Tuesday, April 30, 2024

A tourist in Vancouver British Columbia

Had a whirlwind week in Vancouver and area checking out the west coast city along the Pacific Ocean, nestled into the Strait of Georgia along Vancouver Island and wow, what a place to visit. The mountains along the northern view of the city still white capped with snow and even past the rainy period, still foggy and damp for half of our visit.
At Canada Place
Looking to Canada Place from the Vancouver Lookout
Canada Place with the sails lit up in various colours

We stayed in Century Plaza Hotel on Burrard Street in a great big room that included two beds and a kitchen, perfectly located to allow us to walk to a lot of activities, attractions, restaurants and also close to a lot of transportation options and free shuttles. It is also close to a hospital so you will hear the occasional ambulance.
Vancouver Lookout reflected in an adjacent building
The famous Gastown Steam Clock. It blows a tune every 15 minutes but when we were there the clock was wrong so you have to be ready for the music to start.
Gastown Steamclock plays a tune
Digital Orca by Douglas Coupland at the Convention Centre
An illuminated earth globe hanging in the Convention Centre

There is a three hour time difference between Toronto and Vancouver so we gained those hours on the flight in and were able to do a lot of things on that first day; Canada Place with the Cruise Port, art installations, the Vancouver Convention Centre and the 2010 Olympic Cauldron (photo at top), the Vancouver Lookout and Gastown with its famous Steam Clock.

Canada Place also has a manned, extensive tourism information kiosk with plenty of brochures and some discounts to the attractions.

See more of our trip after the jump.
Under Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park
The Seawall route around the edges of Stanley Park
Queen Elizabeth Park and the Bloedel Conservatory, see the view of Vancouver from the park below
The next day we rented ebikes from Bees Knees on Burrard Street and set out to experience the extensive bike paths along the waterfront and into False Creek as well as the many separated bike paths along the city's roads. First stop was into Stanley Park in the West End where we found the Lions Gate Bridge often had seals playing in the water or whales nearby. Biking along the harbour we discovered the affect of tides on the water levels. Vancouver has two sets of high and low tides every day with a change in water elevation of over 4.5m. Most things in the water are built so they can go up and down on the tides. To finish our bike tours we made the trip up to Vancouver's highest point in Queen Elizabeth Park with it's breathtaking views and beautiful gardens and conservatory.
Low tide showing the accumulation of life on the supports near the Aquabus stop off Hornby Street
The square on Granville Island behind the market, with buskers playing
An Aquabus passes by Science World in False Creek
A pair of bird statues in the Olympic Village
A cool spot to relax in the village

On the following day we walked down to the waterfront to get Aquabus day tickets and had fun cruising False Creek and hoping on and off to go to attractions like the Granville Village, Olympic Village and Science World at the end of the creek. We walked a short way into Chinatown to grab some eats at Chinatown BBQ before heading back onto the Aquabus for another loop before we called it a day. Chinatown is considered to be in a sketchy area so don't go there at night. In the evening we would check out the lights of the city. I wish we had an Aquabus operation in Toronto Harbour, not just the water taxis and ferries.
Some of the big boats of the Prince of Whales
Captain Karl finding the elusive whales
Some Orcas moving along the Strait
Seals basking in the drizzle

Day four was Prince of Whales on Granville Island (another Aquabus ride or Uber/cab ride) to go on a whale finding tour - which is guaranteed whales sightings or come back again for free. Our amazing boat captain was Karl Topping and he found quite a few pods of Orca whales along with Humpback whales and seals hanging out on a floating dock. The sea life didn't mind the rain but it was nice to stay in their large ships with free coffee and hot chocolate and large windows to see out onto the sea.

Later in the day we had a mini Ontario Keg Restaurant reunion with Keggers who live in Vancouver now. We went to the Keg in Yaletown, also just a short walk from our hotel, and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and spending time with the Keggers there. Don't forget to tap the Keg when you are in Vancouver. You can also find the first Keg Restaurant still located on Granville Island.
Cute otter floating and playing in the outdoor pools
A tiny Caiman crocodile gets close to visitors
A seal swims around the lighthouse near the bridge
Purple Starfish at low tide

Friday we traveled back to Stanley Park to visit the Vancouver Aquarium. Smaller than I thought, the aquarium did have an abundance of Jellyfish and some really cute sea otters. Keep an eye out on the feeding times for the otters and seals, it is fun to watch these guys chow down. After the Aquarium we toured the park on foot, found more seals and purple Star Fish at Lions Gate Bridge.
Grizzly Bears Grinder and Coola at their hibernation area
Look at those claws!
Looking down on the Capilano Canyon Cliffwalk

Further into the week we travelled about a half hour to Grouse Mountain (in summer there is a free shuttle) to ride the gondola and hopefully check out the rescued Grizzly Bears - Grinder and Coola. Luckily for us the bears were just a week out of hibernation by about a week and we got to see them before they were moved from the sleep area into their 5.5 acre summer habitat. They are big bears, round and cute with ferocious mouths and scary claws so it was good they were in a protected area. They played together gently and slowly after being awakened from their winter slumber. After Grouse Mountain we took bus 236 down to the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge and wandered the bridge and trails before taking one of the free shuttles back to downtown Vancouver. Try to do the suspension bridge type things when the weather is better because the fog and clouds make it hard to see anything.
Squamish Sea to Sky Gondola

Day six and weather was still rainy but you take what you get so we rented a car and made the trip to Cypress Provincial Park which is quite a winding driver up the mountain, then onto Squamish (don't forget to spell it with a 7) along Highway 99 for the Sea to Sky Gondola ride which includes a suspension bridge and mountain trails. Followed by a trip further north to Whistler Village, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The village was still busy and incredibly some people were still skiing and snow boarding on the mountains.
Olympic Rings and cauldron in Whistler Village

Our final day was a little slower as we had to head to the airport and begin the journey back home. Vancouver is well worth the visit and there is an incredible amount of things to see and do and you don't have to worry about going through customs when you travel domestically. To save money you can buy Vancouver attraction passes and save 35% of the cost of regular tickets. If the weather was better and we had more time we would have made the trip to Vancouver Island.

More random photos.
There is a giant chandelier under the Granville Bridge
Beside downtown UBC
More grizzlies playing
Granville Island sign under the bridge
A lighthouse along the Strait of Georgia
The revolving W in Vancouver
A container ship heads out of the busy Vancouver Harbour

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