My trip to Vancouver happened all because I went volunteering in Zambia in 2013. 7 people met at Livingstone airport and 5 of us had travelled on our own, so it was introductions all round. Two of us were from England, two from Canada, two from Germany, and one from Holland, with only the Canadian girls knowing each other. Over the course of the project an attraction sparked between one of the Canadian girls and one of the German guys, and afterwards, partly due to social media, a very long distance relationship started. Fast forward to 2017 and we were all invited to their wedding in Vancouver 🙂 Myself and the other English girl Dani arranged dates to travel out and back, and found an apartment via VRBO,which is an American equivalent of AirBnB. Without fail, whenever I mentioned to anyone that I was going to Vancouver I received the same reaction “You’ll love it”, so not only was I really looking forward to a reunion with 6 of us out of the original 7, but I was looking forward to seeing a city that would never otherwise have been on my list of places to visit.
Dani and I were flying separately and she was getting to the apartment a few hours before me. As soon as I was dropped off by taxi I discovered just how friendly and helpful the Canadian people are – to cut a 30 minute story short, I couldn’t get into the building without a key fob and couldn’t get hold of Dani, who it transpired, had fallen asleep due to a ‘middle of the night’ start from her home in Derbyshire. I had about half a dozen people trying to help me, initially without success because even if they let me in, I couldn’t get up to the 19th floor in the lift, as key fobs only allow access to the floor on which they live. For some reason my ‘phone wouldn’t connect to call Dani, and my predicament was finally solved by a man who lent me his ‘phone to ring her, even though it would have been an international call and cost him money. Throughout our two week stay there, we encountered the Canadian helpfulness many times – we only had to stop on the street to look at a map and somebody would come up and ask if they could direct us somewhere.
We were going to break up our stay in Vancouver itself with a trip to Vancouver Island which is a ferry journey away, so we chose two different apartments. Both were in great locations, and this is the view from our first one.
The only downside was that we kept hearing sirens, and wondered why the emergency services needed to do that even when there was very little traffic in the middle of the night. It took quite a few days until Dani realised that the hospital was just over the road from us!
On our first day we chose a prominent landmark to meet Richard, our friend from Holland. In Gas Town there is a steam powered clock, so although none of us knew the city we’d worked out that it was between his hotel and our apartment. We set out on foot following a map, and that set the pattern for the rest of our trip. We didn’t use public transport at all in the downtown area, but walked for miles instead.
The following day was Josephine & Steffen’s wedding day and the ceremony was held beside a lake in beautiful botanical gardens.
It was followed by an evening reception on the bohemian Granville island, and it was a really great day and evening. The weather was really kind – apparently it had rained for 58 out of 60 days in the two months preceding our arrival but the sun shone and the skies stayed blue for our entire trip apart from the last day. Everybody kept telling us that we were extremely lucky as it rains as much (if not more) in Vancouver as it does here.
We’d only ever seen each other wearing very casual clothes before in Zambia, so thought we all scrubbed up rather well 🙂
We went back to Granville island another day to explore it and spent several hours wandering round the arty shops and fabulous indoor market full of mouth watering food. Even the concrete works is turned into a feature!
Vancouver is full of glass buildings, but it’s surrounded by water and mountains and there is also plenty of greenery.
We spent half a day on a trip to Capilano which is a beautiful park and has a suspension bridge that’s 140 meters long, and 70 meters high. It’s not great if you suffer from vertigo especially as it wobbles – a lot! If you click on the link above you’ll see what I mean!
The first bridge was built in 1888 by a Scottish civil engineer and land developer who bought 6,000 acres of dense forest on either side of the river and built a cabin on the very edge of the canyon wall. In 1889 a team of horses swam some ropes across the river which were then pulled up the other side and anchored to huge buried cedar logs. He then suspended a footbridge made of hemp rope and cedar planks across the canyon. The hemp rope bridge was eventually replaced by a wire cable bridge in 1903 and has also been updated and reinforced since then. The name Capilano is actually a First Nations name belonging to the Squamish Nation and originally spelled Kia’palano, meaning “beautiful river”. Kia’palano was the name of a great Squamish chief who lived in this area in the early part of the 1800s and over time “Kia’palano” was anglicised into “Capilano. There are however many First Nations totem poles throughout the park.
There is a long walking trail which takes in other suspended bridges, and also a cantilevered and suspended walkway jutting out from the granite cliff face above Capilano River. It is high and narrow and, in some sections, glass (very strong glass) is all that separates you from the canyon far below.
The park is full of beautiful trails and is home to a few captive birds of prey.
After we’d explored the park we caught a bus to Grouse Mountain and went up in the cable car. We were thrilled that there was still snow up there, and hadn’t anticipated just how much. I don’t know why we were surprised really – after all this is Canada!
There are also a couple of grizzly bears who were rescued as cubs. They’d both been orphaned and now live in a large enclosure. They had recently woken from hibernation and we were thrilled to see one of them – he is HUGE!
Our day trip ended with a fun lumberjack show.
On the free shuttle bus down the mountain we had another example of the helpfulness of the Canadian people – the bus driver stopped half way down to let somebody off at Capilano, and a lady at the bus stop asked if she could get on it to back into Vancouver. The driver’s reply was ‘well, I’m not supposed to pick people up from here as it’s a free shuttle from the top, but I have spare seats, so I don’t see why not”. I couldn’t see that happening here in the UK. There are many times when I’ve paid for a train or coach ticket and have arrived early, but I’ve never been allowed to get on an earlier one, even if there is plenty of room. ‘Rules is Rules’ here. (I do know that’s bad grammar, it’s just the saying!) 😦
One day we hired bikes and spent 6 hours cycling round Stanley Park. I particularly loved all the traditional carvings and totem poles. Totem poles are unique to the north west coast of B.C.(British Columbia) and lower Alaska. They were carved from western red cedar and each carving tells of a real or mythical event. They were not idols nor were the worshipped. Each carving on each pole has a meaning. The eagle represents the kingdom of the air. The whale the lordship of the sea. The wolf, the genius of the land, and the frog, the transitional link between land and sea. I also discovered a new favourite word “KWAKWAKA’WAKW ‘ which just rolls off the tongue when you know how to pronounce it! Click on the link here to listen to the word: KWAKWAKA’WAKW
There is a sea wall round the park so it’s very level and has many different views including a few small beaches. One pebble beach was filled with stacked piles of rocks so we left our temporary mark and added one of our own.
One of the things we particularly wanted to do was to go on a whale watching trip, so Dani, Richard and I set out early one morning with all fingers crossed as there are of course no guarantees of seeing anything. Before we left, we all chipped in outlining our various wishes for the day, which included; A calm sea! Killer Whales. With a calf. Near to our boat. A blue sky. Snow capped mountains in the background. Of course we never thought we’d be lucky enough to have those wishes granted but incredibly they were. What an amazing day it was. On our way out we also saw seals, and then a pod of porpoises swimming right alongside our boat, keeping up with us at a great speed. Seeing them like that was a real thrill.
Another day we visited UBC – the University of British Columbia, and where Meghan and Josephine studied. It’s on the end of a peninsula overlooking the ocean and mountains, and is a really beautiful campus.
That was Richard’s last day before he had to fly home, and we also left our apartment and its great views for our next destination – Vancouver Island……….