Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Canada/Alaska Day 1 – Walking around Stanley Park (mostly.)

We’re here!

As you can see, the grey dress is back for another trip. My plan at the moment is to wear it for most days in the first 2 weeks in Canada, then switch to trackies when the cruise moves into colder areas in Alaska. Still, that may change.

This sculpture was the start of our first full day in Vancouver. We arrived just after 1 PM on a sparkling day and went straight to the hotel, then walked around the neighbourhood to see what we could see.

I was interested to see that the Canadians have the same electric bus system I saw in Pyongyang, North Korea. It’s the same system as Melbourne trams, with all the wires up over the streets. The Canadian buses were not nearly as dilapidated as the North Korean ones!

This city looks to be even more sport-mad than Melbourne!

I liked this mural I saw as we were walking around. Martha, whom we’ll all meet a couple of weeks from now, said that downtown Vancouver has a slightly dodgy reputation.

I could see what she meant. It has a very much” back-packers” kind of vibe, with hundreds of eateries, tens of dope shops and vape shops scattered liberally all around. Still, for travellers, our hotel (The Sandman) has everything handy around it.

We had a Cosmos welcome letter given to us at Reception when we arrived. In the middle of lots of handy tips was this sentence:


I don’t know what’s wrong with this street, but it made me want to go and see.

After we got tired of walking around we went to a gay bar just across the road from our hotel. I was looking at their menu and there were two items we had no idea about. I called a waiter over.

“What are Yorkies?” I asked.

“They’re little Yorkshire puddings stuffed with…”

“Oh thank god!” I interrupted him. “I couldn’t think what they’d be, and I had visions of you getting little Yorkshire Terriers and force-feeding them stuff, then cooking them.”

He laughed his head off. “No, no, we’re a cruelty-free establishment here!”

“Also, what are Hoagies”? (Megan had guessed that they were some sort of sausage.)

“Oh, hoagies are a long bun that you put the sausage into, then load it up with all the extras.” So Megs was on the right track with that guess… sort of.

After our refreshing bevvies, we went to a Vietnamese place for dinner, then back home where we slept for 12 hours.

It wasn’t an uninterrupted sleep, however, at least for me. Megan snores, but luckily it appears to be at the same volume as Jeffrey, so I was pleasantly surprised and went off to sleep. However, she also sleepwalks.

I woke to a slight scratching sound coming from what I thought was either inside or at the back of the bedside table. I’m sure you remember all the trouble we had a few months ago with rats? Well, that was my first thought.

I opened my eyes in the darkened room, just in time to see my water bottle lurching as something was pushing from underneath it. For a hot half-second I was terrified. A rat was emerging and it was a big one!

Then I realised it was Megan. She mumbled, “Ooogledy- boogeldy clock,” and was grabbing the clock radio on the table. She then got up, started to go into the wardrobe and then disappeared into the bathroom.

OK then. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

That lasted until exactly midnight. I don’t know what she pressed on the top of that clock radio, but the alarm went off. Megan didn’t stir. I unplugged the clock, opened the curtains to see if there was any Northern Lights action after the solar storm we’d been having – no – and then went back to sleep.

Megs went out to breakfast this morning while I ate the vegemite and Vita-Wheat crackers that I’d brought from home. After a little chat with Martha via Twitter about what we’ll do with her on our day together, we headed off to walk around a big 100-acre park called Stanley Park.

It was down a long hill from the hotel.

“I’m not looking forward to the climb back up this later,” Megs said.

We got to the harbour. The smell of the sea was wonderful. There were a fair few people around, all seeming to be young mothers with prams, retired folk and tourists from Germany. You can see from the photo that there were lots of ships lined up.

We walked along the seawall to get to the park. There were lots of birds enjoying the mild weather and their cries sounded beautiful.

Along the seawall walk, there were many benches for people to sit and take in the views. Most of them had dull, generic labels. You know, like “Joe Lunchbucket 1943 – 2023. He was a good bloke.”

I decided that my label would be something like, “Sit down and enjoy the view with me. My ashes are scattered underneath this bench!”

After consulting a map at the edge of the park, we boldly pressed on to see Beaver Lake. As you can see to the right of the photo, the city is letting the natural foliage just do what it will – as long as it doesn’t impede the paths, of course!- and the animals and birds are returning to the park.

Megs said that she saw a sign saying that a coyote den was nearby, so people should keep their dogs on leads. All the dogs we saw in the park were kept tightly leashed.

A little way down the track we saw this. “OO! A bridge!” said Megan. “I’ll have to go across that!”

Turned out that no, she didn’t.

Lost Lagoon is a place where beavers are living. There were a few clumps of trees, branches and other things that they’d put together. The reflection in the lake was amazing.

Bird song filled the air and it was very tranquil.

We swung around to a touristy hub, then started walking towards where we’d see totem poles and a sculpture.

I stopped for a pit stop. This is deeply disturbing to the eyes of an Australian. There’s SO MUCH WATER in the toilets!!!! What a waste!

As we wandered along, this group of buildings caught my eye. Pyongyang colours!


Along the path, we kept seeing broken mussel shells. Here’s what was happening.

I watched this crow throw the shellfish on the path until the body fell out. Then the bird devoured its meal.

Very clever.

The totem poles appeared around the next bend of the path.

They’re quite large.

There was a lot to choose from, with plaques in front of each one explaining what they were portraying

At the bottom, this one has a man being held by a bear.

However, this one was my pick. I didn’t really like all the gaudy paint on the others.

After a trip to the gift shop, where I bought a Canada fridge magnet and a Christmas decoration for my eclectic tree, we headed off in search of this:

‘Girl in a Wetsuit.’ She’s just off the seawall path.

She symbolises the intense relations between Vancouver and the sea trade.

I loved the simplicity.

We came across a sundial. Megan tried to operate it on a cloudy day…

We saw this lovely bridge.

It looked very ferny and pretty as I peered under it. Maybe we could have a look on the way back? It wasn’t as if we were going to circumnavigate around the whole 1000 acres of this park!

Canada geese! They let us get so close to us. They also had bikes racing past them, but they didn’t turn a feather.

I had to giggle when I saw this lighthouse.

I mean… really? Call that a lighthouse???

We were getting tired, so we turned around and dived under that bridge. It was very pretty, with lots of happy ferns, water and birds.

It was almost like walking through the Dandenongs.

But a few minutes later, we saw something that would never be in the Dandenongs:

“Look!” said Megan. “On the bridge!”

It was a red squirrel. A RED ONE!

It jumped off the bridge and ran towards us. I was waiting for it to see us and dive into the bracken, but it came bounding over to where I was standing, stopping when it was only a few inches away from my feet.

It froze. I took 4 photos of this squirrel and they were all the same.

It then got itself together and dived across the road. A few seconds later, it emerged and came even closer to Megan.

I was rapt to see a red squirrel. I wasn’t expecting to see one. I know they’re in North America but in my head, they’re from England.

Many paths wind their way through the park. We’d see bike riders and joggers, but a lot of the time we were on our own. This was a Monday, so I wondered what it would be like on a weekend.

Megs looked up the population of Vancouver. I was surprised to hear that it’s smaller than Melbourne! They have around 2.5 million. We’re sitting on 5.3 million. Almost double the size.

I was pleased to see that the park rangers are prepared for fires!

We started to see them all over the place.

It was getting past lunch time. I wanted to get some food in mah belly, to nudge my body along to adjust to a totally opposite time-zone. We were looking for a way back to the café.

It took a lot of map-reading from Megan, who has internet on her phone, to get us back to where we started. (I’m trying the experiment of relying on wifi.)

Remember the ships at the start of the day? By the afternoon they were all lined up. As the clouds began to melt away, Canadians started to emerge from their houses, blinking in the sunlight.

The beach started to fill up with sunbathers, while a couple of intrepid souls were swimming.

One strange thing I noticed was that a lot of older people here use two hiking sticks to get around. You never see this in Australia.

And to finish the photos – I liked this tree growing on the roof of this building.

We walked up the hill (slowly) back to our hotel, where Sharon, our Canada tour group leader, was waiting to meet everyone. It’s a big tour group of 42, of which 36 are Aussies.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Dad joke of the day:


  1. IM-PCP

    Glad to see you made it across the ocean to North America!

    Re: water use. Things are changing, but some parts of this continent still have plenty of water. My home state is lushly green with no history of drought (though since some geniuses have decided to sell our local water supply, we will see how long that lasts).

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yes, Thailand also has heaps of water in their toilets and they’re lush and green. The water also goes around the wrong way when you flush. It’s a northern/southern hemisphere thing.

  2. Maureen Carreau

    Welcome to your seventh continent! It’s fun to read your impressions of Canada. The red squirrel is the bane of my garden, along with chipmunks. Water is plentiful in the north, and walking sticks ease the sore knees once you reach a certain age. Have fun on your tour – I’ve never been to Alaska but it’s on the list!

    • FrogdancerJones

      omg… CHIPMUNKS???? I’ll add it to the lidt of bears, moose and elk that I want to see.

  3. sandyg61

    Glad you arrived safely and have started the fun.

  4. Helen

    The pictures I’ve seen of “red” squirrels are really red and they have big pointy ears with long fur on them. I guess there are lots of varieties of them. Your comment about the water in the toilet is so true for us Aussies – and also how they don’t fill a sink to wash up but leave the tap running and wash under the running water. The horror!

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