Another early day, another gourmet breakfast aboard our luxury train, the Rocky Mountaineer. We head into our final day of mountain scenery – the northern Cascade range. As our black-and-gold bubble threads its way in and out of tunnels and alongside the westward-bound Fraser River, we catch one postcard view after another: glimpses of bald eagles perched on power poles, rafters shooting through rapids, and funicular cars trundling on cables overhead. We pass the Continental Divide (actually a tri-vide, as from this point rivers flow into the Arctic as well as into the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico). We follow the Fraser River down the slope, and too soon we are rumbling along next to tankers and flatcars as we enter the railyard under the bridges of Vancouver – end of the line.
The Hotel Vancouver is the last of the chain of hotels built by the railroads to encourage travelers to tour westward. (They ran out of track at the ocean) It is a stately building, with the hallmark high ceilings and decorative interior pillars that mark the Gilded Age of its birth. It has been renovated a few too many time, though – it doesn’t have the rich patina of age that coats its sister hotels in Banff Springs and Edmonton. I spied no exuberant self-congratulatory murals showing the founders, nor was there any truly campy pseudo-oriental or pseudo-Spanish décor left to amaze and delight. Just large rooms, tasteful colors, and a lot of gilt paint to evoke the luxury intended by the builders. [p1050068web – (Kamloops-Vancouver folder)] Maybe it was the cafeteria-style breakfast option which broke the illusion of bygone grandiosity – can you image Jane and Leland Stanford pushing their trays along at a cafeteria?
The Hotel Vancouver is located in a bustling area near the University of Vancouver and the Art Museum. I took advantage of a bright morning to enjoy a walk around the neighborhoodand includes architecture ranging from the ultra-classic columns of the Art Museum to the playful ramps of the University Library. This section of Vancouver has a sprightly, humourous vibe –the public art display called “soft rocks” which conists of giant beanbags ideal for sprawling in the sun, the pretty young fashionistas striding to work in their ridiculously impractical platform shoes, the bright banners on the buildings. I would like to explore more but…
We had planned an extra day or two in Vancouver, but family issues called us home a bit sooner. I saw and heard so much that was new to me on this visit to the north – places, politics and people surprised me at every turn. I only took baby steps in exploring this alien land. Knowing that it IS alien, not just a colder clone of the US, still feels like a breakthrough. In this lifetime I hope to learn more.