In London for Philadelphia Eagles v. Jacksonville Jaguars

One minute you’re stuck in 30-minute backup on the Cross Bronx Expressway, the next your in a post-Brexit, pre-NFL game day London.

After a three-year absence, I’m back on the other side for relative short trip. The main purpose of this journey is to see my beloved Super Bowl-champion Eagles play their first London game. They play against the London Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars.

Three years ago, I wrote about trying to gauge the popularity of the games here. Yes, they do sell out instanly. I was online at Ticketmaster UK at 5am they day went on sale. Since it’s just me, I’m basically a seat filler in the 200 level. At 170 pounds, it’s a steep price to fill a sit between whoever.

On the flight over from JFK, I counted five Eagles fans and one Jags fan. While out of Philadelphia, they are numerous charter flights filled with fans going over for the game.

I cruised some message boards, where fans are posting meet-ups at pubs and asking what there is to do in London. Yeah, I’m not hanging with these people until game day Sunday.

There are many things I’m curious about, mainly who’s going to these games — the mix between Americans, Londoners, etc. I’ve been during games and the only time you see any sort pomp are the banners on Regent St. or the occasional tube advert. The free papers you get on the tube won’t mention in the sports section. This is a Premiere League town through and through.

They’ll be a bunch of activities for fans at Wembly Stadium, feauting, I kid you not, “American food”. Philly cheese steaks? Yeah, I’ll pass.

Since I’ve been to my share of Eagles game, I’m curious about the enthusiasm during the game or if the “boo birds” come out when they are down. This is 3-4 team coming off a historic Super Bowl run with their returning QB, Carson Wentz, who looks a bit like Prince Harry.

That’s damn scary. Have London embrace the Ginger Jesus over the Ginger Prince. Nope.

Full report to come.

Take a Ferry from Vancouver to Grouse Mountain to Visit Grinder and Coola

Who doesn’t love to take three modes of transportation to see bears in their “natural habitat”?

For a quick trek into nature where you don’t need to break a sweat or get dirty, you can always trek to Grouse Mountain. Located north of Vancouver, it offers spectacular views of the mountains and downtown Vancouver … so I’ve been told. Look at this view!

Yeah, it rained with heavy fog. Good times, huh?

In any event, I suggest you take a leisure and inexpensive route to Grouse. From downtown, you can take the Seabus and soak in the harbor view. Then, a free shuttle will take you directly. From there, you pick up your ticket and head up the sky gondola where you can complain about your ears popping and try to imagine what the view would look like without all the fog.

At the top of the mountain is a sky lodge facility with a small museum, food court, movie theater that explains how the bears were raised and shops.

In appropriate weather you can hike along the trails, ride a zip line or walk across a rope bridge. I was just there for some fresh mountain air and to see Grinder and Coola from a safe distance. Plan for about an hour on the mountain if you’re just curious and want a nice relaxing view.

The bears looked rather chill and well-cared for.

Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery for Culture or To Seek Cover from the Rain

It’s not breaking news that it rains a lot in the great metropolis of Vancouver. You’ll need a Plan B if you plan on spending some quality outdoor time in Stanley Park or Grouse Mountain.

Take me for instance. Rain all day was in the forecast and I had planned on going to Grouse Mountain to play with the bears. So I postponed it until the next day (Spoiler Alert: it rained anyway).

Thus, culture was in the agenda … because it was the morning and the bars and breweries weren’t open yet and I couldn’t get illegally streaming NFL on my phone.

I kid but you should visit the local art or history museums while exploring a city. I headed to the city’s most popular destination, the Vancouver Art Gallery, to relax while it was pouring outside. Word to the wise, you can get advance tickets and not wait on the long line.

One of the exhibits at the time was Emily Carr: Into the Forest.

Emily Carr, born in Victoria, BC, is one of Canada’s most renowned modern artists. Significant as a landscape painter, this selection of artworks, drawn primarily from the Gallery’s collection, includes some of her greatest canvases and oils on paper. These works demonstrate Carr’s profound regard for British Columbia’s natural environment and her remarkable ability to depict the vitality of our dense coastal forests. 

Also on displayed was few from Claude Monet (Claude Monet’s Secret Garden), about his time in Canada.

As with most art museums, the top floor is dedicated to modern art. The problem at the Vancouver Art Gallery that time I visited, both escalators were not working. One being worked on and the other just not moving. Furthermore, only one person can get by at the time. When I finally got to the top floor, it was a lot of photos of shadows. Not fascinating.

Vancouver’s Coffee Scene On Par with Seattle and Portland’s

We don’t think of Vancouver as part of the Pacific Northwest because it’s in another country, but in reality, there are some aspects to the city that will remind you of Seattle and Portland beyond the weather.

The sheer amount of stylish and quality coffee places is intense. Two of them are within eyeshot of each other. It reminds me of that joke in Best in Show, “We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other.”

The first one I visited on my first morning (after drooling all over Purebread) was Revolver, located in the tourist-hub Gastown section.

It’s not a roaster, but they have a huge selection of the best micro-roasters in British Columbia. Thus, you pick your pour over coffee or espresso-based drink from a rotating menu of beans. The menu has all the coffee nerd-like flavor profiles — notes of hibiscus, butter tarts, bubblegum and toasted bagels.

The roaster I went with was Bows & Arrows from Victoria. I loved it so much I took a box home. I probably picked it because it had handsome packaging.

For my espresso choice, I went with Phil & Sebastian from Calgary, just because it was almost sounded like the band Belle & Sebastian.

The space has a small bar area with some fancy, brass equipment with a exposed brick background. The other room has a communal table with a library of art books to browse while you sip.

After that, I headed about 40 steps to Timbertrain Coffee Roaster. Similar in look in feel of Revolver, it’s a little bit of an industrial chic look with woodworking that’s similar to the Scandinavian/Japanese minimalism.

The coffee selection also relies on a menu of pour overs, just from their own blends and single origins.

On the second day, my first stop was at Nemesis Coffee, my favorite of the bunch. It’s another Scandinavian/Japanese minimalism with the light wood booths and counters with level and straight edges all around.

This places you show all your coffee geek tricks and jargon. It goes something like this:

Barista: What flavor profile do you prefer?

Me: I like everything. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I like bright and floral, other times, earthy and chocolatey. I’ll do earthy.

Then, while I’m drinking my coffee and eating toast and house jam, the barista came over and offered me small tasters of everything. It worked because I bought a couple of bags.

If you visit, make sure you use the bathroom so you can see this:

For my afternoon fika, I headed to the Kitsilano part of the city for 49th Parallel & Lucky Donuts, a sort of hyrbid coffee and donut joint. Even at 4 o’clock on Monday, all the tables were filled. There are two other locations downtown and Mt. Pleasant. And you’re damn right I took donuts to go to have the next morning before my flight.

Vancouver is an Asian Food Paradise, Here are the Three I Ate At

When you read up on the vast array of Asian restaurants, it won’t prepare you for how many options you have. We’re not talking your simple cheap Chinese take-outs, sushi bars or even ramen joints. There are region specific from every corner of the Asian continent — Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Burma and the Middle East.

What’s a first time traveler to do? A simple Google search of “Best Asian Restaurant Vancouver” is pointless. My approach was to search while in the city depending on what I felt like at the time, while finding a place that would be unique and well-respected.

I’m all about dumplings. While I was done exploring Stanley Park, I did a cursory search for nearby dumpling houses that I can load up on the juicy, doughy morsels of goodness.

The result was Dinesty Dumpling House on Robson St., a small chain in Victoria that’s known for their soup dumplings, noodles and dim sum specialties. The foods comes out fast thankfully, because you want to get those bad boys in your stomach. Get those dumplings, some pork buns and a rice dish for a reasonably priced lunch.

For dinner, I read good things about Guu Original on Thurlow. It’s part of the Guu Empire that includes Guu with Garlic, Guu with Otokomae, Guu Garden, Guu Kobachi and Guu Izakaya in Toronto. There are so many Guu names that they are missing out on.

The O.G. Guu is about the size of my one bedroom apartment, which makes it THAT much more authentic to the Izakayas in Japan. To make it more in the Izakaya aesthetic, the staff are frantic making food, but completely friendly to the point where you’re laughing.

As for the food, the menu changes often so you’re up for a surprise. I had some sort of peanut encrusted chicken, seasonal pickles and spicy soba noodles. Better yet, Guu has their own beer, Guuud! Ale.

When you leave make sure you say goodbye to everyone like this:

Finally, for a little snack action, you can’t go wrong with JapaDog. There use to be a location in the NYC, but like trendy things, it fell out of fashion. Although, the Los Angeles location is still around.

Simply but, it’s just weird Japanese hot dogs, mostly with a lot seaweed, kimchi and miso. Check the menu and you will get the idea. “The popular hotdog that was listed as “one of the must eat items in the world”. The juicy kurobuta sausage elevates the flavours of the terimayo sauce.”

Storm Brewing in Vancouver Has the Right Ideas, A Sense of Humor and Pay As You Want Samples

You can visit Vancouver from different perspectives. There’s Asian-foodie experience, where every cuisine is representative from the East. The Asian population are almost the majority in the city.

Then there’s the Hollywood North angle since a good portion of American movies (Deadpool) and TV shows (X-Files) come to Vancouver for cheaper production. Plus, it’s Seth Rogan’s hometown and now provides the voice of the transit system. Hopefully, his annoying laugh is not included.

Finally, and probably the reason I dedicated a good portion of my time doing, the city is the unofficial craft beer capital of Canada. Not many names come from Canada into the USA, the few being Vancouver’s Pipeworks, Unibroue from Montreal and the proverbial Molson macrobeer.

For my craft beer experience, I made sure to visit the city’ first, Storm. It’s a bit east of the Gaslight district among warehouses so just take the bus along East Hasting Ave. Don’t walk it, because you’ll pass plenty of homeless encampments. Once you get to the area, there five breweries within four blocks.

The set-up and philosophy is unique in my experience. You’ll notice right when you enter the space how different Storm Brewing is — there’s no taproom. There’s no bar, tables, stools, merch area, food menu or cute chalkboard of what’s on tap. It’s a production space with some space to stand. You’ll be hard pressed to find a flat surface to set your beer. Try next to the toy rat in a jar.

Then the other unique quality — pay what you like for six 4-oz. samples. The theory is that you’ll pay for growler. You’ll get a card to keep track. Since I wasn’t doing it, FREE BEER! Joking, $5CAD spot was my donation to the cause.

Without all the brewery trappings, Storm Brewery allows you to mingle with the staff and locals because there’s not much else to do besides stand, talk and drink some great beer.

And the beer is all experimental small batch concoctions. Cucumber beer? Sure! Here’s what I had:

  • Black Plague Stout
  • Highland Scottish Ale
  • Precipitation Pilsner
  • Vanilla Whiskey Stout
  • Apple Pie Ale
  • Watermelon Basil

That could be beer or an ice cream menu.

When you visit, make sure you check out the wall of their Yelp reviews — good and bad.

 

The Cannibal Cafe is Where Locals Go for Burgers in Vancouver

For the cynical traveler, Vancouver can just be an extension of Pacific Northwest stalwarts Seattle and Portland. Case in point, the funky and punky eateries that dot the trendy East Vancouver area of the city.

Located among like-minded business and near the community college, the burger-minded diner The Cannibal Cafe has walls lined with every rock band you listened to back in the day but forgot about because you are old and washed.

As I do with any city, I determined the best burger joint and since this popped up often and had the punk rock angle, this was my place. Then, it was within walking distance of some breweries and divey-drinking holes.

The burger was big, and intense I went with the Bacon Bad — Bacon & cheddar stuffed patty, applewood smoked bacon, Canadian cheddar, maple bacon bourbon jam, roasted garlic mayo, L.O.T.P. For reals, Canadians love their maple products.

Oh, Canada, indeed. #hamburger #vancouver

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And because I overeat while I’m traveling — poutine mac and cheese, because it’s POUTINE MAC AND CHEESE.

While you inhale your burger, you can read the walls.