Vivacious Vancouver

Trip Start Nov 28, 2011
Trip End Dec 18, 2012

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What I did
Granville Island Public Market

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

As I sit and type this out, a little late, I am on the ferry which is docked in Victoria waiting for it to depart to Port Angeles in the Olympic National Park back in the United States.  The harbour is beautiful and a real tourist attraction with the Empress Hotel taking pride of place, with the museum amongst thesurrounding buildings.  In the harbour itself there are lots of little sail boats as well as the whale watching tour boats ready to go out.  The sun is shining and the water is sparkling, Vancouver Island really is very beautiful, the little we saw of it and as we take our leave of it I definitely plan to come back and spend more time
exploring this area, but this is for another blog onto our trip from Jasper to the West of Canada.

Our train journey from Jasper to Vancouver was delayed by 2 hours but when we finally got going the journey was as fantastic as we had hoped.  We opted for a 20 hour train journey rather than a 12 hour drive or less than 2 hour flight because we had read that the scenery on the journey through the Rockies was second to none!  The trip would have been an
expensive one at around $400 each for the cheapest sleeper, which when we had
checked had already sold old with the next being almost double.  However due to our forward planning we had managed to secure seats for $100 each, we would only have reclining chairs but hey we did that all through Asia.

The journey took us through a valley surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains including Mount Robson, highest mountain in North America, whose peak is only visible for around 18 days a year as it is so high it spends most of its time shrouded in cloud.  The route followed the river for most of the way which changed from fast flowing rapids to gentle and meandering, large lakes looking mystical as the fog lays over them and the train slowed down to enjoy the vantage point of Pyramid Falls, I reckon one of the closest train to waterfall distances in the world!!   

We reserved a seat in the dining coach for dinner, how decadent, since we got the tickets for such a great price we thought we would indulge in a unique dining experience. 
We shared a table with a lovely gentleman from Victoria, Canada and his grandson from Vancouver and got lots of information on the area we were heading to and a little of the history of Canada.

Dinner was nothing like the experience on British trains we were seated at a beautifully set table with linen, real crockery, glasses, cutlery and condiments and all with waitress service not a prepacked sandwich in sight, although I am let to believe there is also a café on board which would provide sandwiches if one wished.  We were served by a very
chirpy waitress with onion soup for me and salad for George with fresh warm bread and butter, followed by medium rare rib eye, pots and veg, again for me and George had the duck, both were cooked better than most restaurants we have been to in the UK with both meats being tender, not overcooked and still hot, I will confess to the veg being a little overdone, but they are on a train!!  We also got iced water, topped up throughout, a drinks menu was available we decided that dining was decadent enough and we needed to keep our budget in check so stayed teetotal for the meal.  We were then served pudding I had a yummy slice of cheesecake and coffee and George had Strawberry Shortcake and coffee……Delicious and it also killed a couple of hours with good conversation and food.

By the time we headed back to our seats the scenery was cloaked in darkness as the evening set in so it was time to sleep, we also wanted to be awake as soon as the sun came up to see the rest of the stunning scenery through Fraser Canyon.  Well the reclining seats were most uncomfortable and we unfortunately at best dozed rather than had any real sleep, there is a lot to be said for booking the more expensive sleeper tickets
which give you a bed, however the seats were very good value for money and due to the lack of comfort we were definitely awake for the sunrise and to enjoy the rest of the scenery.

Again the scenery didn’t disappoint as the mountains became rolling hills and the forest became pasture land, hedgerows akin to the British hedgerows with brambles, cow parsley, buddleia nettles and vivid wildflowers.  The trees changed from the most gorgeous pine trees, which would have made perfect Christmas trees, if not a little on the
large side, to rowans and deciduous trees including lots of maples.  We saw cute little villages and isolated cabins, rivers and lakes aplenty with rafts of logs stored by the loggers, there wasn’t a huge amount of animal life that we could see, probably because
of the speed we were travelling at, but we did see lot of cows.

As we arrived on the fringes of Vancouver its connection with the water was obvious with the sight of so many bridges in every direction, again the sun was shining and I was looking forward to a stay in a hotel with a bed!

By the time we got our luggage and on our way we were a couple of hours later than scheduled so headed out to catch the sky train to our hotel to dump the backpacks.  We
found our hotel easily, only a couple of stops we could have walked if we had a map but we were tired and our backpacks were heavy so probably best. 

Our hotel The Kingston on Richards Street, well it is really a bed and breakfast, a room with the use of shared shower rooms and complimentary tea, coffee, orange juice, toast or bagels for breakfast, was in a great location, it was clean and the staff were friendly so it ticked all the boxes as well as being cheap for a western city at around $80 plus tax per night for a double room.  The only downside with the hotel was that it was noisy from the pub below and the construction sites either side!  However if we were on holiday we
would also have been at the pub and we were up early anyway to see all the sites so this wasn't really a problem for us.  Unfortunately despite having a bed I didn’t sleep well, in fact worse than when I am in the tent!  It wasn’t the noise from outside that bothered me it was people walking past our door, as most rooms had shared bathrooms so there was a few people popping up and down in the corridor, and the hall light stayed on all night and to top it off the bed I was so looking forward to was really quite uncomfortable, my roll mat is comfier!!

Vancouver itself was………..fabulous………my favourite place in Canada thus far.  I am not really sure why it just has a really cool vibe, not too scary although it does have Hastings Street , which we somehow kept stupidly stumbling into which is full of homeless people,
junkies and prostitutes congregating in large groups and down alleys!!  Despite the city, I am led to believe, being very cold and wet most of the year…..not unlike Edinburgh or Sunny Sussex this Summer (I am reliably informed) there is so much outdoor space which is used to the max by families, friends, runners, roller bladers, rowers, sailors, cyclists ……most people seem very health conscious, there is an array of cool bars and gourmet eateries from amazing sandwiches (Meat and Bread on Cambie Street, I cannot recommend this place enough if you like good quality homemade soup and sandwiches go, go, go!!) to full on dining experiences (which I intentd to indulge in next time round). 

We had booked two nights but loved it so much,we booked a third night and contemplated a fourth night but cities are expensive so capped it at one further night.  We mainly
walked for miles around Stanley Park and over at Granville Island and the Harbour wall around there.  We also hired bikes for 24 hours $25 at Simons, round the corner from the Kingston, fantastic value, which we used again to cycle right round Stanley Park, twice, round theshore wall from the Park to Granville side and back!  We were spoilt for choice when it came to museums and originally opted to visit the Museum of Anthropology but at the last minute decided to visit the Museum of Vancouver to try to get a better flavour of the city and its history.  The
museum was good and had a couple of special exhibitions with 1900-140's Womens Coutiure and Vancouver Neon Signs, but we have found with the museums in Canada that they are expensive, in comparison to the UK, which are quite often free or donation only, they tend to be quite small and not too certain of their sources with a tendency to use statements such as ‘believed to be from…..’ surely they should know or find out it’s not like any of their displays seem to go back further than 1850!!!  Informative nonetheless. 

The rest of our time was spent refuelling for our energetic pursuits at places like the aforementioned Meat and Bread which we had on our first day and our last day where we enjoyed delicious hot pork sandwiches with their homemade salsa verde and you even get a bit of crackling all served in warm crispy ciabbatta.  We had fish and chips at Go Fish which is on the shore wall, near but not on Granville Island, like Meat and Bread there is always a queue but worth the wait!  We had take away soup and salad at a place near our hotel one evening and another evening we bought a slice of Scottish cheddar, at Granville Island Market, which cost the same as a whole pound of cheddar at home, but I missed cheddar soooo much I just had to, a small fillet of local cooked BBQ salmon ($1.66!?!), crusty rolls, tomato and a cinnamon bun which we picnicked on one evening in Stanley Park.  We also indulged in a glass of wine and a pint of ale on the patio of the super cool Chill Winston in Gas Town, where it is difficult to tell the staff from customers due to their casual attire, but as you become accustomed to the staff you notice they all wear a clothes with slight hippie vibe and the ratio of staff to customers means no-one waits to be
served at their table but the prices are a little higher to account for what must be a huge wage bill.

It was with a hint of sadness and a list of things we still wanted to do in Vancouver that we headed on our way to our campsite on Vancouver Island……………


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