In 2014 we made two visits to Canada. We had intended to combine both visits into one but schedule and cost led to two separate visits separated by 10 days. The first covered in this posting was to Vancouver, the second to the Canadian Rockies – Calgary, Banff, and Jasper. These were our first visits to these parts of Canada.
Our initial trip followed the cruise arrival back in Seattle . We traveled up the coast to Vancouver, stopping at La Conner and Deception Pass and staying overnight in Bellingham. La Conner is a charming though slightly touristy small town on an inlet of Puget Sound. In Bellingham we visited the club recently opened by my ex-Oracle colleague Brock Blatter, the Star Club on Holly Street. If you are in the Bellingham it’s a good place to visit. Great food and music .
The Star Club
Despite the grey skies and rain that initially greeted us when we arrived in Vancouver late morning it was easy to see why it is consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life. For us the attraction was immediate – the splendid location next to the Pacific surrounded by mountains, the parks, the beaches, the restaurants, the cosmopolitan feel, the attention to green living and the ease of getting about the city. Even the much-criticized parking issues we found quite manageable. For the remainder of the day and all the following day in Vancouver the sun was out and the skies were blue and we could fully enjoy the beauty of the city. We walked along the water, through parts of the city, and in the park.
Highlights of our visit
Stanley Park has 1,001 acres bordering downtown and is almost entirely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The land was later turned into Vancouver’s first park when the city incorporated in 1886 and was named after Lord Stanley, a British politician who had recently been appointed Governor General.
Walking in Stanley Park was fun as you can choose shady paths during the heat of the day and colorful and diverse flower gardens at other times. Much of the park remains as densely forested as it was in the late 1800s, with about a half million trees, some of which stand as tall as 75 metres (250 ft) and are hundreds of years old. The walk along the Vancouver sea wall has great views of the city.
I liked the fact that there are two paths, one for skaters and cyclists and the other for pedestrians. Our walk took us past 2 swimming pools, several beaches, a cricket game, totem poles, and through a beautiful garden. If you hire a bike cycling is good and if you have a dog then the city has a very picturesque dog park along the seawall (almost worth hiring a dog for a few hours!). Unfortunately, the aquarium had queues too long and we decided just to continue walking. Stanley Park is the best park I have been to and I later found out that in 2014 TripAdvisor named it the ‘top park in the world’.
Along the Vancouver Sea Wall
We started in Stanley Park and keep walking until we got to the “planted roof”. The views are very impressive. I like the use of roofs to grow vegetation – the trend which I think is good seems to become a common occurrence.
“May this sculpture inspire laughter playfulness and joy in all who experience it.”
I loved the sculptures in Vancouver which seems to be found in most public places. I particularly liked this one called A-maze-ing Laughter which was installed in 2009. It was designed by Yue Minjum and there are 14 statues (yes, I counted) about 3 metres high and > 250 Kilograms (no, I never weighed them).
The other thing I liked about our findings at English Bay was the logs on the beach. Such a thoughtful idea that I have never seen before. Very practical. We strolled along the bay never tiring of the view. Unfortunate, as our time was limited I never got to swim in the sea. Had I done so I would have been swimming on my own. there were lots of people on the beach or walking along the beach but no one swimming. Perhaps I should of asked why. The red flag flying is a concession flag and not a warning flag. And yes! – on the right is another interesting sculpture…
False Creek and Granville Island
False Creek is an interesting place to walk along the water front. The water front is lined with boats, condos , restaurants , and dog walkers. We ended up here both days as it was the one place we found with available and free parking. It is also a good place to catch a water taxi. Granville island can be seen and reached from False Creek. There is an interesting story around the island’s name as the city of Vancouver was once called Granville until 1886. The former name was given to Granville Street, which spanned the small inlet known as False Creek. False Creek in the late 19th century was more than twice the size it is today, and its tidal flats included a large permanent sandbar which eventually become Granville Island, There is a market for food and goods on Granville Island and several restaurants. Taking the advice of a Vancouver resident that we met on our short taxi ride we eat at the Bridges restaurant . Our expectation that it was a “tourist trap” with mediocre food were unfounded and we had a really good meal sitting outside with view of Vancouver.
Queen Elizabeth Park and The Bloedel Conservatory
Queen Elizabeth Park is outside of the city but has very good views of the city . We parked at the bottom of the hill and walked past lakes, the quarry gardens, amongst trees and formal gardens to get to the conservatory. The conservatory was the first geodesic conservatory, and is surrounded by covered walkways, lighted fountains and sculptures. The outside of the conservatory was under restoration so the presence of ladders, scaffolding and covers restricted full appreciation of the outside. However the beauty of the dome was clear on the inside. It was like small version of the Eden project in Cornwall. On the way we passed some tourists that had taken so long to get the right setting for their photos that they were now rooted to the spot – a lesson to us all.
According to the leaflets the conservatory enclosed tropical garden houses 500 exotic plants and flowers and more than a hundred free-flying tropical birds. I am unable to confirm the number but there seemed to be a lot as can be seen from this slide show. It was an impressive place to visit.
Crescent Bay and White Rock
Our return to Seattle was through Crescent Bay an White Rock. Both were very picturesque spots but we had limited time.