Monday, March 21, 2005

Dickie's Weekend

Ugh, I typed out a long post this morning only to find that Firefox crashed.

The weekend was one of the more relaxing ones Shawn and I have shared together in ages. Of course, we haven't shared that many weekends together as she's been in school. Oh, we see each other and might even spend an activity or two together, but it usually involves some sort of task and there's often the concept of homework hanging over the whole event. Shawn's class ended last week, so we decided to take advantage of that and get away to Vancouver.

It's been 2 years since we were last in Vancouver. We love that city. It's got an international feel to it, very cosmopolitan, that Seattle doesn't quite share. Last time we were there, I took Shawn to Vancouver as part of a birthday present. We had taken a ferry to Victoria, a ferry to Vancouver, and a train ride back to Seattle. On the train ride home, Border Patrol officers gave me a hard time because I didn't have either a passport or a birth certificate for identification. I had tried to order a birth certificate, but it took a week longer than expected to get to me. I was amazed then and am amazed to this day that this passes for security since both documents are easily forged and searching for them rather than investigating real targets does more to waste resources, not to mention inconvenience innocent people, than it does to prevent terrorism. But, I digress - Big Time.

I picked Shawn up at work and whisked her away north. The drive was slowed by regional rush hour traffic. By the time we reached the hotel, we were only 20 minutes earlier than I had predicted and later than I had hoped. Shawn spent some of the time working on her last bit of homework which she had to turn in that night.

On Thursday afternoon I booked a room for us at The Buchan Hotel. It's only a block from Stanley Park, 2 blocks from our favorite restaurant, and a few blocks from the main shopping on Robson Street. At $70 Canadian it was also considerably cheaper than the Sunset Inn that we used to stay at, which was not as conveniently located. The hotel staff was friendly and helpful. The building was opened in 1926. It has a sitting room with comfy sofas and chairs and a gas fireplace. The rooms are quite small as are the private baths, but we weren't going to be spending our entire time in them, so it suited us well.

After booking the room, I was almost certain that the hotel was the former location of our favorite restaurant, Delilah's. When we arrived, I was certain of it. The first time we went to Delilah's, they occupied half of the first floor of the Buchan Hotel. They have since moved a couple of blocks away and they were to be our first stop after checking in.

Delilah's was packed, so we made a reservation for 9PM, then headed to Starbuck's a block away in search of coffee and a WiFi connection so that Shawn could turn in her homework. Well, we got the coffee, then asked about the connection. In Vancouver, Starbuck's is not wired. Ugh. The lad behind the counter did tell us that a competitor down the road had WiFi, or so he thought. We drank our coffee and confirmed that not only did the competitor have WiFi, but that they were also open 24 hours. Excellent! And back to Delilah's we went.

It had been 2 years since we were in Vancouver and therefore it had been 2 years since we had been to Delilah's. Things had changed, as they always do. The wait staff was almost exactly the same. As usual, they were efficient and polite and helpful. The drinks were the same - stiff. They were now taking reservations, something that they used to not do plus the menu had changed. Gone were the prix fixe meals for $33 Canadian (a 4 course meal that was always to die for). Sadly, they had switched to a tapas style menu with differing tiers of pricing for their foods plus an entree section. Don't get me wrong, the food was fabulous! But, their dishes were both more expensive and had larger portions. Had we been aware of this, then we would not have ordered as much food as we did. Shawn couldn't finish her meal and we split a dessert. We were not disappointed so much as we learned what to do next time we return: order less and share.

The competing coffee company is a Canadian chain called Blenz. When we entered, the place was sparsely populated with mostly Asian customers. Loud Japanese pop and electronica played on the stereo. This was welcome as we were tired - it was 11:30 - and Shawn had to finish her work. I read the Georgia Straits while Shawn wrapped up her assignment. She had no problems connecting to the WiFi and finished everything in 40 minutes. Blenz, as we learned, was a great find in more ways than one.

The next day began with breakfast at The Naam. It's our favorite breakfast joint. They are a veggie restaurant that's open 24 hours a day. The food is really good. The atmosphere is neo hippy. The customers range from yuppies to hippies to older locals. It's a very relaxed atmosphere.

From the Naam, we went to Zulu Records and did some shopping. Shawn picked up albums by Transglobal Underground, Tegan and Sara, and the latest collection in the Hotel Costes series. I grabbed Paul Weller's Studio 150, which in Canada only was released with a 6 song, non-album EP, a compilation by Richard H. Kirk, and an album by Lesbians on Ecstasy.

After Zulu, we took a longish walk in Stanley Park. We saw several types of ducks, coots, grey and black squirrels, raccoons, swans, lots of people, and totem poles (albeit, modern totems - for older ones you need to go to U.B.C.'s Museum of Anthropology). Next, we strolled down Robson street. Our first stop was the Blenz store there to warm up and dry off. We got a Matcha Latte. Those were so GOOD! Matcha is green tea. It's lower in caffeine and it's got a malted flavor. Shawn said that she never would have thought to blend it with dairy, but what a good idea indeed.

Shopping on Robson was mostly a waste. Shawn grabbed some sweat pants, a wallet, and a purse at Roots. We grabbed some more CDs at Virgin (by Boubacar Traore, Marc Ribot, Talvin Singh, Temple of Sound, and Jorane), but that and the clothes above were it. We headed back to the hotel to dry off, warm up, and decide on a new place to dine.

When we go to Vancouver, we always eat at Delilah's. However, when we stay more than one night, we try to eat at some place different. The Georgia Straits that I had read the night before had a listing of their Reader's Choice restaurant awards. One name on their list was Wild Rice and I saw ads for it on buses throughout the day. An Asian meal sounded good and while we were back at The Buchan, I found out that Wild Rice had won the Innovative Menu Award. Coolness. When we got there, we found that they classify themselves as modern Chinese food. Extra coolness. Whereas Delilah's recalls an era of voluptuousness and opulence, Wild Rice goes for the hip, trendy and club atmosphere. It is to their credit that they don't overstep in this, or any other, area. The music is down tempo electronic and is high enough to be heard, but low enough to be ignored. You don't have to shout your conversation. The lighting is subtle and bright enough to see, but low enough to be romantic. The seating downstairs has table and chairs along with a large bar. The seating in the 2 separate lofts has low sofas with equally low tables. We sat in the back loft. The food was fantastic. It is served as it is completed and made to eat family style. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful. We ordered salad rolls with a carrot, tamari, tamarind, and peanut butter sauce (better than it sounds); Chinese long beans and bell peppers in a savory and slightly sweet sauce where the sweetness was countered with sesame seed brittle; steamed salmon served in it's steaming basket with bok choy, carrots, summer squash, and caked - like crab cakes, but made with shrimp; and a 4 spice tofu with veggies served in a scrumptious sauce over crispy chow mein noodles. Nothing, and I mean, nothing was left. Wild Rice was a definite find for this trip.

The next day was another stop at Blenz for me because I was up so early. I had one of the best mochas in my life there made with dark Belgian chocolate. I took tea back to Shawn when she was awake and then we headed back to The Naam before trying to find a store (closed) and the "little India" hood (most shops also closed as it was before noon). We decided to head home and made it by 2:30. Getting home so early allowed us the time to relax and unwind. It was a lovely trip and weekend.

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