Walking ALL over Vancouver, BC

Now, I’ve been to Vancouver many times but mostly for business reasons.  BORING!  This past weekend, I got to go for fun with Thom and my best friend Patti and her husband Larry.  Got to hand it to Patti and Larry-they have faithfully visited us everywhere from NYC to China to Seattle.  So now it was time to add Canada to our list!  After enjoying the Amtrak up to Vancouver, we had a blast, though I did walk too fast and too far for my friends.  Sorry Patti!!!  I actually got up early Saturday to walk 3 miles by myself around the waterfront (sunrise!) and burn off some energy so I would walk slower the rest of the day.  I don’t realize how fast I walk because Thom is just as bad until I get around folks who don’t get a chance to walk as much as I do.  Let’s face it, most people drive everywhere they need to go especially if they live in the country.  I’m an urban chick and my idea of a good day is being able to walk 10 miles.  Crazy!!!

Enjoying the free garden in Chinatown
Enjoying the free garden in Chinatown
Gorgeous Vancouver waterfront!
Gorgeous Vancouver waterfront!

Now, I have never dug into the history of Vancouver but now I can say with authority that this is a city built-in a very similar manner as Seattle and San Francisco-natural resources and a wild, wild west attitude.  After seeing great reviews on TripAdvisor, I signed us up for two free walking tours-one each day-for Gastown and Chinatown.  Now, you may say that you get what you pay for so why go on a free tour???  I thought the same but so glad we went because Ali and Leni, our guides, were both enthusiastic and knew their stuff.  They entertained us with stories and a well thought out walking tour designed to make the history of Vancouver come to life.  This is their job (or at least one of them-they are not getting rich working for tips) but they ask that, if you liked the tour, you give them something for their delightful storytelling and expertise.  Check them out if you are in Vancouver:  http://www.tourguys.ca.

Patti and Larry enjoying Leni's stories on the walking tour of Gastown
Patti and Larry enjoying Leni’s stories on the walking tour of Gastown

After our Chinatown tour, we headed straight to the best rated (Yelp!) restaurant in the transitioning Chinatown area.  Now, the Chinese residents are moving out as they can afford to so this Chinatown is not a vibrant area but with it’s seafood and produce markets, it did remind me of our home in Shanghai.  I miss it so much!  Lots of raw fish, baskets of dried seafood and veggies.  So pungent smelling!

New Town Bakery feast in Chinatown
New Town Bakery feast in Chinatown

We went to the New Town Bakery and indulged in egg tarts, potstickers and yummy dishes galore.  We met a lovely lady from Perth, Australia on our tour who was in town on a grant from her city job to tour the world and study best practices in urban planning and invited her along to lunch.  Of course, now Thom is hooking her up with his contacts in NYC to help her out.  So nice to help other world travelers!

The Gastown tour ended thankfully right next to my favorite place to eat in Vancouver-the Water St. Café.  Seriously, every time I go there I eat the salmon risotto and this trip was no exception.  Patti tried it too and literally licked the plate.  So creamy, so delicious!

Water Street Café--salmon risotto so good Patti licked the plate!
Water Street Café–salmon risotto so good Patti licked the plate!

The whole Yaletown and Gastown areas are filled with restaurants and interesting shops as well as being historic.  Of course, Thom found a few vinyl stores and had to shop for his ever-expanding collection.  With a new Nordstrom’s and their local chain, Roots, everywhere, it was hard NOT to spend money.  With a good exchange rate, I wish I had brought more luggage more to carry home Canadian treasures.  Oh well, next time!  Only a few hours drive from Seattle, I’ll be back soon!

The markets in Chinatown reminded me of home in Shanghai
The markets in Chinatown reminded me of home in Shanghai
Thom found LOTS of vinyl stores in Vancouver
Thom found LOTS of vinyl stores in Vancouver

The Cocktail Quest Continues…

Ask a bartender for their appletini recipe and you will quickly find out that everyone has their very own special way to make it.  What the hell???  You’d think a simple cocktail like that would be pretty standard from place to place.  After intensive research (someone has to do it!) I got quite the list of varied ingredients and suggestions on how to make the perfect appletini.  Please let me share.

On our first stop, the Templeton diner that was recommended on Yelp as having “character” certainly did as it was in the rough section of Vancouver next to a TripleXXX peep show establishment.  Most tourists would run the opposite way if they found themselves in this type of neighborhood in a foreign country.  Not us-we embraced it and took photos!  Now, a diner known for burgers and milkshakes might not be the best place to try out appletini’s but, you betcha, we did just that.  Nothing goes better with a plate of poutine than an appletini!

Our lovely waitress shared her unique recipe—vodka, peach schnapps and apple juice.  Crazy tasty!  Paired with plates of poutine and salads/burgers plus milkshakes for the boys, we had quite the feast and laughed ourselves silly over our choice of fine dining experiences the first night in Vancouver.  We know how to have a good time-pick a shabby diner next to a peep show with a jukebox and liquor.

After our walking tour of Gastown the next day, we were starving and conveniently close by my favorite restaurant in Vancouver-the Water Street Café.  Quite the opposite atmosphere from the prior night’s diner, this café had the white table cloth vibe going on and was in a historic gorgeous building.  I had been there multiple times when in town on business and always get the same thing-salmon risotto.  So delicious but how would their appletini’s taste???

Water Street Café-Sour Puss is the key to an appletini!
Water Street Café-Sour Puss is the key to an appletini!

Another lovely waitress shared her bartender’s ingredients—vodka, apple sour puss liquor, simple syrup and a drop of lime juice.  Now, I’ve never made simple syrup but she suggested a 1/3 raw sugar to 2/3 hot water formula.  Even with the syrup, the appletini’s we were tasting were still not as sweet as the ones in Shanghai.  The quest for the perfect appletini continued later that day at our hotel because having an appletini at lunch just wasn’t enough.

Patti enjoying the appletini at Water St. Café in Gastown
Patti enjoying the appletini at Water St. Café in Gastown

The bartender at the Marriott Pinnacle was most accommodating to talk us through his appletini creation that included vodka, pineapple juice and fresh lime topped with a slice of apple.  Now, he very quietly told us that he prefers apple juice to pineapple juice but the Marriott chain forces him to use pineapple-how dare they stifle his cocktail creativity!  He also suggested we could use agave to sweeten it up if we preferred.  When I asked him why the appletinis in Shanghai were so very green instead of the light green we were seeing at his bar, he suggested that perhaps they used a tamarin syrup with agave muddled together to “green it up” a little.  I appreciated his honesty and sharing of tips.

Now, all appletinis are good (just as there is no bad wine or pie) but the quest must now continue in Seattle.  I hear that Canon on Capitol Hill was named the 6th best bar in the world.  Who knew???  I MUST check it out.  Also dying to run to the liquor store in the U.S. to see if they have Sour Puss in stock or if that is just a Canadian odd liquor….l’ll be looking for that black mean ass kitty on the bottle and then I’ll know I have the right stuff!

2 Days, 20,000 steps and 1 Cougar

Holy. Crap.  Yep, I just noticed I am totally and utterly alone in a forest in Canada with not a soul in sight and this sign comes into view, like someone quickly attached it to a post and ran away… Wildcat spotted in area.  Love the pictures to show you the differences between cougars, bobcats and kitties–duh!  If you are that stupid and need a pictorial of the differences between a cougar and a cat, you deserve to get f&*king chewed on like a kibble.  Just saying….

See Cougar Sign..See Melinda Run...Fast
See Cougar Sign..See Melinda Run…Fast

Looking around and, again, seeing nothing but trees, trees and more underbrush where that damn cougar could be hiding, I channeled my inner Hunger Games heroine and picked up an insubstantial branch to defend myself with and took off as fast as possible.  Deep in the forest by a lake in Burnaby, this was my “peaceful” stroll to get in my 10,000 needed steps to make my new Fitbit animate, aka it rattles on my wrist when I hit my goal.  Happy times staying fit and alive.  Eventually, I ran out of the forest into suburbia and found my way back to the hotel in one piece, feeling fit to live another day and vowing to stick to the urban jungle from now on instead of the actual jungle.  The kicker was that my Fitbit wasn’t working right so it didn’t even record my steps including the long climb back up the hill to home.  DAMN!  My calves are aching and telling me I hit that 10,000 step goal so we’ll just go with that unofficial count and charge it up for tomorrow.

Lost in the forest and never finding the lake, running away from a possible cougar...that was my peaceful walk
Lost in the forest and never finding the lake, running away from a possible cougar…that was my peaceful walk

I got my Fitbit for Mother’s Day and am enjoying challenging myself to get out and get walking even more than usual.  Especially when I’m on the road working, it will get me out of the hotel in the evening and onto the streets.  Last night when I got into Vancouver, BC, I immediately took off on the skytrain from Burnaby where I’m staying to downtown Vancouver.  Only taking 20 minutes, it beat driving in traffic.  After a lengthy wait to get through customs due to Victoria Day traffic, I was done with driving.  I wandered through Gastown and enjoyed people watching.  Lots of buskers playing their songs and people eating outside enjoying the warm weather.  I finally settled in at the Water St. café and enjoyed amazing salmon risotto.  Seriously, I almost licked the plate–crazy American that I am.

Salmon risotto rand BC local wine...how Canadian of me
Salmon risotto and BC local wine…how Canadian of me

Washed down with local wine, I was happy, happy to walk back to the skytrain and join the crowds returning home.  Arriving back at the hotel with the Fitbit working, it synced and told me I had about 100 steps left to goal.  Did I run in place and rack up those last few steps???  Oh yeah-BAM!  2 days and 20,000 steps and feeling good… my Type A personality likes hitting goals and my body likes the workout.  Win-Win!

Lucky Day 13 of Fashion Challenge-Back in the U.S.A.

Back in the USA!  After a few days in snowy and ridiculously cold weather in Canada, I’m wondering why ANYONE lives there… really???  Parkas and big thermal boots would have to be your fashion statement for months on end…. OH.  HELL. NO.  If there is ever another trip to Canada in my future in the winter (which I certainly will try to avoid) then, note to self, pack some F*@king Boots.  I packed my one of a kind, expensive, handmade boots not my ugly Uggs.  Mistake, big time!  They had smooth leather soles that didn’t work too well on the ice and snow.  My only other packing choice of shoes were heels.  I’m an idiot.  So, I walked carefully and looked forward to getting back to warm Seattle.  At 50 degrees, it is like summer down here vs. Edmonton’s North Pole-like experience.  Brrrrrr…….

Of course, Izaak is the best part of this picture not the outfit.  He is a big hunk of cuddle muffin who likes nothing better than laying his head on my neck so he can feel my pulse and get cozy.  I do miss all my guys when I travel.  It sounds glamorous to those that don’t have to do it very often but life on the road is challenging at best.  Last night as we raced to Vancouver’s security and then customs to get back to the U.S. only to stand in line fretting if we would make our flight (we did by 2 minutes) I kept my co-worker calm when the TSA dude let through a whole group ahead of us because there flight was leaving 5 minutes before ours–these days if you complain too loudly, they will just ban you from the flight for being contrary.  Watch your words and action and always be polite… you get more with honey than vinegar!

Izaak missed me!
Izaak missed me!

So, first day back in Seattle, I brought out the stripes with animal print accents in the form of a warm Banana Republic sweater with a classic black skirt and tights.  Best part of the outfit was the chunky and clunky necklace that turned the outfit into interesting vs. boring.   It makes crazy noises when I walk but I like it.  Sometimes, you just have to walk loud and proud!

I have a standing desk at work now so the Rockport stiletto booties only lasted part of the day and then I had to change into flats to finish it out.  Always be prepared with flats just in case.   I am hoping that standing most of the day will be healthier for me in the long run vs. sitting…. can’t be worse, right?

Just got back from the gym and now settling in to watch American Idol (yes, I’m one of THOSE!) and get more work done.  I know I shouldn’t work so hard but I always feel I need to work harder than anyone else to be successful.  Probably not true, but I have a family to support, so off I go!