Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ziplining on Grouse Mountain

I get asked many questions in the course of a day and need to have many answers.  Often, but not always, they are tourist questions and I'm not very good making it up.  For instance Grouse Mountain, if you have been reading my posts I wrote about my experience a couple of weeks ago there but I didn't do everything and I wouldn't either because I don't sky or snow...anything.  It is cold in winter usually and I'm okay not getting cold.  So I haven't done Zip-Lining and needed to tick that off.  Grouse Mountain, looking to attract as many guests as possible want the tourism front line folks, such as myself, to experience what they do and that is why I got another invitation to visit the mountain.

Our weather this "summer" has been more like spring or a wet fall, it has been cool and rainy, our day on Grouse was no different except that on Grouse Mountain you might be in the clouds...and we were.  We drove up from the house in about 20 minutes, it is really close if you are driving but if you aren't there is a shuttle that goes, so it isn't difficult to get to.  Up the Gondola - lots of people talking so I didn't hear the stats they give (I always forget how high the mountain is).  Once on top we went to the orientation and then had some lunch in "Altitudes  Bistro"  I had Halibut and chips which were very nice and Ron had a burger which was as big as the mountain!  Both meant for a physical appetite.  We were squirming in our seats anticipating our 4 pm Zip Line experience.

at 3:35 we left the restaurant and walked the short distance to the Zip building - the cloud cover was pretty thick and we weren't sure we'd find it but we did, things are well signed/marked on Grouse.  We had to put on a body harness and helmet, sign a waiver and get a short orientation.  It was a team of 3 who took out 4 guests, not a big group.  And then the fun started.  There are 5 runs, the first is a short one, to get you comfortable with flying through the air.  We worked our way over the mountain on 2 more rides and then took the gondola up to the Eye of the Wind area where there was an incredibly high line.  So far I hadn't been afraid of the height but standing on the platform I was getting a little nervous.  It is all safe, so intellectually I am remembering that when I got harnessed up but standing there was a moment of trepidation.  Off I went - the cloud was so thick I couldn't see the end of the line, I couldn't see the mountain below me.  All I could see were some tree tops and maybe 50 feet of cable.  And it was doing what clouds do - it was raining in my face, I almost had to close my eyes but I wouldn't because I didn't want to miss anything.

That was line 4 and we had one more to go.  A very scenic climb up the mountain - on a clear day I am sure I would have posed for pictures - and then up a huge tower for the last platform.  I asked how high up the last line was.  About 300 feet I believe was the wonder I couldn't see the bottom.  But #5 is even higher..."how high?" I ask foolishly just prior to zipping.  Oh about 450 ft!  So equivalent to a 45 or 50 storey building!  Whoosh off I went.  There are various positions one can take to either accellerate or go slowly.  I chose to go slowly so I could enjoy the view - it was pretty amazing.  And I'd definitely do that again.  I had that feeling of adrenalin and good feeling one should get from being outdoors.  Thanks Grouse Mountain for sharing something pretty amazing..........I'll be back!

This was our group - 4 guests and 3 crew. EVOLUTION It starts with Egon from Estonia as the worm. I'm almost evolved at the end.....

Some construction involved with ZipLine Construction. The path to No Where... but FUN and EXCITEMENT and EXHILARATION

So Scenic along the paths

Me on the first Zip. Can you tell I am a novice....hands tight on the bar.

That's the spring at the end of one of the Ziplines. It is your best friend because it stops you at pretty high speeds. I think one of the lines you could go 50 km and hour!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Strawberry - Strawberry Tea - Strawberry Jam

It is Open Season on Strawberries!  Although with the rain we've had lately - okay not as bad as Calgary - but still unseasonably wet and cool - strawberries are liable to drown before they get picked.  But I found some to buy from a farmers market in Richmond.  When I told her they were for jam I got a discount because they were yesterday's pick - it pays to be honest I guess.  This year I didn't want to do a usual box of Pectin type jam so I scoured the internet and came up with my own recipe.

Jam preparation started on Friday afternoon and evening - you wonder what us exciting innkeepers do?  Now you know about friday night's anyway.  On Saturday after breakfast we started making jams.  I have always made all the jams for the house.  When I first bought the house in 1991 the former innkeepers used to buy jam in a jar.  I never felt that was the type of gift I wanted to extend to a guest so we somehow in that busy summer of 1991 managed to make jam.  Again I was in Richmond buying fruit and I had 100 lbs of blueberries that were going home to be frozen.  I was driving my sporty Celica - I loved that car but I realized on that shopping trip that it wasn't practical.  I became a Mini Van owner within a few weeks.  Sporty car gone but homemade jam every summer!

After making the jam we headed over to Barclay Heritage Square - we have our extra parking in their parking lot and I donated the parking to their cause - their annual Strawberry Tea.  It was quite fun - live music, a bizaar type set up with tents and local vendors - belts, scarves, hats, garage sale items, used books, paintings.  One of the booths was operated by the West End Hookers - the Strawberry Tea is put on by the West End Seniors Network and the West End Hookers apparently reside there!  Scandalous until I realized they sold crochetted and knitted items - tea cozies and such!  Gosh!  There was an old BC Electric trolley bus showing a movie of a train ride called the Interurban that used to go all the way from Vancouver to Chilliwack.  And according to my 87 year old Mom it used to pass within a 1/4 mile of where I grew up.....the service stopped before I was born though.  But I have heard about it from my Grandparents, Mother and others for years.  It was quite a treat to watch.  The House museum - Roedde House - was open to the public.  I had been there a few months ago for an event but this was the first time I have been upstairs in the house.  For its day this was a pretty interesting house with an 8 sided turret reaching 3 floors.  Worth a visit if you are staying at the West End Guest House as it is only around the corner and we have their brochure in our Guest Pantry.

It turned out to be a very busy day because in the evening I had purchased tickets for Bard on the Beach.  The production of Hamlet is in previews but the theatre was packed.  I won't say I know much about Shakespeare plays but I will say I thoroughly enjoyed this production.  It was set in modern day Denmark complete with hi tech gadgets.  It got a standing-O at the end, so I know I wasn't the only one pleased.  Visit them at

That's Ron stirring it up double! Right hand is rhubarb strawberry jam while the left hand is stirring regular strawberry. Good thing he has some dance training!

My berries sat overnight in the sugar. And in the morning became confiture!

From Pot to Jar. This jams a star. Okay, don't shoot me...I'm not a poet.

Barclay Heritage House Strawberry Tea

That Ron and Me and our local Member of Legislative Assembly Spencer Chandra Herbert and my Mom - Pat always has a hat! Gosh, I'm good....more rhymes.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Photography tour

I recently bought a new fancy-for-me camera and am slowly learning all the neat things it can do! When I met Suzanne at the Tourism Vancouver Expo and heard about her phototours I knew I had to check it out. So earlier this month, I had the wonderful opportunity to experience the evening photowalk tour through Gastown (

We started out at Canada Place with a brief introduction to camera basics and got some really nice shots of North Vancouver from the water ad Canada Place with 'twinkling star' effect at just the perfect time of dusk. Right away, I learned how to use my manual settings at night! This alone was worth going on the tour but it was just the beginning.

While it started to sprinkle during the first hour we managed to set up our cameras under Vancouver’s various rain hideouts and stay dry.

The beauty of the tour is that you bring your own camera, so you get more experience with how to get the most from your own equipment and can replicate great photos in the future to impress your friends.

Suzanne is a lovely guide, on the tour there was every level of photographer from beginner to expert and she was able to accommodate everyone's knowledge with ease and humour while even managing to teach us more than and thing or two. During the two hour adventure that ended in picturesque Gastown the basics of exposure, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and composition were covered, as well as more advanced party tricks such as writing with lights!

This tour was a great help in learning how to use my new camera and no comparison for endless YouTube videos that I had previously been relying on to learn what it is capable of doing.

Tours are a great way to see the sights of Vancouver, meet new people, improve your camera skills, and capture some great shots. They are offered at various times of day in many of the city's popular stunning

settings: Granville Island, Canada Place, Olympic Village, Coal Harbour, Fisherman's Wharf, Gastown, Vanier Park, and Chinatown.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Car Free Day

In June each year we have a car free day on Denman Street.  The Street becomes a fair with loads of kiosks of food and drink and idea counters, business sign ups like the Zip Cars and Cars 2-go, pet parades, music and dancing, hop scotch for the kiddies, sit down counters for lunches for Seniors, things to buy like Air Plants in glass goblets, tea cozies made by the West End Seniors Network.  It is always a little mind blowing how much activity there is and how many participants there.  It is the one event, other than the Pride Parade that really makes a statement about the West End being a community of people who care for each other.

After the walk along the street Ron and I went to the SeaWall for a walk to Second and Third Beaches.  We walked past the man you stacks rocks on bigger rocks on the waters edge - I can't imagine what the specific talent is that he has to be able to do that.  Is it patience, luck, some kinetic understanding that only 1 in a million posses?  I don't know but we stopped to watch along with a small crowd of people.  At the successful nesting of each rock on another there was a round of applause.  I tipped him a couple of dollars as I felt this is street...SeaWall....entertainment at its finest.

Each year Stanley Park seems to change.  The walk back from Third Beach is best, in my opinion, along the trails rather than back along the SeaWall.  In 2006 we had a huge winter wind storm and much of the park was damaged.  It is in full swing growth now - places we looked for interesting pieces of wood for a garden we made years ago isn't even accessible anymore.  And new things are being made like a wood bridge path at Cathedral Trail and Ron pointed out the Face in the Wood - I don't know what it is called but it is really interesting - see the photo.

The Rhodos are done for the season but I still think the it is the prettiest path is through the Ted and Mary Grieg Rhododendron Garden which is along side of the Miniature Gold Course which is rustic and reminiscent of a simpler time.

Raincity Grill offering Fish and Chips during the Car- Free Day. June 16, 2013

Vancouver version of a Persian Bazaar! I'd really like to straighten those table clothes. Oh well, it looks homely.

English Bay. Some of it anyway. The buildings you see are on the a) edge of the beach and b) edge of the park. Superb.

Standing rocks like this along the beach from English Bay to Second Beach

Ah....I "heart" the sand.

This corner of Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park is a 12 minute walk from the house.

Signs in the Park...we don't want to get you lost!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cap Bridge and Espana

Cuddle up close to the computer because what I am going to tell you is very important.     IF YOU VISIT VANCOUVER YOU NEED TO GO TO ESPANA FOR A MEAL - I'd call it a feast.  Here's what happened earlier today...

Capilano Suspension Bridge held a party for tourism people.  Cap Bridge is a terrific place to visit.  The proximity to nature is second to none - Absolutely.  What has been created there is definitely worth the price of admission.  It is like a symphony of nature and architecture high above a river.  It does cost to get in but if you appreciate the efforts of man and the accomplishments of nature you will feel that the cost is worth it.

The function was fine;  we wandered around before getting to the actual function.  I love the suspension bridge.  I always have this feeling that I might jump or somehow fall and I am always so glad that I get across without succumbing to my secret desire.  Then we walked the paths in the forest, and on/over the Tree Tops Walk which I don't think I have truly appreciated till now.  What an amazing feat of engineering....and so stable.  We stopped to take a picture of some trout.  It is so weird but they were all swimming in the same direction, round and round - clockwise.  What would happen if one of them went the wrong way?  Would he/she get a ticket?

Then more walking along the Nature Trail - you'll have to go there to get the correct names because I don't remember them but it was very enjoyable - one is a couple of hundred metres above the River.  Yup, it is quite a drop.

The reception was next and it was fine.  Bunch of tourism professionals smoozing.  But I got pretty hungry and needed to find some din dins.

We went to "Espana" at 1118 Denman Street.  Spanish Tapas.  And OMG was it GOOD!  Nothing I ordered was short of a kitchen miracle.  Flavours fresh crisp, clean and plentiful.  (If this was the old days the restaurant could be named "House of Flavours")  We had 6 tapas and one dessert, a bottle of Bobal and some sherry - which went so well with my dessert I was having trouble keeping still.  Our server, Holly took some photos of the restuarant for me - she was very helpful with the menu choices, but really if you like food I'm sure you could have picked anything blindfolded and been happy.  So my advice!  Go to Espana one night in Vancouver - you'll love it!  No reservations, so either go early or be prepared to wait because this is a place worth waiting for.

That dessert was awesome....................................Oh, I should tell you one more thing.  It is a small restaurant, and one of the owners used to work out of Bin 941 which is a little bit the same - cheek by jowl.  You might meet your neighbour and you might not.  The first couple next to us didn't talk to us at all, the next couple did - I think we are going to visit each others places in Vancouver and Yucatan, Mexico.  That's the type of place Espana is, people are friendly and the food is fantastic.

Let me see....there is that thread of a bridge, the water below and a lot of air between. Don't rock the boat.

Espana - okay, my iPhone doesn't take the best of photos. And I don't like photos of people in a public setting without getting permission. (This photo is darkened to protect the innocent.)

Espana with a little art wall showing. I saw near the window and it wasn't quite so dark. The decor is quite secondary to the flavour....

Monday, June 10, 2013


Yesterday friends of mine and I walked to PAL - the Performance Arts Lodge - to see and hear a concert put on by PAL singers.  It was a fundraiser and just a chance for retired performance artists to get out and perform again.  Obviously it is great to support something like this but it seemed my walk there and back was different for me than the rest of the group.  I kept hearing exclamations of how lovely it is, how beautiful the little mini park - Barclay Heritage Square is - the interesting flowers growing, the glory of the fully leafed out trees.  (We didn't know the name of one of the flowers so everyone got out their camera to take a photo to do research later.)  Then coming back to the Guest House we lingered under the Styrax japonica which is in full bloom.  The scent is heavenly - tropic and sensual.   Every year it produces this euphoria for a couple of weeks and then goes back to just being a tree.

I guess the thing is; when you live in a place you get used to it.  But when you are experiencing it for the first time or in this case not experiencing the neighbourhood on a regular basis you notice AND appreciate so much more.  For the tourist just coming to Vancouver our neighbourhood might seem like a little bit of heaven.   It does to me, now, a little bit more.  Thanks then to those other sets of eyes which help me appreciate all the glory that is the West End.

In the lobby of the PAL lodge I saw an advert. for my friend Gillian Campbell - she is known as Klondike Kate and is doing a show this weekend. I'm going and she still has tickets. Gillian is a very warm hearted woman, she's a little sassy, puts on a great English Music Hall show with the Klondike Kate twist of feathers and diamonds.  She's quite camp and quite the show lady.  I can hardly wait!

A little bit of street scape in the next block from the guest house.

Local residents can plant their own "island" garden in the roundabouts. This one is just at the corner of Broughton and Haro. Someone nearby planted it and tends to it. Each Roundabout in the West End is different.

This is Gillian Campbell - Klondike Kate. I'm dying to see her on stage again - June 15th!!! Check her website (in the post) for tickets.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Hotel Package

Here's a cute video which shows the difference between my place and the place with an elevator!

Monday, June 3, 2013

BC Ferries

Well, it's true, Vancouver Island is definitely an island!  And to get there you need to either fly or go by ferry. is the place to find out more information on traveling to Vancouver Island but basically there are two main routes to the Island.  If you are heading to Victoria, then you want to go via Tswassen and if it is Tofino/Ucluelet, Nanaimo, Comox, Campbell River orPort Hardy, then you want to take the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo run.

I was crossing from Nanaimo to Vancouver and reading my Grandfather's story about his "boat" trip to Canada from England.  He was born in England in 1889 and came to Canada the first time in March of 1905.  His story includes a letter written by his sister Maud to their sister Polly back in Eccles.  It appears they left Liverpool on the SS Victorian on a Monday and arrived in Halifax on Saturday.  It was the maiden crossing for the Victorian but it didn't go so well.  Most of the passengers, including my Grandfather and his family of 7 were sea sick because it was so rough.  She comments "the ship is in such a bad condition we can't get a drink of water because it has so much sea water in it(there was 2 feet of water in the hold)....we have not had any ship's food yet, the smell of it makes us nearly sick (but) we keep getting fresh milk off the stewards.  It seems by Thursday they were having tea, however on Friday the first food they had was poached eggs and toast. 

Crossing for my family back in 1905 is nothing like a BC Ferry trip to Vancouver Island or any of the smaller islands, it is pretty much an organized adventure which, at times, does require a bit of planning - I'm happy to help if you need it.  A century later the travel industry for relaxation, (safe) exploration, meeting new cultures and new people is very well established.  I've been in this business for 35 years, 22 owning the West End Guest House.  It is still as exciting to me as my Papa's first trip to Canada.

View from a porthole on the lower car deck. The bigger ferries take over 350 cars and a dozen or so semi trailers too.

Vancouver - the West End from a distance. The West End Guest House is just to the left of the tallest building - the Shangrila Hotel.

Approaching Horseshoe Bay terminal. Notice the roof on the right side of the frame. This is the Boat House Restaurant - a great spot for an excellent seafood dinner and a superb view.

The Brochure Rack will help you make decisions on what to do and where to stay.

Pick up a BC Bed & Breakfast Guide.

The Gift Shop has all sorts of interesting bits and pieces - things to eat - Rogers Chocolates, things to wear, souvenir things, things to read and things to listen to. It is worth a stop.