By tomorrow, it will have been 4 years since my trip to Canada. That was one of my most enjoyable, even though it lasted only 5 days. I spent 90% of my time there in Vancouver and surrounds, and what an idyllic city it was. It truly deserves all the quality of life awards it’s been receiving the past few years and I certainly wouldn’t mind living there!
This entry is the first of two dedicated to that trip. I managed to remember the details as this entry was originally posted in another blog.
Oct 20: I arrived in Vancouver on a Thursday night. My cousin fetched me from the airport, and the rest of the evening was spent catching up with my 4 cousins who I haven’t seen in over a year. My initial impressions of the city stemmed mostly from their spotless and efficient airport, but apart from that it was already dark outside.
Oct 21: For Friday, I woke up a bit early – at 8AM so that I could maximize my time in the city. No one was able to accompany me since they either have classes or work. I bought bus tickets for a discounted price in Safeway (a grocery chain which, until then, I thought only existed in the United States). My cousins’ place in Kitsilano was only 3 blocks from the main road. But its proximity to a commercial area certainly didn’t keep me from spotting squirrels on the street. To add to the scenery, it was also fall in Vancouver, and the yellow and reddish tree colors certainly reminded me that I’m in another place. As I don’t get this type of vista in the tropics, it felt more exotic to me than a trip to Angkor Wat.
After taking the bus, my first stop was a Vancouver landmark called Canada Place, which had a unique architectural design. Its roof appeared like actual sails, which I reckoned was quite fitting since it is a cruise terminal after all. There’s not much to do there aside from picture-taking so I made my way to the Harbour Centre, which is the tallest building in the city, for a bird’s eye view of Vancouver. The fee was C$7 (US$6) in order to get to the top but it was well worth it. I could practically see most of the city’s attractions from the viewing deck which was good because it helped me decide where to go next. Upon leaving the tower, I walked around two blocks to Gastown which is Vancouver’s old town. This historical area is made up of cobblestone streets and there’s a small gas clock for tourists to see. The area is obviously a tourist trap, with souvenir shops lining the street.
After that I walked a couple more blocks to Chinatown (which by the way, is much cleaner than San Francisco’s Chinatown). I went to see the Sun-Yat-Sen Park. It’s not that interesting to me since it’s just like any Chinese garden after all. There’s a private garden adjacent to the park with admission fee, which I didn’t go to anymore since Chinese gardens are nothing new to me anyway.
From there, I walked a long distance to get to Science World, which is the only Vancouver landmark that I recognize from way back. I mean, if San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge and Paris has the Eiffel Tower – the Science World building is what I have always associated to Vancouver. Although admittedly, I didn’t know it was called Science World then. I just remembered the building that looks like a golf ball with spikes.
By this time, it was already noon and I headed back to Chinatown for a quick lunch. It was quick as far as quick lunches go – I ate on a public bench! Afterwards, I took the bus all the way to Stanley Park (voted the 16th best urban park in the world) which looked great during the fall. Because of the huge expanse of the park, I only got to explore a small section of it. However, I managed to see the totem poles as well as the “girl on a wetsuit” (which reminds me of the little mermaid statue they have in Denmark), as well as the Vancouver Aquarium. The aquarium was worth the C$12.95 (US$10.50) admission fee. They have dolphin shows inside, beluga whales, as well as marine life from the tropics, South America and the Pacific Ocean. They even have a small area there which they turned into a mini-rainforest complete with steaming temperatures and sloths, flamingos and whatnot.
After the aquarium visit, I walked some distance to exit the park. The park is adjacent to the downtown area so I just decided to walk the rest of the way (15 blocks). This time, I found myself in Robson Street, Vancouver’s main shopping district. I didn’t buy any merchandise as most, if not all the goods were more expensive than San Francisco. The only exception is food. Food is definitely cheaper than in the USA and I didn’t hesitate in stuffing myself there like crazy. By the time I reached the end of the shopping district, it was already 5:30PM so I decided to walk around 8 blocks to Yaletown, which is Vancouver’s bar district filled with hip boutiques, clubs and theme restaurants. It was already 6 when I got there and it was getting dark. I just decided to take a stroll around that area so that I could tell myself that I have at least been there.
Since it was getting dark, I decided to go back to the Harbour Centre Lookout in order to get a bird’s eye view of the city at night. The view was amazing when I got there, with the lights on and the cars making their way home. By this time it was already 7 and I was exhausted. For those of you who know Vancouver, you would understand just how far I walked on this day.