Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vancouver


 Setting an alarm for 3am is never fun - even if you are about to start an adventure across a country. Alas there I was at 4:30am when only birds think it’s morning time, piling my belongings into a taxi where the driver had set the ambient temperature to something similar to New Delhi.

I flew with West Jet, which is a bit like if Easy Jet did long distance - you can take on baggage but they aren’t going to feed or entertain you for free. So with that in mind I spent most of the five hour flight (the same time it takes to get to the UK - Canada is massive!) asleep. The flight took us through the Northern states of America - alongside the Canadian Border. I was surprised by all the snow that was still covering most of the states this far into April when the majority of it had already melted in Ontario. Then we reached Montana where, after hours of pretty mundane scenery, BAM! The Rockies appeared. Being the ignorant islander that I am I thought that there would merely be one or two in the chain - oh boy was I wrong! This is exactly why I wanted to fly to Vancouver the views were stunning - imagine having this at your doorstep! I definitely know now that 2 weeks in the Rockies is not going to be enough and I soon realise 2 weeks wouldn’t even be enough time in Vancouver alone.


Due to the time difference I arrived in Vancouver around 10am greeted by it’s newly renovated airport reuniting me with my beloved rucksack before heading downtown. Vancouver uses a DLR-like trains for their fairly simple subway system. My Hostel was the St Clair Hotel which was right in the centre of Vancouver and I was expecting a hostel dorm situation but I ended up with a twin room all to myself! Although it doesn’t help with being social it helps with my 6am wake up call the next day.

I didn’t waste much time in the hostel as I only had a few hours in Vancouver. After spending my time in Toronto, Vancouver's centre was very compact and seemed small - that might have something to do with the massive mountains behind it. My first stop was Stanely Park via the water front. The waterfront is loaded with fancy pavillions and cafes with queues out the door that wouldn’t look twice at a low-life student like myself. The weather wasn’t quite postcard perfect but it was warm and it was a relief to walk around in a t-shirt for the first time in about 6 months. Vancouver smells like seaweed, trees and pollen - it was the first time I had seen so many flowers in so long and it was such a relief to be back near the sea. I also realised the joy of seagulls even though they are a pest they remind me of home.

It was a lovely walk around the waterfront where one side was glass-covered skyscrapers and the other - mountains and forest. There are also countless boats everywhere from ferries, yachts, houseboats and even several seaplanes. You know boats mean business when there is a floating petrol station in the harbour. I arrived at Stanely Park which is Vancouver’s main park and one of the many reasons you’d be proud to live in Vancouver. Initially I stuck around the edge along the water (you can tell I’ve been away from the stuff for a while!) and initially I wanted to investigate the whole park but it could take a lifetime to discover all the nooks and crannies!

After discovering I’d been walking for two hours and barely made a dent on the map of the park I gave up for the day and headed back to town. The other main site I was told to visit was Granville Island Market which was pretty much the otherside of downtown. My feet were pretty much killing me already but I always think public transport around the city is a cheaters way of seeing it! The walk took me through the West End and Vancouver’s Gay Village - where all the bins, bus stops and lamposts are painted pink- and over the Granville Bridge which offered a lovely view of the city. Granville Island is full of arty shops as well as specialist outdoor shops - it kind of looks like what Brighton Pier would look like it is was ran by hippies. There is a little food market crammed to the edges with fruits, cheeses, chocolate, baked goods and specialist shops making it the perfect place to find dinner. I ended up having a Canadian feast with a slice of  Tourtiere, a Nanaimo Bar and a butter tart!

Along from Granville Island is the Vanier Park and some hidden patches of forest. Unlike most cities - if there is some spare space Vancouver has filled it with greenery rather than buildings. I took the Burrard Bridge back to downtown but spotted a beach  with logs to sit on  in line with the sunset - aptly named Sunset Beach. I sat for an hour or so mainly to give my feet a rest and couldn’t help but think why doesn’t everyone want to live here? I am glad they don’t though as that’s the magic of the place. People here are effortlessly cool, even middle aged men on skateboards get away with it.


After a solid nine hours of walking around Vancouver I crashed back in my (still empty) room and the city has rushed to near the the top of my “To Live In” list. Vancouver is a beautiful city and I wish I had more time here but this is such a big country with so much to see! If I hadn’t booked my onwards travel I’d probably never leave! Alas, Tofino awaits!

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