Vancouver Travel Blog› entry 18 of 93 › view all entries
14 hour overnight coach journeys aren't the stuff that good sleep and fresh mornings are made of, so as you can imagine, we weren't on top of the world when we got there. This at least partly accounts for my love-hate relationship with Vancouver anyway. Vancouver's definitely the most American-like city we'd visited in Canada, and very cosmopolitan too, with a cracking location on the Pacific and a stunning backdrop of fantastic mountains. A lot had been made of Vancouver in some of the literature we'd read and reviews were mixed from others we'd met on the way so I was looking forward to working it all out for myself. And to be honest, I'm still not sure about it.
The journey, despite sounding horrific wasn't as bad as expected, the first few hours were light enough to afford us some more of the (same) great scenery up to Banff that we were disappointed to be leaving (for now) and when the odd jolt did wake us up, we were passing through the Kamloops in moonlight.
We made our way to Gastown, where 'Gassy' Jack Deighton first turned a very dry settlement into a very wet town. It's quite a nice little cobbled street with a quirky steam clock but couldn't find anywhere suitable so headed back into town where we obviously took a wrong turn and walked through a neighbourhood with the highest concentration of homeless I'd ever seen, quite happily minding their own business and rummaging through bins for returnable bottles. It turns out that it's a bit of a problem in the rest of the city too, and something Vancouver's struggling to resolve in the run-up to the Winter Olympics there in 2010.
The hostel, Cambie Seymour, was clean and fairly friendly, but our room was not somewhere you'd be comfortable with if Claustrophobia was a problem. We explored a bit more of the downtown area and found the main shopping area on Robson Street, a nice tree-lined avenue stretching all the way down to Stanley Park. Warming a bit to Vancouver in the evening sun we headed a few blocks down to the waterfront/sea wall, where we had dinner in one of the numerous bars before heading home.
When Saturday came we were refreshed and ready to give Vancouver another chance, in the shape of the trolley tour. So after our internet fix (note for next time - bring a laptop, everywhere has Wi-fi and it's a hassle planning on the move and relying on costly internet access in hotels and time-limiting libraries) we caught a trolley down to Canada Place via Chinatown and bought our ticket, one of the hop-on, hop-off things that are almost never as good value as they seem.
Back on the Trolley tour at Prospect Point and it was next stop Granville market, a strange colllaboration of quirly little shops, bars and galleries with the Market itself occupying only a small section of the 'island'. We caught the last trolley back to downtown, and by this time the guides just about given up! It was Saturday night so we treated ourselves to a decent meal in Earls and headed to Granville, where we'd been led to believe that all the Vancouver night-life was to be found. What we found instead was a pretty run-down and fairly grotty street that might have appealed when we were 18, but not now.
Sunday followed Saturdays pattern (the down-side to a uni-directional loop bus tour) but with the cracking weather we joined a throng of Vancouverites on the beach at English bay for an ice cream and a spot of sunbathing! We did hop-off the bus for a quick look around Yaletown, and wished we'd gone there the previous night instead. Granted it was Sunday (and you may even call us yuppie snobs) but it was a really nice part of the city.
So, three days to work it out and I still don't know if I liked it or not. On top of that, the sheer quantity of homeless people was disconcerting and made me feel a bit guilty for the trip we were doing and how fortuitous we are. Bits we missed were the cable-car trip to Grouse mountain and whale-watching cruises, which are apparently well worth the expense. In the end though, despite some great parts, the only thing I'd go back to Vancouver for would be the transfer to Whistler for a week's boarding.