We remember False Creek from Expo back in 1986. Since then, much of the surrounding area has been transformed, although a few big vacant parcels still remain. Creekside is the new development that began with the 2010 Olympic Village, at the southeast corner of the now-tamed estuary.
I like the shoreline along here and have mentioned it elsewhere, but the development itself left us uninspired -- and listening to the spiel at the Presentation Center didn't change that. Not that we we had any real interest to start with.
There's an Earnest Ice Cream on 2nd, which was good in a Molly Moon's sort of way. Interesting flavors and good ingredients, but expensive. Based on limited experience, I would suggest that the best ice cream in Vancouver is still gelato (several options), but probably important to keep checking out more places!
West Vancouver stretches along the shore west of the Lion's Gate Bridge and the Capilano River. It also creeps up the mountainside from the water, eventually stopping against a wall of forest. The main highway - the one that goes up to Horseshoe Bay, Howe Sound, and Whistler - contours the hillside and bypasses the community. Marine Drive, on the other hand, winds closer to the shoreline, from the bridge, past the mall, through the business districts of Ambleside and Dundarave, then on through wealthy shoreside neighborhoods and Lighthouse Park.
We drove out to Dundarave, where we walked down to the beach and around the neighborhood, then headed west so I could check out Stearman Beach. Then it was back to Stanley Park and the city.
We stayed at the Metropolitan, just like last year. Despite the last minute decision to go, we found a good rate for Saturday and Sunday night. And, of course, it's Canadian money, so it goes a bit farther.
Not surprisingly, food sort of narrated our trip. Four Winds Brewery in Delta, with friends, for lunch on Saturday. Scoozie's for dinner. And the Canada Line to Yaletown so I could try liquid nitrogen-enabled instant ice cream (overrated). Then Cafe Medina the next morning. Earnest Ice Cream later. Maenam in Kitsilano for dinner. And then Forage on Robson on Monday morning. Coffee at 49th Parallel and Donuts at Cartem's on Main Street on the way out of town.
Most of our exploration was on Sunday. It was too chilly to ride bikes (at least for us) in Stanley Park, although the weather was nice (especially compared to the rain we got on this trip last year). We drove around the park - with a detour across the Lion's Gate to West Vancouver in the middle - stopping here and there to walk. When I lingered too long at the beach, M retreated to her book.
Some days at work are just beautiful. Four of us spent a very cold Tuesday visiting several sites north of Bellingham. The wind was bringing bitter air down the Fraser Valley, which pretty much just aims at northern Whatcom County (just as the river itself did, back during the waning stages of the last ice age). It wasn't North Dakota cold, or Sugarloaf cold, but definitely chilly by western Washington standards.
The first shot is across the north end of Bellingham Bay, most are from Cherry Point, and the last is from the tip of Semiahmoo Spit, a long stone's throw from Canada.
It's been a cold week, at least by Seattle standards. And several days of weather in the 20s is all it takes for the lakes to begin to respond. It's been a while since I've seen Green Lake with this much ice on it (although I still recall the whole lake safely frozen over in 1983 and/or 1984, when I first arrived in this neighborhood).
The ice was pretty thick here at the south end so it probably wasn't too crazy for folks to be walking on it. At least those who had some idea of what to they were doing. But some of the people checking it out were treating it the way that some people tromp around in the snow for the first time. I'm not sure they had any clue of the consequences of getting it wrong!
Our last two nights in Dublin were spent at a rented apartment above Bachelor's Walk, on the north side of the Liffey just east of the Ha'Penny Bridge. The view of the river was great, but that meant the noise of the late night drinking crowds in Temple Bar, right across the river, was also pretty loud. It was an easy walk to just about everywhere.
We had dinner the first night at the Chameleon - multiple small plates of Irish-origin food served in an Indonesian restaurant by a Brazilian waiter (in case you had any misconceptions about the cosmopolitan nature of this city). It was great. The last night we ate at Terra Madre, in the basement of a building just down from where we were staying. Also very good. It probably would have been even better, and much more expensive, if we were more into wine.
On our last full day we had gone to the Book of Kells and taken a tour of Trinity College. We also took the hop on - hop off bus - and hopped on and off until we found a narrator we liked. It was a good final review of Dublin - places we'd already seen and places we hadn't.
Dublin bus drivers were on strike the day we had to get to the airport, but fortunately we knew in advance, so we had long since booked a cab. Which worked out great. We spent a few hours in Toronto, picked up our car at Mark and Alison's in Vancouver, and were home by 10 (Seattle time).
I then spent almost five weeks posting stuff to the blogs.
Our last day in Ireland was back in Dublin. The lines had been too long for the Book of Kells when we were in Dublin earlier, but this time we booked our tickets online, which let us skip the queue. The Book of Kells was interesting, although I thought much of it would be better absorbed from an illustrated guide rather than a museum style exhibit. But the galleries are like the preamble to a Disney ride, it sort of stretches out the experience, since the actual viewing of the book is limited to a couple of pages and only takes a couple of minutes.
Not to diminish either the historical significance or the amazing art of these illustrated gospels, but we actually preferred the visit to the Long Room in the old Trinity College Library which comes with the Book of Kells admission. This would have been an amazing space, even if it hadn't been lined with books and busts of old dead white guys (but for the most part, fairly smart, pretty important, old dead white guys).
The old wood harp is featured on Ireland's Coat of Arms. They only get to show the back side, apparently a local brewer named Arthur Guinness got first dibs on trademarking the primary side. Or something like that.
It was probably less than an hour on the motorway from Powerscourt to the Dooley Rental Car office at the Dublin Airport, but we decided to go out to Howth before returning the car.
Howth is on a peninsula on the north side of Dublin Bay. To get there, you have to navigate a lot of suburban Dublin, but Howth itself still maintains some sense of being a small fishing town. We walked back along the quay, watching fishing boats and seals, and had a good seafood lunch at Octopussy.
We looped around the peninsula, looking for views back toward Dublin (not a city with a spectacular skyline), then I let M and Siri navigate us back to DUB, where we returned the car and caught a bus into the city.
We put over 1700 miles on our Dacia Duster. No bruises, no dents (not to which we'd admit), no flat tires (but one slow leak). We only drove on the right side of the road a couple of times, which we corrected quickly, but it seemed like most of the roads we drove on were too narrow to have either a right side or a left side. But after two weeks of gritting our teeth and grabbing the strap, it was nice to be back on public transit.
The Powerscourt Gardens, along with Glendalough, are both on the one-day bus tour circuit out of Dublin, so I was a little concerned we would find Powerscourt packed with coaches and middle-aged couples with name tags (just like us, but we didn't have name tags). But it was fine.
I suppose mid-September isn't necessarily the best time for gardens, but it was really neat to wander around the grounds and see the variety of landscapes that had been created. Many of the plants were things we are pretty familiar with here in the Pacific Northwest. The Powerscourt House itself is a small tourist mall, emphasizing home accessories and interior decorating, catering to all the visitors who dream of living in their own castles.
When we left Cashel in the morning, we didn't know how far we'd get, let alone where we were going to stay. We came down out of the Wicklow Mountains very late in the afternoon and pulled over to start looking at options (we used our phones the entire trip with cellular turned off, but with a portable WiFi hotspot that kept us connected to the web).
I hadn't originally thought we had much chance of getting out to the coast, but when I realized that Bray was only 20 minutes farther down the road, the beach began calling me. The clouds were also looking like they might break for a minute or two before sunset, which seemed like it would be a nice change after two days of bleak inland skies and grey stone medieval architecture. I doubt M shared either the impulse or the concern, but together we found a hotel on the beach in Bray that looked like it might be okay.
While M went to ask about rooms at the Martello, I ran across the street to catch a brief moment of sun and beach, then we had dinner downstairs in front of the hotel. The room itself was too warm and muggy for our tastes and was above a noisy alley, so it wasn't a great night's sleep. Maybe it was a reminder of how good our luck had been with accommodations everywhere else on the trip.
I walked the beach in the morning and even thought about hiking up to the top of Bray Head (but didn't). Then I think we ended up grabbing coffee and a snack of some sort for breakfast at a cafe on the promenade.