We’ve been in the vicinity for nearly 8 weeks and still hadn’t made it into Vancouver. Its a bit like the vineyards in New Zealand, they’re there all the time so no need to give it priority until suddenly, time is running out and we still haven’t visited. This was our last free weekend so we opted for one day in the city and one day of chillaxing.
We jumped into the truck and headed to Surrey, where we’d attended the Fusion festival a few weeks ago. This is the beginning of the line for the Skytrain, Vancouver’s metro. As a result we obtained a fairly good view of the suburbs as we glided through the outskirts at roof top level. There was an area of high rises which we had repeatedly mistaken for the city centre but identified as Burnaby only to find that it is actually ‘Metrotown’. We descended underground as we approached the Waterfront station, the other end of the line, where we’d been advised to go by the guy from Scarborough in the band at the vineyard. The Convention centre and 2 huge cruise liners met us as we emerged into the sunlight. We took a direct line down to the waters edge and enjoyed the views up and down the Fraser River and across to NorthVan (North Vancouver to the locals). A riverside bar beckoned where we’d intended to only have a coffee but it was so hot this evolved into a cold drink. Realising the time and that everyone else was eating, we ordered from the menu so had to have a beer to accompany. Expensive but very welcome ‘cup of coffee’.
Vancouver is a lovely city but doesn’t really seem to have much, specifically, to see. Like many places in the USA its historical points are younger than my house! I’d found a website called ‘boredinvancouver’ in my search for attractions which perhaps tells us something. The most significant feature is, coincidently, Stanley Park; our senior school was located in a namesake. It is a huge area with a peripheral but separate walk and bike paths, cycling being very popular due to the distance, very popular! We decided to walk around the nearest point so made tracks away from our balcony cafe which, on looking back, was adjacent to a fairly large building with a turf roof which we hadn’t noticed whilst sat there. It is just about visible in the photos on the right side of the picture.
We passed a lovely looking boat house which was home to Vancouver rowing and sailing clubs but also rugby and field hockey (as opposed to ice) which certainly made good use of the excellent club house facilities. Further along we came across the totem pole park but by this time I was getting very hot and just sat in the shade admiring them from afar whilst Roger read the plaques.
For a city, Vancouver actually looked rather nice from the other side of the water in the sunshine with the light reflecting on all the glass in the buildings which, these days, are predominantly composed of such, even if a little tinged with green.
We continued along the north edge of the park where we came across the Canadian equivalent of Copenhagen’s little mermaid, this time a diver, in flippers and wetsuit. Roger watched whilst a huge container ship was turned 180degrees and berthed along side the stores of grain and an amazing yellow mountain which transpired to be Alberta sulphur. We cut back across the neck of the peninsula, appreciating the shade afforded by the giant redwoods. I overheard a woman talking about some occurrence she’d experienced whilst sat watching the whales! I was a little taken aback until we rounded the corner and found the aquarium which also had captive whales, really?! There are free ones in their natural environment just off the coast! Another animal in its natural environment was this raccoon although I’m not sure that plastic sandwich wrapping is part of its normal diet!
Our train ticket was a day pass for trains, buses and the ferry so we hopped on a bus back to Waterfront Station where we caught train back to Chinatown. There was a classical Chinese garden we wanted to visit and by the late afternoon the heat was beginning to dissipate, it proved a wonderful cool calming sanctuary. The juxtaposition of ying and yang (explained in the leaflet) became very evident as we and only a handful of others explored the corridors and rooms of this exquisite place. The pond has a clay liner which produces the slightlymurky loking water but this is delibertae to enhance the reflection. I was truly in awe of this amazing silk tapestry, the delicacy and detail was phenomenal. There was a distinct lack of children around so we were able to occupy their area and try our hand at Chinese calligraphy with very moderate results.
We had a stroll around Chinatown, exploring the alleys where the original Chinese settlers established their homes. Unfortunately, these were now new office buildings so bore no resemblance to their history apart from the street names. There is a significant oriental population in this part of Canada. Many are Chinese but also there is a large Vietnamese population from the boat people evacuees of the late 1970s as there was the common language of French.
We jumped back on the train to Waterfront and transferred to the ferry across to NorthVan. We didn’t know what was there but our ticket covered the passage so we might as well have a look. It was getting towards evening so seemed like a nice place to spend the time. We disembarked onto the quay where a twilight market was still in full action. When we had perused the food and wares, discerned that the balcony of the only bar was on the east side of the building and therefore in the shade we opted for an ice cream to take out and sit on the fountain wall as the sun sunk over the assorted yard-arms in the marina whikst the assorted seaplanes took off and landed infront of us.
We decided to explore a little further along, where we could see that the sun still reached a restaurant/ bar balcony on the waters-edge. As we approached music became more apparent and we rounded a corner to be met by a stage and free concert by a Johnny Cash tribute band! Beyond the audience area was a lovely little artisan market which we browsed before coming across….. the bar! That was us set up for the evening as the band were just finishing the first of 3 sets. We aren’t big JC fans but never mind, it was very enjoyable. The final set was performed under the moonlit skies, illuminated by the lights on the huge over-hanging crane. People were encouraged to dance but only a few took up the offer until the final number, Ring of Fire, when suddenly everyone, including us, and all the bags and belongings, started strutting our stuff but finished too soon. It was as if the party had just begun. Considering that there was little to do in Vancouver we had had a super day and took the penultimate train back.