Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vancouver, Day 3, 9/17/2010

After a leisurely morning in which we caught up on a summer's worth of sleep, we borrowed our hosts' bikes and went to Kitsilano, another district south of downtown. We parked our bikes, checked out a beach, and got some Indian food at Rangoli, the cheaper version of a fancy restaurant called Vij's. We had black chickpea fritters with tomatoes and a rice pilaf and a slaw-like cabbage salad, and blackened eggplant with curried chickpeas. The fritters were amazing, with a texture like a meatball and a perfectly spiced sauce. No spices I cook with ever taste that good and clear. The eggplant's skin was really burnt to a crisp--I never would have had the nerve to cook it like that--and it was wonderfully smokey. The chickpeas were in a sweet tomato sauce, again spiced in a way that I can't approximate. It also came with an intensely cucumbery rajta and a thin flatbread that was slightly tough but slightly buttery.

We left and wanted to read--relaxing was a big priority for us on this trip--so we stopped in a café. At first I thought they only had espresso-based drinks, but it turned out their drip coffee was just listed as "java" on the menu. Every once in a while Canada does seem like a foreign country!

We biked over a bridge and then followed signs to the seawall, a path that goes all the way around Vancouver's downtown through Stanley Park. We rode on this pretty path and eventually turned to head back to a bridge to take us home, riding through a residential neighborhood made up of high-rise apartment buildings. What should have been overwhelming somehow wasn't. For whatever reason--architects and urban planners, please explain--instead of towering above me, the buildings just felt like they happened to go up for a while.

View from the Burrard St. bridge.

Despite Vancouver's excellent bike infrastructure, the ride to the Cambie St. bridge was a little bit scary. Biking unfamiliar routes in traffic is just never pleasant. One thing that made me feel better was a biker who merged in front of me and then biked all the way to the bridge with no hands, while I nervously gripped my bike's brakes. At one point he started waving his hands around like he was doing very relaxed calisthenics. It was weird.

Once we were back, we looked up some bus schedules and headed back to Granville Island to see a Fringe Festival play and meet our friends Tom and Megan who just moved around here. The buses were great: they had a dedicated lane, the seats are placed so that people can get on and off quickly, an LED display gives the next stop, and they seem to run often. We are beginning to annoy ourselves with all our talk about how great Vancouver is compared to Seattle.

We went walking around with Tom and Megan after the show looking for a place to get a snack. Nothing looked appropriate, and eventually we walked into a fancy supermarket called Capers that also sold prepared food and had a place to sit. After we went in we discovered it was a disguised Whole Foods! (Actual comment from the Yelp page of Capers: "Yup, I was a bit sad when the Canadian version of Whole Foods actually got taken over by Whole Foods...") Nevertheless we bought a loaf of bread, a piece of hard goat cheese, and some Concord grapes (which were seedless--I didn't know such a thing existed). We had a nice dinner of this, discussed the saga of Tom and Megan's pet snake that was refused entrance to Canada (it will be able to join them in a few weeks), and took the bus back to the house. Tom and Megan stayed on the bus and caught the SkyTrain back to where they live outside of Vancouver.

No comments: