I just spent six days in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My husband and I marked our 25th wedding anniversary in August and decided we deserved a getaway. The last time we took six days away without kids was when I was pregnant with child number one. She turns 21 next month. So it was more than time for our trip.
I can’t say enough good things about Vancouver. I loved it and I’m not necessarily a “city girl.” The city boasts a population of over 647,000 people who come from an amazing variety of backgrounds. Vancouver reminded me a little of San Francisco because it’s surrounded by water, has a diverse ethnic population, and great food. It has a Pacific Northwest feel, like Seattle or Portland, but it is also distinctly Canadian in many ways.
This was my first trip to Canada. Canadians have a reputation for being friendly and polite. I found this to be the case in Vancouver. One thing that stood out was how friendly people were on public transit. Vancouver has a really high population density. People live on top of each other in this city like almost no where else in North America. Yet, when people get off the bus, they all thank the bus driver for the ride. I’ve never heard so many “thank yous” at one time. Maybe it’s because they’re Canadian, or maybe it’s because they get to live in a beautiful city with fresh air, nice weather, and great food. Who knows?
Weather Not an Issue
I know that the Pacific Northwest has a bad reputation where weather is concerned. But I found the climate in Vancouver to be refreshing. Yes, we had some rain, but we had lots of sun and puffy clouds too. No one lets the rain stop them. You just put on your rain gear or pop up your umbrella and go. After a long, hot, dry California summer, I really loved the fresh, cool, autumn air of Vancouver.
Food, Glorious Food
Part of a good trip for me is good food. And Vancouver did not disappoint. We enjoyed everything from Japanese-fusion hotdogs (Japadogs food cart on Burrard was two blocks from our hotel) to the fabulous Canadian invention, Poutine (fries with cheese curds and gravy). We also enjoyed fresh salmon, a local specialty. The diversity found in Vancouver’s population extends to it’s dining options. We enjoyed Japanese, Italian, Turkish, Canadian, French, Thai, British, German, and American foods over the course of six days. No wonder I loved Vancouver!
I also love a good bakery and Vancouver has tons of those. We bought some treats a few blocks from our hotel at a great spot called Breka. It is open 24/7 and has loads of great choices. I picked out a sausage roll that I reheated for breakfast the next morning. It reminded me of my student days in the U.K. They also has a delicious apple custard bar and my hubby enjoyed their lemon crunch bar. The most impressive baked goods we found were on Granville Island. The Public Market is amazing. We tried the local specialty called a Nanaimo bar. It was very sweet and chocolaty. We also indulged in a few other treats.
We spent our first full day on Granville Island. This island was formerly used for industrial purposes, but is now filled with fun shops, artists studios, and the fantastic Granville Island Public Market. Granville is technically no longer an island. Landfill was used to attach it to the mainland in the 1950s, but the name stuck. You can drive, ride a bus, or take a water ferry to Granville. The water ferry was fun and quick. We enjoyed our time here so much that it was one of the places we returned to during the week.
One of my favorite spots was the public market. It reminded me of some of the covered markets I’ve enjoyed in Europe. One hall was mainly food stalls, another was mainly fruits, vegetables, flowers, specialty foods, and meats. There were also some great artisans selling their handiwork. We had some delicious German food, fantastic fish and chips, and an amazing pot pie. We ate here multiple times because everything looked so good!
We spent another day visiting Stanley Park. It is, by far, one of the best public parks I have ever been in. The park covers 400 hectares right on the coast. I think autumn was a particularly good time to visit as the leaves were changing colors. About 2/3 of the park is on the waterfront and you can walk the sea wall or rent a bicycle and ride all the way around. The views are spectacular. We happened to be there on Thanksgiving Day (Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated in October). The park was filled with families enjoying some amazing weather. We enjoyed walking through the rose garden, visiting the lighthouses, hiking along various trails, and touring the Vancouver Aquarium.
The Vancouver Aquarium is small by my standards. I am fortunate to live near the Monterey Bay Aquarium and am a little spoiled. But I have to say that while Vancouver’s aquarium is smaller, it has some impressive exhibits. I was on hand for the feeding of the electric eel. That was a first for me and fun to watch too. The aquarium also boasts displays of sea otters, jellyfish, and tropical as well as local sea life. The aquarum shop was also very nice.
Every where you look in Stanley Park, there is something beautiful to see. From the sea wall, you can see the city skyline. You can see man made wonders like bridges, boats, buildings, and totem poles. You can also wander trails that take you through forests, meadows, and near lakes and other bodies of water. If you’re brave enough, you can enough go for a swim or just dip a toe in.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
We caught the free shuttle at Canada Place and visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It was definitely worth the price of admission ($42.95/adult). The park offers some interesting history as well as beautiful scenery, but the big attraction is the bridge and cliff walk. I must admit, I don’t like bridges that swing and sway. But I managed to cross this one, twice.
The cliff walk was easier for me because it doesn’t move. It does, however, have portions which are see through so you can see the gorge beneath you. The cliff walk juts out from the granite sides of the gorge. At some points, the walk follows just beside the cliff walls, but at one point it curves out and away. The views are spectactular.
The bridge itself moves a lot. The original bridge was built in 1889 and has been wowing visitors ever since. The current bridge has a length of 450 feet (137m) and sits 230 feet (70m) above the Capilano River. It clings to the granite sides of the gorge. Once across, you can explore the forest. Some trails are wooden boardwalks, others are high up in the trees. There are 7 smaller suspension bridges that sit 100 feet up in the redwoods and go from tree to tree. So in all, I crossed 9 suspension bridges the day we went. Yes, I am proud of myself.
Goodbye Vancouver, I’ll Be Back
I would highly recommend a trip to Vancouver, B.C. to just about anyone. If you like being outdoors, there is plenty to do. We didn’t go on a whale excursion or a seaplane adventure, but many are offered. And there are side trips to Whistler and Grouse Mountain, and even Victoria. If you are a foodie, this is a great place to visit too. There are loads of things to do with kids if you are travelling as a family. Stanley Park has multiple kid attractions. I saw kids of all ages at Capilano Park, and even Granville Island has a whole building dedicated to fun kid stuff.
The city is also very easy to get around in. We did not rent a car. We flew into Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and took the train into the city center. From there, we mainly used the city bus system. It was all very reliable and simple to use. And, as I said, people were very friendly every where we went.
I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Vancouver. Who knows when it will be, but I know I will enjoy beautiful scenery, friendly people, and great food. Perhaps I’ll even splurge on one of those seaplane tours. They can’t be any scarier than the suspension bridge.
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