As I mentioned previously, Mark and I came up to British Columbia for the weekend to explore the area around Vancouver. We decided to spend a day seeing the city as well. The weather was beautiful so we spent a lot of time walking around the downtown, near our hostel.
If you look at a map, Vancouver covers a lot of area. I got confused trying to figure out where to book a hostel in the city and what sort of things would be feasible to walk to. I ended up booking a hostel in the downtown area (We stayed at St. Clair Hostel which was great, but more on that later) and luckily that was the right place to be. In the downtown area it is very walkable or bikeable, but once you get outside of that peninsula it becomes a city you have to drive or take the train in order to get anywhere. Within/next to the downtown are many parks and beaches, including Stanley Park and neighborhoods to explore.
We walked around the Gastown neighborhood, which was very hip, and had the oldest vibe to it. It also plays up the steampunk theme with random machinery and steam spouts.
Vancouver is really clean. It also has a lot of construction as they are building new high rise housing units. Overall it reminded me a lot of a European city. There also weren’t that many cars at any given point, so either they have great public transportation or everyone was gone for the weekend, which I could imagine given how beautiful the weather was and how close Vancouver is to national and provincial parks. This seems to be a place that really celebrates good weather.
We walked up to Harbour Green Park on the north end of the downtown, which had great outdoor seating and meals. We had a view of the huge cruise ships stopping for the day and some of the harbor with Stanley Park in the background, and Grouse Mountain in background even further behind that.
At this point we decided to rent bikes for the day to explore. It turns out this was a great idea because Vancouver has a 22km paved path around the downtown and Stanley Park waterfront. It started at the harbor near us and wrapped all the way around to Kitsilano Beach. Biking was a great way to see the city and spend a day outside.
Here is a view of what the Seawall looked like in the city:
We took many breaks from the bike ride to hang out on the beaches (the water was VERY cold), and we got lunch in the Yaletown neighborhood. Eventually we biked around the SCIENCE WORLD geodesic dome, hung out for a bit on Granville Island and made it to Kitsilano Beach. It was getting late so we turned around and biked over the Burrard St. Bridge and through the downtown back to return the bikes.
I was really impressed by Vancouver’s bike lanes in the streets, which have their own separate traffic lights and felt really safe and easy to use. We got Malaysian food for dinner near Davie Village in the West End, which is a neighborhood that seems to be full of young people and the city’s LGBT hub, and then walked back to the hostel.
The night before we had taken advantage of staying in the downtown area and went to Granville Street where all the clubs and bars were to sit outside and drink beer while listening to street music and watching all the club-goers walk around. Tonight, our hostel informed us that they had accidentally overbooked and didn’t have space for us. Unsurprisingly, they were really nice about it and said they’d called all the other hostels in town trying to find one that had room, but they were all full. Then they said the owner of our hostel said we could stay at her house if we were ok with that. We felt both lucky and kind of terrified at this turn of events. So we went to the Richmond area outside of the downtown at the appointed time and place and were greeted by an older British couple at their gated mansion-esque house and ushered into their basement pub.
They were wonderful people intent on filling us with as much Canadian beer as possible and we had a great night talking about politics and all of our stories. They made their business in importing antiques originally and had mountains of interesting old things everywhere. We stayed in the guest quarters of their basement, and in the morning they made us a proper British breakfast of grilled cheese sandwiches, bacon, grilled tomatoes, and toast with marmalade before we headed off. I kept wondering both- how did we get so lucky? and- I hope these people aren’t going to murder us in their basement. Overall it was a great experience and one of my favorite parts of the trip.