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Friendly locals (harmless too)
Strong winds eh?

A first for Vancouver, we have woken up to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. We headed into town to go and explore firstly stopping off at The International Travel Maps shop on Broadway to buy maps for Asia and Africa. They are a Canadian company and produce what we think are some of the best maps around.

With the Grey Cup (football final) festivities kicking off today the buses from here into the main downtown are affected by diversions and we, and other local people, could not work out where we needed to go to get a bus. We finally got one heading down to the waterfront which is where we wanted to be. What we did not realise though is that it went flying past where we wanted to get off!

We ended up east of the Gastown area and worked our way back. At the corner of Pender and Carral we stopped to find the smallest building in Vancouver, at just 1.8m wide. We walked up and down expecting the building front to be narrow. In fact we were walking along the building, it is only 1.8m deep! The area between here and the main section of Gastown on Water Street is not one of Vancouver’s best. The buildings look slightly seedy and run down and the people walking about matched the environment.

The area is full of old Victorian buildings which must have been magnificent in their day. The old Terminus Hotel building and its neighbour are both in a very sad state of affairs. Their facades are being rescued while the buildings behind them have been knocked down and are in the process of being rebuilt. We were in time to see the Gastown Steam clock do its stuff. Powered on steam provided by the city is chimes the Westminster chime (think Big Ben) on the quarter hour and on the hour its whistle also goes off. It was very amusing watching it work.

We stopped off at the Steamworks Brewery for a bite of lunch (best burger I have had in a long time if not ever) and a spot of their local brew before heading along the waterfront. The west end area of Vancouver is a mass of tower blocks, mostly apartments rather than offices although one, the Shaw building, is a mix of both. Construction work is underway, partly to extend the conference centre and partly by the Fairmont chain building new apartments rather than hotels. All afternoon the sound of piles being driven down into the ground echoed back and forth around the tower blocks.

Although it is at sea level, Vancouver is still a hilly place and North Vancouver is set against a back drop of snow covered mountains. Just looking at the snow brought back memories of the Rockies, the only difference here being unfrozen water and the continual stream of float planes taking off and landing on the bay. There seems to be a steady stream of people wanting a quick route to Vancouver Island rather than a drive and a ferry. We checked the prices of sight seeing tours and decided it would have to wait until a future trip.

There is a pleasant walk along the front leading down to the marina. Lots of boats were moored up, mainly motor boats rather than sail boats. As in the UK they came in all shapes and sizes but there did not seem to be the really huge and motor boats that we see on the south coast in the UK. At this time of year they are perhaps all in sunnier and warmer climes further south.

The number of apartment buildings is staggering. They are quite hemmed in and I suppose are really vertical villages. Some have balconies but most seem to be fully enclosed air conditioned blocks. There is not much space between them and it looked to me like you would be able to see into the windows of the people in all the blocks around you, great people watching but not my choice of living accommodation.

We headed back around into town and had a brief stop at Canada Place, just missing the chance to have a tour on a cruise liner which would have been interesting. By this stage we were both feeling foot sore. It was about five o’clock so it was too early for a film or a show and neither of us felt like just killing time in a bar. We were simply at a bit of a loose end.

Taking the sensible route we headed back to the campsite and hit the pool and hot tub. Walking back through town to the Skytrain station we passed the downtown branch of HSBC bank. There was a big atrium in the building and in the atrium a huge clock pendulum. It was something like twenty metres high and one metre square, made of brushed aluminium. On the ground was an aluminium stand and on the pendulum's downswing it grazed gracefully just over the top of the stand.