Last month I made my first trip to Vancouver, Canada, and its chilly rain forest. It was a working trip, so I spent most of my time learning about brain science (see my posts for Dana Foundation, Rethinking Emotion in the Lab and Eyewitnesses are trouble).

Vancouver’s Convention Center is downtown directly on the water, and wow did the press office have great views. Above is the east side of the center: the blue sculpture is the “world’s biggest raindrop.” That corner of the building, on the second and third floors, was where they tried to corral us journalists. It almost worked (after all, that’s where the free coffee was), but I did wander down to the presentations and workshops as well. (click on the photos to see them bigger)

On the other side of the Convention Center is the “8-bit whale” sculpture designed by Douglas Coupland; from the water, I’m told, the bits blend into a smoother whale. In the center, in the water, is the last of Coal Harbour’s gas stations, a Chevron. From the meeting rooms, we could hear the rumble of the sea planes during morning and evening commutes.

Here’s the Convention Center from on high: the Vancouver Lookout; you can see the brown grass of the center’s “green” roof on the far left and the floating gas station beyond it; the circus-tent roof on the right is Canada Place. The Lookout also has a revolving restaurant, which carries a very nice Cab-Mer (cabernet + merlot) and the staff will let you sit and linger over it for an hour during slow season. Also highly recommended, if spendy, is L’Abattoir, in the city’s Gastown. It carries the common themes of wood and natural substances, building reuse (it’s really an old jail, but next to “Blood Alley”), and great food. I had a knock-your-socks-off seafood salad, and amazingly melty pork (because it had been cooked in milk, the server said). I also enjoyed staying at Vancouver Inn, up the hill from Gastown. The Inn is more like a rooming house than an impersonal hotel (although, much like a rooming house, you’ll want to bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper).

I always have a lot to process at these science meetings; apparently that’s why I could not keep my eyes open for any city photos. It rained every day a little, and misted much; mainly tourists only used umbrellas, the locals wore knit or felt hats or went “commando.” My umbrella is in my bag.

Behind the Vancouver Art Gallery, I found a sunken ice rink running under Nelson Street. Sky-domes on either end offer light, but you can see the shade from the road.

At the Gallery’s cafeteria, I found an unusual napkin note.

Saturday afternoon I had a couple free hours between the science and the socials, and it was only raining a little, so headed to North Vancouver to hug some big trees and also challenge my fears by walking the Capilano suspension bridge. That woke me up.

The bridge is very wobbly, more like a little trampoline that what I would consider good bridge sturdiness. Still only one of the four dozen people I watched try to cross gave up and scurried back to safety. A brave bunch, we humans.

This year is rich with travel. Besides this conference, I have another neuroscience conference to cover in October, in New Orleans. But next up is an entire month traveling in Spain. That’s the little brown square above Africa in this giant spinning globe inside the Convention Center.

April in Spain! Half the time is vacation and research for The Spanish Patriot, and half the time working. Know any great tapas places in Barcelona, Madrid, or La Coruña?

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