Discovering Vancouver

Trip Start May 06, 2010
1
24
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Trip End Dec 17, 2010


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Where I stayed
Downtown Youth Hostel

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Thursday, June 24, 2010

I spent my first night in Vancouver just chilling.  The drive there had been quite long and it was tiring so I basically just had tea and grabbed an early night.  The hostel was really noisy but it was in the downtown area which is full of pubs and clubs, so it goes with the territory.  It also had a bar downstairs which added to the noise level!  Having the bar was seen as great by most of the travellers because you had easy access to a cheeky slurp but wasn't so hot if you weren't in the drinking mood!  Unfortunately for me my budget meant I largely wasn't drinking whether I was in the mood or not!

The following day I went out with Chloe and her room mates.  I met Chloe on the tour to Vancouver and she had been there before so took us to Granville Island.  This is a large outdoor market which has a great variety of shops and restaurants.  There is also a large food market and street entertainment so it is has a really good vibe and is great fun.  The food market was, like the others I have been in before, absolutely fantastic.  The size and quality of the produce is amazing and they had chocolate stalls and bakeries to die for!  After a couple of hours pottering about the stalls and having a quick lunch we walked along False Bay and onto the Olympic Village.  From here you get a great view of the Science Museum which is a large silver spherical structure which is really cool. Fantastic architecture and in the sunlight it looks amazing. 

Day 2 in Vancouver and it was pouring with rain so I opted to have a lazy day in the hostel doing nothing at all apart from reading a book which I borrowed from the hostel library.  If you are not accustomed with this then basically all hostels have an area with books which people have donated or left behind and you can borrow them.  If you need to take your book away with you then you can, you just leave it at the next hostel you go to so there is always something to read where ever you are.  Obviously, you may not get your first choice of reading material but it saves you having to carry books around with you and I have read books that I probably wouldn't ordinarily have picked up and have discovered some good new authors! 

One of the girls I met in the hostel was from Germany and during the day we realised it was the England v Germany world cup match the next day so we arranged to meet for a footy breakfast!  I have to say 4-1 to Germany that turned out to be a bad idea for me, especially as I had to get up at 7am to see the match!  Germany deserved the win though and it was quite funny watching the match with a German person.  She was going nuts every time Germany scored and she was receiving texts from her German friends all the time which weren't exactly nice about England but they were amusing!!  

The next day I wandered back to Granville Market as I wanted to see if I could find a souviner to take home.  I eventually found a very reasonably priced silver plated Inuikshuk and a pair of inuikshuk earrings which I am wearing every day.  It seemed very appropriate giving the link to travelling!

The following day I set off for a long walk to do a loop from the hostel around town and I headed down to Canada Place.  This is a large area which is situated near the harbour and houses many top hotels and conference centres.  I had not realised that it was also the home of the Olympic flame.  It is still in situ and it was really great to see it, I never thought I would having arrived in Vancouver well after the games had taken place.  I continued my walk and found myself being taken to the harbour.  It is really pretty and there are a lot of nice seafood restaurants sitting alongside it.  There are also a lot of sculptures in Vancouver which are dotted in amongst the gardens or on the sidewalk.  I passed a lot in this area of town and although I must be honest and say that modern art isn't really my bag, I did appreciate the quirkiness of them and it certainly made the walk a lot more interesting.

Progressing with my walk I entered Stanley Park.  It is a vast public garden and is absolutely stunning.  There are many trails which you can walk along and you can hire a bike to get around it.  I actually got a bit lost and ended up doubling back on myself.  There didn't seem to be maps available and I found it all quite confusing!  I stayed there for over an hour and then pressed on with my walk back towards the town centre.

Heading along English Bay there is a small beach and nice views over the water.  On this walk there is a large Inuikshuk sculpture at the side of the path.  Progressing on you can see Granville Island on the other side of the water and by crosing a bridge you can get there and from there easy access back to the town centre.

The next couple of days were spent just wandering around town, catching up with some admin and other stuff of not much excitement ie laundry!  Then I spent the day with my 2 new room mates, Alex and Nell, two Australians both from Perth, who had ended up travelling all the way to Canada alone to end up in same room as each other!  We were supposed to be returning to Stanley Park and then going to North Vancouver to go to Grouse Mountain but a series of unforseen delays meant that we had to skip Stanley Park which was a shame. 

You have to get a ferry over to North Vancouver which takes about 10-15 minutes and from the ferry port you take a bus to get to Grouse Mountain.  At Grouse Mountain there is a cable car which takes you to the mountain top or you can go up one of 2 paths and hike to the top.  One of the trails is called the Grouse Grind and there are several warnings that it is an extremely difficult trek and not to be done unless you are physically fit.  The other path I was told was less steep but not as well marked, so after learning that the cable car cost over $40, I didn't fancy getting lost on a hill, so I took the Grouse Grind.  I did think they were probably exagerating the climb, just to make sure they didn't get sued if something happened to somebody.   After having done Sulphur Mountain, I assumed it was along the same lines, so how hard could it be?!!  Oh, how wrong was I?!!!  Whereas Sulphur Mountain was a flat trail which zig zagged up the mountain, Grouse Grind is a totally vertical path which consists entirely of steps.  The path directly follows the path of the cable car so is extremely steep and some of the steps are pretty big.  The top was pretty muddy too so I was waiting to fall flat on my face (or rear!) at any given moment but thankfully all the branches I kept grasping held firm so I remained upright!  It took me just over 2 hours to get to the top and I was very pleased to see the summit!  The path had markers telling you that you had reached 1/4 way, 1/2 way etc.  I swear they got further and further apart!  I think this climb was actually tougher than Table Mountain and I don't think it's as high!

Alex and Nell who are travelling on working visas, got the cable car, so I joined them at the top.  I only got up there just after 5pm so a lot of the activities had closed. I caught a bird show which had hawks and had a quick look at the bear enclosure but didn't see anything!  I wasn't overwhelmed with Grouse Mountain all in all.  They had another peak which got you to the true summit of the mountain which also had a cable car going up to it but unless you had purchased a cable car ticket from the bottom you had to walk and weren't permitted to get this second cable car.  I think if someone has hiked up the grind then they should be allowed to use the facilities at the top, seems very penny pinching to me.  Also, the views in most directions were limited due to the amount of trees so the "prize" for hiking wasn't great.  Had I known more I would have skipped it and spent the time in Stanley Park.  I do however think I have attained a certain amount of respect for being a Grouse Grinder!  I met someone who lives in Vancouver when I was in Seattle and he was genuinely impressed that as a visitor I had done the Grind.  A lot of locals haven't done it so that's something I can take away from the day!!


My last day in Vancouver was Canada Day (1st July).  I had intentionally stayed in Vancouver to be there on this day as I was interested to see what went on.  At first I wasn't that impressed really.  I had expected all the streets to be decorated with flags and buntings and there to be street carnivals all over the city but it just looked and felt like any other day.  Despite it being a public holiday all of the stores were open and there was really no indication that it was a day of celebration.

I took myself down to Canada Place and was pleased to see that there was a party happening in this part of town.  Several stages had been erected and there were lots of musicians and dancers performing.  There were also a lot of food stalls and the conference centre had been opened up with sports exhibitions and other activities for children.  The best thing though was that they had re-lit the Olympic flame!  I really wasn't expecting that to happen so I have now seen the flame lit which was really cool.

Later in the evening there was a lot more of a party atmosphere.  Residents had their cars draped with the national flag and there was a procession through the town centre with lots of floats and stilt walkers etc.  The evening culminated in a fireworks display at 10.30 which was really good.  I love fireworks and I haven't seen any for ages so it was a treat! 

A couple of people have subsequently said that there is normally a lot more going on for Canada Day but due to the recession there seemed to have been some cut backs.  That is perfectly understandable and despite my misgivings early in the morning I enjoyed the day and was glad I was there to be part of it.


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