A home away from home...Vancouver

Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
Trip End Dec 10, 2008

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Monday 6th Oct

Weather was pretty drizzly and a bit cooler (hence my title), also, greener than where we'd been, so that's been nice.  But in the whole month we've been away, we've only had one day that hasn't involved sight-seeing, or at least driving somewhere.  So, we decided that today, we would just stay put and have a catch up.  Actually, we needed to spend some time on planning our Canada route, and catch up on travel blog, and I think, we all just needed to stop for a day, and take a breath!  So we did just that, and enjoyed our surroundings, (see spa photo - bliss!).   Feeling really good, relaxed, and ready for the next month.

Tuesday 7 Oct

Despite the awful weather forecasts, it appeared to be clearing a little this morning, so we grabbed the opportunity to head a little way to North Vancouver and made our first stop at the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park.  This bridge is 140 metre long and 'sways' over the Capilano Canyon and River.... shall I say "quite high up" . Freaky.  Tara wasn't keen to do this, but in fact this rainforest visit, ended up being her best thing she did today. You know what we say, do it, then you'll have no regrets.  It was really organized, and we did a little Nature Tour while we there, looking at some few hundred old trees, rainbow trout, squirrels etc.  They had also made little suspension bridges (quite high) between trees, so you could walk around at 50ft (that's guessing the height!) from tree to tree - you felt like a monkey (no smart comments please!), but seriously, what a unique way to see a rainforest ..... looking down on it.

Our next stop 2 minutes up the road was the Capilano Salmon Hatchery.  This was free entry, and was really interesting.  You come straight out of the carpark and hit a waterfall, and in the background, up river was beautiful rainbow colours reflected in the spray between the rocks.  I'm trying to explain its beauty, because you couldn't capture it on camera.  It was magical.  

We also went inside where they had see through tanks and you could see the salmon jumping up the water ladder.  It was incredible.  Again, unfortunately, despite our numerous attempts, not one photo captured the catapulting salmon

 A stop for lunch, and then onto Grouse Mountain.   We got a gondola 'sky-ride' which probably holds 30+  people, and started our ascent.  It doesn't feel like you're going that fast, but you're definitely going up steep and it certainly didn't seem long to reach, what is, the highest point in Vancouver.  The views were breathtaking. 

In summer it is full of hiking, lumberjacking etc, and in winter you can go there for ice-skating, and ski runs.  So although it is an all year destination, the seasons determine what you'll see.   We were very fortunate that today we got to see the bears, before they hibernate for the winter.   We probably waited about half an hour, but that was by default, as we had met another New Zealand couple - both Air New Zealand crew, previously based in London, so they'd travelled a lot, and were really interesting to talk to (actually Tony, the guy knew who you were, when we 'dropped' your name).  Anyway, time just passed by, and in the meantime, the bears surfaced and came to greet us.  I cannot describe how awesome this was, to see these beautfiul creatures, in these surroundings.  I think the camera nearly lost battery with all the photos we took.   So to the couple, that kept us there for half an hour - thank you!  That gondola ride was worth every cent.

First real touring day in Vancouver - thoroughly impressed ..

Wednesday 8th Oct
Woke to a clear, crisp morning.  Beautiful.

We'd decided that  we were going to spend the day in the city.  After weighing up the transport options ie: public vs taxi vs campervan, we opted for driving in.   (Because everything is per person, it makes even a  one-way trip into town add up for this whanau of 7.)

We (seemingly easily) got ourselves into Stanley Park, which I would have to say is the gem of Vancouver.  It  sits with the ocean on one side, and covers numerous miles, encompasses parks, ponds, feature gardens, restaurant and even includes a bowling club, and tennis club.  There are beautiful walks all the way through and as you can imagine, located in the heart of a city, it is extremely well used.

Speaking of the city ...   we caught a bus from Stanley Park (got all day parking, & the bus stop was right there).  Got off at Pender Street and walked down to Harbour Centre.   Couldn't resist the outlook tower  and so up we went.  To be honest, the skyline of one city, is similar to the next (New York and London are probably the exception), but we're in Vancouver, not likely to return again soon, so got to do these things and the unique see-through elevator trip up and back down again, certainly made it worthwhile.   (And for all of Tara's friends just wondering .... No she didn't do it, but she got Harry to take some photos for her.    They do so they art of leadership is delegation ....)

The other thing we often find about cities, is there always two sides to them, no matter where you are in the world.   And very sorry to say this was absolutely no exception!  We decided to walk over towards Chinatown.......  and let me say,  some scary sights we saw on the way.   This has to be the homeless, derelict  capital of any metropolitan city I've ever seen.    We started our walk, and as we got deeper into it, we admit we became a little concerned. The older kids were visibly nervous, and we were forever hurrying up the younger ones (who don't like to be hurried at any time!)  It got to the point where we didn't see anyone that was 'normal', ie: that wasn't  obviously physically or mentally disturbed, that wasn't using drugs, out of it,  or sleeping in doorways.  They were a community, accepted by their own.    If I hadn't felt so uneasy, the reaslisation was simply tragic.  We'd taken a wrong turn, but it opened our eyes to the other side of this 'beautiful' city.   It would interesting to see, what, if anything the city does  for these 'outcasts' before the 2010 Olympics; before the rest of the worlds eyes are upon them.

We eventually made it to Chinatown, and it was much bigger than I thought it would be.   Once we'd had a look (and after our mornings experience) we were certainly ready to head on.  Caught a bus from Waterfront Station, (whilst we were there, the nice security man let us in to an unmarked door which led to toilets, thank goodness, because Brad doesn't know what it's like to wait).  For all the reasons above, they do not have 'public toilets'.   It's a 'secret'.  Interesting.    Anyway, we got to our destination Granville (as in Granville Island).  Neat little place (yes you drive over a bridge to get there), well known for it's Public Market.  Right on the wharf, you enter some 'warehouses' and proceed down concrete corridors full of fresh fruits eg: raspberries and boysenberries sold by the pound, fresh plants, cheeses, meats and a little corner butchery that sells 30 types of homemade sausage.  Of course with all this, comes lots of eateries, and most of theme are selling  'home-made' wares.   We ordered a true shepherds pie, with lashings of mashed potato for the kids (they loved it), and Gary and I  had some chunky wild salmon soup, (very much like a homemade vegetable soup), with warm focaccia bread.  (These people also make and sell there own dips, hummus  and sauces all made on the premises.) Even Tara's chicken burger, was a 'home-made chicken breast', with potato skins .... get the idea?   To accompany it all, I popped back to a bakery I spied and bought a fresh loaf of sourdough (which we all happily dipped in the soup), and the most delicious melt-in-your mouth hot cross buns!  The perfect amount of mixed fruit and spices.  Yum.    (My apologies to all who are on a diet, but I just had to share).

By the time we'd done that, looked at the Kid's Market (most of the stuff a bit over-priced), we caught a ferry (probably better described as a dingy with an engine), and headed back to the mainland.   From there it was, what we thought would be a 45 minute walk back, but actually ended up being an hour and half, (at the end of the day!!)  The redemming factor to this was, that it was all along the ocean boardwalk and through Stanley Park, although, with how the kids were feeling by this time, I don't think the beauty of it all was much compensation.

A long day, filled with ironies, finished up with a soak in the spa.   Superb!
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