Tag Archives: bc

Day 38 – Homebound

The day I go back home. I cooked myself some pancakes and bacon, swimming in maple syrup – an appropriate breakfast and a good nod to this fantastic country.

I was pretty much packed, though my suitcase managed to gain two kilograms over night.

My plan for the day was to eat some delicacies I hadn’t got round to. So I had a Vera’s burger for lunch, which was immense. Then, after sitting round in the Pacific Centre for hours with my luggage (plenty to do but with a suitcase of 23Kg, it was hard to get around with), I went to the food hall to eat poutine. This is a Quebec dish which is pretty much cheesy chips in gravy. It’s cheese curds, which sounds revolting as it’s soured milk, but it was actually really nice. For my own future reference, I ate it at New York Fries in the mall, and had the pulled pork poutine.

I took the SkyTrain to the airport and it started to set in how much I’m going to miss this place. It sounds pathetic but at the airport I felt really emotional. Vancouver is comfortable, in a good way, and felt right. Mixed with going back to work, which sucks, and a town which offers little. But then, I was thinking of how much I miss Chloe and my family.

When I was in the mall having to wait for time to pass by (such an unfortunate thing to be doing in such a great city), and thinking how I really could stay here for a lot longer, someone passed by with a vest saying ‘Jus’ liv’ it”. I’m only here once, but I’m in love, and the thought of seeing my family just a couple of times a year is a tough prospect.

So at this point, I want more from Canada, and though I don’t want to give up on that thought, whilst being realistic at the same time, I’ve had an incredible journey for nearly six weeks, spread across this huge beautiful continent. I’ve done some amazing things, that some many never have the opportunity to do. But for me, some of the most simple activities were the most impressive. For example, driving for hours to Banff and seeing miles of natural beauty. Or standing in Stanley Park, as the nine o’clock gun fires, as Vancouverites are jubilant, I was taking photos of their beautiful city at night.

The flight home was full of highs and lows. I sat by the window on a full aeroplane, the two people sat next to me were asleep all the way through the nine hour flight. I was desperate for a piss and couldn’t get out for one. We flew over the coast of Greenland in the morning which was an amazing sight to behold. I had boiling coffee spilt over me by the person next to me, all over my brand new Hollister camel chinos. Flew over London in the morning and could see the newly-completed Shard so close. And then best of all I had my Chloe waiting for me at the airport – (though I couldn’t find her for ages). I was very sad and very happy, tired, relieved from a very full bladder, and covered in coffee.

Day 37 – Vancouver

Last night, we travelled to Richmond Market, which is meant to be quite a famous night market. It wasn’t too bad actually – it was full of Asian food and fake Chinese stuff. I probably spent 20 bucks on food, including a weird bun with Chinese BBQ pork, and some waffle on a stick which had a phallic appearance.

Today, being my last full day in Vancouver, I felt I should a decent look around Stanley Park. It takes around half hour to walk there, and by then I’m usually tired to go on exploring! This time I took the bus down.

The weather was beautiful, warmer than it had been yesterday. So it was a little gruelling sometimes. Stanley Park is bigger than Central Park, and nearly half the size of Richmond Park in London. I decided to walk the perimeter so it was quite a distance.

I always manage to start anti-clockwise, so I’ll pass the navy base, the cricket pavilion, and the totem poles. I approached the big suspension bridge, Lions Gate Bridge, which takes you to North Vancouver (a separate city). I crossed that to Prospect Point lookout, which lets you look over the bridge, Burrard Inlet, North Van and the Georgia Straight. Apparently there’s a lighthouse but I couldn’t bloody find it…

I wanted to get on to the sea wall on the left side of the island, which I always managed to miss. So I walked for ten minutes and realised I was heading back to where I started!

Anyway, I figured it out in the end, and walked this gorgeous trail, which follows where the Squamish First Nations were. It’s forest that meets the sea. I eventually spotted a rock stack sticking out of the sea. This is called Swash Rock, and there was an info board telling of a legend. I thought it was really nice so I’m writing the legend below:

“Long, long ago Skalsh went for a swim of purification in the waters of modern day English Bay in hopes of meeting Q’uas the Transformer. Q’uas was visiting every tribe in the world to hear, and perhaps, grant wishes to these with favours to ask. While purifying himself, Skalsh noticed a canoe approaching and swam towards it to greet the travellers.

“Those in the canoe asked Skalsh three times if he had a personal wish to be granted by Q’was. Each time, Skalsh said he only wished aid for his village. Impressed by this unselfish wish, Q’was revealed himself and transformed Skalsh into a pinnacle of rock to stand forever as an example of how all people should be.”

I completed the walk, passing the beautiful Third Beach as the sun was hanging low in the sky.

That night, I saw something amazing. Some dude, in hot pants, boots and a plume, with a real macaw on his shoulder. Randomly walking around. Only in Vancouver.

Day 35 – Vancouver

I thoroughly enjoyed today. It was raining in the morning but I was determined to do the Downtown tour. It was just me, the previous guide, a German bloke and an elderly lady from Ottawa.

Today’s tour was downtown architecture, old and new. Unbelievably, the first building was some shitty ‘modern’ 70s building that had replaced a neo-classical courts building. That kind of behaviour should be illegal! Fancy Vancouver doing something like that when their oldest buildings are no older than 150 years!

There are plenty of lovely, overwhelming neo-classical and neo-roman buildings with huge columns that I’ve walked past before and not realised were there.

The church down the road from me is a gothic revival, built late 19th Century. Apparently it was very close to being knocked down some time ago… seriously?!

It was more chilled this time around as we were talking amongst ourselves. The German chap was suddenly wearing these small, thick round frame glasses that cover just the eyeball. Very typical of a European. He mentioned the war as well, to which I said “don’t mention the war” as Basil Fawlty said, but no one seemed to get it. I then mentioned how I used to live in Plymouth and how the Germans flattened what was a beautiful city…

Anyway, after the tour, I headed out at dusk to Stanley Park to take some pics of the skyline. Something I’d been putting off out of laziness but I’m really glad I did it. I took loads of photos as the lights came on and the sun set. It’s a long walk so it quickly became night time.

What a great atmosphere there at night. At 9pm, there’s a cannon which fires a gun salute (I think it was donated by George III could be wrong though). Loud as hell – echoed through the blocks of downtown Vancouver. As it fired, a load of people cheered, proud of their city.

As I walked down the sea wall snapping away, the hairs on my neck raised reminding me how beautiful this city is. Two locals then pulled up on their mopeds, watched the city for a short while, and proclaimed it “the best place on Earth”.

As I walked back along the sea wall, I thought how lucky Vancouverites are. I walked past a couple, dangling their legs over the wall, having a bit of a cuddle. Which made me think how I’d love Chloe to be sharing this view of this incredible city with me…

Loved tonight. One of my best nights of the trip. Sometimes the simplest of moments are the most beautiful.

Day 33 – Vancouver

The no-show of the AIBC tour guide filled me with little confidence, but I really wanted to visit parts of Vancouver with a narrative, from an architect perspective.

AIBC do a number of tours but I particularly wanted to visit Chinatown and Downtown. Chinatown was really interesting. Plenty of buildings from late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Some revived, some in despair. I saw the world’s thinnest building at under 5ft, the Sam Kee Building. Vancouver’s oldest buildings seem to be of neo-classical, particularly the banks. One Chinese building which caught my attention was one which had a door going to nowhere on the second storey, I presume to dodge tax.

Interestingly, there’s a lot of pre-Communist Party Chinese influence here. I’m sure I heard that some of the dynasty overthrow was planned here. There are buildings here which serve to represent the Republic of China (Taiwan), not so much the PRC. I had the correct the tour guide on that one… ouch!

Day 29 – Victoria

Victoria is BC’s capital, and is located on Vancouver Island, which, confusingly, has nowt to do with Vancouver. I got there like a true poor backpacker- skytrain, bus to Tsawwassen port, ferry to Vancouver Island, bus from Swartz Bay and on to Victoria and rock up in a hostel.

The plan was to arrive in Victoria for 1pm. I turned up at 3, as the buses have stupid timetables. The ferry was great. I was starboard on deck, eating a beautiful cinnamon bun from Marketplace IGA,  in the glorious weather as we approached Vancouver Island. Very pleasant location with inconspicuous wooden houses nestled in trees as they lead steeply to rocky beaches. Plenty of leisure boats. What a life people must have here… shame about the dickhead on that jet ski boat thing fucking about racing the ferry.

The bus to Victoria was packed. I arrived at the hostel – laid back, very colourful. I had a private room, the room just slightly bigger than the bed, and no window. Vented apparently…

I headed straight out to the waterfront to check out the beautiful architecture there. The Parliament buildings in their baroque style, green coppered roofs, and the Empress Hotel designed by the same young Francis Rattenbury fella, who lied about his portfolio which landed him the job of building some of the most impressive buildings in Canada.

The gardens of Parliament are immaculate, with Queen Victoria watching over those who pass by. I went on the tour there, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Amusing seeing a portrait of old Liz and Philip, wielding their power over this province from thousands of miles away. Fascinating building.

I carried on to the BC Museum. To be honest it wasn’t anything special – I saw copies of the very bones of dinosaurs that I saw for real in New York just a few weeks ago. The Royal Family photograph exhibition they had there was interesting though. Still, a museum is a museum so I just had to go!

At night, the parliament is illuminated using rows of bulbs which line the outside and main features of this building. Looks ace!

My room… christ! It was like a sauna. The vent was shit, the fan was a bit bigger than a side plate. I slept bollock naked, no sheets, hugging an ice cold bottle of water, getting about two hours sleep max. However the room was clean and tidy, but the heat… maaaan.

As I woke up early, I had a Tim Horton’s breakfast, and headed down to the Architectural Institute of BC (AIBC) meeting point for a tour around James Bay, a really old neighbourhood. No tour guide turned up, so ended up chatting to a few old ladies, one of which visited Birmingham many years ago.

Victoria is beautiful, full of architecture that would be deemed ‘old’ for North America. Tidy, unspoilt. I took a quick look ‘round James Bay myself, full of well looked after wooden Victorian homes. Quaint.

The weather over the two days here was impeccable. As I walked to the bus stop to leave this pretty city, I watched the dragon boat races happening in the harbour, watched by thousands of people on what seems a well celebrated summer sunday in Victoria.

Day 27 – UBC, Vancouver

Today I took the bus down to the University of British Columbia and met up with Cassie again to have a look around the campus. What I like about the buses in Vancouver is that most of them are electrified, sort of like trams with tyres!

I was introduced to an Asian delicacy that is quite the hit here, especially with the large Chinese population here. It’s called Bubble Tea – cold, milky tea with a bunch of gelatin balls floating about in it. Bizarre. Not disgusting, but I wouldn’t do it again.

The campus, on map, is probably as big as downtown Vancouver. It’s huge! It has its own bus and road system, blocks of flats, museums, even a skeleton of a whale. Mental.

It was an interesting place to visit and can see its appeal. I particularly enjoyed the Anthropology Museum, looking at the First Nations art, craft, totem poles. I just love the geometry, the colours and exaggeration of human and animal features.

We finished the tour with a few drinks at a sailing club on Jericho Beach, as the sun set on Vancouver its high rises lit up. Love this city!

Day 23 – Vancouver

For some time I’ve been intrigued by Expo 86, when Vancouver hosted the World’s Fair. I decided to take a walk down to False Creek where it all happened.

For me it was of the very few downpoints of my trip. It was as if it was all but forgotten about. In fact, there seems to be three things left in the world that are from Expo 86 – the dome, which is now a science museum, the Pavilion, which is now a casino, and the monorail, which is now at Alton Towers (about an hour away from me).

It was so disappointing. Today was so warm and sunny, blue sky – much like the old photos I’ve seen of Expo 86. I was standing in the place where thousands of people had a great time 25 years ago. Now most of it is flattened.

Anyway, I walked to Gastown, passing the BC and Canucks stadiums, skirting East Hastings (as mentioned in a previous post, we drove through DTES at night which was scary. Though that said, I kind of regret not walking through in the day time). Went to a Chinese shop looking for cheap luggage, came out buying cheesy shit I don’t need. Went to a 7/11 for a Big Gulp and watched a lad hitting on a girl who I don’t think was really a girl…

Gastown’s an old neighbourhood that is now reinvented into this hip place. Named after ‘Gassy’ Jack, an English captain come Saloon landlord known for talking all the time about his tales, hence ‘gassing’ (which is quite an old English term for talking a lot). I admired his statue for a while, then checked out the steam clock, which sounded these cute, slightly flat chimes every quarter of an hour. The architecture is lovely in this part – brick streets, a flat iron building bringing two streets together, ornate detail, avenue feel with all the trees. Plenty of bars.

I then walked toward the waterfront. The skytrain station there is a beautiful, grandiose building with towering classical columns. Across the Harbour Centre with its 70s 360º observation tower.

I had a great look around the Canada Place, which is where the cruise liners dock. It has ten sails, which is a landmark of the west coast. Apparently one for each province? The paths have all the provinces, territories and main towns engraved in the lovely DIN typeface. Loads of info to read about Canada and Vancouver’s history, present and future.

The next day I visited again as they had a small exhibition on the 1812 war. A bit of a poor effort to be honest, let’s hope Ottawa made more of an effort on remembering this very important piece of history!

Day 21 – Vancouver

I decided today was one of those days to reflect on things. I set off to Stanley Park, which is about half an hour’s walk from where I was renting. On the way I spotted a bloke downtown with a Royal Mail bag, 5,000 miles away from where it should be. No wonder our post gets lost!

With the intentions of discovering most of the island, I hadn’t been sleeping too well, so I was mega tired. In the end I found a little beach overlooking the Burrard Inlet, and sat next to some big old log. To the left in the distance was the Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver, and over the water, some of West Canada’s natural resources all lined up for export – bright yellow Albertan sulphur, potash, a mountain of logs.

I tried writing about myself, which I hate but it’s a good outlet to try and understand yourself sometimes. It didn’t really solve anything as such; didn’t provide answers but it let me think straight which rarely happens in this busy life of mine!

Stanley Park always managed to keep me on the east side of it – every path I walked always led me back to where I started.

Day 19 – Vancouver

Recently, Mitch and me walked into one of the Roots shops in Vancouver and started speaking to an ex-pat who works there. Cassie recognised our accents and offered to take us to Granville Island. So last night we went there, had a few tasty Ales (Granville Island Brewing and Red Truck!) and had a walk around there at night. Granville Island is a reclaimed peninsula, originally housed industry but what is now a cool shopping area, with a famous market and plenty of art space. It looks very dockyard-esque, with the fisherman lamps and corrugated steel buildings.

We committed to go and have a look around Granville market and the rest of the island in the day time, and we did just that the next day. The market was brill – full of native foods, real cheese (not that plasticy shit stuff), nice teas, bacon doughnuts… yes, bacon doughnuts. I bought one – it was covered in maple icing with four small rashers of bacon. I got half way through and had to tap out. In a weird way it wasn’t too bad; two food stuffs that should never be united into one delicacy actually worked. But it was the smell of bacon fat with doughnut that ruined it for me.

The day after was Mitchell’s last day on our adventure. We went to Denny’s to watch Mitch drink a coke float,  and took the monorail to YVR to see him off. It was a bit of sad moment as it bought our journey together to an end. And what a great one it has been so far!

Day 17 – Vancouver

Today was Gay Pride, or Pride as it is called here. Hosted on Davie St., the West End and queer capital. The zebra crossings had been painted rainbow colours and pride flags draped everywhere. Now, Pride’s not really for me, so we decided to go to English Bay to sunbathe. English Bay is at the bottom of Davie St. so you could hear everything going on. It sounded like fun to be fair!

It was a scorcher – easily 30ºC. Not a cloud. We sunbathed from about 10-1pm, had a little bathe in the sea, which discoloured my shorts and called it a day in the afternoon. By then, the parade had just finished and various straight, gay, lesbian, disfigured, disabled, transvestites; people just having fun, were making a slow walk back to wherever they started out from.

Nipple tassels and leather aside, it appeared to be a good parade, and in all fairness, good on ‘em.

I think I may regret staying in that sun for so long…