HAPPY YEAR OF THE MONKEY!

Poor Damn Monkey-Chinatown was just not giving any love at all to the symbol of this New Year!  When we were in China and it was Year of the Horse, there were ponies and stallions everywhere…big, small, red, gold, etc. decorating all the shops and homes.  Horsey party to the extreme and very festive.   So, we were missing the real Chinese New Year celebrations and decided to check out Seattle’s version this year.  What a disappointment!

WP_20160213_11_50_11_Pro
Dragons and firecrackers welcome the Year of the Monkey!

 

Now, true the egg tarts always delight from the Chinese bakery there, but the first weekend we went, right before the official 2/8 holiday, there was nothing going on at all.  Boring.  We went back this weekend and finally, there were some dancing dragons and firecrackers going off to a small degree to welcome the New Year and the gods of wealth.

But really the crowd was there to feast on the $3 bargain food offer where you could stand in line to get select bites at the various food places.  Not really our cup of tea and not a cultural event but it seemed popular with the gorging masses.  Meh.

Still, I was really seeking out even a few crazy looking monkey decorative items in the shops.  Can an expat get a little selection of monkey-themed decals or anything really to celebrate???  After shopping at the local grocery, Uwajimaya, for some salmon for our Valentine’s dinner, we grabbed our egg tarts and headed home, monkey-less.

Now, in Shanghai, I hear that having monkeys as your in-home pet is all the rage.  Illegal, of course, but it’s probably not enforced and I’ve seen articles where folks are putting leashes on their monkeys and taking to the streets for a stroll.  We saw a few monkey pets on the streets while they were there and they did turn heads.  I’m sure in this Year of the Monkey, it’s very high status to actually own one.  I am the Year of the Rat-wonder if the Chinese locals will leash up their rats and parade them around too?  We didn’t really see rats over there too much-any small creature like that is considered food and served up as a lunch protein selection.  Yum!

Got my egg tarts!
Got my egg tarts!
Chinatown!
Chinatown!

 

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