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Trip Report Whistler/Vancouver with the kids (long!)

Trip Report Whistler/Vancouver with the kids (long!)

Jul 21st, 2004, 08:41 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report Whistler/Vancouver with the kids (long!)

Hi to all my friends at Fodors - and thanks again for all your advice planning our fabulous trip. We spent 4 nights in Whistler and then 4 in Vancouver in mid-July with our 13 year old daughter and 10 year old son. The trip was just great, and we particulary enjoyed Whistler. What a beautiful and easy vacation!

First, we stayed at the Westin Whistler (1 BR suite with a door), where we had a kitchenette, tiny balcony, fireplace (which we needed!!), overlooking the driving range and mountain views. The hotel was very nice, clean, comforable - and I can't say enough about their concierge Tina who was incredibly helpful. The kids shared the pull-out queen sofa, while we enjoyed the "incredible bed" or whatever they call it. The location is great - but then again, any location in Whistler would be great! You've got to love a pedestrian-only town, where you walk out your door and have hundreds of shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from. It was cold and rainy while we were there, unfortunately, but it didn't put too much of a damper on our plans. Our family favorites were our rafting trip down the Green River, a fabulous bikeride along the Valley Traiil through Lily (?) Lake, Green Lake and back along the golf course, an incredibly beautiful hike along the Cheakamus Lake Trail (after a long, challening drive down a VERRYY potholed road!!). We hiked Whistler Peak after a ride in the Gondola, but my kids didn't appreciate the hike that much - (although my 10 year old son enjoyed feeding our one and only granola bar to the cute like pika's (sp?) up at the top). A local Whistlerite hopped onto our Gondola at the last minute with great local stories - and I thought it might be you, Whistler Al - but it wasn't - the gentleman was interested in starting an astronomy program on the mountain (do you guys know him??). Anyway, I digress.

We loved the morning ritual of finding a new cafe with great coffee and muffins or croissants (loved Gone in the wonderful little bookstore in the center of town). My 13 year old enjoyed watching all the dudes with their mountain bikes, and my son thought they looked like his Lego Bionicles with their pads, helmets, and colorful clothing!

We enjoyed Portobello's for lunch, Caramba for dinner, Dublin Gate had great beer, atmosphere, and appetizers, and the kids loved the bungee jumping trampeline and the luge at the base of Blackcomb.

Onto Vancouver . . . which was slightly disappointing after all the easy and natural beauty of Whistler. I have to say that, unfortunately, all the panhandlers really put a damper on our experience. We stayed at the Westin Grand, again in a 1 BR suite, and liked the location for the ease of walking from Yaletown to the West End and up to the Canadian Place - -but having to pass a different beggar on each streetcorner was very disconcerting - especially to our kids. That said, Vancouver is a beautiful city and we probably would have appreciated it more if we had stayed there first. We loved biking around Stanley Park, walking around Yaletown, the unbelievable market at Granville Island, and especially all the dessert places on Denman! Between Death By Chocolate, the Cupcake store, and all the gelatto, we were all in heaven! The Capillano Suspension Bridge was cheesy, as you all had prepared me for (the staff dressed in costume singing "you are my sunshine" had us in hysterics), but it was a kick going across the bridge and walking through the elevated paths. My kids favorite restaurant was the Shanghai Bistro - the best Chinese food we've ever had. We had a pretty good dinner at the Rain City Grill, fun drinks at the Yaletown Brewery, and an amazing assortment of food at the Granville Market. Loved the little boat over there too. Fun lunch at Sophies in Kitsilano too - she's great! Enjoyed dinner watching the sunset at Milestone's - kind of an upscale Friday's with great Bellini's.

Phew! Sorry so long, but I hope to be able to offer help to others as so many on this board have been helpful to me. Obviously our family is into activity and food - not much culture or museums - though we did hit the aquarium in Vancouver for a short visit. If you have any questions - please feel free to email me at [email protected]. Thanks again and happy trails!
-Helene
nibos is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 02:36 PM
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Nibos, I'm glad you and your family had a good time.

I must have my panhandler-blinkers on for I don't really notice them in Vancouver, but I'm sorry you were bothered.

Cheers,
Linda


BowenLinda is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 02:43 PM
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Hi Nibos,

Glad to hear you had a great trip.

I too was interested to read about the panhandlers in Vancouver. I've lived here in Vancouver for eighteen years so I guess I'm used to it. It always surprises me when people from other cities or other countries comment on the panhandlers. I guess it's just part of day-to-day life here. How is the situation in other cities you have visited or lived in? Now you've really got me curious.

One thing that I must say frightens me is the squeegee kids. I don't drive very often so don't have to deal with the problem a lot, but on the few occasions when I do drive, or when I'm a passenger in a car that gets targeted by a squeegee kid, it is pretty frightening. Maybe that's what it's like for visitors to Vancouver who encounter panhandlers.

But this is after all a travel forum and I don't mean to turn it into a socio-economic discussion forum.

Some friends of ours from Europe will be visiting us next month, and your trip report has given me good ideas about where to go with our friends. Many thanks again.
Vorkuta is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 03:28 PM
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I work downtown and like many other Vancouver posters I don't even really notice the panhandlers any more. But I do notice a lot of people on here lately writing about being bothered by panhandlers. Friends visiting from Australia a few years ago were absolutely appalled. However I saw lots that was appalling to me in Sydney that they no longer notice. And I am really bothered by the begging in Seattle. So it might have something to do with getting used to it where you live. That said, cities like the ones I've mentioned, that depend on tourism, might be wise to try to do something about the problem. But what? That debate sure won't be resolved on here.
taggie is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 03:57 PM
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I stayed in Vancouver in a cheaper hotel on the border of a "sketchy" area, seen people who are by the San Francisco standards "suspicious" but I don't remember any beggars. You must be lucky to see them I must say - never in Canada I felt threatened.
FainaAgain is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 04:44 PM
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We noticed the bedraggled panhandlers, as well, when we were in Vancouver last week. I told my husband they reminded me of the classic "hobo." There was also a man who were clearly mentally ill approaching people around Canada Place. We see similar people in Seattle. Seeing such people always reminds me how fortunate we are and how important it is to try to make the world a better place for all people. This is the message we try to convey to our children when we are confronted with people who so unfortunate.
Orcas is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 05:19 PM
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How right you are, Orcas, that we should all be thankful that we are so fortunate.
Many of the street people in Vancouver are mentally ill. The government, in its "wisdom", closed down a regional mental health hospital a number of years ago, leaving the residents to drift. They are taken advantage of on a regular basis, but many don't take their medication, and they don't want to live in an institution anyway. There just is nowhere safe for them to go, so they are a problem on the streets of the city.

We also, though, have people moving here from other parts of Canada, because it's warmer... better to live on the streets of Vancouver (or camp in Stanley Park!) than in, say, Regina or Winnipeg or Edmonton. Some of these people are just down on their luck, truly looking for a better life and deserve help, but some would rather beg than work and pay rent and taxes.
taggie is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 09:49 PM
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The panhandlers in Vancouver were really a turn-off to us, as well. The first one hit me up before we got out of the train station. He was working the line of tourists exchanging their currency at the bank in the station.

We saw the same guy outside, bothering people in front of the station. After taking a few pictures of the pretty landscaping at Pacific Central, we walked across the street to the Skytrain, and there was the same guy on the platform, trying to "help" people buy tickets, so he could ask for their change.

We were hit up for change or Skytrain/bus transfers by a few others, but the ones who really gave me the creeps were the "out-of-work" couple on the Skytrain, who struck up a conversation, and then informed me they were going to get off wherever we did, and show us around. I told them we didn't need help, as we were going directly to the Art Gallery. When I turned away to look out the window, the guy leaned over and started telling my teenage son about all the illegal drugs you could get in Vancouver!

Donna

dwoodliff is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 10:28 PM
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I'm surprised anybody gets so used to panhandlers they doesn't notice them. I get panhandled several times a day when in town and will never get used to it. Even so, after reading this thread I'm almost put off going to Vancouver.
April is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 06:47 AM
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April, Vancouver is an amazingly beautiful and friendly city. Vancouver is world class and people who live there should be proud of the way it has been planned to show off its natural setting and remain on human scale in spite of the high population density. I know of few other cities that have such an extensive park system with public space along so much of the waterfront. Stanley Park, right downtown, is full of trails, pedestrian and bike paths (often separated) and activity centers.

The new buildings are beautiful, and the developers are being required to build public spaces that often include green areas, flowers, water features. The shops are wonderful; theater is great; restaurants are supurb. Vancouver is vibrant, with much to do. I hope other cities take note of Vancouver, which should be a model, in so many ways, of how to do it right.

My husband and I found the people quite helpful and friendly. The panhandlers certainly did not dominate our impression of the city. As we left, we started figuring when we would have time to return and share this incredible city with our children.
Orcas is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 06:56 AM
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All that said, and I will agree, though, our societies, or governments, should take responsibility for people unable to make it in our society. Taggie noted the closing of mental institutions and how people were left adrift on the streets. The same thing has happened in the US and it is a national shame, the results of which we see in our faces every day.
Orcas is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 08:21 AM
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There really is no place in the world where you don't see panhandlers of some sort. It's no big deal.
ginocat is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 02:24 PM
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Wow! I didn't expect to start a dialogue with such social commentary! My husband is from New York, and we had both lived in Chicago for over 10 years. I don't recall nearly as many panhandlers in downtown Chicago as we saw in Vancouver. We now live in a suburb in Wisconsin, and despite frequent travels to Chicago my kids hadn't experienced anything like the number of beggars on Robson, outside the Shanghai Bistro (several . . . though it's above a liquor store - even more sad), and another guy sprawled out in front of the Yaletown Brewery. My 13 year old was particularly disturbed by it all. It is all unfortunate, and both our governments clearly don't do enough to help the mentally ill. That said, we thought that Vancouver was a great city and absolutely loved Whistler. I don't want this conversation to dilute the intent of my original message!
nibos is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 03:10 PM
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With respect to nibos, I think it is a big deal, ginocat. I have not seen panhandling anything close to that in the places I've visited in Europe, East Africa, Central America, not even in San Francisco.
April is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 03:28 PM
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Vancouver is a beautiful city - arguably the most beautiful in the world. The panhandlers certainly haven't put off people from visiting; I just know some folks notice it and comment on it because it bothers them. But that doesn't mean they still don't enjoy visiting here. Just like people still visit Rome despite all the gypsy children and the threat of pickpockets, Greece, with the stray dog problem, and Egypt with beggars swarming tour buses. I saw plenty of people falling down drunk in Sydney, and I've never in my life seen so much public urination as I did there. These are just a few examples. The world is not a sterile place. I think sometimes we expect North American, and for sure Canadian, cities to be more sterile than they are. And like I said in an earlier post, sometimes you just notice these problems more as a tourist than you do in your own backyard.
taggie is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 03:34 PM
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I'm a little suprised at your comments April because I take it you live in Victoria and frankly downtown Victoria is at least as bad as Vancouver for panhandlers. One thing people don't realize is that the panhandlers actually do pretty well especially if they're also collecting welfare or disability which the vast majority are. On an average day in a reasonably good spot a panhandler collects somewhere between $30-$50/day which added to their welfare pretty well surpasses working at $8-$9/hour. These people will never stop doing what they're doing to pick up a shovel and get a real job when the money is so easy. On the other hand many are sick mentally or with HIV and that is sad.

The only ones I have any respect for are the dumpster divers who in any given day will pick up $50 easy but at least they're not parasites and in fact are contributing something by keeping our streets and parks clear of liter.

While certainly the terrific increase in panhandlers in our cities partly reflects government social cutbacks there is also a strong argument for the fact that for many of these people it beats working for a living and more and more are getting on the bandwagon because of it. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Supreme Court rrulings precludes the police acting against any but the most aggressive of them and that's another reason why they are so much more prominent now than twenty years ago when they used to be charged with 'loitering'. So I guess we might as well just get used to them. They ain't going away no matter how wealthy our society gets.
GaryA is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 06:21 PM
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Hi Gary,

Yes, Victoria is terrible for panhandlers, maybe worse than Vancouver (although I don't know what a dumpster diver is). I perhaps should have gone on to explain that because of that I don't really care to spend hundreds of dollars to visit Vancouver to see more of what I see at home. I would have the exact same thoughts if I lived in Vancouver and planned to visit Victoria.

On the subject of panhandlers doing quite well, I remember seeing a sign in Vancouver that listed all the places that offered free food and was surprised there were so many. When my sister cooked breakfasts for hundreds of homeless, there were very, very few who ever offered to lift a finger to pitch in.

At any rate, I had been thinking of taking an American visitor to Vancouver in the fall because they have never been. I'd like them to see the beauty of the place... and just hope Stanley Park hasn't been burned down by then.
April is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 07:06 PM
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April, Dumpster Divers are people who trtavel through back lanes looking into dumpsters for bottles and cartons, (among other things), that they can take for cash refunds. They also scour the parks and beaches for bottles and cartons and, besides the money they make from some of the valuable things they find in dumpsters which they take to pawnshops, they easily pick up $50 or more on an average day. But as I said - they deserve every penny and they do perform a public service by keeping our cities clean.
GaryA is offline  

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