Grouse Mountain in the Summer

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North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain is a popular ski hill for locals but it is also a great destination for visiting in the summer. Not only is the view of downtown Vancouver spectacular from up there, the ski resort has a lot of amenities to appeal to the summer visitor. There’s even a helipad on the mountain if you want to take a scenic tour of the city by air.

Helicopter tours of the city are available on Grouse Mountain.
Helicopter tours of the city are available on Grouse Mountain.

The fun starts, of course, with getting there. Whether you go by car or are on a tour bus, your visit starts at the base of the mountain. From there it’s a scenic trip to the top of the mountain on one of the two cable trams.

Upon exiting the tram you’ll find the ski lodge ahead. It features several restaurants as well as some shops. Clothing, cameras and souvenirs, and in the winter you’ll find ski gear.

The view from the restaurants is breathtaking. But we’re not here to eat yet. Let’ saunter down the trail to see what we can find. Walking amidst the tall cedars we come across some large wooden sculptures. Figures of tree planters.

6 - The Woodsmen-r
Giant wood carvings of tree planters. Behind the third one is the launch platform for one of two ziplines on the mountain.

You’ll also find a large hollowed out carved stump. A popular spot to pose for pictures.

5 - Family is Stumped-r
The giant hollowed out stump. Left to right: daughter Sarah, son Adriaan, my wife Janis, and our daughter’s fiancé Jamie.

Just over the rise we come to a large meadow in a shallow valley. Here you’ll find the popular Timber Show. With shows several times a day, the Timber Show is a humor filled display of woodsman skills, including a climbing competition, log rolling competition, and chainsaw exhibition.

Off to the left is the large bear enclosure. A couple of large grizzly bears live here. You might have to look around for them as there is a lot of wilderness for them to hang out in as well as a bear house. We visited Grouse in the summers of 2012 and again in 2015. On the first trip we spotted the bears on returning on the chairlift from the Peak.

We spotted these grizzly bears from the chairlift to the Peak in 2012. The crowds love to see these large animals.
This shot has been cropped from a larger one. The bear was up a hillside and in the woods.
This shot has been cropped from a larger one. The bear was up a hillside and in the woods.

At the top of the Peak stands a wind turbine with an observation deck high above the mountain. Appropriately enough, it’s called The Eye of Vancouver. We took the chairlift up to the top to check it out, though we did not go up the turbine itself. Maybe another time. The view must be amazing.

Even if you do not go up to the observation deck, the view of the surrounding mountains as well as the city is excellent from the ground. Worth a walk around.

There is also a zipline on top. One of two on the mountain. The other one is not far from the wooden carvings of the tree planters. The upper zipline crosses a canyon. The lower one soars over a mountain lake.

The zipline
The zipline. You can see a rider just starting his trip across the canyon.

The side of the Peak slopes down at a moderate angle from the top and you’ll often find hang gliders launching from there. Fun to watch from above, as well as from below.

A hang glider launches from the side of the Peak.
A hang glider launches from the side of the Peak. Another lies on the ground as the next flyer preps for takeoff.
Janis at the top of the Peak. The view is spectacular. Behind her is Stanley Park and the finger jutting out into Georgia Strait is Point Grey, home of the University of British Columbia.

Taking the chair down again we headed left to an outdoor amphitheatre for the Birds in Motion show. This is my favorite show on the mountain. Several naturalists bring out a variety of flying raptors in turn and talk about these fabulous birds as they put them through some flying exercises.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

Heading back on our first visit, we wandered around the lake the lower zipline soars over. It is a peaceful quiet walk featuring some aboriginal outbuildings. A nice way to end your day.

A native longhouse alongside the lower lake.

Grouse Mountain is a fun ski destination in winter, but personally, I prefer it in summer. I took a lot of pictures on both occasions we were there so I’ll add two photo albums. One is just of the Birds in Motion show which includes a number of video. The other is of the other sights around the mountain.

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Paris: Ooh-la-la!

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Often the unexpected is what makes a vacation truly memorable. And sometimes the unexpected is so out of left field that it cannot be replicated. While we absolutely loved our week in Paris in 2011, one incident stands out as a story we tell over and over again. It is deliciously wicked and if we were to visit Paris twenty more times, I doubt it would ever happen again.

If we had stayed at a different hotel, it wouldn’t have happened. If we had gone down to breakfast a half hour earlier it wouldn’t have happened. But kismet – it happened.

As I recounted in my first post on Paris, we arrived around noon on Sept. 17th. We lugged our baggage onto the train and finally settled in at our hotel, the Tim Hotel at the Place Marcel-Sembat in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.

The network of streets outside our hotel window.
The network of streets outside our hotel window.

After spending the rest of the day sightseeing to get an overview of Paris, we had a quick bite and retired for the night. After a good night’s sleep we got up, showered and planned our day – the Palais de Versailles was on our agenda.

Our hotel came with a complimentary continental breakfast so around nine AM we were ready to head downstairs from our third floor room. I was just heading to the door when there was a knock.

“Hmm,” I commented to my wife. “Must be the hotel staff wanting to clean the room. A bit early, don’t you think?” I opened the door.

There, with her hand raised for another knock, was not the maid, but a gorgeous blonde. A stunner. A knockout. Could have been a model or a movie star.

And…she was stark naked! Not a stitch. My jaw dropped. She looked at me, then over at my wife, and said, “Oh! Excusez moi. Wrong room!”

Oh…did I mention that there was a naked man standing just behind her and over to the side a bit? A naked couple. Strangers in the morning.

I closed the door and my wife exclaimed, “What the heck was that?!?!”

“Well,” I replied, “This is Paris!”

We waited a few minutes and then my wife asked if I thought it was safe to go down for breakfast. “Sure,” I said, “Let’s go.”

I opened the door and we ventured out and there, down the hall a bit, were our naked friends, conferring with each other. No doubt trying to figure out what room they were supposed to have gone to. Janis and I decided we’d just casually walk by them and go down to breakfast.

As I walked by her, the woman touched my shoulder. “Excusez-moi, monsieur. Parlez-vous français?”

“Oui. Un peu,” I replied.

“Etes-vous shockée?” she asked. “Are you shocked?”

“Oui. Un peu.”

She then turned to my wife as she put a finger to her lips. “Shhh. Secrète, s’il vous plait,” she said. Please no tell.”

We agreed and went down to breakfast, chuckling and wondering where the heck they stored their clothes. They didn’t even have a handbag. In any event, by the time we finished breakfast and returned to our room, they were nowhere to be seen.

All during our day, spent at the fabulous Palais de Versailles, Janis would ask me, “What are you grinning about?” Five years later it still brings a chuckle. My only regret is I was so stunned I didn’t have the wit to ask my wife to stand with them so I could take a picture.

Paris, of course, is known as being a center of romance and sexuality. And a few days later we visited the Montmartre district. This area in the north of the city on the Right Bank of the Seine could be called the district of the sacred and the profane. At the top of the Mont Martre is the Basilica de Sacré Coeur. The streets below are a warren of cafés, shops and the night club district. The most prominent venue is the famous Moulin Rouge.

We stopped by the Moulin Rouge to book tickets and discovered that they were sold out about a week ahead. We were heading to Rome to board a Mediterranean cruise two days later and flying back to Paris on Oct. 2nd to catch a plane back to Canada the next day, so we booked tickets for the last show on the 2nd – the 11 PM show.

The Moulin Rouge at night
The Moulin Rouge at night

We had no idea of what to expect. But we had seen the Baz Luhrmann movie starring Nicole Kidman and we expected no less. We were not disappointed.

Crowd waiting to go into the Moulin Rouge show, Féerie
Crowd waiting to go into the Moulin Rouge show, Féerie

The venue is an intimate one. Only 800 seats and all of them at tables with white table cloths and a candle in a red jar. Food and drink are available before the show starts but there is no service during the show. We bought a bottle of wine which lasted to the end of the show.

You’re not supposed to take pictures but I managed to snap one through an open door after the show.  Every seat is a good seat in this intimate venue as all the rows of tables are tiered.

The show opens with all of the cast on stage in a huge song and dance number. There are both male and female singers and dancers including the 60 fabulous Doriss Girls. I can’t remember how long the show was, but probably close to two hours. It went through several different sets and themes including a pirate theme, a circus theme and a history of the Moulin Rouge theme.

The colorful costumes are amazing in themselves. Feathers, fancy headgear and tear-away clothes. Many numbers featured the Doriss girls ripping their tops off and going topless.

Toplessness is taken as a matter of course in Paris. Children as young as six can attend a show at the Moulin Rouge and they offer a discount for children under twelve.

Indeed there is much to amuse children. The circus part of the show includes six miniature horses on the stage. And they have special guest performers. Two very talented acrobats exhibited both skill and strength and there was a comedian as well who performed in pantomime. There were also singers, sometimes with accompanying dancers, sometimes without.

One of the more spectacular parts of the show occurred about halfway through. The stage was cleared and the floor rolled back. Then up from the floor rose a huge glass tank. Inside was an anaconda.

To much fanfare a young woman was carried onto the stage in a Roman litter. She got up and climbed some steps to the top of the tank. The topless woman then dove into the tank and wrestled the snake. An unbelievable spectacle. Sure beat anything Nicole Kidman did in the movie!

The finale of the show was the can-can done up in grand style with a full chorus line of dancers in exotic costumes. My description doesn’t do it justice, nor does the five minute promotional video at the Moulin Rouge website. But it will give you a flavor, not only of the show, but of the venue itself. Janis and I would definitely see it again. It is better than any show we’ve seen in Las Vegas.

When the show ended, we had an usher take a picture of us by the doors. Then we sauntered over to the gift shop where we bought a DVD of the show as well as a couple of souvenir posters.

Janis and I at the doors to the Moulin Rouge showroom after the show. They have a dress code and all tickets are reserved seating.

The Moulin Rouge has been around for over a century and classic posters captured the changing shows. Each runs for a decade or more. The current show, Feérie, has been running since December 23, 1999. The two posters we bought were for the first show featuring the Doriss Girls in 1963 and the current how, Féerie. We have them hanging in our bedroom which has a Parisian theme. (What can I say – we just loved Paris!)

The two Moulin Rouge posters we bought now hang over our bed. We also bought an Eiffel Tower duvet cover. Yep! We ❤ Paris!

After leaving the Moulin Rouge we had to catch a cab back to our hotel near the airport since the trains  did not run that late. So we needed some cash and set out to find a cash machine. We wandered down Boulevard de Clichy and discovered wall to wall sex shops and strip clubs.

Side by side sex shops on Boulevard de Clichy just down the street from the Moulin Rouge.
Side by side sex shops on Boulevard de Clichy just down the street from the Moulin Rouge.
The Sexodrome - an adult supermarket
The Sexodrome – an adult supermarket

Needless to say, we didn’t enter any of these places. We doubled back and finally found an ATM near the Moulin Rouge. But one friend at work says he visited a strip club in the area once and the bouncers strong-arm you into buying a lap dance. He did not recommend it unless that was what you were looking for.

The next morning we flew back to Vancouver. Our last little excursion to the Moulin Rouge just hours before we left was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s a bit ironic that two of our favorite memories of that trip were our first morning, the naked strangers, and our last evening, the Moulin Rouge. Both a bit racier than our usual entertainment, but absolutely memorable.

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