North AmericaScubaSightseeing

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 – Vancouver

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 – Vancouver

Departure day. So sad to be leaving. The morning was devoted to eating and packing – not necessarily in that order. Anat and I shared a taxi to the Blue Horizon Hotel, where the three of us would stay for the next two nights.

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver was in the midst of a record heat wave with record humidity: up to 95 degrees and wet. Such a contrast to the week before, when we were wrapped up in our fleeces and drinking hot chocolates. We donned tank tops and walked to Stanley Park to see the Vancouver Aquarium. This may seem odd considering we just spent a week around all sorts of aquatic life, but it’s one of the top five things to do in Vancouver and they also have beluga whales – which we all wanted to see.


Vancouver Aquarium

Statue outside the aquarium

We also enjoyed it because we learned even more about everything we’d just seen; so instead of shrugging and thinking “Eh. Just saw that.” We exclaimed, “Hey! We just saw that!!” There was great laughter about the Giant Pacific Octopus hanging on the side of the glass: “Look Anat – that’s the pooper!”

It’s funny, though, how the heat can sap the strength out of you. Between the 30 minute walk to the park and 30 minutes of wandering around the also-hot aquarium (Vancouver is clearly not outfitted for this kind of heat), we wanted to sit. Perfect timing since a line was forming for a 20 minute showing of “Shallow Seas” in 4-D.

4-D, which means the seats are “interactive” with all senses: sight, sound, touch, smell when certain things happened on screen. Water spritzes for splashes, bubbles for underwater, something below the seats that smacked you when rats scurried, vibrating seats, smell of cedar, tufts of air, etc. Pretty incredible experience, actually, and a number of little kids were scared enough to cry and want to leave almost immediately. But it was absolutely worth the wait. I’d do it again, but this time I’d bring a raincoat.

We treated ourselves to some soft-serve ice cream and then stood on line to see the new 2-month old beluga whale calf. I was impressed with how the aquarium staff handled the crowd – they don’t want to disrupt the bonding between mother and calf, so they allow 25 people into the tank area at a time. During that time have three 5-minute stops: 1) To see a video about the whales and their family structure (2) The first viewing of the whales and a short talk, (3) Another viewing where you can ask questions. Then you’re quietly escorted out. No loud talking, no flash photography, and at a discreet distance from the glass wall.

Mama and baby
The calf – a girl – will be named via contest in the fall.
We caught the quick dolphin show, too. Normally this would make me unhappy since I’d rather see them out in the wild – but these dolphins were all injured and essentially can’t survive outside the aquarium. Though I feel bad for them in their confined space, I also know that it’s the only reason they’re alive. And they get fish whenever they want them.


Dolphin Watchers (That’s Shannon in the middle, taking a picture – go figure)

Scarlet Ibis

We left the aquarium with every intention to splurge on a carriage ride around Stanley Park but the booth was closed and no signs of horses. So we walked out of the park and took many more pictures along the way.

By this time it was 7PM – much later than we’d planned – so we changed plans and stayed in northwest for the Fireworks Contest rather than going to the room to change.

Celebration of Light
Each year Vancouver hosts the Celebration of Light – an international fireworks contest that brings countries to Vancouver’s English Bay to show off their pyrotechnics. We decided to do what the locals do: pack a picnic, sneak in alcohol, and enjoy the show.

We stopped at a grocery store to buy a cheap mat to sit on and some plastic glasses, and then to wine store for two bottles of wine that had to be (1) cheap, (2) red, and (3) twist-cap since we didn’t have a bottle opener. Done, done, and done. And then we walked down Dehnam Street, where clearly everyone else in Vancouver was headed. Streets were blocked off, people were everywhere, and uptown was the place to be. We had to divert briefly because our bag that read “Vancouver Liquor Store” drew the unwanted attention from a nice but unmoving cop who told us no alcohol was allowed on the beach, so we ducked behind a dumpster to transfer the wine to our water bottles and into our bag. Classy, I know.

Our Life of Crime
Pic by Shannon
We planned to procure dinner from the take-out window at Rain City Café; place known for its local ingredients. Unfortunately the take out window offered only fish-n-chips. Anat is a vegetarian and Shannon doesn’t love fish, so I was the only one who got it. Fortunately there were plenty of other options around – including a cupcake shop across the street – so Shannon got a burger and Anat a falafel, and we all got cupcakes and found a grassy spot on the English Bay. The fireworks began shortly after 10:00 and made us all very happy.

Because everyone knows that fireworks never go off for evil; only for good.



Shannon and Anat “paper bagging” it

Shhhhh… Don’t tell anyone, but we’re drinking WINE!
Picture by Shannon

God Save the Queen

The three of us – sweaty, stinky, and tired, trudged back up Robson Street to our hotel and crashed for the night.