I had high hopes for Vancouver, and that worried me. Because it’s often the places you think you’ll fall in love with that disappoint you, and the ones you have no preconceptions of are the ones that surprise you.
I didn’t need to worry. I fell for Vancouver, hard.
Canada was the beginning of the end of our trip, so we left Hawaii with mixed emotions. We were excited to explore a city we’d heard so much about, and Ash was excited to explore a brand new country altogether. Moreover, we were VERY excited to catch up with an old “housemate” from the hostel in Brisbane!
Vancouver had always been on my list for this trip, and when we realised we weren’t going to be able to afford to do the whole Epic North American Road Trip, we narrowed our itinerary right down to Canada. (this is where the detour to Hawaii came in because the flight turned out to be so damn expensive!)
The big bonus already was that I have family on the other side of BC, but then we met Jeremy at our hostel and lived with him for almost three months, and we practically arranged to visit him in Vancouver back when he left at the beginning of the year.
I’m not going to lie. Our WestJet flight wasn’t great and I was totally exhausted when we finally arrived in Vancouver. So imagine my delight when I began my love affair with Tim Hortons, kickstarted by my discovery that their drinks are under $2 and culminating in the fact THEIR HOT CHOCOLATES ARE BLOODY DELICIOUS.
(food not quite so much but still!)
Still bleary-eyed, we explored the downtown harbour, watching seaplanes landing with Grouse Mountain bearing over behind them, before taking a little walking tour of the city centre with Jeremy.
Within hours of arriving in Canada, I had met a moose.
Then we went to watch a gorgeous sunset and found some geese marching across the road with maple leaf flags flying behind them. It was the most Canadian thing I’ve ever seen, and we’d only been there one day.
Also, the sunset was absolutely epic – something I didn’t really expect from Canada!
The following day, we explored Stanley Park by bike – it’s probably the most touristy thing you can do, but it was my favourite activity! Locals come here to relax, and lots of people use it as an exercise facility, from the pools to the cycling path. It’s a major hub for everyone. Unfortunately we didn’t see any seals, but we did find many piles of rocks…
I believe the rest of the day was spent socialising. I was introduced to caesars, which are essentially a very peppery Bloody Mary with added veg on top. I was not a fan, sorry Jeremy! ;)
Ash did try a selection of beers though, and he’s found his new favourite IPA. It’s called Fat Tug, and it might have even overtaken Brewdog’s Punk IPA as his favourite!
We went back to the beach for another incredible sunset, and I almost got myself arrested because one of our party had somehow got inexplicably drunk and I was trying to help her to walk straight because the police were telling us we were in big trouble if we couldn’t. As it turns out, when you’re holding someone up it’s not very easy to walk straight either! It’s a story that just doesn’t sound like something that would happen to me, which makes it all the funnier!
Especially when literally just moments earlier, she got some of the best pictures of me and Ash EVER. Oh and btw guys, that is me in my underwear because I wasn’t exactly expecting beach time in Canada. Good thing the police weren’t around THEN!
Exploring the markets of Granville Island the next day should have been a highlight of Vancouver, but it was so busy that it was hard to look at things properly. That said, I did enjoy it there; we just didn’t spend as much time there as I thought we would! Also: if I go back with more money, I will be buying a LOT!
My highlight though? Outside the markets, Ash got cornered by a goose. It was HILARIOUS. (He didn’t think so.)
We also explored the cute cobblestone streets of Gastown and ventured into Chinatown, finding a few filming locations from Deadpool in the process! Jeremy pointed out the bridge that the whole epic shoot-out scene was filmed on, and of course the orange strip club. Chinatown is also where Vanessa lives. (other locations included the city hall, which is the police station in The Flash! Unfortunately we didn’t find any Supernatural ones as most of them are in obscure suburbs.)
In a slightly more relaxed atmosphere, we did take a nice walk through the Chinese Gardens.
In the evening, we hopped on the train and went to Richmond night market for some food. The market is one of the busiest in the world, and it showed in the massive queue along the fence. A large group approached us – they needed three more people to join them in order to get a huge discount on fast-track entry. (I couldn’t believe how ticketed this place was! Just for a market! It’s $3.25 or $20 for 7 people to skip the queue – the large group was 11, so we made it up to 14)
I had been a little disappointed in advance because I had read up on their website that there was a Chinese theme going on with a focus on giant cartoon pandas. We had just missed it and there was no info on a new event – instead, we turned up to DINOSAURS!
I actually couldn’t believe how busy it was. The market itself is pretty limited and so the stalls weren’t too crowded – the food section was where it was at! We almost lost Jeremy twice, and we struggled to find anywhere to sit (or stand) and eat.
It IS good though – they had LED cotton candy floss, chocolate chicken nuggets (?!?!?), my new favourite phrase when it comes to food (“guaranteed to blow your mouth mind”), and the market stalls themselves had t shirts covered in faces (Nicolas Cage, anyone?), lego Totoros and samurai swords (not lego). I’m not gonna lie, it was actually pretty amazing!
Plus who DOESN’T want to have an animatronic dilophosaurus spraying water on them?
Our final day almost didn’t go to plan. We arrived in town to be picked up for a whale watching tour – ten minutes after our pick up time, someone informed us that the tour was cancelled. We met a friend for coffee instead (Tim Hortons, OBVIOUSLY), who said it was strange because she could see the sea from her house and it had been the calmest it had been in days. Thankfully, the afternoon tour still had space and we were put on that instead – but we were put into limbo because we had to wait until midday to find out whether that one was going ahead!
Luckily, it did. And I very much mean luckily – because our tour not only watched a whole pod of orcas, but on our way back to shore, our captain took a detour that he thought we wouldn’t mind taking even though it would make us late getting home. He had spotted some humpback whales in the distance!!
We circled a mother and calf (the mother is known as “Big Momma”) and watched them come up three times between long dives, before we finally headed back.
Probably my highlight though, was an orca swimming closer and closer to our boat – I had my camera poised and ready for when it resurfaced. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it burst out of the water and whirled in the air, no one was expecting it and I was so transfixed that I pressed my camera shutter without aiming or even trying! THIS was the result! I wouldn’t have got this if I had tried!!
I shortlisted two companies for our tour – and this one wasn’t one of them. In fact, we only went with them because the other two were booked out. However, did the others get to see humpbacks? No they did not!
So I highly recommend Steveston Sea Breeze Adventures who really go out of their way to make your experience great. Our guide was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and so passionate about the animals. She spoke to every single person on the tour individually and shared experiences and stories – Ash told her that they had basking sharks around where he grew up (the Isle Of Man) and she told us the sad history of their species essentially being wiped out in Vancouver.
They also recognised almost all of the whales we saw due to their distinctive markings – the attention to detail like that was pretty mindblowing, and it was clear just how much of an interest they really had in marine life.
In the end, we didn’t get back into the city centre until almost 9pm instead of early evening. Coupled with a very early start the following morning (a 6am bus to the other side of British Columbia!) we were way too tired to have final drinks with our friends – but we did manage to get into the city for some famous Fritz poutine! AND IT WAS DELICIOUS! So delicious that I FORGOT to take a picture.
We had such a good time in Vancouver that we immediately started thinking of the practicalities of doing a working holiday visa in Canada. Previously, we were considering one in New Zealand because we adored Wellington and well, who wouldn’t want to live on the south island? I technically could probably do both, but Ash might not have time due to the age limits. What do you think we should do?!