Vancouver au Natural - Page 2

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After leaving the aquarium we made our way to the Stanley Park totem poles, which depict common northwestern motifs of whales, salmon, and bear, whetting our appetite for the magnificent totems we found at the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology. We entered the concrete and glass building, perched on a bluff and designed to resemble a First Nations longhouse, and were greeted by the massive wooden sculptures in the Great Hall. Haida, Coast Salish, and Nisga'a Tribes carved figures into large cedar logs, many from the late 19th century when the art form reached its peak.

After lingering among the totems, we made our way through the enchanting works of Haida artist Bill Reid. For the piece Raven and the First Men, Reid transformed a four-ton block of cedar into a raven sitting atop a large clam shell. The structure rests on a bed of sand brought in by the Haida people from a beach on British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands. As the story goes, the raven opened the shell long enough to free humanity from its trenches. Of course, my kids hadn't the slightest idea as to the symbolic meaning behind the sculpture, yet they still enjoyed seeing it.

As much as they embrace indigenous culture, Vancouverites equally savor local foods. We hopped on the aptly named Aquabus for a quick jaunt across False Creek, the neighborhood where the 2010 Winter Olympics will be held, to Granville Island, home to the large Public Market. "Can I have this?" became Jake and Mel's mantra as we passed fruit bins overflowing with gooseberries, fresh figs, and quarts of raspberries. Gourmet artisans teased us with cheeses, pates, and homemade pasta. Then the bounty of the northern Pacific tempted us with every type of salmon imaginable, large halibut, tuna, and Alaskan king crab.

We held our appetites long enough to sample the wares at the nearby Sandbar. An outdoor patio overlooks False Creek and the tall condos that rim the city. As soon as we walked inside, we could tell that the restaurant takes its seafood seriously. On one side, a sushi chef sliced and diced freshly caught fish, while a large tank of Dungeness crabs sat opposite him, awaiting their fate.

We started with appetizers of pot stickers and a spicy scallop roll loaded with smoked salmon and spinach. Entrees included ahi tuna, tasty sablefish, and black cod marinated in a lime-soy sauce. If you ever want your children to try fish, start with this one. The flesh was so tender it cut like butter. For dessert, the Belgian chocolate pudding, topped with caramel whipped cream, and chopped almonds was devoured in record time.

More eating awaited us the next day in Chinatown, but first we had to achieve some family harmony—Jake and Mel were already starting to get on each other's nerves. So we visited the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Chinese Classical Garden. Free to the public, the rock garden, with its soft whispers of flowing water and the pleasant greens of bamboo trees, offers a placid retreat that easily soothes the frazzled nerves of traveling families. After a mere five minutes of solitude, listening to water spill over stone, our meditative foursome was ready to move on to the art of eating dim sum.

Less than a block away, Keefer Street is home to one of the largest Chinese restaurants we'd ever been to—the 1,000-seat Floata Restaurant. By nine in the morning, ladies were wheeling their carts of goodies down the long aisles of the convention-like space, offering such specialties as har gao (shrimp dumpling) and Jake and Melanie's favorite, sticky rice wrapped in a large banana leaf. If you're lucky, you'll also come across northwestern specialties like crab and salmon wrapped in spring rolls. Afterwards, we headed to a local bakery for warm sesame balls—dough filled with sweet bean paste.

We ended our trip to Vancouver where we started, im

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