THE FLYING HOPPERS visit VANCOUVER

Published: Wednesday, 21 September 2016 Written by Walter 'WASABI' Marthaler

to participate in the 1st AMERICAS MASTERS GAMES (held from August 26th to September 4th, 2016).

 

This report or rather these ‘musings’ are written purely based upon my personal experience on this Flying Hoppers Tour to Vancouver. The official report is written in German and by Britta – many thanks, Britta!

 

I was an early arrival in Vancouver, which had two practical purposes. Foremost, I wanted to have some extra time before the start of the games in order to overcome the jet-lag. Secondly, I had already liaised for some time with Rudi Blatter in Canada regarding the supply of the nice Swiss chocolates The Flying Hoppers routinely give away to all opposing players as well as to the officials, refs etc. (We put a chocolate bar into a Flying Hoppers style shoe-bag, which then makes for a really nice little present, habitually resulting in members of any of the opposition teams being very pleased indeed.) Rudi and local manager, Cindy in Vancouver, had kindly reserved the chocolates for me to pick up at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet venue, which is near the airport. (www.mcarthurglen.com)

 

Wednesday, August 24th (my first day in Vancouver)

 

Having arrived fairly late the previous night and slept in a bit in the morning, I then spent most of the remainder of a beautiful sunny day to go by Skytrain back to near the airport and pick up those Excellence chocolates and bring them to the PINNACLE Harbourfront Hotel (www.pinnacleharbourfronthotel.com), the hotel which all Hoppers were going to stay at. This hotel, carefully chosen by Stefan, was in an ideal location in the downtown area.

 

In the evening I went for a dinner to the Hapa Izakaya restaurant (www.hapaizakaya.com) in order to have a look around and taste the food in the venue Stefan had designated for the following night as the place for our ‘Welcome dinner’. Being by myself, I could get a nice seat on the terrace which was very pleasant on this beautiful evening. The neighbouring table had two Canadian guys and a lady chatting heavily and drinking amply but they did notice me sitting alone and asked where I was from. Vancouver is a very open and friendly place and it turned out that the lady in question had worked as an au-pair in Switzerland earlier on in her life!

The waitress serving me (like all the staff) was of Asian descent – in her case she was Korean. However, most of the Asian population in Vancouver is of Chinese descent. The

service was good, and my Sushi and Sashimi dishes were excellent. Hence, I already knew that Stefan had once again chosen very well for the dinner the following night.

 

Thursday, August 25th (most of The Flying Hoppers arrive from Switzerland in the evening)

 

I awoke to yet another beautifully sunny day and went for a stroll in the neighbouring area of the Pinnacle Hotel. On this walk I came across some sights I found interesting.

 

First up, I saw a photo of Indians (mainly Sikhs) trying to land in Vancouver, coming from Hong Kong in 1914. That event is known as the Komatsu Maru incident and anyone can easily look it up on Google.

 

Thereafter: I stumbled upon an artwork (F-Grass) of the world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Upon returning to Hong Kong, I did a Google search and found a good link to view this particular artwork. For those interested, you can see this in a video lasting about three minutes: ‘F Grass by Ai Weiwei (A Virtual-Guided Tour) on Vimeo’. This artwork was displayed in December 2014, in connection with the Vancouver Biennale. The work should have moved by now, but is still in Vancouver.

 

Shortly after noon, I made my way to the Vancouver Convention Centre to get my Masters Games registration documents. Several booths nearby were trying to sell various goods or subscriptions, events, etc. One booth was already busy alerting people passing by that the next World Masters Games (the one after next year’s Auckland Games) will be held in Japan (Kansai area) in 2021!

 

I went back to the Pinnacle Hotel to await all those Flying Hoppers arriving from Zurich in the late afternoon. And arrive they did. After freshening up quickly, they were ready to take my recommendation of a nearby pub to go to for pre-dinner drinks. I guided the group to the Elephant & Castle Pub (www.elephantcastle.com). On the way there I got into a discussion with Diana about the number of cigarettes she smokes on any given day and got her calculating this by remembering when she last bought in a Duty Free outlet and then calculating the weeks/days to arrive at an average number per day of 6 cigarettes… Well done, Diana, for knowing the details so accurately?! Hope your calculations were correct.

 

After the drinks, a short stroll took us to the Japanese eatery (Hapa Izakaya) and we had a nice dinner with lots of chatting. Carlos demonstrated that he was very tired indeed by having a nap, in spite of the attention he got from one of the waitresses. Ah, the pleasures of jetlag!

 

Friday, August 26th - Lorenz’s arrival, and great Vancouver Bike Tour

 

A morning of relaxation for all the Hoppers who had just arrived the previous day.

Together with Benita and Retus I went for breakfast nearby. As with many others, I asked them about their main reason or motivation to come on this particular Flying Hoppers Tour to Vancouver.

Answer from Retus: ‘Vancouver, da muss man mal hin!’

Answer from Benita: ‘Weil ich da mit Retus bin.’

Nice.

 

In the late morning, Lorenz arrived from his touring in the USA. His comment to the question: ‘Weil ich einen Onkel habe der hier lebt und auch weil Vancouver eine sehr schoene Stadt ist’.

Katja standing nearby chipped in: ‘Spass haben und Hockey spielen’.

 

For the afternoon, Stefan had organized yet another great outing which had apparently been tested successfully on the previous FH Tour to Amsterdam, i.e. a BIKE TOUR around Vancouver. This was truly a fantastic tour, naturally helped by the fact that it was on yet another sunny day, and also due to Vancouver being such a bike-friendly place. Great fun was had by all. The leader of this bike tour, Jeremy, was an expert on Vancouver and could answer all the many different questions we asked. Those questions were naturally not asked en route, but when we took breaks to look at some things more in detail. I am convinced that this bike tour will stick in all participants’ minds forever. Very nice indeed. (www.englishbaybikerentals.com)

 

Saturday, August 27th - Simone is the last one to arrive – first Hockey game

 

To go to the not so nearby hockey pitch at the UBC (University of British Columbia) grounds, there were basically two options:

Both Emmerich and Willy had cars rented for the duration, hence some of us could ride with them. The rest took taxis to and from. This made the life for the chief of transportation, namely Jaap, indeed quite easy.

 

I am not indulging in reporting on the different hockey games per se, but will focus more on social aspects. In this first game, Willy as central defender ventured up-field and scored a nice goal. However, earlier on the very same day Willy did not score, i.e. did not get any brownie points from wife Irena, who explained with regard to their breakfast:

‘We have been married for 24 years now and ‘Schatzi-lein’ still does not know that I do not want Croissants for breakfast but have plain yoghurt instead!’

 

In the late afternoon, Simone was the last one to arrive. In the evening, we all made our way to the Opening Ceremony of those FIRST American Masters Games. To me, the highlights were the following:

 

- The singing of the Canadian National Anthem by a very strong voiced lady

- The lightening of a kind of ‘Olympic fire’ – which I believe is a first at a Masters Games event

 

We also learned from a speech made that there will be an Asian Masters Games held in Malaysia in 2018.

 

Once the speeches started to drag on a bit, some of us showed a certain ‘Opening Ceremony fatigue’ and headed straight to the Elephant & Castle Pub for some drinks and pub food. By sheer chance, we got seated at the same big table where some members of the hockey opposition team of the next day were getting ready for food and drinks. We had very friendly talks with them and among ourselves.

Willy was somewhat unhappy about having received a parking ticket on his very first day of driving/parking in Vancouver! Luckily Emmerich had not taken my poor advice of ‘ah – no problem to park over there on a Saturday without paying’ seriously and hence just managed to escape a hefty fine in the nick of time! Vancouver seems to be very strict in this regard. Willy considered taking his case ‘to a higher level’…. Good luck with that!

 

Sunday, August 28th and Monday, August 29th - Two days filled with hockey games

 

I am not going to mention actual results and details of matches, as I am sure those will be covered in Britta’s report. I shall just state some observations of how I, rightly or wrongly, viewed some of the players’ contributions.

As always, Stefan had outstanding presence and vision on the pitch and tirelessly moved up and down passing the ball nicely. He was easily the best player in this FH group.

Britta in goal managed some outstanding saves in quite a few games – well done!

Katja was a great addition to this mixed squad, playing solid hockey in each and every game.

Lene had a great tournament as well and also managed to score! ALL our ladies had very solid games throughout the whole tournament. But to me the most tenacious in each and every game was Natalja – extremely well done, Natalja.

 

As my ‘musings’ are more concentrating on the social side than on the hockey, I want to focus more on the sightseeing we did and on the many nice dinners we had during our stay in Vancouver. Occasionally, the whole group would dine together in a dinner, e.g. for the Welcome dinner and one other one later on. However, such a big group can present some problems – getting a dining-room / reservation is often not that easy or outright impossible. Another drawback of a big group eating together is that the interaction (talking/discussing) is of course limited to the nearby 4 – 6 persons.

 

Hence, on most of the evenings smaller groups were going out together. I tried to mix my ‘attendance’ and not go for dinner always with the same group. However, I am always very grateful for the research some of the Flying Hoppers on tour carry out in order to find nice restaurants. In the evening of the 29th, I joined a group to a restaurant selected by Lene, i.e. the Brix & Mortar (www.brixandmortar.ca). The dinner was excellent, and it was particularly pleasant that we were able to chat without any loud music in the background making this difficult.

 

Tuesday, August 30th - No hockey - Whale watching tour

 

Luckily, this was yet another perfect day weather wise – sunny and warm. All those interested in taking part in this ‘adventure trip’ gathered in the lobby of the Pinnacle around noon to be picked up by a big bus to drive us to the historic Steveston Village, from where those fast moving whale watching boats set off. Besides our big group, only 3 Dutch persons joined us on the same boat – hence it was almost like a private tour for us. The lady guide obviously had expert knowledge about the whales, as she must have been doing these tours for many, many years already. We were indeed very lucky on this day because we got to spot a LOT of whales in different groups. One of the whales even crossed underneath our boat, which was quite exciting. Loads of pictures were taken by the different photographers in our group, and I am certain the best pictures will make it onto the ‘Photo Gallery Vancouver’ on The Flying Hoppers website.

 

In the evening I joined a different group for a dinner at a restaurant selected by Benita, the Belgian restaurant Chambar. (www.chambar.com). An excellent meal indeed! And of course Jaap was more than happy to try out different beers from Belgium.

 

Wednesday, August 31st - Hockey games and receiving the Silver Medals

 

Two more hockey games on this last day of the tournament, and all The Flying Hoppers needed to do was to win the last game in order to get the Gold Medals. However, the opposition proved too strong, and hence we ended up once again getting ‘only’ SILVER. Whilst this was the first time achieving this with a MIXED team, The Flying Hoppers men had already won SILVER 3 times before, namely in Melbourne in 2002, in Sydney in 2009, and in Turin in 2013!

 

We started to celebrate by first having drinks in the Pinnacle Hotel in the evening. Then, for dinner, the group I was in that night went to an eatery that the ‘CCS’ group (Carlos/Coen/Stefan) had explored earlier in the week, the nearby Nightingale restaurant. (www.hawknightingale.com). This restaurant has an interesting concept: Diners in a big group (and there were 12 in our group) will be asked to order per person 1 to 3 different and often quite small sized dishes, and then ALL the different dishes are shared by all the people around the table. I would call this Western cuisine with Chinese-style food sharing twist! Very pleasant.

 

Thursday, September 1st - Sightseeing day Whistler

 

Willy and Irena were kind enough to take Britta, Lene and myself along in their rented car for a drive to Whistler. Once out of the Greater Vancouver area, the scenery is quite serene. Moreover, the road condition was excellent. We made a stop at some massively impressive waterfall and then continued on to Whistler, the place where the Winter Olympics were held in 2010. Holding these Olympics of course ensured world wide fame for Whistler.

 

Funnily, all of us had some kind of ‘expectations’ of what Whistler would/should look like – but to all of us it looked quite different from our expectations…. Overall, our group did not really like the place as such. The consensus was that Whistler looked like a somewhat artificial small town. Or, in other words, it looked like a small shopping mall with hotels and apartments attached, all looking quite uniform, i.e. without special character. However, the surrounding mountains are of course very beautiful.

 

We had some brunch together and then walked around the place a bit. We took pictures in front of the still remaining Olympic Rings etc., i.e. the normal stuff tourists do. Then it started to rain which prompted us to start our journey back to Vancouver.

 

Back in Vancouver, a group of 11 that night went to the Blue Water Café + Raw Bar (www.bluewatercafe.net). After an interesting and confusing taxi ride with an Indian man from Goa (who mentioned that his sister was in a kind of ‘killing mood’ back home, but that he finds Vancouver the best place on earth to live as long as Indians would/will not start creating a ‘little India area’ in Vancouver), we got to this restaurant which has the reputation of serving the best seafood in downtown Vancouver. We got seated at a table right next to the bar. That bar had very noisy drinking patrons, which made conversation at our table rather difficult. Luckily, all those guys called it a night and left after about 40 minutes, whereupon our evening turned into an extremely pleasant experience, as the seafood on offer was indeed truly top-notch quality. Service in Canada – based on limited experience – is always very friendly but often quite slow. So no surprise that we were almost the last diners to leave the restaurant towards midnight!

 

Friday, September 2nd - For some more hockey – for others another sightseeing day

 

The winning ladies hockey team were challenging The Flying Hoppers to have another hockey game. Thus some of the keenest hockey players among the Hoppers had to get up very early in the morning for that challenge… Even without the ‘softies’ who were not going to this game (like coach Retus, Willy, Patrick, myself etc.), the Hoppers managed to beat the ‘As Good As It Gets’ team by 3 : 1. Coen apparently had an excellent game in defence, and our oldest player, Jaap, scored his first goal on this tour!

 

We less keen ones meanwhile slept in and then had a leisurely breakfast, followed by some sightseeing in Vancouver on a rainy morning followed by a sunny afternoon.

First up was ‘The Ultimate Flying Ride’ attraction (www.FlyOverCanada.com). I really think this is a MUST DO for anyone visiting Vancouver. A fantastic experience, but hard to describe… The leaflet is stating the following:

‘Soar across some of Canada’s most spectacular scenery and natural wonders with the latest in flight ride technology. Wind, scents and other amazing effects will make you feel like you are truly flying!’

 

Then our small group (Retus, Benita, Patrick, Lene and I) walked over to Stanley Park to visit the Vancouver Aquarium (www.vanaqua.org), which is open 365 days a year. We first had a bite to eat at their Ocean Wise Café and then saw most of the many attractions. Another really nice experience and well worth a visit.

Benita and Retus decided to walk back to the hotel. Patrick, Lene and I finally managed to find a bus to take us back into downtown Vancouver. However, we almost missed getting off since the system to exit this bus was rather bizarre - quite unique!

 

This being the last night for the complete group of all 19 tour members, Stefan and his close helpers organised an Apero occasion at the hotel followed by a dinner of us all together at the LIFT restaurant (www.liftbarandgrill.com). Which was another nice eating experience enjoyed by the whole group. I took the occasion of the Apero gathering to collect some more comments regarding people’s main reasons/motivation to join this specific tour to Vancouver:

 

Jaap: Interessiert an der Westkueste von Nord-Amerika

Coen: a) Vancouver b) America Masters Games

Silvina: Gemeinsames Spielen mit guten Freunden und schoene Stadt

Natalja: Weil ich alleine nie nach Vancouver gehen wuerde

Lene: Weil ich noch nie in Vancouver war und weil FH Reisen immer gut sind

Carlos: Kanada als Land und Zusammensein mit guten Freunden

During the dinner at the LIFT restaurant I had a chat with Coen and Stefan (both sitting next to me) about this FH Tour to Vancouver ‘thus far’ and all three of us agreed that this was yet another one of those magical tours where participants just fully enjoy being part of it.

We also came to the conclusion that Vancouver is a really very pretty and pleasant city and must for certain be among the cities offering the best lifestyle in North America.

 

Saturday, September 3rd - Some are leaving - others do sightseeing/relax

 

Not a day with high level activity. We were seeing quite a few members off. They were taking the Edelweiss flight in the evening back to Switzerland. Others were leaving earlier in the day by car to visit other parts of British Columbia, and the rest of us were still doing local sightseeing or just relaxing….

I enquired among those staying on who would be interested to go on a ‘Wine Tour’ to the Fraser Valley, which was on offer for ‘every Sunday’ in a leaflet I had collected earlier (www.vineandhops.ca). I made the necessary booking for the tour the next day, which was supposed to start with pick up at the Pinnacle at 11.00. However, later on it became imperative to change the start of the tour to an earlier time because some members wanted to be able to attend the end of the Closing Ceremony which was also scheduled for September 4th.

 

Sunday, September 4th - Wine tour and Closing Ceremony

 

The changed pick up time at the Pinnacle was scheduled for 10.00 a.m., and all the 8 of us remaining in Vancouver (Britta, Silvina, Carlos, Coen, Jaap, Patrick, Stefan and myself) did go on this tour on yet another beautifully sunny day. Besides our group the smallish bus just picked up one nice couple, local Canadians, and so once again this outing turned into practically a private tour for us.

We visited four different wineries and enjoyed a lot of wine tastings and also got some food at the last winery. It was all very interesting, and I learnt some new things about wines on this tour. Obviously, Canada is not known or famous for excellent wines. However, some of these Canadian white wines were very drinkable indeed, as this excursion proved to us….

Because some of the Hoppers were quite keen/eager to get back to the Pinnacle and then walk to the nearby Closing Ceremony, the ‘VINE & hops’ bus took us back to the hotel in good time. This allowed us to down a few beers shortly after the end of the Closing Ceremony activities/festivities and I did somewhat wonder what all the rushing back had been about….

It became clear to me when Coen later on went on a ‘recruiting drive’ for eager early morning risers to go for a climb-up of the Grouse Mountain (also called ‘The Peak of Vancouver’) which was being organised by one of the opposition hockey ladies, namely Jennifer Dowdeswell.

 

As for the dinner on that day, Stefan and Coen decided to go back to one of the restaurants they had already been to and liked, namely ‘The Cardero’s’ (Their card states: WE ARE FISH chops and a wok. info [AT] vancouverdine [DOT] com).

Over dinner, we discussed some of the participants who had already left under the aspect of what was most amusing about them.

Natalja emerged as a clear winner due to her pronounciation skills, with examples given:

 

- Bettina instead of Benita

- Katrin instead of Katja

- Brigitte instead of Britta

- Murai instead of Murray

- Firemont instead of Fairmont Hotel

 

At the latter, Natalja had apparently ordered a small portion of ice-cream together with five spoons…