Travel | 2 comments
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Long weekend in Vancouver (BC) back in 2012.
As the Labour Day holiday was approaching this year, Vera and I were making plans how to spend this long weekend in neighboring province of British Columbia. Our plan was to drive there and visit our friends in Langley (BC) and we also wanted to finally tour the city of Vancouver. I knew, it was going to be a long drive, but I like driving so off we went on Friday morning (I had an extra day off from work) via Jasper and Kamloops on this 1000 km journey through western Canada.
Vancouver was our destination for this journey
We took Yellowhead highway 16 to Jasper and continued (without stopping) on highway 5 through Valemount and Clearwater, all the way down to Kamloops. We then continued down Highway 5 (the Coquihalla Highway) down through Merritt and Hope to Chilliwack. Some say this road is a toll road, but we didn’t have to pay for this road (Sep 2012). It is a good, double lane road, though. From Chilliwack I drove on the highway 1 straight towards Vancouver and took exit for Langley.
We arrived in Langley before dusk and our friends were happy to welcome us with a glass of home made vine at their newly renovated house. We discussed our plans for the next day and went to bed early, so that we’ll be well rested for the long touristy day in Vancouver.
Langley is a short 45 minutes drive from Vancouver and we made to the city by avoiding the busy highway 5 where there are always traffic issues. Instead we used the “Sea-to-Sky Highway”, which is actually highway 99. This highway travels along the scenic Pacific Ocean vistas, bustling communities and parks. Smooth moving traffic at the times we’ve been on it. The “Sea-to-Sky Highway” is the name given to the section of Highway 99 starting just north of Horseshoe Bay. From Horseshoe Bay, the highway travels along the coast of Howe Sound for 12 km to Lions Bay, north for another 21 km to Britannia Beach, and further north for 11 more km to Squamish, at the head of Howe Sound. We left the highway once we reached the city as we were heading towards the North Vancouver. We wanted to visit well known tourist attraction ‘Capilano Suspension bridge’.
Arial view of Vancouver
We’ve been in Vancouver previously, but never had time to be a real tourists and see the city from that perspective. Here is my short story and how it went this time…
Our 2-day itinerary of Vancouver began in Vancouver’s North Shore where we visited Capilano Suspension bridge. From there we went into Stanley park and stopped at the downtown peninsula in the heart of the city to walk the Vancouver’s Port Metro and Gastown area. All those spots provided a small glimpse of what makes Vancouver Canada’s most beautiful city.
Vancouver Yacht club
Vancouver is, after all, one of the cities that routinely tops those lists of the world’s greatest places to live. But beyond the breathtaking snowcapped crags, city-hugging beaches and dense waterfront forests lies a comparatively young metropolis that’s still trying to discover its true identity – less than 150 years after a ‘gassy’ Englishman rowed in and kicked it all off with a makeshift pub.
Arial view of Vancouver harbor
Capilano Suspension bridge
Yeah, it’s a tourist trap but I like to be a super tourist and do touristy things when I travel. At $34 a pop to enter it is not cheap. Food is expensive in the park but you get a free poncho if it might rain… lol! It didn’t when we were there… instead we had a great weather! It’s a great look at nature for someone from the big city like us.
Capilano Suspension bridge
The park itself is quite scenic and has some interesting activities: network of short suspension bridges between trees, a semicircular bridge jutting out from a cliff, some cool informative displays, and of course the Capilano bridge. But on a weekend it was full of tourists, who thought nothing of holding up everyone behind them to get several shots of their kids with no one else in the frame. That made it for very slow bridge crossing. If you’re sensitive to heights and bridge swinging, you shouldn’t go.
Swinging Capilano Suspension bridge
Semicircular bridge jutting out from a cliff
Semicircular bridge jutting out from a cliff
There are no true hiking trails, and the park is not very big, you will cover all the ground in about 90 minutes. I would say it would be worth it for ~$15, but the fee is extortionate and a true nature lover would be better served elsewhere. I can see how it is great for families or people looking for a manageable nature walk. If you do go, take your time and explore everything, the views throughout are lovely.
Network of short suspension bridges between trees
Current admission to the bridge is $34 for adults, $27 for teens, and $12 for kids 6-12. We could go free to Lynn Canyon. What do I think beauty is worth? Can I afford this much money for this one attraction though? You could argue there are more bridges and things to see at Capilano, but the thrill of crossing a suspension bridge was the experience we were looking for. Going to the free, public Lynn Canyon bridge would fit the bill just fine… perfectly even. So, next time I’ll go there…
Capilano Bridge History
It was about 1890 that George Mackay discovered the spot, where Capliano Suspension Bridge now stands. Impressed by the beauty of the land, he built a cabin for himself and his wife. Then, with the help of local natives and a team of horses, he pulled taut the first cedar plank and hemp rope bridge 450 feet across and 230 feet above Capilano River.
Mackay’s friends began their journey to the bridge by crossing Burrard Inlet abroad the S.S. Senator. A long trek up the rough trail that is new Capilano Road led to their being dubbed, Capilano Tramps. The encumbrances of their dress did little to deter the spirited adventurers, who steadily visited the bridge. It was such a popular attraction that a second, and more secure, wire bridge was built in 1903. Another wire bridge, with both cable ends firmly encased in concrete, was built in 1914.
In 1911, the Tea House (now the Trading Post) was built on the edge of Capilano Canyon. Later, during 1930s, bridge owner, Mac MacEachran, initiated the tradition of inviting local natives to place their totem poles on the grounds. The totems, you see here today, are maintained in the exact condition, in which they were received about 1940. This is unlike many of the poles, you may see elsewhere, which have been allowed to deteriorate with the passage of time.
At the end of cliff walks
Beautiful scenic canyon deep down under the bridge
During this 1930′s Depression, two Danish carvers, Aage Madsen and Karl Hansen, arrived at the Bridge to sell their craft. In return for provisions and shelter in a small shack, on the far side of the Canyon, they carved the life sized native Indian statues that are scattered throughout the Park. The European perception of natives is apparent in the Plains Indian attire of the figures.
The only exception is the carving of Mary Capilano, who is dressed in typical West Coast fashion with papoose Mathias Joe Capilano on her back. Mary was the only local native the two carvers had actually met.
In 1956, the present bridge was built. This time the pre-stressed wire cables were encased in 13 tons of concrete at either end.
Several attractions have been added to the Park in 1990s, including The Story Center and Living Forest Exhibits, the cantilevered deck along the Canyon edge, the big house native carving center, the Pioneer Garden and the Loggers’ Grill…
Look at an aerial map of Vancouver and you’ll see the huge patch of green dominating the downtown peninsula. This green patch is Stanley Park Vancouver, the gem of the city that makes Vancouver what it is. The park is nearly 1000 acres in size, reflecting the city’s love for nature and appreciation for preserving green spaces, even in such a quickly-growing area.
Runner statue of Harry Jerome (Canadian Olympian three times: 1960, 1964 and 1968) in Stanley Park
Stanley Park is the largest urban park in North America, and opposed to other famous North American parks such as Central Park in New York, Stanley Park Vancouver is not just a manicured sprawl of lawns and neatly planted trees. What makes Stanley Park unique are the amazing views on the wrap-around Stanley Park seawall, the dense rainforests, the marshland, and the beaches.
Stanley Park map
The Stanley Park seawall follows the park along the Oceanside with bike and pedestrian pathways. Every day joggers, bikers, rollerbladers, walkers and others out to enjoy the view can follow the Stanley Park seawall for 10.5 km along the beach. Away from the seawall and the perimeter of the park, a dense forest grows, where few people actually spend much time. Like other parks, there are also plenty of lawn areas to play soccer or toss a Frisbee, and a number of beaches for sunbathing and volleyball. On this beautiful and sunny September’s Sunday, when the temperature was reaching almost 30 degrees, park was really crowded and people were everywhere. We drove around the park as it was difficult to find parking. It was still enjoyable…
Lions Gate Bridge viewed from Stanley Park
Families enjoying the bike ride in the park
Stanley Park history begins in the early stages of the city’s development. In 1886 the city council made the insightful decision to turn what had become a military reserve into a park. The towering cedars, swamp lands (now known as Lost Lagoon), and prime water-front property were all set aside for the “use and enjoyment of people of all colors, creeds and customs for all time,” according to Lord Stanley, Canada’s governor general from1888 to 1893. Stanley Park history set the tone for the way the city would evolve; deeply committed to the preservation of its natural resources.
To best enjoy Stanley Park, try renting a bicycle at one of the many bike rental stores along the way. To walk the entire Stanley Park seawall it takes about two hours at a brisk pace, so don’t expect to be able to breeze through the park in a few minutes. Besides, there is so much to do and see in the park, you’ll want to take your time.
There are a number of restaurants in Stanley Park where you can enjoy a delicious meal with a stunning view. Try afternoon tea at the Rose Garden or lunch at the scenic Sequoia Grill (formerly the Stanley Park Teahouse). The Fish House has delicious seafood in a beautiful heritage house. At the Prospect Point viewpoint there is a nice cafe. While touring around the park, make a stop at the totem poles, and plan some time to see the Vancouver Aquarium.
View on downtown Vancouver from Stanley Park
If you decide to tackle Stanley Park Vancouver on foot, the Translink bus system can make the distance between attractions much quicker. Look for the ‘’Stanley Park Shuttle’’ which runs on a fifteen-minute schedule daily from June through August. The bus makes fourteen stops around the park.
Cruise ship docked in Vancouver Port
Cruising Port Metro Vancouver
After visiting Stanley Park, we found parking at the Vancouver Convention Centre. From there everything we planed to see was on a walking distance. For more than 30 years, the Port Metro Vancouver has been a leading homeport for Alaska cruises. The Port’s two cruise terminals, Canada Place and Ballantyne, are conveniently located and only 30 minutes away from the Vancouver International Airport. Canada Place is located in the city centre, close to shopping, dining, attractions, and Stanley Park. Ballantyne is located east of the city centre and close to Canada Place. The cruise terminals are modern, secure, and world-class.
Port Metro Vancouver
The Port welcomed 199 ship visits and more than 663,000 revenue passengers at its two cruise terminals, Canada Place and Ballantyne, which offer all the modern conveniences and services for a positive and safe cruise experience.
The Capitan… my Captain!!
Port Metro Vancouver’s premier cruise facility is located in the city centre, at 999 Canada Place near excellent hotels, shopping, dining, entertainment and attractions. Its distinctive white sail design, five-star hotel, and the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre make Canada Place an attractive start and finish to any cruise experience. When we walked through the Convention Centre, Aritzia clothing company, was having a ‘only once a year’ warehouse sale and swarms of shoppers hit this warehouse sale and were walking around with the Aritzia begs…
Canada Place in Vancouver
Ballantyne, Port Metro Vancouver’s second cruise facility, is located at 851 Centennial Road, east of the city centre and just minutes away from Canada Place. The entire terminal underwent a major expansion and renovation in 1995, ensuring modern and efficient services to the cruise industry.
Travellers to Ballantyne have access to Ballantyne Cruise Terminal via Clark Drive or McGill Street Overpass only. There is no access to travelers via Victoria Drive and Heatley Avenue.
Gateway to historic Gastown
After visiting port of Vancouver, we walked several blocks to Gastown. Gastown is where Vancouver originated from. The original part of Vancouver – Gastown – came about in 1867 after a man named “Gassy Jack”. Deighton opened up a saloon near a lumber mill in the area.
Today Gastown itself is a cobble stoned regenerated area with shops as disparate as vintage outlets to the more tourist orientated stores. It’s also home to the world’s first steam powered clock, which can still be seen working to this day. It also has some great bars for a night out such as the Lamplighter, the Cork and Fin and the Salt Tasting Room.
The most touristy spot is by this steam-powered clock
Busy Gastown street with globe-shaped street lamps
The old-world charm of Gastown sits in the middle of the modern city of Vancouver. Gastown is recognized by its cobblestone roads and globe-shaped street lamps. This place has an interesting mix of historical sites, modern upscale housing, souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants, boutiques and professional offices. Today Gastown has been designated as a heritage site.
Busy streets in Gastown area
There is a landmark in Gastown that is hard to miss. It is a steam-powered clock that sits on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. In 1977, Ray Saunders, a Canadian horologist, was commissioned by the city of Vancouver to build the steam clock to cover a steam grate. It was an honour to be able to have Ray showing me how the clock works. Today, the steam clock attracts thousands of visitors waiting to hear the whistle blow every quarter of an hour. It is also one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.
Established the same year that Canada became a nation, Gastown grew into Canada’s third largest city and one of its most cosmopolitan. But the Gastown district today retains its historic charm, independent spirit and distinctiveness. There’s no mistaking Gastown for any other area of Vancouver, or of Canada for that matter.
1867: The south shore of Burrard Inlet was a wilderness. Its only non-native settlement was a lumber mill where the owner didn’t allow alcohol on the premises.
One September day, “Gassy Jack” Deighton arrived (he received his nickname because of his penchant for spinning tall tales and talking without end). He stepped ashore with a barrel of whiskey, telling the millworkers that if they’d build him a saloon, he’d serve them drinks. The saloon was up and running within a day…just across the property line of the mill. Gastown was born.
1870: On March 1st, in order to give it a more distinguished name, Gastown was officially proclaimed to be “Granville”, after the British colonial secretary. But everybody in the rough and tumble settlement continued to call it Gastown.
1886: Gastown was incorporated as the City of Vancouver, after British explorer, George Vancouver. That was April 6th. On June 13th, a brush-clearing fire got out of control and turned all but two of Vancouver’s 400 buildings to ashes.
1920s: Gastown grew and prospered, as did the rest of the City of Vancouver. But good times couldn’t last forever.
Depression Years: Gastown fell on hard times and deteriorated into a stereotypical skid road area until the 1960s.
1960s: With talk of demolishing the area becoming more widespread, a group of dedicated citizens took it upon themselves to save Gastown’s distinctive architecture and character. The city rallied around them. Gastown was not just saved, it was reborn.
1971: The provincial government declared Gastown an historic area, protecting its heritage buildings.
This steam-powered clock sits on the corner of Cambie and Water Street
Today: Gastown is a refreshing mix of old and new, downhome and upscale, a place for tourists, Vancouver residents and office workers alike. Various shops have the streets buzzing during the day. A host of restaurants and nightspots keeps the area humming into the wee hours. And, more and more, Gastown is becoming home to permanent residents… just like in the old days.
Water St. Café
Water St. Café
Gastown seems to be a perfect place to rest our tired touristy feet and find a place to sit and have a lunch. We picked the restaurant which is just across from the ‘Steam Clock’, at the intersection of Water Street and Cambie Street. We had no reservations but were lucky to get a table inside, with direct view of the famous Steam Clock. The Steam Clock is a big tourist attraction and it was interesting to watch other tourists stop at the Steam Clock to listen to the tunes the Clock plays on the quarter hour.
We had good times at the Water St. Café
The food at The Water Street Cafe was excellent. Our friends had the New York steak sandwich, my wife had the Forno Roasted chicken salad and I had Linguine Pesto with chicken pasta. Both were prepared to perfection. Service was a little slow but they were really busy. Highly recommended restaurant on a perfect spot.
After lunch we walked down the Water Street. We’re in tourist territory here – right next to the steam clock – so you’re not going to find any bargain prices. But what you do want is some friendly service from people who seem like they care, and some decent food. This is what you get! There is also a good atmosphere which you won’t always get in these sorts of locations. Noticed several homeless people laying on the sidewalks… not a great picture especially for this touristy area!
Best place to live
It is impossible to see more that what we did in only two days. We used our time to the max and really like it. There are endless things to do in Vancouver. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery and nature or explore all that the city has to offer you. If you ever feel like you need a change of pace, you can always find something new to do.
Vancouver scenic views
With its scenic views, mild climate, and friendly people, Vancouver is known around the world as one of the best places to live and is a popular tourist attraction. Vancouver is also one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada with 52% of the population speaking a first language other than English.
Vancouver has been host to many international conferences and events, including the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics.
I would like to thank our hosts for their hospitality. In return I hope they enjoyed this two days tour of Vancouver with us as much as we did! I’m sure we’ll be back to explore some more of this beautiful city!!
Hope you have a good season!
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