Sunday 24th June.
Today we went downtown to watch the Annual Dragon Boat Races. Two hundred teams from all over the world competed. Held on the bay at an area called Creekside Park. Today was final day of competition and we were surprised to hear a call asking for competitors in race 90 to assemble. Race 90? Wow! Racing began at 8am and commenced every 11 minutes. Teams were organised into several staging area’s and would move from one to another until they reached the racing pontoon when a Dragon Boat was assigned to a team.
Crowds of people came to support their team or like us, just came out of curiosity and to be part of an event.
Not having any connection to these racers it was hard to garner enthusiasm for the races but it was great to be a part of the spectacle and given my previous history with International Outrigger Canoe Racing I know the amount of time and effort that goes into planning such an event.
I did manage to speak with one of the racers from an Australian team, the Maroochy Sea Serpents. He was very excited his team had won a medal.
In an event of this nature there were lots of food concessionaires, give- away promotional booths, and free entertainment.
Thousands attended and it seems that as the weather began to turn and the first raindrops began to fall they were all, just like us, more interested in getting home without getting rained on.
The location is picturesque within the bay of course but the Telus World of Science Building is located here and unfortunately we never got to visit.
Telus is one of the major telecommunications companies in Canada. The system they use for their products – like all the other Telco’s – ensures Canadian users are kept hostage to limited coverage, high prices and take it or leave it attitude. I have written about Telus in a prior post so will not expand any further here.
Across the bay is BC Place which is home to BC Lions American Football games, BC Whitecaps Football (Soccer) Club and is also used as an indoor/outdoor concert venue. The roof can be closed completely.
Nearby is Rogers Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canucks Ice Hockey Team and is also a concert venue. It is fully enclosed. The amazing story about this CAN $160 million building is that it was built between 3 very busy motorways, high-rise apartments and an elevated railway. Sceptics said a 53,500 seat stadium could not be built in the space available. They were wrong and the building was completed in 1989.
As we wind down to our final days and contemplate our flight to OZ at midnight tomorrow, we also take time to reflect and thank those who contributed to our amazing travels.
Fred and Peggy of White Rock who gave of their time and organised for us to stay at their unit, travel by bus on a guided tour of Vancouver and looked after us as family. At a time when I faced no ability to charge the camera battery (I left my charger in OZ) Fred stepped forward and organised a universal charger. As well they picked us up from Vancouver Airport while Doug was being checked for a heart condition at the hospital. Their generosity will always be remembered and appreciated.
Amtrak who through no fault of their own delivered us to Chicago 12 hours late and we missed our connection. At 2am they organised a taxi to and from the station and overnight accommodation at the Swiss Hotel, plus meal vouchers at the station. Of all the stations throughout the USA, Chicago was the best place to be delayed. We had access to their First Class Passenger lounge and all the facilities on offer. Those facilities included food and drink – including passable coffee, comfortable lounge chairs, tables and chairs WiFi, power outlets and TV. There are only 6 such lounges throughout their network.
The very helpful desk manager at Wyndham Hotel at Niagara Falls who cancelled one night of our stay when we arrived 24 hours late and organised and paid our bus fare to Toronto out of her own credit card. Yes we paid her in cash in US dollars.
Alecia and Tyler at Prince Edward Island, particularly Alecia on her 10 days off shift organised sightseeing, adventures and a wonderful east coast experience. The road trip for all of us to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island was a great time and Alecia can take a bow for her organisational skills. It is not such an easy task to research places to stay for 5 people with a reasonable tariff as well as find laces to eat with food suitable for varied diets and again at reasonable cost.
In Calgary, we stayed with Joan and often had use of her truck and visited Andrea and Brett who had barbecues at their house along with visits to Heritage Park and Calgary Zoo. Unfortunately Joan has to work so was unable to join us in all our activities.
Simone and Lazar who organised the use of Simones Audi and their sightseeing adventures at Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain. As well, the meals, accommodation, sightseeing adventures and generous hospitality by Maia and Ivan at their mountain retreat in the Rocky Mountains was a wonderful several days and we truly thank the four of them. They all made us feel part of their family.
In Vancouver Linda and Doug allowed us to stay at their house while we were getting ready for Amtrak and again when we arrived the second time. Despite their busy schedule they arranged for visits around Vancouver and a trip to Poulsbo in the USA. Our car trip with Linda and the children to a game park was lots of fun. I am sure Linda would not have enjoyed her day as much if she had to drive the game park. I was happy to drive through and around animals and obstacles.
Thank you to Jessica and John in Poulsbo for their hospitality as well, since they have an even busier schedule. Johns mother Ruth also chipped in with a visit to towns we would not otherwise have seen.
Along with all the thank you’s there were also times when things just did not happen as they should.
Amtrak gets a nod as having the worst train journey from Chicago to Buffalo. In fact the train continued on to New York city. I can only hope the track improved as it got closer to the Big Apple.The journey was mostly at night and was on a rough track and the train rocked, rattled and rolled and the trains horn blew at every level crossing. Our room was much smaller than on the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago. As such the beds were smaller and less comfortable as well as difficult to get into and out of. Sleep was near impossible even for Donnis. We were left exhausted. On arrival at Buffalo NY while waiting for a connecting train we slept on the bench in the Buffalo station. You have to be very tired to do that.
The less than helpful desk manager at Super 8 Motel at Mississauga (Toronto). Maybe there was a language barrier but his idea of good food differs greatly from ours. He indicated there were no nearby places within walking distance for dinner and unless we took a taxi we would be better off using the Chinese Dining Room next door. In fact the Chinese was closed and all that was available was a dried buffet offering at the garage. Later we discovered a Tim Hortons and a Subway were across the highway. Both would have provided a better meal within a 5 minute walk.
Air Canada gets a thumbs down for the domestic flights booking arrangements. Their advertised price is for getting on the plane. Getting a seat allocated is another cost and just when you think you have it all paid for they charge $27.50 per bag. As well, their on-line check in to include baggage costs will only accept credit cards issued by US or Canadian banks. That does not make sense as they accept other cards to pay for booking a flight and seat allocation.
The bank manager and staff at RBC Royal Bank Dunbar branch receives a big thumbs down, they have no idea about how credit and debit cards work in their ATM’s. Instead of getting help and information the manager chose to make up a story that our card would not work in their ATM. He needs a few lessons in service and understanding about the banking system.
Our trip through the USA and Canada was exciting, exilerating, fun, busy and tiring. We have enjoyed ourselves immensely but are ready for home.
Tomorrow midnight begins our long flight home.