Friday, 28 September 2012

Vancouver, BC

The trip to Alaska actually started in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The cruise ship for Alaska was leaving from Vancouver and I convinced hubby to take an extra day off work and arrive in Vancouver a day earlier, so we ended up with 2 half days in Vancouver.

I loved Vancouver! It's dynamic and multicultural and in my opinion is the Canadian version of Melbourne. I'm more of an outdoors person but it's hard to ignore the energy of Vancouver and not enjoy it. Definitely recommend to visit although you probably don't need more than 2-3 full days.

We arrived in Vancouver around 10am and had most of the day ahead of us. We stayed at a hotel downtown (YWCA Hotel) and although it's quite expensive staying downtown, you can pretty much walk to most of the places a tourist is likely to go to and the public transport is very accessible and convenient as well.  

One place I really wanted to go to in Vancouver is Capilano Suspension Bridge Park so this was our first destination. The entry is quite pricy, $33.95, but I think it's worth it, obviously depending on what your interests are. The Park is famous for the suspension bridge, which is quite impressive but I personally enjoyed the least. It moves a lot and when I crossed it the first time, I got stuck behind a family that was walking VERY slowly while one of the members was recording them on a video camera. It made me quite motion sick and since it was really busy I couldn't just pass around them and end my misery. So yeah, try to avoid crowds while on the bridge.

After you cross the bridge you get to the Treetop Adventure, which I liked the most. It consists of small suspension bridges and platforms going between the trees. Seeing squirrels is almost guaranteed... no, seriously, it's really cool.

The first part of the Park, unless you go straight to the bridge, is the Cliffwalk. It's pretty cool and since I'm not sure how best to explain the structure, just have a look at the website here.

One part of the Cliffwalk overlooking the trees and the river below
The suspension bridge, view from Cliffwalk
Treetops Adventure

There are a few ways to get to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. We caught a SeaBus (it's the name of the ferry there) from downtown to Northern Vancouver and from there a bus to the park. On the way back we took one of their free shuttles.

SeaBus, photo taken from ship

From Capilano Suspension Bridge Park we took it easy and went to a restaurant by the water at Canada Place. This is probably the time to mention that Vancouver isn't cheap. Expect Aussie prices and don't forget to tip. Tipping is the same as in the US: 15% expected and 20% for great service (or if you're just as kind...)

Finally we walked to Gastown. It was in the evening so most shops were either closed or closing but it looked like a great place for shopping (including for shoes, ladies!). Saw a couple of alternative clothing shops there with nice pinup dresses but they were both closed... There are also restaurants in the area but I haven't got into any so can't recommend. The steam clock, which I guess is kind of the main touristy attraction in Gastown, didn't impress me but hey, that might be just me.

The next morning we headed to Granville Island. There is a bus going there but it was the weekend and not many buses around so we just walked there. It wasn't too far away for us and the walk over the bridge was really pretty. On the way back we took a ferry and it was the shortest ferry trip ever!

Granville Island is really nice. There are markets with fresh produce, cafes and souvenir stands. It seemed popular for both tourists and locals. Out of the markets there are little shops with different galleries, art stores of different kinds and alike. If you're after mass produced stuff, you'll be disappointed. If you have the time, it's a nice place to visit.

Granville Bridge
Granville Islad, photo taken from the bridge
Granville Markets

This was pretty much the end of our visit to Vancouver. There are a few more placed I would have liked to visit but we really didn't have the time. Text time on my list are Stanley Park, the Aquarium and Chinatown with a return visit to Gastown for shopping and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

View from the ship. Not a great photo but I still like it.

What can I say?

Notes if you plan to visit Vancouver
Expect to see many homeless people in Vancouver, just so you don't think that you're in a dodgy part of town or something. They are everywhere downtown. It's really sad...

Granville Street is one of the main streets downtown and if you're staying in the area, like we did, you'll be able to walk or catch one of the public transports to pretty much anywhere a tourist is likely to go.

Weather: It's supposed to rain a fair bit in Vancouver but the weather was sunny and lovely both days we spend there. Probably the sunniest days of our whole trip!

From Airport to downtown: don't waste your money on a taxi. There is a SkyTrain going from the airport downtown. If you stop by the info desk at the airport, they'll give you a map and will advise where to get off. The fare is about $8 and you can use your international Visa card to pay for it.

Money: International cards seem to be accepted with no problem but if you want cash, there is an ATM at the airport.

And last but not least thanks to Patrick who was totally awesome and gave me some great tips for Vancouver!

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