Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The last day of Christmas

It's all over!  Ellen and Meg are on board their flight back to the UK, which lands next year.  I'm not sure when they open the Champagne for 2014 if you're crossing time zones.

What a holiday it's been - they've dragged us to more sights in our new city than we've managed in the month-plus we've been here!  Then there was Christmas, and ice hockey, and all the vomiting.  No one's going to forget this visit for a while.

We sent them off in traditional manner with cocktails at lunchtime.  Vancouver was the quietest I've ever seen any airport !  We weren't sure security was open until we spotted three people gathered around one x-ray machine looking bored.  Hopefully this augurs well for a free upgrade to first class.

Thank you, Ellen and Meg, for a wonderful Christmas, and come back SOON!  Pete is already crawling around looking utterly bereft.

One...or two...for the road.

Meg peruses the cocktail menu.

But opts for her usual milk-tini.

What does a NorCal baby wear in the Canadian winter?  Organic hand-made knits, that's what.  Here Pete models creations by Ellen and his Grandma.

A final check by border security before being allowed out.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Meanwhile, in Whistler

For Meg and Ellen's last full day they decided to go on a bit of an adventure - off to Whistler by bus!

Whistler was the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics and is (by all accounts, because I haven't been there yet) one of the top skiing destinations in North America.  It also has the longest unsupported cable car ride in the world, from the top of one mountain to the next...which they did...in a cable car with a glass floor!  I'm glad I stayed in the safe haven of Vancouver for that one.

They had a great day, and Meg came back claiming that next year she's going to go to ski school.  In further discussion, I found out the main reason was the hot chocolate that they get during breaks and lunch.  She's a smart one.

Getting ready to hit the slopes.

And what slopes they are!  If I could ski I'd be even more excited.

Up at the top.

Daredevils.  Once they pass that tower behind them it's 3km to the next.

And you can see down.


Phew - safe at Blackcomb, the twin mountain of Whistler peak.

More fine powder.

And what better apres-ski snack than ice cream?  This might even beat hot chocolate.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

...and a hockey match broke out

We're edging towards true Canadian-ness with a night out at the (ice) hockey!  Ellen and Meg wanted to see a game as part of their holiday, and while the Vancouver Canucks demand massive ticket prices we discovered the Vancouver Giants are far more sensible.  The Giants are the "major junior" team around here, which means that most of the players are 16 to 20, although the team included a 15-yr-old whiz kid who's going to be a superstar in a few years (according to the man in front of us, who knew a lot).  We were three among a crowd of 7000, shouting and cheering at everything.  Apart from when the opposition, the Kelowna Rockets, scored.  It was 1-1 after the uneventful first 20 minute period.

Then the cuteness arrived!  They had a team of 5 and 6-yr-olds take to the ice, for a game that was far more exciting than the senior match up to that point.  They looked soooooo sweet!  There's no question of what Pete will be doing as soon as he's old enough to slide.

There was also plenty of what North American sport is really about: advertising.  Between the 20 minutes of play there's an 18 minute break, mostly filled with promotions, competitions, sponsored Zambonis refreshing the ice...18 minutes!  You could basically fit two ice hockey games into the space they currently have one.

Then came the fight, of course.  In hockey you get penalised for "roughing", which is like getting penalised for punching in boxing.  Throughout the game players are getting splammed up against the glass, smacked over on the ice, but if you get a bit "rough" it's two minutes in the sin bin for you!

Things boiled over in the third period and what looked like a group hug took place right in front of us - it's hard to really fight when you've got so much padding on.  These kids should try rugby!  Anyway, the referees attempted to break it up, attendants tried to block the view of a baying crowd, and I turned to my left to see my 7-yr-old ballerina Goddaughter standing on her seat screaming "Hit him!  Hit him!"  She seemed to be enjoying herself.

It took longer to give out the penalties than it did to fight.  Someone was charged with an "attempted misdemeanor" - they didn't even manage to be naughty! - and lots of people had to sit and think about what they'd done.  Although there was only one player who was actually taken off the ice.  I need to read the rules before next time.

What was obvious was the scoreline: Vancouver 2, Kelowna 4.  Not what we were looking for, unfortunately.  But, you know, they got to have a fight, so I presume everyone went home happy.

Entering the Coliseum....

...just as the players get onto the ice.  They have cheerleaders in ice hockey too!

I have warm and friendly feelings towards this goalie...why could that be?

Getting started.

Open play.

And then these guys came on to scrape the blood off the ice.  Or perhaps just smooth it.

Underway again.

New fans.

We were nicely close to the action - plenty of "boom" as the players splatted each other into the sides.

You can ride on the Zamboni during the break!  How can I get on this next time?

So cute.  I wanted to buy one from the gift shop.

Stars of the (distant) future.

More advertising/entertainment: a dune buggy with a cannon that fired T-shirts.

Back to play.

Quick refreshments in the second break.

They're at it again.

#1 fan!  That seems to be a puck on her head.

And then the fun began...

...and carried on.  They kept taking one glove off before fighting, so I looked that up: "Players must also "drop" or shake off their protective gloves in order to fight bare-knuckled (essentially, "throwing down the gauntlet"), as the hard leather and plastic of hockey gloves would increase the effect of landed blows."  How civilised.  Here's the Wiki page on fighting in ice hockey.

Let's go Giants!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Suspension of disbelief

Firstly, it's so nice to be back in a country that celebrates Boxing Day - the mark of civilisation.  Secondly, it's so nice to have Meg and Ellen around to give us the excuse to do touristy things!  Today it was one of the Vancouver big ones: Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Just a few miles from us the Capilano river runs down a huge canyon.  Someone (a Scottish civil engineer, actually) decided to put a bridge across it in 1889.  That one fell down, so they built another one.  That one fell down too, so they built another in the 1950s.  Now you can dice with death 230 feet in the air on a swaying contraption of cables and wood.  Fun for all the family!

What makes it all the more attractive is the free bus that goes from the hotel outside our flat, the light display they have at this time of year, and the benefit that if you live in BC you get an annual pass for the cost of one admission.  So now when Pete misbehaves he'll be forced to "walk the bridge" until he apologises.

It got scary even before the bridge.

And then it got scarier.

First up was the cliff walk, where we learnt about geology and stuff.  Apparently the canyon was made by water!  Yeah, whatever.


First view of the main attraction: flimsy.  We didn't have many canyons where I grew up, although Ellen did remind me about Cheddar Gorge.

What's holding us up.

Unfortunately Ellen and Hannah had opted to come in stilettos.

Out on a limb.

Stepping out over the abyss.

It was very busy, which added to the scary swinging.  Why don't you just build it out of concrete?

One discovery of the day was that Meg is in fact a Douglas Fir!  She'll be eight next month, so remains on track.

And look at this!  It's a bald eagle!!  It was right next to a sign that says "watch out for bald eagles", so was a bit suspicious, but seemed real.

This is the world's tallest living Christmas tree.

Told you.

There and back over the terrifying span, and Meg gets a certificate to prove her bravery.  I didn't.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Baby's first Christmas

Hannah obviously received her big present from me earlier this year, but she grasped the opportunity to buy that one some nice gifts for his first time through.  As you would expect, the wrapping paper and boxes were of far more interest than the books and bath toys they contained, but Christmas lunch with its massively extended list of things to chew on went down very well.  Meg also had a bumper year, including ballet DVDs, a Nintendo DS, a miniature robotic shark...in my day we were happy with a satsuma and some brazil nuts.

Before all this indulgence we went to church.  It was the cathedral's morning eucharist, a little sparsely attended given the two midnight masses the night before, and nicely family focused.  For some reason there was a TV cameraman interviewing various people about why they were there and, you know, naturally he spotted my talent.  Meg, Ellen and I made the evening news, just before the Pope:

Watch us here.  The star above Bethlehem was not the only one shining brightly today!

In other news:

It tastes like Christmas!

Meg is more refined in her approach.

Another new taste: Pete tries goldfish for the first time.

A finely coutured pair.

Walking back from church on a fine Vancouver day.

Hannah makes a short pilgrimage to the Chevron barge.

Wow, more of that wrapping stuff!  This is the best Christmas ever!!

Sitting down to the proper food.

Mother and child.

Now that is a Christmas dinner.