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Trip Report Amazed How Many New Things I Discovered on My 3rd Trip to Vancouver

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OK, so one of my closest friends moved back to BC after spending over 17 years in Quebec, a move that triggered my visit to Vancouver. It had been 5 years since I had seen the city (in 2008 I had a quick 4-hour layover in Vancouver after visiting Victoria,—just enough time to eat some sushi and stroll along English Bay Beach), and 8 years since I had paid a real visit to Vancouver (in 2005, I spent 4 nights in Canada’s 3rd largest metropolis). Let’s just say, it had been too long since I’d been to this gorgeously situated city with to-die-for, often inexpensive sushi the likes of which you just can’t find in the east!

This time, I picked the Sylvia Hotel, for its location right by English Bay Beach and with a bike rental shop right nearby , so I could get exercise in Stanley Park. I went for the cheapest room possible and I was happy as a clam for my 4 nights there.

Even though when I had visited Vancouver in 2005, I had pretty action-filled days including exploring downtown, the Seawall, Grouse Mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Gastown, Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Gardens, Kitsilano Beach, the Museum of Anthropology and Wreck Beach, remarkably enough, this trip my activities only slightly overlapped with what I had done 8 years ago, which testifies to the terrific diversity of activity to be found in BC’s largest metropolis. And to boot, all my trips have been without renting a car!

As on previous trips, I enjoyed the Seawall along English Bay Beach, the water/mountain views of Stanley Park & Kitsilano Beach as well as the restaurants along Denman, Davie and Robson Streets. Even though it was not SO long ago, I found a nostalgic pleasure to be back in places that kindled a love & curiosity about the Pacific Northwest region.

*So, you ask, what did I do differently from previous trips?*
I was really blessed in a way this trip to be guided by my friend William who had grown up in British Columbia, had lived in Vancouver for a short while 20 years ago, and had moved back to an apartment two short blocks from Kitsilano Beach earlier in the spring. I felt in some way I was seeing the city for the first time from a quasi-insider’s perspective (he grew up mostly on Vancouver Island, although his parents lived in Burnaby in the '70s and his grandmother lived only a few blocks away in Kitsilano, back when Kits' was inexpensive and not yet coveted real estate).

On my first full day, we did what we would always do in Montreal, get on our bikes and meander! And he made me realize how much of Stanley Park I’d actually missed on my previous trip, having mostly only walked along the outermost path beside the water. The *inside* of Stanley Park has trails that truly make you feel like you’re in untouched temperate rain forest in places, miles away from civilization even… and here you are only a short bike ride from the glassy skyscrapers and hubbub of Canada’s most expensive city! Incredible… I was glad I was with William, as I think I might never have found my way out of the labyrinthine park center on my own :). From there, we cycled along the English Bay Front, around by the Olympic Village, past Granville Island and finally over toward his apartment by Kitsilano Beach. I actually hadn’t seen Granville Island on my previous visits and although the area had a generic-tourist-trap feel à la Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco, I did enjoy seeing the houseboats, admiring the craftsmanship at the woodworking shops and stopping for beer samplers at Granville Island Brewing Company. My friend generally sees the glass half-empty, but I tried to impress on him how lucky he was to have beautiful mountains, a beach, a salt-water public swimming pool and plenty of terrific shops & restaurants on 4th Avenue within easy walking distance. (Naam is an amazing vegetarian restaurant by the way, if life happens to bring you to Kitsilano and you happen to enjoy vegetarian cuisine.) Plus, he can actually walk to his job!

Somehow, I managed to convince reluctant William to come out with me to see Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge on the 2nd day. Fodorite Carmanah has it right when she tells people to go to this FREE suspension bridge rather than the Capilano Suspension Bridge ($34.95/adult). Lynn Canyon is equally as accessible as Capilano by public transit from downtown; all you have to do is catch the #228 bus after taking the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay. Lynn Canyon offers the same suspension bridge experience in an equally beautiful, equally dramatic temperate rain forest setting with waterfalls, rushing water, handsome tall trees and even a cappuccino/lunch bar at top if you’re feeling peckish. I think my excitement to be in the locale was mildly contagious and infected Will mildly, even though he doesn’t get excited about much and told me beforehand, “it’s just another park”. I strongly disagree with the “another park” comment unless all parks in BC are this breathtakingly gorgeous. Anyhow, I know even if I tell you that when I’m in Vancouver again, I’ll be seeking out the amazing & free beauty of Lynn Canyon as long as I can walk and have absolutely no desire to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge ever again since Capilano offers nothing Lynn doesn’t, that curiosity will get to you and you’ll go to the Capilano Bridge once just to see if the $35 really does get you something better. Those Capilano folks have a good scam going, I tell you, and will continue to rope in the uninitiated (who probably fall into the trap of thinking $35 must be better than free) every time.

After mornings exercising and doing exciting chores such as laundry :) my 3rd day I explored the Van Dusen Gardens (near: 41st and Oakridge Skytrain Stop) and my 4th day, I visited Queen Elizabeth Park and the Bloedel Conservatory (near: King Edward Skytrain Stop). The Van Dusen Gardens and Queen Elizabeth Park both have beautifully landscaped and planned gardens and I’d recommend seeing both, even though the former is ca. $10 and the latter is free. While the Van Dusen Gardens have Chinese & Japanese gardens amongst many other themes with plenty of ponds and a maze, the Queen Elizabeth Park gardens in quarries I felt were equally compelling as the Van Dusen Gardens what with their hollowed-out locale and equally gorgeous flower selection. The Bloedel Conservatory inside Queen Elizabeth Park for $6.50 served up a selection of unbelievably colourful birds in a warm, humid jungle-like greenhouse. Fire engine red & navy blue macaws, turquoise blue and yellow parrots amongst many others, the feast of colour was mind-blowing I tell you.

The worst part about spending 7 days in the Pacific Northwest (Portland OR for 3 nights for the first time ever followed by the 4 nights described here in Vancouver) is that at one point it’s time to go. Pacific Northwest, I don’t know when I’ll see your snow-capped mountains, tall trees, ferns in temperate rain forest and dramatic scenery next, but know that when I do, I am sure to be “wow”ed by your difference once again!

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