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Trip Report Vancouver trip report!

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A couple of years ago, my sweet in-laws moved to Canada to plant a church. Since then, they've traveled home a couple of times for visits, but we had yet to visit them. That changed recently!

My in-laws live in White Rock, a suburb about an hour outside of Vancouver in British Columbia. On our first morning in White Rock, we decided to stop by Tim Hortons for breakfast. (We'd had dinner at White Spot the night before. My in-laws wanted to take us to some ubiquitous Canadian places to start with!) After filling up on coffee and pastries, we were off for adventure!

We started with a visit to the White Rock promenade, pier and beach. We dropped the boys off at the long pier for some fishing, then my mother-in-law and I walked the promenade. It's a gorgeous stroll, and we had particularly fine weather to enjoy it - lovely sun, wind, with temps in the low 70s. We saw the large White Rock on the beach that is the city's namesake, took in the sweeping ocean views and just felt lucky to be alive. Tide was out, so we made our way out to the shore, where we found tons of scuttling crabs; really big, beautiful shells; and hosts of sea birds. It was an amazing morning!

We relaxed for the rest of that first full day, getting a delicious meal at Charlie Don't Surf. (I had the crab cakes, while hubs had a fish taco.) We met some friends of our in-laws, sat on the shady, breezy back patio, ate strawberries grown by my father-in-law, and strolled Crescent Beach licking our ice cream cones! It was a lovely way to start our trip!

The next morning, we arose early to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island. We'd made reservations, so we lined up first thing to take the car on board. While we waited, we visited the shopping and dining area to grab some sweet cherries for munching. (There are lots of shopping and dining options here.) Once aboard the ferry, we got seats and breakfasts, later taking our coffees out to the decks, where you can see lovely coastal views. Clay and I walked all around the ship, feeling like we were on top of the world on the upper decks, marveling at the clean breeze at the front of the vessel, and pointing out houses both tiny and palatial on the wooded coasts we passed. I loved, loved, loved the ferry ride. It takes about 1.5 hours, but there's so much to see from the decks that the time flies by. And if you're hungry, there are a couple of food options on board.

When we arrived on Vancouver Island, we drove our car off the ferry and made the 30-minute drive to Victoria, the lovely little city from which we'd take our whale watching tour. I'd pre-booked five seats with Eagle Wing Tours, which takes guests out on both covered and uncovered boats for 3.5-hour whale watching tours off the coast. We'd leave from Fisherman's Wharf, a quaint and colorful dock featuring restaurants, shopping, and quirky houseboats. Since we were early for our tour, we had fish and chips for lunch at Barb's Place (soooo gooooood), located on the wharf, and then explored a bit. They had some cute souvenir shops, and resident seals paddled up to the dock in hopes of a snack. Also, as it was World Oceans Day, they'd set up touch pools on the docks where you could get up close and personal with starfish, sea cucumbers, and other creatures. Fun!

After a little browsing and munching, it was time for our tour! We got an orientation from our guide, and then we were off in a small, open boat that seats about 11 passengers. What a thrill! We got out on the open water and started going really fast!! Eagle Wing Tours provided extra sunscreen, as well as hats, jackets, and pants, so you could bundle up in case you got cold out on the water. The wind, views, and speed were terrific!! Clay got to sit right up front with the captain. Before long, we were spotting the area's resident pod of killer whales. Beautiful! Some of them got REALLY CLOSE to the boat! We took tons of pics, then sped off to spy on some local peregrine falcons. After that, we checked out a transient pod of killer whales. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the whales and the wildlife in the areas we visited. Impressive.

I really cannot recommend this experience enough. It's expensive, but Eagle Wing Tours took such great care of us, and got us so close to these beautiful animals, that it was worth every penny we paid. Just an unbelievable day on the water. The boat ride itself is wonderful.

Afterward, we grabbed some gelato at Fisherman's Wharf and played a bit in the nearby playground. Then, it was back to the ferry, where we grabbed some dinner. When we docked, my in-laws dropped us off at the apartment we'd rented in Vancouver for the remainder of our stay, where we tumbled, gratefully, into bed. Our apartment, a nice little two-bedroom, one bath unit, was located incredibly centrally in downtown Vancouver. We were in the West End, about two blocks off Robson Street. This location made the city very convenient for walking, dining options were close, and we had a grocery store within half a block. Plus, the coin laundry in the basement let us pack light. We had a full kitchen and a little balcony, too!

The next morning, Clay and I awoke hungry and tracked down breakfast at Cafe Crepe, where he ordered a strawberry crepe. I got the West Coast crepe, a concoction of salmon, cheese, and spinach. HEAVEN. We got a ham and cheese crepe to go for hubs, which he scarfed down when we returned to the apartment.

As the morning was absolutely glorious, we headed for Stanley Park! At the entrance, we bore east and walked the sea wall, taking in views of the city, staring down the barrel of the Nine O'Clock Gun, marveling at the totem poles and poking around the lighthouse at Brockton Point. I can't say enough about how gorgeous the park is. First, it's massive. There are tons of trails. There are some really lovely points of interest, too - statues, tea houses, etc. You can rent bikes at the park entrance, and bike on dedicated trails. It's just lovely. Somewhere around this time, I made a bad mama decision. I took us off the path, and Clay fell. That put a damper on our fun for the morning, and we decided to head back to the apartment for a rest. (Sad face.)

When the afternoon rolled around, we met up with my sweet in-laws for lunch at Steamworks Brew Pub. I had mussels and fries, while hubs and little man had pizzas. They brew their own beer here as well. We were seated in the lower part of the restaurant, near the big brewing tanks. We even saw one of the pressure valves pop off during our meal and watched one of the employees hurry to set everything to rights again. A great stop! Then, it was off to the Gastown Steam Clock. One of only a few in the world, the clock was refurbished during the past couple of years. When you stand next to it, it's hot from the steam! We learned about how it worked, then pointed our footsteps toward the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, in Chinatown.

A word - we were walking from one tourist spot to another, but we traversed (on foot) through a couple of rough blocks here. If you're planing on visiting the steam clock and then the garden, you might want to catch a cab. It's not far at all (maybe a little more than half a mile?), but it can get dicey (with a child and grandparents) between these two attractions.

We arrived at the garden, where we did a self-tour, learning all about the meaning of the pathways,
plantings, and arrangement. Though the footprint of the garden is small, there are tons of little rooms (indoor and outdoor) to explore! I loved the silk embroidery screen on display (so delicate and detailed, it looked almost as though it glowed when the sun hit it), as well as the Hall of One Hundred Rivers. We spotted turtles out by the koi pond, and Clay found a courage amulet he just had to have in the gift shop.

As we walked back from the garden, we stopped for frozen yogurt at On Yogurt, which serves frozen yogurt using an "ice fried" technique. The yogurt is liquid, and they freeze it on an extremely cold surface as they mix in your chosen toppings. Then, the ice cream is served in a cup in four neat rolls. I tried the mango, while Clay had the strawberry. Really unique. According to the proprietors, this is a common technique in Thailand.

That night, hubs and I walked the half block to our neighborhood grocery and picked up all kinds of yummies for dinner - roast chicken, Greek salad, roasted veggies, rolls, and dessert. We also grabbed some breakfast items - pastries, fruit (cherries and strawberries), milk, coffee. We ate together in the apartment kitchen that night, and my in-laws stayed the night in the second bedroom. This ensured we were ready to rock and roll the next morning!

More to come . . .

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    The next morning, after coffee and pastries at the apartment, my in-laws took pity on me and drove us back to Stanley Park. There was so much we didn't see the day before! They knew I was itching to get out, so they drove me up to Prospect Point for amazing views! We got an up-close look at Lions Gate Bridge, took in the sweeping bay, and counted ships on the water. We stayed here for a while, taking in the air and doing a little shopping in the gift shop at Prospect Point. (Hubs got a T-shirt that I absolutely covet! Soooo soft!!) We also stopped by the hollow tree for photos, as we'd heard it was a Vancouver tradition. Clay thought it was a HOOT!

    Then, we got back in the car and headed for Granville Island. I'd heard this place was worth a stop, both for the delicious food and the Kids Market. (Clay had gotten some shopping money from my dad, and it was burning a hole in his pocket! The Kids Market, a two-story building full of toy shops, was just the place to pick up some souvenirs.) We drove over, parked, and found the big public market. It's a large food market that reminded me a lot of Chelsea Market in New York City - towers of cherries, artfully displayed; gorgeous cases of cheese; meats and seafood; plus arts and crafts! We spent an hour or so browsing before our rumbling stomachs told us it was time for lunch.

    We all got something different: pizzas, Asian food, hot dogs, and more. It was delicious! On our way out, we gave Clay about 45 minutes at the Kids Market to play and choose a few goodies.

    Then came our last stop of the day - Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology. I'd heard wonderful things about this museum, which is located on the University of British Columbia campus, but honestly, no words I can write here will truly do it justice. Suffice it to say - this collection is vast and amazing. So many beautiful examples of First Nations art, and then a stirring space called the Multiversity Gallery which made my jaw hit the floor. Think big glass cases everywhere with beautiful artifacts from all of the world in them. Then, you notice the cases are sitting on cabinet-like pieces of furniture with big, full drawers in them. Then, you realize these huge drawers OPEN, and there are tons more artifacts under glass, stacked under each giant display case. Mind-boggling. We spent a couple of hours here, but we could have easily whiled away half the day.

    After dropping us off back at the apartment, my in-laws returned to White Rock, and our little band of three was on it sown for dinner. We were only a couple of blocks away from Guu Original, on Thurlow Street, and it had some really good online reviews, so off we went. We joined the LINE of people waiting for the restaurant to open at 5:30 p.m. When the door opened, we were seated, and then it was time to sample several of the many small plates. I love tapas-style dining! We tried the fried eggplant (not battered - think soft with crunchy garlic chips on top), the fried chicken with garlic mayo (OMG. I would have eaten this all myself if I hadn't had to share!!), the kabocha croquette (a boiled egg wrapped in pumpkin puree, then breaded and fried; the waiter recommended this, and I reeeeeally hesitated, but we tried it. GOOD!), some prawns, and an evening salmon special.

    This place is small, but the staff is young and energetic (and loud!), and the food is delicious! Prices are also very reasonable. Recommended! Then, it was off to bed. We had another busy day planned in the morning.

    We awoke, enjoyed another quick breakfast at the apartment, and headed for the first Capilano Suspension Bridge shuttle of the day. The attraction offers two free shuttles - a red line and a blue line - both with many stops convenient to downtown Vancouver. It was cloudy, but not rainy, and we wanted to get there and enjoy the attraction before the predicted rain in the afternoon. (Plus, many, many years of travel have taught me that if you're going to a major tourist attraction, GO EARLY. Be there when they open the door. Be the first people there. That way, you avoid the lines and crowds. But the time all the other tourists show up, you'll probably be close to leaving.)

    We got there early, showed our pre-purchased tickets at the turnstiles, and headed straight for the bridge. What a rush! It sways a good bit, but it feels very stable, and views from the center are amazing - a deep ravine, with rushing water at the base. After enjoying our fill of the bridge, we headed for TreeTops Adventure, a magical set of small suspension bridges connecting platforms situated up in the trees, high above the forest floor. The kindly park attendant gave Clay a scavenger hunt to complete, and we enjoyed looking for the related clipboards and learning about the rainforest. Particularly because it was nearly deserted when we traversed it, I found TreeTops Adventure to be magical. Clay mentioned that he felt like an Ewok!

    After that, we continued exploring the far side of the park, taking the Nature's Edge trail, exclaiming over the 400-800 year old Douglas fir, and just enjoying a day in the woods. By this time, this side of the park was beginning to fill up. We crossed back over the bridge to try the CliffWalk. This open-air path is built into the side of the ravine. It's 700 feet long, and it's mostly transparent, maximizing views. (Think Willis Tower, but above a forest. And as a long path.) Beautiful.

    With lunch time approaching, we headed for Loggers' Grill. It's an outdoor cafe. You order at the counter, pick up your food, and eat outside. I had a delicious salmon sandwich, hubs got the maple bacon burger and Clay had a fancy hot dog. The food was delicious, if a bit overpriced (park prices). As we ate, the band started up nearby, so we had a serenade! Upon finishing our meal, it had started to sprinkle a bit. We decided we'd take the opportunity to enjoy all of the exhibits on the way out, which we did before catching the free shuttle back to downtown. We so enjoyed this attraction1 It's touristy, but if you get there early (We went on a week day. I think that helped, too.), you really can commune with nature here.

    After a short rest back at the apartment, we caught a cab to the Vancouver Aquarium. We had a little over two hours to explore! Our first stop? The beluga whales! They were so beautiful and graceful in the water. You can see them from the top of the tank, and you can also go into a roomy underwater viewing area. Just gorgeous. Then, we made time for the sea otters, the fur seals (very playful - they reminded me of the river otters in our local zoo. Plus, they'd named them after some of the Harry Potter characters!), and the penguins. After that, we discovered lots of jellyfish (one of Clay's favorites), tropical fish, the Amazon area (gorgeous scarlet ibis in there), a SUPER COOL bat cave, and a very busy sea turtle. We finished up with a couple of very vocal sea lions who cracked us up! Such performers!

    For dinner, we tried Stepho's, a great little Greek place a few blocks from the apartment. Hubs had the roasted lamb, I chose the fried calamari dinner, and Clay ordered lasagna. WOW. First of all, the service is amazing. Secondly, the food is delicious! Portions are HUGE. Each of our dinners could have easily fed two people. And lastly, prices were insanely reasonable. This was a great stop.

    We positively rolled back to the apartment and snuggled into our pillows!

    More to come . . .

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    On our last day in Canada, we woke up early and walked from the apartment to 999 Canada Place to catch the FREE shuttle to Grouse Mountain! I'd bought our Alpine Experience tickets ahead of time online, so we loaded up on the bus and took off for our mountaintop experience!

    Just as we did with the Capilano Bridge Shuttle, we drove over beautiful Lions Gate Bridge and up to the mountain. (A note - If you want to do Grouse Mountain in the morning and Capilano Suspension Bridge in the afternoon, you can take the Grouse Mountain shuttle to the mountain, and then it will drop you off at Capilano on the way back to Vancouver. Be advised, though, that they DON'T pick UP passengers at Capilano.)

    When we got off the shuttle, we were at the boarding station for the SkyRide, the aerial tram which takes you on an 8-minute ride up the mountain. This was fun!! Views are amazing, and the tram swings a bit as it passes each tower supporting the cables it rides on. (Clay loved this. If we could have swung more dramatically, he'd have loved it even more!) Once we got off the tram, we explored the chalet and took in the views from there. Then, we watched a free, short film about the evolution of birds in the Theatre in the Sky. (Their ancestors are dinosaurs!) After that, we checked out the bees in The Hive, where you can lift coverings to view hundreds of the tiny creatures buzzing about their business through plexiglass. We observed park workers putting in a new bee garden directly adjacent to the hive.

    After that, it was off to visit with the resident grizzlies! We walked along a paved path, through tall carved wooden statues, to find them. They were obligingly active, eating fresh grass, swimming in their pond, and coming right up to the fence! Then, we noticed that one of the park rangers was giving an owl talk. He brought out a lovely barn owl with a white face and dark brown eyes. He spent about half an hour discussing owls, answering our questions, and showing off the beautiful bird. It was a chilly day, and by the time he finished, we were getting cold. Hot chocolate from a nearby stand was just the ticket! We each got some (with loads of marshmallows) and explored the Pollinators' Garden while we sipped, talking about plants and bees.

    The Lumberjack Show was about to start, so we settled ourselves in front row seats and got ready for some fun! The show was hokey, but the performers were adorable, and their lumberjack skills were real. They threw axes at targets, climbed poles, carved wood into simple statues, and showed off their log rolling skills. Clay LOVED this show (the cornier, the better), giggling like a small blond fiend throughout. I was glad we were right up front so he could take in all the action at close range.

    Closing in on lunchtime, we strolled back to the chalet and got a table with a gorgeous view at Altitudes Bistro, where Clay had chicken tenders, hubs had a giant plate of nachos, and I had an Asian shrimp bowl. The service was quick and friendly, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere couldn't be beat! Once we finished, we caught the tram back to the station, then rode the free shuttle back to Canada Place. A short walk back to the apartment, and we met up with my sweet in-laws.

    After a little rest, we decided to enjoy one last adventure! My in-laws had a special treat in store for us; they took us to La Casa Gelato! At this bright pink building, they serve up 238 flavors of ice cream, gelato and sorbet, on site at any time. We giggled at flavors like wasabi, olive oil, and red bean. (You KNOW I tried the roasted garlic one. Not bad!) In the end, Clay got vanilla with chocolate chip, and I had the amaretto cherry with chocolate flakes (AMAZING). They also make their cones on site, and they are delicious! A fun stop!

    After that, we had about one hour until TelUs Science World closed. We figured we'd explore all we could, so in we went. They had a REALLY cool interactive exhibit on spies and spy skills, and we spent all of our time there. You start with a case file and a notebook you can use to record clues. We tried our hands at code-breaking, phone-tapping, and safe-cracking. We also monitored some satellite transmissions, did some detective work at the scene of a crime, and peered through windows at the bad guys. In the end, we solved the mystery!! This place was FUN, and I wished we'd been able to spend more time there. BUT they closed at 5 p.m., so we had to go.

    To end our final day in the city, we ate dinner at Pacifico Pizzeria, where I had a delightful seafood pasta with a nice glass of white wine. The food here was really good, and the place was PACKED!

    After dinner, it was apartment-pack-bed! And off the to airport the next morning! We loved Vancouver, and I'd recommend a trip there to anyone. A beautiful city, fairly compact (walkable), tons of activities (particularly outdoors), and great food! We can't wait until our next visit!

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