Thursday, 27 February 2014

Wow! Such cute!

Playdates are a new thing for me.  When I was young we were thrown out to play on the street and told to come home when the sun went down!  It's all a little different today so, after months of trying to co-ordinate our babies' calendars (let alone nap and eating times), Andrew came over with his son Jacob.

Jacob is almost exactly Pete's age and height, although Pete wins in weight and head size.  Jacob is more mobile and can go from sitting to standing whereas Pete still requires a vertical surface.  It was going to be a fairly even contest.

True to form, toys that Pete hasn't looked at in weeks became the thing he wanted most as soon as they were in Jacob's hands.  Jacob used his speed to good effect, but Pete's superior knowledge of the terrain together with plentiful body-checking pulled things back.  At one point a ukulele was applied to someone's face.

I tried to explain to both that sharing things is fun...until I remembered that sharing things isn't fun.  Luckily the boys discovered that common goals and aspirations can be a good foundation to a relationship; is it easier to smash into Daddy's piano if we push the truck together?  Can we make the safety gate fall if we both apply our weight?

Exhausted, we took the babies to eat at a new local dumpling house.  "Boy's lunch out?" someone on the table beside us asked and I realised that this wasn't a playdate - it was a popular man-date!  Hahahaaa...sorry.

Dad!  He's touching my stuff!

Cow tipping, a common activity of miscreant youth.

"Ok, when Daddy does it I think he lifts this bit..."

Line it up and...


There's nothing like sharing, and this is nothing like sharing.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Museum, then gin

Every day's a school day, especially when it is a school day.  It was one of those special Fridays that Hannah gets to take off for working so hard, so while the rest of the city toiled and studied we decided we should learn a bit more about our surroundings at the Museum of Vancouver.

It's a very nice little place, in the Kitslano neighbourhood just over the Burrard bridge.  Not only does it tell the history of this fine city (which began even before British naval captain George Vancouver graciously gave it his name) but it also highlights notable Vancouverites.  At the moment one of these is Foncie Pulice, a street photographer who, starting in the 1930s, snapped passers-by and then sold them the photos from his shop a few days later.  He was very successful, and although I was tempted by this possible business opportunity I'm not sure it works in the digital age.  $5 for me to post your picture on my blog?

Vancouver's history is similar to many of the West Coast cities, benefiting from being a transcontinental railroad terminus and riding the social ups-and-downs of the 60s and 70s.  Greenpeace was started here!  There was a re-creation of a hippy's bedroom, complete with psychedelic projector and bead curtains, and a 1950s Ford Fairlane car with a completely impractical drive-in dining tray across the back seat.  One of the best displays was buildings that have been refused planning permission.  The skyline would have looked a lot different - and a good bit crazier - had some of these passed.

After feeding the mind it was time to feed the body/soul.  I mentioned a few weeks ago about finding the local gin palace, and on Friday afternoons they've started a gin and tonic bar, and a local food truck parks outside!  Pete obliged by sleeping, and while it's illegal to take babies into bars here it seems alright to take them into a distillery.  At least, we weren't arrested.  Hannah and I munched on Filipino sliders and knocked back a gin with homemade tonic, looking at the copper still in which it had been made.  This is sort of how I imagine heaven to be.

A fast moving Vancouverite who doesn't oblige in staying still for photos.

Off to look around with mummy.

The had a display of old neon signs, not held in high regard when the city decided to smarten itself up.  The whole gallery had a pleasing electrical hum.

Ugly and rampant.

Here's a good pub quiz fact: neon glows bright red!  All the other colours are usually made using argon.

Pete decides to do a little curating.

An early model of dalek.

Playing with architecture.

This is what Christ Church Cathedral was going to look like in the 70s, until people decided to slap a preservation order on the current, old building.

I know the city hasn't always been here, but I'm not sure I realised it used to look like this.  This is now Thurlow Street.

More people come to Vancouver every day.

Here's a rather nice car...

...and here's the super-practical White Spot dining tray they give you at the drive-in!  Three kids in the back?  It's a good job those seats are made from vinyl.

Talking of sustenance.

The weekend officially starts..

If only every school day could end like this.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Is this burning an eternal flame?

They like the Winter Olympics up here.  And why not?  I'm not trying to make excuses, but it's not like the UK has big snowy mountains for us to practice on.  Here does, which helps a lot with medal winning.  Let's see these Canadians take us on at cricket, eh?  (Actually, given our current form, please don't).  And Team GB is having its best Olympics ever, so...

But whatever the environmental advantages a gold's a gold, and something to be celebrated.  After the last Olympics up in Whistler they moved the torch down to the Vancouver waterfront and decreed that it would be lit every day Team Canada gets the big medal, and today it was women's ice hockey and curling that ascended to the top of the podium.

I wandered by, unprepared and without my camera, of course, and the area around the flames was heaving!  Cars waving flags drove past beeping their horns, and a spontaneous rendition of "Oh Canada!" took place.  It's a popular song.  Strange, as I believe "God Save The Queen" is the national anthem.

News less widely reported is that this almost didn't happen - the city deemed it too expensive to light the torch for every gold (more Olympic bravado!)  There was the standard public outcry and two anonymous donors came forward with the cash.  Could one have been a local petrochemical company that might find the public burning of natural gas positive and beneficial?  Hannah couldn't possibly comment.

Huddling around the flame for warmth on a chilly evening.

When Britain wins a medal they burn red, white and blue.

And that's why you should always carry a decent camera.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Tea for three

Tea.  How difficult can it be?  A teapot, boiling water, tea, milk, a cup.  Surprisingly for a country that made such a big fuss about it in 1773, the USA is rubbish at making the stuff.  So often we were faced with the travesty of a glass (yes - glass!) filled with tepid water, probably from the hot tap, and a range of teabags to dip into it.  And you have to ask for milk instead of cream.  By then it's far too late.

There were some fine tea rooms in San Francisco's Chinatown, but after all the elaborate ceremony preparing your Second Flush Darjeeling (because everything didn't disappear after the first flush?) you weren't even offered a biscuit to dunk!  Poor.

It was time to see if Canada could do any better, and the opportunity came with Christmas vouchers for The Urban Tea Merchant from John and Laura.  This place is the real deal, offering not just tea but high tea, although for some reason - the ongoing French influence around here - it's referred to as Petite Afternoon Tea Service.

Despite the linguistically-jarring name, it was legitimate.  Cucumber sandwiches!  A mini scone with jam and cream!  A teapot each, and a jug of milk!  Hannah went for a brew called Eau Noire (enough with the French!) and I opted for exotic-but-classic Lapsang Souchong.  "Like drinking an ashtray," Hannah commented, but I hadn't tasted its smokey delights since Mum and Sheila came to stay.  Sheila, like the seasoned British adventurer she is, always travels with her own tea.

We talked politely, we emptied our three-tiered cake stands, Pete quietly munched macarons, and the rain fell constantly and heavily outside.  It was almost British, it was almost perfect.  Almost - still no dunkable biscuit was presented.  Next time I'll be bringing my own custard cream.

Discerning tea drinkers wait in judgement.

Storm in a teacup?

This pot better make really good tea.

Only three layers.  Perhaps we should have ordered the Grande Afternoon Tea Service.

It's a chicken cornetto!  Amazing.

The apotheosis of sophistication.

Reflecting on a fine brew.

Then, all too soon, it was over.

Keep calm and macaron.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Family Day

It's a new holiday!  British Columbia celebrated its first Family Day on February 11th 2013, and decreed that it should be observed on the second Monday in Feb each year.  Today was the next, and provided a nice ease-in to work for Hannah after the abrupt end of our island retreat.  But she is off to Calgary tomorrow where it's -20C, so I do still feel a little sorry for her.  We decided to celebrate by walking around the Seawall.  It was raining so I wanted to stay at home but she claimed this wasn't in the spirit of the day.

Here's a nice picture of a tree on a rock.

Yes, that is ice.  The only place you see this in Hawaii is in your cocktail.

The perfect opportunity for me to introduce Pete to an extreme sport!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Winter Olympics

"The weather conditions in Portland are freezing rain, 30mph winds from the north west, and temperatures of 29F.  Welcome home."  So said the pilot as our bumpy ride from Honolulu came to an end.  Luckily we were only passing through on the way back to Vancouver (known for its Hawaiian climate) but the impacted ice covering the runway - and everything else - didn't inspire confidence that we'd get out again.

But we did, and now find ourselves in Canada and awaiting the blizzard that's forecast to hit mid-afternoon and stay all night.  But there's no place like home...which is why I now refer to the Disney resort in Hawaii as "home".

Portland, our one-night layover.  I'm sure it's lovely.

A plane gets warmed up before exerting itself.

When your phone decides to give its unsolicited opinion, things must be bad.

Final in-flight meal.

Alaskan Airlines (an appropriate carrier on a day like today) are doing free beer and wine until March!  Time to book a few more flights.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The wonders of Hawaii

Visitors come to Hawaii for many reasons.  For some it's the crystal clear sea, offering spectacular snorkeling and whale watching.  For others it's the pristine landscape and dramatic hikes up dormant volcanoes.  Yet more enjoy the laid back, Polynesian culture, all within the borders of the USA.

We, however, decided to spend another few days at the Disney resort.  Once we found out they served Lava Flows, and that they were cheaply priced, there was no real reason to venture elsewhere.  Ben and Emma went to Honolulu for a morning and said that it was scary.

That was enough to convince us that floating about in the many pools was the most constructive use of time.  I did go snorkeling (in the Disney-made lagoon) and Ben claims to have spotted some whales, so both of those count.  We also saw that mouse again.

We're back off home tomorrow, and what can I say?  We've never had it this easy on holiday before, and now my plan to spend three weeks trekking through the Yukon, camping, trapping our own food and washing in icy streams, is going to be a hard sell to Hannah and Pete.  Back here next year then!  Well played, Walt Disney, well played.

Disney from above.

Fearless Lexie down on the beach, after a sandy face-plant.  "That's what happens when Dads are left in charge," commented some nearby sunbathers.  Hmm.

So Pete decides to follow her example.

Frankie and Greta are more chilled (and IT literate).

Hannah calms everything down with the help of a(nother) cocktail.

The Disney dance party luau thing on Thursday evening.

Lexie danced the night away.

Next morning we checked out Aunty's Beach House.  You can leave kids there unattended for the whole day!  But only if they're over three.

The dress up corner.  Nothing in my size.

Fine, back to the pool.

At Butlin's Skegness this would all be ice.

The "Rainbow Reef", where you can swim with the fishes in a big tank.  Nobody has asked the fish what they think of this.

Who should we bump into while heading to the lazy river?

Sailing by.

Rodent of unusual size.

Pete has sampled the water in each pool.  He likes the large family one best - overtones of sunscreen and tanning oil.

It's Michael Jackson!  Trying hard to stay disguised, for obvious reasons.

More acrobatic fun in the pool.


Final, goodbye meal, before we all part ways tomorrow.  I'll see if I can use my Disney room key to pay for food in Vancouver.

Selfie with Gen!  She made all this happen, and graciously let us pretend to be part of the family so we could sneak into Disney every morning and sneak back to our somewhat-less-salubrious apartment each night.  Thank you!