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We Went, We Saw, We Ate

Tuesday 30 July 2013

So we’re back from Vancouver (bet you didn’t even know we’d gone). We were there for the annual fireworks competition; imagine big (think: the Mall in DC on the 4th of July) fireworks three nights, about a 30 minute program each night, staged by three different countries each year during a week-long festival that most local Chambers of Commerce would drool to have.

It’s the Vancouver Celebration of Light (note how artfully I dodge the commercial sponsorship) in its 23rd year. There were over 300,000 on the beaches, in the streets, and at the parks around English Bay. This year the contestants were England, Canada, and Thailand; England had the best music, all James Bond themed for the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise; Thailand had some amazing fireworks; but Canada won with some rockets I’d never seen: ones that burst in the shapes of smiley faces and hearts, and the other huge chrysanthemum that kept blossoming until it was like a silvery fog (look here from about 14:34 to 14:58).

So Canada won the overall judging. Now, for our own judgements on where to go to watch the fireworks, here is our countdown:

RUNNER-UP NUMBER 2: Bard On The Beach Bard-B-Q. It’s live theater, it’s barbequed food, and it’s a fireworks show all in one evening! The production of Twelfth Night was exceptionally good, especially how the cast worked in the various distractions (seagulls, aerobatic aircraft, and a nearby rock concert) into their own performances. The dinner was fine; grilled salmon, selection of sides, barbecued chicken, various libations. The seats for the fireworks were fine. However, the view of the fireworks was somewhat distant (maybe three-quarters of a mile to the barge, as the crow flies) and through trees that obscured much of the action from the water, up to maybe 100′ (which is a lot; watch the clips). Also, the audio simulcast at the site was very poor, with lots of static and distortion. Also, if you’re staying downtown, it’s an extra-long hike back to one’s lodgings. Final ruling: I would definitely go back for the theater, but I’d go elsewhere to see the fireworks; even if there hadn’t been a problem with the audio, the view was not what I wanted.

RUNNER-UP NUMBER 1: Cactus Club at English Bay. A nice place to get dinner, some drinks, and watch the show. The food was great, and the view was quite good, although screened a bit by a security fence. Spendy; Herself allowed that if it had been the first night, She might have felt overcharged, but by the third night (and after a full week of traipsing around Vancouver) She said She was happy to have a place to sit to eat and watch the show.


Keg Lounge! The Keg is a chain of steakhouse/bars in Canada (and now in parts of the U.S.). They do beer, and meat. And some wine and a few veg things, but mostly beer and meat. Their location is ideal–the top of the English Bay Bathhouse, with a view that looks straight at the fireworks barge:Fireworks barge

The food is more than adequate–servers milling about with prime rib sliders, pigs on skewers, and lots of little tan things. Excellent bar food, served with plenty of wine (and beer), at the best location for seeing the fireworks. How could they lose?

We would definitely go back. I would say the only downside to Vancouver at that time of year is that if it doesn’t rain, it gets quite humid. The area had not had rain for 35 days straight, which apparently is very unusual for that time of year (or at least that’s what they tell the tourists). My theory is that a good rain every few days or so knocks the humidity down, and so a long spell without rain allowed it to build up. Who know, but I now have several cool cotton shirts that are perfect for the tropics.

What else did we learn? This was our first outing to Vancouver not in the dead of winter, so it was a novelty to see lots and lots of people out on the streets enjoying the sun, rather than the odd office worker wrapped in down and huddling from one building to the next. The big glass dome at Pacific Centre, usually also deserted in winter, was packed. The malls were packed, the restaurants were packed, everything was packed, including us, as we ate everything in sight and grasp.

We learned that traffic in Vancouver is a mess. The taxi drivers blame the new bike lanes, which were constructed at the expense of parking, traffic lanes, and sidewalk trees; I hope it was worth it. I blame the fact that there are no highways through downtown, or even close to it; it’s more like Manhattan than San Francisco or D.C. There are a few highways on the outskirts, but those get backed up way, way back to the boonies because they turn into the downtown surface streets. Note to self–allow much, much more time to travel by car than expected.

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