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Hello From Vancouver - Part 5 - Gastown And My Final Explorations

Hello from Vancouver (5): Gastown and My Final Explorations

After my extremely interesting walking tour of the Downtown East Side I decided to round out my exploration of the city with another bicycling trip. In my mind, bicycling is just the perfect way to discover a city, it gives you greater range than walking, you don't need to wait around for buses, and you get exercise at the same time -bonus!

I realized that I had not even seen Gastown yet, which gave me a perfec...

Vancouver, Stanley Park, The Sun Tower,Gastown

Hello from Vancouver (5): Gastown and My Final Explorations

After my extremely interesting walking tour of the Downtown East Side I decided to round out my exploration of the city with another bicycling trip. In my mind, bicycling is just the perfect way to discover a city, it gives you greater range than walking, you don't need to wait around for buses, and you get exercise at the same time -bonus!

I realized that I had not even seen Gastown yet, which gave me a perfect excuse for another round of exploring. I went to Spokes Bicycle Rentals again, talked to Phil who had been so helpful to me on Saturday in my exploration of Stanley Park and off I went for another few hours, to see just a bit more of Vancouver before I had to leave. I decided to ride back to the Downtown East Side since I wasn't able to take any photos during the walking tour. I rode along the waterfront trail past Canada Place and the Harbour Centre to the east side of town.

I closely retraced my steps from this morning's walking tour on the bicycle and took some pictures of some of the buildings along the way. One place that definitely stood out was the Sun Tower, a building created between 1911 and 1912 that used to be the headquarters of the Vancouver Sun. I rode through Chinatown again, which still had such an unusually orderly and organized feel to it.

Then I explored Gastown, one of Vancouver's most historic areas. Its founding father was a loquacious saloon owner: John "Gassy Jack" Deighton, who, in 1867, built a saloon near the corner of Carrall and Water Streets to profit from the local lumber mill workers and gold prospectors on their way to the Yukon. By the 1870s, Gastown was a multicultural community, complete with saloons, hotels and grocery stores, brought into town because Vancouver had been chosen as the Canadian Pacific Railroad terminus.

By 1886 it had 1,000 buildings and 3,000 residents. Then, in 1886, a blaze broke out and burned the town to the ground. Although destroying the town, this fire started the biggest building boom in West Coast history. After an economic decline in the early part of the 20th century, Gastown became a virtual backwater from the 1930s to 1950s until a group of local merchants and property owners put it back on the map in the 1960s by renovating the historic buildings and turning them into one of the city's top tourist attractions.

One of the biggest draws Gastown is the steam-powered clock, the world's first, created by Raymond Saunders who has a small shop nearby. Live steam, pumped from a plant that heats more than 100 downtown buildings, operates the mechanism of the clocks and blows the whistles. At each quarter hour the clock sounds the Westminster Chimes while the large whistle announces the hours. Gastown's Steam Clock is one of the favourite photography spots for tourists. Gastown also houses another major Vancouver attraction: an innovative educational and cultural experience called Storeyum: it's 100,000 square foot indoor venue showcases the colourful history of Canada's West Coast in live reenactments.

Of course I didn't have time to explore Gastown and all its stores and restaurants in detail since my plane would be leaving in a few hours and I still wanted to head back to Stanley Park one more time to catch another glimpse of this most gorgeous urban greenspace. So back I cycled past construction of the new convention centre and back on the waterfront into Stanley Park. Since this was my second time in the park I caught a few things I missed the first time around: I saw the Girl in a Wetsuit sculpture, created in 1972, which is a life-size bronze statue of a woman in a wetsuit, with flippers on her feet and her mask pushed up on her forehead, and sits on a large intertidal boulder just offshore of Stanley Park.

I didn't go all around the park but cut across it after a nice little icecream break at the Lumberman's Arch concession stand and I rode through the beautiful Rose Garden and Shakespeare Garden which form the backbone of the perennial flower beds and ornamental trees and shrubs. Stanley Park is really a sight to behold, and it offers so many recreational and relaxation opportunities. The park also holds a children's farmyard and miniature train.

My final stop in the park was the Lost Lagoon, a large pond, featuring a fountain at its centre, set against a gorgeous backdrop of forests, flowering shrubs, with the mountains towering in the background. The amount of visual beauty of this area is virtually overwhelming and I was starting to feel a little sad that I had to end my visit since I had to make it back to UBC on the other side of town to retrieve my luggage and head off to the airport.

I had originally planned to go biking until 5:30 pm, considering that my flight wouldn't leave until almost 9 pm, but then I realized it's Monday and rush hour would be setting in soon. So I took my bike back early, said my goodbyes to Phil, who's been so helpful all along, and he gave me a few more words of local advice as to which bus routes to take and off I went to catch a bus to Burrard Street. The intersection of Burrard and Georgia was totally nuts, since the city was repaving and police were directing traffic manually. I was glad I had taken my bike back early, at least I would make it back to the university in time for my departure to the airport. Finally the #44 bus came and I could relax. Actually I was surprised that it only took me 25 minutes to get back to the University which left me extra time to complete some travel reports over the Internet.

All in all, Victoria and Vancouver have been an awesome experience. I had absolutely perfect weather: 25 degrees with beaming sunshine and absolutely no humidity. I had a fabulous reunion in Victoria with my co-worker Clare, two and a half very interesting days at the Canada-US Servas Conference where I got to know some of the most generous and dedicated individuals I have ever had a chance to meet, and in the time in between I had an opportunity to explore Vancouver, a vibrant and exciting city full of contrasts, set in one of the most physically stunning locations anywhere on the planet.

It's been a very short trip, and all I can say - I'll be back.....

For the entire article including photos please visit
http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/hello_vancouver_5.htm

 

Hello From Vancouver- Part 1 - Arrival In Vancouver

I left beautiful Victoria early yesterday morning at 8 am and took the Pacific Coachlines bus/ferry combination back to the mainland. It was another gorgeous day and I spent the entire ferry ride on the top deck soaking in the scenery and the sunshine. At about 11:30 I exited at Broadway and Cambie as the bus driver had advised me and caught the 99B bus to the University of British Columbia campus and arrived about a half an hour later. First I found the student union buildin...

Travel, Vancouver, University of British Columbia, Jericho Beach

I left beautiful Victoria early yesterday morning at 8 am and took the Pacific Coachlines bus/ferry combination back to the mainland. It was another gorgeous day and I spent the entire ferry ride on the top deck soaking in the scenery and the sunshine. At about 11:30 I exited at Broadway and Cambie as the bus driver had advised me and caught the 99B bus to the University of British Columbia campus and arrived about a half an hour later. First I found the student union building where I picked up a bus map and a campus guide. Then I asked my way to the student residence where I was staying and checked myself into a comfortable reasonably priced student room that is part of a 6-unit apartment at a very affordable C$38.00 a night.

After dumping my luggage and getting changed I had a few hours until check-in for the Servas conference and I decided to use the time by renting a bicycle at the local university bicycle co-op to explore the area on 2 wheels. I rented a mountainbike and started heading west to North West Marine Drive which is the road that is parallel to the coastline, but the view to the ocean is obscured by dense forest. In various areas trails and steps lead down to to Spanish Bay.

I then cycled eastwards and found a beautiful lookout spot from where I could see the mouth of the Burrard Inlet and the mountains of North Vancouver. The university grounds in this area have several mansions that are surrounded by gorgeous flowers and this is a just a superbly scenic area. From there I took NW Marine Drive down towards Spanish Banks and kept cycling eastwards past Locarno Beach and Jericho Beach which is a recreational paradise. The water level was quite low, however, and people had to walk out quite a while over the sand to reach deeper water. After a couple of hectic days I figured I deserved about an hour of downtime and bought myself an icecream which I savoured sitting at a bench while observing the action on the beach.

Of course after this little respite I had to cycle all the way back up, which ended up not being as bad as expected. The campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC) is a beautiful facility. It is very expansive with a large number of mordern buildings interspersed by green zones and parkland. UBC is home to about 45,000 students and it is the 3rd largest university in Canada. The UBC Campus is also the home of the world-renowned UBC Museum of Anthropology, the Nitobe Memorial Gardens, the UBC Botanical Garden as well as the Rose Garden & Chan Centre. The First Nations Longhouse serves as a gathering place for native students and features sculpted log poles and various pieces of First Nations art. UBC also houses the largest university bookstore in Canada as well as the Astronomical Observatory, located beside the UBC Geophysical Observatory which monitors earthquake activity.

My first outing on the bike gave me the lay of the land and a first glimpse at the Vancouver skyline which certainly has one of the most stunning locations of any large city I have ever seen. I am glad I had a bit of a chance to explore it before I return back to the student residence to get ready for the Servas Conference.

For the entire article including photos please visit
http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/hello_vancouver_1.htm

 

Hello From Vancouver -Part 2 - Wheeling Around Stanley Park

Stanley Park is Vancouver's famous urban paradise and I knew weeks in advance that I would need to explore it in detail, preferably on a bike. So this afternoon at about 1:30 pm I set off from the UBC Campus, and navigated my way downtown by bus, taking 3 buses to get to the eastern edge of Stanley Park. This was my first chance to glance at the city of Vancouver. It is a relatively new city and according to some accounts, its origins date back to 1792 , the year when Captain...

Travel, Vancouver, Stanley Park, Burrard Bridge, Kitsilano Beach

Stanley Park is Vancouver's famous urban paradise and I knew weeks in advance that I would need to explore it in detail, preferably on a bike. So this afternoon at about 1:30 pm I set off from the UBC Campus, and navigated my way downtown by bus, taking 3 buses to get to the eastern edge of Stanley Park. This was my first chance to glance at the city of Vancouver. It is a relatively new city and according to some accounts, its origins date back to 1792 , the year when Captain George Vancouver explored this region. Most buildings downtown west of Granville Avenue were built relatively recently as Vancouver has experienced a huge building boom over the last few years. A large part of downtown is covered by modern residential skyscrapers and Vancouver's building frenzy continues unabated. It's evident everywhere that this is a very popular place to live.

My rental bicycle was waiting for me at a place called Spokes Bicycle Rentals, a place that had been mentioned to me several weeks ago by the Vancouver's Visitors Association. I met one of their managers, a young sporty guy named Phil who was extremely helpful in helping me lay out my itinerary for this discovery on two wheels. We started chatting and I found out that Phil is originally from Montreal and moved to Vancouver 3 years ago. He loves the outdoors and has gotten involved in snowboarding, mountainbiking and diving and he mentioned that Vancouver is among the world's top dive sites.

After laying out my route for me and giving me information on all the important sights along the way, Phil selected a comfortable bicycle for me that would be able to handle leisure riding as well as some mild offroading. Once outfitted I hopped on the bike and started my tour along the seawall of Stanley Park. At 20 times the size of Central Park, Stanley Park is the 3rd largest urban park in North America, and its setting is just stunning. From the east side you have a view into downtown Vancouver towards Canada Place and the cruise boat terminal. Several ocean liners were docked in town.

One of the first major sights along the bike path are the Totem Poles, imposing in their height and number. I circled around Brockton Point towards the north-facing side of the peninsula, and a stunning view towards North Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge opened up. As per Phil's advice, I cycled up to Beaver Lake which is a quiet little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the seawall. It is a large pond surrounded by lush forest, covered in a water lilies. I cycled all the way around the pond and then headed back out to the seawall and quickly came to the Lions Gate Bridge which is surrounded by Prospect Point, the highest point in the park. From there I soon reached the northernmost point of Stanley Park and started cycling westwards again. Just past a single outlying rock called Siwash Rock I arrived at Third Beach that was just completely teeming with people. I bought a drink and relaxed for a while until I resumed my trip and passed a group of inukshuk builders close to Second Beach.

The crowds were intensifying and every conceivable spot on the burnt-out grass was taken up by sun-worshippers. The largest beach, located closest to the city, is English Bay Beach, replete with daytrippers. The crowds were a bit too much for me, so I crossed False Creek over the Burrard Bridge and explored Vanier Park and Kitsilano Beach. The view from the bridge is simply breathtaking. On the other side again there were thousands of people, barbequeing, sunworshiping, and picknicking.

I turned around and headed back on 4th Avenue, crossing back to downtown Vancouver via the Granville Street Bridge and headed straight across towards Canada Place and the seashore west of Burrard Street. Since my stomach was growling after about 3 hours of cycling, I returned the bycicle to Spokes and asked Phil for advice as to where to eat. He suggested an Italian place named Ciao Bella almost right across the street. I took his advice and plunked myself down on a nice patio and thoroughly enjoyed an Italian meal in the evening sunshine.

At 8 pm I was ready to head back to UBC and walked up to Robson Street, one of Vancouver's main thoroughfares. Thousands of people were coming towards me since they were planning to catch the fireworks. The sidewalks were just totally full with people. I was walking in the opposite direction and ended up doing a quick little photographic tour of downtown, including the Hotel Vancouver. I saw a few more interesting buildings: the Vancouver Block and the Art Gallery of Vancouver.

Quite exhausted from a full day I started walking down Granville Avenue, still surrounded by throngs of people and had to wait 45 minutes for a bus since all buses were going down Davie Street to take people to the fireworks. Finally the bus came and I was listening to a bunch of teenage boys that were planning their under-age drinking escapades at the occasion of the fireworks. After a really long day I finally arrived back on the UBC campus at about 9:30 pm. Now it's 11 pm and I can't wait to hit the hay.

For the entire article including photos please visit http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/hello_vancouver_2.htm

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