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Vancouver Variety

Vancouver Variety

Making games, spotting sights and hunting for bears in Vancouver

  • Author: Cysion
  • Date Posted: Sep 9, 2013
  • Category: ,
  • Address: Vancouver, Canada

While production of Age of Empires II: The Forgotten reached its final stages, Ryan, Tom and I set off to Seattle and Vancouver to pay a visit to Microsft Studios and Skybox Labs. It was my first intercontinental flight and although 11 hours of flying is dreadfully boring, it can also be breathtakingly beautiful. The flight from Frankfurt to Seattle took us over Greenland and what a sight to behold. Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me 🙁

After landing in Seattle, we quickly hopped in the car to Vancouver. It’s just a 3 hour drive with a border post in-between. As we’re nearing the Canadian border, cracking stupid jokes and generally having a good time, we notice the mood starts to get a bit more serious the closer we get. While borders have pretty much vanished within Europe, it’s still a big deal elsewhere in the world, even a friendly border such as this one. Our discovery that “tourism” and “terrorism” sound quite alike with a Czech accent didn’t comfort our driver very much either 😀

When we arrived in Vancouver, we split up towards our hotel. There was one place left in the booking from the Microsoft guys, so one of us had the chance to go to the fancy Fairmont hotel. Tom was the lucky one and so Ryan and I set off to to our  hotel a few blocks down the road.

Little did we know our hotel had a rooftop restaurant with a splendid view over the city. And even better, it was a rotating rooftop restaurant!

Rotating Rooftop Restaurant

Rotating Rooftop Restaurant with a view over English Bay

However, we were there to work, so the next day we set off for the offices of Skybox Labs in the outskirts of Vancouver. We made great progress on the performance issues of the game while we were there but also looked forward to the weekend. Not because the job was tedious, on the contrary, but because I was itching to see the area as well. The guys from Skybox advised us to go and do the “Grouse Grind”. So that was turning out to become or Saturday’s activity.


Foggy road towards the top

Activity is maybe not the best word to describe the Grouse Grind though, workout is better. The Grouse Grind is a trail leading to Grouse mountain, a little under 3km long, but you climb 853 meters in that short span! I don’t know exactly how long it took us, but let’s say 1-2 hours, not even close to the official record of 25 minutes. Once we arrived at the top we were met with pride. Or at least, Canadian pride. In the shape of a statue of a growling bear next to a Canadian flag. Canadian pride at its finest.


Oh Canada…

Little did we know that at this point, bears would become the main ingredient for the rest of our trip. We saw quite a few animals on top of Grouse mountain, including bears, owls, eagles and vultures.


Skeptical owl







However, the coolest bear had yet to come. In the tourist shop they had a few fake bears. They were meant for decoration but for Tom it was love at first sight. After half an hour of circling around the shop, wondering if he should buy the bear, we eventually left without one. A big mistake in hindsight. For the next few days Tom’s quest for a bear was the leading thread through our visit to the city. We hopped from tourist shop to tourist shop to find fake bears (not teddy bears, but rather the ones you could take for a ride) and even did the Grouse Grind again to go and retrieve his first love. Once again, not the best idea as Ryan had to throw up halfway because the pace was killing him 😀


One of the bears in the shop, not the one Tom fell in love with though

So all in all, I’m not sure if I should be mad at Tom for dragging us along the city hunting for fake bears or admire him because he actually convinced us to do so. Anyways, we had a great time, hopefully we can go again another day!


Thumbs up to Vancouver