Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thoughts on Vancouver, Our Hotel and Mr. Strokey

Thoughts on Vancouver
  • Vancouver is a lovely city with lots to see (I would definitely go back, I want to see more!)
  • There were more hills than we anticipated.  I knew it was on the coast and that there were mountains close by, but wow, there were some crazy steep hills.
  • There are no freeways in Vancouver.  Seems so odd to see a city this size without a large network of freeways.
  • For the most part, we found the traffic fairly manageable.  There were times that it was slow moving, but it did seem to move.
  • I was surprised to be able to find parking easily everywhere we went.  I was also surprised at times to find free parking (ex Granville Island and Vandusen Botanical Gardens)
  • It was cool to be surrounded by such diversity.  There were a number of times we looked around and were definitly in the miniorty as caucausians.  We have had a pretty sheltered life in Saskatchewan, though we do have a lot more diversity than we used to.
  • It was my first time seeing the ocean.  It was beautiful (though, I would like to see a tropical ocean...).  I enjoyed being at Stanley Park, Granville Island, etc where there was water and lots of boats docked.  Just something you don't see on the prairies.
  • I assume it's because of all the big hills in the area, but we found in Vancouver and Seattle they had some really tall bridges.  It was kind of freaky going over a bridge that was so high!
  • We were a little confused at first with all the green blinking traffic lights.  But soon figured out that they were places where there was pedestrian controlled crossing.  So they would blink green until a pedestrian pushed the button then they would turn red to allow them to cross.  There were also a lot of speed bumps on roads in residential areas.
  • I had heard about the number of homeless people there from friends who had been.  We were asked a few times for spare change, mainly when we were down by Canada Place.  But we did see a sidewalk just full of homeless people as we drove by in another area.  Definitely something that we don't see a whole lot of in Saskatoon...

Our Hotel
We stayed at the Holiday Inn and Suites North Vancouver.  I tried to research each hotel for our holiday and found a couple of options in the Vancouver area that seemed to offer good accessibility.  In the end it came down to the Holiday Inn because I liked it's location better, and it seemed nicer overall.  When we pulled in Sunday night I was immediately impressed by the exterior of the hotel.  There were beautiful flower gardens and big evergreen trees all around.  Right by the front entrance there was a fountain and just across from that was a little man made waterfall next to a totem pole.  The lobby was very classy looking.

 (Biggest hosta I have ever seen!  It was probably 2-3 feet tall!)

Whenever we stay in a hotel on a vacation I always hold my breath until we see the room.  You can only tell so much about a room from photos online.  I had emailed with a staff member a couple of times to learn a bit about the setup of their accessible room with the roll-in shower.  It looked like a spacious room with an ideal setup.  When we entered the room we were not disappointed.  The bed height was perfect!  We have learned that the height of the bed can make or break a hotel experience for us.  If Jay cannot get into the bed, or really struggles to get in/out, it really makes for a frustrating experience.  We also realized that if the bed is not the right height, it makes it impossible for him to get in and out of his shower chair.  Thankfully the bed height in our hotel was ideal.  The room was very spacious with a king sized bed as well as a couch that could be pulled out for more sleeping space.

 (The view from the door of the room.  The door on the right is the bathroom door.)
 (Nice granite vanity with a roll under sink.  They provided a basket of extra bath mats because as you see in the next photo, the shower curtain was too short so you ended up with a bit of puddle on the floor after showering.)

 (An extra little 'kitchen' area with a microwave, fridge and sink.  It was handy to have an extra sink.)

 (The height of the bed and distance from the wall.  If you look closely you can see that the bed should be against the night stand, based on where the headboard is mounted on the wall.  Thankfully the bed was on legs so I could slide it over a few inches.)

 (Nice, spacious room.  Under all of our stuff was a foldout love seat and a coffee table.)

 (There was a nice desk/office area and another small table for sitting to eat.)

I think the only down sides to the room were that the roll in shower was a bit small, and the setup of the shower was not ideal for use with a shower wheelchair.  However, we were able to make it work and Jay was able to shower.  Also, the side of the bed that Jay is most comfortable transferring into was a little too close to the wall.  Thankfully, I was able to slide the bed over a few inches, which allowed him to get his chair beside the bed.  Other than these things, the room was so quiet and the bed was comfy.  Even though on two of the nights we stayed, there was a group of high school kids staying in the rooms around us, we heard them a bit until 10pm then it was quiet (the hotel gave me a call shortly after I had booked it, to let us know that this would be the case).

Mr. Strokey
 That is the nickname we gave to the GPS that we borrowed from my parents.  I know we could have used our phones for GPS while in Canada, but thought we would conserve battery life for other things, and use the GPS.  It did well, as long as you had an address for it to navigate through.  However, we found that it had difficulty when we got into downtown Vancouver.  I don't know if it was the tall buildings, or just too much interference from other electronics, but it would lose it's position and you would be in the middle of a road, nowhere near a corner and it would be telling you to turn right, etc.  We commented that the GPS was stroking out, and from there started to call it Mr. Strokey (it has a male voice).  Thankfully we also had a paper map, so we had an idea of where we were headed, but it was nice to have the GPS when we missed a corner or something, so it could reroute us quickly.  We did not ever end up getting a paper map of Seattle, so we depended on Mr. Strokey entirely in that city.  We would usually look at a map online before leaving the hotel, so we had an inkling as to what direction we were headed, but the GPS was our navigator.  After driving in Seattle, I believe that having a paper map would have been next to useless with all the exits/on ramps/weird corners, etc in that city.  Thankfully he did not seem to have a problem in Seattle, and we made it to all of our destinations in one piece.   

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