Play date
 On Wednesday, Lynn Simpson (Carol Dalbec's sister) invited me out to play. She lives in the West End on Harwood St. just a few blocks down from where Jim and I lived when we were first married. I  walked past our old  apartment building on my way to her place. It really hasn't changed much.  Our apartment was on the 4th floor from the top, and I used to stand on the balcony every morning to wave to Jim as he turned the corner to walk to work. 

Lynn took me to Fabricana in Richmond. This store is huge - a mecca for all quilters. Fabric as far as the eye can see!

Lots of samples too. There were several different examples of Olympic quilts. This one was so cool with the appliqued sports.

Maple leaves and ribbons.

And look - one just like the one I made for Dave! Only mine had more sports and mitered corners so was nicer ;-)

Then we went down to Ladner to the Quilted Bear. This shop has been featured in Quilt Sampler magazine so I was anxious to see it. There was lots of inspiration and we were tempted by a few things but we both restrained ourselves. I just kept reminding myself of all the boxes of quilt stuff that I have at home! (And it was our second stop - we had already done some damage at Fabricana)

After a great lunch at a Mexican restaurant (Jim said, "You went to Ladner for Mexican food??") Lynn offered to drive me down to English Bay and around Stanley Park. Our first stop was a group of statues called "A-maze-ing Laughter". These statues had such expressive faces that when you look at them you can't help but smile.

Apparently  the custom is to have your picture taken in the same pose as one of the statues. Well once you start doing that you just can't help but laugh out loud!

Lynn said that on Christmas day someone had made them all hats. Now that would be a sight to see.

This is looking out over English Bay, with the seawall on the right. Boy, does that view bring back memories. We were so lucky to be living in such a beautiful city and we took advantage of it. We walked down here all the time.

Now this wasn't here when we lived here! Okay, when you have that gorgeous view and you live right next to Stanley Park, why do you need to plant a tree on top of your building? That is a full size oak too!

If you look closely you can see that Harry Jerome is wearing those Olympic red mittens!

I wonder if they were made by the same person who made the hats for the laughing statues?

Around the park to the Lion's Gate bridge and a view of  the north shore.

Then back to the Burrard St. bridge, where Lynn dropped me off so that I could take the ferry across to Granville Island.

Walking down the ramp it felt like it was 25 years ago. The city has changed so much but some of it is exactly the same.

Today was fabulous - remembering the past and making a new friend all in the same day!

Woo Hoo! Off to the Olympic Centre in Richmond to see the semi-final curling match. Canada vs. Sweden and on the other sheet Norway (with the handsome skip) vs. Switzerland.

Anyone need any money before we go in? I have never seen a mobile ATM before. How cool is that??? But you better have brought your Visa card, because nothing else will work!

Our seats were fabulous. We were in the second row, just a little to the left of this shot. Canada was playing on the sheet closest to us, which was a good thing because then I actually watched them. If Norway had been right up close I may never have looked over to what Canada was doing! (Just kidding - really! The Canadian team is so good and it was amazing to see them in action right in front of us)

Here is Kevin Martin deep in thought. You know that he is thinking ahead by several shots. He is a great player, and definitely the favourite. You should have heard the crowd roar every time he walked down the sheet to get ready to throw.

If you look closely you can see sweat pouring down Ben Hebert's face. These guys work hard! (pun intended)

Here is Marc Kennedy

"Johnny Mo" aka John Morris. He had quite a fan club - when he would throw a rock someone on the other side of the rink would yell, "I say Johnny, you say Mo" and we would yell Johnny and Mo back and forth. The crowd was really excited and it seemed more like a hockey game than a curling match at times.

It was times like this that I really missed the commentary that you get on TV. I should have called you Carol so that you could tell me what they were saying ;-)

Of course every now and then I would take a picture of the Norwegian team (ok mostly the skip - and it wasn't really every now and then, I have about 40 pictures of the fellow!)

Action shot!

Ok, back to the Canadian team. Looks like it's going to be a good shot.

No, it was a great shot!

They actually had a little half time to resurface the ice. People got up to get beer, etc. so Jim was able to get this shot of Dave and I in our great seats.

Here is the curling "zamboni".

More pics of the Norwegian skip!

Yup, more.

And while I was taking pictures of that cutie, someone was taking pictures of us! This was the boom camera and occasionally it would point right at us. Did you see me on TV???  (It was probably pointing at the guys sitting right beside us who were all dressed up - one even had a cow hat on!) the way it was swinging around and sort of "looking" at people reminded me of "Number 5 is Alive" from the movie Short Circuit.

The Swedes started out matching the Canadians throw for throw but two tactical errors allowed Canada to steal two in the fifth and sixth ends en route to a 6-3 win. Canada is ensured a medal (silver or gold) but they have lost gold to the Norwegians before (under a different skip), so I'm sure it will be a nail biter. 

Here is Thomas (we are on first name basis now) right after he shot the winning rock, praying it will land right.

And it did! So Canada will play Norway for gold. Who will I cheer for????


More Gold! (and silver, and bronze)
6:32 am!
Already on the bus heading downtown so that we can line up to get into the Mint. Crazy? Yes! But we had a plan. You see, if we could be close to the front of the line then we would get into the Mint at 9 am when they opened, reducing our waiting time from 6 hours (as it would have been yesterday) to 2 1/2 hours. 

It worked! We were number 31 and 32 in line and according to those who "knew", they let 25 people in every fifteen minutes so we would be in the second group to go in.
Woo Hoo!

(Yes I know 2 1/2 hours is still a very long time to wait. One of the guards inside asked us if we thought it had been worth it. In the words of Simon Cowell - unequivocally Yes!)

This print of the Olympic dollar was on the floor in the main lobby. 

There were even coins projected on the ceiling!

As we entered the building they gave each person that had waited to see the medals a white glove. We were told the rules:
     You may only touch the medals with your gloved hand.
     You may not kiss the medals.
     You may not bite the medals.
     You may not lick the medals.
     You may not make any type of victory sign while being photographed with the medals.
     You may not hold the medal in front of you as if you are a winner while being photographed.
(The last two rules are out of respect to the athletes who had actually won medals because these are real medals and not replicas). 

And then the moment we had been waiting for. We were ushered into the Medal Room. What a rush it was to see them up close!




Now comes everything you ever wanted to know about the Canadian Olympic Medals and then some! 

The undulating face of the medals represents the sea and mountains of the Vancouver-Whistler area.
At 500 to 576 grams each, they are among the heaviest in Games history.
No two medals are alike - each has a totally unique design. There are 1,014 unique designs originating from two original artworks, 615 medals for the Olympic games and 399 for the Paralympic games.

This is the artwork used to make the medals for the Olympic games.

A unique software program was used to prepare the laser etching of the designs onto each medal's uneven surface.

This is the medal design for Short Track Speed Skating Men's 500m

This is the medal design for Ski Jumping Team, Large Hill

The piece de resistance - we actually get to hold a gold medal! 

We were actually allowed to touch all the medals and have our pictures taken individually with them. 
This is the Paralympic silver medal.

It says "Vancouver 2010" on the back in braille.

We also got to hold a gold bullion bar. Jim's been working at the bank for years and this is the first time he's ever gotten to do this!

This is the largest gold coin in the world. It is 99.999% pure, weighs 100 kilos and has a face value of one million dollars.  And we thought the Toonie weighed a lot in your pocket!
(Yes there were plenty of armed guards around!) 

We had been told the night before by one of the Mint employees that there was going to be a presentation at 11 am this morning. While we were in line we found out that Alexandre Bilodeau was going to be presented a special gold coin commemorating the first Olympic gold medal won on Canadian soil. Not too many people knew about it as it hadn't been publicized so there weren't too many people milling about. I planted myself right next to the media guys (after asking to make sure that they weren't going to ask me to move at the last minute). 

He was also presented with copies of the stamps the Post Office had made commemorating the medal. They are apparently selling like hotcakes so if you want some you had better get them now! The presentation happened right in the lobby and he was about 12 feet away from me. What a cutie he is. He made quite a good speech, saying that it was just lucky timing that he was the first to win gold here, and that all the athletes deserved praise.

He is just a young kid thrown into the limelight. Here he is waving at someone on the second floor balcony who yelled at him to look up.

Then on to another line-up. If you ever go to the Olympic Games anywhere, pack your patience. (Do I sound like a Visa commercial?)

Stephen told us that we HAD to try a Japadog. They are famous locally for having unusual toppings on sausages.

Jim's is Kobe beef with a type of bbq sauce and wasabi sauce on the left, mine has japanese mayonnaise and seaweed on the right. 



Chocolate and GOLD!
 Monday morning we got up bright and early (or so we thought) and headed downtown to the Canadian Mint Pavilion to see the medals. We got there at around 8:40 am (they open at 9) and this is what we saw:

We were told that there would be a 6 hour wait from the end of the line. We realized that we didn't even have 6 hours until we had to head to the figure skating, and really - 6 hours??? Those people were crazy. So we left and decided to just cruise up and down Robson Street for a while.

I'd had breakfast but I must have had chocolate on the brain because it seems that's all I took pictures of!

First there was this giant Inukshuk in a window~

It weighed more than 300 lbs!

Another window had a running total of the Canadian medals won so far. 
4 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze

They are really capitalizing on the olympics. These were just three wafers wrapped in foil, but because they were gold, silver and bronze foil they can charge $12.99!

Look - Miss Kitty apples! This picture is for you Bianca!

And who wouldn't want a Beaver apple?

We were going to meet another old friend for lunch, Jerry Kaye, who works for BMO in Vancouver. To our pleasant surprise, while we waited in the lobby of one of the main branches there was a large screen TV with some couches around it tuned to the men's curling match against USA! Good thing Jerry was delayed a bit because no way was I going to leave till it was over. I can't wait to see Kevin Martin in person on Thursday. Too bad he won't be playing Norway then. My head is going to be going back and forth as though I'm watching a tennis match!

Then it was off to the Pacific Coliseum to see the Ice Dance Free Skate.

Getting through security didn't take too long - they have it very well organized, with super fast lanes for people with no bags, express lanes for people with bread box sized bags, and then slower lanes for people with large bags.

Here is Dave measuring to see if his bag is larger than a bread box.

Then into our seats, ready to watch the skating! Refreshing the ice surface... the excitement is building.

It is a shame but the during the first half of the performances there are a lot of empty seats. It seems that a lot of people feel they only need to come to see the "contenders". I found it exciting to see each new pair come out and cheered for each one. It turned out that I was sitting next to Emily Samuelson's grandmother. She and Evan Bates came in 11th place. They were happy with that as for them this is just warming up for the winter olympics in Sochi, where they hope to get a medal. 

I just kept saying, "Wow, your grand daughter is in the Olympics! The Olympics!" She gave me a picture of them and told me to keep an eye on them because they are going to go far.
 Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates (USA)

Okay, can you guess who just came onto the ice?

The crowd jumped to their feet and there was a cheer like I've never heard before!

I took a zillion pictures, here are a few of my favourites:

(like they needed to tell us!!!)

There was just a roaring sea of red and white as they skated around the rink with the flag. I never got a picture with them facing us because all the people in front of us were wildly waving flags back and forth and it was hard to get a shot between them. It was so very emotional seeing them skate around the ice, they so very happy and we so very happy for them. How lucky for us to be a part of it all. Another pair of Canadian heroes!

 Here are the events we are going to see:

Feb 22 Ice Dance Finals - medal event

Feb 23 Hockey - Slovakia vs Norway 

Feb 25 Curling - Men's Semi-Final

Feb 26 Speed Skating - Men/Women's Team Pursuit Qualification

(I posted twice today, make sure you see the other one too!)

Jim is practicing for his 30 km Run Around the Bay in Hamilton at the end of March so yesterday morning he got up bright and early and plotted a 21.7 km route along the Seawall.  He used to run around Stanley Park quite often when we lived in the west end. I cheered for him as he left the house at 6:45 am and again when he got back at 8:43 am, although I went back to bed in the meantime!

After lunch we headed down to the Richmond O Zone on the Skytrain. When you are all packed together it is hard not to eavesdrop on other people's conversations but no one seems to mind and they even include you. The people next to us had been up at Whistler the day before, cheering on the bobsled team. They told us that everyone was cheering loudly and then all of a sudden there was silence, and all you could here was "critch, critch" on the ice, as the flipped bobsled went by. There was another huge cheer as the two men emerged safely, even though their chance at a medal had been dashed. 

One man standing next to us was wearing a turquoise blue Olympic jacket (a sign that you work for the Olympics) and his tag read "Race Technician". He told us that his job was a finish line judge for the speed skating, but because of all the computer technology he was really just there as a back-up and didn't have to do much. He did however get the best seat in the house!

We were on our way to the Holland Heineken House, which is the dutch pavilion. We had to wait in line for an hour to get in. There was a separate line-up for people with dutch passports and there was no one in that line. I knew I should have gotten dual citizenship when I had the chance!

These signs were posted all along the fence next to waiting line! We knew we would be out in time to catch the big game anyway.

We met up with some old friends from UBC MBA days - Vic on the right, his wife Susan and her father Norm. Vic hasn't changed at all. It's great to get together with people you haven't seen for years but share a part of your past.  It is so interesting to see where people's lives have led them when you all started from the same place. I haven't figured out how many years it's been since I last saw him, but they seemed to just fade away within minutes.

Besides enjoying the obvious libations, we also enjoyed some "traditional" dutch food, such as Broodje Kroket 

and Frites met Mayonaise. (not a typo - that's how it is spelled in dutch)

Sara discovered that the frite cone also made quite an acceptable Olympic torch!

And talk about being lucky - we saw the women's 1500m speedskating live on TV while we were there. Surprisingly the commentary was all in dutch ;-)  This is Ireen Wust ahead of the pace line.

Everyone rose to their feet when she approached the finish line. I'm sure you could have heard that cheer all the way to Surrey when she won! It seemed as though everyone in the building was wearing orange except for the 5 of us.

She was so cute waiting to stand on the podium, so full of emotion. When they played the dutch national anthem everyone in the building was singing and there were quite a few tears in people's eyes.

Goud = Gold in dutch!

We walked outside just as the Canada/USA hockey game was getting underway. Look at the crowds! Outside on the grass! (Yes we are in Vancouver) 

As we were coming up the escalator from the Skytrain I looked over to the left and blurted out, "That's Brian Orser!" And it was! He was waiting for some friends and was gracious enough to let me have my picture taken with him. I was pretty excited!

I think the thing that surprised me the most was that I actually recognized him. Now I am going to be on the lookout for athletes all over the place. The problem with winter sports though is that most of the participants are wearing some sort of head gear for their sport so you only get to see what they really look like for a brief moment. Not so with figure skating or curling. No siree, I know what the Norwegian skip looks like and I am keeping my eyes peeled!

We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go downtown to see the Cauldron. The only sensible way to get around Vancouver is by public transit so we took the bus. All of the buses are packed (except for the white Olympic buses which for some reason seem to drive around town empty). The bus driver couldn't have been friendlier - she gave people directions, stopped to pick up a person who wasn't even at a bus stop, and talked a bit about what we were driving past. It was the same on the way home. Even though there are throngs of people everywhere, there is a good feeling in the air and you can't help getting swept up into it.

The cauldron is quite majestic, and you can actually get a good view of it now that they have replaced some of the fencing with plexiglass. (cheers to whoever thought of that!) It's quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be and it actually looks like it is wrapped in crumpled tin foil.

People waited and took turns taking pictures. There was a one hour wait to go up to a viewing platform but we decided that this was close enough ;-)

Just look at all the people. Vancouver is just busting at the seams. (Can you see Jim and Dave waving?)

The sidewalks are crazy. You have to line up to cross the street! 

The Olympic rings are out in the harbour. They only get lit at night so we'll have to go back. They change colour and Dave said that they are lit in gold if Canada wins a gold medal. Hopefully we can see that after Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win the Ice Dance competition! (We have tickets to see that on Monday)

This picture is for you Carol D! Wow, is Canada ever doing well in curling! I am happy to report that the Norwegian team is also doing quite well so there is a very good chance that I will get to see that very cute skip in person ;o) Oh, and their fancy pants.

Everybody is dressed in red and white!

At 10:30 every night there are fireworks over the water. We have a perfect view from Dave's balcony!

Opening Day Glitches
Planned Schedule of Events: (all times local)
14:00 Jim leaves Toronto on AC 12, connects in Calgary 
17:45 Jim arrives in Vancouver, met by Dave
21:00 Jim and Dave attend hockey game

14:50 Marian leaves Toronto on AC 127, connects in Edmonton
19:07 Marian arrives in Vancouver, met by Sara
Proceed to Dave's house to watch Jim and Dave on TV

Actual Schedule of Events:
13:25 Marian watches Jim board his flight then proceeds her own flight.
14:50 Marian's flight departs. Unknown to her, Jim's flight is still on the ground due to technical difficulties.
17:02 Marian arrives in Edmonton, Jim is still in Toronto.
18:47 Marian arrives in Vancouver. Jim has made it to Calgary and is waiting for a connecting flight. Dave has had the difficult task of finding someone else to go to the hockey game with him, which he accomplished.
21:32 Jim arrives in Vancouver. His luggage is still in Calgary.
(sound familiar???)

Background info:
Since Dave was going to meet Jim at the airport with a car, Jim checked both suitcases. Marian and Sara were taking the Skytrain in so Marian only had a carry-on. Originally the carry-on contained her parka (for Calgary) and some random items, but at the last minute she switched that for 2 complete changes of clothes. Against Marian's advice, Jim had packed the SLR camera in one of the suitcases. Luckily Marian had put the small camera in her purse.

So at least I have some pictures to show you! 
Jim and I were both flying executive class (on points) so we got to wait in the Maple Leaf lounge. I didn't have the nerve to take a picture of the lounge itself (and risk looking like a nerd) but I did take a picture of the washroom, which Dave thinks is even nerdier. But look at the size of these doors! I guess I could say something like they have to be that high because most of the people in the Maple Leaf lounge have inflated heads, but I won't. ;-)

The lounge was cool but outside the gates was more fun. Olympics everywhere! I could see this as I was waiting to board the plane in Toronto.

This is a view of Georgetown, and you can actually see our house! You can click on the picture to zoom in.

Vancouver airport sure has changed since we lived here. It is a beautiful airport now. This totem pole was right in the middle. 

And to get to the Skytrain you just have to go upstairs - kind of like all the airports in Europe. Now if only Pearson airport in Toronto could get linked to downtown!

We stayed up till Dave got back from the hockey game (around midnight here, 3 am at home) but even going to bed that late didn't help us sleep past 6:30 am. It was so worth it to get up that early though - look at the beautiful sunrise over False Creek. This is the view from the sidewalk in front of the complex Dave lives in. 

Jim and I decided to walk to Granville Island to get some breakfast to bring back to Dave who is on Vancouver time and so wasn't up yet. It was an absolutely gorgeous walk with flowers blooming all along the way...

and kayakers out practicing.

Our first stop on Granville Island was La Baguette & L'Echalote.

Way back, many, many years ago when we were first married and living on Harwood Street, we would get up every Saturday morning and take the False Creek ferry across to Granville Island to have breakfast and pick up our fresh produce. One of our favourite things was a Pain au Chocolat. See them on the bottom right?

(When Dave saw this picture he commented, "Look how full the case is! When I get there usually there are only 1 or 2 left!)

This is the entrance to the market. Look at the flowers - outside! Last night as Sara and I made our way to Dave's I kept commenting on all the flowers outside the shops. Vancouver always has an early spring but this kind of weather in February is early even for them.

Inside the market we stopped at one of our favourite shops. It's been there since 1986 - Expo year. It is called the Stock Market and they have every type of soup stock you can imagine. I think it was Stephen's favourite too when he was out here last April.

We chatted with the man who runs the stand for a little bit. He was carting in some vegetables (presumably to make more stock) and he wanted to show us his idea for the Granville Island Olympic Games. Here he is practicing for the Cabbage Shot Put. 

What a great way to start our day. Jim is happy - a latte, a baguette, some pastries and gorgeous sunshine!

Oh, and another reason to be happy - when we got back to Dave's our luggage had been delivered (camera and all!)

Go Canada Go!

It's 7:22 a.m. and I am not packed yet. I haven't even started. I'm not too worried about it though because whatever I forget I can buy in Vancouver (and I look good in red and white!) As long as we have our Olympic tickets we are good to go.

Jim is so excited to be going to a hockey game tonight. You should have seen him cheering on Canada last night. He (and I'm sure many others) couldn't even sit down, he was just pacing the living room. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be in that stadium. I'm hoping to be cheering so much that I lose my voice. We have to get some cowbells. I used to have a good sized one that I bought as a souvenir in Austria but I got rid of it a while back when I was de-cluttering. Who knew I would need it now?

Well, I guess I'd better go pack. Make sure you look for us in the stands. I'm sure you will recognize us:

Iqaluit (which is Inuktitut for "Place of Many Fish")

There are only 2 airlines that fly from Ottawa to Iqaluit - Canadian North and First Air. Neither fly to Toronto so we had to drive up to Ottawa to catch our plane. We were all flying on points - Jim and Stephen on Airmiles and Jeff and I on Aeroplan. Since there are only 2 seats per plan on the plane, we took up all the "free" seats that day. I had to book 11 months in advance to get them! It saved us a ton of money as the regular airfare is $1300 roundtrip each.

We had to walk across the tarmac and climb the stairs at the rear of the plane. I did ok until about 2 steps from the top. Why do they have to make those stairs see-through? The flight attendant had to reach out to help me "safely" up those last steps!

The reason you enter at the rear is because only the back half of the plane has seats in it. See the wall behind Jim? They store cargo in that section. We had a large plane (737) but there were only 60 seats. Last time I flew to Iqaluit (April 2007) it was a smaller plane and there were only 32 seats. 

I think they painted the Iqaluit airport bright yellow so that you can see it from space. Seriously! Because they have such a long runway it is rumoured that Iqaluit is an alternate landing strip for the space shuttle.

See the cargo door open on the side of the plane?

Steve looks a little cold! It was only 11 degrees and cloudy when we landed, but each day it warmed up. The last 2 days I could wear just a T-shirt outside. You could really tell it was getting warmer each day by how much ice was left in the bay.

This is an aerial shot of downtown Iqaluit that I took from the plane. Do you notice anything missing? Yup - no trees. Iqaluit is above the tree line and less than 3º south of the Arctic circle. It never got dark!

If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you can see some of the major "landmarks" in Iqaluit. From left to right - the 2 tone blue building is the highschool (no windows), the tall brown building is the Frobisher Inn, the white "marshmallow" building is the elementary school, in front of which is the purple and yellow tent that was erected for Inuit days. The large gray building in front of the tent is Northmart - the only grocery store in town. (More about Northmart later!) On the right hand side of the photo is a dark gray building with a huge satellite dish - that's Northwest Tel where our friend Paul works. Their house is way off to the right of this picture.

It's a little hard to see, but their house is built on stilts. No basements - can't dig into the permafrost! 

Not being able to dig into the permafrost creates a few other challenges as well, like not being able to install water pipes or sewers. The water truck comes every day to fill up the tank.

As does the truck they call the "s- -t sucker"!

See the red light on the side of the house?

It lights up when they need water. Our friends live in the red light district! 

Pretty nice view though!

After dinner (around 10 pm) we went out "sightseeing" to Sylvia Grinnell park - a Territorial park just outside of Iqaluit. We stopped at the visitor's centre to look out over the tundra and the river.

Jeff couldn't wait to go fishing...                                      

and Steve was right behind him!

There are only 2 ways into and out of Iqaluit - by air and by sea. Even at the end of June most of the bay is still frozen over, so there is only a short period of about 2 months when the ships can come in. I was lucky enough to look outside right before I went to bed and see the first ice breaker of the season coming in.
This was at about 11:30 at night!

See the ice near the bow? Icebreakers have a stepped hull designed to help the ship rise up on top of the ice and then crush downward through it. This allows the weight of the ship to break the ice like a giant sledgehammer. We could actually see the ice chunks flying! It was quite an event - people came out of their houses and stopped in their cars along the side of the road. I am guessing that the arrival of the first icebreaker is the first sign of summer! It was about a week late this year, we heard that there were a few ships waiting out at sea for a path to be cleared.

The first night we didn't sleep too well. Even though we had blackout curtains in our room, we didn't close them very tightly, so at 2 am when I woke up, my brain saw that it was very light outside and told my body that it was time to get up! It was really hard falling asleep again after that. I learned to close the drapes very well the next night!


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