tips Andrew. Thank you. And nice to read about your impressions of Vancouver. I am interested to know why you decided to go with a group travel experience. I hope you met some nice people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We group travelled last year from Budapest to Amsterdam and we liked how much was organised for us and we did not have to work things out for ourselves, which is quite time consuming, as we found later last year once we were on our own and this year too after the tour ended and we organised the last part ourselves.

      Delete
  2. Your photo Looking across Vancouver Harbour to the North reminds me of just how lovely the Harbour is. A few years ago there was a family reunion in Vancouver and one of the organised tours was a boat cruise and dinner on the harbour. Highlight of the entire stay!

    I once thought about moving to Vancouver, and took a decent old wodge (by Australian standards) as a deposit on a flat. The flat could be small, but it had to have a harbour view. The Vancouver real estate agents laughed themselves silly when they heard how little I wanted to spend. I could afford a broom cupboard, they laughed *blush*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hels, we didn't look at property prices, but I can imagine. I was surprised at there being so many apartments. Vancouver was our favourite city.

      Delete
  3. I feel like I'm travelling along with you, I never been to Canada oh we did cross the border at the falls in 2000 but that was it.
    Love the maples and the drain covers are very nice, room looks cosy and it is nice to have two double beds, Hong Kong looks a bit on the smoggy side.
    Merle..........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merle, that is what I hoped for, a journey with me.

      Delete
  4. Love those drain covers. Hold the heat and humidity.
    I am glad to hear of someone else who is always early. Sometimes very early.
    I hope Grace and her family are ok.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EC, New York was terribly humid too. Not nice at all.

      Delete
  5. That brought back nice memories. Vancouver is such a lovely city with (in my opinion) just the right balance of art and industry. Being impossibly scenic doesn't hurt either. The drain cover is wonderful. As an airplane geek, I suspect that your HKG-YVR flight would have been on a wide body 777, not a narrow body 737?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Craig, I mean to check that and you are quite correct about the plane. We later travelled on a plane I had never heard of, an Embraer.

      Delete
  6. Humidity you can see?? I would hate that so much, I'm uncomfortable with regular humidity.
    Vancouver looks fabulous.
    Gold Balls usually signify a pawnbroker if they're a group of three outside a store, but your pictured ones aren't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. River, just a bit of public art, I guess.

      Delete
  7. Interesting start of your trip ! I also prefer an aisle seat, anyway there is nothing much to see out of the window. It also makes me mad that in some countries you only get huge double beds. That's not so nice when you travel with a friend, I always ask for twin beds and then you get two !
    It's always better to pay in the local money. It's indeed more interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gattina, yes, always book a twin room.

      Delete
  8. When I went to Vancouver for a few days years ago I stayed in gas town in a hostel above a large bar. Those salmon figure engraved manhole covers are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Strayer, that must be the most interesting part of town. I'll mention it later.

      Delete
  9. Good to see your photos and read how things went etc. I do like the drain cover. That's a long time to be awake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret, we may have dozed a little on the flight but certainly not proper sleep.

      Delete
  10. Hi I've seen you on various blogs so popped by. Glad I did. This English lady found your insights into Canada from an Oz perspective very interesting. I'll be back!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Anna. I hope I can make the rest of the trip interesting to read about.

      Delete
  11. Loving it already. So interesting that we were in the same place looking at the same things just one month apart. I also noticed the fantastic man hole covers. The sculpture made of nails is by Ai Wei Wei the Chinese artist and is called F grass. Apparently the symbol for grass in Chinese also doubles for the 'F' word. Can't wait to read more of your trip.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marie, I just went back to your Vancouver posts and we certainly have doubled up with photos and places visited. More doubling up later today.

      Delete
  12. Our hotel, Fairmont Waterfront, was at Canada Place directly across the road from the Bellagio where you ate.

    Hn and I didn't eat there but others from our group did and they had the unfortunate experience of another diner there suffering a heart attack.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Victor, yes, a photo of the Fairmont to go up soon. Nothing like a heart attack to put a dampener on a meal out.

      Delete