After 2 weeks of driving through The Rocky Mountains and exploring the natural wonders of the National Parks, we finally saw the urban skyline of Vancouver. We had planned 5 nights at the same place. Wow, that sounds like a bit of a rest in such an intensive trip. But does it? Well, resting is not something that we do while traveling – there is too much interesting to see and do. How can we possibly miss it?
Unlike the Rockies, Vancouver was free of the forest fires smoke during our stay and we could enjoy the air of another thickness, one of a more pleasant kind, the thick ocean air, so rich and fresh.
Vancouver is quite a green city. There are trees not only in the streets and parks but also on the roofs, balconies, terraces.
Boathouses and bicycle lanes reminded of Amsterdam, only the wind is stronger and the streets are more modest in the Dutch capital.
We stayed at an Airbnb in North Vancouver, as we were tempted by a gorgeous look out the terrace.
A wonderful bonus was that our host had quite a few toys of her grandson at home and our little daughter could fully enjoy herself there. But this location meant we had to travel quite a bit to the downtown. We were advised, and it seemed logical, that the best way to go was to leave the car at home and avoid the jammed bridges. The alternative – a bus to the ferry and the ferry itself.
So we did on our first day and explored the neighborhood meanwhile. The most interesting thing we saw there was a garbage truck with 2 very swift guys jumping from the car to pick the garbage bins, throw the trash inside, put the bin back and jump back. All was done in 2 seconds while the truck was constantly moving forward. We could hardly follow them with our eyes, so fast they were. Never before had we seen anyone working so fast and it was very impressive.
On our first day, it was hot and we were still tired after a long drive through the Rockies, so the Stanley Park and the Esplanade turned to be a perfect area to explore, not too intense and not boring. The Esplanade was busy with people strolling or jogging but the park was more relaxed. It was large and lush, rich with blackberries and flowers, and shade.
The most exciting part of the park for me was the Totem Poles. In my childhood, I swallowed adventure books in gulps and books about Indians (Native people, as called now) were my favorite. How exciting it was to see the heritage (even if not authentic) and walk on the same ground the brave and beautiful personages of my books trotted and breath the same air in which those exciting events were taking place. It was like a journey through a favorite book.
Having rested a bit in the park, the next day we hopped on the Sea to Sky Gondola and went up to Grouse Mountain, a popular destination due to its proximity to the city. It’s one of the advantages of Vancouver – a big city with the beautiful mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. No wonder it’s so expensive to live there.
The first point of interest – 2 bears, living behind the fence. They were found by rangers when they were still little cubs in 2001. Both are male but they seem to have compatible characters and live comfortably together. They cannot be let free, as they will most certainly die in the wild environment. The mountain is a refuge for endangered wildlife, there are talks by rangers and predator birds shows you can attend while there. (you can read more on that here).
We hiked a bit, with the little one napping in the backpack, but couldn’t go up the nearest peak as the way was occupied by a mother bear with her cubs who decided to have their brunch there. Therefore, the rangers, politely and with a smile, asked everybody to avoid that route and not to disturb the animals and endanger own life.
The restaurant next to the top station of the Gondola offers wonderful views over the forested mountains, the city of Vancouver and the ocean.
The irregular buses and the heat made us think again and on day 3 we decided to drive to the downtown of Vancouver. Even though there are only 2 bridges, which are always jammed, it took us less time and money to get to the city and back than by the public transport. Not to mention the comfort. An interesting fact – the bridges stay small and jammed because the authorities try to reduce the traffic in the downtown this way.
We left the car in a city parking and went on to explore the city. We had a special guide – a blogger who lives in Vancouver and writes about his numerous (and frequent) travels. (He writes in Russian but if you’re interested, google tutanh for pictures, or here’s his blog). His posts were very helpful for us in preparing for our Canadian adventures, so we decided to connect and were welcomed.
It’s the best way to see the city – to go with a local, to hear some life stories, about the way and costs of living, job opportunities, and pastime possibilities. Either it’s an old friend with whom you have tons of things to remember or a new person with whom you can discuss so many new things. That kind of experience you won’t get from a tour company.
Thus, we found out where to watch the sunset in the city, what streets are better to avoid, especially at night, and why there are so many homeless people in the city (especially in winter – due to the milder weather they tend to migrate to Vancouver in search of easier life conditions).
When visiting Vancouver, The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most recommended things to do. The ticket costs around 40 Euro per person. Luckily, it’s not the only suspension bridge in the area and you can find an alternative which is free. We chose Lynn Canyon Park, also for its hiking trails. And though the bridge is shorter than its expensive peer, it gives you enough shake (literally) and thrill, as well as the view over a mountain river, waterfalls, and cliff jumpers. There are plenty of them there, even though everywhere there are notes prohibiting this activity and providing statistics on the number of deaths and injuries from cliff jumping.
We walked through the green, moss-covered, fairy-tail-like forest while our daughter was napping behind the daddy’s back, took a look at waterfalls, watched some fearless people swimming in the ice-cold pool or cliff jumping.
Our walk was mostly on the wooden path but there were some ‘wilder’ parts of the trail, so it was a good idea to wear hiking boots. Walking sticks were helpful while carrying the over 10 kg backpack too.
And that was it, early in the morning of the next day we went on to our next destination – the Island of Vancouver.