This is the last post about my Vancouver vacation – about time too, since I’ve been back for about a month already. There will be Trains and Tikis in this post, also other words starting with T, like Totem and Tomahawk:

Marlena, Bert & Michael at Tomahawk BBQ

The number 2 item on my Vancouver agenda this trip (after the Waldorf), was a visit to the Tomahawk Restaurant in North Vancouver, which has been owned by the same family since 1926.

It’s full of authentic west coast Indian tchotchkes collected by original owner Chick Chamberlain. I was asked not to take photos of the artefacts. At first I was nonplussed by this request, but a waitress explained to me that the place had been robbed recently and they were a little nervous about people taking pictures (apparently some of the stolen items have been recovered). They did let me take pictures of the food, which I appreciate, because otherwise you would have been deprived of this sight:

The food is wonderful – pleasantly surprising for a place that could rest on its laurels as a theme restaurant/tourist destination.

There are lots of organic and locally-sourced items on the menu. I had a Skookum Chief burger (most of their burgers are named for Indian chiefs) which has bacon, a fried egg, aged cheddar cheese, tomato, special sauce and a wiener! Can’t remember which burger Marlena had (above) but it looks very appetizing, especially those yam fries.

On Friday, one of my Tiki pals, Taboo Tiki Dan, invited me out to the ‘burbs to see his recently (almost) finished basement Tiki bar, and for a tour of thrift stores and defunct Tiki establishments in Surrey and Langley.

The Tiki Lounge in what was formerly the Surrey Inn (now the Compass Point Inn) is no longer called that, but the original sign remains

as does some of the tiki decor, such as this wooden Hawaiian-style tiki and some black velvet wahine paintings.

Pepe le Tiki (left) and Taboo Dan, in the Zombie Hideway – Dan’s home bar in his Langley condo.

Stunning, isn’t it?

Tiki mug collection.

The glass case in the centre holds Tiki mugs that arrived in the mail broken.

Salt & pepper collection (um, look down).

So there you have my Vancouver getaway. Only 4 nights/5 days, but enough fun times to hold me for a bit (can’t wait to go back).

Played lots of scrabble on the train on the return trip.

The train station in Jasper has this fun diorama for taking pictures.

and this creepy coureur de bois mannequin that Marlena’s getting friendly with.

Here’s another T word to add to Trains & Tikis: Tile. There seems to be vintage tile everywhere you look in Vancouver:

Outside the former B.C. Hydro building (now a luxury condo).

Around the corner, this tile covered bank:

Star Tile on East Hastings Street, entirely covered in tile.

In my hotel room:

(not vintage, I think, but vintage look).

The Waldorf Hotel is located on an interesting, if slightly isolated, stretch of East Hastings Street near industrial docklands a few blocks to the north,

The massive British Columbia Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. building (Rogers Sugar)

Called the worst building in Vancouver by the Vancouver Sun in 1975 because of the “sheer force of its industrial revolution ugliness”

and Commercial Drive a couple of blocks to the east –

a colourful shopping street full of boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and organic markets.

Marlena had to stop in here because of her (secular) fascination with the Virgin Mary.

A friend of Michael’s took us to a place just off Commercial (on Venables) called The Prophouse Cafe.

It’s practically a museum of kitsch decor,

except that everything is for sale (I think)

or for rent for your movie project.

The owner seems to have a fetish for all things panther

such as panther lamps,

but, really, you name it

and you can find it here.

Quite amazing.

I’m out of words.

Also on Venables is Casa Gelato, a place I go every time I’m in Vancouver.

One scoop lavender (green for some reason), one scoop basil & pernod

Never less than 212 flavors of gelato at any time.

Not a problem on the dreary February day we were there – the staff was practically foisting samples on us.

Closer to the hotel, East Hastings Street is a little less exuberant than Commercial Drive. It’s a commercial street populated by the kinds of unremarkable stores and services that working class people use on a daily basis (though some gentrification is starting to creep in).

There are couple of large thrift stores within a few blocks of the Waldorf.

Didn’t find anything here.

At the Value Village, this pair of awkward nature paintings appealed to me (except they were grossly overpriced).

I bought this Coco Joe “lava” letter holder and a couple of cds.

When we asked for a recommendation for lunch nearby, the staff at the hotel suggested The Red Wagon, a few blocks east of Value Village.

Grilled 3-cheese sandwich and tomato soup

An excellent suggestion – everything was fresh, homemade and delicious.

They’ve only been open a few months but already they’re a Vancouver favorite. Not busy when we were there, but apparently that’s an anomaly. Worth waiting for (go for the food, not the decor).

Business card

Near The Red Wagon is a beautiful French bakery called The East Village.

Callebaut chocolte banana cake with marzipan

Oh why didn’t I try one of these?

Sour cherry chocolate truffle tart


Butteriest palmier ever.

More to come

Waldorf! Waldorf! Waldorf!

Papua/New Guinea shield in lobby

With the Chipmunks movie closing down normal activity in the restaurants, Tiki bar, cabaret and club, the hotel was very quiet, especially at night. A good thing, as I’d find out. When the dance club, two floors below my room, reopened on the weekend, the music went straight to my room (the bass, anyway).

Carved wooden mask in hallway

If I’d been counting on a restful night because I had an early morning meeting or was travelling, I’d probably have been pissed. But I was on vacation and didn’t need to get up early, so I watched tv until after the music stopped at 2:30 in the morning. Here’s a helpful hint if you’re going to stay at the Waldorf and value quiet: Ask for room 131 – that’s where my friends M & M stayed and they say the music didn’t bother them (avoid room 125).

Beautiful painting in M & M’s room. Looks like velvet but it’s painted on wood.

This lovely lady was in my room. She creeped out some of my friends (the eyes are a little dead – they don’t have any whites or highlights). I think she’s a beaut. What do you think?

Funky chairs.

More original art.

Each room has vintage (70’s) stereo equipment. Mine had this gorgeous Marantz tuner amp. The sound was great. It’s hooked up to a dual cassette deck with mix tapes made by DJs in the Tiki Bar.

Comfy bed.

Not much of a view. The Waldorf is on East Hastings Street (not the scary druggy part, that’s further west), a few blocks away from the industrial docks (more about that later).

On the weekend there was a vintage clothing sale happening in the hallway right outside my door.

On Friday night the Tiki Bar reopened.

Atomic Al surveys the scene. Behind him is the DJ booth – the sound system is entirely analogue.

Pepino Magico – Tequila, cucumber, lime juice, agave sweetener, chili-salt rim.

Right now there are no classic Tiki bar cocktails on the menu. I was told they’ll be relaunching the bar menu soon with a Mai Tai, a Blue Hawaiian and some other drinks I forget.

Taboo Dan stuck with rum and coke

On Saturday night, M & M and I enjoyed a great meal in the hotel’s Leeteg Room.

Edgar Leeteg quote in restaurant: “My paintings belong in a gin mill, not a museum”

They bake their own bread. It’s wonderful.

Starters. Foreground: Pan Tomaca (crusty bread rubbed with garlic, tomato seeds, olive oil and fleur de sel). Middle: Manchego cheese and Serrano ham. Back: Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician stle octopus).

My main was Fabada Asturiana – a bean stew with bacon, pork shoulder, chorizo and blood sausage. Sort of a Spanish version of cassoulet. I didn’t like the beans much (no bean dish has ever measured up to the cassoulet I had in Spain in 1978) but I loved the meats.

The shining star of the meal was dessert. Marlena had this wonderful Arroz con Leche Quemado (caramelized rice pudding). Michael had a rich, dark molten chocolate cake with ice cream (Fondante de Txocolate).

My dessert was called Torrijas con Quenelle de Queso de Cabra – crsipy spiced cinnamon and red wine soaked bread with a goat cheese cream quenelle. Not so pretty to look at but intensely flavorful.

On Sunday morning we met Pepe le Tiki and Atomic Al for Brunch Mexicana in the cafe.

Heuvos Rancheros with Chorizo

The cafe has a beautiful, spare mid-century look.

After brunch, Marlena and I went downstairs to the Cabaret for “Day For Night,” an eclectic and ambitious Sunday afternoon film series.

This week they were showing a couple of NFB films – Claude Jutra’s charming Rouli-roulant (1965) about young skateboarders, and Don Owen’s feature length The Ernie Game (1967), a depressing film about a young man with mental problems. It’s probably best remembered today for a cameo appearance by Leonard Cohen singing a song at a party.

On Sunday evening before boarding the train back home, we had dinner at Café Nuba (in the same space we had brunch).

Najib’s Special (crispy cauliflower)

My Beef Tenderloin Kebab with pomegranate reduction was cooked perfectly.

I had a great time at the Waldorf, notwithstanding the whole movie thing (they gave me a special deal to compensate for the inconvenience – very generous and unexpected). The staff was wonderful to us, very friendly and endlessly accommodating. I’d stay there again, and I’d say go check out the Tiki Bar, restaurants, special events and gigs and so on, even if  you don’t stay.

Before I left, I asked for some hotel memorabilia with their new logo on it (matchbooks, postcards, etc.). They didn’t have any yet but they managed to find some really old ones for me.

click to enlarge

A vintage postcard showing the three theme rooms back in the day:

The Tahitian Cocktail lounge (top left), which is practically unchanged.

The Hawaiian room (top right) when it was a restaurant. Now it’s the Cabaret. The half moon window at the back houses a stage, the tables have been moved upstairs to the new restaurants, and the huge Hawaiian mural on the wall at the left has been covered with a curtain that can be pulled back.

The Menehune Room (bottom) was a banquet room, now it’s a club (a menehune is a little person, like a leprechaun, of Hawaiian folklore). The thatched ceiling had to be removed because it was a fire hazard. The carved wooden columns have been hidden behind bamboo for their own protection (one of the menehunes lost a nose).

And a vintage swizzle stick.

The figure is the drummer from one of the Leeteg paintings in the Tiki Bar.

Next time: Beyond Waldorf.


Besides escaping winter for a while, my raison d’etre for this trip was to stay at the newly renovated Waldorf Hotel. I’ve been there a couple of times before for Tiki events (in 2005 and 2007) but stayed elsewhere.

The Tiki Bar

A little history: The Waldorf was built in 1947 and in 1955 owner Bob Mills added on a tropical-themed bar (The Tahitian Cocktail Lounge) with a restaurant in the basement (The Hawaiian Room), and banquet room (The Menehune Room). The bar was meant to showcase some black velvet Edgar Leeteg paintings Mills had bought on vacation in Honolulu. In 1970 Mills sold the hotel to the Waldorf’s cook, Frank Puharich. His family still owns it.

Leeteg nudes in the Tiki Bar

While many classic Tiki establishments of the period have fallen to the wrecking ball over the years, or have been updated out of existence, the three tropical rooms of the Waldorf Hotel have survived almost intact. But by the 1990s the spaces were only used sporadically, for special events and an occasional film shoot.

Apparently the hotel was almost sold to a liquor store chain, but the owner couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead it was leased to musician Thomas Anselmi (Slow, Copyright), restaurateur Ernesto Gomez (Nuba), and designer Scott Cohen, who spent three months renovating and restoring it, and turning it into “a creative hub in the heart of East Vancouver where contemporary art, music, food and culture convene under one roof.” Lofty!

Sunny days

I’ve been looking forward to staying there since they reopened on Hallowe’en last year. I was especially anticipating hanging out in the Tiki Bar every night and trying the two restaurants – The Leeteg Room (with a contemporary Spanish menu) and Nuba (Lebanese).

Unfortunately, after I booked my room, the hotel informed me that a big-budget Hollywood movie would be shooting there that week and that most of the amenities I was going there to enjoy would be closed for much of my stay! Aargh!

Entrance to the Tiki Bar under wraps for filming

Equipment tent

Craft services (i.e. food) tent

So what’s the big Hollywood movie that was causing all this distruption to my winter getaway?

The latest Alvin and The Chipmunks sequel: “Chip-wrecked”. In 3D! The plot:

On vacation aboard a luxury cruise ship, Alvin, Simon, Theodore and the Chipettes are up to their usual antics, turning the ship into their personal playground, until they become ‘chipwrecked’ on a desert island. As Dave Seville frantically searches for his AWOL charges, the ‘Munks and Chipettes do what they do best – sing, dance and wreak havoc. But they’re in for a surprise when they embark on an island adventure with their new friend – a castaway who’s more than a match for Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Look for it in theatres at Christmas. For a brief moment I thought it might be cool to run into Amy Poehler on set until I read the cast list more carefully and realized she was doing a voice.

More Waldorf to come.

This excellent article goes into a lot more detail about the history of the Waldorf and Edgar Leeteg.

My dear friends Michael & Marlena and I went to Vancouver a few weeks ago to get away from this for a while:

We got a great express fare from VIA Rail for the trip there (unfortunately we couldn’t get the same great deal on the way back).

Train #1, “The Canadian” in Jasper Alberta. The Park Car at the end of the train has a bar, a lounge area with complimentary snacks, and a panoramic dome.

I was thrilled when Marlena suggested it because I used to love to take the train back in the day (the 70s and 80s) but I figured I couldn’t afford it anymore. In Western Canada, intercity train travel has become a tourist service – mostly patronized by retirees who have the time and the money for a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip. The express fares made the trip quite reasonable – they’re about a quarter of the full price, and in Sleeper Touring class they include all your meals! I paid $207 (plus gst) for a lower berth from Edmonton to Vancouver.

Dining Car

Etched glass panel

Brunch: Potato pancakes with smoked salmon

Dinner: Rack of lamb with blueberry balsamic sauce

I know I sound like a shill for VIA Rail, but they didn’t pay me – I just love the train.

My lower berth in the daytime

It’s the antithesis of flying (I don’t fly, but I’ve been told): Comfy and relaxing, good food (cooked on board), friendly service, lots of room to stretch and walk around, you can take lots of luggage, there’s no invasive body searches, and on and on.

Marlena & Michael’s cabin for two

Michael snoozes in the dome car. That awesome Crown Royal sweater used to belong to a Seagram’s sales rep.

Marlena also has a funky vintage sweater – it celebrates Alberta’s Golden Anniversary in 1955 (50 years as a Canadian province). Most likely hand knit from a pattern.

When we got back on the train after the stop in Jasper there was free champagne and hors d’oeuvres in the park car. Swank! Later that night there was also a complimentary tasting of several local beers.

Cabin for two made up for bed

Lower berth: Chocolates and souvenir postcards.

If you have the time (the trip from Edmonton to Vancouver is about 26 hours), I highly recommend you take the train.

Next: Waldorf!

Summer Holiday

August 18, 2008

I got back from vacation a few days ago. Me and my buddy Gary made a quick trip down to Seattle to celebrate International Tiki Day with friends. I’ve documented the tiki aspects of this trip elsewhere on the internets – I’m only going to blog about other stuff here.

We really liked this moose sculpture made from horseshoes. In northern Idaho somewhere – I forget where exactly.

At Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle in Spokane they make insanely fabulous milkshakes.

I really need to add this to my Big World website.

More Spokane funkiness. The Garland Theatre – “Tops in Shows”

Thunderbird Motel in Ellensburg WA.

Americans like biscuits and “gravy” for breakfast.

Booze is cheap in the States. Air? Not so much.

Returning through Spokane: Downtown has many beautiful historic buildings and a lot of them are being refurbished.

The newly restored Fox Theatre, a former Art Deco movie palace, is impressive. Too bad the box office person wouldn’t let us poke around inside.

Spokane again. Frank’s Diner in a beautifully restored presidential rail car.

This was creepy.

The food was nothing special – canned corn, chicken fried chicken, more of that pasty white gravy.

My favorite roadside building on this trip was this “barber ship” in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho.

Darling, isn’t it?

Some of the thrift stores I stopped at along the way.

My favorite thrift find, in Cranbrook BC: A Trader Vic’s of Hawaii seahorse mug for a buck (been looking for one of these babies for awhile).

Highway Scavenger Hunt

August 12, 2007

Here’s how we did on the scavenger hunt Gaenor made for our “Lost in Paradise” vacation. We interpreted the rules a little loosely to include stuff we saw when we weren’t in the car too. The instructions said: “Describe or draw (as necessary) in spaces provided. If you can get photos, so much the better!

An animal with horns:


Value Village, Vancouver.

An animal with fangs:


Take your pick. Bookstore, Seattle.

A recognizable item of clothing lying on the highway (not off to the side) Identify below: Nope.

A modified Jesus fish:


Archie McPhee, Seattle.


(“Truth” is eating “Darwin”)

A personalized license plate


Easy peasy – before we were even out of town.

A bumper sticker that makes you want to meet the person in that vehicle (draw or write contents below and explain why): Nope. The only bumper stickers we saw made us not want to meet the folks.

A chainsaw sculpture (describe or draw):


Dick and Jane’s Spot, Ellensburg WA.

Someone making a face at you as you pass (you are allowed to encourage this): No, you are not allowed to encourage this. Have you never heard of road rage??

A fruit stand selling what is clearly imported fruit or Atlantic seafood: Nope.

Someone with a foot out the window: Nope.

A dog with it’s head out the window (dogs in the back of pick-ups don’t count): Nope.

A license plate from a southern or eastern state: Lots of plates from Florida. Mostly people pulling big trailers.

An advertising sign that has been modified Draw or photo, please: Nope.

A naked person:


Shaboobie Boobarella (do pasties count?)

A crying child: Nope.

A tandem or recumbent bicycle or unicycle: I’m not even sure what a recumbent bicycle is, but G says we saw one in Vancouver.

Something written with rocks or flowers: A few. City names I think. Kamloops maybe?

A motel or restaurant that advertises that they speak another language. Name language: Nope.

A building or sculpture made of a nontraditional material:


Lego bust of William Shatner. Calgary AB.

A business with a “humourous” name:scavenger12.jpg

We thought this sign was pretty hilarious. G kept going on and on about “a bag of Dicks.” Spokane WA.

An advertisement or business offering a “senior” benefit to people who are not yet 65; the younger the better: Nope.

People in a river: Yes, somewhere in Washington, I think.

Someone doing something at least moderately dangerous. Illustrate or describe: I have a pretty low risk tolerance, so I think highway driving is risky.

A camper, trailer or vehicle with old national park stickers on it: Nope.

A hitch-hiker with a cardboard sign telling you where they are going: I think we saw one hitchhiker, total. No sign.

A ‘Baby on Board’ sign: Nope.

A car/truck accessory with that naked lady sillouhette: G says he saw one.

An item beside the road, out back of a business or by the garbage that you would pick up if you weren’t on holidays: Ewww!

The purpose of our “Lost in Paradise” vacation tour was Tiki! Tiki! Tiki! all the time, and we accomplished that goal – sometimes in unexpected places.

Our first tiki destination was the Tiki Village Motel in Vernon, BC. Successive owners have stripped it of its original tiki-ness and today it looks more Japanese than Polynesian-pop, but we did have the unexpected pleasure of finding this beaut of a Witco lamp in our room (with an ugly, non-original shade).

witco lamp

witco lamp

Our route into Vancouver took us past the Value Village on East Hastings where I found this vintage Orchids of Hawaii R-5 mug. According to locals, it is exceedingly rare to find vintage mugs in Vancouver thrift stores. As it turned out, it was the only vintage mug we would find in a thrift store on our trip.

tiki mug at value village

vintage mug

Several stops later, we were at Funhauser Decor, the store of our Tiki Central friends Pepe le Tiki and Atomic Al.

funhauser 1

bar necessities

funhauser 2

wall of contemporary mugs by tiki farm

Pepe (Peter) was one of the main organizers of Lost Paradise, the Tiki event/fundraiser at Vancouver’s Waldorf Hotel that inspired us to go on this little road adventure. The Waldorf Hotel has 3 wonderfully ornate Polynesian inspired rooms that opened in the mid-1950s and have somehow survived the decades relatively unscathed. The Menehune Room was closed to us, apparently by order of the fire marshal, but we got to party in the atmospheric upstairs Tahitian Lounge with its starlit ceiling and original Leeteg velvet paintings, and in the downstairs Polynesian Room with its stunning 30-foot long Hawaiian historical mural by Vancouver artist P. Hopkinson (shamelessly “based” on the work of Matson Cruise Lines artist Eugene Savage).


bar in the tahitian lounge

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drum shaped bar stools

waldorf 2


waldorf 4

hawaiian island relief map in stairwell from upstairs entrance to downstairs rooms

waldorf 5

details of mural in polynesian room

waldorf 7

waldorf 7

vancouver burlesque performer shaboobie boobarella and friend

In Seattle, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of our Tiki Central friends Elicia and Todd. There are no “old school” tiki establishments remaining in Seattle, but there are several fine contemporary locales carrying the tiki torch.

The Islander:

islander 1

casually elegant interior

islander 2

carved tiki

islander 3

mai tai

The Trader Vic’s in upscale Bellevue opened about a year ago:

trader vic’s 1

gary and elicia outside the entrance

trader vic’s 2

miles of tapa cloth line the walls

trader vic’s 3

art from papua new guinea

trader vic’s 4


trader vic’s 5

classic mai tai – invented by trader vic (if you don’t think so, you’re a dirty stinker)

trader vic’s 6

elegant table setting in the restaurant (riff-raff like us eat in the bar)

Hula Hula:

hula hula 1


hula hula 2

wall decor, woven matting, bamboo, fishing float lamps – essentials for any tiki establishment

hula hula 3

gary in leopard-print fez from archie mcphee’s

The Hawaiian General Store is not a bar or a restaurant but, as the name suggests, a generally Hawaiian store:

hawaiian general store 1

gary’s new tiki buddy

hawaiian general store 2

tiki babushka (russian-made nesting dolls)

I thought this was the most hilarious tiki thing I’ve seen – a perfect fusion of my tikimania and Slavic heritage. Maybe I should have bought it but I was trying to contain the spending.

Our Seattle hosts have an amazing tiki bar/rec room in their house – the Rongorongo Room – which I somehow neglected to photograph. Here’s a bit of their backyard patio:

moai in the garden

About an hour east of Seattle, we pulled into the town of Ellensburg, Washington, to check out Dick and Jane’s Spot, which we’d read about on Roadside America. We happened on this little A-frame building housing Tiki Tattoos and Body Piercing. Nothing too terribly tiki beyond the name, but the Hawaiian shave ice we got at the kiosk in the parking lot was a welcome treat on this hot day.

tiki tattoo

Breezing through Spokane, we spotted the sign for the Trade Winds Motor Inn from the I-90. We pulled off the road to investigate.

trade winds 1

The place has seen better days and the sign used to be way fancier in olden times. We stayed the night, but somewhere else.

trade winds 2

lobby display with black velvet painting

The Sip-n-Dip Lounge in the O’Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls, Montana was the perfect capper to our tiki adventure. We’ve been meaning to come to this place for a while. In 2003 GQ proclaimed it the number one bar on earth!!! I don’t know about that because I haven’t been to nearly enough bars in, say, Turkmenistan or Burkina Faso – but I do know that we had one heck of a great time there.

sip n dip 1

mural behind the bar

sip n dip 2

mai tai

sip n dip 3

We fell in love with our cocktail waitress (in a polite and respectful way, not in a sleazy, drunken lounge lizard way), seen here modeling the cat’s eye glasses she bought for 50¢.

sip n dip 4

velvet painting

sip n dip 6

booth (the seahorse-motif formica is original)

sip n dip 7

the only tiki in the joint

sip n dip 8

happy patrons enjoying a fishbowl (more than 9 oz. of rum and other alcohol)

sip n dip 10

“Piano Pat” Spoonheim has been playing and singing at the Sip-n-dip since it opened in 1962!! Her repertoire on this night included Tiny Bubbles, Fly Me To The Moon, Ring of Fire (twice), and Margaritaville. We loved her unique phrasing (though it’s tough to sing along with).

sip n dip 11

Behind the bar, two windows look into the deep end of the motel’s swimming pool, where every Friday and Saturday night a frolicsome mermaid swims and poses for pictures.

sip n dip 9

Can’t wait to do it again next year.


July 30, 2007

neon 1


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ellensburg, wa

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ellensburg, wa

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great falls, mt

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great falls, mt