Monday, February 15, 2010

You're Travelling Through Another Dimension

Quick word on the ticket situation at the venues for those showing up without tickets. From a couple of Austrians we learned that scalpers were charging four times the face value for speed skating. But the venue box office, although they had no tickets available prior to the start of that day's event, released a bunch of tickets five minutes after the 1:00 pm start at face value.
Even if you strike out at the Oval, there's enough to do in Richmond so it won't be a wasted trip.

Eat my dust, Cindy Klassen!

Located on the corner of Minoru Blvd. and Granville Ave. in Richmond. This place has something pretty much for everyone. The "zone" is actually two zones, but first some tips on heading there.

Take the Canada Line to Aberdeen, not because it's the closest, but to eat. The O Zone's food choices are the typical burgers and fries (and we're not talking even White Spot quality here) fare. Why do that when you can hit the best food court in the Lower Mainland in Yaohan Centre which is a short walk north of Aberdeen Station? I highly recommend the Chinese fried shrimp and squid at the Golden Rice Bowl or the stands on either side of it or the Korean pancakes.

Or hit Yaohan and Aberdeen Centre afterwards as they are both open late every night (hey, you're in capitalist-a-go-go Hong Kong now...if there's money to be made, we're open!) to shop till ya drop or cehck out the various events going on at each. The centre atrium at Aberdeen Centre is always having some display, show or whatnot.

Hop back on the train or walk under the tracks to the next station, Lansdowne. There is a city info booth right there on the south side. They have a "Daily Hot Sheet: An Insider's Guide To The City" that is a must pickup as it gives you a detailed map of the O Zone and tells you what is going on that day. Plus snag your free O Zone stickers and magnets there.

Around there were other giveaway stands from the needed on a warm day (Ocean Spray drinks and Craisins) to the odd (free Bibles?).

Now, you can walk to the O Zone from Lansdowne or hop back on the train and get a little closer by going to Brighouse at the end of the line. Basically, though,walk down No. 3 Road (which parallels the Canada Line) till you see City Hall (corner of No. 3 Road and Granville Ave.). There's a marked entrance, and this is sort of the first "zone."

They have a big TV screen set up in the City Hall courtyard with some large papier mache animals pefect for the "hey, kid, go stand there and look cute" photo ops. This is just the start--the whole O Zone is fairly kid friendly unlike much of the downtown houses which would bore the pants off even large kids like us.

Relax, the dragon'll only singe your hair a little

In the pathway over to the O Zone is this colored chunks of ice art you've probably heard about. It looks better in the professional pics online. First of all, it's encased in glass to keep the ice frozen during this winter weather we're not having and the glass makes it virtually impossible to take a digipic without getting wicked reflections off it.

Then right beside that is BC Street which is a bunch of displays designed to get you interested to visit Smithers, Grand Forks or Rutland. Of interest to people who are poor or aren't interested in otehr cultures for vacations. I wish them luck but again you or I can skip the whole thing.

Then across Minoru Blvd. is the actual O Zone. There is "security" and once you clear that, you're in the zone, baby! There are two other entrances--one along Granville Ave. half a block west of Minoru Blvd. that allows for drop offs and another at the northwest corner of the O Zone at Gilbert Ave. and Westminster Hwy. Parking on the streets south of the O Zone is possible or you can always park in Richmond Centre Mall for a couple of hours scot-free (and, yes, that is a cultural stereotype, Jimmae!).

To your right after you come through the Minoru Blvd. entrance is the Cultural Centre which houses Richmond Public Library (home to Ralphy Rhino, the reading rhino), Art Gallery and Museum among other things. The library has a TV screen up but not exactly sure how cheering works there with the librarians shh-ing every two seconds. Directly across from the Cultural Centre is Minoru Place where senior citizens can chill out in a "Comfort Zone."

Holland Heineken House is just a short hop, skip and stumble drunk jump from this area but be prepared to line up and get searched again before going in. Those with Dutch passports or named Johnny Rep or Dennis Bergkamp can take the VIP line and go straight in. Inside is nothing much during the day although they do have Internet terminals. Just head there after 9 pm when it turns into a night club and drink and check out all the Heines and hineys then.

Past the Holland House is a large playing field dominated by a large TV screen and stage. The beauty of this area is it's a football field on field turf so it's not going to turn to some muddy mess if it rains. Next time we go we're bringing the football and the soccer ball as there is loads of space to run around.
Hey, down in front!

Circling the playing surface are stands on one side including a Club O Zone Member's Lounge (ooh, exclusivity in Richmond, too!), a BCLC 2010 Games Dome that had a huge lineup of people trying to win Closing Ceremony tickets, an Ice Zone where you can rent skates and zip around an Formula One style speed skating course, various kid play areas, a World Ice Carving Championships (do they have teams and leagues?) tent and Coca-Cola's Recycling Showcase where you budding David Suzukis can win recyleable bags.

The best things about the O Zone are it is totally family friendly during the day while being a party zone at night in the Holland House. There's plenty of room for kids to run around or for parents to pass out and chill. Throw in the big screen and it's pretty much perfect albeit not super exciting, but this will probably depend more on the buzz the Olympic events bring on the TV screen and the bands that show up there.

If you're thinking of going during the day, plan it around some Olympic event you'd want to see communally on a big screen and go when the weather is good. Plus bring a frisbee or a boomerang and go crazy! If going at night, definitely go when a Dutch speed skater wins gold. The athlete(s) will show up and just follow the lead of the fans dressed in orange as it'll be a Cruyff-tastic blast!

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