By Theresa Russell
Mingling with our hosts at the Listel Hotel during their regularly scheduled wine gatherings for guests, we were surprised to hear from one of the sales people that visitors to Vancouver often remark that they are surprised at how walkable the city is, and that there is more to it than just a cruise port. We have taken it upon ourselves to give a brief overview of this pleasant city very much surrounded by water and very much more than simply a place to embark on a cruise to Alaska.
From the Beginning
It all started in Gastown,
a now touristy district with tree-lined streets dotted with shops and restaurants. In addition to its claim to fame as one of the first settlements in the Vancouver area, there is also a large steam clock that visitors shouldn’t miss. Right at the entry to Gastown is the office for Vancouver Trolley tours, a hop-on, hop-off vehicle with two routes that helps you navigate the city and visit many of its highlights. We took advantage of this option because it covered many of the places that were on our list. From here, the trolley headed to Canada Place, the centrally located cruise terminal, which was the Canada Pavilion at Expo 86. This port is the more convenient of the two located in Vancouver, the other being in the less accessible and more industrial Ballantyne Pier, a short taxi ride away.
From Canada Place there is a pleasant walk along the water, where you get views of downtown and easy access to its offerings. Take a stroll and head toward Robson street where you may rejoin the trolley again if desired. This street is the main shopping area of downtown and the heart of the city.
Eateries, shops and entertainment abound. It is in this general area that you will find art galleries, theatre and anything you would expect to find in a cosmopolitan city. Public transportation is good and it is simple to reach the heart of the city via the Sky Train from the airport. It is also from this area that we boarded a bus to the University of British Columbia where we wanted to visit the Museum of Anthropology. Our plans involved a bit of a theme and one reason we chose the Listel is because of its association with UBC and the Buschlen Mowatt Gallery. Our Museum Floor featured a wonderful Haida mask and our room had artwork selected with the help of the curator of the UBC museum. The Gallery Floor exhibits art from the Buschlen Mowatt Gallery, so no matter where you stay in this hotel, you will be treated to artful offerings.
The Museum of Anthropology is worth the ride to the campus, which also features a rose garden and a botanical garden as well. The museum offers an intense introduction into the cultures of the Pacific Northwest, with collections of masks, totems, cedar boxes and ceremonial artifacts. Many museums archive much of their collections, but in the Multiversity Galleries, the archives are open for public viewing and are very well electronically catalogued. So intriguing is this area that is it possible to spend days here researching objects of interest.
After several hours exploring the museum, we returned downtown and walked to the English Bay to watch the sunset. Benches abound and all ages of people flock to the shore to watch the setting sun as it seemingly falls into the water.
Early the next day, we walked to Stanley Park, the place where Vancouverites get outdoors. We did have the option of boarding the trolley right near our hotel with our two-day pass, but opted to walk and pick up the trolley again in the park. Cyclists, in-line skaters and walkers take advantage of the path that encircles the park, some doing the entire 9 Km. loop. Our first stop was to view the totem poles that dominate a section of the park. Many fine examples of this art are on display here, many of which are reproductions of deteriorating poles from other parts of the Northwest. We could have spent the entire day visiting the Aquarium there or stopping for lunch, but we had to make some hard choices. We contemplated riding in the horse drawn buggies that operate in the park, but considering the short time we had left, we hopped onto the next trolley and headed to the stop nearest the False Creek Ferry to Granville Island, where a very popular farmers-style market is located.
Our little boat, brought to mind the Rub a Dub Dub nursery rhyme; Ithought I might encounter the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker. Our quaint vessel quickly skirted across the water to Granville and we explored the streets replete with a variety of shops selling fresh produce, meat, baked goods, deli-food and of course, seafood.
We enjoyed listening to music in the area and watching a totem carving demonstration, but didn’t have time to visit the other interesting shops on the island as we would soon need to board our cruise ship.
We could have further explored False Creek via the ferries or the Aquabus, which both stop at tourist attractions along the way, but sadly, our time for exploration was coming to an end, so we simply returned to where we originally embarked. We hopped back on the trolley, and listened to the driver’s narrative as we headed back toward downtown. We spotted several more of the painted eagles that grace the streets of the city. Next time, we will arrive two days earlier to take advantage of everything that Vancouver has to offer.
About Theresa Russell
Claiming her lust for travel began on her first journey through the birth canal, Theresa is genetically programmed to travel and to have fun doing it. She especially enjoys adventure and experiential travel and always finds something at a destination to write home about.