After just under seven months weaving our way across and around the USA, it was time to temporarily say goodbye to America and embrace the behemoth land that is Canada. Neither of us had even thought about what we might do and see in Canada as it always felt like a lifetime away and having left our Lonely Planet to Canada back home in London we were somewhat under preprepared for the great land that lay before us.
Luckily we were due to be joined by two fellow travellers who had done their research, Jake’s parents Ted and Samantha. Due to meet in Vancouver, we would spend the next three weeks exploring southern Canada together. During this time we would venture East towards Calgary to catch the famed Calgary Stampede before whipping back West again towards Vancouver where we would part ways and Jake and I would venture north into the Canadian wilderness and drive to Alaska.
Jake’s mum Samantha has very kindly written a collection of guest posts which will cover our time together in Canada.
The city struck us as a real contrast, a stunning location with soaring buildings seemingly constructed mainly of glass, terrific food, a wide international mix of cultures and races, a wonderful place.
However, the dark side common to every big city was all too visible in Vancouver. It has the most shocking prevalence of homeless down-and-outs mainly in Downtown Eastside, who appeared to be either in a quasi-zombie-like state or begging or otherwise collapsed in doorways, parks, under bridges. Although the city has a supportive approach including a community food programme, hostels, health outreach, crack pipe and needle exchange, the challenge of how to reduce the number, nearly 3,000 lost souls, appears intractable.
We stayed in a lovely two-bed apartment in Chinatown, courtesy of Airbnb, with an impressive large roof garden complete with artificial grass, sun loungers, bbq and communal vegetable and herb garden. We made good use of the beautiful sun flooded roof garden, spending afternoons catching up, looking out on the to the stunning mountain views. We were 15 minutes walk from a busy waterfront casino where we managed to lose on roulette and blackjack.
We hired bikes and cycled the 9 Kms around the tip of the city, Stanley Park, giving us a great view of the changing waterfront and a chance to join locals relaxing on the park’s beaches. A visit to the busy market of Granville Island let us sample the output of its microbrewery and appreciate the work of a range of artists.
The water is never far away in central Vancouver, and soaring Canada Place, where cruise ships dock between a ship-shaped hotel built onto the jetty, and a vast conference centre, meant a quiet cocktail was enlivened by watching children (and parents) on board a Disney cruise, dancing on the deck with Pluto, Minnie Mouse, and a mixed bag of other childhood characters.
On from the city to a ferry north (we should have booked, missed one and sat for a couple of hours in hot sun queueing for the next) up to the Sunshine Coast for a welcome stay with a cousin who Jake hadn’t seen for 20 years.
The sunshine coast was nothing short of idyllic. The blue hues of the mirror like waters and the clear summer skies created a perfect replica rolex sea dweller backdrop for long days on the beach and swimming in the sea out to nearby jetties.
It was fantastic catching up with a relative that we hadn’t seen in many years and amazing how despite all this time passing we got on so well so quickly.
A great stay with great hospitality.