We rented some bikes and proceeded to treat them as such by putting as many bad miles on them as we could on the bastards before they were due back.
Stanley park is a large reserve on west end of downtown Vancouver that hosts many biking tracks, public parks and the Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver. It’s car free and a pretty fun ride complete with an open-air exhibit of traditional and new totem poles.
We made our way around and over False Creek and then headed slightly south and then back west into the ‘burb territory of Kitsilano and Pointe Grey.
We followed this up the following day with a very long walk back to Kitsilano and Queen Victoria Park.
On day two we headed out early for a walking tour of the city. Enjoy the images.
So what are our thoughts and observations on Vancouver after a good sleep and a little retrospection?
For some reason, everyone seems to be carrying a large cup of coffee, juice or soda or a thermos mug.
Everyone seems to be carrying a bag – I’m not sure if this is because of the high proportion of tourists in the city, or whether it’s because a good portion of them may be homeless.
Smelling someone smoking weed whilst walking along a busy street is a regular occurrence and attracts zero attention from anyone else.
Supermarkets (that is; a large store containing a selection of foods and goods) are largely absent, apparently having been replaced with one or two convenience stores per block stocking mostly chips, drinks and cigarettes.
The city seems to be largely obsessively clean with beautiful, well-maintained gardens and lush vegetation throughout.
We talked about it, but we still can’t figure it out.
Vancouver is a world-class city that consistently ranks amongst the world’s most livable. So, on disembarking from our final stop after 14 hours of flying and transfers, Vancouver airport, with it’s modern, intuitive design that takes new arrivals through a simultaneous walk-through exhibit of Canada’s native heritage and bird’s eye tour of the lower levels via an interconnected series of suspended walkways, was a pleasant experience.
As was the clean, efficient and practical SkyTrain that took us from the airport to Stadium-Chinatown station where we exited the underground terminal into Vancouver’s Downtown district on a warm late-summer evening. First impressions were of a new, clean, modern city with happy groups of attractive, young people littering the sidewalks and bike lanes.
The route I’d chosen to take us by foot from the station to our hotel led us through Vancouver’s China Town (the second largest in the world). Unlike the gentle integration and “are we in it yet?” of Melbourne’s China Town, Vancouver’s is much more bold. We pushed our way through the throngs of late-night shoppers on China Town’s sidewalk’s as we passed endless identical shops all apparently specialising in unidentifiable dried goods and ungodly smells.
Turning towards the street on which our hotel was located after several blocks of China Town, the culture shock set in fast and hard. Let me preface this by saying that I’m no stranger to questionable behavior (I have a “party trick” called the wristwatch… I have to take my pants down to perform it), but given we were in an alpha city, this was unexpected.
I’ve seen homeless people and drug addicts, I’ve seen people smoking crack in countless movies and TV shows, I’ve seen questionable ethnic market side-stalls on streets, but I’d never seen all of these things in such density, in the flesh, and with such unexpected preparedness than in Vancouver.
As luck would have it, our hotel was somewhat central to this diverse and colorful neighborhood… we prepared for cultural enrichment.
We checked in, washed the travel grime off, changed and got ready to cure our jetlag with the time-proven method of getting drunk enough to sleep properly. Our hotel was unexpectedly connected to a hotel next door, so we went in, made small talk with the bartender who surprisingly gave us a “Go Cats” after hearing we were from Geelong and then spent some time tipping far to much for the watery, slightly carbonated flavourless thin gruel that the locals here charmingly refer to as “beer”.
Refreshed (but unsatisfied), we headed out to eat, making our way back downtown through the sketchy scrabble of locals. Somewhat unwittingly, we managed to navigate a significant number of the landmarks set out on tomorrow’s planned walking tour before we decided to head back to base. Arriving back , we ate and drank and went to sleep to the sounds of absolutely speaker blowing music from a block or two over, various screams (human and seagull) peppered with the occasional siren.
It’s been weirder than expected so far, and after thinking about it, I guess that’s kind of what I expect a holiday should be. New, novel, eye-opening, shocking… dare I say; Worldly?*
Woke up early, got the bus to a different bus station. Got that bus to the airport. Got a plane to another airport. Got off that plane, then got back on the same plane and went to another airport. Got through customs, got our bags, then checked our bags back in less than 20 meters walk from where we collected them, and went through customs a second time.
Went outside, it was hot and smoggy. Went back inside and waited for another plane to take us to a different airport and more customs.
While we were waiting, we got bored, so this happened:
Yep, our first taste of FreedomLand was being served cheese quesadilla, fries and cherry Coke at Carl’s Jr. by LaShundra. Awesome.