‘It was autumn when I visited Vancouver, and I will always remember the colour of the trees in British Columbia were stunning’ – Natalie Dormer
When it comes to holidays it’s fair to say we like a balance. We’ve been lucky enough to do some incredible trips over the years, but in recent times, things like weddings, ultra running or new jobs have dictated that we’ve stayed a little closer to home and played it safe. As this year Dave was taking part in a 100 mile ultra marathon, going away on holiday didn’t really fit with the training plan, so we had a ‘year off’ going on holiday and saved up for 2 weeks in the Canadian Rockies.
We flew from Manchester in and out of Vancouver, and because of all the other cool places we wanted to see, we only had a day in the city. So we knew that making the most of it was essential. Here’s what we got up to…
Accommodation in Vancouver is pricey. We stayed in the Surrey neighbourhood which is quite residential and near a big university campus. The Civic Hotel was gorgeous though, a really new, trendy business hotel which was right next to a skytrain stop so was a perfect base. We got up early on our first morning, having had a jet lag induced 11 hour sleep. We got straight on the sky train (much like the tube or the Tyne & Wear metro) trains were frequent in and out of the centre and it took about half an hour from where we were.
We were in the city by 10am and walked all he way down Granville street (one of Vancouver’s main shopping streets) to Granville Island Public Market. If you’re from the North East then think the Grainger Market but much larger, much more vibrant and with loads more stalls to eat or shop at. Despite it being a Saturday morning it didn’t feel overwhelmingly busy. We had an early lunch of an authentic German bratwurst and spent some time walking round all the different stalls and taking it all in. There was a lovely mix of tourists like us, and locals stocking up on their fresh flowers or fish for their dinner parties.
From there we took the very short water taxi ride over to Hornby on the other side of the bay. Despite only going one stop, it was still good fun and a different way to get around rather than walking everywhere. It was relatively cheap too, a one way journey was only $6 so the farther along the city you go, the better value for money it ends up being.
We knew we wanted to go to Stanley park so headed up in that direction but on the way there were a couple of really cool little beaches to walk along (called the Stanley Park Seaway Path). Again there was a nice mix of tourists and locals going to runs and bike rides. Bike seems to be a popular way of getting round actually and there are loads of ‘Mo-bike’ type stands on almost every corner. I was unable to download the app in time though and the prices weren’t all that cheap in the end, but more on bikes a little later on.
Before you get to Stanley Park, and still along the Seaway Path is a really cool sculpture called A-maze-ing Laughter which is composed of 14 statues portraying the artist’s own image in a state of hysterical laughter. Carved into the description are the words ‘May this sculpture inspire laughter playfulness and joy in all who experience it’. Which is canny.
Despite it being the end of September, the weather was actually pretty perfect for walking around the city, warm enough to not need a coat and not too hot that it was uncomfortable. We’d already walked the best part of 5 miles by this point so decided the best, quickest and certainly most fun way to see the whole of the 14km loop of Stanley Park was to rent some bikes. How I managed t convince Dave to get a tandem I’ll never know but it was quite possibly one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.
It was recently voted ‘best park in the world’ based on tripadvisor reviews and I can see why. It’s surrounded by water 90% of the way round, which makes it feel like a remote little Island. It’s also where we saw the first bit of wildlife of our trip; a raccoon (they’re surprisingly big in real life in a ‘looks like it would give you a nice cuddle then scratch your face off’ kind f way).
Cycling round the park on our tandem was absolutely my favourite part of the day. Thankfully Dave was at the front so did all the navigating and once we got the hand of it, it was actually quite easy. We got round the whole park, including seeing the totem poles and some amazing views of the city, in about an hour. The bike hire from a local rental shop just outside the park ended up costing us about £20 for 1hr 15mins which is way cheaper than the pay as you go bike racks.
The rest of the day
After we returned our bikes that was pretty much it in terms of ‘things we wanted to see’ so we had a walk to a little pub to have a debrief and decide what we wanted to do next. Since there were no particularly ‘sights’ we wanted to go and look at, we decided to wander over to Gastown, where all the bars and restaurants are. There was a little micro pub guide which we found in our guide book which, being the micro pub fans we are, seemed like the perfect solution to us, plus meant we would be in the right area to scope out some dinner for that night.
The guidebook suggested a handful of small little micro type pubs in the small Gastown area however, when we got there, one was shut and other was heaving (it was Saturday evening I suppose) so we settled on the Irish Heather, which, as the name suggests was a lovely, cosy, welcoming Irish Bar, where Dave had some Guinness and I had a few gin & tonics.
In hindsight, we probably should have just stayed there for food, as the menu looked really good. We decided, however to try a small Mexican place a few blocks down the road called La Taqueria Pinche Taco, which got great reviews and was also ‘mirco’ in style so in keeping with our little crawl.
Whilst the restaurant was nice, and very small and cosy, the food portions were tiny and ridiculously expensive for what you got. We had four small tacos each, which was probably the equivalent of a starter and it ended up costing near to £30. You never want to pay that much for a meal then go back to your hotel and share a box of cookies. Which is, incidentally, exactly what we did.
I was concerned we weren’t giving ourselves enough time to see the city properly as we were so keen on getting on the road and getting into the mountains but i think a day was the perfect amount. Unless you wanted to do some shopping (I did spot a massive Old Navy I wish i’d gone in) or wanted to have a more relaxing amble around spread over a few days then I don’t think much more time was needed.
Plus, we had two weeks worth of adventure ahead of us, it would have been churlish to have wasted time in Old Navy…