vancouver, day three

Another beautiful day here, sunny with a few clouds and a high of 10 or 11 C. Vancouverites are all exclaiming about three consecutive days without rain.

We got an early start with the train to a bus to Stanley Park. On the way to the bus, I was intrigued by a food truck called Yolks. (Apparently it's also a restaurant. Their tagline: Eat Breakfast Now.) I got this incredible homemade granola with a banana and yogurt; it totally made my morning.

The bus took us right to Stanley Park. I had heard of the park, of course, as it's usually the first attraction anyone mentions about Vancouver, but I had no idea what made it so special. If you look at a map of Vancouver, the huge green peninsula jutting off the west end of the city is Stanley Park. It's huge.

The park is full of attractions - famous totem poles, an aquarium, all manner of trails - but the best feature surely must be the seawall walk and bike path. It rings the park, with the water on one side and green wooded area on the other. We decided to walk all 8.8 kms of it. (That's about 5.5 miles for my US friends.)

There's a path just for foot traffic and one beside it for bikes and inline skates. On this warm (and dry!) Wednesday afternoon, there were plenty of people walking, running, biking, and blading, and we could imagine it could get crowded in warmer months.

Most of the way, we were walking beside kelp-covered tidal pools at low tide. We passed a bridge and what appeared to be suburbs on the other side, several seaplanes, and some huge container ships. There are two small sandy beaches, but mostly rocky shoreline.

About halfway, we stopped for lunch, which was everything we picked up at the Granville Island Market the day before - smoked salmon, cheese, cured meats, and bread.

These market stands were really superb. The smoked salmon stand offered fish with several different methods of smoking, all of the salmon local and wild, richly red. We bought cold-smoked salmon, and some salmon jerky just for fun.

The sausage stand was one of the best stores in the market, displaying every kind of sausage imaginable, seemingly from every type of cooking in the world. We bought small amounts of chorizo, salami, pepperoni, and some lamb prosciutto. A little smoked gouda and some freshly baked bread, and that's a great lunch.

At about the eight-kilometre mark, when our feet were getting tired, the trail turned inland and ran alongside a pond. This was an opportunity to see many different kinds of birds, and the work of some industrious beavers.

Then suddenly we felt like we couldn't walk another step, and a bus stop appeared. It seemed like we were waiting in the middle of nowhere, and we were a bit skeptical... but a few minutes later, there was our bus, the same route we had taken to the park. Brilliant.

Although our feet were a bit sore, we weren't done for the day. Allan had more things planned! One of the best aspects of this trip, for me, is that Allan has done 99% of the planning. It's usually more 50-50, with me doing the long-range, big-picture plans, and Allan filling in the details. But right now, between the library and the union, I have no time or mental energy to plan one more thing. Allan has stepped up - big time - and taken care of everything. I'm like a passenger on a personalized tour, and I couldn't be happier.

So we took the bus back into town, hopped on the Skytrain for one stop (day passes again), and found the famed gelato store. This gelato won first prize in some huge world gelato competition, the only non-Italian ever to do so.

You can get three flavours for $8.00, so between the two of us we tried Thai coconut, banana bread, whiskey fudge, mint chocolate chip, fior de latte, and blood orange sorbeto. It is quite possibly the best gelato you'll ever eat.

Back at the room, we had our obligatory late-afternoon collapse, then went to dinner. It turns out that another entry on the must-try ramen list was right near our hotel. And I do mean right near, closer than our Skytrain stop.

This place was a more casual noodle joint, packed with young, hip, loud Asian-Canadian 20-somethings chowing down on noodles. The ramen was amazing in a rich chicken or pork broth. Their house specialty, tsukemen, is served with a pitcher of clear broth, so you can adjust the consistency and flavour to your own liking.

This noodle shop is an example of this neighbourhood "in transition" where we're staying. There are homeless people, panhandlers, and welfare hotels all around, but sprinkled throughout, there are expensive organic bath shops and hyper-trendy bars.

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Although Vancouver is smaller than Toronto by population, to me Vancouver feels like a bigger city - more bustle, more sparkle. I have to say, it also seems more stylish and hip than TO. Of course, I am neither hip nor stylish, but I know (and enjoy) style when I see it, and this city seems to have a lot of it.

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It's been difficult to see the dogs on the Dogtopia webcam. Between the time-zone difference the midday rest period, and Tala's extra rest, we haven't seen a lot of them. But when we do catch a glimpse, they seem very happy.

When Diego is in the gym but Tala is not, he just stands around looking at a spot off-camera. He seems to be waiting for her to come back. So sweet.

There are tons of dogs there! Mississauga has had some doggie daycare places before, but none as centrally located as Dogtopia. I'm so glad to see that enough dog-parents are willing to spend money so their pups can get exercise and be happy during the day.

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