A Travellerspoint blog

Vancouver Take Two!

sunny 28 °C
View Best of Western Canada on slking's travel map.

After a much needed lie-in back in Vancouver, we took a tour upto the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We were given a map as we entered the park and had to find stamps as we went round so that we could get a certificate at the end. The bridge is a 450ft long, 230ft high suspension bridge crossing the Capilano River. With hundreds of people walking across each day, many of them at the same time as you, you can imagine it was a little unsteady underfoot and we wobbled as we went, admiring the stunning views up and down the river.
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Capilano Suspension Bridge
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Once over the otherside, there was a trail to complete through the treetops in and around 1300 year old Douglas Firs. Back over the suspension bridge and we ventured out on the Cliffwalk, a series of cantilevered and suspended walkways jutting out from the cliff face above the river. With only 16 anchor points in the cliff and very strong glass supporting the walkway, there wasn’t much between us and the Capilano River!
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Clifftop Walk
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Leaving here, we caught the bus further out of town to the base of Grouse Mountain where we hopped on the cable car to take us up to the top. As we ascended the mountain we could see for miles across Vancouver, picking out all the landmarks we had seen previously close-up.
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Vancouver from Grouse Mountain

At the top of Grouse Mountain, there was a variety of activities to keep us busy. We joined the crowds waiting for the imminent Lumberjack show. As the sun beat down we watched as two rival ‘lumberjacks’ competed for top status by chopping and sawing wood, axe throwing, a 60-foot tree climb, and log rolling.
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We visited the Grizzly Bear sanctuary where we met Grinder and Coola, two orphaned Grizzlies, and managed to get some good shots as they wandered around their enclosure.
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Before heading back down the mountain we had just enough time to enjoy another BeaverTail with cinnamon sugar and lemon, yum!
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Beavertail!

That night we headed to Yaletown for dinner. Yaletown is a former warehouse district which now houses many bars, restaurants and boutiques. The huge open spaces lend themselves very well to the bustling and busy nightlife.
The next day we had arranged to meet up with Eva, a girl I used to live with in London who is from Vancouver. She took us over to Granville Island where we wandered around the market stalls and shops, before catching the little Aquabus over to Gastown, where it is said that Vancouver was born. Out of Gassy Jack’s saloon, Gastown has become an area known for its fashion, architecture, dining and nightlife. We finished the afternoon shopping on Robson Street getting a few last minute souveniers and presents before making our way back to the hotel for a well-earned drink after all that walking. Heading back to Yaletown for dinner we treated ourselves to a plate of delicious ribs and a glass of red wine for our last night.
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View of English Beach from Granville Island
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The Steamclock in Gastown
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The next day we were due to fly out in the evening so we took it easy and went for a walk along Beach Avenue just as we had done on our first day in Vancouver, this time going further up and into Stanley Park covering a small portion of this 404 hectare park. We walked around the perimeter of the Lost Lagoon, spotting lots of birds and animals as we went.
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The shoreline trail took us back towards English Bay Beach where we had just enough time for a lovely seafood lunch looking out over English Bay before we had to make our way back to the hotel for the start of our journey home, leaving behind the sunshine and the wonderful Canadian landscapes.

Posted by slking 13:03 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

The Canadian Rockies

sunny 20 °C

Leaving Jasper we were headed along the Yellowhead Highway parallel to the milky blue Athabasca River towards our next destination of Banff, stopping enroute at the Athabasca Falls where the rainfall meant that the water was tumbling at an incredible rate over the edge as the spray and sound of the crashing water filled your ears and face!
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Athabasca Falls
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A slightly soggy Mum

The Columbia Icefield was our next pitstop along the Icefields Parkway, home to over 100 visible glaciers, turquoise lakes, and rushing waterfalls. Here we rode the Snocoach up to the Athabasca Glacier where we were able to actually step out onto the ice. It was very cold and we had to be careful where we trod as it was suprisingly slippery! I managed to put my foot in a patch of melted ice and ended up with a very wet foot for the next couple of hours though.
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Snocoach
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Mum and I at Athabasca Glacier
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Me and Black Bear Mountie
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Athabasca Glacier

Leaving here we travelled further along the Icefields Parkway, stopping off near Peyto Lake, at Bow Summit, the highest point along the Parkway at 2135m above sea level, where the brilliant blue glacier-fed waters began to shine as the sun was finally coming out. Next up was a visit to Lake Louise, an equally turquoise-blue lake within Banff National Park. Here we spent some time strolling along the shore. Despite there being quite a few other tourists there it was strangely peaceful, and calming just to stand and look out across the lake.
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Peyto Lake
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Lake Louise

Now in Banff, we were excited about the activities we had planned here. We had signed up for a helicopter ride across The Rockies and on the morning of the flight we woke up to beautiful blue skies scattered with a few clouds. However just after breakfast we were told that they were unable to fly due to the strong winds and it had been postponed until the afternoon in the hope that the wind may drop. With that in mind, we swapped round our other activity, the Banff Gondola up to Sulphur Mountain, so we made our way up in the cable car keeping everything crossed that the weather would improve. Once we were at the top of Sulphur Mountain we decided to take the walk along the boardwalk to the other side. We had great views over Banff and the clear skies meant we could see for miles. It was extremely windy and very cold up there though, and the gusts of wind made us thankful that we weren’t up in a helicopter at that time!

Following a lunch including the local delicacy of BeaverTails, fried dough pastry shaped like a beaver tail and topped with cinnamon sugar and lemon (yum!), we received a message that the flights were going ahead so we climbed aboard the bus. Just as we were enroute to the airstrip our driver had a phone call to say they had had to cancel it again as the wind had picked up again. We were obviously very disappointed as it was one of the activities we had really wanted to do and the scenery would have been spectacular. Unfortuately there was not much we could do about it. So instaed of wasting the rest of the day, we ended up doing some shopping and then booked ourselves onto an evening wildlife safari around Banff National Park where we saw elk, long-horned sheep and a black bear. Annoyingly I couldn’t get any good photos, just a few more with its head in the bushes foraging for food.

The next day we journeyed to Kelowna along the Trans-Canada Highway where we crossed over from Banff National Park to Yoho National Park and onto the Kicking Horse Pass, stopping off at Castle Mountain, the Spiral Tunnels, Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge falls. Leaving Yoho National Park we entered the Glacier National Park and reached Roger’s Pass, the highest point in Glacier National Park at 1330m above sea level, then on to Revelstoke National Park and through the Okanagan Valley where we left behind the mountains and valleys as we drove through the wineries, fruit fields and Christmas tree growing fields. The final leg of our trip took us from Kelowna back to Vancouver and completing the 2200 mile trip. Here we had a few more free days to explore Vancouver itself on our own time.
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Emerald Lake
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Emerald Lake
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Natural Bridge Falls
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Natural Bridge Falls

Posted by slking 17:56 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

The Inside Passage and Into the Rockies

all seasons in one day 14 °C

Most of the next day was spent on the coach covering the 500km trip from Victoria to Port Hardy on the Northern tip of Vancouver Island where we would pick up the early morning ferry the following day to sail the 503km up the Inside Passage which would take us approximately 16 hours.
The Lonely Planet lists sailing the Inside Passage in one of the top 15 things to do when in British Columbia. “You’re on the sun-warmed outer deck on the day-long service to Prince Rupert…With a gentle breeze licking your face, you let the Inside Passage diorama roll past: sharp peaks, tree-covered islands, pristine sandy bays, red-capped lighthouses and tiny settlements”. Well, in reality we didn’t even venture outside, as the weather was rainy, misty and dull. As for the sharp peaks and tree-covered islands, we could just about make out the grey outlines of a few of the islands through the mist as we sailed past. Although, around lunchtime the haze did clear just enough for us to spot a school of dolphins swim past and even a lone orca whale doing a backflip in the distance before it came crashing down and disappearing once more. Our tour leader had arranged for the group to visit the bridge of the ship so we patiently waited for our group to be called before we were shown around all the instruments and equipment by the captain.

We pulled into Prince Rupert at about 23.00 and after a long day we were eager to crawl into bed, only to be woken throughout the night by the people coming out of the nearby casino and bar. The next day we were able to switch rooms and ended up with a lovely harbour view with binoculars provided! Thankfully we had a relatively free day today as we had chosen not to do any activities whilst we were in Prince Rupert. One excursion which was included was a visit to the North Pacific Cannery Village Museum where we were shown round all the old equipment that they used to use to can salmon, where Spider, a retired worker and our guide for the morning recalled stories from his working life and the history of the cannery which he delivered with a very dry sense of humour, keeping the group in good spirits as we weaved in and out of the buildings and out-houses.
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Hoping off at Cow Bay back in Prince Rupert we had the rest of the day free to wander around a few gift shops and sample the local catch of the day, whilst being watched by a local bald eagle.
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As the weather brightened up the sun even made an appearance later on in the afternoon. Considering the guide book states that Prince Rupert encounters 220 days of rain on average a year, we were pretty lucky with the weather.

Another long day of travelling was ahead of us as we boarded the Via Rail Canada train which would take us from Prince Rupert to Prince George covering 730km in approximately 81/2 hours. The day started out a bit grey, overcast and drizzly with very low-lying mist. As we travelled alongside the Skeena River we could see where it got it’s name. Translated from the native Tsimshian it means “Water of the Clouds” and from Gitksan as “River of Mists”. As the morning went on, the clouds began to lift and the snow-capped mountains and dense forests came into view. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to the Deluxe Touring class which meant we were travelling in the dome car where we had huge windows that covered the roof and sides giving us great 3600 views whilst being served food at our seats.
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Today was Canada Day so our car was decked out in Canadian flags and we were all given a few souveniers in the form of pins, bookmarks etc. As the day went on the sun began to shine through and the blue sky emerged from behind the clouds. The snow-capped mountains and wilderness became much more lush and green interspersed with lakes, farms and sawmills. We even spotted a rainbow over Fraser Lake. Most of the time we spent standing up at our seats to get the best possible all-round views and to try to spot wildlife in the surrounding fields and forests such as bear, moose, elk, deer, beaver and eagles. A couple of times there were shouts of “bear” from others in the carriage, but by the time we had looked up, we had whizzed passed. This was to be the theme over the next couple of days. I would be looking out of the window intently studying each part of the forest as we went by on the coach. As our tour leader began descibing a mountain or something else over on the other side of the road, as soon aas I looked away, there were more shouts of “bear” from the back of the coach. I couldn’t believe I had missed it again! I did manage to catch one a bit later one as we drove through Jasper National Park, he had his head buried in the shrubs but I promise it was a bear!
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The next stop on our tour would be Jasper, but before we reached our destination there were several stops along the way. We stopped off at the base of Mount Robson where the clouds had not quite cleared enough for us to see the peak, but the views were just as beautiful all the same.
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Next up was Jasper National Park where the recent rains had caused the rivers and lakes to swell to the brim. Our tour leader said that it was the highest he had ever seen them in the 15 years he had been doing tours in the area. Maligne Lake, a 22km long lake surrounded by rocky peaks and valleys where we took a small boat out across the baby blue milky water to the isolated Spirit Island. Jasper itself was a pretty little town with just one main commercial street, overlooked by the surrounding towering mountains. Unfortunately we only had one night here, we would have liked to have stayed longer if not only for the very comfortable room that we had!
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Posted by slking 22:12 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Welcome to Canada!

sunny 18 °C
View Best of Western Canada on slking's travel map.

As the alarm went off at 4am we dragged ourselves out of bed to a beautiful morning in Chichester. The sun was up and giving the sky a warm golden glow. The next hour and a half was spent slowly peeling our eyelids apart just enough to finish packing one or two last minute things and seeing how many extra tops I could squeeze in my case whilst still keeping it under the weight limit.
A few delays and a 9 hour flight later, we landed in Vancouver having been greeted by amazing sights as we flew in over Alaska and the Rockies.

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Welcome to Vancouver!

As we emerged from the airport having met up with a few others in our group, one of them pointed to a nearby limo and said to the girl from the tour company “Oo, that would be nice!”, to which she replied “OK then!”. Not quite believing our luck we piled into the limo as fast as we could before she changed her mind.

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Our airport pickup

Once at the hotel in Vancouver Mum and I decided to take a walk down to the harbour where we followed the shoreline, taking in Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach. The early morning and long flight was beginning to catch up with us and realising that our bodies thought it was about 1am, we treated ourselves to a lovely dinner of fresh fish from the local area and crawled into bed by 9pm.

The first full day of the tour found us taking a city tour of Vancouver including Chinatown, Gastown, Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge (modelled on the Golden Gate Bridge) and Queen Elizabeth Park, where we were able to orientate ourselves and make mental notes of places we would like to come back to when we return in a couple of weeks time.

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Lions Gate Bridge
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Totem Poles in Queen Elizabeth Park

A quick ride over on the BC ferry saw us arrive in Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island in the early afternoon. Our busy day continued as we headed South to the Butchart Gardens which covers more than 55 acres of an old limestone quarry near Brentwood Bay. What had started out as a grey overcast day turned into a beautiful sunny afternoon which made all the difference as we strolled around the world famous Sunken, Japanese, Rose, Italian and Mediterranean gardens trying to find all the bright and colourful flowers in the flower guide, and trying to get some inspiration for the garden at home!

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On the drive further South towards Victoria along the coast and through the neighbourhoods of the very rich, where houses go for around $4 million! By the time we reached Victoria there was just enough time for another quick city tour before dinner and another early night as we were still feeling the effects of the previous day.

A welcome lie-in today and we awoke to clear blue skies. The perfect day for a seaplane ride! We queued up and showed our passports for the 20 minute trip around the harbour and the surrounding area. The views were amazing as we soared around the harbour and along the coastline where we could see the Olympic Mountains over in Washington State, America, before turning inland and seeing the Butchart Gardens from above. After our flight and having recovered from a case of sealegs and popped ears, we wandered around the shops in Victoria and found a very indulgent chocolate shop where we sampled the local speciality chocolate covered Nanaimo bars!

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Ready for takeoff!
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Flying over Victoria Harbour
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After the flight
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Chocolate covered Nanaimo bars, yum!

That evening we headed out for a group dinner. We were led through the streets of Chinatown by our guide for the evening Su Su, where she entertained the group with stories of the history of the Chinese people in Victoria, before getting us all to do a spot of Tai Chi in the middle of the street. What followed was an 8 course mountain of food by the end of which we were all feeling suitably stuffed. To help our digestion and to walk off just a little bit of the food, Su Su led us on a lantern walk through the alleys of Chinatown with more stories from the past 150 years of Chinese life. Before bed there was just enough time to drag Mum back down to the harbour to take some night shots.

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Captain James Cook
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Victoria's Parliament Buildings and Inner Harbour at night
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The Empress Hotel
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Sunset over Victoria Harbour

Posted by slking 22:19 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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