Date: 2nd January 2014
I’ve always wanted to see the West Coast of Canada and after three years of travels I finally made it to Vancouver in June 2013. The world famous city, which repeatedly ranks in the top ten of best places to live, had much to live up to.
Now, I have to be brutally honest and say that my first impression of the big city wasn’t the best. A couple of wrong turns while strolling through downtown and I found myself on what looked like the set of an apocalyptic zombie movie. Homeless, drug addicts or just plain mentally insane, Vancouver turns out to have more than its fair share. What I found more disturbing however was the overall tolerance and casual ignorance of the public to these people, who would probably have a more positive outlook if they were stray dogs. Alas, the troubles of the modern city; Vancouver is afterall home to over half a million and has some of the highest property prices in the world. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for how frequently I had to sidestep a muttering drunk.
If there is one positive to come out of a bad first impression it is that things could only get better – and worry not, they certainly did!
Once I got my head around the many different suburbs and districts of the city I steadily grew to love the place. The sheer diversity of cultures here really surprised me. The term Hongcouver has been used to describe the abundance of Asian people in Vancouver, but I also found a multitude of other nationalities, which could only lead to one thing – outstanding traditional cuisine. A walk down Commercial Drive offered the usual North American fare, plus French, Greek, Himalayan, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese and even Ethiopian! Who needs to travel when you have such diversity on one street.
Commercial Drive, Kitsilano, Granville Island, Stanley Park, North Van and the beaches which skirt the city all have their own unique character, but to truly appreciate the city in all it’s glory I first had to get out of it…
For many people who call Vancouver home, it is the proximity to the great outdoors which make it such a great place to live. The surrounding snow-capped mountains and lush green pine forest are barely a twenty minute drive away. My host and good friend Scott took Anne Marie and I on a short hiking trail to Dog Mountain, which offers stunning views down over the city. Met by this vista and a family of soaring Bald Eagles, I began to appreciate just how nice this part of the world is.
The walk up to the Dog Mountain lookout was still covered in large patches of snow and we tried out some snowshoes to help navigate the deeper sections. I don’t know what was more ridiculous – falling into snow drifts in boots or tripping over my own feet in snowshoes! At the summit we met a hiker who stopped for a snack and was promptly surrounded by hungry Jays, who happily posed for a few photographs.
This would be only the first of many encounters with Canadian wildlife, which as I soon discovered is absolutely everywhere. You barely have to venture into the back garden or local park to find squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, deer and more. Keep an eye out for my next post for much more wildlife.
One of the top visitor attractions on the outskirts of Vancouver is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but we were offered a welcome alternative, with no entry fee, less crowds and a network of walks to explore the surrounding forest.
Lynn Canyon is the little sister of Capilano, with a smaller bridge, which at 50ft high is still worth holding on for. We spent an afternoon here with the whole family and really enjoyed the variety of trails. I reckon Kayleigh had the best idea, taking in the sights from the comfort of her baby backpack…
Pretty much anyone who visits Vancouver has to make the trip up the Grouse Mountain Gondola. Only a short drive from the north of the city, Grouse Mountain is a ski park in winter and offers hiking, ziplining and paragliding in summer. There is also the Grouse Grind, which consists of 2,830 stairs, climbing the 853 metres to the top. Needless to say I convinced Anne Marie what a great idea it would be to walk it! It’s strenuous enough, but all depends on how fast you want to take the ascent. An average Joe might take an hour and a half to reach the top, but every year hundreds of challengers compete for the record, which currently stands at a mere 25 minutes.
At the top we explored the chainsaw wood carvings, watched a falconry display, spotted some bears and took in the views before taking the easy route back down on the Gondola. An afternoon well spent and worthy of a rewarding pint in one of the city’s many craft breweries.
The weeks spent in Vancouver certainly gave me a deeper understanding of the city and why it is so loved the world over. Its cultural diversity, active lifestyle and the draw of the great outdoors all make the city unique. There is way too much to capture in just one blog post so here are a few more photographs from the trip. I hope you enjoy them and if you have any questions or comments about the above feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org