The Winter Olympics
Trip Start Feb 11, 2010
3Trip End Feb 16, 2010
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Tracy was waiting anxiously at the ferry terminal for us to arrive. We all couldn't believe it was here. We've been talking about "Vancouver 2010" for so long I can’t even recall the origin. The minute we stepped off the crowded boat of students, you could feel the buzz. There were maple leaves in every direction, flags hanging from cars, buildings draped with banners, signs on the highways, hats, scarves, mittens, you name it. Let the games begin!
We quickly headed back to Tracy’s house to drop our stuff and change so we could go downtown for the Opening Ceremonies. Although we didn’t have tickets to the ceremonies, it didn’t really matter; the streets were filling like it was Mardi Gras
When it was all over, we joined the revelers in the streets, took an impromptu photo of Tracy and Canada’s ex-prime minister, and finally settled into a cozy Irish bar and enjoyed some conversation with some local Canadian folks.
The entire city of Vancouver was filled with anticipation. Despite the steady drizzle, the only thing dampened were the streets of Yaletown as we began our opening night adventure across town. The people of Vancouver were excited, and so were we
Tracy showed us a few of Vancouver’s neighborhoods as we tried to figure out what our plans for the evening would be. We all had flashbacks of figuring out which tents to go to at Oktoberfest in Munich, which was the last time we saw Tracy a few months ago. The three of us are starting to cross off a lot of world events from our collective bucket list...
We found a bar around the corner from BC Place where the Opening Ceremony was being held. We had a few drinks and watched on the TV screens with the rest of the crowd as the games (and the party) began. We watched the teams enter and tried to guess the flags, we learned some Canadian history and began our list of famous Canadians, and we guessed at who would light the cauldron. When it was finally lit inside the domed arena, I was just about to complain at how anticlimactic the lighting was when Gretzky ran back outside and hopped into the back of a pickup truck. The entire bar ran outside to the patio to watch Wayne make the turn and head up the street. And then, he lit the cauldron for the entire city to see.
After we left the bar we started off in that direction, too
After some transportation issues the next morning resulting from additional protests, we finally made it to North Van on the Sea Bus. We had a nice brunch with Tracy’s parents at Casa Marshall before we dropped them off at the bus so they could get to the short track speed skating. We drove around the area and went to Tracy’s childhood home that overlooked the entire city. We went to the fish hatchery along the Capilano River and then saw the powerful water of the Cleveland Dam. After picking up some of Canada’s famous red mittens for Alli, we took a bus back to the Lonsdale Quay Market and warmed up over some coffee and feta cheese.
We took the Sea Bus back to downtown and began our evening in Vancouver by walking up to the cauldron, which was unfortunately fenced off so we couldn’t get that close. Thirsty, we found a local brewpub and watched some of that night’s events with the rest of Canada’s fanatics before we walked to what is my favorite neighborhood in Vancouver
Gastown reminded me a lot of the West Village with some of the oldest buildings in Vancouver, a city that is very young relative to most major North American cities. We took many photos of the neighborhood’s light reflected off the rain-slick streets. We saw the famous Steam Clock. And then Tracy took us to this great little bar called Six Acres where we tried some great B.C. wine. Who knew, eh?
We woke up early the next morning to have breakfast with Tracy’s parents. I’ve known Tracy for about 5 years and obviously we’ve taken more than a few trips together. I’d heard so much about her parents that I was excited to meet them. Unfortunately, our journey to their house was significantly delayed by trouble with protestors, and what should’ve taken 45 minutes ended up taking 2.5 hours to get there. Still, they picked us up from our fourth mode of transport to reach them and had a beautiful brunch waiting for us. After great company and conversation, we took them to the bus so that they could attend their first Olympic event of the week.
Meanwhile, Tracy put on her tour guide hat and began the tour of North and West Vancouver (aka
We took the sea boat back over and headed towards the cauldron. Not sure why it was hidden so far behind a double chain fence, but nonetheless, we got good pics and enjoyed its luminosity. We tried to get into the German house and after finding a 2 hour line, we went into a different bar with huge screen TVs and enjoyed the atmosphere with locals. I cannot tell you how many times we heard Oh Canada; it was fun to see the country pride. After a few more stops, we headed home.
More touring on tap for the next morning: we had a great breakfast at a local joint and took the bus to Granville Island
Next stop, Irish house. I will admit that I am not a fan of waiting in line just to squish into a crowd full of people and smell their armpits. However, this time it was worth it. This was THE place to be when Canada won its first gold on home soil. The place erupted and this time we found ourselves joining in for the rendition of Oh Canada! Of course since we got into the Irish house, Tracy and Chad wanted to try for the German house (another flashback to Germany). Although we did get in, and we did enjoy a pretzel and brat, there was nothing but beer to drink (which I can’t have), so we left (under duress of not only Chad, but the German men who didn’t want to give our money back). We decided to head home after an exciting night because we were actually entertaining the possibility of getting up for the Today Show taping...at 3 am!
After breakfast near Tracy’s house in the Kitsilano neighborhood, we started our day in Granville Island with a smoked salmon skewer
At the Olympics, many nations famously open tents to celebrate their culture with food and drink, and Tracy and I were determined to find some Guinness in the Irish House. We waited about 15 minutes to get in, but once we got drinks and found some space to stretch out, we watched as the place went crazy during the men’s mogul event. Canada won its first ever gold medal on home soil, and the Irish house went bonkers.
Day 3 ˝
If anyone woke up on Monday, February 15, and turned on the beginning of the Today Show, they probably saw Matt, Meredith, Anne, Al, and some thug-looking guy with a brown puffy jacket, black beanie, and serious scowl on his face
About 15 minutes from the heart of downtown is a gondola that takes you up to Grouse Mountain, a local ski area that was also serving as the host of NBC’s Today show. Somehow, I got bamboozled into going up for the taping, despite the fact that in all our time in New York it never even crossed my mind to do. When we got up there I left Alli and Tracy and the rest of the mob to go explore, and a few minutes later, when I was standing next to a fire pit near the ice rink, I looked up and saw Matt Lauer. He was practicing the show’s lead, so I stood there to hear who was going to be on. A minute later, the rest of the crew walked over, and before I realized what was happening, the show went live, Matt read the teasers, and then the show’s opening shot was five people standing around a fire pit: Matt, Meredith, Anne, Al, and some pissed off-looking guy named Chad. Hey, it was four in the freakin’ morning! I had a right to look pissed!
We spent the next few hours watching the show as it unfolded. We saw the guy who won Canada’s first home-soil gold in moguls. We saw Peekaboo Street, Wayne Gretzky, Christy Yamaguchi, and Johnny Spillane, the first American to ever medal in Nordic Combined. We saw great views of the city of Vancouver all lit up, and, finally, Tracy got her picture taken with Matt Lauer to go with the one she got on opening night of her with the former Prime Minister of Canada
Despite all the groggy grumpiness, we had a great time up on Grouse Mountain. Too bad I didn’t bring my ski gear, though, because the runs were open 24 hours a day during the Olympics! Imagine being on a ski run overlooking the city of Vancouver as the sun comes up...
Eight years in NY and never having been to Rockefeller Plaza for a taping of the Today Show, somehow, Tracy convinced us to go to Grouse Mountain for a taping, but really just to try and get a picture of Matt Lauer, her love. We got onto the gondola in the pitch black of night and headed up the mountain with more people than you’d think at three o’clock in the morning! I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but it was a fun night where we got to see many “stars” and yes, Tracy got her picture with Matt. Nighttime views weren’t so bad either!
We went back to sleep for a few hours before having lunch at a Vancouver institution, The White Spot
Thank you Tracy for being an awesome ambassador for your city
There aren’t many things better in this world than a White Spot butterscotch shake. After lunch at B.C.’s famous burger joint, we took public transportation over to Pacific Coliseum for the figure skating pairs gold medal event. As much as I would have loved to see hockey or curling or bobsled, this is the event that Tracy was given in the ticket lottery, and I was happy to just get inside any Olympic venue. After the first few performances, though, my apathy toward the event began to fade once I realized what was actually taking place.
First of all, the stuff these people can do on skates is freakin’ amazing. Hell, I can’t even skate from one side of the rink to the other, let alone the triple-axel-toe-pick-lux-spinning-around-on-one-skate-and-throwing-your-partner-across-the-ice shit. But what I really saw was four-and-a-half minute skating programs that these couples spent four years preparing for. I can’t image spending four years with all my focus on a four minute song. It is simply incredible to think about that level of dedication for such a short period of time.
We met up with the Chaliks, who seemed to be soaking in as much of the Olympics as possible (including multiple events per day!), before we settled in for the final group of skaters. I have no idea how the scoring really works for this, but I do know that from these untrained eyes, the Chinese looked like the best skaters, and they finished one-two on the podium. It was also pretty cool to see the medal ceremony, as none of the events I saw when I was in Atlanta in ’96 were medal rounds.
After the event we headed back out into the rain before warming up with some hot sake and sushi. Before calling it a trip, we finalized our list of famous Canadians. Some you knew before, some you know now, and some are missing from this list:
Donald Sutherland, Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Monte Hall, a shitload of people from Saturday Night Live, Alex Trebek, Peter Jennings, James Naismith (yes, the inventor of basketball is from Canada), Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of Trivial Pursuit, a shitload of famous hockey players, the Space Shuttle robotic arm, Frank Gehry, the inventor of the pacemaker, Neil Young, co-founder of MGM Studios, the founder of Warner Bros Studios, and of course, MacGyver
Even more specific, these people are from British Columbia:
Michael J. Fox, Pamela Anderson, Bryan Adams, Michael Bublé, “Lily Munster”, Kim Catrall, Nelly Furtado, Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell, Jason Priestley, Jennifer Tilly, and Steve Nash.
Oh Canada, we had a great time, eh! The Canadians are truly wonderful hosts, and the city of Vancouver easily slips into my top ten favorites. It has water. It has mountains. It is big and urban and cultured, but at the same time it feels very quaint. Its people are friendly and were perfectly suited to host an Olympic Games.
Every two years the world gathers to compete and celebrate under one flag - the Olympic flag. The Olympic Movement has its faults, its political shortcomings, and its hypocrisy like so many other world bodies, but when you boil it all down, the IOC is really one of the only significant international organizations we have that puts its ideals above the fray political or religious differences. Battles are fought on the playing fields, and then the combatants (and their fans) enjoy a 17-day celebration based on mutual respect. At the very least, adversaries come to respect one another for the simple recognition of how much dedication and preparation it takes to compete, and sometimes, that's all the bond we need.
Stay tuned and check back for Tracy’s addition to this blog. Since the Olympics are in her hometown, she’s been a little bit busy!