Out and about in Vancouver, eh?

So we weren’t really out and about that much, but I do like the way that Canadians say those two words. I was even beginning to hear that inflection from my brother and his wife, who have only been there a couple years. We went to Vancouver to spend Christmas (and the end of Hanukkah) with them as they await the arrival of their first child (any day now).

We entered Canada on the Saturday before Christmas. We were a bit worried about the lines at the border, but after we had brunched and shopped in Seattle, and endured Seattle traffic, the lines were much shorter than they had been earlier in the day. We were through in about 20 minutes. We had checked our allowances and documentation requirements (mostly for the dog) in advance, so we were prepared, but there were few questions beyond the generic “what are you bringing?” “How long are you staying (and why)?” and “How much booze do you have?” Liquor prices are rigorously controlled (and high) in British Columbia and import restrictions reflect this. We drove through steady (relentless?) rain into Vancouver and were very happy about the roast chicken my brother prepared for dinner.

All of our days in Vancouver were leisurely, which suited us just fine. Sunday’s lunch was fish and chips at Go Fish Ocean Emporium on our way to Granville Island. There we wandered the shops and galleries before ending up at the Public Market. Everything a foodie could want–including countless varieties of sausage at Oyama Sausage Company. We cooked up some turkey kielbasa and duck sausage to accompany the festive latkes for dinner that evening. Sigh.

Monday the rain let up, so we ventured into nearby Pacific Spirit Park. The trees are absolutely splendid (though all less than about a century old–remnants of trees that were there before an old fire remain) and the paths are well-tended and well-signed. 2014-12-22 11.28.32There are many areas for off-leash dogs and we met many on our walk, though Rebbe stayed on his leash. Sadly for Rebbe, the damp needle-covered paths result in a very dirty little white dog, so showers ensued for all. 2014-12-22 11.06.00

Before our arrival, I mentioned to my brother that we usually like to roast a duck on Christmas Day. He pretty much immediately called his butcher and ordered one. We thought we had the recipe (Crispy Roasted Duck from The Joy of Cooking) but it turns out that we did not. Thus, we went in search of said cookbook. The staff at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks (across the street from the Lotus/Bugatti/McLaren dealer and down the street from the Lamborghini dealer–rough neighborhood) were quite helpful in showing us several roast duck recipes, but they had sold their last “Joy” the previous day and all the other recipes were too fussy compared to the simple recipe we prefer. We left and tried to find bookstores using my 5+ year-old GPS (remember, it’s Canada, so no iPhone data or navigation for us) and failed twice. As we know, the bookstore business is tough these days. We then happened upon two bookstores on our way back. One was a “new-agey” store that was huge, but had only vegetarian cookbooks. The second was a used bookstore, where we acquired the not quite correct version of the Joy. We ultimately found what we needed online (with a little orange-sauce assist from cousin Maria) and fortunately took a screen shot, as the recipes had disappeared by the next day.

{Does it seem like a lot of this post is about food?}

2014-12-23 16.33.35

Pot-latch serving vessel

Tuesday’s highlight was a visit to the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. Located on the UBC campus, the museum houses an incredible collection of artifacts. We fortunately arrived just in time for a guided tour. The guide gave the artifacts and the building (based upon the structure of NW First Nations’ buildings) some context and taught us about the carving styles you are likely to see in NW totems. 2014-12-23 16.44.53She also explained that “wagons” like this were actually serving dishes used at huge pot-latches.

For those who have been following this blog for a while, there are a couple of connections that we noticed at the Museum of Anthropology. First, they had an extensive offering of brochures in languages other than the required English and French: 2014-12-23 16.26.11 Second, there were ceramic ovens like those we saw in European castles (the ones at UBC did come from Europe), but much fancier. 2014-12-23 16.09.41

The number of artifacts in the museum is overwhelming, though they have a fantastic touch-screen system for learning about these objects. You can try it yourself here. The museum’s centerpiece is The Raven and the First Men, by Haida artist Bill Reid. 2014-12-23 16.59.01 This magnificent sculpture is surrounded by some of Reid’s earlier gold and silver jewelry and sculpture. Reid was raised not knowing his First Nations heritage (his father was of European extraction), as his parents wished for him to avoid the “Indian schools” that were being used at the time to “assimilate” First Nations children.

Tuesday night we celebrated my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday at Biercraft, a pub near their apartment. We were happy to be able to help celebrate and to meet some of the great people who have become their friends. And in my case, to learn that the academic life in Canada is pretty darn similar to that in the US.

Art on the walk.

Campus Coyote

Christmas Eve highlights included a long walk to the very nice UBC bookstore–outside of which we surprisingly encountered a roaming coyote and an evening chatting, eating, and drinking Prosecco with family and friends.

On Christmas morning there was an attempt to make homemade gluten-free donuts. Sadly, the donut dough was very sticky and disintegrated upon hitting the hot oil. We consoled ourselves with mimosas and a delicious squash and sausage dish. Then we roasted the duck. Crispy duck roasting takes about four hours, so we had plenty of time to open the few presents we exchanged, call the parents, and watch some recorded TV. If you are wondering, the duck was super tasty. Four of us easily polished it off. We finished the evening with Christmas pudding and butter sauce. Sigh.

Boxing Day, originally the day on which servants, apprentices, and tradesmen received their Christmas box, is still a national holiday in Canada, so most people are not working and many businesses (other than retail, which is in full swing) are closed. It was also supposed to be one of the warmest and driest days of our visit, so we decided to ride our bikes! It was a bit too cold to take Rebbe so he stayed home, and Maureen was fighting a cold, so we opted to drive to a park closer to downtown rather than start from the flat. We rode into Stanley Park and around the seawall (click on the link to see the map). It was a nice, flat, scenic ride, if a bit chilly. 2014-12-26 14.21.07 2014-12-26 14.33.43 2014-12-26 14.37.16 The gull in the picture had just caught a crab when we rode up (it was still squirming desperately). The gull speared it with its beak and then commenced its feast. I found it interesting largely because I tend to think of gulls as scavengers and this one was clearly an accomplished hunter.

Part of the seawall had been closed on my last visit to Vancouver, so I was happy to get to complete the loop and share it with Maureen. We also knew it was likely to be our last ride in a year of great rides. 2014-12-26 12.18.49

On Saturday, donuts were achieved. The second donut dough recipe prepared on Christmas day requires time to rise and can be kept for a few days before frying. This dough can be rolled and cut like cookies or biscuits. One of the classic moments in this process was when my brother asked if we were going to do the donut “holes” as well. All three of us (Maureen and me and his wife) looked at him like he was crazy and said something on the order of “yes, duh.” These donuts were fantastic. 2014-12-27 13.31.46 We enjoyed them with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, leftover butter sauce, and some more sausage. This indulgence required another walk in Pacific Spirit Park, this time with our hosts. Rebbe got another mini-bath and we did not pack nearly as much as we should have before returning to hang out for the evening. But really, the hanging out was why we were there, so…

We finally had to say our goodbyes the next day. We spent the morning packing and cleaning and reluctantly left Vancouver to head back to Colorado. Leaving Canada (and re-entering the US) was pretty straightforward, and we did stop at the very nice duty-free outpost (which did not result in time savings though you leave the line and return to it closer to the border). The agent asked the standard what are you bringing questions and overlooked Rebbe’s barking at the border patrol dog and we were on our way.

We were admittedly a bit melancholy as we made our way across Washington to the evening’s layover in Spokane. It was a great week!

2 thoughts on “Out and about in Vancouver, eh?

  1. Your holidays were terrific with many good food adventures and time with family! Glad Rebbe is now along for the ride. Did you make doggie donuts for him? Heading back to Colorado? I’m sure you’ll have some good adventures along the way. Happy New Year to you both!

  2. I am sure REBBE got a few donut holes. Nice blog, I could picture things you did as Pat and I were just there. A shame no baby to accent your stay!!!

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