A Travellerspoint blog

October 2015

Vancouver

October 5th to 25th

Often known as Van City, Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities we have visited on this journey. This harbour city has numerous islands dotted offshore in the Pacific Ocean and Mountains to the North. It is very easy to understand why Vancouver is so beautiful. Tack on a couple of beautiful bridges and the famous Stanley Park, it truly is a visual delight.

Our accommodation is in East Van in the neighborhood of Hastings Sunrise, only a 30 minute bus ride from Downtown. We are once again located in a basement, however this time some of the bulkheads are quite low (for Nick anyways as he had to duck down walking between the lounge and dining room and into each bedroom). The area has a variety of shops, a couple of grocery stores, a few micro breweries and a large number of cafes. Additionally, a 2 minute walk away is Cambridge Street, one of Vancouver’s most famous streets at this time of year. The season is Fall, the leaves on the trees are changing and dropping everywhere. Hopefully the photos below gives you an idea of how beautiful this street is. It should also be noted that the average house price in Vancouver is $1.2M and the house we are staying in is worth a mere $1.4M. Not sure how anyone can afford to live here when their wages appear comparable to Australia. That said, our hosts were renting out the basement (to us) and converted their garage to accommodation.

Our accommodation

Our accommodation

Autumn colours

Autumn colours

Autumn colours 2

Autumn colours 2

First to Stanley Park, the 404 hectares of parkland located just West of Downtown. We decided to rent bikes to ride around the 9km Seawall, certainly the best way to tour this area and enjoy all its pleasure. Here we had numerous stops to view Vancouver from across the bay as well as stopping to see the Totem poles, Lighthouse, Empress of Japan Figurehead, Girl in a wetsuit statue and the imposing Lions Gate Bridge before finishing at English Bay.

Riding Stanley Park

Riding Stanley Park


Totem Poles

Totem Poles


Lighthouse

Lighthouse


Empress of Japan Figurehead with Lions Gate Bridge

Empress of Japan Figurehead with Lions Gate Bridge


Girl in a wetsuit

Girl in a wetsuit

Granville Island is a must for any visitor to Vancouver. Although technically not an Island, it’s cobbled streets lead you from shop to restaurant to theatre and the Public Market is home to fresh produce stalls, bakeries, fish, cheese and many local food vendors.

Granville Markets

Granville Markets

As usual, we rented a car one weekend to allow us to explore more of Vancouver and its surrounds. Our first stop was IKEA (a novelty for us from Townsville where the closest IKEA is over 1,300 km away). We had visited IKEA previously in Calgary but were rushed due to their early Sunday closure. This time we arrived at 10.30 with the aim to explore and then attend the café and try the famous Swedish Meatballs. Let’s just say they were as good as expected. We followed IKEA with a drive around the coast past Point Grey and the University of British Columbia, located in probably the most idyllic location in Vancouver. We then travelled to little Horseshoe Bay NorthWest of the city.

The following day we drove to Whistler along the Sea to Sky highway with stops along the way at Shannon Falls (335m high and the third highest falls in BC) and Brandywine falls (a spectacular 70m waterfall). After a quick stop in Squamish we arrived at Whistler which was quite empty as the Mountain bike season closed the previous weekend and the ski season doesn’t open for another month or so. After hanging out in the Main Village to see some of the memorabilia from the 2010 Winter Olympics we had lunch and returned to Vancouver.

Shannon Falls

Shannon Falls


Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls


Whistler

Whistler

Nick’s birthday fell on a Friday night so we headed down to Gastown for a celebratory dinner. Vancouver was born in Gastown and is now home to a number of funky restaurants as well as the famous Steam Clock which chimes every 15 minutes. After dinner we walked over to the Rogers Centre to watch an Ice Hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and St Louis Blues. Unfortunately the home team lost 4-3 (they scored 2 goals in the last 4 minutes to set up an exciting final minute). Oh, and there was a classic Ice Hockey fight where 2 players belted each other while the other players and referees just watched. Once one of the fighters to knocked to the ice the referees jump on them to stop the fight and send them to the penalty box (sin bin) for 5 minutes. Clearly the highlight for us.

Canucks game

Canucks game

On our final weekend in Vancouver we were visited by our good friends Cappy and Yvonne. We spent time with Cappy in both Albuquerque and Moab earlier in the trip and as he recently moved to Seattle, thought they would spend the weekend with us and then drive us across the border. We decided a trip Grouse Mountain was in order so we caught the Skyride Gondala up the mountain for Vancouver’s finest views. The other option is to hike the Grouse Grinder, a hike of 2,830 steps. At the top of the mountain we visited Grinder and Coola, 2 orphaned Grizzly Bears. After descending the mountain (again by Gondola) we drove to nearby Lynn Canyon to view its Suspension bridge and trails. Most people visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge, however after some research revealed that Lynn Canyon was free and better rated, it was an easy decision.

Grouse Mountain Gondala

Grouse Mountain Gondala


Grinder and Coola

Grinder and Coola


Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge


Lynn Canyon

Lynn Canyon

Next stop ….. Seattle USA

Posted by V3USA 16:21 Comments (1)

BC Roadtrip

Yah for school holidays

The September school holidays meant ditching the books for 2 weeks and embarking on an EPIC Road Trip around Southern British Columbia including the world famous Rocky Mountains.

After collecting our rental car in Victoria, we proceeded 30 minutes up the coast to Swartz Bay to the catch the ferry to Tsawwassen, just South of Vancouver. The ferry is capable of taking over 200 cars and a couple of thousand people and only takes 1.5 hours darting through the numerous islands that dot the coastline of Western Canada.

After disembarking the ferry we head along the Trans Canada Highway towards Kamloops. The Highway is regarded (by Lonely Planet at least) as one of the world's great scenic drives and we concur. Along the way you pass through 7 tunnels, hug the vertical walls of the beautiful Fraser Canyon and follow the Thompson River. Although the weather was overcast with slight drizzle, it truly was amazing. Our stop in Kamloops was intentional so we could attend a Boston Pizza restaurant to celebrate Alyssa's 11th birthday (her request and I wasn't about to argue).

Birthday dessert

Birthday dessert

After Kamloops our direction of travel was towards Jasper National Park. As the accommodation in Jasper was more expensive than we had anticipated (even though it is technically just outside the tourist season) we decided to stay in Valemount, a small town of just 1,000 people and a little over an hours drive from Jasper. As things turn out, our stay in Valemount was great and provided us with the opportunity to see Mt Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) as well as both Rearguard and Overlander Falls. Rearguard falls was the standout and only a short 300m walk from the parking lot. Additionally, our accommodation was right beside the Cranberry Marsh where we hiked to see Canadian geese, ducks, muskrats and beaver dams.

Rearguard Falls

Rearguard Falls

A day trip to Jasper allowed us to partake in a Wildlife tour on the prowl for Deer, Elk, Moose and Bear. Unfortunately we only got to see Deer and Elk. Moose are more likely to frequent the East Coast and further North and Bear sightings are more regular in Spring.

Elk

Elk

Following our stay in Valemount we headed towards Lake Louise. We firstly stopped at the Athabasca falls before continuing to the Columbia Icefields, but as it was raining, very misty and a little cold we decided to continue on our journey South.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

The following day we ventured back to the Icefields, a drive of 90 minutes from our accommodation. Along the way we noticed the snow line was lower, it was now down to the road and light snow was falling when we arrived at the Glacier Discovery Centre. From the Discovery Centre we first caught the shuttle towards the Glacier and then, as the terrain became more rugged, we were transferred to a specially designed Ice Explorer, down one of the steepest gravel roads in North America and then onto the glacier. The glacier is a slow moving river of ice some 30 storeys deep and is situated between Mt Columbia and Mt Athabasca. Interestingly snow on the mountains melts and flows to the Arctic, Atlantic And Pacific Oceans. Although we only had 20 minutes on the Glacier and the weather was well below freezing, it will certainly be one of those moments we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Columbia Icefield

Columbia Icefield

After driving back to Lake Louise we ventured 5 km out of town to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and one of the most photographed lakes in the world. Located at the base of the Victoria Glacier, the lake is over 2.5 km long and 90 m deep and is definitely breathtaking. Following we drove further out of town to see Moraine Lake, set in the Valley of the 10 peaks.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise


Chateau Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise


Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Our next destination is Banff about 50 km South but we decided to firstly drive a further 27 km to the small town of Canmore for lunch. Canmore has a very relaxed atmosphere and as we were later to discover, is less reliant on tourism than Banff and would make an ideal alternative for someone looking for a nice little sleepy hollow. After driving to Banff and checking into our hotel we quickly discovered the resort/tourist feel of Banff. Being a Sunday it felt overcrowded and we had one of those perplexing moments where we loathed the number of tourists but understand we are also tourists. That said, the town of Banff has a somewhat western/country feel and the view in all directions is quite incredible.

We wanted to partake in a hike whilst in Banff and decided on the Sunshine meadows, rated by Lonely Planet as the Number 1 day hike in Canada. After driving 20 minutes out of town we went to purchase tickets to catch the shuttle bus to the base of the Sunshine ski fields only to find out the EFTPOS machine wasn't working and we were given free passage on the bus. Bonus. We hiked from the Trail Centre uphill for 1.5 km to the Rock Isle viewpoint. Although a tough little hike for Alyssa, we reached the Continental divide with incredible views of Mt Assiniboine (the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies) and the surrounding sea of peaks and lakes. On driving back to Banff we had a quick stop at Lake Minnewanka (pronounced Mini - wonka).

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka

Next up was the small town of Nelson, home to a new friend in Dharma whom we met when hiking in Colorado about 6 months ago. He invited us to stay with him whilst on our Road Trip which we quickly accepted. As the crow flies Nelson is not that far from Banff, however the number of mountains and lakes in between means it is a 6 hour trip including a ride on another car ferry across Lake Kootenay. Although we had limited time in Nelson we did get a chance for a hike recommended by Dharma to Pulpit Rock, a 2 hour roundtrip but offering wonderful views of Nelson.

Nelson

Nelson

Our journey then continued to Revelstoke, but first, a stop at the Nakusp Hot springs to soothe the aching muscles from the previous days hike. Well not exactly aching but certainly in need for a good relax. After catching yet another car ferry, this time across Upper Arrow Lake we arrived in Revelstoke where we visited the nearby Enchanted Forest (open for over 50 years) with over 350 handcrafted figurines, home to BC's tallest tree house and nestled in amongst 800 year old cedars. A trip to Revelstoke would not be complete without a trip to Mt Revelstoke. The drive to the top of the mountain is along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway which climbs 1,600m, is 26 km long and includes 16 switchbacks to the subalpine meadow of Mt Revelstoke National Park. Along the way we saw a bear scurrying across the road, our first bear sighting for the entire trip. Unfortunately he moved so fast we didn't get a chance for a photo. After arriving at the top of Mt Revelstoke we hiked the short but enjoyable Eagle Knoll trail allowing us views of Lake Revelstoke.

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest

With a couple of days of school holidays remaining we visited the Margaret falls and stopped at Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial park to see the last of the Sockeye Salmon spawning on the Adams River. The fish are completing a journey that takes them far out into the Pacific then upstream against currents and rapids all the way up to Alaska and back again, travelling over 4,000km in their lifetime.

Margaret Falls

Margaret Falls

Finally we stopped in the town of Hope to see the Othello tunnels, built in 1911 to complete the Kettle Valley railway. Later that day we watched the Cowboys win their first Premiership. Quite a surreal feeling as we went to their first Grand Final in 2005 (Alyssa was just over 1 and fell asleep after 15 minutes) and we have watched every game of the season on our iPad via replay.

Cowboys win

Cowboys win

Posted by V3USA 20:33 Comments (0)

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