Who are we

We are a family of 3 who took a break from our routine. Usually we live in Scotland but February to the end of July 2011 we were on the road in North America for 6 months. We are Mark (also known as Dad), Rachel (also known as Mum... and a whole bunch of other names... my usual at-home blog is here) and little h (10/11 years of age during the trip).

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Beautiful British Columbia* – part one

Stanley Park, Vancouver

*In North America every province/state has a slogan of sorts and this is the B.C. one. And you might think it smacks of pride to the point of smugness… until you see the sign at the U.S./Canadian border we crossed where B.C. is declared “the best place on earth”…

So, finally we get back to a Canadian blog entry. We left the U.S.A. on 9th June and drove quietly into British Columbia. Mark had been to this province once before (when he was 19…) but for h and I it was all new territory. I had always heard about Vancouver in awed tones (a beautiful city, more than a hint of promised land) so I was interested to get to know it and its province and see what all the fuss was about.

First though we needed a rest – mainly because this was our first long stop in a place since New Jersey back in April. So once we got to Mark’s aunt and uncle’s place (in North Vancouver) we sat down and took a mighty load off (for the rest of the 9th June… and most of the 10th). These are very hospitable relatives, mind, so we were wined and dined (and well and truly spoilt) so all the sitting down was not wasted. H was relieved to finally get a room of her own again, I think, and did a lot of reading and internet surfing and such like. Auntie Juanita taught her a mean card trick later in the stay too!

By Saturday 11th June, however, it was time to get back on the tourist trail so we got ourselves into downtown Vancouver (via the magnificent Seabus that crosses the water between North Vancouver and its southern cousin). There we saw for ourselves the (ice) hockey fever that had a hold of the city thanks to the Stanley Cup. Ice-hockey is Canada’s national sport pretty much and Vancouver’s team, the Canucks, was several matches into a play-off set of finals against the Boston Bruins. We also saw an electric car fair down near the Science Centre, a lot of people on bikes and skates as well as the annual Dragonboats races out on False Creek (take a look at the map – Vancouver is surrounded by many different bodies of water). Mark saw straightaway that the city he remembered had grown somewhat (condos, condos, convention centres, giant hotels… a lot of work done for the Winter Olympics in 2010). And it looks like it’s still growing… plenty of cranes on the skyline.

After our first Vancouver city day we took more of the fine local public transport (including the Skytrain – a metro up high) back to North Van (as it’s called locally). There we met a batch of cousins (old and new) back at base for a lovely evening’s dinner and a movie. Our first set of Vancouver (and around) photos are here:

Arrival in B.C.

Sunday 12th June some of the cousins took us for a walk/hike to one of the many local areas of beauty (Seymour Valley). We wandered through trees and rocks, paddled in the icy river water and fought our way over the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge (there are several swinging bridges in the area including the rather more famous Capilano one). Then, after much playing for the younger members, it was off to the very pretty nearby Deep Cove for a Japanese meal (delicious – and not something we ever eat at home). Here on the Pacific coast, of course, Japanese food (along with most other Asian foods) is pretty much everyday fodder so it really was time we tried some more of it!

Monday 13th was the day of the penultimate hockey game (7 matches for one final, I ask you, talk about dragging it out…) so we did local stuff and got ready to watch (in the house – not out on the city streets). It was not a victorious night for Vancouver though so it was onto the last match on Wednesday (flags and towels at the ready…).

On Tuesday 14th June we went into Vancouver city again and enjoyed a day of much walking about (good job h likes walking too!). We’d done enough city bus tours by this point so though we took a few pictures of tourist buses we didn’t climb aboard any this time. Instead we walked along the Waterfront and Coal Harbour areas – looking at boats and seaplanes and houseboats and public art. Then we wandered into Stanley Park, visited the magnificent totem poles, wandered some more and then took a regular bus (driven by the most helpful driver – he waited for passengers!) back into the downtown area. There we perused the hugely expensive central art gallery (wacky old surrealism exhibition, interesting new work by a guy called Ken Lum), had a cup of tea and waited for a guide.

We met Andy Coupland in New Mexico (over breakfast, as it happens – he was on holiday and staying in the same hotel as us back in Taos). As we chatted over the Marmite back there he had mentioned that he did Architecture and Walking Tours of Vancouver and might we be interested (link to Andy’s tours and book here). We were interested so we got in touch once in the area and arranged to meet up. Andy (originally from England) showed us central Vancouver pretty much building by building (and gave us a great, descriptive history of the city’s early days when we were in ‘historic’ Gastown). We would highly recommend this way to see the city. A late night though for h – what with the meal out and the Seabus back. Good job all we had to do on Wednesday was go out to lovely Deep Cove again and then watch the (final) hockey final on TV…

You probably saw what happened during (and mostly after) the hockey final on the TV news (wherever you are) so I won’t go on about it here. It was a shame though after so much excitement and pride in the city to end up with a load of smashing windows and nicking stuff (nothing political about this demo from what we could see – just good old-fashioned breaking things). Of course anyone of English extraction is used to being associated with sports and bad behaviour (it’s not so long since we were the “shame of Europe” on a regular basis) but it is the kind of thing that gets sport a bad name (and of course the hockey players being so violent on the ice probably doesn’t help in that area…). In Vancouver hearts seemed particularly broken because the city prides itself so much on its positives (being greener in every sense as well as being prettier, friendlier, more integrated, more easy-going than other places) and the window-smashing certainly tarnishes that view temporarily. In all honesty I would say it is a city like all others (many good points, but its share of problems too... like one of the original Skid Rows... still keeping to its original character, from what we could see). Plus we all have our off days… even the best of us. It should be added though that many Vancouver locals were out the next day cleaning up the streets and keen to show the world that this was not all their city was about - not at all.

Our next set of Vancouver (and surrounding area) photos are here:

More Vancouver and surrounds

Next time Whistler (bears!) and Vancouver Island (eagles! whales!).


The Bug said...

Well, here's another city that I would probably like to visit - such a beautiful setting. But I think my favorite picture might be the skateboard sign :)

Rachel Fox said...

A lot is made of the fact that you can ski close by to Vancouver and then swim/sail/windsurf etc. too. And it has all the usual city benefits too (theatres, restaurants...) as well as good public transport. Got the lot you might say...

The skateboarding sign was in Deep Cove (little place near North Vancouver).