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Everything You Need To Know
176th NPL Convention, Vancouver BC Canada
July 9-12, 2015
Here it is—the eagerly anticipated Con information collection for the fourth NPL Convention of the modern era to be held in Canada, and the second time in Vancouver. Speaking of time (and dates) you’ll enjoy the privilege of being alive simultaneously in B.C. and A.D.
This package will give you information about Vancouver, the hotel and other (hopefully) useful information to ensure your CONtinuous enjoyment of the time you spend in Recouvery. The formal Con Program is also available below. Vist the unofficial program page for more information on unofficial activities.
By the way, the choice of colours (not colors) is intentional. Blue and green are the colours of our National Hockey League team (the Canucks) and our Major League Soccer team (the Whitecaps). Blue represents water and sky around and over Vancouver, green is for the garden-like environment here and for our focus on sustainability. So, if you plan to print out this packet, find a colour printer!
If you are a newcomer to the NPL or are attending a Con for the first time, and would like someone to “show you the ropes”, please let us know upon your arrival. We will introduce you to a wily veteran who will take you under his or her wing.
Note: Throughout this document and everywhere else in Canada, dollars will be Canadian (check the exchange rate), distances will be in kilometres (1.6 km = 1 mi) and temperatures will be in Celsius. (And we use Canadian spelling!)
By the way, the City of Vancouver has extensive no-smoking bylaws. Smoking is banned in all indoor public places, including restaurants, malls, etc., within 6 metres of doorways and in all parks. So leave your tobacco products at home!
The Recouvery Hotel
Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites
1763 Comox St, Vancouver (Tel: 604-688-7711)
The hotel is situated in Vancouver’s eclectic West End, on the edge of the world-famous Stanley Park. It is west of downtown in a mainly residential area, at the junction of Denman and Comox. It has many attractive facilities including a health club, fitness centre, indoor swimming pool, restaurant and bar. Ample parking ($25 per day) is available. The hotel has approximately 200 rooms of which more than half will be occupied by Krewe during the peak Con period.
The hotel has loads of gathering spots for conversation or solo or group solving. Since the weather will be wonderful (see below for disclaimer) you will be able to enjoy the large garden terrace right across from the ballroom meeting space. Oh yes, there is a piano available for our members to play.
There is an ATM machine located in the Conference area and there are two banks within a block. There are also two free and separate wi-fi systems; one for the rooms and one for the Conference area. Details when you check-in.
In addition to being close to Stanley Park, with its miles (sorry, kilometres) of trails and wonderful seawall, the hotel is close to the English Bay beaches, the hustle and bustle of Denman Street, the upscale Robson St., and a tremendous array of dining, shopping and sightseeing opportunities, all within walking distance.
For venturing further afield, see below: What To Do When You’re Not Puzzling
This is a condensed version of the official con program. See the program page for complete details.
The hidden contest may be presented at any time. Find it. Solve it. Do what it says.
Wednesday, July 8th
6:00PM Picnic [at Creekside Community Recreation Center]
Thursday, July 9th
Friday, July 10th
8:00PM Another evening of puzzles and games
Saturday, July 11th
10:00AM Business meeting
Sunday, July 12th
10:30AM Awards for all the weekend contests
Hotel and Con Details
Meetings will be held in the Denman Ballroom in the convention area, accessible by stairs from the lobby or by elevator. We will also have the smaller Bidwell Room in the mezzanine near the ballroom to use for Con handouts, nom tags, programs, and for small group solving or gaming.
The hospitality room will be announced at the Con or sooner if we know it. To access the hospitality room a limited number of keys will be made available to the group. It will be available from Wednesday 3 pm until the end of the Con (Sunday noon).
Denman Mall Facilities
Nearby (and accessible from the hotel) is the Denman Mall which includes a UPS Store for all your Con handout photocopying needs, Joe’s No Frills food store, and Shoppers Drug Mart (drugstore).
What’s It Like Outside?
The weather may be sunny and dry, or cloudy and wet, or partly sunny and partly dry, or partly cloudy and partly wet, or any other combination you can think of. The temperatures will be in the low to mid 20s (Celsius) (70s Fahrenheit) (mid 290s Kelvin). The conversion formulae between C and F are: C x 9/5 + 32 = F; or (F - 32) x 5/9 = C. Doing the conversion in your head is very soothing!
If you look at a map of Vancouver you’ll see that the downtown, including Stanley Park, is a peninsula. It is quite large but it is walkable, and certainly cycle-able.
Buses and Trains
Vancouver has a bus and sky train system which covers both the city and the surrounding suburbs. The bus routes running nearest the hotel are 5, 6, C21 and C23. Books of tickets may be bought in advance – and shared of course. Use the link to help you plan your trip —click on downtown. Single trips may be purchased when boarding a bus ($2.75 or $1.75 (if a senior) exact cash only, with a 90 minute on/off privilege).
False Creek Ferry
A further exciting way of exploring False Creek is to take a False Creek ferry (click here) or the Aquabus (click here), which has almost the same routing. These small, passenger-only ferries bustle between stops on both shores of False Creek. The nearest stop to the hotel is at Aquatic Centre on Beach Avenue. Walk or take the C21 bus from the hotel.
As in any large city, there are many taxi companies. (Uber has not yet successfully reached Vancouver). Fares are metered, except FROM the airport, which should be a flat $35 to the con hotel.
Hosts’ “Welcome To Recouvery” Picnic
The Wednesday hosts’ picnic will take place from 6-9 pm at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre (1 Athletes Way). It is in the Olympic Village on the south side of False Creek, right by the Telus World of Science. Given Vancouver’s propensity for unpredictable weather we have a party room with a deck. But of course, you are welcome to be outside, exploring the beautiful surroundings. Picnic food and non-alcoholic drinks will be provided. It's sufficient for dinner but not high-class dining. Guests and family members are welcome to join in. And Vroo has created a mini-extravaganza for your solving pleasure. It will be a good warm-up for all that lies ahead. And for after-hours libations there are two great pubs, one attached to the community centre and one half a block away. The site is about five kilometres (three miles) from the Coast Plaza – a short drive, medium bus or sky train trip, or a long walk; or, take the scenic water route via one of the False Creek ferries (see above).
Here are some details about how to get to the Community Centre from the hotel:
It will be a 45 minute walk, down Nelson St. Use your GPS or get a map from the hotel.
Walk about 300 m. (3 minutes) to Beach Ave. and take the C23 Main St. Stn bus. The community centre is about an 8-minute walk from the Main St. Stn at National and Quebec. The bus makes 19 stops so the trip, with the walk at either end, will take about 33 minutes total.
From the hotel, head northwest on Comox St. toward Denman St. Turn right at the first cross street onto Denman St. Turn right onto Nelson St. and then take Nelson to Pacific Blvd. Turn onto Pacific Blvd (a winding route which eventually becomes Quebec St.) and take it to East 1st Ave. Turn right at Ontario St. and go two blocks to Athletes Way. Turn left and you’ve arrived. There is underground pay parking and some hard-to-find free street parking. About 15 minutes drive time.
By False Creek Ferry
A 10 min. walk + 20-30 min. small (approx. 12 passengers) ferry ride. Take a nice walk from the hotel down to the water, and go along Beach Ave. to the foot of Thurlow St. where you’ll find the Aquatic Centre ferry dock. You can take a ferry all the way to the Olympic Village/Science World dock, and you’ll get right to the community centre. Ferries sail every five minutes from the Aquatic Centre to Granville Island, or every two minutes at peak times. Total time: 30-40 minutes.
There is no station near the hotel, so this option is only relevant if you are coming from downtown or elsewhere in the city. There are two different lines, and they stop at two different stations, each a short walk from the community centre. Take the Expo Line to Main Street Station, and then add a 5-7 minute walk. Or, take Canada Line to Olympic Village Station, and then add a 15 minute walk.
Included in your Con fee are five fabulous meals, which will take into consideration as many common food sensitivities as are practical. All are provided buffet style.
Meal times are:
If there are any members of your group who are not participating in Con events (i.e., have not paid a con fee) but who would like one or more meals, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as your plans are finalized.
Are We There Yet? How to Enter Recouvery
So you’re on your way to Vancouver. How are you going to make the final part of your journey (which is not the same as making your “final” journey!) to the Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites? For the self-reliant, use Google Maps or a GPS. Otherwise, read on.
We start on the assumption that you have successfully got yourself to one of a number of possible locations: YVR (Vancouver’s airport), Sea-Tac (Seattle’s airport), or are driving to Vancouver from somewhere south of us. If you’re coming from a different direction and require guidance, please ask us.
Crossing the Border
IMPORTANT: Make sure you have the necessary documentation to cross the border! We have told you about this before, but please, please, please (redundancy intended) ensure you have the required documentation for everyone in your group/vehicle, including children. This probably means a valid passport and/or Nexus/Global Entry card. Canadian customs officials are almost as humourless as their American counterparts, so save the wordplay for more appreciative audiences.
Vancouver Airport (YVR)
(International and Canadian Arrivals)
Car rental outlets are located through the parkade (a Canadian expression; you probably call it a parking lot). Once you have your car, follow these directions to the hotel:
Taxi to Hotel
Once through the customs and immigration arrivals process (unless you’re arriving on a domestic flight and can skip that part!), walk toward the exit to the International/Domestic Arrivals Area. Taxis are located just outside this area. There is a fixed rate fee of $35 (CAN) from the airport to downtown. Please be sure you specify the Coast Plaza Hotel on Comox St. (in the West End).
Public Transport to Hotel
Once through the customs and immigration arrivals process (unless you’re arriving in the domestic end of the terminal), walk toward the exit to the International Arrivals Greeting Area. Exit the building by following signs marked Canada Line. Before the parkade entrance, an escalator and elevator will take you up to the Canada Line platform. The fare payable at ticket dispensing machines is $7.75(CAN) (1 zone). Get off at Yaletown station.
Then, either take a taxi to the hotel (Coast Plaza on Comox),(approx. $10) or take a #C23 bus to Davie & Bidwell, walk up 2.5 blocks to the Coast Plaza. Your original Canada Line ticket also covers the bus fare.
Seattle Airport (Sea-Tac)
If you are renting a car, we assume you can safely get your car and proceed onto the (I-405 and then) I-5 and head towards the border. The border is at mile 276.
There are two crossings, with the wait times for each clearly posted as you approach the border. The Pacific Highway crossing, sometimes referred to as the Truck crossing, caters to both cars and trucks. Radio Station 1130 AM gives traffic updates every 10 minutes.
As you approach the border the Nexus lane (for which you must have a valid Nexus card!) is clearly marked. Usually it will have a significantly lower wait time.
Once you have crossed the border, you are in the magnificent metric world of Canada. The 110 speed limit is KILOMETRES per hour (about 68 mph). The distances are KILOMETRES. And you now are on Highway 99 (we know, it’s not quite a power of 10!). Now:
Other transportation options
There are a number of companies who claim to provide service from Sea-Tac Airport or Downtown to Vancouver. However, services do not appear to be that frequent. You may, however, wish to investigate the services provided by QuickShuttle (www.quickcoach.com) and Amtrak (www.amtrak.com). In both cases you will probably have to take a taxi from the drop-off point to the Coast Hotel on Comox Street.
Where to Eat and Drink
How much time/space do we have? Vancouver offers world-class dining; it has a multitude of restaurants with a wide variety of sophistication and ethnic cuisine. Street trucks abound and have a growing excellent reputation.
There are hundreds of restaurants in the downtown area, within walking distance of our hotel. Many others are just on the other side of the downtown peninsula and are just a short drive or taxi ride away. Of course, you make not make it very far because there are many small restaurants located along the length of Denman Street. We’ll let you discover them for yourself (and then report back to us).
Unfortunately, unless you are arriving a day or more before Recouvery starts, or are staying afterward, you won’t have too many opportunities to dine out. We will be feeding you Friday dinner, all Saturday meals and Sunday brunch, so that leaves Thursday evening’s dinner, but you need to be back at the hotel for the 8 pm program start! Ah, such are life’s problems!
West End (Near the hotel)
1184 Denman - Vietnamese
788 Denman - Ramen
La Casita Tacos
1773 Robson - Mexican
Acacia Fillo Bar
1103 Denman - European
1668 Robson - Sushi
751 Denman - Contemporary, French bistro
Guu with Garlic
1698 Robson - Japanese
781 Denman - Italian/Pizza
1118 Denman - Tapas
1096 Denman - Malaysian
1074 Denman - Noodles
1790 Beach Avenue
1795 Beach Avenue
1829 Robson - Italian
Fish House in Stanley Park
8901 Stanley Park Drive - Seafood and more
Take a stroll into the park (and a brisk walk back) for this well-regarded (not only seafood) restaurant. It will be closing at the end of September after a 25-year run, so this is your last opportunity to eat there.
871 Denman - Japanese tapas; rated #1 in the West End
The following list was selected from Witz’s experience and from restaurant award sites. Check them out yourself at Golden Plates and at Vancouver Magazine’s 2015 Restaurant awards (many locations and categories): Vancouver Magazine
568 Beatty - Belgian cuisine & sustainable seafood
A favourite of Witz and Mrs. Witz, and ranked #1 this year (by the general public, as well as by the Witzes). Reserve early!
801 W. Georgia - Inventive Pacific Northwest cuisine
Ranked #2, we haven’t tried it
2183 W. 4th - Seasonal British Columbian ingredients
S Vancouver legend and long-time favourite of the Witzes
100–909 Burrard - Traditional French
the Witzes have dined here a few times
YEW seafood + bar (Four Seasons Hotel)
791 W. Georgia - Pacific NW seafood focus
and here, too
Seasons in the Park
Queen Elizabeth Park (West 33rd Avenue at Cambie Street) - Pacific NW Dishes
yep, and here, but not for some time. Wonderful view of the city.
Hy’s Encore, Vancouver
637 Hornby - Steakhouse
A venerable steak house, and the site of family birthdays when our sons were teenage carnivores.
7501 Stanley Park Dr
a lovely spot IN the park
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House
(depending on your definition of “mid-price”!)
1480 W. 11th - Indian
no reservations are taken so be prepared for a wait. But they serve snacks while you wait, and it’s worth the wait! We love this one
1944 W. 4th - Farm to Table
Les Faux Bourgeois
663 E. 15th - Classic French
Homer St. Cafe and Bar
Various locations - Comfort food
Cactus Club Cafe
Various locations, including one near the hotel with a wonderful beach view. No reservations taken so waits are likely at peak times
Sophie's Cosmic Cafe
2095 W. 4th - Retro diner
a long-time popular retro diner
1300 Robson - Casual sustainable
noted for its use of local ingredients; very close to the hotel
Edible Canada (Granville Island)
1596 Johnston - Gourmet artisan, local
another winner for use of local ingredients
Shabusen Yakiniku House
your best choice for all-you-can-eat Japanese
Tomokazu Japanese Restaurant
201–1128 W. Broadway
your second-best bet for all-you-can-e Japanese
1616 Alberni Street - British
British gastro pub
4 restaurants in Vancouver
Primarily a steak house chain
4 more restaurants in Vancouver
Broader menu than Keg. Try the ribs!
(Disclaimer: We haven’t tried any of these)
Bon’s Off Broadway
2451 Nanaimo - Rough-&-ready neighbourhood joint
4127 Main St - Singaporean
Various locations - Chinese
1509 W. 12th Ave
a higher-end menu
3980 Fraser St
237 Union St - Reservations recommended
2301 Main St - Budget
1941 Cornwall St
1958 W. 4th St
More vegetarian or vegan options online
1334 Kingsway Ave
Bodhi Choi Heung Vegetarian Restaurant
3932 Fraser St
Chau Veggie Express
5052 Victoria St
On the North Shore
(on the way back from your visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park or Grouse Mountain)
Beach House at Dundarave Pier
150 25th St. West Van - Seafood, steaks
Salmon House on the Hill
2229 Folkstone Way, West Van
Coffee shops abound! Canada leads the world in number of Starbucks per capita (yes, ahead of the U.S.). Vancouver has over 100 locations. We won’t bother to list alternatives. You can find them yourselves.
Lemonade Gluten Free Bakery
East Village Bakery
2166 East Hastings Street
The Gluten Free Epicurean
633 E. 15th
Gelato, Ice Cream and other Desserts
1001 West Cordova (downtown) and Bella Yaletown 1089 Marinaside Crescent
this is place we told you about in our Con bid; don’t miss it!
Mario’s Gelato/ Amato Gelato Cafe
88 E. 1st Ave - Very close to the Wed. picnic site
The Witzes frequent this place
Earnest Ice Cream
It just opened a block from Mario’s
ice cream, not gelato, but equally fantastic so we’re told. The lineups provide strong evidence.
Sweet Obsessions (at Trafalgar’s)
2603 W. 16th Ave
Try the triple chocolate mousse cake. It’s a guaranteed cure for whatever ails you
Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie
Vancouver has an amazing craft beer scene. Here are a few suggested locales, courtesy of Witz’s eldest son who has first-hand experience with them all.
The Alibi Room
157 Alexander St
Great beer, great atmosphere, delicious food, too. It’s probably the top choice of a beer-infused experience
2360 Commercial Dr - Sports bar
Parallel 49 Brewing
1950 Triumph St
Mount Pleasant Breweries
2148 Main St
Main Street Brewing
261 E. 7th Ave
15 W. 8th Ave
More beer options online
What To Do When You’re Not Puzzling
We have compiled a list of things to do. But you can do the research yourself. Visit Tourism Vancouver online (Tourism Vancouver), or, when you get here, drop in to the Vancouver Tourist Centre at 200 Burrard Street. And for lots and lots of other ideas, Hello BC has a great list (Click here).
Hop On/Hop Off bus
A number of companies provide hop on /hop off tours of the city following the traditional “get off, explore a little, get back on a later bus” formula.
It was named the “top park in the entire world” by TripAdvisor in 2014. Missing it would be like going to New York and not seeing Central Park! Besides, the hotel is right beside the park! If you decide to explore Stanley Park on foot, remember that it is a large park 405 hectares, or 1001 acres). You can also rent bikes near the park entrance. And the hop on/hop off buses have an optional tour of the park. Make sure to see the famous totem pole collection.
As well, the Vancouver Aquarium is situated inside the park. It has excellent exhibits of sea life from all over the globe, but especially from the Pacific Northwest.
It’s a tremendous success story in urban renewal, even if it isn’t really on an island (It was an island long ago!) Situated under the Granville Bridge it was transformed from an industry, warehouse and dock area into an incredibly popular destination for Vancouverites and tourists alike. It has a large Public Market, a Kids-Only market, many galleries and artists’ studios, live theatre, playgrounds, public spaces with street performers, a boutique hotel, and many restaurants. There’s something for everyone.
The Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre Tower (555 West Hastings St.)
An observation deck that is reached via glass elevators, it gives you a panoramic 360◦ view of Vancouver. It’s a great place to get your bearings.
(at the Telus World of Science, 1455 Quebec St.). You’ll see the iconic geodesic dome from the Wednesday picnic location. This is a hands-on science museum for all ages. In addition to all the exhibits, there is an OmniMax large-screen theatre. I suggest heading over to the puzzle tables and impressing the staff and visitors with your puzzle-solving brilliance, especially if your ego is a bit bruised by the formal Con puzzle activities.
Gastown & Chinatown
Tour historic Gastown and/or Chinatown. Gastown is part of the colourful history of Vancouver. It is undergoing gentrification and urban renewal, but still has funky shops and colourful local residents. Vancouver’s Chinatown is the second-largest in North America, after San Francisco’s. There is a great assortment of shops and restaurants, and it is home to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden – a “tranquil yet vibrant expression of Ming Dynasty culture.”
QE Park & Conservatory
A must see for garden-lovers
Queen Elizabeth Park and the stunning Bloedel Conservatory are a must-see for garden-lovers. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a bride and groom and their entourage in full regalia – it’s a popular place for wedding photographs.
Watch tomorrow’s baseball stars (Double-A) at Nat Bailey Stadium, one of the most beautiful little ballparks in the world. There are home games at 1 pm on Friday and Sunday of Con.
Museum of Anthropology (MOA)
On the University of British Columbia campus
A world-renowned museum and favourite of “serious” tourists, it has, among other things, outstanding exhibits of native/aboriginal/First Nations (pick your favourite term) culture. The building itself has won architectural awards. The UBC Botanical Gardens are nearby and an excellent place for the gardeners among you.
(located on the west side of the UBC campus, along the ocean) After you’ve seen the Museum of Anthropology, see a different side of humanity. In fact, see the whole thing! Wreck Beach, named after old broken-down ships, not old broken-down people, is a popular place for those who like to shed all their clothing – it is a nude or “clothing-optional” beach. We like to call it Rec Beach. Not everyone who goes there goes in the buff, but please note that photography is frowned upon.
Vanier Park Museums: Vancouver Museum , Vancouver Maritime Museum, and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and Planetarium.
Vanier Park is directly across English Bay from the West End (where the hotel is). It is home to these three attractions. There is an ExplorePass that gives you access to all three sites.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
This is actually in North Vancouver but is Vancouver’s #1 tourist attraction. There’s lots to do, including the suspension footbridge stretching 137 m (450 ft) across and 70 m (230 ft) – it sounds longer and higher in feet! – above Capilano River. It’s widely regarded as great fun, but one of your hosts will only cross it on his hands and knees, and even then, in a state of distress. The newest attraction is the Cliffwalk, a cantilevered walkway clinging to the granite cliff high above Capilano Canyon. Check out the website for the full array of activities.
Drive further up the road from the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Take a skytram to the top of Vancouver. On a clear day, nothing beats this stunning view of the city.
Whale and Wildlife Watching
Enjoy time on the water and sea orcas, sea lions, bald eagles and other B.C. wildlife. Embark at Granville Island (Whales Vancouver) or at Steveston in Richmond - free private bus service from downtown (Vancouver Whale Watch).
Theatre, Music, Art – In Vancouver
Bard on the Beach
Shakespeare Festival. Vanier Park, Jun. 4 – Sep. 26.
A jewel in Vancouver’s cultural crown, the plays are performed on stages in large tents that surround a common area, thus creating a village atmosphere. Four plays run in repertory. The offerings this year are three of Shakespeare’s works – The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, King Lear – and one other called Shakespeare’s Rebel by C.C. Humphreys.
Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG)
Downtown at 750 Hornby St.
The exhibits are always excellent, and the building is a heritage classic. As one art critic wrote, “Whatever are your intellectual plans this summer, make sure to pay at least one visit to the VAG.”
Vancouver International Jazz Festival
The festival runs from Jun. 19 to Jul. 1 so get here really early as it will have ended by Recouvery time, but there may be some remnants around afterward.
There are many live theatre and musical offerings. The Georgia Straight weekly entertainment newspaper is a great place to find out what’s going on. Check it out online.
Outside of Vancouver
Hiking and more at the site of the 2010 Olympics
Visit world-famous Whistler Blackcomb. It was the site of many events of the 2010 Winter Olympics. If you like outdoors activities you’ll love Whistler, with its wonderful hiking trails, mountain biking, zip lining, Peak-to-Peak and other gondolas. It’s about a 90-120 minutes north of Vancouver.
Sea to Sky gondola
Visit Squamish. Half-way to Whistler, Squamish is the site of the new highly-acclaimed Sea To Sky gondola.
Visit Victoria, BC’s capital city, on Vancouver Island.
Victoria is about a 3 hour car and ferry ride from Vancouver, to downtown Victoria. See the amazing Butchart Gardens (near the ferry terminal), and the provincial parliament building, enjoy high tea and scones at regal The Fairmont Empress hotel, visit the provincial museum.
Explore Vancouver Island.
Making CONtact with the Con Hosts
If it is absolutely necessary to contact one of the hosts by phone, rather than in person, here is our contact information: