My blog has been absent for over a week – and with good reason. We’ve been busy ticking off some of our items from our bucket list. Unlike the UK, the schools in Alberta don’t get many breaks during the school year longer than one or two days at any time, with the exception of Christmas and Easter where we get just over a week. It’s worth it in the longer run, as schools finish the third week of June and don’t go back until the second week of September, so it’s the equivalent of stacking all your presents up and having them in one long hit during the warmest and sunniest time of the year. So, Easter is the prime time to take a short holiday – and we’ve been to Vancouver, one of the places on our bucket list to visit and explore.
I’m still amazed that being only in the next Province, it still takes just under 2 hours on a plane to reach – and with a complete change of landscape and climate too. Rather like the UK, Vancouver sees a lot of rain, and with a temperate climate, it’s very green. Having experienced snow, ice and a general ‘whiteness’ around everything for the last 5 months, the colours and wetter climate hit you as soon as you arrive. The landscape too is wonderfully scenic – with mountains, sea and what feels like a greater history in the architecture and buildings. It’s a lovely reminder of home.
Many would balk at the rain that was coming down like stair-rods on our arrival – but having not experienced rain for the last 6 months, it was a novelty and being from the north of England, a somewhat familiar experience. Grab your raincoat and brolly, and just get on and ignore it – we had a great time.
We spent the week gradually ticking off all the iconic stuff to do whilst in Vancouver. There’s a superb seawall – a walk and cycleway (we did both during the week) that’s approximately 9km and takes you around Stanley Park. It’s a public park just over 1000 acres, that is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of English Bay and Vancouver Harbour. We saw a sea otter, watched the huge tankers anchored up waiting for their cargoes to arrive, sampled the fresh fish in one of the eateries around the park, and explored the park. It’s also home to the Vancouver Aquarium which houses white beluga whales – which we’d never seen before. Another first. Very impressive and the range of sea-life and even a sloth (!) kept the kids entertained for a couple of hours.
Downtown Vancouver looks out at the mountains to the North, and a trip across the harbour on the SeaBus and a local bus up towards Grouse Mountain is a must. On our way, we stopped off at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Built in 1889, it stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River – and takes you into the West Coast rainforest, a natural temperate rainforest where some of the oldest Douglas Fir trees are more than 1300 years old. A treetop walk takes you 100ft up into the trees and allows you to see and experience the rainforest from a height – and with seven suspension bridges attached to the trees, it’s accessible to anyone and everyone. Well worth a trip.
Further up the road, Grouse Mountain is over 4000 ft high and ascended by either cablecar or by doing the famous ‘Grouse Grind’ – a 2.9km gruelling trail up the face of Grouse Mountain and commonly referred to as ‘mother nature’s stair-master’. With 2,830 steps and taking the average person approximately 90 minutes to complete, experienced climbers can do it in 45 – it’s not for the faint-hearted. Needless to say, we took the cablecar….
It’s well worth the view – overlooking Vancouver Harbour and beyond. We were also in luck as 2 grizzly bears had just come out of hibernation a few weeks earlier and we managed to tick these off our bucket list too!
What was most enjoyable, was the vast range of artisan shops and crafts you can visit and wander around. Granville Island was our favourite, and also home to the Granville Island brewery (another item on our list), and Liberty Distillery. ‘Taster menus’ offer selections of their nectars along with tasting notes which make for a truly pleasant experience. Authentic coffee bars were also sought out – and well worth the effort of the find, compared to the commonplace commercial coffee establishments familiar to all across the world. The coffees were equally a delight to sample and the range and complexity of different tastes just goes to show how much we get used to middle of the road multinational, mass-produced fare. Tasting original and unique food and drink was certainly a highlight.
One of the most distinctive shops visited was a ‘Broom Shop’. I’ve never seen one. Ever. It’s run by 2 sisters who aim to make 25 brooms a day in their workshop which also serves as a retail outlet. The skill and beauty of what they do and make is amazing and the kids found it fascinating to watch them hone their skills. I couldn’t resist a purchase and despite ‘where’s your hat?’, ‘you forgot your cloak‘, ‘have you joined Harry Potter‘, ‘which one should we get for the mother-in-law?‘, comments being hurled in my direction – I admit it was fair game – it’s a lovely reminder of such a great city.
A wonderful week away. Next job on the list is planning our adventure and travels over the Summer … with or without broom ….